Let yourself float
down the Nehalem, a candle
in a paper boat. Let it be night.
Let the moon pull you past
the gravitational divide, the body.



The instrument is testy and hard-
wired to emotion. Nerves make it sharp,
inattention flattens it. Ask any tenor—
he’ll tell you how age limits the range,
how his line is toughest. He’ll also go
on con spirito about the flat altos, easy
sopranos who always get the melody,
and those lazy-bastard basses who only
have to show up in a tux and sing low

to get laid by half the chorus. He’ll tell
you his is first to go, a dark harbinger
for the others who hear his tiny slips
on the wire, watch his fall from first
to second, still able to hit a solid B-flat
once or twice but no longer able to live
up there—the ecstatic loops above
the staff, incalzando pushes pulling
the choral body to its apex—a split

geode of raptured vowels, Roman
candles of sacred sound. Well, that’s
enough of that. All of us who sing know
tenors in general are touchy as drunken
drag queens and prone to the –issimo.
But we also remember our first time,
uncool in the safety of the music room,
the collective intake, the bowing of air
across cords, our callow revelation

at the opulent overtones in a chord
perfectly tuned, our mouths, our throats
open, our bodies vibrating in betrothal.
So, fraying and pitchy, we still can’t help
but offer it up. And when we do we are
the first notes sung in Notre Dame, 
gothic vaults cupping and ringing us
full of heaven, our amoroso faces
rose windows full of jeweled light.

     First appeared in Jesus Comes to Me as Judy Garland (Airlie Press, 2021)

At Age 10 I Am the Joy of Old Ladies

Their husbands are dead. They’ve continued
their little shingle retirements playing pinochle
and canasta and driving their old Buicks, rusty,
bulbous, and passé as our tired resort town

with its bumper cars and motor courts and no
reason to pull off the highway. I catch on fast,
a clever partner when they need a fourth
and always happy to empty ashtrays, to refill

plates of jam-stuffed cookies served on sets
of ’40s Heisey. My presence is unquestioned,
though my preteen boygirl body—my lazy belly
and unmanly breasts—strains my clothes, strains

Dad’s tolerance, Grandma’s indulgence, other
boys’ ready inclusion. These ladies deal me in,
let me have real coffee and the scoop. I know
about the mayor’s first wife and why Tommy

doesn’t look like his sister. I know Mr. Sims
used to sell homemade booze. I know about
Bobby, whose mom owns the Curly-N-Cute,
how he got arrested in Portland for something

I couldn’t quite hear and was sent to Salem
for shock treatments. The ladies tut and coo,
pass me more cookies and admire my meld,
tell me I’m smart, say I’m a wonderful boy.

     First appeared in Haunted Waters Press/Splash and is also included in Jesus Comes to Me as Judy Garland (Airlie Press, 2021)

What Any Gay Man Over 60 Might Tell You About Pandemics

He might tell you about Tetherball
Glory, about being playground champ,

how they teased him, how he chose it
for his drag name. He might laugh,

tell you to stock up on vodka, keep it
in the freezer with your optimism, buy

a durable dark suit and do your best
not to disappear. He might tell you

how little the government will think
of you, your test result and COBRA

premium. He might quote, McLuhan:
The medium is the message, tell you

to pay attention–it’s all around you,
a helix singing Joni Mitchell, Come

with me I know the way. It’s down,
down, down the dark ladder: names

on a quilt, panels turned every hour,
pinwheels in a breathless time. You

walk away and he might say, Look
down. You’re already in the snare.

     First appeared in Verseweavers #26/2021

Jesus Comes to Me as Bob Ross

His voice a half-whisper, he is Titanium
White, seducing genesis light and happy
accidents to his canvas. He says fuzzy

perms will have their second coming;
he’s kept his disco-perfect and set for
hustling his color-lit dance floor palette,

his Renaissance halo full of tight-shirted
polyester croon. He tells me not to worry
about my imperfect peaks, my florid

gardens. Look here —I feel his breath
on my ear, the hard K, soft H tuning
the frequency, raising the hair

on my belly. He dabs his Cadmium
Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue.
Look now —I see defining shadows,

dazed highlights. He rubs his madder
on my lobes, my breastbone, my nipples.
Ephphatha, he purrs. Ephphatha.

     First appeared in Jesus Comes to Me as Judy Garland (Airlie Press, 2021)