Solace

It was not solace we sought in the woods,
but rather, logs to provide fire for years.
Having known too many temporary timbers that
smoke then ash in small stretches of time slung
across the small rooms one week to the next,
among the dying leaves we wanted no others.
To watch what turned red on the fringe of the
world’s balance on a sling so fragile we chose
to forget. How long have we known each other?
How long will we? Days whisk into years
without stopping. We know nothing will be
forever; just as every good memory builds
the foundation of happiness worn like vodka
on jeans. If there were a blemish it was houseflies
swept off the cabin’s hardwood. Wings on bodies
in the margins, inert. How soon for us, too.
How winds change in a week but the fire
we started on arrival lingered smoke after
the last departing tires moved pebbles from
the driveway into life’s wild, winding road.

 

(originally published in Dime Show Review, Winter 2019)

Existential Food Poems

After reading five food poems in a row,
I paused, told the audience I get inspiration
from food. I meant I get energy, really.
At home, sometimes, I sit at the table
eating noodles and suddenly
I am at the table eating noodles!
I look at the floppy strings
on my plate and ask myself
what I’m doing. Converting
loose ends to energy, according
to education. Google tells
me to stop eating so many noodles
but to stop means less
energy– the will
to go on. These laces
tying my stomach
consumed by gastric acids
transform into aminos
that fuel me, somehow,
these noodles that don’t
make sense but somehow
allow my string of days
to keep dangling, serve
me on a plate so that
I may exist, so I can fall
in love with someone
and they can fall,
too, and steam
until we cool enough
for them to stick
their fork in me,
then wonder, what
are we doing? The
fork swivels,
gathers
a tornado
of noodles.

(originally published in Bindweed Magazine, Winter 2019)

Grill

I am cooking on the half-broken grill– knobs
stuck, burner busted– you left when you moved

out. This rack of ribs burning on foil– that’s you.
You and I are through. Perhaps not; I’m famous

(in my mind) for my inability to settle a squabble,
however small, how I raise the temperature until

the whole meal’s scorched in this final summer
on the heat. The charcoal smoke remains nostalgic

in the atmosphere but this pig is dead, has been,
and the house hasn’t felt the same for months,

weeds crawling around the wooden baseboard,
the dishwasher sobbing in the clutter of its mess.

I am throwing everything I own into black bags
to be disposed of Thursday, on the precipice

of a move, how much grease I’ve scraped from this
squealing machine, all this hunger turned to waste.

(originally published in Juke Joint, Winter 2019)

Another Drunken Summer

Last summer, clunks of glass,
grapefruit juice across the veiled
table. We stayed drunk

through sweltering June, to cool
off with Bella Sera pinot grigio,
Tostitos, queso. How much is

too much pleasure? These half-
empty days of water we are
not eager to drink. Sit in shade

til sundown, table umbrella up
to block the cancer sun we
know. We know.

(originally published in Kissing Dynamite, Spring 2018)

Remnants

You don’t hold me tight so I know you want to go.

You already let go of alcohol, caffeine, Dexter after the tumor.

My mother told me, after my father died, she would never love another man.

When she loved another man, she refused to let him die beside her.

Now he leaves her rain-soaked voicemails from Italy.

She drives to Cleveland, Kentucky, Ann Arbor, to avoid the thought of him.

Lost loves are remnants of embers but that’s it.

When I was with Amy, she drank coffee and I did not.

The mornings, now, I caffeinate myself a buzzing lantern.

Who sleeps that well anymore?

Sara tells me one of her exes nightly swallowed eight Benadryls to sleep.

Pink pills stack inside us in our battles against sleeping alone.

I have a soft blue blanket and a queen-sized bed.

When a day leaves don’t ask me to differentiate between darkness and dream.

 

(originally published in I-70 Review, Fall 2019)

In Pittsburgh, the First Time,

you told me Friendship is a road
split by two roads, parallel to Liberty,
and I told you that was a poem,
but you said, no, I’m just giving you
direction, and I looked up from your eyes
to the green sign reading Friendship Ave
and knew what you meant. Friendship–
we had yet to spend our first night
in the city, one that would end in
a dark cocktail bar for a dance party
that never materialized. In the morning,
we rode rented bicycles with bent
spokes and a click in their spinning
and I could only follow your lead
and cycle through streets still unfamiliar
to me– we weaved through lonely roads
to the Strip District, then stopped
at the Sixth Street Bridge to admire
the glimmer of the river that warm
winter day and continued until
we found the hill to Randyland
too steep to ride so, off our bikes,
we walked side-by-side up the path
until reaching our destination;
we locked our broken bikes
and kept walking.

 

(originally published in Bindweed Magazine, Winter 2019)

Pins

Cigarettes and your hair I tangle myself in our scribble of night,
bar patio, cheap beer until taxed. I’m saying the gunk in my heart
will kill me before you, these smoke-breath evenings the steady
rhythm of the planet. So I’m asking you to come in. The steering
wheel on your car spins in a forever rotation, circles and circles
spilling exhaust like a blanket over this dim, confusing street.

 

(originally published in Corvus Review, Fall 2018)

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)