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)
my father once mowed a rabbit into the lawn–
perfection leaves corpses
the tractor drones loud radio static
I never want to be someone
who compares pop music
to a limping tornado
autumn’s kaleidoscope leaves
the crumpled xylophone
black bags the scattered records
a taut-needled march to old age
I say these things now
but Eugene Delacroix said it best:
he was like a man owning a piece of ground
in which, unknown to himself, a treasure lay buried
music of the ether
of shifting chatter
fang-laughs from the teenage zeitgeist
when else has our unity
hinged on the city’s mustard smell
whether it’s there
or there isn’t
vapidity is DNA’s rapt curse
relinquishing joyrides for dimes
is our chosen profession
I prefer cremation to cream
and commitment to half & half
ambulances shriek when people talk
I never hear the atmosphere’s shrill
nor slow warmth of glaciers
in the spring of mottled souls
what is that frozen world?
we should unearth its hardened treasures
(originally published in Jokes Review, Summer 2017)
My father often mourned
the mortality of grass. I never
want to grow accustomed to the mower’s
tornado roar then limp drawl
that crumples summer’s green
into bent xylophone. I wonder
every morning why I’m there, or here,
and never sure where I ever
relinquish my shed skin for dust
blowing out into the wellspring of time.
(originally published in The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, Summer 2017)
After Band of Horses
After my sister’s morning call broke
our father’s death, the first thing
I did was listen to Everything All the Time,
sobbing into unrequited guitar
and an ethereal voice soaring
into some great beyond. Seven years later,
I drink Bordeaux with my roommate
in the kitchen, cyclical tones
filling the room. The guitar is a coffin
for us both, lowering Dad’s corpse
into dirt. Her grandpa died
when this song released.
We rake our past leaves under burnt-out bulbs.
We agree: The Funeral was written for both of us
to pass the billion-each-insignificant day.
Dead leaves own the lawn each season
of our funerals. The same deaths
in autumn chill still dropping the needle
into memory’s vinyl– to come up only
to pull us under, show us wrong.
(originally published in Chronogram, Spring 2017)