Aladdin’s

Funny, thinking back, the restaurant– hell,
the industry, those incessant phone calls
in the midst of rush, my snaking past
corners with three plates of hummus
and shawarma in aluminum, warm
from the kitchen, only to waste
in a stranger’s presence, scraps
on porcelain I’d bus, then zigzag
through the floorplan of tables.

Funny, thinking now, how little has
changed– insecure in economics,
I’ve jumped the lilypads of job
after job, the backbreaking work
of conforming, of each return home
with something new to say but I’ve
said it, I’ve said my best, my cap-
stone thesis shredded in California,
back when full of possibility–

I desire a bowl of time
loops. Cereal in my milk.

I didn’t even use silverware
in college, a joke inside a riddle
presented as a gift I constantly
unwrap, umbrellas of green
folding into myself in the rain,
suffocating, blinding, this pirouette
of place, this unfixable sedan
screaming off the shoulder
of the highway, smoke
signals ablaze and late
for work.

(originally published in Little Rose Magazine, Winter 2019)

Blur

for Mary Oliver

We walked along
the gray edges of
the river. And my
glasses had shattered.
This removed
the shape of things,
the perfect barren limbs
now perfect trees,
what I thought were boats
in the distance you told me
were wild geese going home–
and where else to go
but deeper? I wanted
to see what might be
around the bend, always
something– exactly the
grass we could not know
we needed, pines
that waved us
further into forest.

 

(originally published in Pacifica, Spring 2019)

 

An Iceberg Splits from Antarctica

           the cicadas are out
           early don’t be
           alarmed by the
           coming swarms                              build a memory
                                                                      of winter build
                                                                      a memory of here

                                                                                I loved what we had

                                                                                        cold glove
                                                                                        in warm hand

                                            but now when growing old I know
                                            I didn’t do enough to do my part
                                            the wandering joyrides burning ghosts of
                                            dinosaurs from gunky lungs of millennium
                                            sedans cigarettes in our mouths tv the endless
                                            bedlamps they say sleep is best in total
                                            darkness o how I wasted more than I knew
                                            on those daily long commutes

(originally published in Orange Quarterly, Winter 2019)

Existential Food Poems

After reading five food poems in a row,
I paused, told the audience I get inspiration
from food. I meant I get energy, really.
At home, sometimes, I sit at the table
eating noodles and suddenly
I am at the table eating noodles!
I look at the floppy strings
on my plate and ask myself
what I’m doing. Converting
loose ends to energy, according
to education. Google tells
me to stop eating so many noodles
but to stop means less
energy– the will
to go on. These laces
tying my stomach
consumed by gastric acids
transform into aminos
that fuel me, somehow,
these noodles that don’t
make sense but somehow
allow my string of days
to keep dangling, serve
me on a plate so that
I may exist, so I can fall
in love with someone
and they can fall,
too, and steam
until we cool enough
for them to stick
their fork in me,
then wonder, what
are we doing? The
fork swivels,
gathers
a tornado
of noodles.

(originally published in Bindweed Magazine, Winter 2019)

Grill

I am cooking on the half-broken grill– knobs
stuck, burner busted– you left when you moved

out. This rack of ribs burning on foil– that’s you.
You and I are through. Perhaps not; I’m famous

(in my mind) for my inability to settle a squabble,
however small, how I raise the temperature until

the whole meal’s scorched in this final summer
on the heat. The charcoal smoke remains nostalgic

in the atmosphere but this pig is dead, has been,
and the house hasn’t felt the same for months,

weeds crawling around the wooden baseboard,
the dishwasher sobbing in the clutter of its mess.

I am throwing everything I own into black bags
to be disposed of Thursday, on the precipice

of a move, how much grease I’ve scraped from this
squealing machine, all this hunger turned to waste.

(originally published in Juke Joint, Winter 2019)

Another Drunken Summer

Last summer, clunks of glass,
grapefruit juice across the veiled
table. We stayed drunk

through sweltering June, to cool
off with Bella Sera pinot grigio,
Tostitos, queso. How much is

too much pleasure? These half-
empty days of water we are
not eager to drink. Sit in shade

til sundown, table umbrella up
to block the cancer sun we
know. We know.

(originally published in Kissing Dynamite, Spring 2018)

McDonald’s Delivery

voila! magic! mcnuggets
at the front door a knock-
knock and bag grab
now alone at the edge
of the long kitchen table
the a/c roars on lukewarm
meat between my teeth

*

voila! magic! blood struggles through
breathing’s become an hourglass
my girlfriend says her dad had a heart
attack at thirty then gave up meat
I press a button the heater burns on

(originally published in Hamline Lit Link, Winter 2019)

Beach

same as spit
on a band room floor
poolside

without knowing   we are all
skeletons
holding information too

great to actually understand
trombone blaring
mouths into the sea

flute-marching
to conformity’s beat
suntan lotion and absurdism

smother meaningless philosophies all
over your skin   and block out the rest

 

(originally published in Ghost City Review, Winter 2019)

In Pittsburgh, the First Time,

you told me Friendship is a road
split by two roads, parallel to Liberty,
and I told you that was a poem,
but you said, no, I’m just giving you
direction, and I looked up from your eyes
to the green sign reading Friendship Ave
and knew what you meant. Friendship–
we had yet to spend our first night
in the city, one that would end in
a dark cocktail bar for a dance party
that never materialized. In the morning,
we rode rented bicycles with bent
spokes and a click in their spinning
and I could only follow your lead
and cycle through streets still unfamiliar
to me– we weaved through lonely roads
to the Strip District, then stopped
at the Sixth Street Bridge to admire
the glimmer of the river that warm
winter day and continued until
we found the hill to Randyland
too steep to ride so, off our bikes,
we walked side-by-side up the path
until reaching our destination;
we locked our broken bikes
and kept walking.

 

(originally published in Bindweed Magazine, Winter 2019)