In Charleston, the Day After the Shooting (2015)

I.

a statue of a dead confederate soldier
looms over the city

community signatures
on the broken cast of a thin tree

the resounding message in red
marker: LOVE WINS

(if love is a gun smoking heavenward
and if love bodies slumped in pews)

II.

a fellow wanderer asks me to photograph him
in front of the scene

he smiles

then takes his iPhone
back
among the strangers

III.

I was a Catholic boy

lost
my way as a man

yet in presence of steeple
and jagged and mighty
tragedy

arrows of prayer quiver inside me
then anger
at tourists and cameras

I know I’m part of
this exhibitionism problem

we’re a crowd of resounding bells
waiting for the next funeral to begin

 

(originally published in The Magnolia Review, Summer 2018)

Country Music

the bleeding radio repeats the same
dead guitars their necks and bodies

another day strings stretch rained
bullets for old fingers to play half-

mast country white and blue so red
throats the shallow soundless holes

peered into to sing sand to bury
the chorus of another city’s silent

prayers God never intends to act

 

(originally published in #theslideshow, Winter 2018)

Losing Another One

Christmas trees
buried
no gifts
nothing left
to unwrap
no one
needs these kinds
of gifts
no one sees
above the trees
look
there is so
much more
to be angry about
think of those
who have lost
the soup
steams the kitchen
sunken chicken
in chunks
salt boils
the tea kettles
green
the minced leaves
mint
leaves
the body
leaves
the mint plant

 

(originally published in New Pop Lit, Spring 2018; nominated for Best of the Net)

Martian Waters

they found water there, so we can move to Mars–
red planet god of war never knew the need for mercy.

the milky way could use another arm,
another trillion, twinkling stars, a slow phase

pregnant with planets bearing
tall pines stabbing pink skies,

white mountaintops a cold heaven.
in America, communities die one tragedy at a time.

our rivers are rancid and oxygen is halitosis.
maybe we’re dreaming, drinking

through sunrise– that’d explain our inability
to reason, expecting god to save us

from a doctrine
more widespread than bullets.

maybe we trust too much– the way
we comfort the grieving, a surplus

of prayer, words passing the breeze.
there were clumps of dead leaves before autumn began.

it’ll be beautiful, what then.
the season will kill and kill.

we’ll mourn our addiction to mercy,
wonder if it’s worth it

to bring a child into the world,
shuttled from her innocent rest

to our blood, soil fresh and familiar.
what’ll autumn do, then,

with winter afraid
to enter a landscape

already dead?

 

(originally published in The Derails Review, 2016)