Schizotrope

Finale was the first program I used to
compose music, in eighth grade, back
when my concern was to score colorful,
simple role-playing games I had created
with RPG Maker 2000. A couple years
later, I used new software, hunched
in the dark of my mom’s living
room, toying with FL Studio’s virtual
equalizers, knobs, and keyboard to craft
Schizotrope, the name of the album
I wrote to process a breakup,
an attempt to conjure you through
some combination of melody
and soundfont. When I listen
now, I hear us both a kind
of cacophonous ghost. Back
then, it was simple to slip on
cheap earbuds and recede into
my childhood bedroom, where we
did what I thought– when growing
up– was growing up. So shifted the
trajectory of my songs. And speaking
again of early sex, I sang off-key into my
coffee-stained Hewlett-Packard’s built-in
microphone, made a MIDI sound
marginally authentic to gift myself, in
the future, reverberations of my coping.

 

(originally published in Artvilla: Poetry Life & Times, Fall 2019)

Competitors

Competition is a cedar you settled
with. Because I was digging holes

all over Texas rooting you another
tree. Oh, Fort Worth could’ve been

the birthplace of a forest, but Austin’s
expanding rapidly, oaks overgrown

with branches lugging encumbering
ambitions. I know. I’ve lived

in Nashville. Los Angeles.
There is no life of transience

without large cockroaches
squished on sidewalks.

 

(originally published in Ariel Chart, Summer 2019)

The Movies

I want to go to the movies I want to see people
act like people I don’t know enough about

anything to know if I know about anything
except let mise en scene keep my mouth

watering I am happy to drop yellowy
popcorn in my lake to swim the butter

and I want to laugh like a lake and ripple
in the conflict of others because if this

is the life I am meant to live one
of darkness surrounded by strangers

I want us to at least see the same thing

(originally published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Fall 2021)

Dream with Patchwork Moon

My love, I want to show you this strange moon:
a quilted wine and blue, half the charcoal sky–
but you are playing a game, a Crash Bandicoot

offshoot where you are a humanoid frog who jumps
and spins across 3-D landscapes. I ask you please
come outside there is a nervous crowd gathering

for this cosmic anomaly. But no one dies because
I wake and recall my childhood summers spent
on the cold, brown, teddybear carpet of my basement,

hands on controller, eyes mesmerized by polygons.
My father would slowly descend the stairs then ask
me to walk with him– as he often did the last

years of his life– that there was a whole world
out there, the world, and if I would walk once
with him he would show me, please, just once.

 

(originally published in Vagabond City Lit, Summer 2019)

The Current

There is a universe where I am
a barista or videographer or marketer

or astronomer. I could have said no–
I skipped an interview– when you asked

if I would come to Palm Springs. When
you said you know what this means if you

go, I could have pivoted and returned
to painting my rented room in sadness.

This matters. This doesn’t. This cyclical
current. Of course we’d split, even after

you said– eating biscuits at the bakery–
the universe gives what you put in.

Yes, perhaps. But I am alive, formless,
confused as the river flowing opposite,

a flight response to a hurricane I would
never fight. I stayed in Seth’s basement

for a week after. Who walked upstream
out from it was never relevant, anyway.

(originally published in CERASUS, Summer 2021)

A.M.

First thought every morning was you: we were to graduate,
set young wings to flame, then fly– but we moved back to our
childhood homes where, instead, wildfires raged through long
landlines, burning our ears in hours of silence miles apart. We tried
to make us work, but the jobs we hated we did not know how to leave.
Me, at the studio, taking photos of lovers; you, at the call center,
straining voice to strangers. How we slept through the same sunrise
in separate beds, rarely awake for the burst of morning. We tried to make
us work. We drank pots of coffee miles apart to stay awake through
the night to watch the darkness die through our windows, wary
of light, the life we had to leave behind.

 

(originally published in VAYAVYA, Fall 2019)

Take the City, Too

you say a package was
stolen from your porch

I am just trying to stay out
of the rain

vent blowing frigid air
through this new home

& you tell me Robert witnessed
the van speeding beyond the jangled suburbs

as if thievery need be
so complicated

stealing happens
on the sidewalk

these blankets of concrete cracked
beneath high-rises

a UPS truck sputters past a pothole
right turn signal blinking, blinking

(originally published in BOMBFIRE, Spring 2021)