Poems from Between Streetlights and Stars

Here are two poems from my chapbook: Between Streetlights and Stars available to order here.


for Becka

I can’t blame you for wanting to leave Baltimore,
a city stuck and stung with schoolyard nicknames:
Brawltimore, Murderland Maryland, Charm City.
It’s a town like a cramped classroom disrupted
by that one overgrown preteen everyone knew:
that greasy haired steam engine
with dark circles under beady eyes and a bullhorn voice
sounding off in jagged dialects of force and fear.

I know New Orleans cracks in your mind like a lit match
firing your fever to throw overpacked suitcases in your trunk
and drive away from gray snow-lined streets
where warm breath turns white in ice air,
mingling with your cigarette smoke
like an uninvited party guest blind drunk before 8 o clock.

Your bones beckon heat,
raging to ride trolleys over cracked concrete
into the brass blare of jazz nights
down streets humming park bench blues
lit up with neon voodoo,
the glitter rattle of beads,
heavy humidity curling your brown hair,
sweat sticking your dress to your curves like a baptism.

I marvel at how you still hear a home calling there,
ready to drink rain and dance mayhem and miracle,
even as New Orleans shambles out of grey sewage floodwater
and wind torn nightmare, city block after city block
nursing broken brick joints and pulling splintered
wood from infected cuts, wailing dirges
for the drowned and scattered, waiting for its people
to show up at the front door suitcases in hand
like the unnamed lover of a thousand blues songs.

Me, I’m too in love with the East Coast.
We grew up in New York.
Yes, we were both stuck
in each of our own dull suburbs
of houses lined up like florescent lit cubicles,
but I never let pretentious hipsters
question the pride I feel in hailing from the same state
where The Ramones Blitzkrieg Bopped
and Grandmaster Flash hammered home The Message,
where Patti Smith sang of nights that belonged to lovers
in a town so nice Sinatra sang it’s name twice…

Now, maybe I’m too willing to shovel out of Bay State blizzards
and shuffle through cold, gray spring rain,
because it all makes those summer days that much more precious,
precious like your smile in the morning,
your laughter on the phone, the postcards
you send me from some thousand mile away wonder.

So if you gotta go alone, then go.
Pack those bags, rev your engine,
ride that highway.

Light your heart where Dixieland Jazz
put pawn shop wedding rings on the fingers
of Caribbean rhythms as the church organ
shook the floorboards.

Light your soul with a hip strut like your name
was carved in the dance floor the day you were born.

Light the city that needs to be believed in again.


The city outside strangles
itself with bullet,
blade, and fist;
squalling light
and siren.  Above
urine stench steps, behind
brick walls, window draft,
dark red curtains
and burning candles,
Nina Simone sings wild winds
as we hold each other close,
fingers following the coarse topography
betrayal and regret
have carved into us.

There is no betrayal here, no regret;
just this moment,
just now.