Cape May Karaoke

vocals rise  night static  the beach house we
sway to midi music   call ourselves karaoke

machines   what disappointment   to not be
whole   humid June   familiar shadows

encroach the move  I crack my song  an egg
to thee   to thaw cold exhibitions of the

bottle  another  popped  Corona to thirst
for grand experiences  cheaply    the tide

a tape loop   I do not sing the steady
hand of a lyric    but rather the water

(originally published in Sybil Journal, Summer 2020)

Then I Hear Me

in front of a hundred
eyeless peers I push
my glasses up & then
I hear me speak (o lord
this tin tunnel was I born
in aluminum are my horns
hidden from sight I
am pulling at my hair
searching for the devil
in my throat) I loved
the old recordings
VHS & handheld &
then I hear me speak
(crush the volume down
my thumbs in my ears
to find ocean & space
look away to the blank
shut lids & reach
for the pine cone remote
somewhere on this
cold egg shell couch
among the crumbs)
couldn’t my larynx
have received a more
commanding inheritance
before my parents passed?
I’ve been singing into
graveyards to ugly
featherless songbirds
and then I hear me
sing (or footsteps
thumping down the
path paved to lead
others to grieve,
newlywidowers
seeking silence
in the umber
shade)

(originally published in Hello America Stereo Cassette, Winter 2021)

2.16

I can’t talk about money I have none
      I am green in love in the black in life

the debt of my ancestors I am
      someone’s deficient ancestor

though my family is dying
                    one at a time deeper

into ground and deeper into soil
                    the sound of my sister

sobbing though she can’t be here
                    at the funeral she would if

she could
                    there’s always next time

(originally published in Ariel Chart, Winter 2021)

In Waves

It comes in waves, the grief, though you laugh
as you say so, because we are in the Atlantic,
children again, uppercutting large tides,
and I never learned to swim, but the saying–
the metaphor– is true, the water is relentless,
and we were states away from the hospital,
where your father was, when you got the
call, and later, in our hotel’s game room,
there was a balancing act– you, your family,
the ping-pong paddles on the black table,
the plastic balls rolling slowly onto the floor
at the end of another meaningless game, the
bouncing, then physics, entropy ending–
how else to reconcile lost time? This dusting,
this airing out, now, swimsuits soaked from
the salt of the sea, this fabric, this residue
dripping off of this vacation into the old
Civic, the broken A/C, the windows’ open
breeze, silence of the road lodged between
green hills, so endless, our breathing.

 

(originally published in Creative Writing Ink’s Monthly Contest, November 2019 Winner)

My Laptop Malfunctions on Thanksgiving

The machine shut down after clicks and pops– the screen
flickered bright then dimmed into near-zero

visibility. You said our love had become that,
crying into the dark on my chest. I couldn’t feel the tears,

but we feasted this Thanksgiving on the blood of birds
and the kindness of vegetables, this ritual of melancholy

holidays at my mother’s home, the knife pushing
deeper and deeper into the flesh of tradition, and you

said that’s not what you wanted to become, some reliable
device upon which to take for granted, and I apologized,

I didn’t know why you were crying and I wasn’t, so you
turned the lights on and laugh-cried until we fell asleep

 

(originally published in SHARK REEF, Winter 2020)

This House She Won’t Want

This house, she won’t want
to sell. Where once voices,

now the TV knobbed up.
She raised us right

here, boiled soup
cold nights before gathering

at the table. Cold nights
now under blanket

still shivering. She won’t
cook anymore, no

guests. TV talkin’ loud
blank conversations. Least

the room flickers in
the dark. That door-shutting

sound. An actor comes
home on tv to say hello.

Mom dreams off recliner.
The show fades to black.

(originally published in CERASUS, Summer 2021)

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)

Silica

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
the yard
rough hands on saw

that was satisfactory
to him

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
death
but could not digest it

i’m but a skeleton

all life’s experiences
slip through me

masticating childhood
no pondering
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)

Sleep Paralysis

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)