Humanity Is a Pre-Existing Condition

tell your father to pull out, tell your mother
to hide. there are children of your children

who exist in an illness of blood,
bone, skin, hair, and lung.

there is a barren landscape–
stone predated ocean,

before the earth was
sick with smoke, plastic.

bacteria teemed on this rock
like an unstoppable infection

that infected power
to make powerless those infected.

 

(originally published in 45 Poems: for the Revolution, 2019)

2017 Mantra

Build bridges, not walls,
though bridges ice faster
than roads we traveled–
hundreds of miles,
only to boomerang back
to before, while thousands of
armed windmills gasp for air–

the sunset through the bug-
stained window moves faster
than us toward a semblance of home–
swirls of clouds quivering
into the arms of weeping
willows simply
weeping–

 

(originally published in The Wayward Sword, Summer 2018)

The Appointment of the Special Counsel

out of nowhere there’s a razor-thin wire hope
smoke from the top of the mountain and
we small spectators watching those distant trees
burn chatter among ourselves that finally there’s
a chance to reveal the truth about the source of smoke
and to be honest we’re terrified if there isn’t
a fire because we see it and wonder what else
is covered up because it’s there all around us in the air

 

(originally published in Rabid Oak, Spring 2018)

Sunrise

Driving west to Columbus from my partner’s house
in Pittsburgh early morning and on I-70 around six
in the rearview there’s a giant burst of orange light nearly
deafening in its glory and my first thoughts are fire and fury
then you’re gone but no it’s a heavenly sunrise and I can’t
remember the last time I witnessed the sun rise though a few
days ago she and I were in Vermont about to hike an
overlook before sunrise to watch it but we couldn’t will
ourselves out of bed and what a world to wake to now
driving alone this big dramatic ball of fury revealing its
magnificence bathing land in light before it softens
            how it could have been one or the other
a burst of beauty or unspeakable tragedy yet from a distance
a bomb might seem as beautiful and harmless as a sunrise
at least until the smoke how with fire too there’s a kind
of enchantment but for this a split second then the anguish
and fury for this sunrise greeting a thousand grieving days

 

(originally published in Old Red Kimono, Spring 2018)

On the Walk to the Polling Place

Some birds zigzag
below shrapnel clouds
and others, perched
on limbs, chatter
about migration
in this chill
because the leaves
in your yard
are a different shade
than your neighbor’s,
but each tree
casts its own
ballot into earth
and waits
for the season
to change.
Scrunching
all the dead
beneath your boots
along the way
to the church
with the cookies
and machines,
you pass big,
brick houses
with American flags
and jack-o-lanterns’
sunken smiles
on porch steps
and city workers
who have been
fixing power lines,
building structures,
patching roads
for so many months,
and so many months
to go.

 

(originally published in The Rising Phoenix Review, Fall 2017)