Miles of fiberoptic cable, and yet:
Connectivity breeds solitude.
Can you write a poem without the internet?

Wedding hashtags, shared photos, themed typeset
reveal alternate histories once viewed.
Miles of fiberoptic cable, and yet

the mobile uploads populate a threat
to what you’ve told yourself is safe, subdued.
Can you write a poem without the internet?

The moment first, then writing. Emotions set
loose chaos in pursuit of truth accrued.
Miles of fiberoptic cable, and yet

why not keep the phone locked? Why get upset?
(Because we’ve knighted data convenience food.)
Can you write a poem without the internet?

The wedding patrons ladle vinaigrette
as servers dress white plates with barbecue.
Miles of fiberoptic cable, and yet:
Can you write a poem without the internet?

Stale tunnel afternoon. Black car ferries
young writer from grey grid block to cadmium
green cul-de-sac. Deep river in between,
hence the tunnel. An hour to waste.
March west. Plaza bagel place TV
yells Fox News as he destroys a sandwich
and kettle chips. Receives a text: “Hang on
for 20,” so he does, walking Bloomfield
like a roadie avoiding cables and wires
and cocktails. Finally to the house, ranch-style,
back door. Down to the basement where four
crack knuckles, then rocket into “Namesake,”
more potent than recorded. They talk, hours.
Scribe retreats too soon, heart simmering.

Went to London,
Scraped a knee.
My drunk brother
Slapped my face.

I deserved it,
He said then.
A decade out
I finally agree.

Wrote a poem
Later that year
Called “Favourite Colours.”
Not very good

But important
For my growth.
Helps to know
What is garbage

And what sings.
Each October
I watch films.
Halloween:

The first two are
The good ones.
Michael Myers,
Called “The Shape”

In the credits.
Not a human
Or a brain,
Just a figure

Of sheer menace.
Dark blank evil,
His doc says.
Helps to know

Who is garbage
And who sings.
Same for music:
Werewolf howls

And pop tunes.
The same art
Made The Colour
And The Shape.

To her, the city smelled like formaldehyde,
preserved: a bloated corpse cracking but fighting
back. She went once, January Amtrak.
Now the rails lie rusted from the land buyout.
She dreams concrete grids lit by fluorescence
and endless steel, quaint brownstones huddled up
like penguins. Reprieve from her dailies — wheat
sagging in wind, tractor duty, grubbing
weeds — involves cosplaying urban life
while mid-kitchen, deep crimson of jarred cherries
evokes a crosswalk LED red hand.
When pop’s stroke pummels him, when Nathan’s bored
of her, she’ll fly here sparrow-winged, nest on York.
Hydrangeas now. The scent of spring is here.

New man up here, different dead wife. Maroon
blazer because it’s the last day of class
and he gets fidgety in darker colors.
Two pieces down re: grieving, dozens more
unwritten, plagues that stab sleep with brain knives.
There is an audience, not just the pupils
in oxfords before him, pens busy tracing
requiems in stale air, but wider. Brainier.
Literate media and sad sacks in Park Slope
who still can’t pry the gold bands from their mitts.
Go there, chase the venom. I’m bobbing on
the rust-dented A train, drowning in Nils
noodles on “Speakin’ Out.” Not ready for
“Borrowed Tune,” but who can be? Except you.

Passing by Mr. Dennehy’s — the pub
where Frankie from junior high, who stole my first-
ever girlfriend, Lizzie, because he was older
by a year and had cool blond streaks in
his dark Italian hair, works now — and smiling
into the sunshine. My first real heartbreak,
and now we three live here, in New York, ruthless
more than the halls of middle school among
the jeers and mild scuffles by the lockers,
gym-humiliation, scrawny-armed
casual viciousness. Me, Frankie, and Lizzie
all sang in the seventh-grade musical.
He tends bar now. She’s in fashion.
I’m just walking by the pub, grinning.

Gerard Majella, patron saint of women
in childbirth, pray for me — the young student
cutting gravel with my tires to climb
the hill above Owasco. Uncle Jerry’s
lake house (he calls it “camp”) with hippie wife
rests under acorn trees down route from grape farms.

When he greets, I shake hands. He’s Gary when
among family but other-monikered for friends.
After wine, we unhinge the motorboat
and lap round the water’s outer ring,
October orange. Dinner, then purple pie
left me drowsy. Better split before dark.

Jerry’s misunderstood, I conclude,
but I get it. Who wouldn’t want a cabin
away from invalid mothers and guilt rash
back west? Here, in permanent autumn, you can
take a new name, grab a second beer,
keep a bohemian flame lit, feel
unencumbered joy. We should be so lucky.

Snackbar scammers hawk water for four-fifty;
the throng slides up a foot inside the chamber.

Inquisitive kids, or would be if they’d shut down
phones and spend a minute with wild environs.

New ways to view bodies as soft meat shells
amid globe-turning chaos. Do they conclude,
here in the plastic museum, that everything ends?

Recall, Marty, if you will, the night
we stood on a city sidewalk drinking
the brassy coils raining from the student
quartet before us, the young jazz buffs.

And us, the bluffs, young too but learning it
the way toddler learns to speak: by listening,
turning over cadences in her head
then finally spitting back the vowels she’s fed.

Years lost now, Marty. We’re the old men.
Your down payment all but locked, my salary
shimmying upward. New friends, Django for
us both. Different cities. Streets diverge.

But horn players still storm hot wind each June
where you are. Chameleon in your car.
Me? Sidewinder at work. Down in the tunnels,
rhythmic circle bumping blue. You’d love it.

Note: Written in March 2013; revised slightly.

“Why does this car look like a dark bedroom
in college?” yowls the denim man
clad in boots, a cowboy in the rain.
His gal, a fishnet prize, raises a finger
to shush his lips, aching of gin and pizza.

He’s right. The F train’s bulbs have gone in spots.
A shadow umbrella keeps the rider dry
from peeking too close at dimples,
moles and hair sprouts. It’s Reagan Hall
dorm 224 again — without the blondes
that made it fun. Without the contraband
in drawers. Without the half-moon window view
that once allowed a gaze to trees
in traffic circles and snow.

Midnight and crushed rain upon your coat
are all you own. Recall the fierce catches
in tavern smoke, the vinegar, the scrapes.
It’s all stretched miles from here,
gone like a dust of snow by morning.

You scan all faces always for a sliver
of remembrance, a flame to light your
memory halls. Your neck bounces as steel
rail hits sharp like dangling ice
and the morning seems a promise, for once.
Drink the moment deep as memory.
Swig from now and swallow with a chase.