Memories of You Abuzz Alight Aflight a Kite

soaring over beach over mountain over cloud
that’s a long reach but when you moved down
the street past the café I thought this was fate
the way we kept in contact for years and after
four years you agreed to a date and we drank
and ate at Bodega where we talked for three
hours about your new nursing career and you
told me how you breathe air into patients and
care for them night-shift but you still want to
write fiction and memoirs but with memories
still ahead not experienced fast forward three
years I’m driving Uber and pick you up randomly
you’re with your lover you tell me you’re sick
of your sick patients you’ve run out of patience
and furthermore you were miserable in the era
we hung out backtracking not because of me
but because you never left home now I have a
lover you’re excited to attend my book release

 

(originally published in The Virginia Normal, 2018)

Valley Kids

Our beginning was rooted in the oak of a throwaway job;
I was twenty, admiring clay pots we painted in the strokes
of humid Akron days, its summer colors swirling blue.

To approach you would have been more than I could handle–
in the playground of desire, I chucked woodchips of my heart
into the air and they never came down. I think of you often–

in pastel cartoons, how remembered faces fade. After summer
ended, I knew I would never see you again. How the seasons
burn like leaves then rise to ashes, clinging warm to trees.

 

(originally published in Poetry Super Highway, Winter 2018)

I’m Coming Home

I was at Pink’s Hot Dogs
on the set of a reality show
working as an extra
when LeBron announced
his return to the Cavaliers.
I read the article repeatedly
on my sun-tinted phone screen,
each word
its own small gospel.

In my Ford in the evening,
I sat in the Ralphs parking lot
wondering if LeBron
can come home, why can’t I?

Then I reasoned
Akron’s prodigal son’s return
means more to a city
who does not know who I am
than I mean to a city
who does not know who I am

and until my name
is plastered on blue
signs welcoming weary travelers
The Birthplace of the Poet
then why can’t I
is the relationship
of an alignment
of some celestial sneeze
into a birthplace of stars

or the bloodline
between who you were
where you grew up
and who you still can become

 

(originally published in RAW Journal of Arts, Spring 2018)

I’m Fine

I’m with Lex at Lockview
ordering tomato soup because
I just got out of a relationship.

I tell him I’m fine, though he never asked.
The bowl arrives alongside my Kentucky Bourbon
Barrel Ale. I slurp red and talk loudly

for the cute girl at the table behind me
wearing all black– we made eye contact
waiting for tables between entrance and exit–

she doesn’t hear me, probably,
but my friend watches me cremate crackers
over the bowl to spoon the goo inside.

He says slow down but I say life moves
fast– hell, I ingested magic mushrooms
after leaving my ex’s place then Lex

asks our waitress for his grilled cheese
without mushrooms and the waitress asks for menus
but I hand her my bowl and say take it please

take it then tell her I’m fine and it was wonderful
being in my house alone after this happened standing
on the kitchen table beside the silver chandelier

lined with black mold and dirt and how
I waited for anyone to come home
and no one did so I kept standing.

 

(originally published in OVS Magazine, 2017)

Stand-Up Comedy

[the comedian approaches the stage in sunglasses
and a shiny black and green robe.]

Knock knock.
                        (Who’s there?)

I am.
There is no punchline.

Listen past your rush-hour heart.
I am up here breathing heavily.

Listen: I want you to laugh
and never stop. I am trying jokes
you did not know you wanted to hear.

I searched coast-to-coast for lands
who laugh with me, that tectonic shifting
from belly to chest.

Why did boys like me bring ladders to school?

We wanted to learn mountains and rarefied air.
To find reservoirs of laughter waiting.

What did 0 say to 8?
                       Nice belt!

                      (I don’t get that joke!)

But I want your holy, exhaled noise.
Relax.

What do you do if you see a spaceman?

You laugh. He doesn’t know what he’s doing here.
What he’s doing anywhere.
I offered myself to the ocean–
the entertainment industry.
She did not want.
The spotlight hungers for no one.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Why wouldn’t the chicken cross the road
if the chicken intended to cross the road?

Most everyone I know crosses the road
without looking both ways these days.
I do not call them chickens– they are my more realistic friends.

I want to make them laugh.
If you’re not laughing for me, laugh for them.

We are haunted by too many things:
dead friends, dead family, dead love,
dead strangers, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.

You can be someone’s haunting sunlight.
Someone’s champion jester dispersing their marbles too good.

Look, a magic trick!
                                   [he throws two playing cards onto the floor]

How do you catch a unique rabbit?
U nique up on it.

How do you catch a tame rabbit?
Tame way– u nique up

on something enough to latch onto–
just a hinge’s creak
before the mouth’s swing open, closed.

Some of us never leave that darkness.
The silent divide.

Laughter will bring us close.

I mean it when I say let’s laugh until we die,
even when what we laugh about isn’t funny.

I mean it when I say if you see a space, man,
park your car, man.

It’s over.

 

(originally published in The Magnolia Review, Fall 2017)

Warehouse Beach

The warehouse art gallery could never be mistaken for the beach,
even as curators charade sand across the dancefloor,
make us remember desire. Violins strike the throbbing air
with an electronic pulse, a horsehoof beat activating

the summer IPAs we drank beforehand to create
our summer selves. It ends. You end. At home later on
we watch documentaries where owls hunt forests for prey.
I pray we will soar but never hungry above branches.

Mostly I pray for our hearts to not be plucked raw, how stranded
and helpless we can feel in a new town while the world whirls
a thousand miles per hour– we stumble through sliding landscapes–
sand on concrete wails for sun, for sunset wind to whip

through industrial, unfinished interiors. We dance, or run,
until light draws herself from the ocean’s muted stone.

(originally published in Crack the Spine, Winter 2016)

The Undo Feature in Gmail

Sometimes I say what I don’t mean.

There is an algorithm which can make me forget;
the others remind me to remember.

Your action has been undone. As if my actions
needed a separate undoing– I did not expect you,

with your raven hair, to perch our thousand
miles, thousand days to bottle time

and cast to sea, a folded note to be read
by a stranger at shore. Here, I am a knot

bound to be undone, tethered to a battered shoe,
and in the sprint, wind coarsens your hair.

In the cold we move closer and closer until the breathing
is stale and fogs my car’s windows, the outside world

turned gray. Confusing a fluorescent lightbulb for the moon,
I would risk one more rejection to bring you even nearer,

past the point of no return.

 

(Originally published in Corium Magazine, Spring 2016)

Thanksgiving, 2015

The turkey was sacrificial. We dug
our fingers through dark meat

to retrieve the stuffing but avoided
the controversial topics, the fat on our bones.

What bubbled was the broth, salt
on stone, and Mom drank sparkling

juice cocktails, pretended it was wine–
laughter compressed from the mash

in our mouths, the soft chew and gravy.
How simple it would be to spill grease

from the pan over the tablecloth, so temporary–
ten years ago was the last we all celebrated,

the last our talking bounced from mouths,
caught softly in our ears. After the funeral

we peeled grapefruit. Its rotting meat
blessed a white plate for days after the feast,

when we gorged enough of ourselves
to ask what it is about the lumps in apple pie

we savor, when the tartness
burrows new holes in our teeth–

maybe it’s the cutting, dulled knife on pie,
and the serving– one piece on porcelain,

a fragment, a memory
of what it means to be whole.

 

(originally published in Jazz Cigarette, Fall 2016)

My Father Was a Beekeeper

I always knew my father was allergic to bees
but it wasn’t until his obituary
I learned he was once a beekeeper.

In those days, I hear, he prayed
to his veil– only to re-emerge, hours later,
having danced with God
under every umber swarm.

He was a gifted storyteller
but it wasn’t until his stroke
at seventy-four made me listen,
when his mouth betrayed his brain.

In his final years he would repeat,
the end of bees is the end of man.
So, heaven in the soft petals
scattered in the grass.

Young violets lined his coffin.
All I wanted was to listen

to stories he told before,
details I had forgotten.

Around the cemetery,
bees still glissando

through gardens not unlike the ones
he dug into his blackened fingernails–

honey and sweat, story-
pollinated requiems, harmonies

heard in bountiful
fields of bloodroot.

 

(originally published in Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal – Spring 2016)

*Nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology