2010s · Poetry

Drawing Maps for the Lost

I learned the names of all my family demons
gave them faces instead of shadowing ache
bottled them in jars of science
labeled, set in rows on the shelf
But the devil,

I sat down for dinnerfed him chicken soup for his soul
He drank for days and months
and now, we live like roommates
share the kitchen and household chores

I am not naive—
I know his claws are sharp
and his teeth still bleed
I sleep now
with only a pen at my bedside

But always leave a light on
in case he feeds       on the dark

First published in East Jasmine Review.

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2010s · Poetry

Jelly Girls

In 1984, every girl
wore those jelly shoes.
Glitter plastic in pink
and blue and yellow
seemed so frivolous.

They hurt, they pinched,
gave no heel or arch support,
but still,
I wanted them.

Flimsy buckles and basket-
weave spilling toes out,
leaving sharp red grooves
like a map for hours.

I wanted to be that frivolous,
to squeeze the surface of
my nine year old feet, marking me
like every girl.

 

First published in Like a Girl: the Pre-Show!

2010s · How to Unexist · Poetry

Elephant

We dance under the belly of the elephant
Not the dance-floor dance, but the slow move
around the words we won’t say
Move in and out of her shadow
Her dark cast allows our mouths to press our breath
around it, around the letters lost in open windows
I want you to press me full against elephant legs until
deep grooves of skin catch light
Her skin is your skin and the skin of your children
heavy with memory, pachyderm heavy
She shifts her weight and I wait for you to name her
call her out of decades, twenty-two years
You push off one finger to the other hand but
there it is in simple gold elephant eyes
Will you step out from under her
I cannot lean crouched here
swaying to your resonate voice
to the arch of your teeth
to the groove of your sleeve soft
underneath my fingertips
sliding down corduroy red

First published in velvet-tail.

2010s · Poetry

I don’t have room to write about it all

my clicking mouth
these tiny earthquakes
on the surface of my bones
shaking shaking shaking
it is hanging claws
deep on the mantel of my neck
razorblading into my spinal cord
until my gut swallows, shudders and gasps
all the futures in my belly ache
rope-miles of my insides lunge
like tiny airplanes
I have to write notes
to my lungs: expand and release
expand and releaserefuse to drown, already!refuse to be sunk

2010s · Poetry

Passing Sounds Fade

The heavy of his arm around
her shoulders, the lack of weight—
how it sits there like a machine fitting,
clock-watch piece.
The dust in his voice lies
thick under her chest.
She knows his closet is full
and the bodies are fresh
but she presses against
the door with him. Spring
cleaning is months away. It’s fall now,
so she presses her hands to his
warm coat, her hands against
his chest feel beat to breath—
beat to breath. Close her eyes
and pray to an unknown god,
pray the planes will pass,
pray he isn’t looking back.

 

First published on Cadence Collective.

2010s · Poetry

Death by Rust

rust was the death of us
oxygen and iron
weather and time

hundreds of holes
have been patched
and painted over

restorations aren’t made
of well-meanings
but of follow-throughs
and time-committed

we were not
the timeless classic
we set out to be

admit it
we’ve both been driving
other cars for years

our weakened frame became
overgrown by weeds
and nesting birds
while rust spread
under the belly of us

First published in Cadence Collective.

2010s · How to Unexist · Poetry

Paper Airplane

We keep gnawing at roots
sopping in alcohol.
I am full. You still starve.

You want me bath-soaked,
I need you tree hollow.
So I tear at your bark skin

until you bleed spoiled sugar.
Open my fingers and peel sunset
leaves from my palms.

Spit the pulp from my tongue,
lay it flat into perfect white rectangles,
press out every last drop of rain.

Let sunlight inhale what’s left.
Even your teeth hate
how little I want to kiss you.

As you wither, I fold you in half,
crease your edges. Nose you forward.
Refuse to watch what happens next.

First published in Paper Plane Pilots.

17 Poems Not About a Lover · 2010s · Poetry

Gill Growing

I will give to you my lifesaver. You who are sinking in the ocean
alone. I didn’t see you diving over the edge, but you say you want
to sink under, feel the weight of ocean crush your chest. I know it
gets exhausting. I know because when I dove down as deep, I grew
gills. It was dark for so many years I stopped believing in sunlight.
Breath is memory. You will remember how music makes you dance,
but water keeps it from you. You can’t move through currents like
hallways. You, gill growing boy. I keep throwing down ropes but you
are not done sinking. You still need the weight, so I will wait for you.
Watch you from the surface while you walk ocean. I don’t know
when your arms will grow strong enough to pull yourself up, so I
give you my pen. Write me letters. Send them up on rays of sunlight.
I will keep them at my heart until you are ready to surface.

First published in Paper Plane Pilots.

2010s · Poetry

Fruit of Your Offspring

You were so damn handsome
in nineteen forty-two.
Dark hair and brown eyes
and that long Swedish nose.
You always stood upright,
taller than your own frame,
Navy man in an impeccable uniform.
Your native tongue was Testament
both the Old and the New,
always dressed in humble blue jeans
and that humble plaid shirt.

I was enamored with you—
we all were, the fruit of your offspring.
I laid at your feet and
pulled on your long eyelids.
The silver-gray brows hung like
eaves from your Swedish forehead.
You taught me calculator tricks,
I thought you brilliant and soft-spoken.
I loved the way your words trickled
out like a creaky faucet,
vowels lingering around the spigot.

I never believed in Santa Claus
so I believed in you,
in a man of few words
except what Jesus spoke.
When I remembered you,
you lived in a trailer-shack
on an orphanage in Mexico.
We would drive four hours
to see your leathered hands
and oil stained fingernails.

Then I grew up, just like three
of your five daughters.
I became a boy-kissing girl
with breasts and summer legs.
(Did they all disappoint you like this?)

The man who married your middle
child gave me his green eyes and more
than half of my bad memories.
So I looked to you to show me
your God’s unconditional love,
but you had no words—
I could not make you creak.
Instead you typed letters
on a silver-gray typewriter,
single and mechanically spaced.

There is no treasure here on Earth
but store all your treasure in Heaven.
Love not this world or anything in it.
Love not the woman who wants to be held.
Love not the girl who wants to wear lipstick.
Love not those who want to love this life,
who love their physical bodies,
and the pleasures of this Earth.

Ten typed pages sent as a reply—
verse by verse you sentenced me
to my worldly life, an unchosen child.
Love me not, my holy grandfather
for I was born the child of your daughter
who also once believed in you.

So, I turned your faucet off tight—
we all did. Your spigot left dark and dry.

Previously Published in Elsewhere Lit.

2010s · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

Yellow

I am seven
yellow-blonde girl
with missing teeth
wearing someone else’s clothes
I smile for the camera
I don’t remember
where I am
there are so many rooms
so many stops
I am never there long enough
to know if I will miss it

I keep following my mother
my brother, too, in the car
we drive for days and months
I forget the names
of all my teachers
just shadows of school yards
they say I need glasses
I have too many absences
I think this is normal
don’t all children hold secrets
like packs of gum
at the bottom of their pockets

I love my mother
I believe her implicitly
I walk in my sleep
in every different house
to find her
I am empty without her
so we keep our clothes in bags
and in the car
they are my sister’s clothes
or someone else who outgrew them

she cuts my hair short
to get rid of the lice
it’s up past my ears
I cry like a widow
yellow-blonde hair
corpses lying under my chair
I can go back to school now
the fourth one this year

twenty years later
I will return here
it will be so much smaller
the rooms will have moved
and ghosts of yellow-blonde hair
will wander in the shadows
of school yards

First Published in Elsewhere Lit.