Unforgettable Fire by U2 was the first album I listened to over and over and over. U2 was the first semi-secular band I was allowed to listen to because they were kinda Christian at the time. (I wasn’t allowed to listen to non Christian music as a child.) My sister had a cassette tape with Unforgettable Fire on one side and Under a Blood Red Sky/Wide Awake in America on the other. She’d play it over and over as we fell asleep in our shared bedroom. As a result, this album always reminds me of a dream state. I either copied the tape or stole it, but either way, I’m sure I still have it. To this day, I maintain that it is a perfect album. The music is dark, mesmerizing, and sensual. They are a band that has reinvented themselves many times over, but this remains my favorite.
Unlike car crash, our death was slow—peeled first nippled-breasts
and what you once called the art of my body. Tendons carved
from feet, keeping me put. Each muscle fibers layered in fat stretched
out all dance and joy. Yanked next nails from fingers, sliced entire tips
down to knuckles, every part that ever knew any part of you. Hooked
knives dug into ears, scraped out song, scraped out music. Same hooks
dove down throat, twisted cords of my own speak, tangled in steel,
snapped from neck. Sawed each hair from scalp, sawed lashes from lids,
sawed between thighs where your hands once reached. Eyes pinned
open, I watch you crawl out from under us, watch you wrap your arms
around Night. I watch Night curl her blood lips. Can’t hear singing,
can’t speak you down to me, can’t reach can’t touch can’t fight can’t
walk the other way. This is how we die with nobody watching.
First published in Black Napkin Press.
As a poet, nothing has had a bigger influence on my life than music. I’ve been wanting to pay tribute to music I love by spotlighting an album each week. I have to start with Standing on the Beach by the Cure (also called Staring at the Sea), not because it was the very first, but because I can still listen to this album in its entirety today and feel just as connected to the music. These songs still feel like home to me. Strangely, it’s not about the lyrics exactly, it’s the feelings behind the music, the anger, isolation, sadness, restlessness, innocence, passion, confusion, love, happiness, mania, and resolution. It appealed to 12 year-old me and present day me.
What will I do with your skeleton bones
when your teeth can no longer hold
the flesh of your lips? What brown eyes
will fill the spaces in your skull
when these ones dry up, dissolve into vapor and dust?
Will your bones keep memories, keep the rhythm
of your laughter locked in marrow—
how your small hands grew into man,
how I kissed them tipped in icing,
wiped them from grass and soil, held them
to my cheek as I sung you to sleep?
What can limbs and ribs and vertebrae do to capture soul?
What does your skin encase when you are sloughing
out from under it?
Where will your soft curls rest
when your scalp surrenders?
When the cords of your throat fray and limp,
how will you say I love you?
First published in Angel City Review.
After a hurricane, you must sift through the rubble. Be it car or house or theme park ride, all loss is for grieving. For months you will bloody and purple searching for what’s worth saving. On the news, there is always a small child who’s managed to hide between the gaps. Keep searching for her. Or, if you’re the one buried, make yourself heard. At some point they will begin to haul away the wreckage. They will want to clear land for rebuilding. But if you’re still searching, be louder. Keep kicking through splintered wood and twisted metal. You cannot and will not find every savable piece, but remember that small child. She could under the Ferris wheel. At some point, you will also call off the search. You will also want to clear land. But be prepared. When you stand on the edge of the sifted soil, a new loss will settle in. As heavy as roller coaster. If you stare into the ache of what was never found, the weight may collapse you. The name of that child may trouble your sleep. You must find her. Use the old wood or the old metal, but build a new park to welcome her home.
First published in Angel City Review.
She sees how he ruins his own beauty
how before he can leave for the bar
he follows can after can
to cool the fevers in his mind
How he leaves out food
for the fullness of cheap beer
thinks it makes him a tragic man
worthy of writing an elegy
He curses his drunken father
between swigs from cold aluminum
asks about her birthday
He wants her to teach him
about how to clean the shower stall
She is nobody’s mother
though she wants to say
it begins with the need to be clean
but he asks again about her birthday
repeats back her answers
like he’s committing it to memory
She refuses to be his fixer
only drags her nail-bitten fingers
through his unwashed hair
his mouth disappearing at her breast
First published in Hobo Camp Review.
like separated socks
washed and dried apart
until, even if reunited,
they unequally fade
I see your threads fray
while my ankles pill
stop pulling and stretching
we were supposed to thin out
on parallel planes
but my heels are almost bare
and your toenails are cutting
who pulled you on in the dark?
First published in Spectrum 5: Every Poem is an Idea.
you gave me glimmer
in my hands
I called it diamond
for six weeks
I was wealthy
you called me beauty
you called me art
I was sultan
for six weeks
I held your jewel in my teeth
until it shattered
you called it glass
broken shards you swept
into piles in the trash
then you left me seed
in tiny green shells
for six weeks
I was fertile
you said not over, not ready
you said maybe
every dark morning
a new one dropped
onto my tongue
for six weeks
I waited for green
to break from black earth
until you called it gravel
kicked them like stones
into the sewer
I tried to smooth the edges
tongue to teeth
teeth to tongue
I held your pieces
tried to make you mosaic
turn the art of you
into mural across my chest
I dug up your empty shells
ground them into sand
First published in Spectrum 3: Love Poems.
You will remember again
lying on a dry sunny beach
warm skin against rested bones.
This swim is not endless—
these swells you fight,
this constant coughing up water
will eventually subside.
Even the bleeding
edges of your cuticles
deserve your tenderness.
Because his hands will never
work that soothing magic again,
you must hold them away
from the sharpness of your teeth,
purse your lips,
and tell them they are as worthy
of your protection as your breasts,
as your pit-bull heart. As all of you
is worthy, so is the clear line
of your fingernails curving.
Cut them clean.
Even you, Olympic-storm swimmer,
can drag yourself up
on some long shore, wash the salt
from your skin, hold your hands up
to the sun and say it.
Say even your cuticles are worthy
of being loved.
First published in Elementary My Dears.
I was a desert woman
who learned to live on cactus boys
learned to run at night and sleep all day
knowing the burn of sky and sand
Then you came with your oceans
rivers, lakes, and waterfalls
I dove in, eyes closed
hoping you’d teach me to swim
hoping to learn your whale songs
I threw away my land shoes
swam under the stars
let my skin pucker in your waves
my desert plants were drowning
I let them bloat and drift away
Then your tsunami receded
first sudden, then steady and slow
I stood naked in your mud bed
for weeks with dripping hair
dripping hands refused to dry
I learned to pray to wet earth
give thanks for saltwater baths
learned to hear your voice
in the night bird songs
Until even the mud left
took its soft clay from between my toes
the caked earth in my hair
began to dry and crumble
desert wind wiped all traces
of salt from my cheeks
I pulled myself back into desert shade
live now in the evening light
I can never return to cactus fruit
when I’ve fed on fields of phytoplankton
I’ve lost the taste for prickly boys
so I may wither for a while
Until at the edge of some moment
in the pale space between sun and moon
I might hear the sound
of water rushing
First published in Element(ary) My Dears.