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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To Never Return to L.A.

I hiked through the backwoods of Yellowstone
wondering why my life did not change
with every step. That beauty could
become so manufactured. Looking over
another massive canyon– my third in the west
in three days– what’s so good about it?

You could fall into adventure, sure.
You can fall into anything.
Love, of course. Art.
Self-loathing.
Escape.

I drove aimlessly for three months,
watched landscapes lose their painted strokes.
The bristled edge of sky inside me turned
and dried, brought me back to deserts I camped in

on the side of the road many freezing nights,
my breath the hot air on windshield,

blocking my sight of stars,
those lost things guiding me
that smog made me forget.

 

(originally published in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Summer 2017)

Thirst

dishes are an exercise in repetition
why do we go through our days so quickly

we must be unhappy with material possessions
more specifically
how we sustain ourselves

I am amazed I have sustained myself for so long

teenage years of french fries and ice cream
adult years of french fries and frozen pizza

there is nothing that greases my heart
more than eating macaroni and cheese
naked at 2 am

when I am bloodless

pots and pans hang on hooks on the kitchen ceiling

the landlord says our water bill is exorbitant

I think it is extraordinary
the parts of ourselves
we must pay for

steam billows out of the dishwasher
when it is done
we pay for that too

in august we chopped heads off of asparagus

rinsed our hands of the green bits
blue antibacterial bubbled white

champagne bottles cling to the wall
someone please set them free

so we can keep that bent and dying orchid
on our kitchen island

 

(originally published in Eunoia Review, Autumn 2016)

Ghosts

Heard the word son alone in the kitchen
of my childhood home.

His gravelly drawl was unmistakable.
I waited for him to say more, but

memories of my father are strangers
to each other. And every stranger

becomes a ghost passing
through another stranger’s life.

A wind tapped at the window,
wanted to say something, too.

When he was alive,
I did not listen

until I wanted
and I did not want

until he was silent
in a disposable suit.

I gave it a shot: pressed my ears
against the shingles, cold.

The wind
mimicked ghosts.

 

(originally published in In-flight Literary Magazine, Fall 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)

Clinton, Ohio

Where I lived was a quiet crescendo
of snow six months of the year
& mosquito summers wearing shorts
into the sweating night

Where I lived had piano thunderstorm concertos
jolting the elderly house’s bones
with frenetic fingers, ivory paint,
red bricks

Where I lived was a lonesome walking trail
where morning chirps of blue jays went unnoticed.
Beds of acorns lined the autumn grass,
a kind of fallout for the process of aging
and the act of leaving

Always, now, in thought, it is a shoebox
of dandelions that writhe when I pet the cold cardboard–
hello, you are home, tonsils– my heart
can’t handle the hand-shaped imprints
from so far away

 

(originally published in Rubbertop Review – Volume VII, 2015)

LeBron Comes Home

Sawdust struck our eyes
when his teeth jawed
themselves against our tree.

His headband
constricted us like
a snake.

When he unclasped,
so did we.

Our bodies slackened
like absolved marionettes.
Held beers became
puddles on bar tables.

The yesterdays burnt
wax into our throats.

Today he is Atlas with the city
perched on his shoulders, the Earth

a lacquered basketball. Willingly,
now, we witness and worship his
every move, drawn by an influence
we ourselves do not carry with
every blink, every breath.

 

(Originally published in altered form in Perspective Literary Magazine – October 1st, 2014)