I want to be certain like a map.
Certain like a stop sign.
I want to get off this rocketing carousel.
Stop playing Russian Roulette
With my thermometer.
Trust that a sniffle isn’t a harbinger of doom.
Stop extrapolating every ache and pain.
I want normal to be normal again.
Because normal never looked so good.
I want to be certain like a map.
it was easy.
our worries were
divisions of labor
who did more.
she didn’t really, did she?
how could they?
we were cruel.
judgments came swift and brutal.
withholding likes and retweets
the kind word for one small and mean.
before we were cavalier
we knew nothing.
but we can learn.
now we will learn
it was easy
There are always good people.
Mr. Rogers was right.
Just yesterday the man on the plane
who saw me struggling with the overhead bin,
jumped up, took over, smiling.
The mother of three across the aisle
handing out cleaning wipes,
her children willingly helping.
The flight attendant, struggling with her face mask,
joking with her colleague:
“If I hyperventilate behind this, you got me, right?”
The Customs official facing a sea of disgruntled travelers,
asking me if I had fever or sickness: I told him no.
“I’m happy you’re well,” he said, before sending me on.
Heads up, people.
We have widely different families and streets and seas,
but underneath it all
we share a beating human heart,
the same skies and sun,
the same bewitching moon.
I am not immune to the wonders of the natural world.
I have seen peacock feathers under a microscope.
I know birds retrieve lint from the ears
Of a musk ox carcass to construct their downy nests.
I realize that the grand canyon of Mars
Is the same size as the United States.
I too know that when a blue whale dives deepest
Its massive heart slows down to two beats a minute.
But none, for me,
Can rank with a heated conversation one dressing room over at Marshall’s.
A debate in a movie lineup about the merits of Scorcese vs. Tarantino.
One Raymond Carver poem.
Give me the Lives column in a New York Times Magazine
About the writer’s troubled child.
Let me in on that moment when you knew it was over.
There for me lie the mysteries I care to unravel,
The fleeting moments between us drawing me back
Time and time again.
Hike your mountain. Portage the greatest rivers.
Give names to all the stars and constellations you have ever seen.
Then tell me about it when you get home.
** Photo by Joel Koop.
Absorb whatever is around you
Like a box of baking soda in the fridge.
Be prone to hangnails
and mysterious rashes.
Cancel plans at the last minute.
Be unapologetic when saying no.
Judge nothing as beneath you, beyond you,
or outside your realm of interest.
Know everyone has a story to tell.
Carry a large overdraft on your checking account.
Dwell, no, fixate, on detail.
Realize everything matters or nothing does.
Wear an inordinate amount of black.
Write poems you want to read.
Jot ideas on restaurant napkins.
Carry an extra pen.
Become accustomed to letters beginning
We regret to inform you.
Write some more.
I’ll pick up lattes from that place on 49th you like.
Some Cheese Danish, your favorite.
And stop at the newsstand for the latest rags.
We won’t talk. Promise.
Talk is overrated. Especially now.
Try not to think at all.
We’ll entrust time
to do what nothing else will.
What nothing else can.
To bring us back to life,
one shallow breath
at a time.
Is sometimes all it takes to capture happiness.
If you’re lucky.
I’ve done it. Thousands of times.
It never felt like a Nikon
I was holding in my hands
but their lives.
The hours alone are punishing,
arriving at first light at the bride’s parent’s house
before the makeup even goes on.
Forty pounds of equipment in tow,
already beginning to fray.
The bride for starters is never quite satisfied with
her dress or her hair
or her bridesmaids.
The groom often bears the look of someone
who has just been given
some very bad news.
Groomsmen are a particular challenge.
Lining them up,
they visibly stiffen.
Roll your shoulders, unclench your jaw.
Pretend you have actually met, I cajole.
To no avail.
And there’s always the visual artiste in the crowd
who tries wresting the camera away from you,
just for fun.
By the time I get to grab a bite
the buffet has been ravaged.
The wedding cake looks like a Dali painting.
Drunken husbands and wives
remembering their own ancient vows
push themselves in front of me at night’s end.
I still love her, you know, he slurs.
She rolls her eyes, shakily fixing her lipstick
before I freeze them in the blink of an eye.
I am always the last to leave
in the wee hours
just as the cleaners arrive.
I gather them together
for the last image of the day
They wonder why the fuss.
They talk about this woman heading off alone in the dark.
from chasing happiness all day long.
My gums are bleeding again.
There’s a stack of papers that need attention
But I can’t find my glasses.
My truck is making that funny noise.
I sleep too late
Because no one wakes me.
I don’t write
I feel it’s all been said.
Your point’s been made:
I am selfish and fickle.
Say whatever you like.
They remember you:
Their heightened perception always at work,
An enigmatic sixth sense,
So rare in humans.
They open wide their huge liquid alien eyes,
Shift quietly in their stalls.
Their huge nostrils flare in welcome
At your approach.
For you carry with you
Indelible in their memory,
Of someone once kind to them.
Astride their backs
We borrow their majesty.
We borrow freedom.
It comes down to the ceremony now, the detail.
Pressing your shirt with the cutaway collar, not too much starch,
the way you liked it.
I sent the shoes that were a bit small,
but they were so fine-looking and you would approve.
At the last minute I remembered your favorite photo of all of us
for tucking into your suit jacket pocket.
Now to prepare the food for the mourners,
sandwiches to begin.
Made differently today,
the correct word is painstakingly.
The butter must be spread
to each and every corner of the bread,
from freshly-baked loaves.
Heap both sides of the bread lavishly with spreads,
No celery, you hated it.
Remove the crusts.
Assemble them ever so gently
before making the final cuts
into perfect quarters.
Clean the knife after each one.
Display them proudly
on my most treasured serving pieces.
And cloth napkins.
All is ready.
Invite them in.
I’ll get this right
for all the times