High Street Construction

The busiest road in Columbus is an obstacle course: orange cones
and road closeds (open to local traffic only). Here, in the heart
of Ohio, we build by tearing down. A red crane leaps and a small
business closes, resurrects as Target– bullseye– the suit, the lipstick.

Soon you, too, will not be able to afford to live here. The remodeled
library is threatened by the bones across the street: a nine-story
building in the midst of construction. Wind whips plastic
bags that hang from its scaffolds and I see the ghost–

the restaurant in its wake. Dark clouds
gather above, knowing they, too, have displaced.

 

(originally published in Literary Orphans, 2018)

Ghost Pepper

The taco meat I seasoned
gets drier by the day. I add ghost
pepper though I do not do well
with high spice. I have no self-
control– four, five, six tacos
at a time– dry beef, cheddar,
heat– the ghost eventually
haunts, tongue in flames.
Last week I drank Long Islands
with a former lover and ended
in a park of hills at 2 A.M.
I lost my glasses in the grass,
but she called me baby one last
time. Everything was blurry, dark,
when I kissed her goodbye
in her apartment, slept in my bed
to the whir of the ceiling fan.
The next morning I called
my girlfriend, told her I loved her
but the words burnt my tongue.

 

(originally published in taxicab magazine, 2018)

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)

The Apple and the Moon

Newton knew the force of a desire
determined the severity of impact.
If you want an apple, the thought will travel
far to haunt you. Calculus was invented
to make sense of your absence. Such
is the memory of July: Beach House
in dim lighting, your bed beside the stairwell.
One could almost roll over and…
walking up those stairs the first time,
you were not there, but searching for your
cat outside, later found hiding in the ravine.
You wouldn’t let me stay, not yet.
I would carry silence into
waning days of weeks then feast
on all the words you spoon-fed me.
I failed to boomerang magic into our
silent field, unlike our first date: cheap
chicken on the patio of World of Beers,
talking what it would take to unlock
our true selves. You called Colin
to buy molly, though I’d never
rolled. Like everything else,
that plan flaked and you never
thought of me again.

 

(originally published in Man in the Street Magazine, 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)

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)