I strive for greatness a small rock
slips off my tongue       words
on the verge of something cosmic
a novel expanding underneath each



(originally published in Poetry Pacific, May 2020)

What We Talk About When We Talk About

Pepper burned my mouth
and all I could think of
in that salivated flame
was you telling me your tongue
no longer felt the heat
of a moment: meaningless
sex– bite and garment
here between the green
walls of your zen room
your small goldfish
swimming in circles–
submerged flame and hunger
for love so intense
I flicker poems to you
thumbs on lighters
waiting for the matchbook
to catch– combed pomade
hair, designer jeans, and wit–
what I want is origami
and fire– instead
we talk about love
but unlike Raymond Carver
we have nothing
more to say.


(originally published in Words Dance, Summer 2017)

Cavity of the Soul (Part II)

(continued from Part I)

At 7 AM Wayne’s alarm trilled him awake. Typically after a dental appointment, there are aches and pains, but he never felt anything this extreme. It felt as if malignant parasites had made a home in his teeth and rented condos in his gums. His cavity was on the right side of his mouth, but most of the pain was on the left. Without warning, the pain would switch sides. It made no sense. Wayne could not wait to sit back in that uncomfortable chair, in hopes that Hakoum could extricate the pain.


The lights in the office were off. The sign on the outside still read “CLOSED”. But as Wayne approached the door, the handle turned and soon enough a foreign hand held the door open.

“Sorry, the lights weren’t on,” Hakoum said, leading Wayne inside. “I just got here myself.”

The doctor flicked the lights on. “Not used to being here before the receptionist, either.”

Hakoum walked into the back and began a brew of pitch-black coffee.

“How are you feeling this morning?” he asked his patient.

“Awful,” Wayne said as he clutched his cheek.

“I figured,” Hakoum said, filing through papers at his desk. “Cavities are more serious than most people imagine.”

“I remember the story from yesterday,” Wayne said with a grimace.

Hakoum looked up from his desk. “There’s no reason to be crass with me this early in the morning.”

“I’m just in a lot of pain,” Wayne said, fingering his teeth now. “I don’t mean to be rude to the guy who’s going to be working in my mouth.”

Hakoum walked from his desk, clumsily bumping into another one on his way to get his coffee, knocking over a bunch of papers. Somehow they fell with a loud KLANK.

Wayne, curious as to how a bunch of papers could make such a loud sound while feigning a desire to help clean up, hobbled over to the stack of papers. There was an oddly-shaped bump at the bottom of the pile. Wayne cleared the top couple papers away and nestled underneath was a big, red power drill.

“That’s funny!” Hakoum said, cup of coffee in his hand. He picked up the drill with his free hand. “A drill like this has no place in a dentist’s office.”

Hakoum took a sip of his coffee and set it down. Smiling, he examined the drill.

“I wish the receptionist were here already,” Hakoum said. He pointed the drill like a gun toward Wayne. “I kind of think that if she’s not here already, she’s not going to show up at all.”

Wayne looked to see if anyone was even in the office at all. The place was completely empty except for dentist and patient, despite it being well past 8:00.

“This is getting a little weird,” Wayne observed, leaning against a desk.

“Dentistry takes a lot of people by surprise.”

Hakoum placed the drill back onto the desk. He led Wayne to the annex and opened the door to the same room they occupied yesterday.

“Go ahead and wait in there,” Hakoum said, pointing to the chair in-between sips of his coffee. “I’ve got to go prep the novocaine.”

Wayne thought about sprinting out of the office at that moment, but as soon as the thought crossed his mind, he felt his gums rage and burn.

So he sat down and waited, staring at the images again, his mouth feeling the imaginary pain that the children’s drawings on the wall portrayed.

He waited for a long time. He waited until the dim light of the room drifted him to sleep.


Hakoum was seen approaching with a needle when Wayne awoke.

“What are you doing!?” Wayne shouted at his dentist.

Hakoum slowed down. “I’m very sorry you woke up. I was just about to inject the novocaine into your right gum so that this cavity procedure would be as quick and painless as possible.”

“Well, wake me up for that, please, next time.”

“That kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?”

“The purpose? The purpose of what?”

“Most patients are deathly afraid of needles. If they don’t know I’m sticking their insides with a needle, it makes it easier for me, too.”

“I’m not afraid of needles, but I DO like to know when I’m getting things shoved inside delicate places.”

The doctor shrugged. “To be completely transparent, I am about to…”

Hakoum stopped speaking, opened his mouth wide, and gasped in horror at whatever atrocity might have been behind Wayne, who turned his head to see what was happening. Hakoum stabbed him in the gum with his needle during the distraction.

Wayne howled with pain.

The light suspended above his chair became brighter than the sun. Wayne began to perceive everything in the room as cats, but soon Hakoum and the cat-shapes in the room became forms of pure blackness. “I want cotton candy,” Wayne mumbled.

“Causes cavities,” Hakoum said in a language that Wayne thought sounded like tongues. “Can’t administer.”

Wayne drifted into dreamland on a cat-shaped cloud…


After the minor operation, Hakoum was drenched in sweat and out of breath. He sprinted into the receptionist’s office. He fumbled through the jar of pens on the desk and scribbled some words on a piece of paper: “CLOSED FOR THE DAY – SORRY” and struggled to sign his name.

He ran outside with the paper and taped it to the door, over the “OPEN” sign. The receptionist sleepily walked down the pathway on her way to the door. Slamming the door, Hakoum went to the couch in the waiting room and pushed it to barricade the entryway. The receptionist knocked, jiggled the door handle, and then tried her key.

Hakoum administered himself a shot of novocaine. He took the power drill and opened Wayne’s mouth.

(to be continued in Part III)


There’s a monster out here. I gasp for air that suffocates my wheezing lungs.

I’m still alive? Drifting onward, towards the part of the sky not covered in lumpy blankets of gray, to a place of grass and underbrush and orb weavers. I hated spiders and the thought of their thick bodies and hairy legs squirming into my nose and mouth when I sleep. Now I don’t mind that thought, because if I close my eyes, the water will rush in and I’ll drown and something will eat me.

The waves caress and prune my body. Salt and dirt grind against me, beating against depleted legs. Can’t kick at the sea anymore, haven’t for days. So I wait with the rain for something, anything new.

There’s a foggy outline of a cargo liner in the distance. Every now and then I shout. Save me. Help. Goddamn it. Raspy whimpers marrying the sound of wind. Mostly I shout not to be heard, but to taste the saliva against my tongue, hoping for drips right off of my mouth to lick and savor. I can cup the spadefish or the black bass with my hands, but they wriggle away to their own meaningless lives, to become something else’s dinner. The salt we take in, we share.

In the left peripheral, something is watching me. But in the outer regions of my right eye, I notice the currents waft a snotty piece of wood an arm’s length away. Remnants from my sailboat? No, there’s no way. Right? Excruciatingly, I guide my abscessed eyes over to the piece, but my neck strains as my head turns and I cough out blood, the taste of iron and iodine sticking to my mouth. Not again. Everything is graying what’s going on maybe let’s close my eyes for a moment


Eyes open with a snort of water, against the stillness of rain. The red drop of blood on the surface expands, further putrefying the murky depths, amidst the gentle, beating pitter-patter rain drops from above.

Something clutches my leg like a blood pressure monitor deepens into its patient’s arm.


A geyser of red and muck encompasses the shadowy blob that emerges from the water.

From the gray, the outline of the beast becomes more lucid, as the mist clears.

“Water mammal,” I rasp out.

Its wide, stone-carved teeth and twin, ivory tusks belittle its childish face. It lunges forward, arms spread wide.

And it embraces me, pinning me onto its lukewarm body between its tusks.

“Human,” Walrus says.

“How…” I mutter, my head pressed against its squishy chest. “Do you…”

“Eat seaweed,” Walrus bellows, toothing a wide grin as it lets me go and recedes. “Lots and lots of seaweed!”

Vision blurs. The creature spins around, dancing like a tornado before I lose sight of it. The waves rush around my head, overcoming me. Water splashes into my eyes. Clarity. A hazy block descending upon my head. I close my eyes and move my hands to bat it away but


Right eye open. Modest sushine. The left eye is cushy, bleeding, and stuck. A searing pain in my forehead; think of something else. My tongue is parched, its dryness manifesting splits shaping themselves as veins would spread on a dying leaf, yet I lick the parched skin around my lips, still tasting the blood around my lips. A reminder of life. Dizziness and more blackness.

Light. The walrus leaps into the air with gobs of seaweed in its hands. Suspended in mid-air, it crosses its flabby arms before subsequently jerking them wide. Out of his hands fall massive lots of algae, a murky waterfall of algae.

“Seaweed!” Walrus shouts again, remaining frozen from its point in the sky.

The faunas creep along the water towards me, as if they have legs or minds of their own. Various kelp drag onward and lily spores march with their armies.


I pain to grab a seaweed, open my mouth to more chapping lips and my right eye diverts to the walrus.

Nothing there. Gone. Not even a splash.

Back on the water, I look toward my food. Missing. Instead, small crustaceans slink toward me; their thick, white exoskeletons skulking closer; tinny white legs paddling nearer.. nearer…

Crawling onto my clothes. Trampling upon my skin. Hunger in their tiny eyes. As they squirm up my neck, my mouth remains suspended.


(initially published in October 10, 2013 in ‘100 Doors to Madness‘  [Forgotten Tomb Press])