poems

 

When the Ceiling Falls

What art can we make 

from our wreckage,

Our astringent rubble? 

Pebbles have rattled loose 

from our ceiling 

under battering from 

an overhead storm—

they precipitate in shapes, 

hail in abstract form, 

configure in sharp lines 

on our living room floor. 

Debris, dislodged 

from our rooftop

and settled again 

at our feet in off-octagons.

Bewitching asymmetry, 

our destruction. 

 

Pebbles pose, 

and we pose, 

our shadows manipulate 

the lighting above our display, 

shade our angular spaces, 

smoothing the raised lines 

of the ceiling tile 

accrued by our sockless feet.

Constellations

Think of the constellations—

Yankee candles and their geometrics. 

Their flickers at funny angles, 

too removed from our mouths 

to be hampered by our giggling. 

Our spit doesn’t go that far. 

 

Think of the constellations—

Don’t think of the stars, 

think of the sew lines between them. 

Sweater threads, 

loose and frayed, 

but looping each amber spec,

knotting their form to its gauze, to each other. 

Buttons across charcoal cotton. 

They warm us on November nights. 

 

Think of—

constellations, 

candles and buttons, 

giggles and borrowed sweaters, 

chilly toes and funny angles. 

We sit on the in-between lines, 

our legs swinging between constellations 

unbothered by the winds back on Earth. 

Trees in October

Are you desolate or free,

shedding parts of yourself?

Clutching your canopy 

until its vibrancy dulled 

into sleepy amber, 

until its luscious frame

withered to papyrus scraps,

until its grip fatigued, 

and, to your canopy, 

the ground looked so wistful, 

heaps of its counterparts 

huddled together in rest. 

 

Who let go first, 

you or your leaves? 

 

It must be this loss

that scrapes rings into your base,

a wrinkle for a summer in passing–

each ridge, a memorial 

for the self you had 

let fragment and fall. 

 

What mournfulness you must feel, 

a body to withstand seasons 

and bearings that wither

once the air grows cold.

Autumn

Do you also 

stumble over sidewalk cracks? 

Hopscotch along 

skewed pathways,

diagonal lines—

your heel grazing raised tree roots,

your toes curling over indents of pebbles, 

groundwork lodging

into your sneaker soles? 

Do you also 

mind your steps,

teeter at stop signs? 

Do you carry with you 

a crown of leaves

when you come back home? 

End of Summer Days

You said to write 

when the seasons change,

to let the forward motion 

unsettle my words. 

 

Let the phrases

which sunbathed 

across the tree outside 

my bedroom window 

crinkle between their thinning leaves, 

be swallowed by fragility. 

 

Study the birds 

that nested between its branches,

write how they rush 

to distant summers,

their flight casting coolness

my bedroom floor

and the poems that lay there. 

 

You said to write 

when summer rubs shoulders

with shorter days,

to let my words chafe 

between their mingling. 

 

Maybe the air,

brittle as it is,

can carry my verses to you,

 

like wings

can haul bodies

to trees, somewhere,

with more promise of flourishing

in the days, months to come.

A Communal Space

On shallow evenings, your lover takes

to chafing dried oil off 

old roasting trays, 

scraping dirt lodged 

like clay between floor tiles

with her pinky nail.

On all fours,

her joints click in the 

rigor of her cleansing. 

 

Your lover takes 

to retying sneaker laces 

for a proper loop, 

over and under and knotted, 

not right, 

takes to stepping outside 

and stepping back in—

the crickets too resonant, 

they jeer at her emptiness. 

 

A sectional half lit.

A foreign film on mute.

An album has ended.

A father’s voice needles the shallowness. 

 

In her mind,

he nestles into his armchair,

scoffs at the hollow space 

and recites bible stories

she knows by word. 

A Walk After Dinner

An hour of silhouettes:

It’s leaves like sponged paint

pressed against clean linen—

branches brushed with ebony 

in a heavy hand,

and dusted with amber streetlight—

trunks like wet pastels swept sideways, 

soaking into sleeping mulch. 

 

This hour is its own shadow, 

itself and its outline. 

 

A tree’s roots lengthen 

behind the drying oils

of these minutes. 

Dry Mornings

When the candle wax over this morning cools, 

I hope it fastens all as it is, now. 

 

I hope it stiffens over still countertops

and stool legs, over dinner dishes 

stacked like a house of cards—

the towel underneath already dry 

from soapy droplets. It caught and drank 

while we slept in separate beds,

turned in our sweat

a floor above. 

 

I hope wax crusts over the dimness, 

settles the quiet grey 

dusting our floor tiles, 

a peaceful coating, 

like powdered sugar 

sprinkled on Ima’s french toast—

a sweet, mindful spread.

 

            Can you imagine a morning 

            embalmed in this mold, 

            hushed like a wasp in amber,

            its stinger idle, trapped by film? 

 

Now, sun thaws our window panes, 

rumbles of a lawnmower 

shake the cast of our light sleep. 

 

Our vents can try to maintain this stillness

only if doors remain closed. 

A Poem for Natan Alterman

Sidewalks crinkle from rainstorms

in Jersey, 

ridge between suburban valleys

and cave under flood-lines, 

like my Savta’s fingers

pruned from three generations 

of kneading dough 

and scrubbing baby scalps 

under the drip drip 

of a shower head

that never fully ceased its flow. 

 

This path darkens 

under trunk-form shadows 

like my Saba’s shoulders 

after tending to his lemon tree,

glistens like his watered eye

downcast, strolling home

from the neighborhood shul

Shabbat brimming his lashes. 

He carries his prayers 

to his wife’s dinner table. 

 

Cobbles weld in my under-sight,

eyes set on the stop sign 

at the end of the road.

Pebbles, silent and stable, 

and there, like sand from the yam

grinding my shoe’s laces, 

dragged into the sliding doors 

of Ben-Gurion, outbound. 

 

Is it a poem 

or a silver platter 

I feel in my back pocket

when the land grows still, 

the red eye of the sky 

slowly dimming over smoking frontiers?

 

 

The House on Blue Hill Street

Like clouds, 

I build people from window sills—

fill in sketchpads of their panes

with Monday nights.

Prints of tennis tournaments 

suspend from fridge magnets, 

notes for filo dough

fray thumbtacked to a cork overhang—

the recipe, a family heirloom;

the cork, left behind by the home’s 

previous owners. 

 

Faces eclipse

across channels of the glass.

I step, 

study a perspective painting—

 

Feather lines 

fringe a single mother’s eyes

because Jeopardy skips 

on her ex-husband’s TV box—

faulty cable from a man of faults—

and unpopped kernels fumble 

between her buttered fingers, 

lodge between stitches

of a faux Persian, 

also from a past love. 

 

Upstairs, a page

from a child’s coloring book. 

A baby wriggles in a bassinet 

between dreams 

of her mother’s heartbeat

and a father’s Sunday humming, 

too young to draw lines 

between memory and imagining. 

 

A house of drawings 

strung up by cedar boards 

on Blue Hill Street—

existence in outlines, 

like an artist’s sketchbook 

flipped open by the wind.