UnsaidI hear how you sigh. What troubles you so?
How do you know it was not the wind?
The wind has a voice, yes, but does not speak in the same tongue.
You catch me in the crosshairs.
It is not meant to ensnare, if that is what you think.
Do you…do you remember when Henry was here?
Two summers past. The ship sailed in at sundown.
He gave me flowers.
I remember. I saw.
They were yellow, and they shone in the soft-boiled sunset.
Such were golden days. Do you reckon?
For a time. But they soon wilted and crumpled at my touch.
Why do you frown?
I would be smiling, if not for the strange tugging of memory.
Do you feel the breeze coming in? I wonder what tidings it carries.
Peace is not far off now.
Let us stay here a while longer.
Please, I feel I must tell you-
It’s alright, dear. Has it not already been said?
SecretI spent a lot of time thinking
about the different words
I could spell with the letters
of your name
Thinking if I could just buy a vowel
and splurge on one more consonant
I could tell you what I really mean
You were a mystery to me
how you could set fire
to everything you touched
and I had never felt such warmth
You once told me you loved me
like a sister, and like a sibling
you didn’t talk to me for days
when I said I didn’t feel the same
I didn’t have the right letters
the words or the numbers
to tell you my real intent
Years later, you’re still here
engaged, happy, and I am so proud
of who you have become
I’ve spent this time going around
trying to become the rule
to abandon the mirage of exception
Because none of this is exceptional
you are you and I am me
and this is a story I’ll never tell
EelsThis language keeps two words in its archives for eels:
one for the river-dwellers, the other for saltier stock
I forget which is which in sour realization
that I could never swim with equal elegance
I thrash about in the water, clutching at the reeds
reaching for prepositions, teased from my grasp
A child jumping in puddles, history raining overhead
and I haven’t the mastery (not even the mimicry)
to elicit a human response
I stammer and sputter, immersed in an oil spill
of verbs and nouns and wily adjectives
Expression, free-flowing, so replete with vivacity
turns to sand in my mouth, where the words have been
dragged up to dry land
I devote waking hours to trading water for air
keep patrol over this body and this restrained tongue
It’ll slip right in someday, past my watchful eye
I’ll get lost in the surf and see an eel swim by
Half DollarI kept them all safe
my Kennedy dynasty
in an Altoids tin
here in the folds of lifehere.
as life orchestrates.
she scrubs wooden floors.
tempestuous twins flag her wits.
she makes her bed, sparing formality.
at every passing, the days grow thinner.
she hides her belongings in the haunted attic.
in remembrance, she thanks her mother for her fury.
a minor comedy, she thinks, how these girls blush juvenile.
she rebuffs the hand on her thigh, trying to persuade otherwise.
overnight, the red vanishes from her hair, the rouge from her face.
she takes this misspent trust and nests it deep in her famished spirit.
GreenI guess I should’ve known when my hospital room began to grow into a garden. All those times I didn’t see the vines curling out of inched-open drawers, lacing up the IV drip. But I couldn’t see green then.
The sling kept my arm in place, but you held all the other pieces. Laid them out on a chessboard. You stayed at my bedside and mopped up two weeks of tears. Oh, if you weren’t capsized by the end.
Strange, I used to think, how that pavement cracked my skull, but I wasn’t seeing stars.
I still cannot see how you loved such a broken head.
I’ve been blind, yes, but it is not lost on me how much of the adhesive you applied is still there, holed up in narrow crannies I cannot reach. A Beach Boys song can send me drifting. I think about Ireland and coffee and science fiction, and not always in that order.
I see green now, but so little of it these days.
What difference, I sometimes wonder, if I’d reached through the stratosphere and pl
consider the riveri.
who here knows
how many steps
across the Mississippi?
and the veins
to this body
learns to walk
on the journey
two millions years
and she is just
a belly full of fish
and a wealth
the old man naps
lulled by the music
waiting for a bite
under the moon
to a sea of stars
this story is already
but it has no end
In DisrepairShe had twenty pounds on my scrawny ass.
When we bought our first home, she refused to consider anything but a two-story. She was concerned about intruders breaking into a first-floor bedroom. Said she didn’t want to have to worry about protecting me and our kids.
I wasn’t there when she died. I was out getting cigarettes and cheese puffs. At the goddamn gas station.
The kids were coming up for the weekend. Her heart stopped ticking at 7:33 pm on Friday night.
That’s what the quacks told me. Then there was the shrink. I’m not convinced they didn’t kill her.
Norma never told me she was seeing a counselor. One of her girlfriends unwittingly mentioned it a few weeks after the funeral.
I’d say I’m broken now but it’s not like there was anything to shatter. See, we weren’t made out of glass. Nothing about us was brittle or cold. There were layers, lots of them, you know what I mean?
She was so much more than that.
questionshe found an answer
between jobs and lovers
it’s molecular, she insists
no one else seems to see
sunday morning, revivified
in the well of her earl grey
slow-burn, charged particles
floating through the kitchen
for the sum of a moment
she is everywhere at once
Lady of the LandGrey eyes behold the lady of this land
living goddess risen from unsung depths
In vigilance, a brush of her pale hand
over seed and loam faithful wind has swept
To love is to tremble, lore once declared
in awe of power and might, undying
By grace, she kindles the land, lush and fair
and when the eldest fall into ailing
solace is sought in the glow of her ring
He who is humanI might’ve inferred that you were the only thing
keeping me kite-strung to reason.
Way back in spring semester of sophomore year.
If that didn’t quite take flight in context,
please allow me to elaborate.
I wanted to tell you that you kept me strong.
You wear concern for others in the creases
of your sleeves and the lines on your forehead.
Mindfully invested, absorbed in the troubles,
aches, and ailments of others—
I don’t know when you last stopped before a mirror.
In the reflection, beside the callousness of quick-work
striking down trees and courage,
I see you there tending. Performing triage.
Fortifying. Building something to last.
In light of any thought, and out of habit,
you remain a shadowy figure in the corner.
The middle son of humanity.
That goes too often without applause.
Of whom photos are counted on one hand.
I wanted to tell you that, for me,
you have never been an afterthought.
And I wanted to tell you thanks.
(Love) LoanI gave my love out on loan
and it has floated back down the foamy stream
into my reach
sandwiched in a stretch of ice floe
strained through murk, thick as clotted cream
to be delivered here whole
I listen to the playback
on the little pinging blackbox
stowed inside this beating heart
returned to its owner
surmise what has spawned this accident
the ending is far from explosive
the riddle is absent of absolutes
I overhear the sullen murmurs in the corridor
the lovers talk with tepid, splintering resolve
we are sinking, and I don’t think we can escape.
is it comfort or complacency that keeps you still?
a vivisection unveils the muscle, intact
I can refurbish this fruit-pit, send it off to the junkyard
I could leave it with the police in unclaimed articles
practicality might say to abandon the woebegone beast
somewhere in this oversized city
but that weakling thud, thud, thud
the whimpering of the motor
will never be out of earshot
this bodytalk of ingrown hairs
scars crossing the forearm
cellulite dimpling both thighs
stretchmarks of dubious conception
they make for poor
crew necks and long sleeves
sweaters enduring 90 degrees
drawers full of black and black
passed off as a statement
and is only wrong by half
hide the inconsistencies
honesty quashed beneath
a pair of boots
eats me up
I carry more weight on
than days before
this body sometimes
forsakes its own soul
But never forgets
diplomacy with this
prickled by emerging stubble
upper echelon of
expressed on this
say it into the mirror
say it, say it, say it
this body is
this body is
this body is-
DiveSomewhere, the scent of pine
nocturnal, moonlit memory
leads me to your harbor
Where you sit in reverie
wrapped in a shawl of winter
the sand hugging your knees
Quiet plays a captain at full-sail
and all creatures its passengers
leaving language to the waves
As the world floats in gentle dark
a drop of eternity falls into our lap
shared between the two of us
Leagues of yesterday and before
stitched together to make this moment
I hold the composition in my hand
Days for swimming long shelved away
the ocean hums to the hymn of gulls
in eventide, we dive, deep, and begin
FiendsA fine pair of fiends
Dishwater girl, soapscum boy
Love in the gutter
Sunday Morning, DMVA show of hands
Skinny, bangled arm
bearing no pores and
no care for catching sun
near the corridor
tanned, bent at the elbow
We are all here for deliverance
Strangers huddled in a space
to listen and perhaps even hear
each other's sniffles or prayers
in the morning, interrupted
I'm thinking about angel-hair pasta
and harp strings and which
brushes closer to the membrane
And how squid ink stains teeth
with grotesque and beautiful
We are all here for redemption
and for self-preservation
in our own unapologetic ways
Laughing with DeathThere are worse things.
I can think of three right now.
You could be forced to eat parsnips
for the rest of eternity.
Perspective. But I haven’t a stomach
anymore. What else?
You could be forgotten by the world.
I wish my wife would forget me already.
Have you seen those ghastly flowers she
leaves upon my grave? And the last one?
I could steal your wife and comfort her
in the cold. And she’d be all the more glad
to forget the likes of you, you bastard.
Don’t you dare touch her, you ruddy fool!
I’ve got friends here who could turn
a treacherous arse as you to stone!
Calm, brother. You know I’d never commit
such treason. You were the unsavory one,
Ah. Indeed. And I still am.
Drink Water, just water
You swam an entire channel
She drinks from the glass
Nobody TalksNobody talks about the after
the aunt, once-removed from dewy faces
splashed on the sleazy gossip-stirrers
in New York’s endangered newsstands
It wasn’t meant to be an unveiling,
or a shrouding, for the public
The opinion exchange didn’t suffer
but there was no garden of cash
The real horror is, everyone forgot
what she looked like before the event
and now nobody talks about either
She is still interred somewhere between
the pages of classifieds and obituaries
SkinI don’t know the back of my hand
the identity of the marauder
living in tandem with me
I awoke on a Tuesday
to find a mark had connived
its way into existence
Sometimes I can’t help flexing
a twinge of discomfort as
two commuters pushed
pretend to be canyons
and consciences apart
I reach for things
that are not there
when I try to hold on
I cannot find a grip
I draw snow angels
on the open range
of my legs and arms
and in the window rays
I think I see a glimmer
of something beneath
For April, In BlueI know others would praise how strikingly the green
brings out your dew-drop eyes, the brimming of your being
in the way grass cranes to majesty unmatched in a single day
But I have always thought you most resplendent in blue
where you hatch from the shell of morning, in full regalia
Velvet mantle sweeping over the trail carved as you wander
deluge of life fluttering from the hollows of flowered steps
Juno sends her finest gifts in gently wrapped parcels
the birds and their babies sing unto you and yours
But please don’t abide this silly thought, or only in part
please take it with the spoonful of cream in your tea
You wear every color like it always belonged to you
and you become what you always have been
WatchNight announces your arrival
and your many faces
the turpentine can't touch
I'd forgotten you had a voice
until you opened your mouth
and let winged creatures fly
This could end, in one move
but you occupy the closet
watch sleep take me
and the walls slant inward
GraceYou returned with quail eggs
I framed you as a madwoman
A pinch or a drop perhaps
But you hold the fainting dove
and will it back to good
Fending off furlough
Legs grow back anew
Boats come ashore
Applause fringes the race
HomeI don't think it's strange that I remember where you live(d)
no stranger than the groaning of the entryway floor
Street names and numbers snake through the sieve of memory
but I can make a mold of the precise corners and points of turn
Someone else has taken up residence on the second floor
a taller, younger, less stubbly someone who smiles with diffidence
But I understand the floors don't play in quite the right key
when lighter feet brush across them in the unadorned darkness
The days have survived you, and some, are survived by you
despite threads of dark hair hiding in patio doors, behind curtains
With palms open, I pray the land treats you like someone familiar
and the home you searched for sings to you with meaning
and all the hands i am to holdunder the fading bar lights
i want see life-tempered hands
deliver brewskies to the table
help me clasp the necklace in place
and give it one caress, for measure
i hope a panther paw reaches out
to poke me in the rib, in ambush
welcoming the thunder of laughter
let me feel the press of reassurance,
unfeel the lecherous stroke of misluck
on the window pane, to the symphony
of rain, scoring pictures and emblems
curled into the lexicon of merry vandals
remove shrapnel from my tortoiseshell
and comb my hair as night sleeps again
The Social LifeEvery one of us on our best behavior
sit up straight with ballerina posture
like we were made to sip tea slowly
The world needs to know
you’re someone worth watching
Scoff and sneer all you please
When you don’t RSVP
you are still there
Part of the fine-laced tumor
in the wiring of our brains
and our mechanisms
The feelers of a centipede
creeping in, unconscious
An open gallery of wonders
and of filth
for the public forum to toy
with over a keyboard
We are not so far past
the gallows and the guillotine
when we set ourselves up
for every fall
and we feel like we were
made for this
Coaxthe words crumble
like soda crackers
before she can inquire
her mouth goes dry
forgotten in the
of her beat-up
she is somebody’s
and a good one
for keeping time
seconds the motion
and she sits
with the others
in a straight line
mauve is tragic
at the chair
she wants to voice
to the woman
seated beside her
a smile can show
too many teeth
this slab of truth
around the waist
the stranger stands
coaxed by her name
and she waits for
the sound of her own
FlowYou have a twig in your hair. And it might be of service to say something, but it’s not spinach nesting between your teeth, and we aren’t in a restaurant in New York. So, I mark it ‘Off Limits’ and file it away with the taxes. It blends well with the rest of you, an inelegant but stunning wildness brought forth from the flow of primordial earth.
And as we come down from the mountain, it is almost as if we are leafing through the peaks and valleys of our own constituency. A stop-motion film at a drive-in, projected on to the skyline as we trek. Not to quarrel over the cumbersome, the spoiled tuna fish sandwiches forgotten on the kitchen counter. Or to filibuster a Friday disagreement. This is to remember. Because I would choose you now, as I did then. I choose this. Everyday. There are no end credits yet.
When we get home, you slink off to the shower. I am half-asleep when you emerge, the lyrical murmur of your laughter easing the shadows. You set the twig on the
FadeThe broken-winged expression
on your exterior says a mouthful
escapes the sliver between lips
of a half-cracked smile
You’re trying to preserve tact
I can tell
And it layers a film around us
You bear the same scar
shaped like a snowshoe
where ancestors roamed
an avalanche unto your creation
The memory doesn’t percolate
have the rose-gold shimmer
in the way that it should
Cluster of unpopped kernels
at the bottom of a kettle
I guess I picked the dud
I fix my gaze on the daisies
storefront, newly bloomed
hoping the owner turns a profit
of their good intentions
You wear the same face
candlewaxed in my childhood
I cannot produce a tear, dignity
keeps my ribs from cracking
I shift my weight to the side
(tugged by an invisible cord)
Sorry, I must be mistaken
and let you walk by