Let’s Make a Deal

At a McDonald’s in Ohio the TV
plays Let’s Make a Deal & two
old white men are enraptured mouths
open in awe of the studio energy
around Wayne Brady & I
know he’s happy but the audience
is fake I was paid to be
fake in L.A. forty dollars cash is all
it takes for one to clap clap
mid-clap three hours palms
burn & lucky luck even those
who somehow chosen sneak
onto stage know they did
not bring the green glittering
top hat they’re told to wear & now
their hair holds dead rabbits
the producers keep killing
& we’re laughing it’s funny
they tell us & when I was on
the show they asked me to whoop
my gutted-fish stomach out
& of course I yelled the wrong
numbers in the game & brand-
new sedans were revealed
as what I could have had
had I said six instead of
seven & then collected my
forty in line alongside everyone
returning loopy props to
props I know my mom is proud she
shows me & my colorful howling
crowd to happy rooms years
after the date I’m biting into
McNuggets with gold teeth
& cavities

 

(originally published in New Pop Lit, Spring 2018)

Kentucky Murder Mystery

no blood
where they found
my uncle
on the kitchen floor

hole in his heart
gun on steel barstool

on the drive to the wake
my aunt admits
she suspects
the eldest son

when I meet him
the first thing he says is
someone stole my idea
when I wrote Dexter in the 90s
I always wanted to write
about serial killers

when searching the room
no foam erupts from
volcanoes of old couches
no fingerprints to find

his suicide does not add up
my aunt says again and again
examining scrubbed floors
for heavy footsteps to appear
when nothing else will

 

(originally published in #theslideshow, Winter 2018)

Background Actors

At the foot of the staircase to the stars–
in the back of the line of actors drunken
from delusion (I’m going to make it),
each of us with hands full of hangers,
heads full of the fame
that glimpses a star, a familiar face,
how we chosen ones flicker
on living room screens
of friends and families–
a blip, a blur so brief
we were almost never there at all.

 

(originally published in The Piedmont Journal of Poetry and Fiction, Winter 2017)

Sunny Days

In memory of Chris Hull

friends don’t
wait for rainy days
to die
there is never
a metaphor
in the weather
the sun laughs
as it always does
when I receive the call
I find the nearest tree
to brace myself
with shade
it’s the only darkness
seventy-six degrees
warm breeze
the car
approaching the hospital
still takes her living
to work
at being alive

 

(originally published in Muddy River Poetry Review, Spring 2017)

Happy Hour Whiskey

I don’t think my dad would be proud of me
writing poems on bar napkins
after that fifth happy hour whiskey.

This is how I want it: to be disengaged
by the time my uniform cuffs roll
to my eyes in stupor to avoid the

solemn eyes of ancestors in the sky.
Transparent Mufasas and steely voices
judge me like America judges Kardashians.

The reality is you can rewind the DV tape
back to the beginning tomorrow and show me
the footage of my stumbling into the driver’s seat.

The cosmos roll in their graves.
Meanwhile I am the last child
who can cast the line onward–

past, present, future.
A syzygy from birth.
The headlights wane.

 

(originally published in Jawline Review, Spring 2016)

Because I Never Listened to Your Stories

Thirty-five years and fingernails
darken, blacken from walnuts
and the cracks of hammers, the coming
of dawn, clouds wrapped in thunder–

the fruiting spire, the pear-toned
light, the front lawn fire, charcoal
grass, green peels ripening– ripe–
soft–

red Helix stagnant, lonesome, remembering
the wet-leather thunderstorm days
cruisin’ seventy,
the human box of organs and history
holding rubber handles
treaded like hieroglyphics–

interpret me. Listen.

These are the words on the bathroom stall
fingernail-scratched and ignored

What Will You Remember?

Not the stories told in tones softer than television

 

(originally published in NEAT., Issue 7)