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)

Sunrise

Driving west to Columbus from my partner’s house
in Pittsburgh early morning and on I-70 around six
in the rearview there’s a giant burst of orange light nearly
deafening in its glory and my first thoughts are fire and fury
then you’re gone but no it’s a heavenly sunrise and I can’t
remember the last time I witnessed the sun rise though a few
days ago she and I were in Vermont about to hike an
overlook before sunrise to watch it but we couldn’t will
ourselves out of bed and what a world to wake to now
driving alone this big dramatic ball of fury revealing its
magnificence bathing land in light before it softens
            how it could have been one or the other
a burst of beauty or unspeakable tragedy yet from a distance
a bomb might seem as beautiful and harmless as a sunrise
at least until the smoke how with fire too there’s a kind
of enchantment but for this a split second then the anguish
and fury for this sunrise greeting a thousand grieving days

 

(originally published in Old Red Kimono, Spring 2018)

Olive Garden

On the way home from my first Passover
with your family we stop at an Olive Garden

in flyover country, where the waitress tells us
Happy Easter and, when you tell her we forgot

but still want angel hair, she jokes her last
table mistook pesto for alfredo. Sometimes

people confuse one god for another but never
their own, and food is ours– Jesus rising

with the dough of endless breadsticks
descending like ten plates of plagues, first-born

bastards in baskets we need no hunt to find
lest our mouths become black holes absorbing

absurd sanctities of tradition. Separately,
the Garden was where our families would gather

on intermittent nights to write our own Haggadahs
or speak sins of rock stars or mysteries

of faith. Afikomans for truth, perhaps, but instead
of matzo an endless bowl of a salad of words

in which we always beg for more
forgiveness without really wanting that.

And the waitress, before engaging the simplest rotor,
asks us to say when to end airstrikes of parmesan

and it does not matter when we do.

 

(originally published in After the Pause, Summer 2018)

Sunny Days

In memory of Chris Hull

friends don’t
wait for rainy days
to die
there is never
a metaphor
in the weather
the sun laughs
as it always does
when I receive the call
I find the nearest tree
to brace myself
with shade
it’s the only darkness
seventy-six degrees
warm breeze
the car
approaching the hospital
still takes her living
to work
at being alive

 

(originally published in Muddy River Poetry Review, Spring 2017)

Two Guys, Two Gallons of Yuengling, Two Plastic Jugs

Tongues composed of lager and slathered words drip
turbulence from the roadmaps of mouths, the ocean’s
rock and regurgitation. We meandered along brick-paved
roads with half-amber jugs in our hands, how quickly
we drown but how slowly we swayed on swings
in the frigid, desolate playground at night by the highway,
eyes entranced by the spotlight from the city’s hidden heart
we desire but never find but in the beer’s flat hops like a pair
of clumsy trombonists, asynchronous staccatos and B-flat
scales bottling air from silver mouthpiece to S.O.S–

 

(originally published in Cacti Fur, Summer 2016)