The pond flattered the foliage,

and our reflections

trembled at the rim,

as if showing

we were souls 

in skin that would fall

from us like these leaves

this autumn.

We no longer breathed

between sand and sky—

we were with friends in dreams.

A kiss disappeared

in the mist near her face,

my palm passed

through his outstretched hand.

One turned the tarot deck,

another walked on his knees

down the center aisle

of the Church of the Typical Inhabitant

and at the rail

lit the wick of a burned-down vow.

I was enjoying my role

in this eternal animation

among friends in dreams,

when the best of them,

pierced by a diagnosis,

called from an office

outside my reverie

with the news

and the need

to leave the world

of make-believe,

asking that I take him home.

And there he was,

at the waiting room


staring into the sheer

sunlit maze

of streets and avenues

that ended here.



My grandmother had eight children,
one of them twice.

The first Olga lived
a mere month,

succeeded by my mother,
the second Olga,

dragged from childhood
each Sunday

to face her fate—
a stone

at Calvary Cemetery
carved with her name.

She treated the maze of graves
as a game, a way

of dealing with the world
that ended

only when she rested
next to her sister.

A lifetime of wishing
the rules clear:

winners and losers apart,
the dead and the living

unmistakably divided
into horizontal

versus vertical shapes.
And gender—

a simple matter
of pink or blue

unlike the tangled impulses
that sparked

her fiery nature as a girl
when she spun

a vicious
cat’s eye marble

off her thumb,
and held her own

in a knife-flinging game
of five-finger fillet.

Street play gave way
to checkers, chess,

crosswords and acrostics,
extending later

to her irrepressible accounting
as a householder

of each spent cent:
TV tubes, sauterne,

sugar cubes and soap.
Her diary a ledger

of lifeless figures,
no narrative,

no spilled memories,
everything measured,

everything contained,
and in the back

of the book,
a floridly engraved

Irish Sweepstakes receipt,
offering reincarnation,

a change of luck,
and the hope against hope
against hope
of being born again.



Be my god,

if you don’t mind

being asked.

And if you don’t mind

being asked

to dance

at this masked ball,

allow me

to introduce myself—

I’ve worn this face

since birth,

and now I want

it off.

I need a god

to remake me,

not in his image,

but in the shape

of boys

I ached to be:

the cresting

wave-like pompadour

of Johnny Villar,

Terence Kelly’s

stiff upper lip,

the name alone

of Artie Robb.

If you do

become my god,

let the chandelier’s

refracted constellations

strut across

each dancer’s mask,

those romantic glances

of cut crystal

giving us

our best chance

of living life

as someone else.

Replace my skin

with a pelt

from smelted ore—

I’m tired

of flinching

from a score

of imagined hurts.

You always were

and always will be,

you have an infinite future

and a past as long—

so, as you glide across

this ballroom floor,

lift your disguise

and show me who you are.

I’m not asking you

to be the god

of a saint,

just of a minor sinner.

And really, who have I ever hurt?

(Yes, but long ago.)

Be my god

and let me recall

the good days

in our home,

not the drama of gin

before dinner

and brandy later,

where hour after hour,

the bear

went over the mountain

only to find

another mountain.

I don’t need a large part

of you,

just that corner

that loves puns,

a kind of school-crossing


the jester

who invented sex,

the magician

who pulls a man

out of a boy

and a new man

out of him.

My god! Good god! God forbid!

God asked to damn

everything on earth—

the lost ring, shut store,

stripped screw

and missing oar,

all who walk

on two legs,


with tail or without,

employ wings,

slide on stomachs,


God asked to bless

everything we eat

and both sides

of warring nation-beasts.


on whose knee

I will sit in heaven,

please be my god

before the certain curtain call.

I know

I’ve created you,

and I know

it’s the other way around,

but since these are only

pleas on a page

don’t punish me

too harshly

for being,

in a manner of speaking,

your god.

I made you

to remake me

and then

take me

to someone

who will love me,

if it’s possible

to love a man

in a mask

who asks god

to dance

at the masked ball.



And I wrote those reasons
on the ruled grid

of an index card
to preserve the moment, Madam,

when the panels of the hotel
elevator closed,

leaving just us.
A sigh and a kiss

did nicely, Lady,
but when the doors

opened again,
you were again nowhere

near, and now
the file card’s lost too,

with its logical
numerical slate.

I’ve misplaced this and that
over the years, Dear,

but the things I miss most, Miss,
are listed on that card.



The bench by the entrance

to the Blue Sea Motel

is where I fell for you again

after so many seasons

building castles

in the sand,

men out of snow

and raising countless

toasts at midnight

in a garden

of ice figures

carved to life

in the old year

and disappearing

hours later

in the new.

Sunrise above the neon sign

seemed a fitting

but unnecessary monstrance —

I was already praying

I wouldn’t lose

my place

among the other placeholders

in your heart.

The splintered bench

seemed the only

steady thing

along that string of doors

unlocked by different hands

with the same key.

The Blue Sea faced nothing

even slightly aquatic

just waves

of warm asphalt

that shimmered

like a mirage

to those looking

at the past

and calling that split-second

of hope

the future.