Glass Chess

I showed you how pawns function
on a glass chessboard

they sacrifice themselves to protect who they love

and what rooks and knights risk
in the modern age

there is a hierarchy in how to approach things

cigarette smoke permeated the wooden air
a phonograph streamed Brahms
I could never quite understand complexity

we sat on couch crumbs with our jeans touching

your friend gave me a rare Bahamian seashell
mottled with beige and caramel
I could not hear the ocean
no matter how hard it pressed against my ear

but with my head against your chest
I remember the beating tide

back then I was composed of sand

scooped whole by strangers hands
learning the gravity of myself
before dissipating

one day
I will build you a castle

 

(originally published in Walking is Still Honest, Summer 2016)

The Kansas City Royals Cope With Loss

A river isn’t really blue. The Mississippi
has dried, and even love is transparent.

We adorn ourselves blue so loss
can be quantified in color. Such

is the brittle paintbrush, naked
and grieving, but we are not

the color of grieving,
nor tobacco spat in the dugout

in shame. We remember
the dirt, and who we loved,

long before we searched
clouds’ faces for ghosts,

her grays in the white
within eternal blue.

 

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

Cicadas

The cicadas come at night, after you
fall soundly in the trance of your booklight,
buzzing pages. Forget, there’s no undo.
The cicadas come at night,

arriving several years apart despite
love’s hindwings clung to bark whose heart is true.
We burrow in those pages craving sight

and air and words– we gather in droves to
kiss your hand though you think it is a bite.
We wait years and always return to you.
The cicadas come at night.

 

(originally published in The Road Not Taken, Summer 2016)

Golden Gate

I listened, during that foggy morning stroll
on the Golden Gate, when you alluded
to what it must mean to jump,
how it must feel to fall.

The foghorn blared every five minutes
from some ship we could not find beneath us.
We peered our heads over the low railing
and inhaled the gray.

Red telephones rang in our heads.
I can still hear the ringing
from the hotel’s broken phone–
thin wires dangled into lines

on our palms, curved and infinite–
an atlas to guide the whispers
we cupped into our hands
at night.

I feared faraway screams
or the deafening sound of cymbals, shards
of metal launched from the hinges
of what was thought secure–

I did not expect
in an instant, without percussion–
I did not expect the fog, how sterile
it seems, like the afterlife, how it turns

the familiar into silhouettes–
to make this any easier.

 

(originally published in riverbabble, Issue #28, Winter 2016)

The Cough

The fractured stone tunnel hollows.

Browned winter leaves
crackle into crumbs.

Birds’ humming stirs into
a white blanket of silence.

That’s when we deadlock to distrust
& wake, shirts faded, stained

with verbal gunshots. Never
too early for shared cocktails,

never too healthy, or sick,
for what you know to be lodged

in your esophagus, bits of
chicken & asparagus held

together as a spell, or a mantra:
shake me, martini, shake me.

Make me loathe a little more.

 

(originally published in Random Poem Tree, Winter 2016)

Runner

You always have to run.

Short North to downtown,
city to city, Indiana

to Tennessee–
one shoe on gravel,

the other careening
through time and space

into a green
where you are unknown

and your running shoes are empty
at our red swing’s feet.

I know you never run to leave,
driving your horizon eyes

miles to sun– and you, after its setting,
glide beside each highway’s unlit rivers

on the bridge of the median, drunk
from driving so long under moon,

far from where our empty bottles
collect in a skyward infinity,

a mountain of clinking memories–
a marathon, a gap traversed quickly.

(originally published in VerseWrights)

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)