My olfactory nerve already overflooded with Acqua di Gio
on business cards beneath fluorescents, I did not expect
to run into my first love in the wilderness of Black Friday,
where hard rain was people. I sought a higher ground– escalator
to the bathroom to text my crush on my TracFone, until the arms
on my watch contorted a certain way. But my tarot cards flipped
when I recognized Kristen from afar, both of us unsure,
unlike in fifth grade, on the bus to Mohican, she slept
beside me, her hair fire on my shoulder, strobe lights of a confused
adolescence that entire week. Camp ended when everyone
contracted poison ivy. How to scratch the mind until snapping
back into self– in that present, years later, I thought she might be
fate and, thus, planned a coffee date, but because I did not
carve the path I wanted to take, winter came. And went.
(originally published in Tipton Poetry Journal, Winter 2021)
For the last hot day of April, we were the bristled paintbrush
stroke of an old fluttering-in-wind canvas
flag of a few years ago when all of us were inseparable,
every event a small celebration. We’re a little older,
a little more tired when each sip of boxed wine
means waking with a sharper razor in the sun.
(originally published in Central American Literary Review, Spring 2018)
The legend, according to my sister, goes
you lock yourself in the bathroom, turn off
the lights, say Bloody Mary, spin three times,
then voila! She appears, bloodied,
hands on her face screaming
à la Edvard Munch painting.
I obviously don’t believe in this but
do you have the courage to try?
Catholic school vacuumed religion right
out of me, but I blanket my head in bed
when I can’t explain a house’s creaking.
Believe me– if I believed
that I believed, this wouldn’t be
so scary. I’d ask God to help me.
Say I try this now.
Would a vision make me a believer?
Me, an adult in a bathroom,
chanting a name into the dark.
When my eyes finally opened,
I’d pray to anything– the bathtub,
the toilet, the sink, the sliver of
light beneath the door.
(originally published in We Are a Website, Spring 2018)
the cat purrs, content
on his own, clawing my blanket
that rests peacefully and soft.
meanwhile, I entertain fantasies
about quitting my job again–
every day, the drab walls
say nothing to me.
the squeaky chair says
too much. another paycheck
arrives, not enough to sustain
me past the day’s bills. I work
for the grim reaper, ghastly
and gray, worm-smile rotting.
there is a scythe to my head
when I sleep that I set the night
before but I can’t even sleep
long enough to meet it.
the cockroaches share my bed,
and I know they will make it
out of this alive, whether
nuclear war or work.
(originally published in EgoPHobia, Winter 2018)
it’s a series of bills all this money money money
allegedly turning void in wallet into all this good
shield or beating heart or net but I’m getting your
gray hairs you pick in the mirror how they seem
to crawl from the bathroom floor & appear as the
plague on my head O corporation & government
gavel held to my sensitive nodes I sniff envelopes
which smell of corpses that may all be my own
(originally published in EgoPHobia, Winter 2018)
I ask God the mouth the mountain holy
snow where does the rain go in desert
yellow enunciation of healing the sand warm
fingers pressed against a forehead as
firmament or a ruse I’m just saying it’s easy
in growing old to live confused
(originally published in Little Rose Magazine, Winter 2018)
I can tell you how many points LeBron scored last night
or who won the World Series,
but I can’t fix the leaking faucet in the bathroom,
won’t mow the lawn if not overgrown.
I don’t change the oil in my Ford
nor bring home a solid paycheck–
but I will live in an apartment
to avoid responsibility.
I’ll pay lots of money to tell
a landlord I can’t do it.
I’ve already lived in a car to avoid the responsibility
of telling a landlord I can’t do it.
I didn’t know how to fix it when it broke down,
and a Samaritan changed my flat tire when I burst it
when turning into a potholed Burger King lot
and I claimed I was about to fix it.
He told me not to pay more than twenty-five dollars for a used tire–
no more than twenty-five dollars, and get the rim hammered out
I went to the tire shop and paid their thirty-five to avoid conflict.
Wordlessly they stopped eastbound traffic on Pico
and I backed away and left.
One thing I can do well is parallel park,
as if reverse-navigation is worth bragging about
but I’ll take it.
No one has the courage to fit inside this small space.
No one can fit inside here but me
(originally published in Literary Yard, Winter 2018)
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)
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)