In This Cafe You Thought You’d Find Solace from This World

through speakers 70s music bass
guitar heartbeat pulsating through
a weatherman chants forecasts out
of sync a microwave beeps the shrill
coffee machines trembling cash
register slamming baritone voice
barista says he has bad hearing you
said something before sandwich fan
spins no rhythm stringed spurt richochet
solos quiet everyone reading books
tablets not responding to chaos burnt
bagel wafting sorry sorry the window
rain begins drum drum drum drum
one two three four the faucet spits
on everyone walks in don’t you
want somebody to love?

 

(originally published in IthacaLit, Spring 2018)

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Meditation on Muscle Memory

If I had musical talent
I wouldn’t write poems.

Guitar-grown fingernails.
Nimble strings.

There’s no need
to lie. I couldn’t bring myself to try

when my parents thought
it’d be a good idea for me
to take piano lessons.

I had Game Boy eyes
and the Final Fantasy theme on repeat.

My dad had already explained
the difference between basin wrench

and torque. Wasted an afternoon
taping leaking pipes.

Like many of his time
he knew plumbing, mechanics,
home improvement

then brought me into rooms with broken
machines. My mind was Mickey Mouse
spelling words and song,

not the kind to vivisect
a bird to learn the function.

All I knew were not even stories yet
and still my hands
sing few callouses.

 

(originally published in Pirene’s Fountain, Spring 2018)

Old Songs

on the phone you ask
who old lyrics were written for
I say my writing is not literal
these are imaginary girls

you ask who are these imaginary girls
I say they are lonely
in imaginary ways they alone imagine
the ways they are lonely

I lay under a dim fluorescent bulb
a soft cotton sheet on my skin
digging a deeper crater in my bed
as in a bodiless void

 

(originally published in Bitterzoet Magazine, 2017)

Duplex

the muffled songs
made me wonder
who played violin
on the other side

who cradled the bowstring
whose long haunting moans
whispered my name
in its dried throat
beyond the wooden wall
who itself whispered
its own ghosts
its dead fingerprints

are clamoring
to live again

 

(originally published in The Bond Street Review, Summer 2017)

Aria

she is a delicate
vocal who sings
on an axis

in an orchestra
we never talk about
and rarely attend

it is not enough
to hear her tones
encircle us

we will watch
her cords wear
as she forgets

how to sing
with fire
her notes softening

until she becomes
a silent
aria

 

(originally published in #thesideshow, Spring 2017)

The Funeral

                                           After Band of Horses

After my sister’s morning call broke
our father’s death, the first thing

I did was listen to Everything All the Time,
sobbing into unrequited guitar

and an ethereal voice soaring
into some great beyond. Seven years later,

I drink Bordeaux with my roommate
in the kitchen, cyclical tones

filling the room. The guitar is a coffin
for us both, lowering Dad’s corpse

into dirt. Her grandpa died
when this song released.

We rake our past leaves under burnt-out bulbs.
We agree: The Funeral was written for both of us

to pass the billion-each-insignificant day.
Dead leaves own the lawn each season

of our funerals. The same deaths
in autumn chill still dropping the needle

into memory’s vinyl– to come up only
to pull us under, show us wrong.

 

(originally published in Chronogram, Spring 2017)

Band Room

there are many instruments that we are
and many more we are not

such as we are sometimes saxophones
who have not memorized love songs

but we have eyes to read the sheets
lips to blow into trumpets tubas

muscles to crash cymbals
pound the bass drum at night

we remain off-tune no matter time of day
arcs of trombone waves flute trills rainbows

the inhaled swampy atmosphere
of slide-lube and falling domino fingers

down the rigid clarinet air
melodic staccatos of sixteenth-notes

every piece celestas
on wet reed floor

the band room holds its breath
waits for us to play something

 

(originally published in Beech Street Review, Fall 2016)