Frost Advisory


Viscous purple light of sundown &

the mountains in silhouette. Autumn delivers


its ultimatums, & the skeletal magnolia

shivers. Every morning this month


I’ve filled the bird feeder & by dusk

it’s empty again. Scattered on the grass,


seed husks & blood splatter; hunger

already forgotten in the roughhouse wind.


I’ll sleep with my full belly in my empty bed.

Second snow of the season in tonight’s forecast.


* * *




Three sparrows on the fence, each the size of a child’s fist,

little hands balled in frustration, &

brought to bawling eyes: when pressed

against the irises the boy sees feathers of light

rather than birds in Franciscan brown,

the ones that fly off when a screen door rattles

or a car starts up, only to settle again. So quotidian:

their sacrament of crackers, scraps of morning toast.




In Morgantown where I lived once

two cardinals nested outside our window &

some mornings I’d observe them bicker & build–

he in his Santa suit, she in muted reds.

I expected little, yet expected those cardinals might be

instructive in ways the Catholics had failed to be:

their catechism of hunger & need.




In sixth grade I carried my naivetée in a zipped case

with three number two pencils & a pink eraser.

The neighbor kids who went to public school wandered the streets

with slingshots & cynicism & stalked Staten Island’s

small game–mourning doves, squirrels, & chipmunks,

the infrequent stray cat. Was I complicit in their sin

for never speaking out? For setting the corpses in shoe boxes

& burying them in the woods beyond the close cemetery?

I wanted to be good. I prayed someone might notice.




Thus began the walk away from any credo,

& still those cardinals remained

together in the hedgerow & remain there

in memory

while sparrows launch themselves

together & return: one constant on this smashed-bottle block

with its daily newspaper delivery. No one reads poems.

Or thinks of Aphrodite, particularly not the woman

with the parakeets. They fly free in her home,

affable fireworks of blue feathers, of yellow.

She ignores the sparrows, which are homely

after all, so easy to forget, here

among wrought iron fences & unkempt shrubs.


Here kids wait for the bus as light stretches & yawns awake.

One of them will be picked on. One of them

will fail spelling. One will think she’s fallen in love for

the first time, but only for a quickening moment.


* * *


 Back Roads at Night


Rain stricken leaves. Leaf slick asphalt.

The road traces the curves of a river,

which I can’t see & the name of which

I do not recall. Like a thug

night wears its darkest coat & the trees

hide their faces, hunker in. Somewhere

in these woods deer rut, maybe

a laughing coyote sniffs the damp air.

There’s an abandoned farmhouse, certainly,

its walls sagging as if it had been weeping

for decades, & perhaps there’s a double wide

where a young wife sleeps clutching a pillow

to calm her nerves. Her husband sits

in the blue light of internet porn listing

all the lovers he never had. Surely

there’s a road cut out for the semis

that deliver the wind turbines

visible above the tree line in daylight.

I’m driving away again & no one awaits

my arrival. Typical. NPR reports

a teenager in solitary confinement

for three years, how like a monk he became–

that cloister. I keep telling myself I’m fortunate

as the car fish-tails around another hairpin

deeper into October. Miles off

red warning lights along a mountain ridge.


* * *




That night the storm tap-danced on the shingles

in the way only rain does, &

I lay on thin sheets watching a stain

on the dropped ceiling morph into an image of Thomas

sticking his hand into Jesus’s side.

If I’d believed in miracles, then I would have called

the local papers or a parish priest at least.

If I’d believed in love, I wouldn’t have been there at all,

or I would have told the woman

in the motel tub twenty feet away,

slightly drunk & embarrassed

not by her nakedness but by mine,

I would have said her name & told her about the Sistine ceiling &

the way the vacancy sign glowed out the window

wetly like stained glass &

how I wished confessionals had such signs

or better yet, ones like McDonald’s telling how many had been served,

how many had been saved if only briefly.


Or I would have told her that she’s angelic

in her melancholy,

something I assumed she already knew.

The wind played a melody I almost recognized.

I didn’t understand how two lovers in the aftershock of orgasm

could feel without warning

sad & almost like strangers,

but there we were, our enthusiasm for each other’s touch

waning. A hot trickle

rippled from the tap to keep the water warm,

her body shuddering again, involuntarily

but not from pleasure.  A car in the parking lot splashed through

a puddle. The whole night

watery; the whole night a long sigh.

The lamp cast its miasma of yellow light & shadow.

I wasn’t befuddled when she kissed me on the lips

to say goodbye

for what we both knew to be the last time.


What had befallen that couple who’d entered that room

all mouths & hands, touch & tongues,

all cum & sweat & hunger?

We’d felt one another’s wounds without pause,

without awe, & kept on.

There was no crying–

but the whole world was wet. When we parted,

the veil of fog remained hours away from lifting.


* * *




Nights when my spine was one vibrating wire

in the frequency of hunger, I understood


the diction of addicts, their craven dialogue of want.

I worshiped desire, was a friar in that order.


I made my pilgrimages & got down

on my knees; I prayed the way good Protestants pray,


asking for gifts of the spirit

& gifts for the shell that holds the spirit firm–


those gifts I longed for & longed to share,

calling oh lord into my darkening chamber.