The Christmases That Were Forever

my own advice: treat every gift
like you’re nine in ninety-seven.
rip the heart out of your parents’
wrapping jobs. don’t notice
the hanging phone calls,
the coils of collection,
the foggy snarls at the door,
the stay-in-bed allure radiating
from big, red boxes hidden
behind the couch for after
we opened all the other presents,
for after we grew up,
after we got jobs.

 

(originally published in The Drunken Llama, Fall 2017)

The Sacrament of Confession in Catholic School

In kindergarten, I sketched a vagina as a circle
lost in strands of hair, similar to a scribbled sun.

The inklings of want would soon
set sail. When I showed the drawing

to my mother, she somehow knew what it was.
Her suspicious eye taught me life is the pursuit

of the scribbled sun. The first time I drove a car alone,
zooming up the hill toward the highway, I took pictures

of the sunset without watching the road, as if heaven
could be captured with my own fingers. At sixteen

I stole Snickers bars at my first job. The dollar store
went under. It could have been worse. I told the priest

maybe God thinks I touch myself improperly.
He said to toss the dirty magazines, meaning

I didn’t change a thing. In marching band, I pressed
my mouth against the trombone’s silver mouthpiece

and kissed when I blew, spit coursing through the instrument’s body
until it dripped onto the checkered floor. I didn’t lose my virginity

too early. By then it was too late. I have seen the L.A. River
rub itself dry beneath the metal bridges, withered and silent,

while the ocean wets perpetual sand, and all I could do
was run my fingers through the tide’s receding hair.

In seventh grade the school librarian declared if anyone
in class could finish A Tale of Two Cities, it was me.

I did not finish. I was twelve and mastering arousal,
turning pages with fingers on thighs inside of skirts,

skulking my hand up to God, to the first time
I knew sanctity– and the feeling, unlike faith,

was enough to make me believe.

 

(originally published in Corium Magazine, Spring 2016)

Christmas Eve, 2014

the living room drones and mumbles.
the bone dove sings a petrified song

above the tree, nearly silent enough
to believe a resurrection could occur

in the coming days. pass the stocking
with the kidney stone. bring

the anesthetic. we will drink–
this is the blood bond, the calm,

the thin slicing of ham: bloodless
& calm, torn red wrapping paper

strewn about the room

 

(originally published in Whale Road Review, December 2015)