To Sara (From Kingsford)

I scratch at doors because I hear a creature
moving in some box I have yet to lick.
Cardboard has the faint taste of forest, of hungry
bark. I have never ventured deep but the deep
knows my name, and when alone its voice
is sometimes distant but so heavy, I claw
the door’s painted wood until the woodlands stop
speaking, or someone lets me free. I explore dark
spaces and in this home I look for monsters
to flee– I run from shadows, sprinting through
the wilds of rooms wanting a chase to give
my motion meaning. Don’t get me wrong.
I’m grateful; I’m safe; I’m running from myself:
I’ve loved like vacancies in the clothes hanging
in closets. And loved like in your arms, eyes closed,
no more dark but in searching for the predator
to emerge in you– but on your bed, in this room,
in this home– there is only breathing and calm
I can’t sense in that outside world of creaking
and footsteps, of clouds rolling into thunder,
of multitudes of other things
I trust far less than you.

 

(originally published in York Literary Review, Spring 2017)

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The Suburban Wild

In darkness we find a train:
engine active, body inert.
We walk the adjacent rail’s
delineated steel, waiting for a sign.
A spotlight from the city’s purple heart
shoots starward into clear, and the train
barks at something we cannot hear.
We scamper through the brush,
our clothes and hair full of sticks–
strays rising into the cold shadow
of a home, on the hunt
for what will make us whole.

 

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

Breakfast

I forgot about the Honey Nut Cheerios
I left on the counter in the kitchen.

Brought it to my room after my coffee,
grains soggy, milk sweet. Tried eating it

anyway but fell apart in sugary disintegration.
So I gave up. That’s usually what happens–

a few bites and that’s enough. I let it sit,
let it warm in the morning’s cool, gradual rise

to afternoon heat thinking about the satisfying
crunch it should give me, how I could have clamored

for seconds. I caress the silver spoon in deep
to slow splash and clank. This is what it becomes:

a pool of not-good-enough and I can’t will myself
to lift the ceramic altar to my lips to drink. I stare

at bottomless milk and know I live somewhere drowning
in this disappointment treading out to some delicious

shore somewhere only I know how to live, but here’s
this stale frothy white, stagnant in my bowl,

and me hovering lamenting stressing
over something fixable.

 

(originally published in The Remembered Arts Journal, Winter 2017)

Pool-Blue

We lounge by the pool
& sink before entering.

Its blue averts new colors.
It’s simple: I don’t know how to love

without drowning,
lungs flooding with chlorine.

I never want to dive into the deep
& forget how to breathe

but I followed & found to love
is to leave your fins on land–

but silent in the deep, lungs
rationing air, I want us never to open

our eyes underwater to find
the pool colorless– that we

will always see the blue
the water does not have.

 

(originally published in GNU Journal, Winter 2017)

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, Spring 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)