Switches

Dad knew which fuse box switch did what–
in this way, he chose for us the light and dark.
His hands blackened from cracking walnuts
over the years, hammering husks in the

night when the rest of us were sleeping,
loud whacks startling us temporarily awake then
drifting back into our own darknesses beneath familiar
stars. After his death, we found Dad’s walnuts

in barrels in the corner of his workshop alongside
spiders and memories we could not yet scrape.
My brother said, to honor him, we had to break
and eat each one, despite the bulk. That Dad lived

a rich life poor, that the taste might activate
memory’s accordion, careening us in and out
the past and present, turning life to death then life
again, discordant in its forlorn loudness.

 

(originally published in 3Elements Review, Spring 2018)

Power Lines

electricity in the breath
of memory– the back-
country home mom
owns an endless vista
she has men care for
due to spine drooping
a road on her body
leads to membrane and
dad alive in the sky
looking down on her
fields purple or blue
the empty driveway
anyone’s welcome to

 

(originally published in Apricity Press, 2018)

Stand-Up Comedy

[the comedian approaches the stage in sunglasses
and a shiny black and green robe.]

Knock knock.
                        (Who’s there?)

I am.
There is no punchline.

Listen past your rush-hour heart.
I am up here breathing heavily.

Listen: I want you to laugh
and never stop. I am trying jokes
you did not know you wanted to hear.

I searched coast-to-coast for lands
who laugh with me, that tectonic shifting
from belly to chest.

Why did boys like me bring ladders to school?

We wanted to learn mountains and rarefied air.
To find reservoirs of laughter waiting.

What did 0 say to 8?
                       Nice belt!

                      (I don’t get that joke!)

But I want your holy, exhaled noise.
Relax.

What do you do if you see a spaceman?

You laugh. He doesn’t know what he’s doing here.
What he’s doing anywhere.
I offered myself to the ocean–
the entertainment industry.
She did not want.
The spotlight hungers for no one.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Why wouldn’t the chicken cross the road
if the chicken intended to cross the road?

Most everyone I know crosses the road
without looking both ways these days.
I do not call them chickens– they are my more realistic friends.

I want to make them laugh.
If you’re not laughing for me, laugh for them.

We are haunted by too many things:
dead friends, dead family, dead love,
dead strangers, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.

You can be someone’s haunting sunlight.
Someone’s champion jester dispersing their marbles too good.

Look, a magic trick!
                                   [he throws two playing cards onto the floor]

How do you catch a unique rabbit?
U nique up on it.

How do you catch a tame rabbit?
Tame way– u nique up

on something enough to latch onto–
just a hinge’s creak
before the mouth’s swing open, closed.

Some of us never leave that darkness.
The silent divide.

Laughter will bring us close.

I mean it when I say let’s laugh until we die,
even when what we laugh about isn’t funny.

I mean it when I say if you see a space, man,
park your car, man.

It’s over.

 

(originally published in The Magnolia Review, Fall 2017)

Two Nightmares in My Car on Rosewood

I.

A shadow figure outside the Ford’s locked door.
He jiggles the handle
hey can you drive me to Santa Clarita
I said no I have been drinking whiskey
which was a lie
he said let me in
I did not

II.

When I wake for a walk in the middle of the night,
clothes bunched on red benches under streetlights
like someone had been there
and disappeared

III.

I call my ex
I can’t stop thinking about you

shadows float from her eyes
into mine

cigarette smoke

bats

understand: we lived
in the cave of each other

IV.

under orange streetlights

blankets hang from headrests
to drape me from the world

 

(originally published in The Nottingham Review, Fall 2017)

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)

SpaghettiOs

The bowl is where
the howls come from–
OoOoOoOoO!
A broken-record werewolf
in this microwave-boiled,
tomato-red September.
I have been trying to form
the words to say to you
with only a vowel.
When you left
for some knockoff white-hat,
greasy Chef Boyardee
I went to the zoo
to study manatees,
but they, too, are a migratory
species. I saw the first of its kind
take on a mangrove but emerge
fish-in-mouth. She floated to her
friend or brother or lover
and squealed syllables
until the other swam away.
I guess no one communicates
with each other the proper way
anymore. All these sounds
these OOOs and Os
processed uneaten

 

(originally published in The Oddville Press, Spring 2018)

East Through California

I argue with the music in my car again
those rock’n’roll pots and pans clanging
in the soup kitchen of my imagination
the Steel Reserve of my rumba rumblin’
stomach unfilled from Maruchan ramen

really I’m running from anything but home:
in the apartment of my car the desert’s
a sandstorm of faulty A/C and mountains
obscuring the view of my future and
there’s nowhere else to go but here

 

(originally published in Outcast Poetry, Spring 2017)