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)

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Real Shit

We’re eating Thai food, like we were supposed to do yesterday,
and I tell you that spice level, I couldn’t handle but next I know

we’re walking through alleys shoulder-to-shoulder when you ask
when you gonna talk about the real shit? And we keep on, sun

dipping to avoid the real conversations and I know this box of Stella
in my hand isn’t strong enough to make me start, but in my house

there’s honey whiskey, and I ask if that’s real enough but no,
too much sweetness. We drink anyway, ice falling from freezer

to floor as I reach for Old Crow to hurry to some kind of real talk,
the kind we couldn’t find on our walk to Giant Eagle

but there are bonfires too hot for our hearts in the real world,
a tinder of paper and logs we decide not to learn the names of

and we’re drowning whiskeys, beers, and slow small-talk
telling each other about exes to the flame’s orange humming

and that’s real, I thought, but not real shit and so the hanging lights
are unplugged and we’re searching for stars through clouds of smoke

and we talk about how little we know, how far we want to go
but beside you those stars don’t seem so far and in the swirl

of darkness we kiss, realize that’s the real shit
until we open enough to tell each other.

 

(originally published in Cease, Cows, Fall 2017)

Excessive Drinking

I am a sun-drenched willow field withered and
purple. Headache remiss, wonder when the liver
will churn its nightly clarion call, squeezing rags
to drag the water out.

Sometimes the nights are like that in the silence
between friends. The drafts replace talking.
You can’t hear the words with breath so still
and distant, willows soon awakening.

 

(originally published in Transcendence Magazine, Summer 2016)

The Whole World or Nothing

You suggested whiskey sours
so we left the reading
to walk the golden streets in rain
during the first warm day

which felt like hope–
a riptide cascading
through the chaos of cars
and people on city streets.

Like you, gravel is full of scars
and we trample it under our soles
without thinking.
What do we pray to but the future,

its corpuscular horseshoe
on her way? We are swift
without wind, carving footsteps
in Bukowski’s tattered ambitions.

And when we finally reach the bar’s
back patio with sour piling into our mouths
you strip to your white dress
and show me your tattoos.

We wanted the whole world or nothing.
The sun, the moon, not one or the other.
The stars’ breaths on the nape
of your neck. Every word tingles

the first time celestial bodies meet.
I am cratered with my drink,
this treat and chilled escape.
The staircase leads downward.

 

(originally published in WISH Poetry Press)