Olive Garden

On the way home from my first Passover
with your family we stop at an Olive Garden

in flyover country, where the waitress tells us
Happy Easter and, when you tell her we forgot

but still want angel hair, she jokes her last
table mistook pesto for alfredo. Sometimes

people confuse one god for another but never
their own, and food is ours– Jesus rising

with the dough of endless breadsticks
descending like ten plates of plagues, first-born

bastards in baskets we need no hunt to find
lest our mouths become black holes absorbing

absurd sanctities of tradition. Separately,
the Garden was where our families would gather

on intermittent nights to write our own Haggadahs
or speak sins of rock stars or mysteries

of faith. Afikomans for truth, perhaps, but instead
of matzo an endless bowl of a salad of words

in which we always beg for more
forgiveness without really wanting that.

And the waitress, before engaging the simplest rotor,
asks us to say when to end airstrikes of parmesan

and it does not matter when we do.

 

(originally published in After the Pause, Summer 2018)

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Used to Play Baseball

I am a nail-punctured tire
the rubber smell
with you, unfinished, our wheels –

constant motion
squealing for still.
Our bodies, bands stretched and heaved

in bundles of clothing
(deserted starling
feathers scattered and–)

navigating roadmaps to our cores,
you can reach the end
and pluck what you want.

I just want you to see me for who I am
when your legs aren’t clamped around me,
the squeeze in the mitt.

 

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

Root Canal

I.

the overhead light is a python shining into my eyes
this office is hissing: drills, rotors, a hanging
S at the end of a passing sentence.
they have taken so many x-rays
of my mouth these past few weeks

there the infected tooth stares back
in its gray and black graveyard,
deep in its flaw

II.

the doctor numbs me with needle
puts a cloth in my mouth, a cape
to make my face a superhero.
it’s an uncomfortable placebo
makes me think of super-strength
defense as she scythes the pulp out of me

III.

the doctor says god,
this is a pulp boulder

I have been looking toward heaven
digging and scraping many silent minutes

IV.

a drill

bats squeal and fly from the cave of my tooth

V.

the assistant tag-team switches for
a different assistant

the doctor says we’re finally getting somewhere

on the radio:
like a virgin. touched for the very first time

VI.

the scent of bone

or blood

or gum

or healing

VII.

the assistant says she visited the chickens last week
cute as dickens

I learn chickens have no bladders
and no bone marrow

and here I hold my urine

VIII.

the doctor tells me open wide
shoving cotton in my mouth

shout, shout, let it all out

IX.

they’re trying to figure out the actress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
the doctor holds a scalpel over my mouth
the name at the tip of her tongue

After an eternity I offer
Hahdrey Hehurn

I did my part

they’re proud
and there are no complications

 

(originally published in Off the Coast, Fall 2017)

Impermanence

Seagulls scatter where I stare
myself into the ocean, whose blue
reflects whoever’s gaze it

catches, growing stuck in the
mind’s red door humming self-
significance. The black scar

of sky overlooks this– summer’s
paint dripping onto the canvas
of the next, a bell ringing

after class, learning the
reverberations of its own
footsteps shuffling.

 

(originally published in Hamline Lit Link, Winter 2019)

Last Night’s Bonfire at My Desk

spilled honey clings to black wires
connecting the world my lifeblood
laptop nestled in her shell safe from fingers

goldenrod shirt covers the old burns
the pinewood ashes coat my nostrils
the harsh wind blows crooked conifer to the verge

almost to fracture the window waiting
to kaleidoscope glass a body as canvas
hardwood red lust to cleanse gathering dust

rain pats the chair-infested patio drips of
laughter boomerang from slippery brick
and the blonde coughs from beyond the dark
                                                halls of shed fur & grime

 

(originally published in Freshwater, Spring 2018)