Blur

for Mary Oliver

We walked along
the gray edges of
the river. And my
glasses had shattered.
This removed
the shape of things,
the perfect barren limbs
now perfect trees,
what I thought were boats
in the distance you told me
were wild geese going home–
and where else to go
but deeper? I wanted
to see what might be
around the bend, always
something– exactly the
grass we could not know
we needed, pines
that waved us
further into forest.

 

(originally published in Pacifica, Spring 2019)

 

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)

Southbound in February

  Almost swerved to Akron
      to delay our southbound silence
          before another car skidded into steel.
                 We smoked exhaust
            with sedans which scrunched
                    around us. Wiper squeals
            revealed hymnal landscapes
                through murky glass.
              I revel in footprints buried by snow
                                             yet do not know what–
                               if our black tires composed
                                     cadenzas in the slickening slush,
                           ambulance’s red, beating
                                    bongos thumping toward us
                                            –what we could have said
                                                   that would have ever been enough.

 

(originally published in The Slag Review, Winter 2017)

Profile Pictures

It was easy
in college
for every profile pic
to be a drunk photo
smiling. Beer cans
in hands in a bar,
at the beach,
in a house, in
a car. We were
all young and
happy
thinking us
adults. Legally,
sure, yes.
We were.
But the me
in those photos
wasn’t thinking
about bills
the endless
stack of debt
I still cannot
afford.
Of which
I was
in those moments
accumulating.
Like snow clouds
beckoning
over Lake Erie
I hoped would
cancel class
so I could drink.

 

(originally published in Wilderness House Literary Review, Fall 2018)

Dean’s Birthday

Sometimes a Saturday is candle wax
the length from Cleveland to Columbus, a highway
of years burning blue in early spring, a handful

of flowers you hand an old friend who seems
a little aged now: a new house, a long mortgage,
a luxury car and me, unemployed,

eating pizza and fries.
He drinks red wine (party
hard weekend) –

these blood-drinks of youth.
I buy him nothing
he gives me space in return.

 

(originally published in The Heartland Review, Fall 2018)

Death, 2009 (College)

Flowers & God–
you tell me, slipshod,
there’s an afterlife
in the party we’re cheersing
to tonight our whole life
with small glasses of Granddad’s,
noisemakers, & drinking
games. I’d like to drown
the tissues
in something, listen to Gaelic
music like Dad used to
driving us from school with Pizza Hut
wafting from the trunk those
sunny afternoons. & now that you’ve
lost someone you’re willing to lose
your Bill Hicks-views-sense-
of-self-meaning like we all
funnel ethereal spirit into sky
& swig the rain with
drunken angels I know
you know you’re better than that.
I know you know once
the last attendee’s passed out
on the couch heavy breathing
lips purple you’d check
on him, too. You’d be alone
in the house you grew up in
with phone in your hand
calm and through the static of 911
racing to get the address out
the foaming of your mouth
and when a cop comes you
beg please don’t break this party up
and deny the red flashing lights
come

 

(originally published in 8 Poems, Summer 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 Think of Giraffes Sometimes. I Hope They Sometimes Think of Me.

In Kathleen’s apartment in Oregon,
I ask her where even is home?

Clevelanders-turned-transplants,
maybe never knowing.

I see my mom’s mown lawn
in the green fields our baseball

team travels through, my friends
in tweets spitting scores or stats.

These, I don’t care about,
but I join in discussion.

Blue hands to high-five,
then to put my phone down.

 

(originally published in Hobart, Winter 2018)

Kiss of the Cantaloupe

Sweet-suckled Slovenian lips–

Cleveland where I found you,
Columbus were you lost.

Some days a black blanket
we would lay under to seek stars

seeking something cold &
how our temperatures dropped

over the years. We’d burn nights
matchstick young, whiskey and coke,

peel clothes to cool– so the blades.
Puckered and bundled, how to cut

& create tiny crescent moons.

 

(originally published in The Penmen Review, 2018)