And Yet the Strings

Again, a rainbow sprouting from your violin–
no, it’s no light. You never wanted to mother.
Music was the way– adagios hanging from
the clouds. But God had something in store–

                                                                come on.

What happened was we were drinking herbal tea
and you told me of new pregnancy within these
silent walls of our favorite coffee shop and I said
I’m sorry, I’m sorry because I didn’t know what

else to. And you said it’s okay, it wasn’t you, just
I had to tell someone. Because you no longer
write symphonies. The instrument collects dust in
your closet– where’s the music? We ask. You

answer: inside, swelling. If there’s one thing
you must hear, she will be a cadenza.

 

(originally published in Chiron Review, Fall 2020)

Ramen in Japantown

I had been eating like shit living
in my car, fingernails full of fungus.
We agreed to meet in Japantown
to enjoy a fancy ramen
but this would be my first
in many years
that wasn’t Maruchan
(cheap crinkly plastic,
cancer-flavored beef-dust
in a sawtooth packet)
& you must be aware the body
struggles to digest it.
During our meal,
two years since
we last talked,
the cheap ramen must have
intermingled in my stomach
with the pork-broth
real deal. I put an egg
on top for authenticity
when you told me you had
just bought Coachella tickets
for yourself & your brother
& I didn’t want to know the
price because I was living
on wages made on the days
I was lucky enough to
find work. Umami
lingered on my tongue
as we ruminated
in silence over
how vast the distance
our lives traveled
in different directions.

 

(originally published in Triggerfish Critical Review, Winter 2020)

For Erica

here’s your evergreen nowhere        blue sky eyewhites your
lust for your best life         I mean here is the reason sister

to run into you at North Market      its coffee shop
years after hopscotch       your palm       tree blood

underneath it sister the last time we stayed up past
4 AM      watching nature documentaries     searching

for birds     it was a metaphor at the time     flying
out each other’s eyes      how we’d be wordless

we’re wordless

 

(originally published in Reservoir, Summer 2018)

Lunch with an Old Friend

wish I still knew how to talk about games
movies television sports

blue fish waddling onto soil of questions trudges
leaves bodyprints wet move

closer to some common thread we may yet find
yet know a fishing line in the reel of your hand

mouth brain our friendship was incorrigible
as the moon in a poem in a lit mag

super nintendo and the cement unfinished
scent of basements carpeted staircases doritos

always going down down down
affection every thump downward

like the rest of life tumbling
through deserts of thought mist sandstorm

the sun wrangles some truth out of stranded
windows translucent sunlight

shifting across the wooden table
of distance time summers

 

(originally published in Scarlet Leaf Review, Summer 2018)

To Paige (From Jack), 2017

i bark at da ups guy not cuz i guess hes here to mess things up
but cuz hes here every day when ur not    im wonderin y u go

away & y i cant come      i would go anywhere wid u
so y does anyone go anywhere when im content ta sit where da staircase

bends & watch for u     im afraid of knocks sometime somethin
bangin da door of what i name safe    i sense da whole worlds fearin

& i can smell bad from a mile away      deres so much of it i wag my stub
for makin it dis long .    still i hope ull always come back from snow , rain

& surgery so i bark ur name da best i know when u return    tho loud
& disruptive deres no different sound for love jus rattlin da home’s bones astray

wid my voice & wonder if some day itll all collapse sometime inta heaps of
forgotten timber & brick . id follow if u leave dat great clear barrier & return .

i spend my day lyin here thinkin of ways to tell u dat       to shout
like from a mountain through da valleys as loud i can da whole clatter

best i know how        like u do when u walk thru dat door
its da loudest thing :   u fill my ears wid bells    i can hear nothin beautiful else

(originally published in Delphinium, Summer 2018)

July

summer mugs me every time
muggy breath and hug of sweat
so hug me hold me let me know
I’m not a cloud who will sink
into a vapor or wave hissing mist

an atmosphere of melancholy hot
days that teleports me to L.A.
stargazing fame because anyone
who meant anything existed far
away celebrities or friends who

wait when you come home to drink
torpedoes in the square then explode
with laughter when telling them how
you lived everyday in a pile of socks
and neverending sunshine

 

(originally published in Abstract Magazine, Spring 2018)

North Carolina Wedding

I don’t know anyone
but the gnats swarming
around me &

the stranger
next to me calls them
wedding bugs

marriage begins with wings
then seeks blood
sucking glimpse of sweat

on skin sugar all the single
guests swat at the air
around them familiar

the way we complain
of heat so beg
for rain to form in

these shrouds of clouds
to cool us down
it’s nice to have something

tangible to wish for

 

(originally published in Razor Literary Magazine, Spring 2018)

 

We Try on Masks at Dollar General

Which is to say we kissed many strangers
today, so many mouths without knowing.

Both of us date someone else now, though
lock eyes through pinholes of cheap latex,

despite the guises’ vacant stares– these two,
skeletons. Admire the wrinkles of bendable

skull-skin. Remember our bones– last summer,
our bodies thin crackers. Could snap first sink

of snow but we survived last winter, the fall
of our alcoholism, nearly a year passed,

still fighting. I miss the bricked patios
of our Old North bars, sloshing ice cubes

around until disappearing into fog.
Only now, with new identities,

do we walk through the door.

 

(originally published in Midway Journal, Spring 2018; Nominated for Best of the Net)

False Alarm

Street sweeping
happens irregularly
around here. Every
three months then
you forget about it.
I’ve been off and on in love
with my roommate since the
day she moved in. November
rain, the red-bricked road,
I look out my window–
no cars on the side
of the street I parked on.
I scramble from my room,
her boyfriend in the hallway,
and I yell street cleaning!
His eyes bug up
and we race down
stairs to beat the tow
trucks but I open the door
to see cars parked around mine.
I tell him I’m going anyway
to check the signs
which I do in my blue
flip-flops, waddling out into
wet grass to find
next week’s the sweeping–
and don’t we always
wait yet another week
to cleanse ourselves of what
we fear we don’t need?
A bad job
or incompatible lover.
For months they have fought
about necessary changes
neither of them will make,
and just last week
she told me
the cycle of her life
goes in years by threes.
The job, the lover,
the house, the dust.
There’s a chill. I’m not wearing
a jacket, so I go back inside
and tell him it’s next week
but he’s known this for weeks.

 

(originally published in Columbia Journal Online, Winter 2018)