Following a Trip to the L.A. Zoo

wear sunscreen you’ll thank me faster

do not come to me bearing ailments

it was just yesterday gifts of topaz and corundum your ring-fingers will dance will light over penny slot screens aplomb

some shared jackpot of drunkenness

or worse

sparks from fireflies in the Georgia summer floating flickering stars lightly humming

when a hum turns into a birdcall we whistle like sparrows on a branch

twigs in our talons we offer to the other

twinkle of the moon through the swaying branches above

voices like an owl-song who

are we to hover over the other’s hopes who

will pinch us find we are composed of feathers too raggedy to summon the strength

fingers meekly bristle against your cheek soft as the whirring of the window fan we drift to sleep

so California is the drought I cannot feel it devoid of breathing like a sandstorm

California someday drifts into the Pacific I am my own island thirsting for wet soil

your cotton-morning taste will itself someday drift

 

 

(originally published by The Virginia Normal)

Dog on the Patio

Whenever I let the dog out
onto our small back patio
on sunny afternoons
and he lays on familiar brick

scratching his ears,
nose curious and wandering,
I remember my father

who, in the endless days of retirement,
learned the lawn better
than his calloused palms:

every humpbacked tree and drooping limb,
every snake and gopher hole,
every new and fallen anthill,
every cobweb on the lamppost,

where to find toads after rain,
how to catch them–

when he did not strive to create utopia
by chiseling trees into magazine models,

I often found him on a patch
of freshly-mown grass,
scratching his smoky, sun-basked beard,

waiting for the wind to speak,
to say more to him than I ever did.

 

(originally published in Black Elephant Lit, Spring 2016)

A Raccoon Knocked Over a Garbage Bin

The daddy longlegs cantilevers from Styrofoam
to sidewalk. Beetles, red-handed, scurry from a brown banana peel,
and as my gloved hands rake the dregs of recent days to neatly seal
in a new black bag, I think of how much we lose
in a week, or in the span of a second, some wayward glance,
a hush in a waning tide … no moon, no sun, no, merely
the space between … wrinkles slink into our faces.
I would give you wings, but you have risen,
already, high into infertile sky. And in the morning,
without sunrise, I will swear
the wings were broken, were never there, or were crushed,
in some tiny state of insignificance.

 

(originally published in Syzygy Poetry Journal, Vol. 1, No. 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)

Caesura

Every road has a finite end, just mud and sky, daytime
if you’re lucky, night looming beyond the paling horizon.

Maybe there is a barren tree, branches dancing
to a slow sonata, a love song only the two of you

know, the earth calmly listening. If you can plant
your naked feet into the ground, you will hear

the earth hum as it spins faster than you will ever
move, and though it always seems like stasis, you hope

it never stops, remains a puzzle
merely a misstep from disarray.

 

(originally featured in Common Ground Review, Vol. XVII, Issue II)

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)

Rob Delaney

Hi, I am Rob Delaney.
I am not Rob Delaney

and he would never begin a five-minute set like that,
but before California dangled blackberries
above my granite mouth,

Rob showed us the way and the truth and the life
(John fourteen-six by the score of silent thumbs)

god, twitter fame was the only thing
that could bring us nearer gods we do not believe in

this big bang of a perpetually expanding following
we cannot fully understand

by choice I never listened to robins
conducting high-frequency symphonies

(but I did read Last Call of the Passenger Pigeon
by Daniel A. Hoyt that summer
and could form the parentheses of a whistle
enough to calculate the slow kettle of tea)

my father would sit on a pig stump
(an oak whose life he ended himself)
and watch birds fly the superhighway,
clouds like rush hour in L.A.

like some hippie saint claiming
all that is God
is not man-made

I always thought of bird-watching as a way
for the elderly to augment their loneliness

now all the young men I know
fetishize loneliness in themselves

 

(originally published in LEVELER – Summer 2015)

Five-Star Hotel

Starlight is not equal in the petroleum sky.
Homes know the ocean
but not their owners– cliff’s edge.

Striated fireworks stake and fall,
hurriedly carted by fragile marbles.

Oil salts the earth to lust–
a red akin to blood
and romance seen in films,
romanticism violently envisioned
and burrowed for the claw
of the excavator, millionaire muck
gushed from leaking faucets.
The piping is consistent:
the toilets flush twice– to be sure.

These are where the fingerprints mingle
to create their own pulse– voyeur beats.

So fill your tank with Grey Goose.
Drink Utopia first. There is no price
for luxury but the cost in lost days–
my treat.

 

(originally published in altered form in Little River – Issue #4)