Arcade Bar

The movement
neither initiated.
The joysticks dance
in orchestral unison,
taking turns missing
the light on the screen.
The proximity advantage
of cooperation.
Our feather jackets brushed
and the crowd howled around us,
moved in herds – an infinite number
of lives in which to press
the red kick button. Not a red
exit. Not to drink water in excess
of the salt, shake it over,
shake your damn hands and clap
once, clap twice, shiver in the
thorn-wine applause– let us
shiver within our bones.

 

(originally published in Kaaterskill Basin, Spring 2018)

Observations from the Westside Pavilion Bridge

I.

stationary at the couch by the window over the street the cars move unseen beneath me in lines in some complex order that means they don’t crash into each other    the sound of engines is replaced with repetitive 4/4 pop music snare singer pleading for her lover to return but in Los Angeles   who do you return to

II.

locks click from storefront doors a Chinese family appears from behind the off-white pillar the mother in loose pink flowy shirt and dress takes a photo in front of the window her daughter in a white-and-red striped shirt her husband in a blue-and-pink striped shirt so much pink so many binding stripes and the mother captures that lone moment  the sky a tender backdrop

III.

a grandma walks a black stroller and makes a soft kind of train noise shh guh shh guh in syncopated beats as she travels in circles    the rolling sound of the stroller-like luggage in an airport    constant whir    her mouth a muted hi-hat to some imaginary beat on her third pass-by   the baby in pink stirs and she stops her mouth’s percussion and tends to the baby who is quiet but lifts her arm in the air   silhouette to the window of the world    cookies and cream   loose leggings

IV.

a man in his fifties eats macha ice cream alone near Dillard’s   walks in front of a blonde man in a cowboy hat water bottle in hand tying his shoelaces      the ice cream man on the other side of the window underneath the Westside Center sign stares at his reflection     he moves from the window bits of cone now lodged in his graying mustache

V.

the green palms reflected on the speckled cream floor    ripples in a pond blow so gently     outside a man with twenty hands and countless fingers     dances and puppeteers

VI.

two Mexican women with glowing purses hanging on their right shoulder walk in near-unison   one just a half-step ahead until the fast one stops to fix her shoe before walking into Nordstrom glass door squealing open       at its most open it sounds like a bad brake on a car      the other keeps walking

VII.

older man in a reddish shirt has a chocolate cone at 11:45pm   stands on the wide black stripe on the floor in front of the imposing silver pillar that splits in the middle like a buttcrack     he stands    licking staring forward at TVs     that advertise movies now playing in the theaters of his daydreams

VIII.

half of the iPhone billboard outside would be indiscernible    half white space stubs of fingers touching green fabric in a lazy V the space below it a half-globe of nothing   the squeaking of shoes slowly silence the man in blue beneath as he does not even notice I watch as he tucks his manila folder under his left armpit

IX.

mountains are indiscernible from buildings in the distance     curved with specks of white that hint at strange windows or a deepening mist that seem to want to envelop the rest of us    and how do we know it won’t

X.

a faraway pedestrian timidly crosses the intersection illegally   she slows but proceeds   and from my vantage point she crosses to the smell of the soy in the pad see ew that steams in front of me

XI.

the light which hangs above these walls of shades of gray is latticed in spiderweb    I cannot tell if the gentle sway-shaking is imaginary  or earthquake  all these little triangles hovering jittering above me   I wonder if this is how the universe actually moves   or what it truly looks like

XII.

upside-down reflections of walking legs move as the inverse of walking and sway with a sexy air voluminous breeze parting    moving away in a regal but  aimless sashay

 

(originally published in The City Key, Spring 2016)

Franklin Avenue in 2015

Two years ago, we would drink tall beers
hidden in black, plastic bags ’til we passed
from laughter, fluttered to fill
our glasses with more.

There would have been more pages
to turn, but none of us spoke our
human language anymore.

Now, a browned frond slumps
between parked cars.

Two teenagers flirt
underneath a palm. Whispered leaves
are fragile– each movement
a link to the next
until it is not.

Their laughs reverberate
when they, too, part. Uncork
those swan bottles–
let them go, graceful
into night.

 

(Originally published in The City Key, Spring 2016)

Public Urination

I manifest prayer
into the unspoken covenant of suburbia,

the gravel pockmarked by drought,
by time, trickling time. . .

the desert calls its rare waters oasis– so,
purge the monstrous depths of your chosen gorge,

knives outwardly aimed
at some balloon’s held breath–

 

(originally published in Pouch, Spring 2016)

Staying at Ben’s Apartment

was sad. The bathroom garbage bin
was empty except for a milky bag,
a milky bag. I spent a few days
staring at walls that lacked art, clocks,
plaques– wayward whites. I searched
the swinging ceiling fan for meaning,
its light hanging even as the nightmares
swirled and buoyed my sleep. On that
first midnight, I received an email
from Ema to confirm our petals had withered.
Desiccate yet still green somehow I slept
and slept and slept not anxious for the sun’s
return or its return to me, not that it did
for a while. I looked for this midnight whisper
days later to question again our phantoms,
sprinting through Gmail plains of text, but no,
this was a phantom, too. I whispered e-m-a with
my fingers into the search thus yielded darlings,
xoxo starlings and chains that floated from the
screen’s waterfall out into eternity, tethered
to the runoff running to that unknown place
where even phantoms go to die.

 

(originally published in Memoryhouse Magazine, spring 2016)

The Undo Feature in Gmail

Sometimes I say what I don’t mean.

There is an algorithm which can make me forget;
the others remind me to remember.

Your action has been undone. As if my actions
needed a separate undoing– I did not expect you,

with your raven hair, to perch our thousand
miles, thousand days to bottle time

and cast to sea, a folded note to be read
by a stranger at shore. Here, I am a knot

bound to be undone, tethered to a battered shoe,
and in the sprint, wind coarsens your hair.

In the cold we move closer and closer until the breathing
is stale and fogs my car’s windows, the outside world

turned gray. Confusing a fluorescent lightbulb for the moon,
I would risk one more rejection to bring you even nearer,

past the point of no return.

 

(Originally published in Corium Magazine, Spring 2016)

Orchard

in the orchard, a mother drinks rosé, bites
into a granny smith. the other apples
are rotten now, well– autumn
peels history off barks. the trees become
malnourished skeletons, tiny skulls. forget.
over and over. bees gather nectar
and you almost forget to laugh. they pluck
the fruit. too young to remember, too
momentous. one time he played too close
to the hive– well, life isn’t honey, she said,
even if you are mine. finding a diamond
in a diamond mine. hey, that’s still special.
who’s to say if it’s worth anything. all her
jewelry. diamond in her open palm. show
me. oh, how it glistened– no one asks
anymore. she does not want anyone to.

 

(originally published in Botticelli Magazine, Spring 2016)

Two Guys, Two Gallons of Yuengling, Two Plastic Jugs

Tongues composed of lager and slathered words drip
turbulence from the roadmaps of mouths, the ocean’s
rock and regurgitation. We meandered along brick-paved
roads with half-amber jugs in our hands, how quickly
we drown but how slowly we swayed on swings
in the frigid, desolate playground at night by the highway,
eyes entranced by the spotlight from the city’s hidden heart
we desire but never find but in the beer’s flat hops like a pair
of clumsy trombonists, asynchronous staccatos and B-flat
scales bottling air from silver mouthpiece to S.O.S–

 

(originally published in Cacti Fur, Summer 2016)