My Father Was a Beekeeper

I always knew my father was allergic to bees
but it wasn’t until his obituary
I learned he was once a beekeeper.

In those days, I hear, he prayed
to his veil– only to re-emerge, hours later,
having danced with God
under every umber swarm.

He was a gifted storyteller
but it wasn’t until his stroke
at seventy-four made me listen,
when his mouth betrayed his brain.

In his final years he would repeat,
the end of bees is the end of man.
So, heaven in the soft petals
scattered in the grass.

Young violets lined his coffin.
All I wanted was to listen

to stories he told before,
details I had forgotten.

Around the cemetery,
bees still glissando

through gardens not unlike the ones
he dug into his blackened fingernails–

honey and sweat, story-
pollinated requiems, harmonies

heard in bountiful
fields of bloodroot.

 

(originally published in Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal – Spring 2016)

Young Skeletons

the baristas grind bones into coffee
in these cafes I call skeleton closets

this golden-brown-haired babe stands by my table
her laced leggings draw desire with a fine ballpoint pen

her head whips to me from some psychic seventh sense
she is my ex-girlfriend’s brother’s future ex

her eyes descend as B-movie UFOs
attraction vacuums neatly into a plastic bag

she sits with me like a pocketed thunderstorm
galvanized on The Great Wall of Chain-Link

you must believe me she says
there are no hard feelings

a poacher must say the same
beside a rhino’s castrated face

she asks if I come here often
I say I come hard everyday

just the flickering moon will summon the wolf
and we emulate its growls in fluorescent light

time is our species’ one enduring invention
a new carcass will not survive the night

so hold on to your corpse for as long as you can
until we mourn with our friends the forgetting

Again

For two weeks I bathed deep in the sweat of whiskey.
Submerged vocals yawed to 3am caresses together, together.

The silken bed turns itself over, its base an earthquake.
Listerine breath hurls to vortex the two years of refraining

from the holy riptide– how its arms reach
and withdraw, reach and withdraw.

You would drown in the salt of married shells,
sheathe your crackled forearm in the tide’s tattoo.

You would let it embrace and clear
your pearls. Thus begins the tide anew.

 

(originally published in Scarlet Leaf Review)

Dog on the Patio

Whenever I let the dog out
onto our small back patio
on sunny afternoons
and he lays on familiar brick

scratching his ears,
nose curious and wandering,
I remember my father

who, in the endless days of retirement,
learned the lawn better
than his calloused palms:

every humpbacked tree and drooping limb,
every snake and gopher hole,
every new and fallen anthill,
every cobweb on the lamppost,

where to find toads after rain,
how to catch them–

when he did not strive to create utopia
by chiseling trees into magazine models,

I often found him on a patch
of freshly-mown grass,
scratching his smoky, sun-basked beard,

waiting for the wind to speak,
to say more to him than I ever did.

 

(originally published in Black Elephant Lit, Spring 2016)

Arizona Desert

sand lodged in the crooks of fingernails
watch the way light

reflects its own water
the last time something glimmered

was birth driving ninety
through the Arizona desert

the scorch in red rocks
pursued our same dreams

pricklier than a cactus
you leave who you love

the phone conversations
of dryer lint and treble

in heat, tires tremble
in cold, you wait

 

(originally published in “the vacant hinge of a song“, courtesy of Origami Poems Project)

Arrival

We were the hardwood floor. Cold squeaks,
outstretched panther palm, red hand,

expected the chlorine. Wax splashed
baby oil eyes and it is citrus– cinnamon, acidic.

Where we were wanted, the pitchfork path
and jagged rim,

this fungus crust metastasis, you twirl
and twirl your index finger until it leaves.

 

(originally published in Scarlet Leaf Review)