False Alarm

Street sweeping
happens irregularly
around here. Every
three months then
you forget about it.
I’ve been off and on in love
with my roommate since the
day she moved in. November
rain, the red-bricked road,
I look out my window–
no cars on the side
of the street I parked on.
I scramble from my room,
her boyfriend in the hallway,
and I yell street cleaning!
His eyes bug up
and we race down
stairs to beat the tow
trucks but I open the door
to see cars parked around mine.
I tell him I’m going anyway
to check the signs
which I do in my blue
flip-flops, waddling out into
wet grass to find
next week’s the sweeping–
and don’t we always
wait yet another week
to cleanse ourselves of what
we fear we don’t need?
A bad job
or incompatible lover.
For months they have fought
about necessary changes
neither of them will make,
and just last week
she told me
the cycle of her life
goes in years by threes.
The job, the lover,
the house, the dust.
There’s a chill. I’m not wearing
a jacket, so I go back inside
and tell him it’s next week
but he’s known this for weeks.

 

(originally published in Columbia Journal Online, Winter 2018)

Root Canal

I.

the overhead light is a python shining into my eyes
this office is hissing: drills, rotors, a hanging
S at the end of a passing sentence.
they have taken so many x-rays
of my mouth these past few weeks

there the infected tooth stares back
in its gray and black graveyard,
deep in its flaw

II.

the doctor numbs me with needle
puts a cloth in my mouth, a cape
to make my face a superhero.
it’s an uncomfortable placebo
makes me think of super-strength
defense as she scythes the pulp out of me

III.

the doctor says god,
this is a pulp boulder

I have been looking toward heaven
digging and scraping many silent minutes

IV.

a drill

bats squeal and fly from the cave of my tooth

V.

the assistant tag-team switches for
a different assistant

the doctor says we’re finally getting somewhere

on the radio:
like a virgin. touched for the very first time

VI.

the scent of bone

or blood

or gum

or healing

VII.

the assistant says she visited the chickens last week
cute as dickens

I learn chickens have no bladders
and no bone marrow

and here I hold my urine

VIII.

the doctor tells me open wide
shoving cotton in my mouth

shout, shout, let it all out

IX.

they’re trying to figure out the actress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
the doctor holds a scalpel over my mouth
the name at the tip of her tongue

After an eternity I offer
Hahdrey Hehurn

I did my part

they’re proud
and there are no complications

 

(originally published in Off the Coast, Fall 2017)

Last Night’s Bonfire at My Desk

spilled honey clings to black wires
connecting the world my lifeblood
laptop nestled in her shell safe from fingers

goldenrod shirt covers the old burns
the pinewood ashes coat my nostrils
the harsh wind blows crooked conifer to the verge

almost to fracture the window waiting
to kaleidoscope glass a body as canvas
hardwood red lust to cleanse gathering dust

rain pats the chair-infested patio drips of
laughter boomerang from slippery brick
and the blonde coughs from beyond the dark
                                                halls of shed fur & grime

 

(originally published in Freshwater, Spring 2018)

Infinite Strings

It was Maxwell
who asked
if algebra
can be extended.
My theory is
it is possible
if we are infinite
strings of numbers,
if an unknown
number
of remaining days
is what
makes us immortal.
With him
gone,
I recite
as many
digits
of pi
as I can
just to feel
my tongue
flicker again–
does the universe
confuse numbers
with the heart’s
density, or
sparsity?
The night sky’s
violins
sing arias
for minor
constellations
that connect
to never-
ending strings
of
days–

 

(originally published in Columbia College Literary Review, Spring 2017)