One Night on Broadway

walking the crowded street—
how many thousands of invitations
to fall in love

Walking 5th Avenue

I am again fifteen
with my father,
my first trip to New York,
and he is not yet
in life-changing pain,
and we stare
in store windows,
eat street pretzels
and look for sales racks.
I don’t know yet
how he will hurt
too much to walk,
how even standing
will become impossible.
No, in this memory
we are walking
and laughing
as if we will forever,
as if there won’t
be a morning
when I wake in New York
almost four decades later
and reach to call him
and thank him
for that long ago trip,
only to remember
he can no longer
answer the phone.
All day, I hear his laughter
as I walk. All day,
I feel his hand
reaching for mine.

While Sitting in 28B

flying toward New York City,
I think of how every person
in this speeding vessel
has lost or will lose
someone they love.
And as we fly over Omaha,
Chicago, Michigan,
I feel how many we are—
a whole hurtling planet filled
with those who ache with loss.
I think of how much love
has been beaming
continuously toward
the prism of my heart,
as if the brightest red laser
has been shining into me,
lighting up every facet,
and my heart, radiant, luminous,
has begun to shudder and rattle
with the charge of so much love.
I always knew it wasn’t
mine to keep—
knew it was all love to share.
This is the poem in which
my heart is a firework
exploding with red seeds of light.
They’re for you, if you’ll have them,
to plant in the darkness
like the million lights that sparkle
outside the plane window.
If I could, I would place
this love in your hand.
I know it’s awkward,
you don’t even know me.
Still, I would whisper,
Here—it’s for you.  


In the moments after
my father died
I slid next to him on the bed,
and though I held
the anchor of his body,
still warm, I felt untethered
from above and below—
felt the loss of my father
and the loss of my son—
and knew myself adrift alone.

For a long time, I lie there,
too loose, too free,
alone, alone, alone,
and a tender voice
I have heard before
said, Oh sweetheart,
did you forget?

I knew what it meant—
did I forget love would meet me
anywhere I am? And love
showed me in that moment
an infinite sea and said,
Sweetheart, it’s true,
you’re alone. It’s always been true.
And the only thing
that will ever ground you
is not the object of love,
but love itself.

And there in those infinite waters
love baptized me as its own.
No horizon in sight.
And I am not alone.

Universal Origin Story

It helps me to think
of the singularity
not as a point per se,
but as a book
that contained
everything that is
and everything
that ever was
and everything
that ever will be—
a book in which
the makings
of spiral galaxies
and nebulae and
triceratops and
and you and ticks
and a bullet and
Google were
all nestled together
in the pages,
and if we could
go back and read
that big bang of a book
I believe we’d find
that in the beginning
was not the word
but a volume
of unfilled folios,
a blank with infinite
potential, an empty
space so generous
that everything
might emerge.
Even planets.
Even fireflies.
Even forgiveness.
Turn the page.
Even peace.

Let’s say there’s a window
at the end of a long dark hall—
the more we walk toward it
the farther away it feels.
And then, let’s say, we stop
trying to get anywhere and meet
where we are. That is how
I found myself on the other side
of the window, released
into sky—blue sky, then tangerine
sky, then sky dusky pink.
That is how I found myself
talking with my son the way
we used to whenever he went
to camp—through the sky.
Only this time we didn’t talk.
We just were. Together.
I would say we were fused,
but more truly, perhaps, commingled,
as if our atoms were diffused enough
to commune. To know this
for a moment is to know it
forever—how it is that
there is no separation.
How it is that we are one.


We are being given the chance to become who we are supposed to be.
            —Judith Jordan Kalush, in conversation

I didn’t know I’d found a thin ledge
where I could rest, I didn’t know
I had come to feel settled there
until the ledge crumbled.
I clung to the ground as it fell.

It’s not just the ledge
coming apart, it’s me
being dismantled, undone by loss,
and it hurts, and I’m sad, and it’s hard,
but I notice no impulse to fix it.

Today there is a spaciousness in grief
I could not have known was here—
Ungrounded, I expand in every direction.
I let go of what I thought was solid.
I kiss the letting go.  


Sisu is a Finnish word that describes the Finns. It refers to grit, determination and bravery in the face of obstacles and a willingness to keep going when others would give up.

Superman had his flowing red cape
and Ironman had his red armor,
but my father had
his black wingtip shoes
with one heel built taller
than the other to accommodate
the different lengths of his legs.
He wore them to church,
to the store, to fish, to dialysis.
He slogged in them through puddles
and trampled through slush
and shuffled behind his walker.
He wore them with suits.
He wore them with sweats.
He wore them with blue hospital gowns.

In Finland, when things get difficult,
they say, Eteenpäin sanoi mummo lumessa—
Forward, said the granny in the snow.
And damn, did my dad move forward,
despite deep drifts of pain
that for decades crippled his body.
Though every step hurt, he persisted.

And so, when I carry his shoes to the trash,
I thank them for bearing the weight of his suffering,
and I choke on the sobs that rise.
Thank you, I say. Dad, you’re my hero.
With reverence, I drop the shoes into the bin.

Missing My Father

When you miss him, look inside.
            —Deb Stevens, private correspondence

Today when I miss my father,
I hear him in my voice when I say,
You’ll go broke saving money.
I feel his tenderness in the way
I hold my own daughter’s hand.
His laugh blooms inside my laugh
when I giggle hee hee hee.
Here he is, ever inside me.
Returning home from his death,
I feel transformed,
or is it I feel more me—
the me he helped to shape
with his life, the me
he is fashioning with his death,
the me I’m still learning how to be.

What the Sky Knows

Before the feast,
I slip outside
into the rose glow
of evening and
talk to my loves
who no longer
walk this earth,
and I thank them
for being in my life
and I cry and cry.  
How is it possible
at the same time
to hold so much grief
and so much gratitude?
And the sky holds me
and the rooftops, the
streets and the fields,
the factories and forests,
it holds it all, holds
what is most beautiful,
holds what is most foul.
It doesn’t try to change
anything. Like that,
it seems to say
as it turns a deeper
rose. Like that.

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