Tuesday Night Karaoke at Hounddog’s Pizza

Another weeknight. Of course
we’re being responsible. Hell,
we chose the karaoke spot
with the Christians congregating
at a table before the mic. The
first from the group sings
Reliant K; the next sings
Hozier’s Take Me to Church
and they all nod and clap
their hands. I want to
tell them it’s a goddamn
metaphor. The whole thing.
I mean, life. Not simply the
lyrics (although worship
in the bedroom seems
obvious– from Adam’s
rib came Eve, hard, both
of them, I mean they bit
into the apple, crunched
to the core, came hard
in the likeness of God’s
merciless love. But what
these friends mean is
a crucifix hanging
above the bed, in front
of the mirror, so that
they can watch themselves
pray in the presence
of Jesus). I mean I want to
tell them but I don’t say
anything, and they leave
as I hit the stage to sing
Psycho Killer, leave before
I can tell them you start
a conversation / you
can’t even finish it.
You’re talking a lot but
you’re not saying
anything. Run, run,
run, run, run, run
away.

 

(originally published in MORIA, Spring 2019)

Aladdin’s

Funny, thinking back, the restaurant– hell,
the industry, those incessant phone calls
in the midst of rush, my snaking past
corners with three plates of hummus
and shawarma in aluminum, warm
from the kitchen, only to waste
in a stranger’s presence, scraps
on porcelain I’d bus, then zigzag
through the floorplan of tables.

Funny, thinking now, how little has
changed– insecure in economics,
I’ve jumped the lilypads of job
after job, the backbreaking work
of conforming, of each return home
with something new to say but I’ve
said it, I’ve said my best, my cap-
stone thesis shredded in California,
back when full of possibility–

I desire a bowl of time
loops. Cereal in my milk.

I didn’t even use silverware
in college, a joke inside a riddle
presented as a gift I constantly
unwrap, umbrellas of green
folding into myself in the rain,
suffocating, blinding, this pirouette
of place, this unfixable sedan
screaming off the shoulder
of the highway, smoke
signals ablaze and late
for work.

(originally published in Little Rose Magazine, Winter 2019)

Solace

It was not solace we sought in the woods,
but rather, logs to provide fire for years.
Having known too many temporary timbers that
smoke then ash in small stretches of time slung
across the small rooms one week to the next,
among the dying leaves we wanted no others.
To watch what turned red on the fringe of the
world’s balance on a sling so fragile we chose
to forget. How long have we known each other?
How long will we? Days whisk into years
without stopping. We know nothing will be
forever; just as every good memory builds
the foundation of happiness worn like vodka
on jeans. If there were a blemish it was houseflies
swept off the cabin’s hardwood. Wings on bodies
in the margins, inert. How soon for us, too.
How winds change in a week but the fire
we started on arrival lingered smoke after
the last departing tires moved pebbles from
the driveway into life’s wild, winding road.

 

(originally published in Dime Show Review, Winter 2019)

Another Drunken Summer

Last summer, clunks of glass,
grapefruit juice across the veiled
table. We stayed drunk

through sweltering June, to cool
off with Bella Sera pinot grigio,
Tostitos, queso. How much is

too much pleasure? These half-
empty days of water we are
not eager to drink. Sit in shade

til sundown, table umbrella up
to block the cancer sun we
know. We know.

(originally published in Kissing Dynamite, Spring 2018)

A.S.

You still haunt my longing;
the lantern never was yet
burned louder some years
than others– certain days,

you were a faraway dream–
facing the tide, your black
hair and literature. The Pacific,
the Atlantic, the frozen

December we met again,
you said you were unstable–
ice drove us down dark streets,
engine idle in the middle of a lot.

It takes knowing how your face moves,
intimate and drunk in negative light,
our immovable stone eroding
in the wind of time.

 

(originally published in Clackamas, Spring 2019)

Remnants

You don’t hold me tight so I know you want to go.

You already let go of alcohol, caffeine, Dexter after the tumor.

My mother told me, after my father died, she would never love another man.

When she loved another man, she refused to let him die beside her.

Now he leaves her rain-soaked voicemails from Italy.

She drives to Cleveland, Kentucky, Ann Arbor, to avoid the thought of him.

Lost loves are remnants of embers but that’s it.

When I was with Amy, she drank coffee and I did not.

The mornings, now, I caffeinate myself a buzzing lantern.

Who sleeps that well anymore?

Sara tells me one of her exes nightly swallowed eight Benadryls to sleep.

Pink pills stack inside us in our battles against sleeping alone.

I have a soft blue blanket and a queen-sized bed.

When a day leaves don’t ask me to differentiate between darkness and dream.

 

(originally published in I-70 Review, Fall 2019)

In Pittsburgh, the First Time,

you told me Friendship is a road
split by two roads, parallel to Liberty,
and I told you that was a poem,
but you said, no, I’m just giving you
direction, and I looked up from your eyes
to the green sign reading Friendship Ave
and knew what you meant. Friendship–
we had yet to spend our first night
in the city, one that would end in
a dark cocktail bar for a dance party
that never materialized. In the morning,
we rode rented bicycles with bent
spokes and a click in their spinning
and I could only follow your lead
and cycle through streets still unfamiliar
to me– we weaved through lonely roads
to the Strip District, then stopped
at the Sixth Street Bridge to admire
the glimmer of the river that warm
winter day and continued until
we found the hill to Randyland
too steep to ride so, off our bikes,
we walked side-by-side up the path
until reaching our destination;
we locked our broken bikes
and kept walking.

 

(originally published in Bindweed Magazine, Winter 2019)

Pins

Cigarettes and your hair I tangle myself in our scribble of night,
bar patio, cheap beer until taxed. I’m saying the gunk in my heart
will kill me before you, these smoke-breath evenings the steady
rhythm of the planet. So I’m asking you to come in. The steering
wheel on your car spins in a forever rotation, circles and circles
spilling exhaust like a blanket over this dim, confusing street.

 

(originally published in Corvus Review, Fall 2018)