Victorian Village / West Adams

Walking over paved bricks
under sunlight in January,
it is quiet enough
to hear the earth shiver
from her breath, far
from the Los Angeles heat
I grew used to– a hundred
police cars wailing down
Vermont past blurs
of fleeting sidewalks,
boarded-up businesses
adorned in graffiti,
and dead black bags
full of not-Autumn
leaves.

 

(originally published in Home Planet News Online, 2017)

Transient

I need new faces
clothes drawers
opening
closing

I used to find
spacious greens
county lines
my hometown

I wandered
through the smells
of mom’s scrambled eggs

faucet running
disposal clogged
with garlic

understand
I want to be
a bullet train
memory

I’ll tell my future grandkids
stop moving
opposite
of me

 

(originally published in Neologism Poetry Journal, Summer 2017)

*Pushcart Prize Nomination

Max’s Porch

we’re on a playground of mosquitos
finding poems about space and math
to read because his brother’s in town
and he’s an idealistic futurist
so they trade science poems
and smoke and dreams (a glass
of water the tides of Lake Erie)
I ask which Little Caesar’s location
is your favorite all time (five dollar
orange brown cardboard. gas
station lighters burning thumbs)
everyone answers the one in my hometown
and we’re 1997 sitting in a mildew basement
sketching cartoons in blue binders on greasy
carpets full of the future waiting for the future
and mallards in the pond sing all wing and trouble
hoping for something to disturb the water
so they can fly

 

(originally published in Pouch)

Pool Party

Yesterday we were at a pool party
attended by only a few others. It was
dog-friendly, as it was last week,
so the lone, small white dog
lapped water into his mouth
while on an inflatable raft and we
stood in silence and watched as he
drank the blue that held the specks
of fallen leaves and submerged spiders
while our beers turned warm. Last week
we were at a party in the same house
with a few of the same people but the
sun was out and I did not have to keep
wondering if you were okay, if you would
dip your feet into the clear with me and all
the people we did not know then because,
last week, a stranger in a bar did not yet
shake your body and bite you
long after you begged him not to–
no, the night before last week’s party
we danced to nineties hip-hop
inside the shadows of others until
we could not help but mine our
bodies for gold. Last week, we laughed
as the dog lapped the pool into his mouth
but watching, now, we know there are some
who force a tongue at whatever water
they see fit, how they lap and lap
until there’s nothing but a splash
of what they lapped at all.

 

(originally published in The Collapsar, Summer 2016)

My First Conversation with Anna

was on a stump under a wooden bridge
that led nowhere. You said I am a fence

wanting pink clouds. We walked the tumorous hill.
You brought up your depression. The green

was infinite and quiet and a silence of oaks.
It was cold and snowing when I was naked

in the dirt digging with my hands with the other naked people.
We did not know what we were looking for. It was the first day

of winter and our legs burned from the chill. I said,
tell me everything you’ve ever known to be true.

You said nothing. But I make videos and we can record
our legs for twenty minutes– just the motion is enough

to nourish us. Hairy legs, hairless legs, left leg, right leg
walking upward to the nearest star– we carved a path

but it was our galaxy led us believe we could wind
and weave through sporadic trees called parks / art

exhibitions and we have these trees
on leashes trying to be trees

and if only we could look at them
and notice our leaves the same

we are so ill with them so malignant
and stuck and if we layer with them

into them if we could grow with them
we would bloom forever in ourselves

and then what would we have to talk about?

 

(originally published in mannequin haus, Summer 2016)

Mia Khalifa

Life imitates art in the way
memory imitates life– your face

reminds me of my last swollen
laughter held. Sometimes

there is no comparison– oh, we’ll rise
from geysers with sulphur still

in our fabrics– loose, blue threads
hanging at the maw.

We disassociate and wish
to converge into stars on a single strand

of light–
I remember that copper smell

of a new roll of pennies,
when fifty cents meant more than

being half of something
not quantifiable at all.

 

(originally published in Pouch, Issue #6)

Thanksgiving, 2015

The turkey was sacrificial. We dug
our fingers through dark meat

to retrieve the stuffing but avoided
the controversial topics, the fat on our bones.

What bubbled was the broth, salt
on stone, and Mom drank sparkling

juice cocktails, pretended it was wine–
laughter compressed from the mash

in our mouths, the soft chew and gravy.
How simple it would be to spill grease

from the pan over the tablecloth, so temporary–
ten years ago was the last we all celebrated,

the last our talking bounced from mouths,
caught softly in our ears. After the funeral

we peeled grapefruit. Its rotting meat
blessed a white plate for days after the feast,

when we gorged enough of ourselves
to ask what it is about the lumps in apple pie

we savor, when the tartness
burrows new holes in our teeth–

maybe it’s the cutting, dulled knife on pie,
and the serving– one piece on porcelain,

a fragment, a memory
of what it means to be whole.

 

(originally published in Jazz Cigarette, Fall 2016)

My Father Was a Beekeeper

I always knew my father was allergic to bees
but it wasn’t until his obituary
I learned he was once a beekeeper.

In those days, I hear, he prayed
to his veil– only to re-emerge, hours later,
having danced with God
under every umber swarm.

He was a gifted storyteller
but it wasn’t until his stroke
at seventy-four made me listen,
when his mouth betrayed his brain.

In his final years he would repeat,
the end of bees is the end of man.
So, heaven in the soft petals
scattered in the grass.

Young violets lined his coffin.
All I wanted was to listen

to stories he told before,
details I had forgotten.

Around the cemetery,
bees still glissando

through gardens not unlike the ones
he dug into his blackened fingernails–

honey and sweat, story-
pollinated requiems, harmonies

heard in bountiful
fields of bloodroot.

 

(originally published in Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal – Spring 2016)

*Nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology

What I Want

Your limb fingers pressed
on the stairway keyboard,
wanna see you move like
you used to, feel your breath
close to mine in new places, say
the same words we said, even if
it was a stupid Sunday,
hear the words,
hear them again, pink erase
the drinks
and listen, hear the words
in my head, I want to feel
the air shake again electric,
the clacking marimbas, I want
your fingers, all of them, pressed
again like whispers
I like to explore,
want the minor chords
out of my head, want your blonde hair
in the ridges between my teeth,
strands in my curled tongue,
tell me what the stars are like
in your own words,
want to hear them,
want to hear their twinkle
in your voice

(Originally published in Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Issue Forty-One)

Future Men

boys who would be future men 
squealed at new Pokemon.
mimicked moves, karate'd birds

flapping and winging and flinging
     OVER NINE THOUSAND!
miles per hour

and things
eight-dollar K-B Toys 
always break 

blue mega man 
onto metal bunk
bed swung 
                              CLANKCLUNK

sprints'a from kitchen, lotsa surge, 
hi-ye-ho bullet train 
                              small-scale rail

    the basement 
       digging
digging through purple bin
     TREASURE! TREASURE!

homemade pogs; on one side 
the cut-out cartoons 
from game manuals, Zero so cool
his long blonde hair, red armor
give me his sword no 
          it's mine 
          x-buster
    circular cutting 
rise to heroes controlled  
  control was so easy

yes, yes, think of life–
death in digital terms

those boys were the masters then

    the future men and their
    cold basement summers


(originally published in Suburban Diaspora)