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)

The Uncertainty Principle

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
moment

          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)

Switches

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)