Now That the End Is in Sight

Our shared strength wanes–
vaxxed, we talk about the end
like a peek of sunrise through
the blinds. Yes, beyond
winter depression we just had
depression and didn’t know
it. Spring sun’s out and
we are outside drinking.
Kids graze by like
the virus never happened.
But I was there. I was
strong. Even as a kid,
finding my father crumpled
on the floor and convulsing,
eyes rolled to the back of his
head during his stroke,
I calmly dialed 911
and waited until the
ambulance arrived, and
I was fine the whole time.
But when my sister
screeched her SUV’s tires
into our driveway, I let
go. A lifeboat. I ran
into her arms, crying,
not knowing how to say
anything I wanted to say,
and she just held me
and said it’s going
to be okay– but she
didn’t know. This past
year, I’ve held you to tell
you it’s going to be okay,
but how could I know?
Now that the end is in
sight, we wait for the light,
wilting in its arms to meet it.

(originally published in Capsule Stories, Spring 2021)

Schizotrope

Finale was the first program I used to
compose music, in eighth grade, back
when my concern was to score colorful,
simple role-playing games I had created
with RPG Maker 2000. A couple years
later, I used new software, hunched
in the dark of my mom’s living
room, toying with FL Studio’s virtual
equalizers, knobs, and keyboard to craft
Schizotrope, the name of the album
I wrote to process a breakup,
an attempt to conjure you through
some combination of melody
and soundfont. When I listen
now, I hear us both a kind
of cacophonous ghost. Back
then, it was simple to slip on
cheap earbuds and recede into
my childhood bedroom, where we
did what I thought– when growing
up– was growing up. So shifted the
trajectory of my songs. And speaking
again of early sex, I sang off-key into my
coffee-stained Hewlett-Packard’s built-in
microphone, made a MIDI sound
marginally authentic to gift myself, in
the future, reverberations of my coping.

 

(originally published in Artvilla: Poetry Life & Times, Fall 2019)

Highland Square

early decade of adulthood
the waning hours of youth
again at Zubs eating a
gourmet garbage sandwich
after rousing our wildness
at The Matinee a home
for scavengers raccoons
staring up at night into
the ether of everlasting
noise a comfort stuck
inside our guts like I
know it’s 3 AM I don’t
want to leave not now
until this moment I
cocooned inside my shy
quills alive in sensitive
jurisdiction I witnessed
within me a shooting
star on the verge of
traversing three
thousand miles of
plain songs to desert
you was not
cake I will stuff
myself sick hunch
over the toilet and
pray tonight tomorrow
I will be home

(originally published in Magnolia Review, Winter 2021)

Cedars-Sinai

Vital signs at zero, a squiggly line gone infinity–
guess what I’ve prepared for. An eternity of this
nothingness. I tossed the phone like a grappling

hook at your distance and it caught. You left it
hanging on the bricks, though, and moved to
California, where I used to sleep the streets in

my Ford Fiesta, the same car we drove to Melt:
a time bomb heart attack. How close we were
back then, each deep-fried grilled cheese bite

hushed the thrumming. Fingers greasy– wiped
on napkins, wiped and wiped and wiped.

 

 

(originally published in Hedge Apple, Spring 2019)

This House She Won’t Want

This house, she won’t want
to sell. Where once voices,

now the TV knobbed up.
She raised us right

here, boiled soup
cold nights before gathering

at the table. Cold nights
now under blanket

still shivering. She won’t
cook anymore, no

guests. TV talkin’ loud
blank conversations. Least

the room flickers in
the dark. That door-shutting

sound. An actor comes
home on tv to say hello.

Mom dreams off recliner.
The show fades to black.

(originally published in CERASUS, Summer 2021)

Aladdin’s

Funny, thinking back, the restaurant– hell,
the industry, those incessant phone calls
in the midst of rush, my snaking past
corners with three plates of hummus
and shawarma in aluminum, warm
from the kitchen, only to waste
in a stranger’s presence, scraps
on porcelain I’d bus, then zigzag
through the floorplan of tables.

Funny, thinking now, how little has
changed– insecure in economics,
I’ve jumped the lilypads of job
after job, the backbreaking work
of conforming, of each return home
with something new to say but I’ve
said it, I’ve said my best, my cap-
stone thesis shredded in California,
back when full of possibility–

I desire a bowl of time
loops. Cereal in my milk.

I didn’t even use silverware
in college, a joke inside a riddle
presented as a gift I constantly
unwrap, umbrellas of green
folding into myself in the rain,
suffocating, blinding, this pirouette
of place, this unfixable sedan
screaming off the shoulder
of the highway, smoke
signals ablaze and late
for work.

(originally published in Little Rose Magazine, Winter 2019)

Existential Food Poems

After reading five food poems in a row,
I paused, told the audience I get inspiration
from food. I meant I get energy, really.
At home, sometimes, I sit at the table
eating noodles and suddenly
I am at the table eating noodles!
I look at the floppy strings
on my plate and ask myself
what I’m doing. Converting
loose ends to energy, according
to education. Google tells
me to stop eating so many noodles
but to stop means less
energy– the will
to go on. These laces
tying my stomach
consumed by gastric acids
transform into aminos
that fuel me, somehow,
these noodles that don’t
make sense but somehow
allow my string of days
to keep dangling, serve
me on a plate so that
I may exist, so I can fall
in love with someone
and they can fall,
too, and steam
until we cool enough
for them to stick
their fork in me,
then wonder, what
are we doing? The
fork swivels,
gathers
a tornado
of noodles.

(originally published in Bindweed Magazine, Winter 2019)

A.S.

You still haunt my longing;
the lantern never was yet
burned louder some years
than others– certain days,

you were a faraway dream–
facing the tide, your black
hair and literature. The Pacific,
the Atlantic, the frozen

December we met again,
you said you were unstable–
ice drove us down dark streets,
engine idle in the middle of a lot.

It takes knowing how your face moves,
intimate and drunk in negative light,
our immovable stone eroding
in the wind of time.

 

(originally published in Clackamas, Spring 2019)

Further, Further

I know the pang of distance / ghost of friendship cold air
conditioned inauthentic rumblings no more / passage into
the familiar / sea / a yellow boat rocks near the Atlantic
shore / I evade the sun / seek any shade to shield myself
of affection / affected by the moon / far apart again no /
                                                                   vacation for the heart

 

(originally published in The Blue Pages, Summer 2018)