Illusions

look in the mirror
that’s the ghost of you
a fraction of a second ago

I look into my lover’s eyes
and she seems alive though
I know we’re wilting

together when we hold
hands the action is
a time traveler

our atoms providing
the illusion of touch
but what of the heart

does the beating keep
us breathing or the
faith that we might be

my head rests
on your chest
soft thumping

echoes of eternity
I am both part of
and removed

 

(originally published in Hamline Lit Link, 2018)

Our Neighborhood Giant Eagle Is Closing

Everything is on sale. Where once was bread
now empty shelves and strangers scanning aisles

for the last shred of good. As it closes you say
you are a little sad, but it was never your favorite

grocery store. We have been fighting a lot lately–
from our favorite tv shows, to what type of dog

we might get, to which sugary cereals to pile
into our cart with all these cheap products

that don’t fit together: taco shells, toothpaste,
store-brand mac and cheese– would you believe

a month ago this place was stocked with everything
we need? We try to talk about marriage,

our deepwater eyes zooming through the dark
into a future where we guess what will become

of this building while seeking sustenance we know
other shoppers already bought the last of.

We need a sign to give us clearance to move on–
then the cashier, ringing each item slowly

as if savoring each would save his job, repeats
thirty percent off, thirty percent off, thirty percent off,

and a little more every day.

 

(originally published in Ohio Edit, 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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

Fidget Spinner

Place the ring around your finger.
Let it spin. Pretend, for once,

that something can attain
perpetual motion. You drive back-

country roads to leave a life behind
yet miss the destined exit. Consider

the spin of the Earth, the galaxy,
the universe. At what point does

longing end? There are always
voids to fill, vast pits of fruit

you would savor if you could
stay still enough to love

a person.

 

(originally published in Cabildo Quarterly, Fall 2017)

My Smartphone’s Fingerprint Sensor Cannot Detect Me

Do not forget me:
I have struggled to break
through my own absence
of field. Let a helium balloon
float to where it disappears.
We have not spoken
in years. The phone you gave
me I replaced to return
my sense of self-place. Still,
send me a signal you sense me,
and we will come to static
where we cannot hear
how we wish to be heard
but we will know
we are there.

 

(originally published in CultureCult Magazine, 2017)