Graduate School

My mother was mortified when she heard:

No curtains? How do you live without curtains?

All thanks to my sister who insisted on visiting:

a plot to see what San Francisco had done to me

after half a semester. Just how many rooms

does this apartment have anyway?  “Flat,” I said.

“We say flat here. Like in Europe.” LA DI DA,

my mother sang. But no TV, Mister Fancypants?

Five roommates and not one TV—uchh. Had I

given up God, denounced the religion of things,

uprooting myself from her sane Long Island?

I just wanted to study poetry, in “a room, with

some lace and paper flowers.” Like Stevie Nicks.

I just wanted to be a Gypsy. Hadn’t she began here?

Opening for Janis? And Jimi? Writing her songs.

If Stevie had curtains, she likely tore them down.

To wear as a shawl. When my mother mailed some,

I said, “But I’d rather watch the city.” To imagine

the orange bridge stretching behind the rows

of grubby Victorians, to listen to the pigeons

on my roof cooing to orgasm each morning.

I stopped there, sensing my mother’s threshold.

No TV—did ya ever? Likely addressing my sister,

the rat. I assumed she hadn’t mentioned my neighbor,

his slow-mo strip tease in the frame of his window

every dusk—just for me. My sister blew him

a kiss when I refused to let her snap a photo.

“Even this city has limits,” I explained. My mother

threatened a TV for my birthday. “But I need to read.”

Life without commercials, canned laughter. Besides,

hadn’t this been her plan? An educated son, a man

of the world, her little boy in a room with a view?


Vermont Getaway: Thirteen Gays Looking at a Blackbird

I. Okay, first off—it’s Onyx.
II. What, are you blind? It’s clearly Deep Noir.
III. Fred was just saying Black Olive or Licorice but I—
IV. Well, Fred makes everything about food. On our first date, he said my eyes were rum-soaked raisins. Chaaarming!
V. I should’ve said they were Blackbirds, darling. Two rum-soaked Blackbirds who shit on anything I have to say.
VI. Knock it off, you two. Can’t we just enjoy our lovely weekend away from the city?
VII. I saw a Blackbird once. On Fire Island. Or was it Provincetown? I dunno. But it was definitely at a Black Party—I know that.
VIII. Remember that drag queen who did pantomime? Wasn’t her show called Ballad of the Blackbird?
IX. She was doing Kabuki, imbecile. And the show was called Memoir of My Last Turd. I’d know, I dated her kimono designer.
X. Hey, don’t Blackbirds have a high frequency of homosexuality? Like giraffes?
XI. You’re thinking penguins. And that’s your last mimosa, Danny. You’re getting like really loud. You’ll scare the little guy away!
XII. Oh, he split ages ago. Soon as Fred and Jose started going at each other.
XIII. No! I wanted an Instagram pic. He was so sweet. That’s it—next time we drive up, I’m gonna build him the poshest birdhouse you’ve ever seen.

I Tell My Twin Sister if I Come Back after I Die,

 it sure as hell ain’t gonna be to visit

as a pesky fly, obsessively orbiting her head while

she kneels, nose-pinched, to de-poop the litter box.


Or a squirrel, like the one she calls Mom

whenever it pauses halfway up the maple

to stare through the kitchen window as she lights

a cigarette: I know, I know—I promise I’ll quit!


If we’re granted the power to return, to embody

some other kind of creature, why would it be

those two ducks who claim her pool every June?


Okay . . . so if they are Grandma and Grandpa, 

what do you think they’re trying to communicate

through the shit and feathers you skim out daily?


You remember how they loved to swim, she insists,

when I suggest it’s the endless supply of breadcrumbs

she scatters, not reincarnation, bringing them back.


Well, if I return, I assure her, it’ll be as a bear

not at all native to her suburban town—a big one,

who claws a perfect M for Michael into the side

of her shed. So there’s no uncertainty it’s me.


Oh my god! Don’t you dare, she says. That shed cost

a fortune! But . . . feel free to carve it into the maple.


What makes you think I’m going first anyway? I ask.

Has that fly you call Pop been telling you something?


Clean the litter box for me, she says. And ask him yourself.