Memory

Inconsequential some things I remember–
each World Series winner
of the past forty years or, say,
brushing my teeth last month, blood
in my spit, then finding the measured
infinity of my eyes in the mirror.

I forget most things about my father
most days.

Sure. I remember
the gray-red beard,
his crooked back, faded jeans.
The freshwater scent of Polo Blue.
And those brown, gentle eyes–
but his voice?

Mixture of sediment and tire
smoke rising from gravel,
a ‘55 Ford Thunderbird fading from view.

I started journaling to remember better
but now write poems under dim lamp on my desk.

(Years later, you know which
one. Gold, curvable neck. A thrift store.
But you’re still no good
with the finer details.)

A waterfall of my father. Illusions
of life doodle-sketched
in some spacey lobe of my mind.

I wonder: do I give myself enough
credit? What’s worth remembering?

I am inside a coffee shop, writing,
surrounded by people I won’t recall.
I look for a subject. A gray, old man sits
on the patio with book and beagle
yet never goes inside to buy anything.

I pay for him. I pay him
in remembering.

 

(originally published in Wizards in Space, 2018)

Widow

Every night Mom drowns
in loud TV next to dusty organ
bloomed with portraits. Family’s

family, including things:
the security system greets her
when returning from the store.

The red carpet, the torn couch,
the gunky dishwasher. Coming home
from work through a sea of dark Ohio

into a reverberating house of off-white
rooms so silent the garage door screams
shut. The floors don’t creak, they wail

and faucets cry. A cabinet full
of Cabernet. A corkscrew hangs,
rusted at the hinge.

(originally published in Oyster River Pages, Summer 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)

Penny / Heart

& when you sleep (waking
life is not cheap)
I know our love’s worth
something

out on our back patio
drinking bad wine on Tuesday
& the dog can’t decide
which side of the glass

he wants to live
on, the wild & murk
or the safe & stone.

I’m living life under
fluorescents or artificial
light, got a wallet made
of air I’m thumbing through,

somehow living & learning
despite the change
or lack of– glass

clinks on bronze floor.
I’m saying I love the sundown
& evening air, my fingers
locked in yours, unloose.

 

(originally published in Panoplyzine, Winter 2017)

Half

to cut immigration
is to cut me half

-Filipino I am already
halved quartered diced you take

a knife to my mother she keeps
a knife at her neck we both are

American in the blade of the word
I used to pretend to be more

my more-accepted half
to have to choose

is to have nothing

 

(originally published in Serving House Journal, Fall 2017)

Mid-December

The alley is paved with old bricks
blackened by rain. I used to want

conformity, that tidal hope gripping
your gut. You must have a family soon.

Everywhere babies are sprouting
but garden sprinklers are off because winter

is near, crackled dirt longing for storm–
how long since the rough of gale and rain?

Seasons, in these frigid airs. And my seedling
heart stopped growing soon after its first beat.

 

(originally published in The Coachella Review, Winter 2017)

To Never Return to L.A.

I hiked through the backwoods of Yellowstone
wondering why my life did not change
with every step. That beauty could
become so manufactured. Looking over
another massive canyon– my third in the west
in three days– what’s so good about it?

You could fall into adventure, sure.
You can fall into anything.
Love, of course. Art.
Self-loathing.
Escape.

I drove aimlessly for three months,
watched landscapes lose their painted strokes.
The bristled edge of sky inside me turned
and dried, brought me back to deserts I camped in

on the side of the road many freezing nights,
my breath the hot air on windshield,

blocking my sight of stars,
those lost things guiding me
that smog made me forget.

 

(originally published in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Summer 2017)

Thirst

dishes are an exercise in repetition
why do we go through our days so quickly

we must be unhappy with material possessions
more specifically
how we sustain ourselves

I am amazed I have sustained myself for so long

teenage years of french fries and ice cream
adult years of french fries and frozen pizza

there is nothing that greases my heart
more than eating macaroni and cheese
naked at 2 am

when I am bloodless

pots and pans hang on hooks on the kitchen ceiling

the landlord says our water bill is exorbitant

I think it is extraordinary
the parts of ourselves
we must pay for

steam billows out of the dishwasher
when it is done
we pay for that too

in august we chopped heads off of asparagus

rinsed our hands of the green bits
blue antibacterial bubbled white

champagne bottles cling to the wall
someone please set them free

so we can keep that bent and dying orchid
on our kitchen island

 

(originally published in Eunoia Review, Autumn 2016)