In Waves

It comes in waves, the grief, though you laugh
as you say so, because we are in the Atlantic,
children again, uppercutting large tides,
and I never learned to swim, but the saying–
the metaphor– is true, the water is relentless,
and we were states away from the hospital,
where your father was, when you got the
call, and later, in our hotel’s game room,
there was a balancing act– you, your family,
the ping-pong paddles on the black table,
the plastic balls rolling slowly onto the floor
at the end of another meaningless game, the
bouncing, then physics, entropy ending–
how else to reconcile lost time? This dusting,
this airing out, now, swimsuits soaked from
the salt of the sea, this fabric, this residue
dripping off of this vacation into the old
Civic, the broken A/C, the windows’ open
breeze, silence of the road lodged between
green hills, so endless, our breathing.

 

(originally published in Creative Writing Ink’s Monthly Contest, November 2019 Winner)

Drinking a Rhinegeist Truth

10:33 AM on July 4th
                  & if that ain’t some
                  gunslinging fortune

     my drinks have teeth
                      can’t mix with coffee

I am trying to stay awake
                      I am trying to stay

a firework of politically conscious
colors

most mornings the soup of ritual

I gnaw at the aluminum’s tab
                      when my beer has ended

I am not satisfied
                            no
                                 I am not satisfied

with this ending

 

(originally published in Datura, Fall 2019)

Pillar of Salt

& here in my convulsions, inside my Catholic upbringing,
the blue blanket of childhood– an introduction to sexuality–
I thought I’d turn into a pillar of salt. That God Himself
would descend, golden baritone, with his judgment fist.
But it was high school and I knew nothing of Hebrew,
despite forced classes studying the Old Testament and New,
both being death knells until the ringing bell of class-
change. Stranded in the hallways of youth the orange sky
unending. And I’d chant to myself in my bedroom, horny
and hungry, for a shared stereo. To speak common language
with underlying thread. An undying. That I could stay lost
in the map of Star’s music and be worthy of sexuality, too.

 

(originally published in Carpe Bloom, Winter 2019)

New July

This army of cicadas returns home
from a distant war– old love, we
retreat to our comforts after pulling
weeds– Kentucky Mule burns,
melting ice at the bottom of
the glass, I am on your couch
then inevitably your floor,
your hand on my knee.
Chatter from the gathering rises
just outside the back door,
footsteps up the stairs,
and we embrace against
the humming refrigerator,
pushing toward a lush
new vegetation.

 

(originally published in Adelaide, Fall 2019)

Ill Pizzicato

Too tired to play a love song–
the strings on this violin must be sick.

Pizzicato, pizzicato. Pestering
the soundscape. Some days are for sitting

in bed arguing– the toilet flushes.
Your roommate must be sick

of us on the verge of breaking up and
throwing too much of ourselves against

the wall. The bang-bang-bling to distract
ourselves– we contract ourselves to another

week, at least. Then the same: four
bland walls and our muted voices

pestering the soundscape of
what we used to call Paradise.

(originally published in Setu, Summer 2020)

Now That the End Is in Sight

Our shared strength wanes–
vaxxed, we talk about the end
like a peek of sunrise through
the blinds. Yes, beyond
winter depression we just had
depression and didn’t know
it. Spring sun’s out and
we are outside drinking.
Kids graze by like
the virus never happened.
But I was there. I was
strong. Even as a kid,
finding my father crumpled
on the floor and convulsing,
eyes rolled to the back of his
head during his stroke,
I calmly dialed 911
and waited until the
ambulance arrived, and
I was fine the whole time.
But when my sister
screeched her SUV’s tires
into our driveway, I let
go. A lifeboat. I ran
into her arms, crying,
not knowing how to say
anything I wanted to say,
and she just held me
and said it’s going
to be okay– but she
didn’t know. This past
year, I’ve held you to tell
you it’s going to be okay,
but how could I know?
Now that the end is in
sight, we wait for the light,
wilting in its arms to meet it.

(originally published in Capsule Stories, Spring 2021)