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)

Arrival

We were the hardwood floor. Cold squeaks,
outstretched panther palm, red hand,

expected the chlorine. Wax splashed
baby oil eyes and it is citrus– cinnamon, acidic.

Where we were wanted, the pitchfork path
and jagged rim,

this fungus crust metastasis, you twirl
and twirl your index finger until it leaves.

 

(originally published in Scarlet Leaf Review)

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)