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Locust Valley

With thanks to :

red wine Elliot Smith sleepless nights before a full day at the office

symptoms of tragedy came on slow: streetlights had grown taller than trees. flickering in, scattered reports he’s begun hugging people for no reason.

a gun goes off in the restaurant nextdoor. some of us hesitate, but decide a real bullet would have been louder.

I. Ellen


not like the other girls, El was made out of matchsticks, which is actually Quite romantic if you don’t think about it too long

The Broadway Mall

a ribbon cutting is easy to imagine, or escalators and sunglass stands riddled with the undead: lush, apocalyptic, Christmas music still seeping out from Macy’s.

scattered, it’s these scenes in between which sound familiar in just the wrong way:

a sparrow searches for sky high above the food court. children sell oversized pretzels to children.

in every syllable, a sale. a spritz of Italian cologne escapes

into the silent rush

of cool blue air.


cautious, El saved her first kiss for a special occasion, saved it ‘til stale, then again perhaps no one wanted it anyway.

she is trying not to think this way so often.


with honeysuckle, wild rabbits, sand and all its small inventions, but

also a man and wife who migrate bedroom to bedroom: tissue paper ghosts since the children have gone,

there is also the boy in his disease, in his knot of sheets, who hears an ice cream truck toll distantly down the road.

there’s the ice cream man feeding his cat before sitting to write his novel.

Hesitation Wound

fathers are certain / there’s going to be time enough for carousels and piggybacks, / one more family cruise / more handheld footage / of miniature golf. / of a homesewn Peter Pan production. time / his dry lips on the crest of her / cheek after / the long night

at his office, but high school comes on like / leukemia (a way of saying we didn’t remember / how bad, how quick), blood suddenly / so eager to leave and many decades / before it does. how boys like fingers all/ wrapped up around her, all stealing parents’ liquor; all coffee / and aftershave.

between periods, briefly she pauses to reflect / on the glaciers – what bony beaches they left, grasping deep and slowly, dragged away.

Ilan who works in the Bagel Shop

opens a tab to facebook and stares at his wall. Ilan who works in the bagel shop opens a tab to facebook, reads his likes, favorite movies, and tv shows, can’t remember plots, Ilan opens a tab to facebook, but doesn’t know why, x’s it out, googles his name, searching for any trace he might exist.


snagging punctured plastic bags, trees sway; broad brown anemones, tall in her yard

Night Walk: Island Trees

I blue car red car rocking chair family name pinned to the garage a garden gnome green car pinwheel and stepping stone path:

inspiration, faith, love, a silver car a basketball hoop orange car ceramic sun the black car like a tomb a koi pond they gave up maintaining some years ago

II. wan and wilted, Bill Levitt ideals – he’ll house one father,

mother, one boy, one girl, the dog and cat, and one white

picket fence assembled in 16 minutes or less, more efficient than the Factory

Ford, churning, without hatred in his heart, Mr. Levitt recalls

what’s best for business, was best for us all.


It’s offensive how often he loves her the rabbi’s son, on streets scaled in mini van, sopping with summer, he walks in an arm span – black and minty air – beside her list: each item displayed to declare a ranch model house home. blue car, red car, rocking chair


El downloads the band’s discography, playing every track but the hits; still buys condoms on her father’s dime. sometimes, at night, before she falls asleep she remembers everything she was ever going to be.

II. Ilan

New Sum

El slips on her stocking, Il picks his guitar, stands close, if not slightly aside, brushing their teeth, admiring how little they look like their parents.

Ilan who works in the Bagel Shop

swept the apartment all night. keeps dust from its always settling.

first flakes of morning wind. whorling across this vacant driveway.

he leaves the tv on. and she imagines somebody is home.


delicate only not all these hummingbirds – December: – more like the squid dissolving into its weightlessness levitating close to shore

A Terrible Tragedy Very Far Away

each word demands execution:

election resistance

after the war, he’ll imagine them walking, although the landscape relapses, caught in its projector, stairwells marching towards god, their structure unsound, bodies hunched over with memory: olive leaves and honey, or –

do they remember anything at all? When the pair is described as ‘kissable’ will he see faces which are? or —

certain indulgences are easier to confess: he wants to believe if it comes to drowning, he’ll have water; still and warm. wants to believe he must be the only thing

waiting, quietly, to be held. an old woman too old to carry her grandson. the grandson too young for carrying anything at all. he asks himself

will they stay very far away? her tired hands weaving late into the sun. an animal lapping hot puddles of rain.


sick with this reality: every car bears a body, Il follows brake lights deeper down the l.i.e.

Scale Map of Their Bedroom

finally, the hour he can turn coffee into wine. list things he imagines she might be: pillow cases, morning’s mugs, shirts which no longer fit, but he’ll refuse to give away. outside, skies swell up purple, but refuse to darken all night. it seems he’s been going about this wrong.


rain remembers


an imprint of every child

laid down to spread their wings


some mornings breakfast is a fight for his life: most mornings he can’t remember breakfast at all: Dearest, this real world is nothing from horror films we’d never watch: no one’s laughing at the scary part: zombies onscreen unseaming a man, this scattering crowd, this palette: gore and all colors – watch

: our hero slinks silently off.

A Well-Intentioned Coward Accepts That She Cannot Save the World

It is not true that every person wishes for world peace, but start with slipping from under the covers, over throw rugs which placate the floorboards in case a stranger should notice her footfall: her trail of apologies to the percolator at noon. Somewhere, someone carves their own initials in a sycamore, someone has closed their eyes while scurrying past refrigerated meat. The coward

sews her atlas once again, its rambling seams overrunning each border like mountains.

Night Walk: Locust Valley

on which through shambled teeth of a fence, she watches Ilan bury his grandmother’s silver ware down in the earth, under clay and queen anne’s lace, assuring himself it’s holy for the night.

Ilan who works in the Bagel Shop

can’t count oh so many places he’d rather be, the indecision of which cuts deeper than sun reflected off the dashboard on his way to work.

Remembrance of Flings Past

teenage hours how they’d kissed like burglars, sparked all cigarettes against the expressway. rain trapped by streetlamps, moon in its steady, suspended decline. when we turn back; his dimensions collapse, she lifts herself up by the hair and is gone.



not like the other girls, El was made up of matchsticks, which isn’t Really so romantic if you think it through

Sam Ross []

Locust Valley  

[poetry from the island]