10-Line Tuesday

August 14, 2012


These days, your past loves are hard to miss: you saw one cavorting
on the cliffs of Norway just yesterday, images you scanned from a living room
just a few miles west of the Lincoln Tunnel. Why you went scouring and sorting
through those pictures you don’t know, but there you were, in the summer gloom
of Scandinavia, catching the split second of a BASE jump off a 3,000-foot cliff.
It’s not that you wanted to be on that thrill ride – you had already been tossed
and turned more than you cared to admit. So maybe it was just getting a last whiff
of the life you'd turned down, the “no” that gave you back what you had lost.
Now you’re finally ready. This old scene has reached its fraying end.
You point your finger to the screen, swallow hard, press Send.

August 7, 2012

one syllable

The weather is temporary. Time. The Olympic flame
will, at some point, leave the building, and someone will shut
the gate to the swimming pool, the tennis court, the vélodrome,
where just yesterday, bicycles went whipping round a track at
45 miles an hour. This body, too, hunched over this keyboard,
will turn and shift. The polish on my toes will dust and crack,
and of course, that is the least of it. So it’s funny how a word
can land on you and dig down so deep, to the root, all the way back,
embolden you to dare of constancy, birth a river built of infinite stones.
It only took one syllable: Yes. And in that flash, I knew forever in my bones.

July 31, 2012

the hula hoop artist

Who knows how she kept that trio of rings spinning,
how the slimmest of movements led to the suspension of gravity
and disbelief? I would surely have fumbled with the trick, hips flying
wildly out of control at the first sign of trouble, a catastrophe
of illogic and imbalance, so I stood transfixed as grace turned
the air into concentric, centrifugal magic. It would be smarter,
I thought, to stay out of the way, let genius shine alone, though my mind burned
with envy. But my body barely paid attention, and left my ego in the gutter
in favor of single plastic loop abandoned on the grass. Something in me couldn’t stop.
We begin where we begin. My hands, defiant and ecstatic, bent to pick it up.

July 24, 2012

We default to such politeness. Just a bite, we’ll say, offered a piece
of birthday cake, lowering our eyelashes as a puny square inch is sliced
and served. Meanwhile, inside, we are a rage of sugar-want, craving release
from the prison of our appetite, though no one would have guessed
it, looking on as, daintily, we pass the steel tines of our fork through,
and lift our stinginess directly into our mouth. Not anymore. I am finished
with that lie. I refuse the smidgen, the hint, the sip. No half of a half will do.
I don’t think happiness comes that way, at least not the kind I’ve wished
for, tilting my face on empty nights to a full moon, which never once regretted
its radiance. So no, not a bite. I'll say it now. It’s the cake I’ve always wanted.

July 17, 2012

from our fingertips
The bookstore in the middle of nowhere rises above a waterfall
and we sit, tucked into a corner, our two chairs nearly kissing,
to listen. July is exactly what July should be – hot and still,
the fan hardly cooling us - but there’s something about a window opening
to the sound of a river pummeled downstream that lifts our pen to a blank page.
We did not come here to read the volumes crowding the shelves. We did not come
to ponder old literature, creaking stories in fragile bindings. It is the rage
of water we’re here for, breaking free. This place is for beginning, the thrum
that forecasts change, and I am sitting in my tilted chair as new words tumble out –
unfamiliar, slippery, soft as moss, carving a riverbed from a dusty spout.

July 10, 2012


How we lay the prickle of a deadline at our feet, brush our hair with the hard bristles
of a burden we've drawn out of the ether, believing weight and pressure will do us good.
Yes, we'll nod in agreement at the wisdom of stillness, close our eyes as the wind whistles
past, pantomime a brief peace on the deck with a book and a glass of lemonade.
But inside, the hurry is constant, punishing. Make this. Do that. Go there. As if efficiency were
a matter of time. As if time were a matter of efficiency. Outside, the bumblebees
are circling the daisies, making spirals of the air like circus twirlers. But their wings are
so quiet, the antithesis of buzzing, and at first I think they're dizzy, drunk on all the choices
before them, the patch of flowers discombobulating. But no. Patience drives their need,
the hour irrelevant. They are ready when they're ready. They look for the heart before they feed.

July 3, 2012

the all of it

If you're going to do the hard work of loving someone,
give yourself a break. Don't dig up the backyard for a flash of gold.
Don't upend the supermarket heap for the sweetest perfection.
Don't run when the clouds come rumbling. Don't tear the gristle from the bone.
Love everything. The whole. The all of it. Place yourself front and center
to its simple instruction. Hold your flesh against its flesh. Bend into its breeze.
It's not that the fruit won't sag from the heat or an ache
won't rise from marrow. It's not that rain won't threaten all the fields
you've ever planted. That disaster, if it comes, is unstoppable.
But not you either. Not the swell and surrender of your love. Never that army.

June 26, 2012


Call me lazy. Call me predictable and cliché and overused.
Bypass these lines if your currency is nuance, if what moves you
are the minimalist gestures, if the threads of the crosshatch seams in the couch
are the geographies you'd prefer for your treasure. I can't help it.
That splinter of sky, that divisive, decisive crack, fractured something loose,
broke and birthed it all at once. Sometimes, change is a jagged-toothed animal,
tearing the "was" out so fast my head spins, and I watch, almost drunk,
from the window as the whole earth luminesces, shaking a raw hunger
out of my bones. Sometimes, storm is the only way to stillness, the great shaking.
How the feral animals run for home. How even the trees bow down.

June 12, 2012

the cyclist

Picture the road as that guest at the party you spot from across the room,
despite the collision of chip bowls and furniture and beer bottles nearly tipping
and the growing humidity between bodies and the froth of conversation.
How that proximity and enclosure blurs attention, resolve slipping
in favor of that warm hum, a certain comfort coined from the simple fact
of staying close to the center of so much noise. And then.
An almost missable urging, a sly glance that would have been deflected
by the crowd were in not for its sweet certainty. After this, it doesn't matter when
the movement begins, only that it does, the body pulled from the seduction of a chair
into an edgeless and immeasurable romance that begins with this instruction: Let's get out of here.

June 19, 2012

clear in our need

She never questioned her hankering for oranges, never
wondered why something in her palate or the deeper request
of her belly insisted on that handful of tart-sweet wedges. The body is clever,
hearing so precisely its own call we don't stop to contemplate, What is this thirst?
No, we make a beeline for the fridge, find fruit, slice it open. And yet,
this long pause before the other longings, as if these were any more
complex, as if the wild heart of our hunger couldn't possibly be met.
Isn't it enough to be clear in our need? What else is there to know before
we reach our hand in? What better invitation than the cells stirring from their bed,
shrugging from an old slumber, wanting, simply, to be fed?

June 5, 2012

may we be forgiven

How we stumble into epiphany, some nondescript lunch with a friend
sending us reeling, or a cloud in the shape of a school bus or that favorite
stuffed toy from childhood, or the accident that happened
to someone else, or the unexpected heartbreak from a TV commercial, or the knit
of an elderly couple's hands, or an empty shopping cart weaving
through a broken parking lot. May we be forgiven our reckless abandon, our
quick escape, our sudden detour or shrinking exit. We are rarely graceful with our grieving,
and even less so when it's finally time to leave the old story slicing us with failure.
I promise: each untidy moment has its purpose, a crack in the window meant for breaking.
The rest of your life is calling your name, shattering toward waking.

May 29, 2012

this is for you

Because the hour is calling for groceries instead of poetry,
and the laundry list is weighing down your clothesline, and the wind
has kicked up so much dust, and your lungs are needling you to stay,
and the broom for sweeping out dissatisfaction has thinned
to a useless fistful of straw, and because you are tired of the silence and the fear
and just as tired of the noise you make to run from both, and because the wheel that turns
the big body of your life has met with a detour you are unsure it will clear,
and because something in you is looming so large it is rattling your very bones.
This is for you. This space, this breath, this pause before the doorway’s edge.
Let softness be your strength, and humility, your courage.

May 22, 2012

wide margins
(for Sharon Repp)

I woke, out of nowhere, at that odd hour that directs your attention to the thinnest sounds -
the drone of a small plane passing overhead, the first conversation of birds carving out
their breakfast nooks, the sigh of the sheets beneath, breath threading the lungs.
Sometimes, the whole world narrows into single, sharp focus, and the usual,
missable nuances erupt out of the forgotten corners. If you are willing, you will remain, patient,
as the unfolding continues, the very air humming with a thousand new songs.
If you are willing, you will understand all of this has been waiting for you, and will birth itself
over and over again in the inopportune but porous stretches of sleeplessness.
The day is full of wide margins. It isn't just your usefulness that matters, but how you occupy
the spaces that hold no shape or consequence. There is room enough for you, too. Listen.

May 15, 2012

what will you do when it rains, they asked

Because people want to save you from things
discomforts, disasters
what they imagine are the avoidable risks
but that morning in the drizzle
I set out anyway
and as I rode, those sweet drops
took down down the spring blossoms
like confetti,  like a quiet little parade
like a blessing
just for me.

May 1, 2012

a poet, a tanning specialist, and the man who makes the salsa

Improbably, we shared the span of a television stage –
a cheerful, anonymous kitchen, a white screen backdrop projected
with a cartoon sun, an over-plump and vaguely therapeutic couch
with pillows propped pert at the corners like little soldiers.
Yet this is how it always is, isn’t it? These strange accidents
we barrel into, thin slices of our quiet stories intersecting.
I sat waiting my turn to tell mine, as the blender whirred with tomatillos
and a bronzed woman became even bronzer and the hosts worked their smiles
for the camera, and outside the rain made a clean slate of the new month
and a bloom rose from a waking flower and everything changed and nothing changed at all.

April 24, 2012

the beginner

Because in the morning, you collide with a new set of circumstances
which may or may not fix the ones that closed your last day.
Because while you were sleeping, your body replenished its cells,
including the ones you were hoping would be gone by the time you woke.
Because the weather is unpredictable, despite your best efforts at shelter,
and because you have an uncanny ability to unremember the mud puddle
you’d already stepped in, and your feet gravitate again toward the mess of it.
Your innocence is a constant interruption. You are always returning to the back
of the line somewhere, your tail between your legs. But that’s the gift of the beginner.
How the muscle pushing back the world can’t stop itself from getting thinner. 


April 17, 2012

write yourself here

On a river in Georgia, paddling past question marks. On a park bench in Jersey, starting from empty.
The Starbucks in Chelsea amid a collision of coffee orders. The apartment where an uncle lived
when he was still alive, and how it still smells like yesterday. The first rock climb of the season.
The last pound of the diet. In the gridlock of indecision. In the freefall that previews every courage.
Write yourself here. Make a strike with your pen. Look the words dead in the eye.
See how the ink makes it suddenly real, how that slight indentation in the paper where the letters
have made their new home have given you one, too. Believe it. Where you have found yourself
is exactly where you need to be, and the line breaks and the smudges and double-spaces
and misspellings are right where you need to be, too. Stop telling yourself you made any mistakes.
You didn't. You didn't.


April 10, 2012

stolen hour

This isn’t time for the miraculous, for life to shift from some tectonic fracture
into greatness. This isn’t the tunnel to shimmy into transformation, no baptismal wash
to hasten glory. This is four o’clock in the afternoon, heating leftover
rice, putting the water on for tea, the sky on mute, the kids next door practicing lay-ups.
The daisies are still holding steady from three days ago, though the slightest wilt
encroaches their tips, a slow turn only they could know the feeling of. Something
is always changing but we beat back the tide every day, the army at full tilt.
So it’s easy to misread this pocket of minutes, imagine them replete with journeying,
a deep, electric, forward motion. Rest easy. This is not a call for re-invention,
All time asks for is attention.


April 3, 2012

I know nothing about geese

I know nothing about geese, only saw them landing
at the outer edge of the pond sometime around noon
while I was walking the perimeter of the field in orange sandals.
I want to say they were “gliding” or something that says I understand
the way of birds, but I can’t say I saw how they honed in on that particular
patch of water, don’t know how, en masse, they agreed to take a break,
only that they did, and had begun a slow canoe looking for what,
I imagine, to be lunch. I was hungry and went inside to eat. Look how even without
the language to tell it, a story begins to tell itself, find threadlines and affinities.
I, too, understand nourishment. I, too, know my own wings.


March 27, 2012

this morning, with butter on my lips
Not brilliance, not vision, not a knowing
of any recognizable proportion, not an answer or a question
burning a hole in the front pocket, not a muse bestowing
her touch on a shoulder, not a birth following gestation,
not fresh courage or new grace, not a habit finally broken,
not new greening on a fallow story, not escape from the unfinished,
not signs that point toward summit, not a tongue for the unspoken,
or a hand that guides the knee from pavement. I wished
for all of these when waking, but a silence greeted me instead.
I drank my coffee slowly and took another bite of bread.