The Busier the Kitchen the Filthier the Dishes

Your lunch spot becomes a haven on the ground
level of a tower between towers on rainy workdays.

Your eyes strained at the sight of a waterfall
of text and maybe you missed
an important error in copy
marketed to clients. Here, though,

the dishwasher sprays a thousand plates,
aiming spouts at cheese stains hardened
from sitting by the garbage in
the place where discarded trays should be.

Water pressure removes ceramic sin
eventually, an industrial machine
humming in silver efficiency,
skin rinsed beside it.

Glasses that pass the spot test emerge,
steam rising, but meat lodged between
prongs is wrestled out with wet finger.

Your fork drips from the steak
just in a salesman’s mouth.

 

(originally published in Stickman Review, Spring 2018)

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)

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)

Macaroni

we’ve run out of money
again so cabinets

are stacked with Kraft
mac and cheese

familiar blue and orange
taken for granted

like in photos
sunshine a steaming pot
our brighter days

we seek heat
somewhere

outside the kitchen
the water boils

and it’s twenty degrees
outside

I see wings
in the steam
rising

we have been
powder and sugar and milk
you know these basic elements

a simplification
all

we have to do is
call a food nostalgic
to love it.

 

(originally published in formercactus, Spring 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)

Cheez-It®

for now cheap breakable wheat is my bible okay

I’ve been in this basement for three days

etc. etc.

orange skies in the psalms of your dimples
(my throat is parched…)

it’s simple          open your palms

for your mouth

you could fit needles in these holes
                                                       constellations in these holes

should’ve put those tiny strings of stars
in my cart to bide my time

instead of sacks of snacks
to fill                                           & fill myself

until I rip open my last plastic head

dust volcanoes       until my eyes bleed Sunshine red

my fingertips          light & salted tiger sticks

my preacher says Jesus won’t eat Cheez-Its

I believe crumbs
lodged in teeth will return in three days

 

(originally published in Unlikely Stories Mark VI, 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)