Skeletons of New Year’s Eve

I do not perceive you as obsessed with death
even if, days before, our jovial talks of dying

led to sugar-frosted blue wondering at the sky.
We planned to pop champagne for the birth

of feeling alive: winter hardens soil so we must dig
to the laughter we share in our spines.

We did not drink white wine, but the beer was breath
without knowing the scent– like any year,

we were paintings of light and dark, of limb
and bone so disordered to stand is a triumph,

and hope is a kaleidoscope, a conjecture.
Each dying wave returns, even at the frayed edge

of memory, how the dead are lavish with flowers
and stories. Still, we press on to uncork

our champagne future: drafts of breath in each
new year, dead waves haunting the mortal tide

with no specific beginning, no obvious end.

 

(originally published in Liquid Imagination, Summer 2016)

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Mia Khalifa

Life imitates art in the way
memory imitates life– your face

reminds me of my last swollen
laughter held. Sometimes

there is no comparison– oh, we’ll rise
from geysers with sulphur still

in our fabrics– loose, blue threads
hanging at the maw.

We disassociate and wish
to converge into stars on a single strand

of light–
I remember that copper smell

of a new roll of pennies,
when fifty cents meant more than

being half of something
not quantifiable at all.

 

(originally published in Pouch, Issue #6)

The Kansas City Royals Cope With Loss

A river isn’t really blue. The Mississippi
has dried, and even love is transparent.

We adorn ourselves blue so loss
can be quantified in color. Such

is the brittle paintbrush, naked
and grieving, but we are not

the color of grieving,
nor tobacco spat in the dugout

in shame. We remember
the dirt, and who we loved,

long before we searched
clouds’ faces for ghosts,

her grays in the white
within eternal blue.

 

(originally published in ‘the vacant hinge of a song’, courtesy of Origami Poems Project)

My Father Was a Beekeeper

I always knew my father was allergic to bees
but it wasn’t until his obituary
I learned he was once a beekeeper.

In those days, I hear, he prayed
to his veil– only to re-emerge, hours later,
having danced with God
under every umber swarm.

He was a gifted storyteller
but it wasn’t until his stroke
at seventy-four made me listen,
when his mouth betrayed his brain.

In his final years he would repeat,
the end of bees is the end of man.
So, heaven in the soft petals
scattered in the grass.

Young violets lined his coffin.
All I wanted was to listen

to stories he told before,
details I had forgotten.

Around the cemetery,
bees still glissando

through gardens not unlike the ones
he dug into his blackened fingernails–

honey and sweat, story-
pollinated requiems, harmonies

heard in bountiful
fields of bloodroot.

 

(originally published in Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal – Spring 2016)

*Nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology

Dog on the Patio

Whenever I let the dog out
onto our small back patio
on sunny afternoons
and he lays on familiar brick

scratching his ears,
nose curious and wandering,
I remember my father

who, in the endless days of retirement,
learned the lawn better
than his calloused palms:

every humpbacked tree and drooping limb,
every snake and gopher hole,
every new and fallen anthill,
every cobweb on the lamppost,

where to find toads after rain,
how to catch them–

when he did not strive to create utopia
by chiseling trees into magazine models,

I often found him on a patch
of freshly-mown grass,
scratching his smoky, sun-basked beard,

waiting for the wind to speak,
to say more to him than I ever did.

 

(originally published in Black Elephant Lit, Spring 2016)

Short Return to LA

With every step, the air parted
and spoke your name.
Smog and all, would you forget

the jagged alleys where
we fermented, became wine?
Its knife cut ribbons, red

repelling the pressure of four A.M breathing.
Driving home from San Francisco down the coast,
each Joshua tree prayed

to a vastness greater than the desert.
The long, Pacific vistas became the sheen
of old Mustangs caught beneath shadows

of Wilshire’s vacant towers.
Our heels kicked dust
and browned the sky–

ever were the hours sand
on the beach, infinite and pearling
a microscopic glint…

the ocean still haunts–
its salt so embedded
in our skin.

 

(originally published in Rust+Moth, Spring 2016)