The guard at the Central Park Zoo dozes off
to his daughter’s voicemail, dreams of a simple
open window. He can’t shake the feeling silk
curtains once adorned the portal, like they’ve
just slipped out. The Eurasian Eagle-Owl
finds the mesh of his enclosure slashed by
the moon and flies to the nearest pine.
In Gertrude Abercrombie’s Strange Shadows
an owl appears where her cocktail once was.
Her arm curved as a hammock branches
toward the animal. I’m not rooting for anyone
the patrons say, especially not the woman’s arm.
I just cheer when my attention is captured.
When park tourists pose for group photos
instead of cheese they now say the owl's name
Flaco. The child holds out vowels Flaaaacooooo
until the bird closes his eyes in contentment.
Flaco doesn’t know about rat poison.
Or windows, the weight it takes to slip away.
Flaco won’t eat his rat while you’re watching —
that’s private. Birdwatchers are told their mere
presence in the habitat is a disturbance.
You must stick to the marked trail even if
you’ve seen someone set themselves free.
I had to find out what was in there. I’ve been called
dolphin smart, predictable as tides, one special woman
even cooed starfish for how I held her with a kind of
tenacity, or maybe from when my cheek stuck to the
mirror briefly, as we tried to fit on the bathroom sink.
Though metaphor is weaker than first-hand observation.
I knew I had to see the bottom, make my own judgment
if in the dark I’d recognize me.
I never meant to hurt anyone. They’re saying I took all
the emptiness away — like they own the air too — I just
doll up what no one cares to love. I’ve always been this way.
Can’t sit with ugly, even if it’s yours. Sure, I could have
consulted with other inhabitants. But competition is just
a way of saying: let us make our marks on one another.
Now when I come around, it’s cursed pond, cursed crops
cursed horses with cursed troughs.
QUEEN CHESS PIECE (confessional)
No one ever did a thing for me. My man sunk into
the couch cushions, I waited alone at the window
staring down intruders. Two men stood in the grass
facing our house. I didn’t have time for shoes.
I followed them everywhere, green heels
at their loafers, ties tucked against their bellies.
(How did I intimidate them?) I ran screaming this land
this land has crowns made of snakeskins power out
of corpses— Neither the law nor heaven make people
do good. A good person haunts themselves.
No, I wasn’t drunk when I fell into the ditch.
And it’s not just mud I earned when I pulled
myself out: there were ferns and rose petals
lodged quail feathers, fossils of the front yard
stuck between my teeth. I believed I could
make the jump — in another country I swear
they call me wings. No, it wasn’t my name
that gave me strength. It was silent after the crash
the neighbors as witness, their eyes striped with
blinds. No one else will brush away your dirt.
The bad vibes of an unoccupied man can cut through any drugs I’m on.
I turn to face the woman belting ABBA and turning back a stranger
is gripping my winter coat at his side, holds it while staring into
the bar lights, as if let down by the flimsy weight of his trophy.
The last time I was here the bartender gave me a bag of delicately
rusted bud lights and said text me if you feel sick from drinking these.
This was her way to thank me for staying while she worked alone.
Approaching home I think a motorcycle cover frantic in the wind
is a man masturbating. I lace apartment keys between my fingers
release when my coworker approaches with a slice
and tells me about his date. Calculating if he’s drunk; clocking
the scuff of sneakers behind me as a man passes, I hear
men are doing this now instead of verbalizing
Excuse me — how do you know for sure someone is breathing
a mother interrupts me and Mica’s cafecito where she relays
a blurry kiss but clear feeling, she didn’t want to get too close
to the stillness in the subway entrance, together we approach
and see movement. The mother is relieved but for odd reasons
I didn’t want that to be my daughter’s first dead body. Not today.
What was wrong with today? The postal worker looks at my package
and says it may contain a witch. Says they love witches where
this parcel came from. And when you get home there may be a shadow.
Under your car a noise (if noise indicates a witch, my jeep holds a coven).
I sign my name, walk away to the warning: Once the witch finds you
it will never leave you. Thank you so much, have a great day.
In the bodega, a man calls out to me — hello beautiful beautiful
the litany until his hand to his mouth — oh shit! I forgot my mask!
A woman sells mace and brass knuckles out of a garbage bag
in front of the deli counter. To buy a tuna melt I must first
confirm or deny it’s the end times. My therapist says I need to embrace
a lack of certainty — maybe I am in danger, maybe I am safe
Maybe what I want more than anything is as shallow
as an outdoor shower, a green bug on the soap bar
I want to be found enjoying myself
I want to be a formidable presence under the stars
I want to make eye contact with a passing searching creature
who sees me preoccupied in thought, and roams on.