John Kay


I hear, “dead white leaf,” off-key,
when he says, It’s probably cancer.

I dog-ear this moment, crease
the corner of this word, Cancer,

as it kisses me for the first time.
Then—like spilled paint—I free-fall

through the architecture of death,
cold prayers on my lips, only to find

my son in his Star Trek T-shirt,
his eyes climbing the ladder to my

heart. We leave, sidestepping time,
—stuck to this particular kiss.




From a sunny bench, watching
white tourist boats, leaving

fingerprints on the moment,
we share a sandwich and a bunch

of grapes under naked lindens.
Girls in tank tops who have not

yet gotten their breasts trickle by,
and we take turns reading poems

that promise trees and girls will,
indeed, get their leaves—but we,

we won’t always be here, not
like this, not like now—they say.




One evening Anne Frank
received her first gold star,

tracing her thin fingers over
the stitches around its yellow,

cotton edges, and thought,
Ich trage einen Goldenen Stern,

pulling it up over her sleeve,
making sure it was straight,

unaware she’d only be a girl,
never a woman on her way,

passing through the evening,
snow in the brim of her hat.




Nuzzling the necks of old
lovers, being eaten slowly,

listening to the endless rain,
the dead do have feelings.

But in the contraction of death
that smothers love—putting

them out of danger—reduced
to something less than bone,

an unbinding signature in
yesterday’s smoke—they are

forever bereft of all things
banging in the big bang.




Grapefruit wedges fly off my spoon,
shooting back into their membranes

as the geraniums in the window boxes
slither back into their thin, green skins.

A loud dog is swallowing its bark.
And according to the morning Trib,

all the dead cats in Casablanca bounced
back to life smoking short Luckies.

I’m heading home, retracing my steps
in the morning light, limping over lawns,

thirsty, in dog trouble, trying to get back
before the hole under the fence closes.