Tuesday Night Karaoke at Hounddog’s Pizza

Another weeknight. Of course
we’re being responsible. Hell,
we chose the karaoke spot
with the Christians congregating
at a table before the mic. The
first from the group sings
Reliant K; the next sings
Hozier’s Take Me to Church
and they all nod and clap
their hands. I want to
tell them it’s a goddamn
metaphor. The whole thing.
I mean, life. Not simply the
lyrics (although worship
in the bedroom seems
obvious– from Adam’s
rib came Eve, hard, both
of them, I mean they bit
into the apple, crunched
to the core, came hard
in the likeness of God’s
merciless love. But what
these friends mean is
a crucifix hanging
above the bed, in front
of the mirror, so that
they can watch themselves
pray in the presence
of Jesus). I mean I want to
tell them but I don’t say
anything, and they leave
as I hit the stage to sing
Psycho Killer, leave before
I can tell them you start
a conversation / you
can’t even finish it.
You’re talking a lot but
you’re not saying
anything. Run, run,
run, run, run, run
away.

 

(originally published in MORIA, Spring 2019)

Sleep Paralysis

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)

 

Death, 2009 (College)

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
the tissues
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
come

 

(originally published in 8 Poems, Summer 2018)

Bloody Mary

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)

God Poem

I believe in you

with your hand
in my hand,

which forgives
who I am,

who I have been–
every sin absolved,

we clasp
in silent prayer

and respond,
really respond

to our prayers.

With your hand
in my hand

this land
is my land,

indivisible
under sheets

and gone
in the morning.

 

(originally published in SOFT CARTEL, 2018)

Every Movement of the Sun

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)

 

Reviewing Geometry for the GRE: First Lesson

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,
90 yesterday.

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)

Advertising

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)

Stuck in an Elevator

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)