Getting Sober

If I don’t watch it, this lake
is vodka and I won’t care I don’t
know how to swim. Getting sober
is like that. I go out into the world
and look you in the eyes and say
I’m fine. I’m having a good time
and you go on never knowing
I was half-underwater, that
there was a monster trying
to make its way to the surface
and I had to push him down.

 

(originally published in Rattle, Winter 2018 – nominated for Best of the Net)

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)

Landscapes

pray to the clay
and snow
there are canyons
cratered in our hearts
not every landscape
is refined each is full
of fingerprints and colors
undefined through
every ridge
the sandstone
in her face you will find
who you are looking for
in any landscape the forests
your father the mountains
your mother the shifting
desert sand tombs
are caverns you must lose yourself
in memories and forget
the horizon no one
seems so far away
beside the ocean

 

(originally published in Uppagus, Fall 2017)

Garden

You cannot gut a tomato without first
remembering the garden. The mud-rutted
fingers pulled at weeds; silver shovels spiraled

to and from the sky. The spit, the rain. It took months–
years– didn’t it, to differentiate? To grow into something

unrecognizable? You knew what this would become,
the way a person finds her own shadow
insufficient. A broken silhouette of scarecrow.

It was then I could not see you– with your bangs
of hay, the ground sprouting milkweed.

Those tired hands milled ‘til the sun had no meaning.
You wore dark clouds as a cape stained
with mud the work helped us forget.

 

(originally published in Ground Floor Drinkers, Summer 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)

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)

Disturbances

autumn’s scarlet
stopped telling truths

long before
her collapsed desire

was in Buddha’s
outspread hands

winds of prayer change
as seasons pass

to the lost mantles
of our mouths’

amplified thoughts
we no longer have

 

(originally published in In-flight Literary Magazine, Winter 2017)