Symbolism for a Millennial Breakup

I cracked my phone screen
on my first date without you.

I carried it in my back pocket, like always,
though maybe I postured myself differently,

finally sitting up straight enough
to carry my own weight.

I didn’t look at my phone
until after the date. By then,

I could no longer remember you
without the shattered glass–

the flawless screen was not made
from our blazing beach days

of black seaweed and slithering kites
that begged the wind to let go,

where footsteps parted sand
to lead the tide into ourselves,

to let the moon drag our bodies
into the ocean’s boundless mirrors

where, enveloped in reflections,
we could only gasp for air.

 

(originally published in Metonym, Fall 2017)

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)

Glass Chess

I showed you how pawns function
on a glass chessboard

they sacrifice themselves to protect who they love

and what rooks and knights risk
in the modern age

there is a hierarchy in how to approach things

cigarette smoke permeated the wooden air
a phonograph streamed Brahms
I could never quite understand complexity

we sat on couch crumbs with our jeans touching

your friend gave me a rare Bahamian seashell
mottled with beige and caramel
I could not hear the ocean
no matter how hard it pressed against my ear

but with my head against your chest
I remember the beating tide

back then I was composed of sand

scooped whole by strangers hands
learning the gravity of myself
before dissipating

one day
I will build you a castle

 

(originally published in Walking is Still Honest, Summer 2016)

Arizona Desert

sand lodged in the crooks of fingernails
watch the way light

reflects its own water
the last time something glimmered

was birth driving ninety
through the Arizona desert

the scorch in red rocks
pursued our same dreams

pricklier than a cactus
you leave who you love

the phone conversations
of dryer lint and treble

in heat, tires tremble
in cold, you wait

 

(originally published in “the vacant hinge of a song“, courtesy of Origami Poems Project)

Blue Digger Bee

do blue digger bees buzz like honey bees do
or like jazz from tinny speakers
the city night starves for jazz
just a little touch finger on palm
yes I am over your plaid cheeks
like physically my eyes are exhausted
the out-of-order escalator will move no further
yes we waded in pastel watercolors
soft peal of wetting paint
temperance of modern rain
kestrels singing in forever air
tints of cerulean debasing the feather coat
deftness of a painter’s hands
what loneliness in the canvas will glimmer in a gallery of twenty-first century still life
that is real
the mixture of white and black paint stain so entwined in the fingers gripped by brush
the challenge of how do you make this Vietnamese-man-sitting-alone-at-a-table as compelling
as a bucket of salt dipping from the sky
I think of a plodding pizzicato on a yellow glass harp
children in red shoes lining up for a king-sized carousel
our teeth are the strings on the replacement years from now
somehow the present is pregnant with the future
somehow my mouth is fanged to nearly ask
fingers hold music that has not been heard
arpeggio flower petals drifting in the wind
umbrage in the gutters
fingernails recycle them into leaves
the digger emerges from sand
and creeps back into its widowed sepulcher

(originally published in Prong & Posy, Issue 2)

Utah Sandstone

I run from exceptional red.
Distance. Majestic arches. Loop-
de-loop of common want. Canyons,
or peace of mind. Say Zen. Say
Zion. Watch as wind-up forests
spiral from sand. Leaves whisper
to their coming branches in the vacant
hinge of a song. Don’t they
still reach for you. The lonely hoodoos
eroded in failed embrace. Treble clef,
or trouble. No beats for the metered dream.

 

(originally published in Turk’s Head Review – October 2015)

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)