I guess a pandemic’s a time
to get wasted. I want to, too.
Badly. But crowds are universes
of a billion universes,
complex ecosystems in each
of us too small to see.
Most years I squeeze
into the tightest space
to buy the cheapest beer.
But Mom sells colognes
to the relentless public
at the mall, still pointlessly
One of you knows someone
who knows someone
who wants to go out and
smell like sandalwood tonight.
And in the trillions of
tiny transactions we
do not know
happen each time
we step outside,
the actual virus
will make its way
into my mother’s
she– in her mid-
sixties– has to go
to the hospital,
but there’s no
to treat her,
I’m going to
remember what I saw:
you in a crowd at a bar
on your Instagram
stories. And I am
going to blame you.
(originally published in American Writers’ Review, Summer 2020)
I see the opening
when placing down
one wrong move
and I’m living in my car again.
Cheaper rent. The simpler things–
were romantic once
but my mouth is full of blood, teeth
my stomach yellow-splotched
(but not from sun).
The rocks in my shoes,
holes in my
ripped nets my lovers fall
(rely on me?
I grind my teeth in sleep).
How summery it was to think I could
make the next job work, mountains
of manila folders
perpetually stacking, tumbling–
the dim light’s exit blocked
(originally published in Stickman Review, Fall 2020)
What simulation’s numb you ask
if I want children this time
definitive we boil Kraft mac
and cheese. I toss our meager sweet
potatoes in oil and ramble about financial
self-worth the oven nearly at four hundred
degrees. I can’t stop petting your shoulder
the ashy cat roams in the loam of our love
our newly swept hardwood the house
our home for now so limited already
steam from the inside a pressure
cooker of different timelines. What river
these converging lives to seek meaning
in the biological job postings some of us
are born to call. My dad was sixty-one
when I was born my grandfather clock
ticks nonexistent. We have gorged in all
our broken cabinets to rustle the blue
plastic grocery bag pile. I can’t stand
to live another day preoccupied.
(originally published in Flights, Summer 2021)
I can’t talk about money I have none
I am green in love in the black in life
the debt of my ancestors I am
someone’s deficient ancestor
though my family is dying
one at a time deeper
into ground and deeper into soil
the sound of my sister
sobbing though she can’t be here
at the funeral she would if
there’s always next time
(originally published in Ariel Chart, Winter 2021)
If I live a modest life I won’t know what it means
when the pipes burst or the banks bust. Either means
money I don’t have. Meat the Earth has. I’ve wanted
to travel but I know airplane fuel results in polar bears
dying on dry soil. Think Coca-Cola commercials with
the Arctic night preternaturally night. No snow, no
snow, and after airtime you crave Coke.
(originally published in Quince Magazine, Fall 2020)
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)