The summer shattered the year
Dad passed, and Mom’s grief
became the fall; to cope, she
wrote her first poetry, wrote
sheets of ice that turned to
winter months of seeking
meaning in icicles– living
alone, she praised the blades of
cold above her door, believing
Dad her angel sharp enough to
pierce the heart of loneliness.
There was no Thanksgiving
that year, no Christmas.
The frigid core of family–
she kept writing our story.
She would not let us forget.
(originally published in Z Publishing’s “America’s Emerging Poets Series: Midwest Edition,” 2018)
i carry infection in saliva
like a point of pride
see, my city reeks of bone
tall skeleton skyscrapers
i’m numb again
as dental drill enters me
year after year
what birthed my decays?
raised to desire new
wants every day
wanting even wanting
my dad worked at a ford factory
after the great depression
churned out a new kid
every few years
seasons of rust
spreading on steel
here’s the sunset
he’d wake us to say &
spend the days molding
rough hands on saw
that was satisfactory
for me oaks are cold towers &
grass not godmade
took a clump in my mouth
from the graveyard as a child &
i swear i tasted
but could not digest it
i’m but a skeleton
all life’s experiences
slip through me
the future with mom and dad
scooping fries at ponderosa &
we’d always go for seconds &
mint ice cream after
(originally published in Burningword Literary Journal, Fall 2018)
At thirteen I awoke to a man-sized bat
waving black-eyed wings at the edge of my bed.
Back then, I believed there were unexplainable things
in the universe. Dad would talk about guardian
angels when he meant luck explains
a kinship with the divine. He still
drove his motorcycle beyond
the age of seventy. He fell asleep
one time in the green countryside
and awoke to blurry shoelaces
of the trucker who slammed into him,
amazed my dad still alive
and the proof in scraped knee
and a busted motorcycle somehow still
operational then driven home. Dad attributed
this, like most things, to angels. I could have believed
for much longer. As a kid, I watched E.T. ride
a bicycle in the window in our lawn every day,
his brown eyes never noticing me. Always
when I pointed this presence to my sister,
he was past the point of seeing.
Soon I stopped believing.
(originally published in The Tau, Summer 2018)
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
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
(originally published in Wizards in Space, 2018)
Quantum physics have never been
more real than in this steaming
silver pot of Annie’s shells
and cheddar butter and milk
I’m cooking and the cat in our house
attacks crumpled-up balls
of paper yet sprints in fear
when a toilet is flushed. We are
all in orbit. You and me and
Earth and spoon in pot
mixing components into
tornado and I don’t know
where the melting butter
ends up nor the cheese
or where I’ll be in ten
years or a thousand
because our atoms
can diverge into
two paths any given
THE FIRST PATH
the one where you and I and most our friends and family are still alive
because ten years is a long time someone both of us love has died
it’s my father I see dandelions on the dead a suit and tie something
he never would have worn & your mother her silky dress and
Avon perfume wafting through the wake the frost her
permanent winter bed
THE SECOND PATH
the one where you and I and all our friends and family are still alive
because ten years is a long time someone both of us love will die
I see a bowl of ashes I see dead dandelions wilting on the stove
the steam carries souls up into my nose where I recall the heat
and depth of the Grand Canyon sun pressing against my
neck Dad in his thick glasses & sweat arms around me &
I pick up a stone & throw it over the edge
(originally published in The Courtship of Winds, 2019)
Dad knew which fuse box switch did what–
in this way, he chose for us the light and dark.
His hands blackened from cracking walnuts
over the years, hammering husks in the
night when the rest of us were sleeping,
loud whacks startling us temporarily awake then
drifting back into our own darknesses beneath familiar
stars. After his death, we found Dad’s walnuts
in barrels in the corner of his workshop alongside
spiders and memories we could not yet scrape.
My brother said, to honor him, we had to break
and eat each one, despite the bulk. That Dad lived
a rich life poor, that the taste might activate
memory’s accordion, careening us in and out
the past and present, turning life to death then life
again, discordant in its forlorn loudness.
(originally published in 3Elements Review, Spring 2018)
the gorge is endless & insatiable
there is a river, then many mouths
& there is your mother
in the next room cooking soup
& there is a mother
on screen bent over stovetop
with stepson rocking back
& forth into hunger
& now spoons clank
on plate before dinner
& your privacy settings–
a closed door
& now your father
home from work
& now the stepfather
makes his daughter behave
& your sister
walks in off the bus
& now the step-sister
removes the mushroom of her skirt
taking her brother by the name
of their familiar
which is all relative
to the mold of a home
all mildew & dust
spiderweb & tangle
& turn of doorknob
to walk years
through thin hallways
of broken light
fixtures & coughs
to sit in the dining room
all together & eat
years of steaming
garlic, basil, tomato,
(originally published in The Cerurove, Fall 2017)
If I had musical talent
I wouldn’t write poems.
There’s no need
to lie. I couldn’t bring myself to try
when my parents thought
it’d be a good idea for me
to take piano lessons.
I had Game Boy eyes
and the Final Fantasy theme on repeat.
My dad had already explained
the difference between basin wrench
and torque. Wasted an afternoon
taping leaking pipes.
Like many of his time
he knew plumbing, mechanics,
then brought me into rooms with broken
machines. My mind was Mickey Mouse
spelling words and song,
not the kind to vivisect
a bird to learn the function.
All I knew were not even stories yet
and still my hands
sing few callouses.
(originally published in Pirene’s Fountain, Spring 2018)
(originally published in Neologism Poetry Journal, Summer 2017)
dad rode motorcycles
through west virginia
mountains gathering speed
in the stillness of wheels
yet you are afraid to change
oil or fix your slow traction
of time– anything mechanical
is coiled magic in function.
the broken-down car sputters.
the ghost lays on cardboard
leaking, dripping synthetic
black splotches on concrete–
no knowledge remains.
there is a rattle
in the carburetor
when you drive
(originally published in The Good Men Project, Summer 2017)