Mid-December

The alley is paved with old bricks
blackened by rain. I used to want

conformity, that tidal hope gripping
your gut. You must have a family soon.

Everywhere babies are sprouting
but garden sprinklers are off because winter

is near, crackled dirt longing for storm–
how long since the rough of gale and rain?

Seasons, in these frigid airs. And my seedling
heart stopped growing soon after its first beat.

 

(originally published in The Coachella Review, Winter 2017)

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Meditation on Muscle Memory

If I had musical talent
I wouldn’t write poems.

Guitar-grown fingernails.
Nimble strings.

There’s no need
to lie. I couldn’t bring myself to try

when my parents thought
it’d be a good idea for me
to take piano lessons.

I had Game Boy eyes
and the Final Fantasy theme on repeat.

My dad had already explained
the difference between basin wrench

and torque. Wasted an afternoon
taping leaking pipes.

Like many of his time
he knew plumbing, mechanics,
home improvement

then brought me into rooms with broken
machines. My mind was Mickey Mouse
spelling words and song,

not the kind to vivisect
a bird to learn the function.

All I knew were not even stories yet
and still my hands
sing few callouses.

 

(originally published in Pirene’s Fountain, Spring 2018)

Transient

I need new faces
clothes drawers
opening
closing

I used to find
spacious greens
county lines
my hometown

I wandered
through the smells
of mom’s scrambled eggs

faucet running
disposal clogged
with garlic

understand
I want to be
a bullet train
memory

I’ll tell my future grandkids
stop moving
opposite
of me

 

(originally published in Neologism Poetry Journal, Summer 2017)

*Pushcart Prize Nomination

Mechanics

dad rode motorcycles
through west virginia

mountains gathering speed
in the stillness of wheels

yet you are afraid to change
oil or fix your slow traction

of time– anything mechanical
is coiled magic in function.

the broken-down car sputters.
the ghost lays on cardboard

leaking, dripping synthetic
black splotches on concrete–

no knowledge remains.
there is a rattle

in the carburetor
when you drive

 

(originally published in The Good Men Project, Summer 2017)

Temporary Treasures

my father once mowed a rabbit into the lawn–
perfection leaves corpses

the tractor drones loud radio static

I never want to be someone
who compares pop music
to a limping tornado

autumn’s kaleidoscope leaves
the crumpled xylophone

black bags the scattered records

a taut-needled march to old age
I say these things now
but Eugene Delacroix said it best:

he was like a man owning a piece of ground
in which, unknown to himself, a treasure lay buried

music of the ether
of shifting chatter
fang-laughs from the teenage zeitgeist

when else has our unity
hinged on the city’s mustard smell

whether it’s there
or there isn’t

vapidity is DNA’s rapt curse

relinquishing joyrides for dimes
is our chosen profession

I prefer cremation to cream
and commitment to half & half

ambulances shriek when people talk
I never hear the atmosphere’s shrill
nor slow warmth of glaciers

in the spring of mottled souls
what is that frozen world?

we should unearth its hardened treasures

blue ice
and hammer

 

(originally published in Jokes Review, Summer 2017)

Look Up in Summer

give me cloud weaved tan
& brown & pill yes
to gulp down my throat
& make will the ill of my body

give pasture & clay &
another day to call mom
she walks dusty trails alone
in May in wind in sigh
& goodbye

give ghosts to call clouds
& memories of dad proud
of young farming days
me sitting in the plow

along the way the sky changed
& cast fishing nets to catch
the dead alive in my head

 

(originally published in The Blackstone Review, Summer 2017)