Silica

i carry infection in saliva
like a point of pride

see, my city reeks of bone

tall skeleton skyscrapers
i’m numb again

as dental drill enters me
year after year

what birthed my decays?

raised to desire new
wants every day

wanting even wanting

my dad worked at a ford factory
after the great depression

churned out a new kid
every few years

seasons of rust
spreading on steel

here’s the sunset
he’d wake us to say &

spend the days molding
the yard
rough hands on saw

that was satisfactory
to him

for me oaks are cold towers &
grass not godmade

took a clump in my mouth
from the graveyard as a child &

i swear i tasted
death
but could not digest it

i’m but a skeleton

all life’s experiences
slip through me

masticating childhood
no pondering
the future with mom and dad

scooping fries at ponderosa &

we’d always go for seconds &

mint ice cream after

 

(originally published in Burningword Literary Journal, Fall 2018)

The Drone of Faceless People

Rolling Acres mall
outside the record store
white hats enter
to leave shadows

every small step
a rattle of longing
blueprints for after
-college dreams

rosewood a tinge
in glass displays
reflecting fluorescence
so bright you sneeze

rockets then angle
toward the stars
didn’t the Etch-
A-Sketch always lure

you canvas and sky
hunched over red
tablet twisting
striated knobs

handmade lines
stretched star to
star everything
tethered

together
a fishing
wire
baited

 

(originally published in Scarlet Leaf Review, Summer 2018)

Blue Beetle

shining
in the sunlight
of our driveway

I go inside
to tell Dad

come see
what
I
found

no hesitation:
he squishes
its golden
guts out

a thing like
that

he says

is nothing
more
than a nuisance

but I keep
thinking
about that beetle

impossibly one
of a kind

and today
I watched
a boring

black
beetle

scurrying
across
the pavement
of Goodale Park

and disappear
into grass

and I thought

the ground
is teeming
with beetles

if I just dig
a hole
deep enough

I might
be able
to apologize

 

(originally published in Pouch, Fall 2018)

Memory

Inconsequential some things I remember–
each World Series winner
of the past forty years or, say,
brushing my teeth last month, blood
in my spit, then finding the measured
infinity of my eyes in the mirror.

I forget most things about my father
most days.

Sure. I remember
the gray-red beard,
his crooked back, faded jeans.
The freshwater scent of Polo Blue.
And those brown, gentle eyes–
but his voice?

Mixture of sediment and tire
smoke rising from gravel,
a ‘55 Ford Thunderbird fading from view.

I started journaling to remember better
but now write poems under dim lamp on my desk.

(Years later, you know which
one. Gold, curvable neck. A thrift store.
But you’re still no good
with the finer details.)

A waterfall of my father. Illusions
of life doodle-sketched
in some spacey lobe of my mind.

I wonder: do I give myself enough
credit? What’s worth remembering?

I am inside a coffee shop, writing,
surrounded by people I won’t recall.
I look for a subject. A gray, old man sits
on the patio with book and beagle
yet never goes inside to buy anything.

I pay for him. I pay him
in remembering.

 

(originally published in Wizards in Space, 2018)

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)