Sunrise

Driving west to Columbus from my partner’s house
in Pittsburgh early morning and on I-70 around six
in the rearview there’s a giant burst of orange light nearly
deafening in its glory and my first thoughts are fire and fury
then you’re gone but no it’s a heavenly sunrise and I can’t
remember the last time I witnessed the sun rise though a few
days ago she and I were in Vermont about to hike an
overlook before sunrise to watch it but we couldn’t will
ourselves out of bed and what a world to wake to now
driving alone this big dramatic ball of fury revealing its
magnificence bathing land in light before it softens
            how it could have been one or the other
a burst of beauty or unspeakable tragedy yet from a distance
a bomb might seem as beautiful and harmless as a sunrise
at least until the smoke how with fire too there’s a kind
of enchantment but for this a split second then the anguish
and fury for this sunrise greeting a thousand grieving days

 

(originally published in Old Red Kimono, Spring 2018)

Root Canal

I.

the overhead light is a python shining into my eyes
this office is hissing: drills, rotors, a hanging
S at the end of a passing sentence.
they have taken so many x-rays
of my mouth these past few weeks

there the infected tooth stares back
in its gray and black graveyard,
deep in its flaw

II.

the doctor numbs me with needle
puts a cloth in my mouth, a cape
to make my face a superhero.
it’s an uncomfortable placebo
makes me think of super-strength
defense as she scythes the pulp out of me

III.

the doctor says god,
this is a pulp boulder

I have been looking toward heaven
digging and scraping many silent minutes

IV.

a drill

bats squeal and fly from the cave of my tooth

V.

the assistant tag-team switches for
a different assistant

the doctor says we’re finally getting somewhere

on the radio:
like a virgin. touched for the very first time

VI.

the scent of bone

or blood

or gum

or healing

VII.

the assistant says she visited the chickens last week
cute as dickens

I learn chickens have no bladders
and no bone marrow

and here I hold my urine

VIII.

the doctor tells me open wide
shoving cotton in my mouth

shout, shout, let it all out

IX.

they’re trying to figure out the actress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
the doctor holds a scalpel over my mouth
the name at the tip of her tongue

After an eternity I offer
Hahdrey Hehurn

I did my part

they’re proud
and there are no complications

 

(originally published in Off the Coast, Fall 2017)

Fortune Cookie (May 9, 2017)

You have good reason
to be self-confident.

After all, this is what
the fortune cookie said.

After a dinner portion
of greasy lo mein
from New Peking.

After CNN reports
the president’s firing
of the FBI director.

This is a gross abuse of power,
and there is a gross amount
of noodles inside me.

Despite that,
I have good reason
to be self-confident,

I suppose.

I am reasonably certain
I still have a job.

I am reasonably certain
I am not under investigation.

There was no backdoor
deal struck with the restaurant
to ensure this would be

my particular
fortune.

All I did was order
the noodles via telephone.

Then I drove to the
restaurant to pick it up,
face-to-face.

I used my credit card
to pay for it, but
I will pay the bill.

In the plastic bag
they handed me,
there was a brown bag.

In the brown bag,
there was a white box
with my food in it

as well as chopsticks,
napkins, a fork, and
the fortune cookie.

That’s it.

All I’m saying is
if you don’t believe
me, investigate.

Anyone who says
differently
is reasonably suspicious.

 

(originally published in Landfill, Fall 2017)

Half

to cut immigration
is to cut me half

-Filipino I am already
halved quartered diced you take

a knife to my mother she keeps
a knife at her neck we both are

American in the blade of the word
I used to pretend to be more

my more-accepted half
to have to choose

is to have nothing

 

(originally published in Serving House Journal, Fall 2017)