The Busier the Kitchen the Filthier the Dishes

Your lunch spot becomes a haven on the ground
level of a tower between towers on rainy workdays.

Your eyes strained at the sight of a waterfall
of text and maybe you missed
an important error in copy
marketed to clients. Here, though,

the dishwasher sprays a thousand plates,
aiming spouts at cheese stains hardened
from sitting by the garbage in
the place where discarded trays should be.

Water pressure removes ceramic sin
eventually, an industrial machine
humming in silver efficiency,
skin rinsed beside it.

Glasses that pass the spot test emerge,
steam rising, but meat lodged between
prongs is wrestled out with wet finger.

Your fork drips from the steak
just in a salesman’s mouth.

 

(originally published in Stickman Review, Spring 2018)

January 28

I really want to drink today.

The sun is shining. It’s warmer than usual.

I should try to ween myself off, right? None of this cold
turkey shit.

I haven’t drank a drink this year, the miracle
of it. Today, I am alone.

I scrubbed white the kitchen tiles, but there are
always dirt stains, smudges when you look
a little harder.

Sanitized the kitchen table with towels,
swept its crumbs from the floor.

The cat sprints from one end of the room
to the other over
and over, imaginary laps.

What every day is, these days,
running a relay race, handing
the baton to tomorrow’s me
with the trust I won’t– today,

it’s a sleep’s worth heavier than yesterday.

Long minutes the placemarks I pass

I can’t make time go faster. It is my day
off work, and in its nothingness I trudge
through sludge. Old habit,

you don’t die hard because
you’re not dying. You’re
as alive as me: refreshed yet craving,

gazing through the window to the light-
stained street, the shadows cast from trees
out toward the river.

 

(originally published in Stickman Review, Spring 2018)

A Syzygy of Chickens

My horoscope this morning:

You will swallow your pride
to give in to someone else
today, Taurus.

Take a brisk walk
and concentrate on reasons
for obedience.

The stars led me here.

I intended to quit
my job this morning

and found three chickens
in celestial alignment
wandering out
my door.

How wonderful
it would be to walk
and walk out
of town

to wherever the path
ends. Over the ledge
into the greenery
to live off the land

where I would
lay in the grass
and stare into

the night sky
and say
you can’t tell
me what to do.

Light years away
from my current
life. To break

the alignment
of monotonous days
squawking
order

when I want
to be jazz.

A roost of stars
conspiring
light to lead

me back but I’ve
thought and
thought

to find
no good reason.

 

(originally published in Good Works Review, Winter 2020)

 

Office Job (August 18, 2017)

the cat purrs, content
on his own, clawing my blanket
that rests peacefully and soft.

meanwhile, I entertain fantasies
about quitting my job again–
every day, the drab walls

say nothing to me.
the squeaky chair says
too much. another paycheck

arrives, not enough to sustain
me past the day’s bills. I work
for the grim reaper, ghastly

and gray, worm-smile rotting.
there is a scythe to my head
when I sleep that I set the night

before but I can’t even sleep
long enough to meet it.
the cockroaches share my bed,

and I know they will make it
out of this alive, whether
nuclear war or work.

 

(originally published in EgoPHobia, Winter 2018)

Checking the Mail

it’s a series of bills all this money money money
allegedly turning void in wallet into all this good
shield or beating heart or net but I’m getting your
gray hairs you pick in the mirror how they seem
to crawl from the bathroom floor & appear as the
plague on my head O corporation & government
gavel held to my sensitive nodes I sniff envelopes
which smell of corpses that may all be my own

 

(originally published in EgoPHobia, Winter 2018)

Unemployment Dirge

I have given up on adulthood this time
at least not trying to pay bills
every electronically white-licked envelope
arrives the kiss of a faceless reaper
but I’m not playing that capitalist game
of unending rain filling plastic
cups the days that spill
on plain tile to move
the needles of hairs
and dirt I never
knew was missing

 

(originally published in Foliate Oak, Spring 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)

 

The Hours

Can’t even sustain myself with the hours
I work to make myself; a waterfall of dollars
and dreams splashing off wet stone. I hold no

heart hostage but my own; the heart holds me
hostage through beating, my breathing
a slow decay. In aging I prove nothing

to the universe except that I exist;
through the office, I prove I do not.
Despite the hours, the blood and bone

monuments I erect, then forget–
the steady draining of days worth
not enough to get me by.

 

(originally published in Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Spring 2018)

Switches

Dad knew which fuse box switch did what–
in this way, he chose for us the light and dark.
His hands blackened from cracking walnuts
over the years, hammering husks in the

night when the rest of us were sleeping,
loud whacks startling us temporarily awake then
drifting back into our own darknesses beneath familiar
stars. After his death, we found Dad’s walnuts

in barrels in the corner of his workshop alongside
spiders and memories we could not yet scrape.
My brother said, to honor him, we had to break
and eat each one, despite the bulk. That Dad lived

a rich life poor, that the taste might activate
memory’s accordion, careening us in and out
the past and present, turning life to death then life
again, discordant in its forlorn loudness.

 

(originally published in 3Elements Review, Spring 2018)