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)

The Stewardess

California leaves in smoke & flame
cigarettes you never touched

the burning
bristle

but your hands
on steel made a home
in airplanes

soaring over the evergreen
we outgrew

you called a bottomless lake
drowning

monsters deep in murk

in the way of work
was love &

understanding this
you left the city
became the sky

 

(originally published in The Inflectionist Review, 2018)

I Think of Giraffes Sometimes. I Hope They Sometimes Think of Me.

In Kathleen’s apartment in Oregon,
I ask her where even is home?

Clevelanders-turned-transplants,
maybe never knowing.

I see my mom’s mown lawn
in the green fields our baseball

team travels through, my friends
in tweets spitting scores or stats.

These, I don’t care about,
but I join in discussion.

Blue hands to high-five,
then to put my phone down.

 

(originally published in Hobart, Winter 2018)

Mortality as First Date

The chairs we sit in are steel
horses, sad and dead. What you said
at the gallery in the warehouse was
to you, I have only given death and cookies.
Or corpses confused with candy.
Your cheeks puff, withdraw.
You’re silver in ceramic.
If I were a romantic I’d say
you belong in the painting.
Longing, always. But I am
a romantic. When we strolled
the botanical gardens we found longing
in the plants deemed poisonous.
How close I get to each sweet thing.
How close each is to death.

(originally published in Pif Magazine, Winter 2018)

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)

Polyamory

we walk parched lips from downtown
to the jazz & rib fest you tell me
you love too many at once

I count the number I love at the moment
but we lose track of headlights
following the other’s every move

neither of us know how to get there
how to make music & when we arrive
jazz is faint & we don’t listen to sporadic notes

choosing to walk the bridge over the river
under spotlights of webs of moths
between railings & you say insects

are the most important creatures alive
the more of something there is the better
all these millions of arachnids spinning

webs to eat the hearts of bugs they always catch
we stand away from the railing because we
don’t want spiders to creep onto us & start

the work of eating through skin to dig to heart
we don’t look at each other because
you can be in love with so many at once

but not the ones who want it most

 

(originally published in Edison Literary Review, Summer 2017)