Valley Kids

Our beginning was rooted in the oak of a throwaway job;
I was twenty, admiring clay pots we painted in the strokes
of humid Akron days, its summer colors swirling blue.

To approach you would have been more than I could handle–
in the playground of desire, I chucked woodchips of my heart
into the air and they never came down. I think of you often–

in pastel cartoons, how remembered faces fade. After summer
ended, I knew I would never see you again. How the seasons
burn like leaves then rise to ashes, clinging warm to trees.

 

(originally published in Poetry Super Highway, Winter 2018)

The Strip (Vegas)

in no other place does the sun
swindle the breath from your skin

those who walk in the neon glow
cut the chords of their own harps

your tired shoes crush cans
among mountain-ascending

penny-win dings &
skipped softness

of losses
listen to the suspended string

how she gently falls
to wine

 

(originally published in SOFT CARTEL, 2018)

Let’s Make a Deal

At a McDonald’s in Ohio the TV
plays Let’s Make a Deal & two
old white men are enraptured mouths
open in awe of the studio energy
around Wayne Brady & I
know he’s happy but the audience
is fake I was paid to be
fake in L.A. forty dollars cash is all
it takes for one to clap clap
mid-clap three hours palms
burn & lucky luck even those
who somehow chosen sneak
onto stage know they did
not bring the green glittering
top hat they’re told to wear & now
their hair holds dead rabbits
the producers keep killing
& we’re laughing it’s funny
they tell us & when I was on
the show they asked me to whoop
my gutted-fish stomach out
& of course I yelled the wrong
numbers in the game & brand-
new sedans were revealed
as what I could have had
had I said six instead of
seven & then collected my
forty in line alongside everyone
returning loopy props to
props I know my mom is proud she
shows me & my colorful howling
crowd to happy rooms years
after the date I’m biting into
McNuggets with gold teeth
& cavities

 

(originally published in New Pop Lit, Spring 2018)

Legalese

Here, we
are a law.

Lawyers of alloy &
beaming far off.

This galaxy lazy
noise & heartbeat.

Hash & shadow,
hair & gold.

Skin, its own
constitution.

Freckles rumina-
ting speckles.

Sunshine the gift &
a Sistine visit.

Angels mistaking
mouths for wings.

I thought you wanted
something like this.

 

 

(originally published in Botticelli Magazine, Spring 2018)

Kentucky Murder Mystery

no blood
where they found
my uncle
on the kitchen floor

hole in his heart
gun on steel barstool

on the drive to the wake
my aunt admits
she suspects
the eldest son

when I meet him
the first thing he says is
someone stole my idea
when I wrote Dexter in the 90s
I always wanted to write
about serial killers

when searching the room
no foam erupts from
volcanoes of old couches
no fingerprints to find

his suicide does not add up
my aunt says again and again
examining scrubbed floors
for heavy footsteps to appear
when nothing else will

 

(originally published in #theslideshow, Winter 2018)

Widow

Every night Mom drowns
in loud TV next to dusty organ
bloomed with portraits. Family’s

family, including things:
the security system greets her
when returning from the store.

The red carpet, the torn couch,
the gunky dishwasher. Coming home
from work through a sea of dark Ohio

into a reverberating house of off-white
rooms so silent the garage door screams
shut. The floors don’t creak, they wail

and faucets cry. A cabinet full
of Cabernet. A corkscrew hangs,
rusted at the hinge.

(originally published in Oyster River Pages, Summer 2018)

The Appointment of the Special Counsel

out of nowhere there’s a razor-thin wire hope
smoke from the top of the mountain and
we small spectators watching those distant trees
burn chatter among ourselves that finally there’s
a chance to reveal the truth about the source of smoke
and to be honest we’re terrified if there isn’t
a fire because we see it and wonder what else
is covered up because it’s there all around us in the air

 

(originally published in Rabid Oak, Spring 2018)

Unemployment Dirge

I have given up on adulthood this time
at least not trying to pay bills
every electronically white-licked envelope
arrives the kiss of a faceless reaper
but I’m not playing that capitalist game
of unending rain filling plastic
cups the days that spill
on plain tile to move
the needles of hairs
and dirt I never
knew was missing

 

(originally published in Foliate Oak, Spring 2018)