Between cigarettes she slips, mother killed herself 

She talks about a group home and her real name 

The one she does not use 

Because it is old, fuddy-duddy, the name of the island where she was born 

I never ask how she did it 

But I imagine pills 

Black and white photographs taken by the ocean 

White fences dunes and lawn chairs 

Short hair, sunglasses 

Classic cars, red interiors 

I imagine her with cocktails 

Entertaining her blonde haired little girl with gothic rhymes 

Of sitters stealing babies from cradles 

I see her dead on a bathroom floor at midnight 

A tulip sink clean enough to drink from. 

We go to her apartment 

She pulls out shoeboxes full of journals 

One is covered in cutouts of Angelina Jolie 

She says I don’t give a fuck what anyone says 

I love her 

She plays Jeff Buckley then Leonard Cohen then Tom Waits on repeat 

The evening goes on with her talking 

Tristram Shandy is a favorite 

People are fucks 

The magnets are housewives and sarcasm 

I work well with others as long as they leave me the fuck alone 

She is holding a ladle 

She goes on about a man she loves 

Great sex except a woman got in the way 

We get drunk again 

She shows me more lives tucked away in boxes – photographs, clippings, cards.


Weeks later we meet at the hotel bar across the street from the hospital 

Her father is dying and I did not know she had a father 

I cannot piece together her history 

Her mother is dead, she killed herself 

She lived in a group home for girls 

But her father is here now dying in Boston 

He is septic and his liver is failing 

She says he was not a drinker 

She says he is only sixty 

It is cold, winter and raining. 

In the hospital I must pass through levels of security 

To walk around a circular hallway to his room 

He is covered in blankets and tubes 

It is obvious this man will die 

To me he tinkered with 350 engines, never denied salt air, said: winter is for the living, go 

out and revel! 

I sit in a waiting room designed for children 

Little chairs and tables 

Cardboard books about farms and animal people 

There are no windows here 

It is only time before I am sick 

A nurse offers me a cup of water and a cheese stick. 


Her father dies 

And once again she is an orphan in my mind 

She travels to Key West then Puerto Rico 

Lives on an island with navy bombed soil 

Its toxic metals hidden in produce and history 

Because to see it 

There’s water’s clarity and silhouette sunsets 

Draping heat 

It’s too hot to run 

Too hot to eat 

Just drink to each counted day 

Several more and more moments of reflection 

A place to put memories in neon trees 

Each iguana a foreign comfort 

We cannot take away our pains so we bring them to other places 

Harbor them where they cannot be seen so clearly on our faces.