Fortune Cookie (May 9, 2017)

You have good reason
to be self-confident.

After all, this is what
the fortune cookie said.

After a dinner portion
of greasy lo mein
from New Peking.

After CNN reports
the president’s firing
of the FBI director.

This is a gross abuse of power,
and there is a gross amount
of noodles inside me.

Despite that,
I have good reason
to be self-confident,

I suppose.

I am reasonably certain
I still have a job.

I am reasonably certain
I am not under investigation.

There was no backdoor
deal struck with the restaurant
to ensure this would be

my particular
fortune.

All I did was order
the noodles via telephone.

Then I drove to the
restaurant to pick it up,
face-to-face.

I used my credit card
to pay for it, but
I will pay the bill.

In the plastic bag
they handed me,
there was a brown bag.

In the brown bag,
there was a white box
with my food in it

as well as chopsticks,
napkins, a fork, and
the fortune cookie.

That’s it.

All I’m saying is
if you don’t believe
me, investigate.

Anyone who says
differently
is reasonably suspicious.

 

(originally published in Landfill, Fall 2017)

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In Hindsight, They Put the Dog Down

I dropped the screw in the tuna.
The dog got blamed. Once,
my grandma cut herself climbing
a fence and a sliver of flesh fell
into snow, which her dog ate.
I could have gifted you this.
There’s a Christmas story in there
somewhere. There was a better kind
of last meal you could have.

 

(originally published in I-70 Review, Fall 2018)

Your Teeth, My Teeth

clatter. chew
through apples (nothing).

half a meal, half a pine,
half of what we hoped for,
if.

the way a core reveals itself inedible,
though we knew.

from day one, bites
and bites.

sometimes the juice sweetness
overpowers slow rot.

it was early on, and worms
had yet to emerge from their holes
in the ground to greet us.

all we had to do
was wait for rain.

 

(originally published in First Literary Review – East, Winter 2018)

Vibration of a Single Degree

When a system is given
an initial input of velocity,

it will vibrate freely
upon release. The ground

will undergo occasional
displacement. In running,

we invite earthquakes
with periodic force. In leaving,

the engine drives
with rising speeds.

In real systems, energy
dissipates. The system damps,

often unnoticeably. When friction
ends, the memories displace,

and your face becomes
a jumbled mess of cables,

of mouths in wired eyes
so tangled by the heart.

 

(originally published in The Magnolia Review, Fall 2017)

Taboo

the gorge is endless & insatiable
there is a river, then many mouths
& there is your mother
in the next room cooking soup
& there is a mother
on screen bent over stovetop
with stepson rocking back
& forth into hunger
& now spoons clank
on plate before dinner
& your privacy settings–
a closed door
& now your father
home from work
& now the stepfather
makes his daughter behave
& your sister
walks in off the bus
& now the step-sister
removes the mushroom of her skirt
taking her brother by the name
of their familiar
revelation
which is all relative
to the mold of a home
all mildew & dust
spiderweb & tangle
& turn of doorknob
to walk years
through thin hallways
of broken light
fixtures & coughs
to sit in the dining room
all together & eat
years of steaming
garlic, basil, tomato,
salt

 

(originally published in The Cerurove, Fall 2017)

Getting Sober

If I don’t watch it, this lake
is vodka and I won’t care I don’t
know how to swim. Getting sober
is like that. I go out into the world
and look you in the eyes and say
I’m fine. I’m having a good time
and you go on never knowing
I was half-underwater, that
there was a monster trying
to make its way to the surface
and I had to push him down.

 

(originally published in Rattle, Winter 2018 – nominated for Best of the Net)

Dry Lips

the stream
       parched

the heart
       lips

the lung
       lips

the light
       dark

the night
       parched

the night
       lips

the lung
      dark

the stream
      heart

the lips
      heart

the heart
      always

      parched

(originally published in Off the Coast, Fall 2017)

Marilyn Monroe

& part of her phrase of course is
if you can’t handle me at my worst
but there’s a left turn into darkness

no one wants to take &
the signal’s jammed so no one knows
the direction anywhere anymore

just a mirror of the night
reflecting night, a ninety
degree warming sadness glued

onto a body. one silhouette
low into evening, a heat repenting
unknown sin, a snake slithering

out from its hole into you

 

(originally published in Gyroscope Review, Fall 2017)

Half

to cut immigration
is to cut me half

-Filipino I am already
halved quartered diced you take

a knife to my mother she keeps
a knife at her neck we both are

American in the blade of the word
I used to pretend to be more

my more-accepted half
to have to choose

is to have nothing

 

(originally published in Serving House Journal, Fall 2017)