Forsythia

The days when we would lay
on blue towels by the beach
combing through our Merriam-Webster
holding every fascinating word by the stems in our mouths,
our vibrancy was inseparable from gardens
full of hyacinths and rhododendron and zinnias
and, yes, forsythias, all these flowers in our hometowns
we never knew the names of
until we saw the words on sand-shorn pages,
said the names out loud, grasped endlessly
for petals in each other. No, we bloomed
laughter from our throats, planted seeds
into pits where absence grows in ensuing Aprils.
We never knew what words might appear
on Scrabble nights hunched over grids of possibility and–
strings of letters string surprising words together.
Marionettes, spider webs, violins, shoelaces,
your hair among the rules of nature, and nurture,
here nurturing the garden, here the home
where we tend other flowers– all my love,
I repeated. Forsythia, forsythia, forsythia.
But those beach days were distant, the tide slurring
softly alongside my returns from long unexplainable workdays–
all my love, I repeated. For Cynthia.
Wooden tiles tornadoed to the floor, slapping
the carpet with words we had not invented yet–
there is no remedy for lost trust. The flame
already sleeps in the bed of the mouth.
Cynthia, Cynthia. I did not know a Cynthia–
but I had never been able to name a forsythia
in the wild. The next time I see one
will feel like cheating. Nothing too-known is magical–
there is wonder in inventing nomenclature,
that a word like forsythia can only be made
in moments like anesthesia, with darkness descending
like the cigarette clouds of a severe storm when, in the drift
into a new consciousness, a lilac floats your mind’s pond–
a lilac, maybe, though that’s not what you want,
and maybe, in the distance, you see the blossoming
yellow that accompanies spring, the air golden around it–
the beauty that’s grander than words.
You wish you never learned the name for it.

 

(originally published in Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Winter 2017)

Library Days

That gray summer was spent buried
in fantasy novels beside my father’s grave.

It was rain in bitter heat, a whirlwind of pages
as my hands returned to oak, night lamp aglow.

Always I end in a nestle of branches and words,
longing to strip my faded jeans and unbathe,

ride a dragon into goldenrod, triangular
wings swallowing the neutral sky–

so often I shovel terrain in my mouth,
wishing time erode the sediment

that builds cities in my body,
skyscrapers in my throat.

 

(originally published in The Piedmont Journal of Poetry and Fiction, Winter 2017)

Sunny Days

In memory of Chris Hull

friends don’t
wait for rainy days
to die
there is never
a metaphor
in the weather
the sun laughs
as it always does
when I receive the call
I find the nearest tree
to brace myself
with shade
it’s the only darkness
seventy-six degrees
warm breeze
the car
approaching the hospital
still takes her living
to work
at being alive

 

(originally published in Muddy River Poetry Review, Spring 2017)

Band Room

there are many instruments that we are
and many more we are not

such as we are sometimes saxophones
who have not memorized love songs

but we have eyes to read the sheets
lips to blow into trumpets tubas

muscles to crash cymbals
pound the bass drum at night

we remain off-tune no matter time of day
arcs of trombone waves flute trills rainbows

the inhaled swampy atmosphere
of slide-lube and falling domino fingers

down the rigid clarinet air
melodic staccatos of sixteenth-notes

every piece celestas
on wet reed floor

the band room holds its breath
waits for us to play something

 

(originally published in Beech Street Review, Fall 2016)

Memories of My Friends

I.

memories tips
of dry paintbrushes
scraping canvas
saturated with constellations,
faint shapes remembered,
bone smiles, glazed eyes,
span of sunlight, eight
long minutes away

II.

a chewed-out lighter
flickers in my hand.
tiny fragments of a broken
windshield from a wayward
stone compile into diamond
dust, a fractional mountaintop
glistening at dusk

III.

we dug all of the glimmer out of dirt,
filled paper bags with crystals.
there was no laughter,
there was no silence.
everything happens now
and never again

 

(originally published in Gyroscope Review, Winter 2016)

So Find Meaning

in the blue diner
we laughed
made something meaningful

but how you puckered
your lips
didn’t mean you need
communion

I am
trying to make my way
down High street
without kicking every red hydrant
I walk by

without drowning in wish
without
finding meaning in every stop
sign
every green light
turned red

I’m finding out greasy fries
aren’t made to be shared
they clump
onto the salty plate

every intersection
is just an intersection
avoiding cars
strangers

every passing honk
is for you

I was not made
to philosophize

words
mean nothing
until spoken

 

(originally published in Nixes Mate Review, Winter 2017)

Warehouse Beach

The warehouse art gallery could never be mistaken for the beach,
even as curators charade sand across the dancefloor,
make us remember desire. Violins strike the throbbing air
with an electronic pulse, a horsehoof beat activating

the summer IPAs we drank beforehand to create
our summer selves. It ends. You end. At home later on
we watch documentaries where owls hunt forests for prey.
I pray we will soar but never hungry above branches.

Mostly I pray for our hearts to not be plucked raw, how stranded
and helpless we can feel in a new town while the world whirls
a thousand miles per hour– we stumble through sliding landscapes–
sand on concrete wails for sun, for sunset wind to whip

through industrial, unfinished interiors. We dance, or run,
until light draws herself from the ocean’s muted stone.

(originally published in Crack the Spine, Winter 2016)