Following a Trip to the L.A. Zoo

wear sunscreen you’ll thank me faster

do not come to me bearing ailments

it was just yesterday gifts of topaz and corundum your ring-fingers will dance will light over penny slot screens aplomb

some shared jackpot of drunkenness

or worse

sparks from fireflies in the Georgia summer floating flickering stars lightly humming

when a hum turns into a birdcall we whistle like sparrows on a branch

twigs in our talons we offer to the other

twinkle of the moon through the swaying branches above

voices like an owl-song who

are we to hover over the other’s hopes who

will pinch us find we are composed of feathers too raggedy to summon the strength

fingers meekly bristle against your cheek soft as the whirring of the window fan we drift to sleep

so California is the drought I cannot feel it devoid of breathing like a sandstorm

California someday drifts into the Pacific I am my own island thirsting for wet soil

your cotton-morning taste will itself someday drift

 

 

(originally published by The Virginia Normal)

Golden Gate

I listened, during that foggy morning stroll
on the Golden Gate, when you alluded
to what it must mean to jump,
how it must feel to fall.

The foghorn blared every five minutes
from some ship we could not find beneath us.
We peered our heads over the low railing
and inhaled the gray.

Red telephones rang in our heads.
I can still hear the ringing
from the hotel’s broken phone–
thin wires dangled into lines

on our palms, curved and infinite–
an atlas to guide the whispers
we cupped into our hands
at night.

I feared faraway screams
or the deafening sound of cymbals, shards
of metal launched from the hinges
of what was thought secure–

I did not expect
in an instant, without percussion–
I did not expect the fog, how sterile
it seems, like the afterlife, how it turns

the familiar into silhouettes–
to make this any easier.

 

(originally published in riverbabble, Issue #28, Winter 2016)

My Father Was a Beekeeper

I always knew my father was allergic to bees
but it wasn’t until his obituary
I learned he was once a beekeeper.

In those days, I hear, he prayed
to his veil– only to re-emerge, hours later,
having danced with God
under every umber swarm.

He was a gifted storyteller
but it wasn’t until his stroke
at seventy-four made me listen,
when his mouth betrayed his brain.

In his final years he would repeat,
the end of bees is the end of man.
So, heaven in the soft petals
scattered in the grass.

Young violets lined his coffin.
All I wanted was to listen

to stories he told before,
details I had forgotten.

Around the cemetery,
bees still glissando

through gardens not unlike the ones
he dug into his blackened fingernails–

honey and sweat, story-
pollinated requiems, harmonies

heard in bountiful
fields of bloodroot.

 

(originally published in Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal – Spring 2016)

*Nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology

Dog on the Patio

Whenever I let the dog out
onto our small back patio
on sunny afternoons
and he lays on familiar brick

scratching his ears,
nose curious and wandering,
I remember my father

who, in the endless days of retirement,
learned the lawn better
than his calloused palms:

every humpbacked tree and drooping limb,
every snake and gopher hole,
every new and fallen anthill,
every cobweb on the lamppost,

where to find toads after rain,
how to catch them–

when he did not strive to create utopia
by chiseling trees into magazine models,

I often found him on a patch
of freshly-mown grass,
scratching his smoky, sun-basked beard,

waiting for the wind to speak,
to say more to him than I ever did.

 

(originally published in Black Elephant Lit, Spring 2016)

The Sacrament of Confession in Catholic School

In kindergarten, I sketched a vagina as a circle
lost in strands of hair, similar to a scribbled sun.

The inklings of want would soon
set sail. When I showed the drawing

to my mother, she somehow knew what it was.
Her suspicious eye taught me life is the pursuit

of the scribbled sun. The first time I drove a car alone,
zooming up the hill toward the highway, I took pictures

of the sunset without watching the road, as if heaven
could be captured with my own fingers. At sixteen

I stole Snickers bars at my first job. The dollar store
went under. It could have been worse. I told the priest

maybe God thinks I touch myself improperly.
He said to toss the dirty magazines, meaning

I didn’t change a thing. In marching band, I pressed
my mouth against the trombone’s silver mouthpiece

and kissed when I blew, spit coursing through the instrument’s body
until it dripped onto the checkered floor. I didn’t lose my virginity

too early. By then it was too late. I have seen the L.A. River
rub itself dry beneath the metal bridges, withered and silent,

while the ocean wets perpetual sand, and all I could do
was run my fingers through the tide’s receding hair.

In seventh grade the school librarian declared if anyone
in class could finish A Tale of Two Cities, it was me.

I did not finish. I was twelve and mastering arousal,
turning pages with fingers on thighs inside of skirts,

skulking my hand up to God, to the first time
I knew sanctity– and the feeling, unlike faith,

was enough to make me believe.

 

(originally published in Corium Magazine, Spring 2016)

“I Wish I Knew How to Quit You,” Says the Moon

We know it is us
who wish to quit the moon.

We close our eyes our jaggedness
could drive the sun away but never
in the way our metaphors could.

Still we write the moonlight
into the sand and growl
at the tide

and again
when the tide returns.

We cry from the shape
our lives took to intersect–

an hourglass
filled with sugar,
or a snail. Or a million

hourglasses, a million snails,
a million glimmering shells
in a measured slowness.

You were talking about the sunrise–
but I never wanted to look.

 

(originally published in Thin Air, Spring 2016)

Short Return to LA

With every step, the air parted
and spoke your name.
Smog and all, would you forget

the jagged alleys where
we fermented, became wine?
Its knife cut ribbons, red

repelling the pressure of four A.M breathing.
Driving home from San Francisco down the coast,
each Joshua tree prayed

to a vastness greater than the desert.
The long, Pacific vistas became the sheen
of old Mustangs caught beneath shadows

of Wilshire’s vacant towers.
Our heels kicked dust
and browned the sky–

ever were the hours sand
on the beach, infinite and pearling
a microscopic glint…

the ocean still haunts–
its salt so embedded
in our skin.

 

(originally published in Rust+Moth, Spring 2016)