wasn’t that how life
was supposed to go?
ah, college followed
the whims of fun.
it turns out I stayed out
too late in its shadow
and now capitalism
is the only one
who wants me to follow.
you’re thirty now
so have some drinks
if you want
dab the grease
with a napkin first
but don’t limit
yourself to one
(originally published in children, churches, and daddies, Fall 2019)
Worth inextricably tied to the throttle
I am unable to press forever and
ever, amen, where to lie
down and get some rest? Hallelujah,
livin’ by the bottle without drinking
anything alcoholic, not tonight
at least, not before the long drive
to work, paved highways, praise,
hell on the range is to pay
all your bills at once
and wait a month.
(originally published in Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles, Summer 2022)
Sitting across the small table in the company of bagel
art and clanking dishes transported from trash to the back,
she asks no questions about what I’d bring to this table,
just asks about my experiences working with The New
York Times and making ends meet in studios by the sea
in southern California, how different that life was,
how, starting Friday, I’ll make a good delivery driver
(originally published in The Literary Nest, Spring 2019)
Your lunch spot becomes a haven on the ground
level of a tower between towers on rainy workdays.
Your eyes strained at the sight of a waterfall
of text and maybe you missed
an important error in copy
marketed to clients. Here, though,
the dishwasher sprays a thousand plates,
aiming spouts at cheese stains hardened
from sitting by the garbage in
the place where discarded trays should be.
Water pressure removes ceramic sin
eventually, an industrial machine
humming in silver efficiency,
skin rinsed beside it.
Glasses that pass the spot test emerge,
steam rising, but meat lodged between
prongs is wrestled out with wet finger.
Your fork drips from the steak
just in a salesman’s mouth.
(originally published in Stickman Review, Spring 2018)
I have been inside
a marketing firm
with its own basketball court.
Uninspired employees huffed
then daggered meaningless
the hoop, hoping for renewal,
but no one kept score.
I could relate:
attending Catholic school,
I found it necessary
to ask for forgiveness
in the shower.
I had come to fear
a red-fanged Satan
sporting a porn ‘stache
waiting by the mirror,
covering himself with
a towel, fork in hand–
and me, behind childhood
curtains covered in soot,
water rushing, my body
seal-like from ablution.
(originally published in Sooth Swarm Journal, Summer 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)
On the way home from my first Passover
with your family we stop at an Olive Garden
in flyover country, where the waitress tells us
Happy Easter and, when you tell her we forgot
but still want angel hair, she jokes her last
table mistook pesto for alfredo. Sometimes
people confuse one god for another but never
their own, and food is ours– Jesus rising
with the dough of endless breadsticks
descending like ten plates of plagues, first-born
bastards in baskets we need no hunt to find
lest our mouths become black holes absorbing
absurd sanctities of tradition. Separately,
the Garden was where our families would gather
on intermittent nights to write our own Haggadahs
or speak sins of rock stars or mysteries
of faith. Afikomans for truth, perhaps, but instead
of matzo an endless bowl of a salad of words
in which we always beg for more
forgiveness without really wanting that.
And the waitress, before engaging the simplest rotor,
asks us to say when to end airstrikes of parmesan
and it does not matter when we do.
(originally published in After the Pause, Summer 2018)