Three Poems

Problem with Living

Because the women I have loved          
are still living, they can’t be       
ghosts in the way they hunger
to be, haunting the edge of


my sleeplessness, my failure to
commit. There’s no chance of that
back and forth wailing and exorcism
when they’re in another town,


when they can call me any time
they want but don’t. They can’t be here
in the way that the dead are here.
They’re somewhere else discovering


desire is not the same thing as revenge.
They can’t make cold spots in the bed,
sobbing in the shadows. Some days, they live

just to regret their own survival.


The Deer Incident

A deer has somehow found its way
into the city. It’s fractious, skittish,
down by the river walk. A crowd gathers.
Someone approaches and it rears up on
its hind legs, eyes pounding, darts this way and that.
People jump out of the way of its reckless hooves.


A passerby calls the cops on his cell phone.
One arrives at the same time as the guy from the zoo
with his dart gun. With cop closing in on one side
and zoo guy on the other, the deer freezes.
The crowd too stops in its tracks.
Then the cop backs off and only the zoo guy
is left inching toward the quarry, weapon raised.
You can see him in the deer’s
big eye, deliberate, khaki, looming larger
and larger until he fills the whole thing.
Then he fires and the animal jerks back,
flicks that reflection outward as it falls.


Soon a truck comes and a couple of guys
lift the comatose animal onto the back.
They’ll release him in the woods, somebody
says. The truck roars away. The cop leaves.
The zoo guy too. The crowd disperses.
With the park once more safe for civilization,

civilization doesn’t hang around.


Suppose Nobody Came

The backyard fills with chairs but not people.
This furniture is rented.
They’re spaced apart so strangers won’t have to know each other
and in the shade so no one will be wiping brows.
Moira stares at the arrangement.
Everything’s just how it should be when there’s nothing much to celebrate.
Ghosts can sit peacefully. Phantoms may perform for their amusement.
What else does this day require?


But the boy, Charles, is bursting with excitement.
A car’s pulled up outside the house.
He’s at the window shouting out the names of who it could possibly be.
Maybe it’s the clown Moira hired.
Or the kid at school who said maybe he’d come and maybe he wouldn’t.
Or the neighbor’s boy who’s been told many times
not to speak to Charles.
The guy in the car has a street map on his lap,
just stopped to get his bearings.

He’s lost. Any more lost and he’d be on the invitation list.


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.