What We Talk About When We Talk About

Pepper burned my mouth
and all I could think of
in that salivated flame
was you telling me your tongue
no longer felt the heat
of a moment: meaningless
sex– bite and garment
here between the green
walls of your zen room
your small goldfish
swimming in circles–
submerged flame and hunger
for love so intense
I flicker poems to you
thumbs on lighters
waiting for the matchbook
to catch– combed pomade
hair, designer jeans, and wit–
what I want is origami
and fire– instead
we talk about love
but unlike Raymond Carver
we have nothing
more to say.

 

(originally published in Words Dance, Summer 2017)

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Caterpillars

I watched us turn into centipedes,
not butterflies– tiny legs to run
pushed out of us, not wings.
In half-moon light we crawled
the hollow ridges of our bodies.
Someday, we thought. Children.
But it was true: neither of us knew
how to bloom. We kept scratching
at the other’s skin digging
for the beating heart
but only exposed the blood.

 

(originally published in The Quiet Letter, Summer 2017)

Horoscope – May 12, 2017

You generally enjoy your dreams, Taurus,
but not this last one in which your lover
invites her Iowan ex to your house

and they wear your jeans while
you yell at cabinets of lipstick. There
are layers of red on each wall’s face

and you run outside after her
Honda yelling at its exhaust
along cornfields of mid-America.

Meanwhile, in real life, you
two have yet to get in a fight.

Maybe you should do that soon.

 

(originally published in Yes, Poetry, 2017)

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)

Polyamory

we walk parched lips from downtown
to the jazz & rib fest you tell me
you love too many at once

I count the number I love at the moment
but we lose track of headlights
following the other’s every move

neither of us know how to get there
how to make music & when we arrive
jazz is faint & we don’t listen to sporadic notes

choosing to walk the bridge over the river
under spotlights of webs of moths
between railings & you say insects

are the most important creatures alive
the more of something there is the better
all these millions of arachnids spinning

webs to eat the hearts of bugs they always catch
we stand away from the railing because we
don’t want spiders to creep onto us & start

the work of eating through skin to dig to heart
we don’t look at each other because
you can be in love with so many at once

but not the ones who want it most

 

(originally published in Edison Literary Review, Summer 2017)

Space Junk

After the breakup, our phone conversations
become space debris, steel pieces hardly
discernible hurtling haphazardly at five miles

per second. Where do the scraps go?
The gold taste of summer will impact the brain
and puncture, enflame. We wish to assist

the start-ups who seek to construct
machines to eliminate wayward spares
of satellites trapped in the gravity of a body,

propel its dust into the atmosphere to burn.
We drift wary of small artifacts
from failed missions to emerge

in the distance of night to strike
and make split into fragments
we will never assemble again.

 

(originally published in Allegro Poetry Magazine, Spring 2017)

“A Man Bears Beliefs as a Tree Bears Apples”

 -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)