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

Richmond

Misnomer

Somewhere off Cherokee Road
the hills roll and the azaleas,
dogwoods litter the banks
of the dropped shoulder
with prom dress colors,
like this neck of the woods
was made for sweet sixteen.
Passing through for the first time,
I don’t understand: the Cherokee
never knew this southside
central Virginia suburb
as home; this
was Mattaponi land, or Pamunkey,
Pocahontas’ people—
not made for pastel-
lined driveways, houses
set back facing the road
like rubber-neckers
after a loud crash of histories.
Where last year’s leaffall
is manicured into groomed mounds
of might-have-beens,
and the latest models
sit sparkling in whitewashed
gravel beds. And yet, the drive
is pleasant enough,
Victorian voice
on the smartphone
alerting me of the next turn
off, so that I, as well as the azaleas,
dogwoods, can enjoy the scenery
without overthinking
where the journey ends.


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.


Off Texas Avenue, the parking lot is littered with memories

From the skinny brown arcs
of ballerinas rooted
in a coltish breeze,
the first brittle leaves drift
limply to still-summer ground,
yellow earthbound stars
five-pointed like fingers
whose reach is destined to be crushed.
there is a silence
that holds underneath the constant hum
of voices, engines, bike treads;
the same we came here seeking
so many years ago. tiny clam shells
scattered among gravel tell how far
the sea has come, calling
to mind a beach road
i saw once, where a black man
in an old truck rode north
with one arm out the window,
the bed full of rusted chains,
whole oil drums full. like the shadow
of the hawk gliding hugely over the rooftops
that bank the park, i want it
to mean something, to be more
than soundless commentary:
a blessing. a washing clean.