Mortality as First Date

The chairs we sit in are steel
horses, sad and dead. What you said
at the gallery in the warehouse was
to you, I have only given death and cookies.
Or corpses confused with candy.
Your cheeks puff, withdraw.
You’re silver in ceramic.
If I were a romantic I’d say
you belong in the painting.
Longing, always. But I am
a romantic. When we strolled
the botanical gardens we found longing
in the plants deemed poisonous.
How close I get to each sweet thing.
How close each is to death.

(originally published in Pif Magazine, Winter 2018)

Used to Play Baseball

I am a nail-punctured tire
the rubber smell
with you, unfinished, our wheels –

constant motion
squealing for still.
Our bodies, bands stretched and heaved

in bundles of clothing
(deserted starling
feathers scattered and–)

navigating roadmaps to our cores,
you can reach the end
and pluck what you want.

I just want you to see me for who I am
when your legs aren’t clamped around me,
the squeeze in the mitt.

 

(originally published in First Literary Review – East, Spring 2018)

A Date with Doubt

You look around the room
and rate singles from one to ten
in terms of melancholy
but don’t know
how to rate yourself–
Pacific waves flow through
you almost drown
in the sea of your thoughts–
the scisms between pen and mirror,
heart and mind, these are thieves
who will lie to you ‘til the Greyhound
leaves for Cincinnati at 11:30.
Until then we watch superheroes do bad
stand-up comedy in the conference room
at the new Mikey’s, eating mushroom pizza
with too-hot sauce. Bass pounds from the stage
so loudly we walk to 16-Bit next door
to drink water and pretend we are drunk,
our mouths rocketships exploring the universe
of each other– the rotation of stars
confused with physics. In the end all you want
is chocolate cake. Your blue eyes curve away
in that soaring flyball-to-left way. The way
you sway me back to simpler times
when buying CDs was a holy act
of personal preference
and I stayed sealed on a shelf in plastic,
waiting to give the world my music.

 

(originally published in Zingara Poetry Picks, Summer 2017)

“A Man Bears Beliefs as a Tree Bears Apples”

 -Ralph Waldo Emerson

pleading with a red delicious begging god for good
even though I cannot process Jesus I still chew and
spit seed and you walk over the guts of me with your
shoes on sidewalk in the sweltering August of laying
in grass whispering love between dandelions so much
we’re sprouting from dirt in ugly ways all thorn
and bloom overgrown with each other there are
no gloved hands around anymore to pull us out

 

(originally published in Bluestem, Spring 2017)

Symbolism for a Millennial Breakup

I cracked my phone screen
on my first date without you.

I carried it in my back pocket, like always,
though maybe I postured myself differently,

finally sitting up straight enough
to carry my own weight.

I didn’t look at my phone
until after the date. By then,

I could no longer remember you
without the shattered glass–

the flawless screen was not made
from our blazing beach days

of black seaweed and slithering kites
that begged the wind to let go,

where footsteps parted sand
to lead the tide into ourselves,

to let the moon drag our bodies
into the ocean’s boundless mirrors

where, enveloped in reflections,
we could only gasp for air.

 

(originally published in Metonym, Fall 2017)

Monday Night Rain

out of wisdom / out of want / so many / things / to not believe /
whether or not / you or I believe / you will end things / with your boyfriend /
I have seen your tattoos / just the surface / of your skin / understand I /
cannot chase / the gilded raven / with closed wings / I press into /
your hair / black against my mouth / the warmth of your ear /
in the back / of the room / holding /
so laugh quietly / whisper / don’t hold onto / anything /
be far enough away / from intimacy / that it feels like / intimacy /
a secret / a terrible secret / the way our mouths / don’t cling /
to each other’s / my hand / on your leg / your head /
turned away / in the back / of the room / we listen / to words / want to fall /
asleep / with each other / we want to / drift / from reality /
the blinds / and the gathers / Monday rain / fog / rain / I’ll help you / dry /
wielding an umbrella / for both of us / to stand / under / where we can / lie /
to each other / more intimately / watch the whole thing / fall asleep /
as the world / puts her weight / on the black / handle / in my hand /
and drains / with a whisper / into the gutter

 

(originally published in Birch Gang Review, Winter 2017)

My First Conversation with Anna

was on a stump under a wooden bridge
that led nowhere. You said I am a fence

wanting pink clouds. We walked the tumorous hill.
You brought up your depression. The green

was infinite and quiet and a silence of oaks.
It was cold and snowing when I was naked

in the dirt digging with my hands with the other naked people.
We did not know what we were looking for. It was the first day

of winter and our legs burned from the chill. I said,
tell me everything you’ve ever known to be true.

You said nothing. But I make videos and we can record
our legs for twenty minutes– just the motion is enough

to nourish us. Hairy legs, hairless legs, left leg, right leg
walking upward to the nearest star– we carved a path

but it was our galaxy led us believe we could wind
and weave through sporadic trees called parks / art

exhibitions and we have these trees
on leashes trying to be trees

and if only we could look at them
and notice our leaves the same

we are so ill with them so malignant
and stuck and if we layer with them

into them if we could grow with them
we would bloom forever in ourselves

and then what would we have to talk about?

 

(originally published in mannequin haus, Summer 2016)

Teeth, Eggs, and the City Limits (or: Tinder)

our short harmony brushes my teeth
flosses the ridges bending eating
at me the yellowy plaque on white

the yolks in morning how inside
we are tender sunny side up I love
the way you look at me those

runny eyes gushing off the pan
onto black-and-white tile floor
grids the burgeoning cities

in our minds cars read
the streetlights’ caution
as go, go, go . . .

 

(originally published in The City Key, Spring 2016)

Following a Trip to the L.A. Zoo

wear sunscreen you’ll thank me faster

do not come to me bearing ailments

it was just yesterday gifts of topaz and corundum your ring-fingers will dance will light over penny slot screens aplomb

some shared jackpot of drunkenness

or worse

sparks from fireflies in the Georgia summer floating flickering stars lightly humming

when a hum turns into a birdcall we whistle like sparrows on a branch

twigs in our talons we offer to the other

twinkle of the moon through the swaying branches above

voices like an owl-song who

are we to hover over the other’s hopes who

will pinch us find we are composed of feathers too raggedy to summon the strength

fingers meekly bristle against your cheek soft as the whirring of the window fan we drift to sleep

so California is the drought I cannot feel it devoid of breathing like a sandstorm

California someday drifts into the Pacific I am my own island thirsting for wet soil

your cotton-morning taste will itself someday drift

 

 

(originally published by The Virginia Normal)

Long Beach

from a high rooftop after rain,
headlights lead their drivers
to safety in a grid of electricity;
slick, mighty towers surround
and glisten from orange streetlights;
the harbor, an unending cascade
of dreams painted
in reflected, rippling stars–

you can hear, from outside the metro,
a shrieking man in an aureolin raincoat,
several hurried severities of shoes
clopping on sidewalks

still I will tell you the city is beautiful
when far enough away to never see
imperfection

and I’ll hold you close,
hands clasping your ears,
our own static to block
distractions which, for the beauty
of this moment, do not matter–

 

(originally published in Random Poem Tree, February 2016)