Tea

the kettle sings I sift the mint
from your leaves become morning
branches inhale steam tethered to
white string high held by fingers
that’ll dig too much into bark
rotting wood from childhood
a treehouse built with dirt hands
and axe planked into core of
every fragile oak soon to fall

 

(originally published in Common Ground Review, Spring 2018)

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Maggie

After you invited me to your brother’s jazz
concert you said you liked me too much
and I couldn’t handle that, the thought

of our togethered trombone slide into an infinity
accompanied by spacetime’s deep sound.
I avoided you the only way I knew how:

my absence for your words a dangling CO2.
This, another failed online dating experience,
a week and (it was electric for a time) the zap

of each other in a cold January condo over and
over, a thousand volts then whole note rest,
a singed week’s limb removed by blizzard wind.

 

(originally published in Postcard Poems and Prose, 2017)

Abella Danger

fungus grows on the lips
of a cordless mouse
and seeks a kiss or two
clicks to connect void
into void and absence
warps into a fray
of spit and sweat
this LED lover
covered in fingerprints
and dust here we crawl
on tousled bedsheet toward
an open window in view
of eucalyptus and jacaranda

 

(originally published in The Good Men Project, Fall 2017)

Band Room

there are many instruments that we are
and many more we are not

such as we are sometimes saxophones
who have not memorized love songs

but we have eyes to read the sheets
lips to blow into trumpets tubas

muscles to crash cymbals
pound the bass drum at night

we remain off-tune no matter time of day
arcs of trombone waves flute trills rainbows

the inhaled swampy atmosphere
of slide-lube and falling domino fingers

down the rigid clarinet air
melodic staccatos of sixteenth-notes

every piece celestas
on wet reed floor

the band room holds its breath
waits for us to play something

 

(originally published in Beech Street Review, Fall 2016)

Teeth, Eggs, and the City Limits (or: Tinder)

our short harmony brushes my teeth
flosses the ridges bending eating
at me the yellowy plaque on white

the yolks in morning how inside
we are tender sunny side up I love
the way you look at me those

runny eyes gushing off the pan
onto black-and-white tile floor
grids the burgeoning cities

in our minds cars read
the streetlights’ caution
as go, go, go . . .

 

(originally published in The City Key, Spring 2016)

The Sacrament of Confession in Catholic School

In kindergarten, I sketched a vagina as a circle
lost in strands of hair, similar to a scribbled sun.

The inklings of want would soon
set sail. When I showed the drawing

to my mother, she somehow knew what it was.
Her suspicious eye taught me life is the pursuit

of the scribbled sun. The first time I drove a car alone,
zooming up the hill toward the highway, I took pictures

of the sunset without watching the road, as if heaven
could be captured with my own fingers. At sixteen

I stole Snickers bars at my first job. The dollar store
went under. It could have been worse. I told the priest

maybe God thinks I touch myself improperly.
He said to toss the dirty magazines, meaning

I didn’t change a thing. In marching band, I pressed
my mouth against the trombone’s silver mouthpiece

and kissed when I blew, spit coursing through the instrument’s body
until it dripped onto the checkered floor. I didn’t lose my virginity

too early. By then it was too late. I have seen the L.A. River
rub itself dry beneath the metal bridges, withered and silent,

while the ocean wets perpetual sand, and all I could do
was run my fingers through the tide’s receding hair.

In seventh grade the school librarian declared if anyone
in class could finish A Tale of Two Cities, it was me.

I did not finish. I was twelve and mastering arousal,
turning pages with fingers on thighs inside of skirts,

skulking my hand up to God, to the first time
I knew sanctity– and the feeling, unlike faith,

was enough to make me believe.

 

(originally published in Corium Magazine, Spring 2016)

Dead Bugs in the Light Fixture

from bed we stared upward
at dead bugs in the light fixture

dark spots scattered so motionless
at the foot of what blinds and allures

you said I’m not going to remove them
I mentioned the blinds were parted this entire time

you said a homeless man lives across the street
but the cold and snow would prevent anyone from watching

the light was dimmed
neither of us intended escape

I learned a stinkbug can withstand temperatures
of negative twenty I had tossed one into snow

and it froze meaning its heart turned cold
in an instant and I expect it to

the shell lifeless and its own
dark spot in the snow

the walls were already painted olive
you said you could live with that

we guessed the time and now past midnight
you hadn’t done your reading for the morning

so I returned to the salted road
cruising past dark snow

and trees no cars
no other lights

for miles just ice
just cold just frosts

and frozen bugs
expecting spring

to bring some kind of meaning

 

(originally published in Ohio Edit)