I grew up with a yard full of worthless
a ministry of rare Earth metals there was
a patch of grass to sometimes lay in
I’d reflect the sun never photosynthesizing
there is an unwell that swells in me whenever
I go home to Cleveland the gunsmoke clouds
always gathered above where the rabid dogs
would bark & I was raised beside inoperational
cars my father cranking the crowbar to lugnuts
of too many punctured tires no spares unused
a basement of bolts and lubricants white bottled
Dad spoke mechanics to me incomprehensible
tongue until a tire burst on a dead stretch
of highway the other day I had to pull over
and recall the broken way he explained things
(originally published in The Green Light, Spring 2020)
The endless universe of this coffee-church
I blend into the ground, ground
anxiety into yours, I met you there, pit-
pattering footsteps I couldn’t stop
listening to. I asked myself
if this was a joke
the way only nervous nothing I said
to you. Yah-yah-yah.
I am awake, I know
over this river I
you reach your hand
cold, wet illness.
Neither of us are
(originally published in Academy of the Heart and Mind, Winter 2021)
I don’t remember the phrase, spray-painted
on a house in Wilkinsburg, that caught you
on the way to work some May or June day–
it couldn’t have been Miracles do happen–
too cliché. It was some unexpected inverse.
I remember you mentioned you liked to think
there was a man named Miracle in there
(this must be a clue) – the details elude
me. Reflecting, it seems miraculous to have
survived this haze of spring turned summer,
fall– memory’s the rain hovering over our fake
Centennial Park. I kept throwing sacks of dust
into the spot on the cornhole board that would
end the game, but as the game kept going,
the show kept steering to the opposite end of reality.
In my mind, this house–
wooden panels splinting, gray paint chipping–
was surrounded by overgrown grass
becoming harder and harder to see past.
You cut the grass, the grass grows faster!
This show was like that. Have you seen
the viral video of the tree just struck
by lightning? The inside’s raging red,
an orange flame self-contained, but
I like to think that tree was in Miracle’s
lawn, and he was zen in tending
to the heat and ever-growing grass.
But all the forces were conspiring–
twice the office toilet wouldn’t stop
running beyond reasonable control.
The first time was the first week, when
it flooded the floor and drowned
the executive offices. You sent me
to Busy Beaver to buy a monkey
wrench, but no matter how we turned,
the water seeped past carpet.
The second time was at the end. We had
all lived hell, survived it. The water was
relentless, but this time, when you went
in, there was a crowd outside the bathroom
door asking if it was over– the flood, the
show. This time, it was different. You fixed it.
(originally published in Home Planet News Online, Fall 2020)
I am a clicking sound in the tongue of the restaurant–
how would you like to be served how may I serve you
the bones are getting cold in this chicken breast this cutlet
of space I said I’d do anything for cash and it’s true there is
no limit to greed that’s the whole idea space expands
and my atoms stay quantum and still, relatively.
(originally published in Erothanatos, Spring 2020)
I often disappoint myself,
though half-reckoning is
a wreck in the making.
Insensitive interstate a
random number generator,
impartial to chaos. This rush
hour pileup from heart
to mouth. I say I love you
like it is always summer,
but today marks fall. Why this
world spun me into Pittsburgh
eludes me. This is not a yearning
for old light, coated in cinnamon.
I laid my head on your chest
and the rest happened like history.
(originally published in Adelaide Literary Journal Anthology, Spring 2021)
Death is in the shriveled blue and purple
hydrangea bouquet I gifted you. Kathy
bought the same, smaller, but they did not last
so much as linger. Mom calls me from Macy’s–
where she has sold colognes for thirty years–
and says she still struggles. But, on the phone,
I am drunk on a beach towel in a horse cemetery
where Juan Carlos and his team of red ride in
circles over forgotten bones, chasing a ghost-
white ball with a mallet through the empty space
between goalposts. In the first chukker, my sister–
who broke the news I somehow already knew
with a call in the dark of a dorm room– texts
me that she’s thinking of me today. At halftime,
when spectators are invited to flatten divots
on the field with their shoes, Kathy leaves
to help her family move, and the moment
she reverses her car from our tailgating spot,
I answer a call I am unaware of from my other
sister before seeing her text ask if I am okay,
that it sounded like I was in an accident
and drove into grass. No, I tell her, I am day-
drunk among ponies in the withering days
of summer. But what I don’t tell her is
on the way here, Kathy didn’t see the turquoise
minivan she nearly plunged into, and all we could
do as passengers was clutch the leather beneath
us as she sped full-throttle on thin and curvy roads
through the woods. We prayed to whatever tree
was nearest– birches in a blur– prayed the whole forest
to provide a signal to remind us we are, briefly, breathing.
(originally published in Sampsonia Way Magazine, Summer 2020)
At Tango there’s a half-full bucket under the urinal
yet no one wants to talk about Piss Christ at the
dinner table. It’s the eve of Christmas Eve and
you tell me my family is your family. I don’t
want to eat the bucatini anymore. The short
rib in grease is a clog the whipped ricotta
is trying to lubricate down my gullet.
We don’t want dessert at Grandpa’s. The
cookies are rolling stones and I can’t
mention Piss Christ. Everyone sits in
a circle and talks accomplishments.
The architect, the dancer, the lawyer.
My name is in the credits of a movie.
Who cares? No one can talk about
Everyone talks about wanting Yang Ming,
but it shut down. Because of the rats and
flies and spider webs and black mold
and uncovered fruit and the workers not
washing their hands after trips to the toilet.
I want to go, too. Seems like a great place
to talk about Piss Christ.
On Christmas morning we open presents
and Liz mentions a chef from China she
wants to reconnect with, but his restaurant
closed. She’s not sure what part of China
he’s from, or even the spelling of the place.
This spurs talks of other defunct restaurants,
which returns us to Yang Ming. Michael
mentions the urinal at Tango with the half-
empty bucket beneath. Of course I snapped
a photograph. Of course I show everyone.
Mathew says this reminds me– what’s that
piece of art? And I respond Piss Christ!
But everyone’s thinking of Duchamp’s
Fountain, and we all take another bite
of the home-fried bacon and golden
scrambled eggs, seeped in a tradition
that will seemingly last forever.
(originally published in Harbinger Asylum, Spring 2020)
all this balance nothing to show for it
seesaw the most patient of virtues–
get up god damn it
when you fall can you please get the fuck up
lemons fire from cannons
zest on my back
& I am always running
can’t say the words right in my head
but in the glitch of No Music just levers clicking
& motherfuckers shouting woo! in the sorry
(originally published in TRIBES, Fall 2021)
I’m in bed an engine revs a motorcycle outside
someone on this street screams slow down
but I finish our pack of blueberries, I apologize
what for? We were both eating them. The small
sour ones. The large C-flat ones. Near the end
I say these kinda taste weird. You say they’re
very sweet. I apologize what for? Where I’m at
I can complain about such sweetness.
(originally published in impspired, Fall 2021)
When I first saw the broom stand
upright in the room, I thought, witchcraft.
I couldn’t sleep for days after that.
Not because it tumbled and crashed
to the floor in a roar of unforeseen
thunder, but because it was thrilling
to see the way we could play with
gravitational pull. Can my chewy
be tossed across the office with
a knuckleball axis tilt at the end?
I’ve witnessed tricks, your robot-
walk into a wall, your near-miss
backflip kick to the hanging amber
lights off the ceiling. I see everything
that happens here from my suite
on the floor, which is why, one day,
when the moon is tugging the world
the right way, I’ll sneak out my pillow
into the hall, past the conference room.
When you search for me, I will stand
on two legs in the shadows, ready
to capture your reaction on camera.
(originally published in Communicators League, Fall 2021)