Dean’s Birthday

Sometimes a Saturday is candle wax
the length from Cleveland to Columbus, a highway
of years burning blue in early spring, a handful

of flowers you hand an old friend who seems
a little aged now: a new house, a long mortgage,
a luxury car and me, unemployed,

eating pizza and fries.
He drinks red wine (party
hard weekend) –

these blood-drinks of youth.
I buy him nothing
he gives me space in return.

 

(originally published in The Heartland Review, Fall 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)

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)

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)

Glass Chess

I showed you how pawns function
on a glass chessboard

they sacrifice themselves to protect who they love

and what rooks and knights risk
in the modern age

there is a hierarchy in how to approach things

cigarette smoke permeated the wooden air
a phonograph streamed Brahms
I could never quite understand complexity

we sat on couch crumbs with our jeans touching

your friend gave me a rare Bahamian seashell
mottled with beige and caramel
I could not hear the ocean
no matter how hard it pressed against my ear

but with my head against your chest
I remember the beating tide

back then I was composed of sand

scooped whole by strangers hands
learning the gravity of myself
before dissipating

one day
I will build you a castle

 

(originally published in Walking is Still Honest, Summer 2016)

Nomads

I know you want to leave, to take a bus
out of Columbus, to fight your battle
in Seattle, or Denver, or wherever
your heart may lead–

to be a nomad is to go
where the landscape dreams,
and to scrunch it all in your hand
like wisps of dandelion in the wind,

and in your palm its feathery white
is dissolution–

however far you go, know those you meet
will occupy the rooms in the tiny hostel
of your heart, sharing wisdom and laughter
despite however many days we spend apart.

 

(originally published in The City Key, Spring 2016)

Future Men

boys who would be future men 
squealed at new Pokemon.
mimicked moves, karate'd birds

flapping and winging and flinging
     OVER NINE THOUSAND!
miles per hour

and things
eight-dollar K-B Toys 
always break 

blue mega man 
onto metal bunk
bed swung 
                              CLANKCLUNK

sprints'a from kitchen, lotsa surge, 
hi-ye-ho bullet train 
                              small-scale rail

    the basement 
       digging
digging through purple bin
     TREASURE! TREASURE!

homemade pogs; on one side 
the cut-out cartoons 
from game manuals, Zero so cool
his long blonde hair, red armor
give me his sword no 
          it's mine 
          x-buster
    circular cutting 
rise to heroes controlled  
  control was so easy

yes, yes, think of life–
death in digital terms

those boys were the masters then

    the future men and their
    cold basement summers


(originally published in Suburban Diaspora)