I heard last year Uncle Keat
lost his sight, and nobody
has seen him since.
Tonight, my oldest brother– waiting
on a kidney, unable to walk–
unwraps a flashlight.
A gift of hope, I suppose,
what we lose we tend to replace
at the end of a year–
the longer Dad’s dead the wider
entropy’s net consumes us.
Today’s the fabled white
Christmas, trail of footprints
leading into the woods.
and familiar waits in a clearing,
hands cupped to mouth.
There’s no warmth in
red streams of wrapping paper
hanged from winter branches.
Uncle Keat was there,
we’re sure. Somewhere
As if another dark
world with open jaw
awaits, and time
pushes us forward,
every now and then.
(originally published in Overheard, Winter 2022)
Bananas everywhere make me hungry.
The doormat, the neon sign, the sticker
on your Apple– I can’t help it. My
cuteness doesn’t preclude that I am part
wolf. A ruthless hunter. When I run
across the rug to your room I want you
to throw fruit on the floor just to bite off
the peels. I’ve had my eyes on inedible Ethel
the Christmas Chicken when I learned she’s
still a chicken. For once I want a sandwich.
Put me in your cart with a potato gun
at Sam’s and we’ll hold that whole
place up. As you ransack the banana stand,
I’ll loot the deli and meet you in the middle.
(originally published in Jokes Review, Summer 2020)
We were about to decorate the Christmas
tree in the living room, blue
lights and tangled cords, when Jeff said
we beat the Dakota Access Pipeline.
We agreed this was reason to celebrate
then swept loose pines off the floor.
Paige hung the usual ornaments: red
orbs, angels. Sara served hot chocolate
with cocoa powder, skim milk, vanilla
extract– warm in the heat of our home,
far from Standing Rock. I thought of Sophie,
who built teepees in the cold to stand with
the Sioux– how they risked frost and flame
to stay alive, and many of them did. But
when Long called to catch up that day
we didn’t talk about it.
(originally published in Pomona Valley Review, Summer 2019)
your family sits atop a graveyard
I recall my Catholic upbringing
its subsequent tumble through adulthood
wringed out through cigarette smoke
the last time I felt like a pothole was
the gym last week the oceans of muscles
lapped with saltwater oozing out of bodies
or maybe at work I am new always
on the purple carpets asking
every authority how to be zen
page ends with staples scattered
beside the fluorescent printer
with your family I guzzle and mix each type of
sparkling glass and dark concoction offered until
my quiet disappears and my rambling becomes
a kind of buzzing within the hive of the room
(originally published in 24hr Neon Mag, Winter 2019)
the christmas tree represents unity meaning in this room we want each other blue
lights intertwined with pines green and lust thus we hang our ornaments
watch the tree shed its skin onto dog-dusty floor. there are hooks and angels angled
in the high-up spots you asked me to reach sharing the sangria with melting ice.
we light the darkest corner of our poorly-lit living room charlie brown
christmas piano guiding jazz strokes onto our wandering hands gliding up and down
bark needle and sharp.
(originally published in Abstract Magazine, Fall 2017)
The alley is paved with old bricks
blackened by rain. I used to want
conformity, that tidal hope gripping
your gut. You must have a family soon.
Everywhere babies are sprouting
but garden sprinklers are off because winter
is near, crackled dirt longing for storm–
how long since the rough of gale and rain?
Seasons, in these frigid airs. And my seedling
heart stopped growing soon after its first beat.
(originally published in The Coachella Review, Winter 2017)
my own advice: treat every gift
like you’re nine in ninety-seven.
rip the heart out of your parents’
wrapping jobs. don’t notice
the hanging phone calls,
the coils of collection,
the foggy snarls at the door,
the stay-in-bed allure radiating
from big, red boxes hidden
behind the couch for after
we opened all the other presents,
for after we grew up,
after we got jobs.
(originally published in The Drunken Llama, Fall 2017)
The trees are dead, she said.
Peering outside, it was true:
A still-barren sixty degrees, sun
meekly reveling in its new warm.
A week ago, our mother cut down the tree
we picked apples from as children.
They were small, red, never delicious–
brown and burrowed with worms
because anything sweet from the skin
isn’t as sweet as you might think.
All those colorful lights we tied around
the necks of plastic and decoration,
the way we choked the holiday,
wrung out the last ounces of life
from the animal ornaments on every pine.
The walrus with the broken tusk.
The hyena whose laugh can nearly
be heard. As if anthropomorphizing could
ever atone for the past but I would love
to believe in a world where a fragment of
a tusk means something is truly missing–
perhaps rickety laughter ringing through
thin walls, dominant as the wooden organ
moans his mantra: everything in this world
is connected. Not every connected thing
is aware of its living, its connection.
But the way fingers dance deep
resonance out of the organ’s shifty teeth
to provide holiness for the changed house
is the gift we must open for ourselves
with our hands full of music– a sourness
in harmony, an ode to shriveled apples.
(originally published in Flatbush Review, Winter 2016)
the living room drones and mumbles.
the bone dove sings a petrified song
above the tree, nearly silent enough
to believe a resurrection could occur
in the coming days. pass the stocking
with the kidney stone. bring
the anesthetic. we will drink–
this is the blood bond, the calm,
the thin slicing of ham: bloodless
& calm, torn red wrapping paper
strewn about the room
(originally published in Whale Road Review, December 2015)