Medicated Anticipation

you said wait a few years
you’d move to California
by then already gone

an ill-timed applause
two hands in magnetic
motion missing

like sipping fluid through
an allergic throat closing
such lean times

the tangerine sun
sleeps til noon

didn’t your dad write
a book on the art of joy?
because it is an art

a painting with overused
blues these uppers I knew
gleaming in the froth

of your mouth

 

(originally published in Scarlet Leaf Review, Fall 2019)

Elsewhere

in darkness we wade
into this shimmering orb
a crystallized common

ground beneath the palm trees
in this desert spanning the time
since I saw you last I lived in my car

when you went on vacation
and handed me the key to your home
for the week wood panels covering

your windows blocking light
I remember thinking I’ve lost
my sense of place like

sleeping through a daydream
staring at the ceiling
from your pond-sized bed

I could not wait
to leave the key
in the top drawer

of your dresser and
never see you again
because I didn’t

want to tell you
your home was more
like a prison at least when living

in a car there’s the
illusion of motion
with nowhere else to go

I find myself with you
now in this outdoor pool
swimming on its own

 

(originally published in Ariel Chart, Summer 2019)

Ramen in Japantown

I had been eating like shit living
in my car, fingernails full of fungus.
We agreed to meet in Japantown
to enjoy a fancy ramen
but this would be my first
in many years
that wasn’t Maruchan
(cheap crinkly plastic,
cancer-flavored beef-dust
in a sawtooth packet)
& you must be aware the body
struggles to digest it.
During our meal,
two years since
we last talked,
the cheap ramen must have
intermingled in my stomach
with the pork-broth
real deal. I put an egg
on top for authenticity
when you told me you had
just bought Coachella tickets
for yourself & your brother
& I didn’t want to know the
price because I was living
on wages made on the days
I was lucky enough to
find work. Umami
lingered on my tongue
as we ruminated
in silence over
how vast the distance
our lives traveled
in different directions.

 

(originally published in Triggerfish Critical Review, Winter 2020)

Chiaroscuro

Alone we stand

at Mt. Washington’s overlook,
the incline trembling. How

many nights did we seek
the city lights from Mulholland

Drive?
I reply,

Stanley Kubrick once
filmed with only candles.

You obscure the view,
flick Bergman on your phone

and ask, do you see the reaper?

His head an egg floating
atop a sea of darkness.

 

(originally published in Vamp Cat Magazine, Summer 2019)

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)

An Improv Game

an improv game in the living
room I am screaming
someone say I am an alarm

clock or an ambulance
because my brain is hyper-
ventilating in this anxiety

of why-can’t-we-play-beer-
pong on the lawn table this is
Los Angeles and I am scared

of everything (tsunamis
falling fronds off palm trees
car accidents and commitment)

I was trying to make something
anything up in front of you
that’s how we stayed together

for eleven months of I-love-
you yelling sand in our teeth
sunburnt toes on the shore

 

(originally published in The Fictional Cafe, Spring 2019)

Boneless Wings

Following a trip to Vegas
in August heat, my skin itched
for good. I ended us. No,
you said. We were a done deal.

You would not leave.
We drank juice and vodka
to forget we had ever
talked about forever.

We rode a Lyft to BW3
at 2 P.M. on a Thursday
because a cheap happy hour
is a kind of grim reminder.

We ordered boneless wings at the bar.
The bartender told us ignition is cheap.
Beer stripped us to tender meat
and there was no more steam.

You stepped into the breeze
when you went outside to smoke.
We locked ourselves out–
the clouds produced rain, not keys.

(originally published in Hedge Apple, Spring 2019)

2014

Of course I remember how to be alone,
how to drag a lawn chair out to smoke
a shore and offer loneliness a bottle.

But there you would meet me
on a staircase of sand and we’d
gaze at the stars, meld into soft

landscape, cheek nuzzled in
a palm, starfish digging into
the sandwarm face of earth.

 

(originally published in Literary Yard, Summer 2018)

Diffusion / NBA Finals, 2016

Pacing around the bar crowd, watching
the Cavaliers transfer heat to one another through
bullet passes around invisible perimeters, Kurt

and I keep drinking the strangers toward us.
“Gaseous diffusion,” he offers. “Alcohol
is only molecules bumping into each other.”

Our bodies generate more heat with every swig,
the atmosphere tense but warm through
our gullets. We chug chaos in the blur,

invite a thousand basketballs to bounce up
and down halfcourt. The players don’t notice
our dribbled words in soundwaves processed

a million different ways in the space between
earlobe and brain. Endlessly the spectators
chant go to sleep because no one we want

to talk to wants to talk to us, our zigzagged steps
combining with the sound of a team on the verge
of climbing a challenging mountain though

the peak is steep so we try nothing more
but the drinks that keep us moving. To stop
would be to hear the room’s haunting cheer.

 

(originally published in The Drunken Llama, Fall 2018)

Inland

Bluebird floating
blue across the redlands–
when did I become

isolated? You said
I had a home
to sleep, I just had

to ask but
I would never– except
I did the night we shot

arrows across your
driveway, my quivering
aim missed the tree

and nearly pierced
a squirrel’s eye–

(originally published in The Wayward Sword, Summer 2018)