Clutching My Stomach in the Bathroom

in front of the mirror wondering
how you made it through those nine months
to get nothing but condensation from a cloud
yes the smiles returned in the desert
when the scythe allowed we spoke truths
and asked everyone to provide thirst
because we were the cacti with reservoirs
of lust and destruction
laid out in desiccate flowerbeds
our wallets filled with zinnias
while we were filled
from the green of living
sometimes we are horses
galloping along dirt paths
and westbound highways
hoping they lead to ocean
but it leads always to night
to hunger
we barely know how to be raw anymore
how to sink dead teeth into apples
and want the core
our thin gums only cling to our mouths
because there’s nowhere else to call home
no more words that can make you
believe in a future

 

(originally published in Picaroon Poetry, Summer 2016)

City at Night

When the city stops buzzing, streetlights
invite reflections onto storefront windows.

Finally, the distortions make us young,
removing cigarette burns and ash.

What love is reserved for the old? The bridge
seems sturdy in winter but more slippery

with its blue-streaked ice– and mouths of
gravel seem ageless. Time rescinds her reach

toward the cradle of sleep–
maligned shoes end on a cold porch,

slathered in a salty grit. Snow on
the doormat waits for extinction.

 

(originally published in “the vacant hinge of a song“, courtesy of Origami Poems Project)

The Kansas City Royals Cope With Loss

A river isn’t really blue. The Mississippi
has dried, and even love is transparent.

We adorn ourselves blue so loss
can be quantified in color. Such

is the brittle paintbrush, naked
and grieving, but we are not

the color of grieving,
nor tobacco spat in the dugout

in shame. We remember
the dirt, and who we loved,

long before we searched
clouds’ faces for ghosts,

her grays in the white
within eternal blue.

 

(originally published in ‘the vacant hinge of a song’, courtesy of Origami Poems Project)

Golden Gate

I listened, during that foggy morning stroll
on the Golden Gate, when you alluded
to what it must mean to jump,
how it must feel to fall.

The foghorn blared every five minutes
from some ship we could not find beneath us.
We peered our heads over the low railing
and inhaled the gray.

Red telephones rang in our heads.
I can still hear the ringing
from the hotel’s broken phone–
thin wires dangled into lines

on our palms, curved and infinite–
an atlas to guide the whispers
we cupped into our hands
at night.

I feared faraway screams
or the deafening sound of cymbals, shards
of metal launched from the hinges
of what was thought secure–

I did not expect
in an instant, without percussion–
I did not expect the fog, how sterile
it seems, like the afterlife, how it turns

the familiar into silhouettes–
to make this any easier.

 

(originally published in riverbabble, Issue #28, Winter 2016)

Dog on the Patio

Whenever I let the dog out
onto our small back patio
on sunny afternoons
and he lays on familiar brick

scratching his ears,
nose curious and wandering,
I remember my father

who, in the endless days of retirement,
learned the lawn better
than his calloused palms:

every humpbacked tree and drooping limb,
every snake and gopher hole,
every new and fallen anthill,
every cobweb on the lamppost,

where to find toads after rain,
how to catch them–

when he did not strive to create utopia
by chiseling trees into magazine models,

I often found him on a patch
of freshly-mown grass,
scratching his smoky, sun-basked beard,

waiting for the wind to speak,
to say more to him than I ever did.

 

(originally published in Black Elephant Lit, Spring 2016)

Theory of the Universe

Did we learn ourselves from the mirror
after we studied constellations
in ragged almanacs… we rotated mechanical
with a hiss of the so-slow
slowing axis…

No equation… can yet rebirth
a cooling star’s impending supernova

If the family cello were given to you
as it recovered from basement dust…

the bowstring part of me
moves… without asking
to the crescendo of ripples…
and F-minor weeping, the lake
awake not as often at night

the big bang must have stemmed… from a desert string
nervous tremolo through the ages, expanding
like a lung just before that first breath–
whole note for the endless meter…

 

(originally published in 99 Pine Street)

Eat Your Face

You wanted to eat my face
just as seven A.M. south Oregon fog
conceals trees over a low valley.
I wanted the same of yours.

What you liked was the sky descended:
how you’re able to grip, fleetingly,
the mortal, shifting clouds–
to think, I have touched the untouchable.

Many pines, from a distance, can be held
by two fingers. We can choose to let them dangle
or hold
steady, steady

The fog consumes and rises
while we watch the sun burn slowly west.

When the rain begins,
the soft pattering against the windshield
mimics the sound of your jaw
fake-chomping my cheeks–
nearly-inaudible clicks.

The speedometer oscillates
between sixty-five and ninety.

The hillsides change so suddenly
with every mile– shifting smiles hidden
by a fog you know will also fade.

 

(originally published in VAYAVYA)

*Nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Writing Knights Press in 2017