Silica

i carry infection in saliva
like a point of pride

see, my city reeks of bone

tall skeleton skyscrapers
i’m numb again

as dental drill enters me
year after year

what birthed my decays?

raised to desire new
wants every day

wanting even wanting

my dad worked at a ford factory
after the great depression

churned out a new kid
every few years

seasons of rust
spreading on steel

here’s the sunset
he’d wake us to say &

spend the days molding
the yard
rough hands on saw

that was satisfactory
to him

for me oaks are cold towers &
grass not godmade

took a clump in my mouth
from the graveyard as a child &

i swear i tasted
death
but could not digest it

i’m but a skeleton

all life’s experiences
slip through me

masticating childhood
no pondering
the future with mom and dad

scooping fries at ponderosa &

we’d always go for seconds &

mint ice cream after

 

(originally published in Burningword Literary Journal, Fall 2018)

Soon

Broken bottles on the bridge
above the blue Olentangy.

My time in this city is
limited, as is my body,
the future a compromise,
shards from the persistence
of believing in transcendence.

The sweltering sun pummels
my skin, exposed, as I wait for
a sign to cross the river road.

 

(originally published in indefinite space, Spring 2019)

Fear of Dancing

  I am a tin pen
so you ask when?

      I write on the floor
kissing the spot

where dancers writhed
  in a style I cannot recommend.

     Bodies bent like thin trees
in a hurricane. A reporter standing

in the midst of ominous gray
      waiting for the signal to speak

  so she can get out soon,
roads slickened with saliva.

 

(originally published in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Fall 2018)

Electrons

It is possible
for electrons like you
and me
to have a long-
lasting interaction
before the transition
to zero.
Start strong,
move fast,
conserve energy
through longer
wavelengths,
whale songs, wet
lips. Hold
until light slips
through the spaces
of our fingers:
phosphorescence.
Glow. We know
probabilities
for starting and ending
are the same.
After the initial
burst, let’s become
a more stable state
we won’t gradually
weaken.

 

(originally published in Thirteen Myna Birds, Summer 2018)

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)

 

Geoff Asks Me to Make Broth

he says
I’ll do the hard
part not that you
can’t then cuts
a plastic bag
with scissors
and syrup
goos out
into a metal
cylinder and
I’d rather you
do the time
intensive part
of mixing
with hot water
and hands
me a white ladle
so I begin
in slow circles
when Monique
walks over
and whispers
you’re stirring
the pot
and stays there
beside me
these last weeks
of working
there umami
broth burning
steel I lift
the red
handle up
to stop the
flow
just past
the line

 

(originally published in LEVELER Poetry, Summer 2018)

Lyft Shift (2/9/17)

driving in circles
around the city

snow caps on all cars
little mountains shivering

tiny motors no one knows
the name of anyone

only a word on a screen
a face forgotten

and city lights
there’s a light rain mixed

with snow
the roads not slick

I am picking
up passengers

at the end of the night
and no further

than I was
at the beginning.

 

(originally published in Scarlet Leaf Review, Summer 2018)

In Charleston, the Day After the Shooting (2015)

I.

a statue of a dead confederate soldier
looms over the city

community signatures
on the broken cast of a thin tree

the resounding message in red
marker: LOVE WINS

(if love is a gun smoking heavenward
and if love bodies slumped in pews)

II.

a fellow wanderer asks me to photograph him
in front of the scene

he smiles

then takes his iPhone
back
among the strangers

III.

I was a Catholic boy

lost
my way as a man

yet in presence of steeple
and jagged and mighty
tragedy

arrows of prayer quiver inside me
then anger
at tourists and cameras

I know I’m part of
this exhibitionism problem

we’re a crowd of resounding bells
waiting for the next funeral to begin

 

(originally published in The Magnolia Review, Summer 2018)