North on the 101 Toward Portland

One moment I am breaking– nearly
out of gas at Junctions Pass. Another
mile before construction stops me:

it’ll be a few, a truck has to load up.
The first pause on this day of near-
death began in San Francisco

on my sister’s couch– I shared a Lyft
to my car in Potrero Hill with
Amy– the same name as the girl

I left the day before, but I kept
going. Almost ran someone over.
Strayed near a swerving taxi off

the crosswalk. Lost attention when
a light turned green, ignored horns.
This crystal absent-mindedness–

too many things happening I
never had a chance to process
what I was driving from.

But how weeds grow on the
bark of redwoods. How some
hills are angled such that their trees

live sideways, and then you wonder
how they bear their own weight.
You just wonder.

(originally published in The Local Train Magazine, Summer 2020)

Multnomah Falls Spits Mist onto My Glasses

Six months after, it was April,
and I still lived in my Ford
after moving out of your house.

I drove to Oregon, found a waterfall
to pose in front of, my familiar wool
and cerulean jacket, a white t-shirt,
my scruffy beard.

In the photograph
the stranger takes,
I smile.

The sun glints off my face.
I wonder what you’re up to
and who takes photographs
of you– is it a stranger?

Am I a stranger now?

 

(originally published in Pif Magazine – 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)

Flotation Tank

close your eyes,
so you forget.

or remember.
whichever submersion

buries deeper
the salt within you.

it is only you afloat,
naked in the darkest night.

your body is a dream sailing
a sea of decomposing dreams,

patches of brown grass
underneath the auburn leaves.

release what you can touch,
especially if it is nothing.

by then it should not matter
if your eyes stay closed.

when they open, find comfort
in what you cannot see.

 

(originally published in Skylark Review, Fall 2016)

Martian Waters

they found water there, so we can move to Mars–
red planet god of war never knew the need for mercy.

the milky way could use another arm,
another trillion, twinkling stars, a slow phase

pregnant with planets bearing
tall pines stabbing pink skies,

white mountaintops a cold heaven.
in America, communities die one tragedy at a time.

our rivers are rancid and oxygen is halitosis.
maybe we’re dreaming, drinking

through sunrise– that’d explain our inability
to reason, expecting god to save us

from a doctrine
more widespread than bullets.

maybe we trust too much– the way
we comfort the grieving, a surplus

of prayer, words passing the breeze.
there were clumps of dead leaves before autumn began.

it’ll be beautiful, what then.
the season will kill and kill.

we’ll mourn our addiction to mercy,
wonder if it’s worth it

to bring a child into the world,
shuttled from her innocent rest

to our blood, soil fresh and familiar.
what’ll autumn do, then,

with winter afraid
to enter a landscape

already dead?

 

(originally published in The Derails Review, 2016)

Eat Your Face

You wanted to eat my face
just as seven A.M. south Oregon fog
conceals trees over a low valley.
I wanted the same of yours.

What you liked was the sky descended:
how you’re able to grip, fleetingly,
the mortal, shifting clouds–
to think, I have touched the untouchable.

Many pines, from a distance, can be held
by two fingers. We can choose to let them dangle
or hold
steady, steady

The fog consumes and rises
while we watch the sun burn slowly west.

When the rain begins,
the soft pattering against the windshield
mimics the sound of your jaw
fake-chomping my cheeks–
nearly-inaudible clicks.

The speedometer oscillates
between sixty-five and ninety.

The hillsides change so suddenly
with every mile– shifting smiles hidden
by a fog you know will also fade.

 

(originally published in VAYAVYA)

*Nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Writing Knights Press in 2017