If a Body Is a Temple

Pray to clogged brick, hardened
breathing. When I was young,
I believed in God and my mother
had good food waiting after school.
Rice and chicken, spinach
and pepper at the bottom of a soup.
Boiling then, now I drink water
in mason jars to wash away cheddar-
topped hot dogs I ate in some
destruction of the work Mom
put into me to get me here–
how she unclasped her hands
when I left for LA, let me fly
down the highway of fickle dreaming.
There was light at the end of that;
there’s a light at the end, still.
Now the intangible light swarms
my world, and I am too selfish
in my gluttony to eat it–
how a body can be full of light
but radiate a shadow of another,
one you had no part of in the making.

 

(originally published in Hessler Street Fair Poetry Anthology, Summer 2018)

Bloody Mary

The legend, according to my sister, goes
you lock yourself in the bathroom, turn off
the lights, say Bloody Mary, spin three times,

then voila! She appears, bloodied,
hands on her face screaming
à la Edvard Munch painting.

I obviously don’t believe in this but
do you have the courage to try?

Catholic school vacuumed religion right
out of me, but I blanket my head in bed
when I can’t explain a house’s creaking.

Believe me– if I believed
that I believed, this wouldn’t be
so scary. I’d ask God to help me.

Say I try this now.

Would a vision make me a believer?
Me, an adult in a bathroom,
chanting a name into the dark.

When my eyes finally opened,
I’d pray to anything– the bathtub,
the toilet, the sink, the sliver of

light beneath the door.

 

(originally published in We Are a Website, Spring 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)

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)

Power Lines

electricity in the breath
of memory– the back-
country home mom
owns an endless vista
she has men care for
due to spine drooping
a road on her body
leads to membrane and
dad alive in the sky
looking down on her
fields purple or blue
the empty driveway
anyone’s welcome to

 

(originally published in Apricity Press, 2018)

Mud

or is it clay or is it ghosts I remember
muddy footprints you walking in from
rain white plate of cookies in sweat-palms
mud on floor you said sweet, sweet, sweet,
sweet children all those black nights the salty
wind knocking its way in through shut
windows the dead flowers in vases
received sunlight their daily bread
give us ours the ramshackle trinity of unclean
dishes filthy hands and the sticky fridge door
which wouldn’t open not for you
and certainly not for us

 

(originally published in Califragile, Fall 2017)

Olive Garden

On the way home from my first Passover
with your family we stop at an Olive Garden

in flyover country, where the waitress tells us
Happy Easter and, when you tell her we forgot

but still want angel hair, she jokes her last
table mistook pesto for alfredo. Sometimes

people confuse one god for another but never
their own, and food is ours– Jesus rising

with the dough of endless breadsticks
descending like ten plates of plagues, first-born

bastards in baskets we need no hunt to find
lest our mouths become black holes absorbing

absurd sanctities of tradition. Separately,
the Garden was where our families would gather

on intermittent nights to write our own Haggadahs
or speak sins of rock stars or mysteries

of faith. Afikomans for truth, perhaps, but instead
of matzo an endless bowl of a salad of words

in which we always beg for more
forgiveness without really wanting that.

And the waitress, before engaging the simplest rotor,
asks us to say when to end airstrikes of parmesan

and it does not matter when we do.

 

(originally published in After the Pause, Summer 2018)