Silica

i carry infection in saliva
like a point of pride

see, my city reeks of bone

tall skeleton skyscrapers
i’m numb again

as dental drill enters me
year after year

what birthed my decays?

raised to desire new
wants every day

wanting even wanting

my dad worked at a ford factory
after the great depression

churned out a new kid
every few years

seasons of rust
spreading on steel

here’s the sunset
he’d wake us to say &

spend the days molding
the yard
rough hands on saw

that was satisfactory
to him

for me oaks are cold towers &
grass not godmade

took a clump in my mouth
from the graveyard as a child &

i swear i tasted
death
but could not digest it

i’m but a skeleton

all life’s experiences
slip through me

masticating childhood
no pondering
the future with mom and dad

scooping fries at ponderosa &

we’d always go for seconds &

mint ice cream after

 

(originally published in Burningword Literary Journal, Fall 2018)

For Erica

here’s your evergreen nowhere        blue sky eyewhites your
lust for your best life         I mean here is the reason sister

to run into you at North Market      its coffee shop
years after hopscotch       your palm       tree blood

underneath it sister the last time we stayed up past
4 AM      watching nature documentaries     searching

for birds     it was a metaphor at the time     flying
out each other’s eyes      how we’d be wordless

we’re wordless

 

(originally published in Reservoir, Summer 2018)

The Drone of Faceless People

Rolling Acres mall
outside the record store
white hats enter
to leave shadows

every small step
a rattle of longing
blueprints for after
-college dreams

rosewood a tinge
in glass displays
reflecting fluorescence
so bright you sneeze

rockets then angle
toward the stars
didn’t the Etch-
A-Sketch always lure

you canvas and sky
hunched over red
tablet twisting
striated knobs

handmade lines
stretched star to
star everything
tethered

together
a fishing
wire
baited

 

(originally published in Scarlet Leaf Review, Summer 2018)

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)

The Uncertainty Principle

Quantum physics have never been
more real than in this steaming
silver pot of Annie’s shells
and cheddar butter and milk
I’m cooking and the cat in our house
attacks crumpled-up balls
of paper yet sprints in fear
when a toilet is flushed. We are
all in orbit. You and me and
Earth and spoon in pot
mixing components into
tornado and I don’t know
where the melting butter
ends up nor the cheese
or where I’ll be in ten
years or a thousand
because our atoms
can diverge into
two paths any given
moment

          THE FIRST PATH

the one where you and I and most our friends and family are still alive
because ten years is a long time    someone both of us love has died
it’s my father I see dandelions on the dead a suit and tie something
he never would have worn & your mother her silky dress and
Avon perfume wafting through the wake      the frost her
permanent winter bed

          THE SECOND PATH

the one where you and I and all our friends and family are still alive
because ten years is a long time     someone both of us love will die
I see a bowl of ashes I see dead dandelions wilting on the stove
the steam carries souls up into my nose where I recall the heat
and depth of the Grand Canyon   sun pressing against my
neck Dad in his thick glasses & sweat     arms around me &
I pick up a stone & throw it over the edge

 

(originally published in The Courtship of Winds, 2019)

Arcade Bar

The movement
neither initiated.
The joysticks dance
in orchestral unison,
taking turns missing
the light on the screen.
The proximity advantage
of cooperation.
Our feather jackets brushed
and the crowd howled around us,
moved in herds – an infinite number
of lives in which to press
the red kick button. Not a red
exit. Not to drink water in excess
of the salt, shake it over,
shake your damn hands and clap
once, clap twice, shiver in the
thorn-wine applause– let us
shiver within our bones.

 

(originally published in Kaaterskill Basin, Spring 2018)

The Christmases That Were Forever

my own advice: treat every gift
like you’re nine in ninety-seven.
rip the heart out of your parents’
wrapping jobs. don’t notice
the hanging phone calls,
the coils of collection,
the foggy snarls at the door,
the stay-in-bed allure radiating
from big, red boxes hidden
behind the couch for after
we opened all the other presents,
for after we grew up,
after we got jobs.

 

(originally published in The Drunken Llama, Fall 2017)

Reading Through an Old Journal

Work. Sex. Tacos. My everyday experiences
recorded in detail. Life now is a notebook
in which I don’t write anything down.

The callus on my middle finger used to be
stained with 2 A.M. ink after my days fluttered
vividly into pages before sleep. In one entry,

I recount a dream with my friend Alyse where
we’re in a forest digging morning soil
shouting, save the earth! save ourselves!

Today I sit with laptop at the mantle
of my past, sipping hot coffee to thaw
the winter-frozen ground of yesterday.

 

(originally published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Summer 2017)

Look Up in Summer

give me cloud weaved tan
& brown & pill yes
to gulp down my throat
& make will the ill of my body

give pasture & clay &
another day to call mom
she walks dusty trails alone
in May in wind in sigh
& goodbye

give ghosts to call clouds
& memories of dad proud
of young farming days
me sitting in the plow

along the way the sky changed
& cast fishing nets to catch
the dead alive in my head

 

(originally published in The Blackstone Review, Summer 2017)