By the Ocean

As the tide heartbeats forth,
my lovers return in salt.

Silver-winged seagull loses herself
& dives.

Yesterday I thought
I would be in love forever–

today, whiskey on my tongue,
sand in my eyes.

I want to find every person
I ever loved within the waves,

how navy shuts
thin books of light.

The line between sand & tide
is awash with wings.

Salt burns my mouth
& I am drenched

in your foam, milking
the sea for words–

the sea swollen with stories
we never told,

words we
never said.

 

(originally published in Common Ground Review, Spring 2018)

Forsythia

The days when we would lay
on blue towels by the beach
combing through our Merriam-Webster
holding every fascinating word by the stems in our mouths,
our vibrancy was inseparable from gardens
full of hyacinths and rhododendron and zinnias
and, yes, forsythias, all these flowers in our hometowns
we never knew the names of
until we saw the words on sand-shorn pages,
said the names out loud, grasped endlessly
for petals in each other. No, we bloomed
laughter from our throats, planted seeds
into pits where absence grows in ensuing Aprils.
We never knew what words might appear
on Scrabble nights hunched over grids of possibility and–
strings of letters string surprising words together.
Marionettes, spider webs, violins, shoelaces,
your hair among the rules of nature, and nurture,
here nurturing the garden, here the home
where we tend other flowers– all my love,
I repeated. Forsythia, forsythia, forsythia.
But those beach days were distant, the tide slurring
softly alongside my returns from long unexplainable workdays–
all my love, I repeated. For Cynthia.
Wooden tiles tornadoed to the floor, slapping
the carpet with words we had not invented yet–
there is no remedy for lost trust. The flame
already sleeps in the bed of the mouth.
Cynthia, Cynthia. I did not know a Cynthia–
but I had never been able to name a forsythia
in the wild. The next time I see one
will feel like cheating. Nothing too-known is magical–
there is wonder in inventing nomenclature,
that a word like forsythia can only be made
in moments like anesthesia, with darkness descending
like the cigarette clouds of a severe storm when, in the drift
into a new consciousness, a lilac floats your mind’s pond–
a lilac, maybe, though that’s not what you want,
and maybe, in the distance, you see the blossoming
yellow that accompanies spring, the air golden around it–
the beauty that’s grander than words.
You wish you never learned the name for it.

(originally published in Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Spring 2017)

Wave

when the continents drift apart
again

at least I know any island would keep you
in its palm

and stay afloat

while tectonic ghosts shift
the ocean

every cyan wave an old hello

when I last tried to hold your sail
in my fist you turned to water

but I hear the tide sing melodies
that must return

bearing my name in pewter clouds
and silver rushes the word into air

into a sailboat– I see shape
in risen mist

with hope the form lingers

long enough to lead us
to where we need to be

 

(originally published in SHANTIH, Fall 2016)

Short Return to LA

With every step, the air parted
and spoke your name.
Smog and all, would you forget

the jagged alleys where
we fermented, became wine?
Its knife cut ribbons, red

repelling the pressure of four A.M breathing.
Driving home from San Francisco down the coast,
each Joshua tree prayed

to a vastness greater than the desert.
The long, Pacific vistas became the sheen
of old Mustangs caught beneath shadows

of Wilshire’s vacant towers.
Our heels kicked dust
and browned the sky–

ever were the hours sand
on the beach, infinite and pearling
a microscopic glint…

the ocean still haunts–
its salt so embedded
in our skin.

 

(originally published in Rust+Moth, Spring 2016)

The 2 A.M. Pacific Retreat

nights cold near the ocean
whispers reclusive invitations

       Chautauqua, Chautauqua

Andrew Bird’s Q-tip acoustic fills the ears
the long voice pizzicato plucks cluck pluck
scratching, say, the sand munching feet,

the seashells and their blue-moon breath
breathe into your ears the eternal secret
of the ocean, quiet all these sleepy years

How do you leave the wet sand after that?

 

(originally published in Loveliest – Issue #1)