Poems for Long-Distance Longing

"I want you and you are not here." Over the past year, my LA-based love and I have been sending each other songs (her) and poems (me) to help bridge the intermittent distance between us. These are some of the poems.


To think of gratitude and to think of thank you cards
instead, the small panic of them, the pressure
to buy the ones with black and white Parisian photograph
covers and the blank insides, ready for your profound message,
you writer, you beautiful liar; you are supposed to be good at this.

So you write, Thank you for the flowers. I don’t know
what to call them, but they are pink and I plan
on taking them to bed with me in your absence. You write,
Thank you for the reminder you’re eight hundred miles away.
You draw pictures of hot air balloons and trolley cars and
inaccurate maps of the United States with dash dashed arrow
routes that point from one stick person holding flowers
to another stick person empty handed.

And when it is too hard to be thankful for anything
other than the fact that at least the two of you aren’t dead yet,
you call, despite the time zone difference and impossible hour,
to say, Walk west so that I can hear your footsteps better.

I am Coming, Sal

from Dear Sal

I am coming, Sal.
In a beat-up Plymouth, powered by stars.
Down a road of stars through trees of stars.
Every button of my brand new suit is a star.
My cufflinks, stars, I wear a star in my lapel.
I washed my hair with a handful of stars.
The sky shaken loose, I lathered my beard.
I’m coming to you with a bouquet of stars.
With a blanket of stars & a basket of stars.
With a bottle of stars & a banquet of stars.
For years I have pulled stars from my body:
Here is the joy, here is the grief, here is
the slaughter I have shaped into stars.
I have polished the stars & buried them.
Stars of my nipples, stars of my knees,
stars of my vertebrae, stars of my lungs.
An orchard has grown, it is heavy & yours.
I will gather the fruit & transport it to you.
See how it falls from my pockets & armpits.
My bones are stars & the stars are for you.
My wound is a star & my wound is for you.
We’ll hold these stars to each other’s lips.
& drink the ghosts from each other’s stars.
I am coming to you with a wedding of stars,
a meadow of stars & a chuppah of stars,
a book of stars with our song written in it.
If the hush returns with its claws unbroken
we’ll be there Sal, with stars in our knuckles,
stars in our hammer, stars in our singing.
A volley of stars will pummel this country.
The absence, eaten by packs of stars.
A voice will speak in the voice of a star.
A voice will speak & the river will stand.
The river will stand & I love you Sally.
I love you Sally & the river will carve
our names into the dark.