Four Songs of Portland


In bits of lichen and frost
I searched for the old city
catching glimmers
trapped in glass and
the shredded music of lost harbors

importing a wilderness
onto a ship that daily sailed
on a rainy sidewalk sea

the spells have weakened
my vision dimmed but
vivid is the visage I made of you
still stamped upon the streets
that briefly and eternally
married us


bittersweet the love that destroyed this city
dark the ashes we drank and glittery
down on the wharves
in the lamp-lit pretty

soft your ghostly hand in mine
rich the harvest of bones we entwined
poor the rooms where we made our art
hard the hours we passed encoined

strange the songs
to which we thrashed
riparian the streets
along which we passed

careening the houses
in a hurricane dream
idiosyncratic the tarot
of our spider-web seams

impermanent the rocks
at the end of the world
final the glimpse that still

through the old square
crowded with shadows and dust
at dusk
they sought to destroy

impossible the buildings
they raised in our wake
seen from the scrim
of our big black lake

exiled perhaps
by the mentors of time
it no longer matters if what we
felt was sublime

that people live now
where the ancient pines grew
deep in its rich history of loam

what matters isn’t even this poem


from my high Victorian window
I watch the snow fall
and think about the Queen Anne’s lace
primming the ancient rocks
the payphone in the old Port Hole
on which my  best friend used to call me
as I  sipped coffee in the briny
waterfront morning
when Lance was the grill cook
and they served onderful ood,
as the cheerful yellow and white
ferries departed blasting
Portland with their song
the walls and windows
and hundreds of miles we’ve woven
into the brick streets
the city at night it’s spine a string of pearls
the dead pearl diver
safely embalmed  in the museum
immune from time and memory
caresses and promises
that appear and disappear
in the waves of rain
tears and snow pounding pounding pounding
the shores of my aging heart


the old city was gone
though we clung to its ruins
and traces

still inhabiting its former
versions, hand-in-hand
with ghosts

dancing with skeletons
long the leafy brick

perhaps a bonfire
or a funeral was warranted
but how does one edit

a ceaseless sculpture
or celebrate this moment
or that

a chance encounter
a bitter breeze
a celestial window

so we made reliquaries
in our hearts and houses
that became our art

none of it would matter
to those who weren’t there or
could no longer afford it

we watched it sink
like so many before us
a few old bodies

sitting on a porch
by the tides