The Hours

Can’t even sustain myself with the hours
I work to make myself; a waterfall of dollars
and dreams splashing off wet stone. I hold no

heart hostage but my own; the heart holds me
hostage through beating, my breathing
a slow decay. In aging I prove nothing

to the universe except that I exist;
through the office, I prove I do not.
Despite the hours, the blood and bone

monuments I erect, then forget–
the steady draining of days worth
not enough to get me by.

 

(originally published in Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Spring 2018)

Switches

Dad knew which fuse box switch did what–
in this way, he chose for us the light and dark.
His hands blackened from cracking walnuts
over the years, hammering husks in the

night when the rest of us were sleeping,
loud whacks startling us temporarily awake then
drifting back into our own darknesses beneath familiar
stars. After his death, we found Dad’s walnuts

in barrels in the corner of his workshop alongside
spiders and memories we could not yet scrape.
My brother said, to honor him, we had to break
and eat each one, despite the bulk. That Dad lived

a rich life poor, that the taste might activate
memory’s accordion, careening us in and out
the past and present, turning life to death then life
again, discordant in its forlorn loudness.

 

(originally published in 3Elements Review, Spring 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)

Forsythia

The days when we would lay
on blue towels by the beach
combing through our Merriam-Webster
holding every fascinating word by the stems in our mouths,
our vibrancy was inseparable from gardens
full of hyacinths and rhododendron and zinnias
and, yes, forsythias, all these flowers in our hometowns
we never knew the names of
until we saw the words on sand-shorn pages,
said the names out loud, grasped endlessly
for petals in each other. No, we bloomed
laughter from our throats, planted seeds
into pits where absence grows in ensuing Aprils.
We never knew what words might appear
on Scrabble nights hunched over grids of possibility and–
strings of letters string surprising words together.
Marionettes, spider webs, violins, shoelaces,
your hair among the rules of nature, and nurture,
here nurturing the garden, here the home
where we tend other flowers– all my love,
I repeated. Forsythia, forsythia, forsythia.
But those beach days were distant, the tide slurring
softly alongside my returns from long unexplainable workdays–
all my love, I repeated. For Cynthia.
Wooden tiles tornadoed to the floor, slapping
the carpet with words we had not invented yet–
there is no remedy for lost trust. The flame
already sleeps in the bed of the mouth.
Cynthia, Cynthia. I did not know a Cynthia–
but I had never been able to name a forsythia
in the wild. The next time I see one
will feel like cheating. Nothing too-known is magical–
there is wonder in inventing nomenclature,
that a word like forsythia can only be made
in moments like anesthesia, with darkness descending
like the cigarette clouds of a severe storm when, in the drift
into a new consciousness, a lilac floats your mind’s pond–
a lilac, maybe, though that’s not what you want,
and maybe, in the distance, you see the blossoming
yellow that accompanies spring, the air golden around it–
the beauty that’s grander than words.
You wish you never learned the name for it.

(originally published in Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Spring 2017)