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
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
(originally published in 8 Poems, Summer 2018)
Night falls yet clematis retain their violet.
O overrated light please save our dying
breed of seeing. X-rays. Monocles.
To me you are a single stem breaking
from the dark. And I, the hand stenciling
jittering petals under jetstream.
(originally published in The Wayfarer, 2018)
in my house
(originally published in The Squawk Back, Fall 2017)
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
pleading with a red delicious begging god for good
even though I cannot process Jesus I still chew and
spit seed and you walk over the guts of me with your
shoes on sidewalk in the sweltering August of laying
in grass whispering love between dandelions so much
we’re sprouting from dirt in ugly ways all thorn
and bloom overgrown with each other there are
no gloved hands around anymore to pull us out
(originally published in Bluestem, Spring 2017)
The days when we would lay
on blue towels by the beach
combing through our Merriam-Webster
holding every fascinating word by the stems in our mouths,
our vibrancy was inseparable from gardens
full of hyacinths and rhododendron and zinnias
and, yes, forsythias, all these flowers in our hometowns
we never knew the names of
until we saw the words on sand-shorn pages,
said the names out loud, grasped endlessly
for petals in each other. No, we bloomed
laughter from our throats, planted seeds
into pits where absence grows in ensuing Aprils.
We never knew what words might appear
on Scrabble nights hunched over grids of possibility and–
strings of letters string surprising words together.
Marionettes, spider webs, violins, shoelaces,
your hair among the rules of nature, and nurture,
here nurturing the garden, here the home
where we tend other flowers– all my love,
I repeated. Forsythia, forsythia, forsythia.
But those beach days were distant, the tide slurring
softly alongside my returns from long unexplainable workdays–
all my love, I repeated. For Cynthia.
Wooden tiles tornadoed to the floor, slapping
the carpet with words we had not invented yet–
there is no remedy for lost trust. The flame
already sleeps in the bed of the mouth.
Cynthia, Cynthia. I did not know a Cynthia–
but I had never been able to name a forsythia
in the wild. The next time I see one
will feel like cheating. Nothing too-known is magical–
there is wonder in inventing nomenclature,
that a word like forsythia can only be made
in moments like anesthesia, with darkness descending
like the cigarette clouds of a severe storm when, in the drift
into a new consciousness, a lilac floats your mind’s pond–
a lilac, maybe, though that’s not what you want,
and maybe, in the distance, you see the blossoming
yellow that accompanies spring, the air golden around it–
the beauty that’s grander than words.
You wish you never learned the name for it.
(originally published in Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Spring 2017)
I always knew my father was allergic to bees
but it wasn’t until his obituary
I learned he was once a beekeeper.
In those days, I hear, he prayed
to his veil– only to re-emerge, hours later,
having danced with God
under every umber swarm.
He was a gifted storyteller
but it wasn’t until his stroke
at seventy-four made me listen,
when his mouth betrayed his brain.
In his final years he would repeat,
the end of bees is the end of man.
So, heaven in the soft petals
scattered in the grass.
Young violets lined his coffin.
All I wanted was to listen
to stories he told before,
details I had forgotten.
Around the cemetery,
bees still glissando
through gardens not unlike the ones
he dug into his blackened fingernails–
honey and sweat, story-
pollinated requiems, harmonies
heard in bountiful
fields of bloodroot.
(originally published in Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal – Spring 2016)
*Nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology