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)

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A Horse Runs

a horse runs
on a long treadmill

at first we say this
is not normal

but the horse runs
on the long treadmill

long enough
we normalize it

there’s that horse
running

on the long
treadmill

 

(originally published in The Neglected Ratio, Spring 2017)

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)

Monday Night Rain

out of wisdom / out of want / so many / things / to not believe /
whether or not / you or I believe / you will end things / with your boyfriend /
I have seen your tattoos / just the surface / of your skin / understand I /
cannot chase / the gilded raven / with closed wings / I press into /
your hair / black against my mouth / the warmth of your ear /
in the back / of the room / holding /
so laugh quietly / whisper / don’t hold onto / anything /
be far enough away / from intimacy / that it feels like / intimacy /
a secret / a terrible secret / the way our mouths / don’t cling /
to each other’s / my hand / on your leg / your head /
turned away / in the back / of the room / we listen / to words / want to fall /
asleep / with each other / we want to / drift / from reality /
the blinds / and the gathers / Monday rain / fog / rain / I’ll help you / dry /
wielding an umbrella / for both of us / to stand / under / where we can / lie /
to each other / more intimately / watch the whole thing / fall asleep /
as the world / puts her weight / on the black / handle / in my hand /
and drains / with a whisper / into the gutter

 

(originally published in Birch Gang Review, Winter 2017)

Max’s Porch

we’re on a playground of mosquitos
finding poems about space and math
to read because his brother’s in town
and he’s an idealistic futurist
so they trade science poems
and smoke and dreams (a glass
of water the tides of Lake Erie)
I ask which Little Caesar’s location
is your favorite all time (five dollar
orange brown cardboard. gas
station lighters burning thumbs)
everyone answers the one in my hometown
and we’re 1997 sitting in a mildew basement
sketching cartoons in blue binders on greasy
carpets full of the future waiting for the future
and mallards in the pond sing all wing and trouble
hoping for something to disturb the water
so they can fly

 

(originally published in Pouch)

Thirst

dishes are an exercise in repetition
why do we go through our days so quickly

we must be unhappy with material possessions
more specifically
how we sustain ourselves

I am amazed I have sustained myself for so long

teenage years of french fries and ice cream
adult years of french fries and frozen pizza

there is nothing that greases my heart
more than eating macaroni and cheese
naked at 2 am

when I am bloodless

pots and pans hang on hooks on the kitchen ceiling

the landlord says our water bill is exorbitant

I think it is extraordinary
the parts of ourselves
we must pay for

steam billows out of the dishwasher
when it is done
we pay for that too

in august we chopped heads off of asparagus

rinsed our hands of the green bits
blue antibacterial bubbled white

champagne bottles cling to the wall
someone please set them free

so we can keep that bent and dying orchid
on our kitchen island

 

(originally published in Eunoia Review, Autumn 2016)

Cooking Potatoes

The longer potatoes taste air, the more
they rust over time. We strummed
guitars with calloused fingertips
(melodious incision). The pot

overfills from the weight of boiling.
We whistled unfamiliar tunes through
afternoon orgasms. My teeth cannot chew
the raw. Steam will temper the room

enough to sustain our songs in my head.
I always liked to mix vegetables
into the mash, the music, but the days
are already too easy to cry. The onion

remains sheathed in its flaky armor.
Bunches of corn are never shucked.
Even the cheddar stays in plastic past
when these potatoes soften enough

to feed. The chords are always
harsh. We could never eat our fill.

 

(originally published in The Wagon Magazine, Autumn 2016)

Night Train in Wait

We stare at stars until we feel
the cavalcade of stones shift beneath our shoes.
There is an entropy to the universe.
What melody does the rail hold in her ivories?

Do we listen for an engine to ignite
while we tangle in the grass, in the cold,
in the tremble of tracks? Where else to go?
We tremble, too, waiting

for a song from the vulnerable rail
and her sharp of distance.
If the train will not move I still want
to create landscapes with you

and callous ourselves hurtling
past engine content in her still
into worlds where I become wind,
and you, fire–

with a palm on your cheek,
we’re the mountains,
playas, beaches, moors.
All a blur. A quiver.

 

(originally published in Isthmus, Winter 2016)

Shapelessness

As I move further from you, whiskey in hand,
the thirst seems to pile like distance in the miles–

my shape roasted under Pacific sun.
Our sunglasses clinked with wine glasses.

The dry sponge. Run me under the sink.
Or run with me. You could be a ghost, too,

a phantom unfurling before me, haunting
each town I pass. Every morning, I am gone.

For a while, your blanket was warm. But chill the air
long enough and someone will notice. No one

likes the cold. Everyone prefers the summer river,
her water’s blue in the ice of winter, the clear

of July. I dig for you in the dirt. Then myself.
My shapelessness. My tendency to drift

so far away that I never fully return.

 

(originally published in Jazz Cigarette, Autumn 2016)

Observations from the Westside Pavilion Bridge

I.

stationary at the couch by the window over the street the cars move unseen beneath me in lines in some complex order that means they don’t crash into each other    the sound of engines is replaced with repetitive 4/4 pop music snare singer pleading for her lover to return but in Los Angeles   who do you return to

II.

locks click from storefront doors a Chinese family appears from behind the off-white pillar the mother in loose pink flowy shirt and dress takes a photo in front of the window her daughter in a white-and-red striped shirt her husband in a blue-and-pink striped shirt so much pink so many binding stripes and the mother captures that lone moment  the sky a tender backdrop

III.

a grandma walks a black stroller and makes a soft kind of train noise shh guh shh guh in syncopated beats as she travels in circles    the rolling sound of the stroller-like luggage in an airport    constant whir    her mouth a muted hi-hat to some imaginary beat on her third pass-by   the baby in pink stirs and she stops her mouth’s percussion and tends to the baby who is quiet but lifts her arm in the air   silhouette to the window of the world    cookies and cream   loose leggings

IV.

a man in his fifties eats macha ice cream alone near Dillard’s   walks in front of a blonde man in a cowboy hat water bottle in hand tying his shoelaces      the ice cream man on the other side of the window underneath the Westside Center sign stares at his reflection     he moves from the window bits of cone now lodged in his graying mustache

V.

the green palms reflected on the speckled cream floor    ripples in a pond blow so gently     outside a man with twenty hands and countless fingers     dances and puppeteers

VI.

two Mexican women with glowing purses hanging on their right shoulder walk in near-unison   one just a half-step ahead until the fast one stops to fix her shoe before walking into Nordstrom glass door squealing open       at its most open it sounds like a bad brake on a car      the other keeps walking

VII.

older man in a reddish shirt has a chocolate cone at 11:45pm   stands on the wide black stripe on the floor in front of the imposing silver pillar that splits in the middle like a buttcrack     he stands    licking staring forward at TVs     that advertise movies now playing in the theaters of his daydreams

VIII.

half of the iPhone billboard outside would be indiscernible    half white space stubs of fingers touching green fabric in a lazy V the space below it a half-globe of nothing   the squeaking of shoes slowly silence the man in blue beneath as he does not even notice I watch as he tucks his manila folder under his left armpit

IX.

mountains are indiscernible from buildings in the distance     curved with specks of white that hint at strange windows or a deepening mist that seem to want to envelop the rest of us    and how do we know it won’t

X.

a faraway pedestrian timidly crosses the intersection illegally   she slows but proceeds   and from my vantage point she crosses to the smell of the soy in the pad see ew that steams in front of me

XI.

the light which hangs above these walls of shades of gray is latticed in spiderweb    I cannot tell if the gentle sway-shaking is imaginary  or earthquake  all these little triangles hovering jittering above me   I wonder if this is how the universe actually moves   or what it truly looks like

XII.

upside-down reflections of walking legs move as the inverse of walking and sway with a sexy air voluminous breeze parting    moving away in a regal but  aimless sashay

 

(originally published in The City Key, Spring 2016)