because while some truths lend themselves to equations, others are best described in verse

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Normal rhythms

If you listen, you can feel
the fat whoosh pounding
beneath fingertips, the ready warmth
of rush-of-red head-
ward from heart: not
ruby-red or glitter-red
like Dorothy’s slippers
but still magic, the way
the machine putters on,
isn’t it? How I can put pen
to paper or make love
with my thumbs by typing
less than 3 or wink or walk
away

while under it all
I am filled
with the smell of rust, bloodstink,
someone said, like old traintracks
sunk in summer mud,
persistent as hell, as sin; copper-
tinged bleeps on a blank screen :
alphabet soup : pee-kew-ar-ess, an iron-
y bulge-thump of muscle: lub-
dup like the one-legged steps
of my father’s crutches, how
it has nothing to do with love,
after all, and everything, lub-dup,
lub-dup, lub-dup unremarkable
until it is not.

Navigation by night under no stars

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We passed the New Year
being rocked
on open water by the warm thrum
of the ferry engine, one
of two couples on board
counting down seconds
by cellphone glow,
wondering what it presaged
to tick over a year with no earth
beneath our feet, the ink
of possibility all around us.

An hour earlier, the ferry we should have caught
had t-boned a commercial fishing vessel.
Coast guard called and all.
Never heard a word about victims,
or survivors, though we scanned
the dark for a trace of leftover sirens,
grateful for the lone flash
of the Hatteras light’s bright pulse
on the horizon of our retinas.

Next morning some miles north,
in the shadow of the tower
and the keeper’s old quarters, just
where the waves kiss the sand, leaving
white tide marks like lipstick
stains on the drizzled shore, a shark
with skin the color of dirty snow
lay floundering, line’s cruel end
sunk deep in the cartilage of its palate.
It had been a battle of hours,
up and down the beach, a pair
of fishermen taking turns at a reel
pulled taut over slate gray,
two against one until the fish,
exhausted, heaved up under open air.

How the crowds came running—
a four-foot white
could chew off a child’s leg,
after all—the fishermen whooping
and shoulder-slapping. They’ll throw it back,
you said, as we walked away, into the mists,
inconsequential as the rain; just
another ship passing
in the night, turning
away from another little tragedy,
the saddest thing I had ever seen.

You will know because the moon will weep blood

He never wanted. You
will understand
what the trees
are whispering, Japanese
maple leaves falling
by gaslight, branches that shudder
let nothing harm her as they bare
their bark to the night.
Sirens sound, red
as the cherry of a clown’s nose;
there are footsteps
behind the doorways
and bodies, still,
under our feet; ghost
and more-than-ghost of train,
echoes of fathers
gone off decades back,
gone off and never come home.
Let nothing harm her, he said,
and now she hangs
Christmas lights the color
of bruises, mourning
some lost innocence, some lost
season, the world
turned dark as an air raid
blackout except
for the moon, except
for the sirens. Naked,
the trees are whispering
against the river, shadow
on shadowed water:
you will understand. Under the hill,
the breath of a train whistle,
the silence of a grave.
He never wanted to go.
Girls make a game
of kissing by the tunnel mouth,
missing the solace
of their daddies’ knees.
Please let nothing harm her.
No one laughs at clowns anymore.

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