Getting Sober

If I don’t watch it, this lake
is vodka and I won’t care I don’t
know how to swim. Getting sober
is like that. I go out into the world
and look you in the eyes and say
I’m fine. I’m having a good time
and you go on never knowing
I was half-underwater, that
there was a monster trying
to make its way to the surface
and I had to push him down.

 

(originally published in Rattle, Winter 2018 – nominated for Best of the Net)

Advertisements

When You Visit Columbus

on your way from Los Angeles
to New York, I’ll tell you
there’s nothing to do here but drink

can you see our friendship
gripping skeleton bottles?

before we stumbled into every hazy bubble
of unfilled expectations

we called L.A. city by its name

then other cities called our names
like somewhere in this world
wanted us

 

(originally published in Red Fez, Winter 2017)

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)

Excessive Drinking

I am a sun-drenched willow field withered and
purple. Headache remiss, wonder when the liver
will churn its nightly clarion call, squeezing rags
to drag the water out.

Sometimes the nights are like that in the silence
between friends. The drafts replace talking.
You can’t hear the words with breath so still
and distant, willows soon awakening.

 

(originally published in Transcendence Magazine, Summer 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)

Drunken Rambling from the Coast

A former friend said to me, I’m jealous of your whimsical life.
I haven’t stopped drinking since I was in a hotel room
with his wife, my feet kneading red, chalklike carpet,
their honeymoon’s pall a dim, amber light. She said

you need Vitamin D, Sunshine. I made a habit
of overdosing on the sun. Tell me again what I need.
I had yet to unpeel friendship’s pear with my lips–
and sink. I danced with her months before

at The Viper Room, my shirt half-clipped. I could not stop
thinking about how we might fit under the drunken moon:
her candles the flares in a darkening room, wax trickling
with no end, the rose-like incense rotting the room…

I read an article claiming that remembering
a memory is like saving a JPEG–
each time you remember, the image pixelates
a little more until it blurs beyond recognition.

It was dark when it happened. We were drinking.
Streetlights cast orange bars on the bed through
window blinds while we slipped hungrily
from existence. Her face was a spade

but we felt like the garden, digging deeply
into ourselves until we became an open cemetery.

***

I drink screwdrivers to feel the acid on my tongue,
feeling better since fleeing to the bay’s foggy shores.
I make stops to study the water at each chilly beach,
every heave of the tide as clear as the last–

and as frenzied– her arm reaches into the sand
closer and closer to pull me in, have one last good look
at me to ensure I disappear, if I’m not already gone.
I have my flask. The sunset. Miles of winding road.

Memories to fade, to make, to fade.

 

(originally published in Memoryhouse, Spring 2016)

The Whole World or Nothing

You suggested whiskey sours
so we left the reading
to walk the golden streets in rain
during the first warm day

which felt like hope–
a riptide cascading
through the chaos of cars
and people on city streets.

Like you, gravel is full of scars
and we trample it under our soles
without thinking.
What do we pray to but the future,

its corpuscular horseshoe
on her way? We are swift
without wind, carving footsteps
in Bukowski’s tattered ambitions.

And when we finally reach the bar’s
back patio with sour piling into our mouths
you strip to your white dress
and show me your tattoos.

We wanted the whole world or nothing.
The sun, the moon, not one or the other.
The stars’ breaths on the nape
of your neck. Every word tingles

the first time celestial bodies meet.
I am cratered with my drink,
this treat and chilled escape.
The staircase leads downward.

 

(originally published in WISH Poetry Press)

Runner

You always have to run.

Short North to downtown,
city to city, Indiana

to Tennessee–
one shoe on gravel,

the other careening
through time and space

into a green
where you are unknown

and your running shoes are empty
at our red swing’s feet.

I know you never run to leave,
driving your horizon eyes

miles to sun– and you, after its setting,
glide beside each highway’s unlit rivers

on the bridge of the median, drunk
from driving so long under moon,

far from where our empty bottles
collect in a skyward infinity,

a mountain of clinking memories–
a marathon, a gap traversed quickly.

(originally published in VerseWrights)

Happy Hour Whiskey

I don’t think my dad would be proud of me
writing poems on bar napkins
after that fifth happy hour whiskey.

This is how I want it: to be disengaged
by the time my uniform cuffs roll
to my eyes in stupor to avoid the

solemn eyes of ancestors in the sky.
Transparent Mufasas and steely voices
judge me like America judges Kardashians.

The reality is you can rewind the DV tape
back to the beginning tomorrow and show me
the footage of my stumbling into the driver’s seat.

The cosmos roll in their graves.
Meanwhile I am the last child
who can cast the line onward–

past, present, future.
A syzygy from birth.
The headlights wane.

 

(originally published in Jawline Review, Spring 2016)

Tiny Vodka Glasses

love is however many tiny
glasses of vodka we drank
and discarded

sun shards held those hands
of many folds

this little glass-dagger
carves the elegy of hummingbirds,
holds veins in my porous fingers

we sing the wooden desk
in the alley of deep potholes
our branchmouths stripped
of leaves but kindling flame

to scratch the words evenly
scrapes on the whitened palms
the lines intersect always
it is not simple to crumple
those tiny bedroom vodka sheets &
weave them neatly into garbage

 

(originally published in Loveliest – Issue #1)