Working the Cologne Department at Macy’s, 2010

My olfactory nerve already overflooded with Acqua di Gio
on business cards beneath fluorescents, I did not expect

to run into my first love in the wilderness of Black Friday,
where hard rain was people. I sought a higher ground– escalator

to the bathroom to text my crush on my TracFone, until the arms
on my watch contorted a certain way. But my tarot cards flipped

when I recognized Kristen from afar, both of us unsure,
unlike in fifth grade, on the bus to Mohican, she slept

beside me, her hair fire on my shoulder, strobe lights of a confused
adolescence that entire week. Camp ended when everyone

contracted poison ivy. How to scratch the mind until snapping
back into self– in that present, years later, I thought she might be

fate and, thus, planned a coffee date, but because I did not
carve the path I wanted to take, winter came. And went.

(originally published in Tipton Poetry Journal, Winter 2021)

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)

Coma

Bleeding nose.
Crooked smile.

I will run you under water.

Your carved, concrete face.

Clothes you did not wear: tulip.

Leave your red suitcase on the floor.
The fanny pack, too.

Soft whistles: ghostly silk of burnt ember.

I am the only one you never needed.

Saliva on your bottom lip.

A hole.
A pillow.

We sat warm on elongated bus rides.

Followed barren trees along the highway to places we won’t.

 

(originally published in The Magnolia Review, Summer 2018)

Editing Room

Evenings in the video lab laughing at ourselves acting in
perpetual circles the clicks of play and rewind in a dialogue
with eternity rectangular how to zoom into self with microscope
both of us learning but look at you now in the fighter jet
sky tethered to wirings of small precise instruments of war how
we live in the perpetual unknowing state of     I want you always
to come home even not to me because back then
every small moment was contained in its forever

 

(originally published in Street Light Press, Spring 2018)

Kylie’s at the Ohio State Game

& she celebrates among the drunken dead at the Horseshoe

how ball-missiles fly through air and land cradled in young idols’ arms

I remember this,
                                            fear of missing out– no: just missing
                                                                                                               fumbling
                         no want to pull winter hat over my ears

                                            I drink spiked cider reminding me the summer river

                         no breathing fire into my palms into
                                                                                        the frigid heart of Columbus. No,
I am waiting for the pedestrians to pass my house. Mostly decked in red, some
in opposing green, almost like Christmas, but without–

family knows the apples I douse in vodka.

             family knows my unwell.
family knows my eye toward the wind I find too cold
                                                                                                 & blow against

been awhile since Kylie & I were breathing the same air
                                                             & I’ve got a kind of sixth sense for it

                                                                               (I see dead people)

                       but not in a ghost way more like everyone I pass has ghosted
                                                                              (the phantom passes in public)

& it’s true we both head home for the Christian holidays.
                                                                                                        Xmas, xgiving.

                                  Cars passing the same routes
                                                                 to different destinations.

                                                                      Desolate highway.

                                          Kylie’s down the street & I’m drowning here
                                                                         making a scene

                                                                         her silhouette at the surface joyous
                                                                                                                     but occupied

 

(originally published in Qwerty, Spring 2018)

How to Be Proud

As I waited for my burger at Northstar
I saw they had copies of The Bitter Oleander,
and on the first page was the work
of my first poetry professor.

Buzzing on metaphor,
I sent an email to tell her
that they’ve also published me before
but it has been a couple of years.

She told me
to sleep it off.

 

(originally published in EgoPHobia, Spring 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)