Real Shit

We’re eating Thai food, like we were supposed to do yesterday,
and I tell you that spice level, I couldn’t handle but next I know

we’re walking through alleys shoulder-to-shoulder when you ask
when you gonna talk about the real shit? And we keep on, sun

dipping to avoid the real conversations and I know this box of Stella
in my hand isn’t strong enough to make me start, but in my house

there’s honey whiskey, and I ask if that’s real enough but no,
too much sweetness. We drink anyway, ice falling from freezer

to floor as I reach for Old Crow to hurry to some kind of real talk,
the kind we couldn’t find on our walk to Giant Eagle

but there are bonfires too hot for our hearts in the real world,
a tinder of paper and logs we decide not to learn the names of

and we’re drowning whiskeys, beers, and slow small-talk
telling each other about exes to the flame’s orange humming

and that’s real, I thought, but not real shit and so the hanging lights
are unplugged and we’re searching for stars through clouds of smoke

and we talk about how little we know, how far we want to go
but beside you those stars don’t seem so far and in the swirl

of darkness we kiss, realize that’s the real shit
until we open enough to tell each other.

 

(originally published in Cease, Cows, Fall 2017)

Ouija Board

we’re summoning the dead by candlelight out of a Hasbro board
and there are so many ghosts in my head haunting every home

I find myself in so much history in every intimate space of belonging
but the cat doesn’t have to meow after we ask a spirit to reveal itself to make

us scared there’s a bat hanging on your door and we fall asleep holding hands
I never know what to make of you, how to call something beautiful

and I don’t think to ask the Ouija board that instead asking stupid questions like
will we ever grow tall enough to dunk a basketball and will we pass history class

instead of saying things like reveal yourself and show me who you really are
but maybe we were never really searching for spirits to begin with maybe

we just want any warm body to haunt our beds you don’t even have to say anything
to let me know we give thanks to all the ghosts that haunt us

 

(originally published in Here Comes Everyone, Spring 2017)

Max’s Porch

we’re on a playground of mosquitos
finding poems about space and math
to read because his brother’s in town
and he’s an idealistic futurist
so they trade science poems
and smoke and dreams (a glass
of water the tides of Lake Erie)
I ask which Little Caesar’s location
is your favorite all time (five dollar
orange brown cardboard. gas
station lighters burning thumbs)
everyone answers the one in my hometown
and we’re 1997 sitting in a mildew basement
sketching cartoons in blue binders on greasy
carpets full of the future waiting for the future
and mallards in the pond sing all wing and trouble
hoping for something to disturb the water
so they can fly

 

(originally published in Pouch)

Anew

I am full of vacancy and noise and technically six glasses
of water before bedtime. Much can be said about wanting

to purify yourself. I dipped myself in water again last
week. I’m telling you it works: you mash two bodies

together until fizzled and deflated on the cusp– saggy but
renewed. Steam leaves the bucket with a fat-lipped breath,

purple. Sometimes it does not work. By the hearth,
just your long, brown hair. By the heart, nothing.

Just a worn wood by the cabin in the woods.
Mountains of snow in my head– she freezes

my thoughts at the peak. A gambler. A hope.
Red strings. A harp. Faith. Burn, burn, burn.

 

(originally published in Thirteen Myna Birds, Autumn 2016)

At the Mar Vista Public Library

the ponytail blonde in the banana sweater & black leggings
floats in some fiction world she belongs in
then asks the librarian a question I cannot hear

she shrugs when she speaks
(reluctant windmill)

she figure-skates her slow, shelved glissando
(fantasia of the no-talking zone)

I am writing this poem when
she shoots past my table
with a green hardcover book–

I did not catch the title
or ask for her name
so I am left with
only my words:

anxieties
I find harder
& harder to
decipher
every
day

 

(originally published in Viewfinder Literary Magazine, Summer 2016)

The Sacrament of Confession in Catholic School

In kindergarten, I sketched a vagina as a circle
lost in strands of hair, similar to a scribbled sun.

The inklings of want would soon
set sail. When I showed the drawing

to my mother, she somehow knew what it was.
Her suspicious eye taught me life is the pursuit

of the scribbled sun. The first time I drove a car alone,
zooming up the hill toward the highway, I took pictures

of the sunset without watching the road, as if heaven
could be captured with my own fingers. At sixteen

I stole Snickers bars at my first job. The dollar store
went under. It could have been worse. I told the priest

maybe God thinks I touch myself improperly.
He said to toss the dirty magazines, meaning

I didn’t change a thing. In marching band, I pressed
my mouth against the trombone’s silver mouthpiece

and kissed when I blew, spit coursing through the instrument’s body
until it dripped onto the checkered floor. I didn’t lose my virginity

too early. By then it was too late. I have seen the L.A. River
rub itself dry beneath the metal bridges, withered and silent,

while the ocean wets perpetual sand, and all I could do
was run my fingers through the tide’s receding hair.

In seventh grade the school librarian declared if anyone
in class could finish A Tale of Two Cities, it was me.

I did not finish. I was twelve and mastering arousal,
turning pages with fingers on thighs inside of skirts,

skulking my hand up to God, to the first time
I knew sanctity– and the feeling, unlike faith,

was enough to make me believe.

 

(originally published in Corium Magazine, Spring 2016)

Diamond-Shaped Boxes

because I repeatedly disregard that which is shaped like a diamond
to be a diamond,

I will flirt with the skateboard girl
who zooms away

& lament our love, lost
as yesterday’s blackened ganja.

living on the beach,
scraping sand
for a seagull’s Dorito–

we are crevices in the Santa Monica boardwalk.
we slip out from ourselves
without knowing

yet know ourselves sunken
deep in the tar ocean
& yet, somewhere, still there

from many years of being the ones
who collect what others discard,

making space in our own diamond-shaped boxes

 

(originally published in Eunoia Review, February 2016)