On the Walk to the Polling Place

Some birds zigzag
below shrapnel clouds
and others, perched
on limbs, chatter
about migration
in this chill
because the leaves
in your yard
are a different shade
than your neighbor’s,
but each tree
casts its own
ballot into earth
and waits
for the season
to change.
Scrunching
all the dead
beneath your boots
along the way
to the church
with the cookies
and machines,
you pass big,
brick houses
with American flags
and jack-o-lanterns’
sunken smiles
on porch steps
and city workers
who have been
fixing power lines,
building structures,
patching roads
for so many months,
and so many months
to go.

 

(originally published in The Rising Phoenix Review, Fall 2017)

Young

I can tell you how many points LeBron scored last night
or who won the World Series,
but I can’t fix the leaking faucet in the bathroom,
won’t mow the lawn if not overgrown.

I don’t change the oil in my Ford
nor bring home a solid paycheck–
but I will live in an apartment
to avoid responsibility.

I’ll pay lots of money to tell
a landlord I can’t do it.

I’ve already lived in a car to avoid the responsibility
of telling a landlord I can’t do it.

I didn’t know how to fix it when it broke down,
and a Samaritan changed my flat tire when I burst it
when turning into a potholed Burger King lot
and I claimed I was about to fix it.

He told me not to pay more than twenty-five dollars for a used tire–
no more than twenty-five dollars, and get the rim hammered out
for free!

I went to the tire shop and paid their thirty-five to avoid conflict.
Wordlessly they stopped eastbound traffic on Pico
and I backed away and left.

One thing I can do well is parallel park,
as if reverse-navigation is worth bragging about

but I’ll take it.

No one has the courage to fit inside this small space.
No one can fit inside here but me

 

(originally published in Literary Yard, Winter 2018)

In This Cafe You Thought You’d Find Solace from This World

through speakers 70s music bass
guitar heartbeat pulsating through
a weatherman chants forecasts out
of sync a microwave beeps the shrill
coffee machines trembling cash
register slamming baritone voice
barista says he has bad hearing you
said something before sandwich fan
spins no rhythm stringed spurt richochet
solos quiet everyone reading books
tablets not responding to chaos burnt
bagel wafting sorry sorry the window
rain begins drum drum drum drum
one two three four the faucet spits
on everyone walks in don’t you
want somebody to love?

 

(originally published in IthacaLit, Spring 2018)

Before You Leave for Jacksonville

I awaken on a cold-coiled spring
day in which the car won’t stop
spitting fumes into mouths this steering
wheel won’t budge any way but forward
though we veer to the side past white center
line on highway under full moon to fill
our gas tanks with flowers found in eyes
fluttering in wind right when I say
I love you this time I mean it

 

(originally published in Epigraph Magazine, Winter 2018)

 

 

Can’t Stop Coughing

I binge-take extra-strength cough
drops with gooey menthol centers

having come home from Thanksgiving
earlier than expected

temperatures in the 30s
a shrill turn in the wind

no one outside
but to yell at dogs

men summoning phlegm
hack away at progress

here I sit
alone loudly

perched against white
pillows dry-throated

the medicine kicks in
allows me to speak up

to silence the wall’s tongue
a quiet my body loves

 

(originally published in Hamline Lit Link, 2018)

Kiss of the Cantaloupe

Sweet-suckled Slovenian lips–

Cleveland where I found you,
Columbus were you lost.

Some days a black blanket
we would lay under to seek stars

seeking something cold &
how our temperatures dropped

over the years. We’d burn nights
matchstick young, whiskey and coke,

peel clothes to cool– so the blades.
Puckered and bundled, how to cut

& create tiny crescent moons.

 

(originally published in The Penmen Review, 2018)

Scenery

My roommate takes me
for a walk, or she takes the dog
for a walk. It doesn’t matter.
It’s the second night

we’ve walked each other,
or the dog walked us,
sore throat, brainy fog,
and this time can’t even find

the moon, obscured by houses.
We look anyway, together,
comparing bloom to doubt,
how one is sure, the other

grows, and leaves
crunch beneath as the dog
stops our walking
to pee, to leave another

thing behind. On Sunday
I watched the Niagara dump millions
of gallons into itself, mist rising
into something, nothing. The moon

loomed huge over the bridge
to America towing sunset’s lavender
bed but you can watch a thing die
before your eyes, or not at all–

the way, driving back from Canada
in heavy traffic, I tapped you
on the shoulder on the sky bridge
and said, look, here’s something,

one thing beautiful left, look,
and took the world’s last magnificent,
proffered blue and there, as a passenger,
you refused.

 

(originally published in The Knicknackery, 2018)