Prop

You treat me like a prop, an empty
mug never intended to be filled–
the grip of handle in your hand,
the weightlessness as you lift
to lips and pretend to sip
a sea of words and phrases,
candy hearts and greeting cards
of fake, floppy arms, limply
reaching toward me.

(originally published in Magnolia Review, Summer 2020)

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)

Click-Clack

we didn’t do yoga except your feet
on my shoulders & months later

you zip past me with my new lover
on your bicycle      the acacias stink

of memory      you see us arm
in arm on the way to the library

as we used to     too    but when we
kissed was a web spiders clung to

a hunger many legs couldn’t satisfy

 

(originally published in WINK, Winter 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)

Summer Flu

When I come home from work,
you ask me– drunk– to turn on
music, shoot tequila with lime.
But my stomach hasn’t settled
after a long day in the plague.
Today, in the office– the blue-
faced accountant lumbered into
his white pick-up truck mid-day
to go home. Gabby insists the
devil’s inside her. Natalie says
she’s walking on string. Jim–
healthy since 2014– told of a
friend who had bird flu and
survived, but lost a thumb
(years later being something
even he could laugh about).
But I feel fine, beside the knot
in my gut. I am told to eat bread,
rice, applesauce, and toast to settle
the stomach, but I choose burger,
rare, because I want to sail a shore
with risk. To fight fire with…
I know I live in raging flames.
But everything around me
seems tame and far away–
cancer, car accidents, shootings.
This is what people joke about.
We assume we’ll see tomorrow
those who leave today. But look
at the bags under our eyes, prune
skin we are ourselves, sapped of
sun within bricks of artificial light.

 

(originally published in The Cannon’s Mouth, Fall 2019)