At thirteen I awoke to a man-sized bat
waving black-eyed wings at the edge of my bed.
Back then, I believed there were unexplainable things
in the universe. Dad would talk about guardian
angels when he meant luck explains
a kinship with the divine. He still
drove his motorcycle beyond
the age of seventy. He fell asleep
one time in the green countryside
and awoke to blurry shoelaces
of the trucker who slammed into him,
amazed my dad still alive
and the proof in scraped knee
and a busted motorcycle somehow still
operational then driven home. Dad attributed
this, like most things, to angels. I could have believed
for much longer. As a kid, I watched E.T. ride
a bicycle in the window in our lawn every day,
his brown eyes never noticing me. Always
when I pointed this presence to my sister,
he was past the point of seeing.
Soon I stopped believing.
(originally published in The Tau, Summer 2018)
Flowers & God–
you tell me, slipshod,
there’s an afterlife
in the party we’re cheersing
to tonight our whole life
with small glasses of Granddad’s,
noisemakers, & drinking
games. I’d like to drown
in something, listen to Gaelic
music like Dad used to
driving us from school with Pizza Hut
wafting from the trunk those
sunny afternoons. & now that you’ve
lost someone you’re willing to lose
your Bill Hicks-views-sense-
of-self-meaning like we all
funnel ethereal spirit into sky
& swig the rain with
drunken angels I know
you know you’re better than that.
I know you know once
the last attendee’s passed out
on the couch heavy breathing
lips purple you’d check
on him, too. You’d be alone
in the house you grew up in
with phone in your hand
calm and through the static of 911
racing to get the address out
the foaming of your mouth
and when a cop comes you
beg please don’t break this party up
and deny the red flashing lights
(originally published in 8 Poems, Summer 2018)
The legend, according to my sister, goes
you lock yourself in the bathroom, turn off
the lights, say Bloody Mary, spin three times,
then voila! She appears, bloodied,
hands on her face screaming
à la Edvard Munch painting.
I obviously don’t believe in this but
do you have the courage to try?
Catholic school vacuumed religion right
out of me, but I blanket my head in bed
when I can’t explain a house’s creaking.
Believe me– if I believed
that I believed, this wouldn’t be
so scary. I’d ask God to help me.
Say I try this now.
Would a vision make me a believer?
Me, an adult in a bathroom,
chanting a name into the dark.
When my eyes finally opened,
I’d pray to anything– the bathtub,
the toilet, the sink, the sliver of
light beneath the door.
(originally published in We Are a Website, Spring 2018)
I believe in you
with your hand
in my hand,
who I am,
who I have been–
every sin absolved,
in silent prayer
to our prayers.
With your hand
in my hand
is my land,
in the morning.
(originally published in SOFT CARTEL, 2018)
I seek a way to meet heaven without living it
in my excess the money and green, the love and sex
the sexes intertwined like vines and twigs
and doesn’t faith have nice legs? the priest
would ask from afar in this tall wooden structure with
our congregation crooning a Godsong that couldn’t
bring them any closer to God but wasn’t what
we wanted the whole time each other?
in that way I’m still religious
(originally published in KAIROS, Spring 2018)
As if you could find exactly
the base of a triangle–
one long, unsure line.
I am looking for an exit
sign pointing, pointing, pointing.
Outside that red door
wilts confused leaves.
You say there’s a way
to quantify this? That
equations explain everything?
It’s 30 degrees today,
What’s autumn’s angle?
A 180-degree spin.
Math. I don’t trust it.
How Catholic school
assured me the trinity
would save me.
I’ll learn whatever
to warm myself.
(originally published in petrichor, Spring 2018)
I have been inside
a marketing firm
with its own basketball court.
Uninspired employees huffed
then daggered meaningless
the hoop, hoping for renewal,
but no one kept score.
I could relate:
attending Catholic school,
I found it necessary
to ask for forgiveness
in the shower.
I had come to fear
a red-fanged Satan
sporting a porn ‘stache
waiting by the mirror,
covering himself with
a towel, fork in hand–
and me, behind childhood
curtains covered in soot,
water rushing, my body
seal-like from ablution.
(originally published in Sooth Swarm Journal, Summer 2018)
I ask God the mouth the mountain holy
snow where does the rain go in desert
yellow enunciation of healing the sand warm
fingers pressed against a forehead as
firmament or a ruse I’m just saying it’s easy
in growing old to live confused
(originally published in Little Rose Magazine, Winter 2018)
Between floors I meet calm–
meditation when firefighters
arrive. Frank O’Hara might
be proud though there were
no red lights streaming in how
one can wedge one’s own ideology
in a wavering tower halfway to
clouds but the building shakes on
bad foundation though a soul is
structurally sound in one way
how it rises a few floors
a crease in the rope to stop
movement how could an elevator
even stop why wouldn’t it if I were one
I would rise only being this lonely
and quit too in the in-between of
sustaining love or faith forever
but interstitials demand warmth
around mind with winter jacket
how such claustrophobic space within
you can force yourself to blow
air into your fist then float away
(originally published in Literary Yard, Winter 2018)
My high school was ninety-nine percent white
classmates without filter said you’re a bit off-kilter
what are you I mean what are you I mean
all I am is me my whole life everything I know
half-Filipino half-West Virginian so you mean
like half-Asian half-hick I mean like basically
I don’t have the ear for Appalachia and must
be good at math and I said neither they said
solve this solve this these equations flicked
into my ear shoved into my eyes but my
coping mech was laughter
is there another term for that?
(originally published in Cabildo Quarterly, Winter 2018)