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Where the Water Meets the Sky

(Published, Muddy River Review Issue Number 2, Fall 2021)

We move in fog in reek of fish,
sneaking out screen-less windows at night,
climbing down garage roofs or window tapping trees.

In slick, shiny streets, under faint blue light,
we dance in silence to the beach.
The bosses and their workers snore through the perfect time.

We scream our names like angry owls under the bridge by the beach.
Your brother slept here, up where the tunnel curves by the road.
One night he saw us. He was singing the Rolling Stones.

Knees winked from the holes in his filthy, white pants.
Car lights flashed him a spotlight of shame.
We pretended not to hear him say, Get outta here.

The sand is sharp, but we go barefoot.
Tiny pieces of glass prick our feet reminding us of pain we haven’t felt.
The air is foul and alive as we strip down under each other’s starlike eyes.

The two of us back float, white stick bodies in bruised and murky water.
Only hands touching, we breathe out the memories of the day.
Stare at celestial light born before we were.

You claim there is a spot where the water meets the sky,
where souls swim free and no one calls them home.
In the morning, we’ll sneak back to wake our parents.
Remind them to take us to school.

Ghosts and Neighbors

(Displayed at Boston City Hall, Chosen by Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola part of the Boston Mayor’s Poetry Program, 2019)

My grandfather, Frank McDade
sold whiskey with his buddies during prohibition.
They called themselves The Gustin Gang.
But was this real or a Boston Irish tale like tumors
the size of watermelons or Great Uncle so and so
swimming the Boston Harbor island to island?
Aunts who aren’t aunts. Uncle Cracker Jack who wasn’t.

It was real he served time at Deer Island,
Real he was a poet who wrote odes to Boston and his wife who died in childbirth.
 Yea, tho she rest beneath the graveyard sod, that ring is on her finger,
though her spirit rests with God.
And Grampy condemned his jailers
I damn them all who sent me here, Deer Island Down the Bay.
 I recall him only scary and untouchable
in his strange fedoras and rough, smelly suits,
his wiry back straining to be upright.
 There is a photo of him on the back deck of a Roxbury triple decker,
laundry crisscross connecting homes behind him,
bony fists raised, poised
to fight off ghosts and neighbors.
Eyes focused on something hidden in the distance
over the shoulder of the photographer,
almost out of the picture, maybe to a living room
where great grandchildren work on their homework:
a family tree. Old lore and lines of his verse
are all I have to answer their questions,
to imagine who he was. I pretend I knew him.