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)

Blue Beetle

shining
in the sunlight
of our driveway

I go inside
to tell Dad

come see
what
I
found

no hesitation:
he squishes
its golden
guts out

a thing like
that

he says

is nothing
more
than a nuisance

but I keep
thinking
about that beetle

impossibly one
of a kind

and today
I watched
a boring

black
beetle

scurrying
across
the pavement
of Goodale Park

and disappear
into grass

and I thought

the ground
is teeming
with beetles

if I just dig
a hole
deep enough

I might
be able
to apologize

 

(originally published in Pouch, Fall 2018)

Deciduous

     organ of the trees ring
                                             the heart’s synthetic beating

         the stepstep crunch
                                               of leaves a drumbreathe

                  tenderly

 

                the forest i lose
                              me          the eye leaves

 

       somewhere someone sees me

                                                        whose real
                                                                             branch

                                              of body

 

                                     how corporeal the limbs
                               these purple nights return

 

(originally published in Kettle Blue Review, Fall 2018)

Memory

Inconsequential some things I remember–
each World Series winner
of the past forty years or, say,
brushing my teeth last month, blood
in my spit, then finding the measured
infinity of my eyes in the mirror.

I forget most things about my father
most days.

Sure. I remember
the gray-red beard,
his crooked back, faded jeans.
The freshwater scent of Polo Blue.
And those brown, gentle eyes–
but his voice?

Mixture of sediment and tire
smoke rising from gravel,
a ‘55 Ford Thunderbird fading from view.

I started journaling to remember better
but now write poems under dim lamp on my desk.

(Years later, you know which
one. Gold, curvable neck. A thrift store.
But you’re still no good
with the finer details.)

A waterfall of my father. Illusions
of life doodle-sketched
in some spacey lobe of my mind.

I wonder: do I give myself enough
credit? What’s worth remembering?

I am inside a coffee shop, writing,
surrounded by people I won’t recall.
I look for a subject. A gray, old man sits
on the patio with book and beagle
yet never goes inside to buy anything.

I pay for him. I pay him
in remembering.

 

(originally published in Wizards in Space, 2018)

Dogsleep

my eyes been tired recently can’t sleep
though I seen how you wept fatigued
on the bathroom floor wet tile &
we went to your bed the dog followed
& pressed paw against belly then
sighed & snored in a rhythmic breathing
we tried to do the same

 

(originally published in The Virginia Normal, 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)

To Paige (From Jack), 2017

i bark at da ups guy not cuz i guess hes here to mess things up
but cuz hes here every day when ur not    im wonderin y u go

away & y i cant come      i would go anywhere wid u
so y does anyone go anywhere when im content ta sit where da staircase

bends & watch for u     im afraid of knocks sometime somethin
bangin da door of what i name safe    i sense da whole worlds fearin

& i can smell bad from a mile away      deres so much of it i wag my stub
for makin it dis long .    still i hope ull always come back from snow , rain

& surgery so i bark ur name da best i know when u return    tho loud
& disruptive deres no different sound for love jus rattlin da home’s bones astray

wid my voice & wonder if some day itll all collapse sometime inta heaps of
forgotten timber & brick . id follow if u leave dat great clear barrier & return .

i spend my day lyin here thinkin of ways to tell u dat       to shout
like from a mountain through da valleys as loud i can da whole clatter

best i know how        like u do when u walk thru dat door
its da loudest thing :   u fill my ears wid bells    i can hear nothin beautiful else

(originally published in Delphinium, Summer 2018)

I Had a Problem

I drove to Athens drinking Thursday
night a six-pack the darkness
of Wayne National Park guiding
me finally into another car I bumped
parking parallel then walked streets into
bars wandering until Pita Pit no one else
was watching youth pass by hummus
lettuce tomatoes olives a mess
at the table no one knew anything about

 

(originally published in Uppagus, Autumn 2018)

Memories of You Abuzz Alight Aflight a Kite

soaring over beach over mountain over cloud
that’s a long reach but when you moved down
the street past the café I thought this was fate
the way we kept in contact for years and after
four years you agreed to a date and we drank
and ate at Bodega where we talked for three
hours about your new nursing career and you
told me how you breathe air into patients and
care for them night-shift but you still want to
write fiction and memoirs but with memories
still ahead not experienced fast forward three
years I’m driving Uber and pick you up randomly
you’re with your lover you tell me you’re sick
of your sick patients you’ve run out of patience
and furthermore you were miserable in the era
we hung out backtracking not because of me
but because you never left home now I have a
lover you’re excited to attend my book release

 

(originally published in The Virginia Normal, 2018)