Profile Pictures

It was easy
in college
for every profile pic
to be a drunk photo
smiling. Beer cans
in hands in a bar,
at the beach,
in a house, in
a car. We were
all young and
happy
thinking us
adults. Legally,
sure, yes.
We were.
But the me
in those photos
wasn’t thinking
about bills
the endless
stack of debt
I still cannot
afford.
Of which
I was
in those moments
accumulating.
Like snow clouds
beckoning
over Lake Erie
I hoped would
cancel class
so I could drink.

 

(originally published in Wilderness House Literary Review, Fall 2018)

Boredom

I inspect my bedroom’s walls for new specks
after changing dead bulbs in the low sky
of this house I’ve lived in for three years.

Airplanes have always sounded the same,
haven’t they? I’ve slept close to airports
and railroads my entire life, hear engines

coming on like symptoms no need to pay attention
to, low hum in your throat mourning out
of the night. By now you’ve watched friends soar

into the horizon to break the illusion
of life’s infinite line, seen the cord dangling
down from the clouds and sometimes

                                                                                   you reach for it

 

(originally published in Umbrella Factory, Fall 2018)

All We Talk About Are Bugs

Like we have nothing else to talk about.
Maybe we don’t. Tick-ridden, each word.

I have a fever. And cockroaches. So
we’re paranoid is what– that we’ll

probe too deep and dislike each other?
Or the opposite. It’s not a date. Right?

All we talk about– our bugs. My home
is filled with bedbugs. You just can’t

see them. Come over, we’ll take
a flashlight to the nooks of

closets. Strain our eyes on top
of chairs to search corners of

ceilings. Remove the bedding,
search around the pillows.

You’d think the topics would
be numerous and multiply.

Ah! A smile, a lull in conversation,
an open window. I open

wide. You pull a flyswatter
from your pocket.

 

(originally published in Thirteen Myna Birds, Summer 2018)

Stray

The way the cat looked at me
                       after his treat–

         the difference was ours has a home.

And God I am so ashamed.

                          They are the same

but I was on our unfamiliar
       porch
             swinging

a bag of sustenance

           like unlimited pleasure

                you needed

                      for survival

 

(originally published in The Magnolia Review, Summer 2018)

Advil

I take one pill        two
to mask what’s wrong in me
these hurtful words     mouthing
sorry in the dark      I shouldn’t rub
your back       when my partner’s
on the coast       on a beach       here
it snows        yes      I know
this is no excuse      tasteless tablet
smudged slate        white mountain
I am the one percent meaning
I’m money poor      but lucky to
live in the age of modern medicine
a dentist takes a drill
to my root      and neither of us
feel anything     a surgeon cuts
into Dad’s heart         anesthetics
these aches we carry daily
the privilege      why we don’t
say sorry     when we mean it
at the drug store I buy a knife

 

(originally published in The Wayward Sword, Summer 2018)

Two Guys, Two Gallons of Yuengling, Two Plastic Jugs, and a Third Arrives Later with a Six-Pack of Yuengling

I call it renewal
a friendship vow, any vow

though I’m just as lost
as last time, in the playground

climbing green dinosaurs
to shouts of no, don’t, you’ll hurt

yourself but we didn’t, taking
photos of the dirt by the river

from the top. Held our jugs
like the Stanley Cup to declare

our air and crawled back down
through time and space to lumber

outward through the neighborhood
to eternity which is one warm drink

we have in our hands. To accomplish
nothing is something special. I have

felt the lukewarm heat of tongue last
longer than this. I waited years for

something extraordinary to occur.
In my memory we last eternal.

In my memory we are whole, sober,
on the cusp of happiness.

 

(originally published in The Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles, Summer 2019)

Grandma, Half-Underwater

Late in life she lived as a lagoon’s only human
among monsters she half-recognized. To visit
was a kind of drowning– submerged in nursing
home fluorescents of nursing half-breathing,
I asked Mom who am I talking to?
Her eyes asked the same.

I guess all of us,
none of us glad
we came, we had to,
wanted to, really,
despite grandma’s face
cloudwhite, going
there knowing her
soon to swim the
wispy ocean of
afterlife– that, at
least, we wanted
to believe, to see her
again the way she
would want to be seen,
not now like this

(originally published in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Fall 2018)