-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)
The days when we would lay
on blue towels by the beach
combing through our Merriam-Webster
holding every fascinating word by the stems in our mouths,
our vibrancy was inseparable from gardens
full of hyacinths and rhododendron and zinnias
and, yes, forsythias, all these flowers in our hometowns
we never knew the names of
until we saw the words on sand-shorn pages,
said the names out loud, grasped endlessly
for petals in each other. No, we bloomed
laughter from our throats, planted seeds
into pits where absence grows in ensuing Aprils.
We never knew what words might appear
on Scrabble nights hunched over grids of possibility and–
strings of letters string surprising words together.
Marionettes, spider webs, violins, shoelaces,
your hair among the rules of nature, and nurture,
here nurturing the garden, here the home
where we tend other flowers– all my love,
I repeated. Forsythia, forsythia, forsythia.
But those beach days were distant, the tide slurring
softly alongside my returns from long unexplainable workdays–
all my love, I repeated. For Cynthia.
Wooden tiles tornadoed to the floor, slapping
the carpet with words we had not invented yet–
there is no remedy for lost trust. The flame
already sleeps in the bed of the mouth.
Cynthia, Cynthia. I did not know a Cynthia–
but I had never been able to name a forsythia
in the wild. The next time I see one
will feel like cheating. Nothing too-known is magical–
there is wonder in inventing nomenclature,
that a word like forsythia can only be made
in moments like anesthesia, with darkness descending
like the cigarette clouds of a severe storm when, in the drift
into a new consciousness, a lilac floats your mind’s pond–
a lilac, maybe, though that’s not what you want,
and maybe, in the distance, you see the blossoming
yellow that accompanies spring, the air golden around it–
the beauty that’s grander than words.
You wish you never learned the name for it.
(originally published in Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Spring 2017)
I always knew my father was allergic to bees
but it wasn’t until his obituary
I learned he was once a beekeeper.
In those days, I hear, he prayed
to his veil– only to re-emerge, hours later,
having danced with God
under every umber swarm.
He was a gifted storyteller
but it wasn’t until his stroke
at seventy-four made me listen,
when his mouth betrayed his brain.
In his final years he would repeat,
the end of bees is the end of man.
So, heaven in the soft petals
scattered in the grass.
Young violets lined his coffin.
All I wanted was to listen
to stories he told before,
details I had forgotten.
Around the cemetery,
bees still glissando
through gardens not unlike the ones
he dug into his blackened fingernails–
honey and sweat, story-
pollinated requiems, harmonies
heard in bountiful
fields of bloodroot.
(originally published in Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal – Spring 2016)
*Nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology
there are many flowers come across paths
alongside apartments but nonesuch like the
hyacinth rose wrapped tightly as such stands
outside a tiny market in view of black-grim
graffiti reading with a smile worth at least fifty
fifty-cent avocados because spring lays beyond
the peel of skin like waking up to jumbled
white sheets with the knowing of presence past
white walls hanged with stationary song which
would sing if only strings could strum themselves
(originally published in The Bitter Oleander, Spring 2015)