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)

Stand-Up Comedy

[the comedian approaches the stage in sunglasses
and a shiny black and green robe.]

Knock knock.
                        (Who’s there?)

I am.
There is no punchline.

Listen past your rush-hour heart.
I am up here breathing heavily.

Listen: I want you to laugh
and never stop. I am trying jokes
you did not know you wanted to hear.

I searched coast-to-coast for lands
who laugh with me, that tectonic shifting
from belly to chest.

Why did boys like me bring ladders to school?

We wanted to learn mountains and rarefied air.
To find reservoirs of laughter waiting.

What did 0 say to 8?
                       Nice belt!

                      (I don’t get that joke!)

But I want your holy, exhaled noise.
Relax.

What do you do if you see a spaceman?

You laugh. He doesn’t know what he’s doing here.
What he’s doing anywhere.
I offered myself to the ocean–
the entertainment industry.
She did not want.
The spotlight hungers for no one.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Why wouldn’t the chicken cross the road
if the chicken intended to cross the road?

Most everyone I know crosses the road
without looking both ways these days.
I do not call them chickens– they are my more realistic friends.

I want to make them laugh.
If you’re not laughing for me, laugh for them.

We are haunted by too many things:
dead friends, dead family, dead love,
dead strangers, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.

You can be someone’s haunting sunlight.
Someone’s champion jester dispersing their marbles too good.

Look, a magic trick!
                                   [he throws two playing cards onto the floor]

How do you catch a unique rabbit?
U nique up on it.

How do you catch a tame rabbit?
Tame way– u nique up

on something enough to latch onto–
just a hinge’s creak
before the mouth’s swing open, closed.

Some of us never leave that darkness.
The silent divide.

Laughter will bring us close.

I mean it when I say let’s laugh until we die,
even when what we laugh about isn’t funny.

I mean it when I say if you see a space, man,
park your car, man.

It’s over.

 

(originally published in The Magnolia Review, Fall 2017)