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.
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)
& I’m talking to this
video student at OU
who still dreams
but I’m jaded
& her boyfriend is jaded
‘cuz we both lived in L.A.
& he’s the type
I tried to avoid
that sneering type
who is “always correct”
he shows me his art
a painting of a blue
stick figure hanging
the best thing I’ve ever done
but in no way does this
my finer works
(originally published in #thesideshow, Spring 2017)
I cracked my phone screen
on my first date without you.
I carried it in my back pocket, like always,
though maybe I postured myself differently,
finally sitting up straight enough
to carry my own weight.
I didn’t look at my phone
until after the date. By then,
I could no longer remember you
without the shattered glass–
the flawless screen was not made
from our blazing beach days
of black seaweed and slithering kites
that begged the wind to let go,
where footsteps parted sand
to lead the tide into ourselves,
to let the moon drag our bodies
into the ocean’s boundless mirrors
where, enveloped in reflections,
we could only gasp for air.
(originally published in Metonym, Fall 2017)
At the foot of the staircase to the stars–
in the back of the line of actors drunken
from delusion (I’m going to make it),
each of us with hands full of hangers,
heads full of the fame
that glimpses a star, a familiar face,
how we chosen ones flicker
on living room screens
of friends and families–
a blip, a blur so brief
we were almost never there at all.
(originally published in The Piedmont Journal of Poetry and Fiction, Winter 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)
In memory of Chris Hull
wait for rainy days
there is never
in the weather
the sun laughs
as it always does
when I receive the call
I find the nearest tree
to brace myself
it’s the only darkness
approaching the hospital
still takes her living
at being alive
(originally published in Muddy River Poetry Review, Spring 2017)
The only deals I actually found in Vons
were in clearance. Beers half-off per bottle.
They’ll be ready in a box in my too-orange,
too-granite Public Storage space when I am.
Bearded teens saunter by in lumberjack caps.
I will wait for more significant events in my life
to drink the harp whose tones keep me moving.
Think about teeth– among the homeless drifters
I probably consume the most peanut M&M’S,
filling my days with processed rainbows and crunch.
How do you stop? I was at the 7th Street Metro, one a.m.,
no one there and the halls echoed in perpetuity.
Purple line for purple folk. I’m purple
from dehydration. Mixture of gravel and headspace.
Play me some ukulele. The strings react to the roar
of coming trains, twenty minutes late.
This is what I hear: my name is Grace.
I want to direct, and these are my roommates.
I realize even in the city’s darkest depths,
no one is alone, even after the dream fades.
(originally published in The Wagon Magazine, Autumn 2016)
the weight of an axe sleeps
between us in bed.
we dream of horses
wanting to whip us
until the stable
lives up to its name.
the pawnbroker’s hunched shadow
further crumples into shadow.
there it is, a black apple–
and your pupils, telling truths into the dark.
(originally published in Pudding Magazine, Winter 2016)
We were children foretold to save the world.
We made love in alleys hidden from the moon.
We calculated the trajectory of movement,
fleeing into battle rooms of weightlessness
inundated with that floating feeling
of our necessary covalence.
In our battle room at night
you could not hear chirps
or hums of passing cars.
No one heard laughter change
to scorn, our mouths throttled with heavy.
I was too young to command.
In a way, the dark alleys orbited secret histories:
time haunting the ghosts of war themselves.
We were honored with medals, golden kisses
long after we gave ourselves naked to freezing water.
We became a star unaware of emitted light.
To touch was to will ourselves to sleep,
to die knowing we had always been at war,
every word a battle without the why.
(originally published in The Wagon Magazine, Autumn 2016)
As I move further from you, whiskey in hand,
the thirst seems to pile like distance in the miles–
my shape roasted under Pacific sun.
Our sunglasses clinked with wine glasses.
The dry sponge. Run me under the sink.
Or run with me. You could be a ghost, too,
a phantom unfurling before me, haunting
each town I pass. Every morning, I am gone.
For a while, your blanket was warm. But chill the air
long enough and someone will notice. No one
likes the cold. Everyone prefers the summer river,
her water’s blue in the ice of winter, the clear
of July. I dig for you in the dirt. Then myself.
My shapelessness. My tendency to drift
so far away that I never fully return.
(originally published in Jazz Cigarette, Autumn 2016)