Grief Poetry

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)

In Charleston, the Day After the Shooting (2015)

I.

a statue of a dead confederate soldier
looms over the city

community signatures
on the broken cast of a thin tree

the resounding message in red
marker: LOVE WINS

(if love is a gun smoking heavenward
and if love bodies slumped in pews)

II.

a fellow wanderer asks me to photograph him
in front of the scene

he smiles

then takes his iPhone
back
among the strangers

III.

I was a Catholic boy

lost
my way as a man

yet in presence of steeple
and jagged and mighty
tragedy

arrows of prayer quiver inside me
then anger
at tourists and cameras

I know I’m part of
this exhibitionism problem

we’re a crowd of resounding bells
waiting for the next funeral to begin

 

(originally published in The Magnolia Review, Summer 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)

Kentucky Murder Mystery

no blood
where they found
my uncle
on the kitchen floor

hole in his heart
gun on steel barstool

on the drive to the wake
my aunt admits
she suspects
the eldest son

when I meet him
the first thing he says is
someone stole my idea
when I wrote Dexter in the 90s
I always wanted to write
about serial killers

when searching the room
no foam erupts from
volcanoes of old couches
no fingerprints to find

his suicide does not add up
my aunt says again and again
examining scrubbed floors
for heavy footsteps to appear
when nothing else will

 

(originally published in #theslideshow, Winter 2018)

Widow

Every night Mom drowns
in loud TV next to dusty organ
bloomed with portraits. Family’s

family, including things:
the security system greets her
when returning from the store.

The red carpet, the torn couch,
the gunky dishwasher. Coming home
from work through a sea of dark Ohio

into a reverberating house of off-white
rooms so silent the garage door screams
shut. The floors don’t creak, they wail

and faucets cry. A cabinet full
of Cabernet. A corkscrew hangs,
rusted at the hinge.

(originally published in Oyster River Pages, Summer 2018)

Unemployment Dirge

I have given up on adulthood this time
at least not trying to pay bills
every electronically white-licked envelope
arrives the kiss of a faceless reaper
but I’m not playing that capitalist game
of unending rain filling plastic
cups the days that spill
on plain tile to move
the needles of hairs
and dirt I never
knew was missing

 

(originally published in Foliate Oak, Spring 2018)

Losing Another One

Christmas trees
buried
no gifts
nothing left
to unwrap
no one
needs these kinds
of gifts
no one sees
above the trees
look
there is so
much more
to be angry about
think of those
who have lost
the soup
steams the kitchen
sunken chicken
in chunks
salt boils
the tea kettles
green
the minced leaves
mint
leaves
the body
leaves
the mint plant

 

(originally published in New Pop Lit, Spring 2018; nominated for Best of the Net)

Crickets

On the back patio, a cricket chirps beneath
the dirt of graying leaves– September’s chill.
Most days, dust becomes the clouds, this habit
of years knowing you, gone. The blue crickets
strum the cold death of summer– violins. I walk
the perimeter of fence to hear your heartbeat,
shrill– a shiver in the search for permanence.
Childhood: the crickets cry. A car door slams.
Footsteps twist through the crackle of leaves.
The old house hides the light, dips me in
worry: when crickets stop, ashes become
wind– the hymn. The lament of sparrows,
the creak of a gate, the thrum of a plane.
The unbearable passing of another year.

 

(originally published in Furtive Dalliance, Winter 2018)