Christmas Tree

the christmas tree represents unity meaning in this room we want each other blue
lights intertwined with pines green and lust thus we hang our ornaments
watch the tree shed its skin onto dog-dusty floor. there are hooks and angels angled
in the high-up spots you asked me to reach sharing the sangria with melting ice.
we light the darkest corner of our poorly-lit living room charlie brown
christmas piano guiding jazz strokes onto our wandering hands gliding up and down
bark needle and sharp.

 

(originally published in Abstract Magazine, Fall 2017)

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)

The Christmases That Were Forever

my own advice: treat every gift
like you’re nine in ninety-seven.
rip the heart out of your parents’
wrapping jobs. don’t notice
the hanging phone calls,
the coils of collection,
the foggy snarls at the door,
the stay-in-bed allure radiating
from big, red boxes hidden
behind the couch for after
we opened all the other presents,
for after we grew up,
after we got jobs.

 

(originally published in The Drunken Llama, Fall 2017)

Phone Conversation with My Sister on Christmas Day

The trees are dead, she said.
Peering outside, it was true:
A still-barren sixty degrees, sun
meekly reveling in its new warm.

A week ago, our mother cut down the tree
we picked apples from as children.
They were small, red, never delicious–
brown and burrowed with worms

because anything sweet from the skin
isn’t as sweet as you might think.
All those colorful lights we tied around
the necks of plastic and decoration,

the way we choked the holiday,
wrung out the last ounces of life
from the animal ornaments on every pine.
The walrus with the broken tusk.

The hyena whose laugh can nearly
be heard. As if anthropomorphizing could
ever atone for the past but I would love
to believe in a world where a fragment of

a tusk means something is truly missing–
perhaps rickety laughter ringing through
thin walls, dominant as the wooden organ
moans his mantra: everything in this world

is connected. Not every connected thing
is aware of its living, its connection.
But the way fingers dance deep
resonance out of the organ’s shifty teeth

to provide holiness for the changed house
is the gift we must open for ourselves
with our hands full of music– a sourness
in harmony, an ode to shriveled apples.

(originally published in Flatbush Review, Winter 2016)

Skeletons of New Year’s Eve

I do not perceive you as obsessed with death
even if, days before, our jovial talks of dying

led to sugar-frosted blue wondering at the sky.
We planned to pop champagne for the birth

of feeling alive: winter hardens soil so we must dig
to the laughter we share in our spines.

We did not drink white wine, but the beer was breath
without knowing the scent– like any year,

we were paintings of light and dark, of limb
and bone so disordered to stand is a triumph,

and hope is a kaleidoscope, a conjecture.
Each dying wave returns, even at the frayed edge

of memory, how the dead are lavish with flowers
and stories. Still, we press on to uncork

our champagne future: drafts of breath in each
new year, dead waves haunting the mortal tide

with no specific beginning, no obvious end.

 

(originally published in Liquid Imagination, Summer 2016)

Thanksgiving, 2015

The turkey was sacrificial. We dug
our fingers through dark meat

to retrieve the stuffing but avoided
the controversial topics, the fat on our bones.

What bubbled was the broth, salt
on stone, and Mom drank sparkling

juice cocktails, pretended it was wine–
laughter compressed from the mash

in our mouths, the soft chew and gravy.
How simple it would be to spill grease

from the pan over the tablecloth, so temporary–
ten years ago was the last we all celebrated,

the last our talking bounced from mouths,
caught softly in our ears. After the funeral

we peeled grapefruit. Its rotting meat
blessed a white plate for days after the feast,

when we gorged enough of ourselves
to ask what it is about the lumps in apple pie

we savor, when the tartness
burrows new holes in our teeth–

maybe it’s the cutting, dulled knife on pie,
and the serving– one piece on porcelain,

a fragment, a memory
of what it means to be whole.

 

(originally published in Jazz Cigarette, Fall 2016)

Christmas Eve, 2014

the living room drones and mumbles.
the bone dove sings a petrified song

above the tree, nearly silent enough
to believe a resurrection could occur

in the coming days. pass the stocking
with the kidney stone. bring

the anesthetic. we will drink–
this is the blood bond, the calm,

the thin slicing of ham: bloodless
& calm, torn red wrapping paper

strewn about the room

 

(originally published in Whale Road Review, December 2015)