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)

Maggie

After you invited me to your brother’s jazz
concert you said you liked me too much
and I couldn’t handle that, the thought

of our togethered trombone slide into an infinity
accompanied by spacetime’s deep sound.
I avoided you the only way I knew how:

my absence for your words a dangling CO2.
This, another failed online dating experience,
a week and (it was electric for a time) the zap

of each other in a cold January condo over and
over, a thousand volts then whole note rest,
a singed week’s limb removed by blizzard wind.

 

(originally published in Postcard Poems and Prose, 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)

Abella Danger

fungus grows on the lips
of a cordless mouse
and seeks a kiss or two
clicks to connect void
into void and absence
warps into a fray
of spit and sweat
this LED lover
covered in fingerprints
and dust here we crawl
on tousled bedsheet toward
an open window in view
of eucalyptus and jacaranda

 

(originally published in The Good Men Project, Fall 2017)

SpaghettiOs

The bowl is where
the howls come from–
OoOoOoOoO!
A broken-record werewolf
in this microwave-boiled,
tomato-red September.
I have been trying to form
the words to say to you
with only a vowel.
When you left
for some knockoff white-hat,
greasy Chef Boyardee
I went to the zoo
to study manatees,
but they, too, are a migratory
species. I saw the first of its kind
take on a mangrove but emerge
fish-in-mouth. She floated to her
friend or brother or lover
and squealed syllables
until the other swam away.
I guess no one communicates
with each other the proper way
anymore. All these sounds
these OOOs and Os
processed uneaten

 

(originally published in The Oddville Press, Spring 2018)

Resurrection

in dark crowds I look for your shadow
along the perimeter of park grass wet

my beer churns from belly-up to forget
seeing you again but for now loud thumps

and guitar squeals glow from every beacon
the way one holds to hope just long enough

to make it religious communion in every
plastic cup bought from jazz-blue tokens

I wait for resurrection every turn of head
with you wandering some sidewalk

I walked earlier how you materialize just
the body returning to remind me I cannot

wait any longer to be rid of wanting to walk
in circles until I cannot know any better

if you were ever even real at all

 

(originally published in Chantwood Magazine, Spring 2017)

Garden

You cannot gut a tomato without first
remembering the garden. The mud-rutted
fingers pulled at weeds; silver shovels spiraled

to and from the sky. The spit, the rain. It took months–
years– didn’t it, to differentiate? To grow into something

unrecognizable? You knew what this would become,
the way a person finds her own shadow
insufficient. A broken silhouette of scarecrow.

It was then I could not see you– with your bangs
of hay, the ground sprouting milkweed.

Those tired hands milled ‘til the sun had no meaning.
You wore dark clouds as a cape stained
with mud the work helped us forget.

 

(originally published in Ground Floor Drinkers, Summer 2017)