17 Poems Not About a Lover · 2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

I will not apologize

for not being
soft-lipped
doe-eyed
for not laughing
at all your jokes
and if I put my hand
on your shoulder
it will not be an invitation
if my fingers linger
which they will not
you will not have the rights to me
to my round parts
to my fullness
against your bare bones
I will not apologize
for not being
giggle-light
batted-lashes
but more
teeth barred
and fist clenched
my gaze always at the door
on the clock
holding breaths
waiting
for you to learn
my name is not prey

First published in Al-Kemia Poetica.

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2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

What I Mean When I Say We Can Talk Without Poetry

When I dance for you and our knees brush at the bar, we begin to forget. The more I think about the space inside your coat, the more you learn the names of my favorite drinks, we stop saying them. Words like wife. Words like marriage. We become teenage-nervous where mouths cannot form words like separation. All I know is giggle and heart-dotted-i’s. We are back at the edge of unknowing. Where our grownup selves are strangers we might not want to meet. You use the word awkward when I give you a book on a poet’s divorce. You are a teenaged father all over again. Except your children are leaving now, one-by-one. You regress a decade for each one. If I am fifteen and you are seventeen, sitting in my living room listening to records, maybe we also forget the word husband. You are just a boy with grown man scars. I am only a girl biting my nails, chewing at the cuticles, wishing that boy would lean down and kiss me, but fearing. Fearing if he does, it means we need more words for you and me. And if you hold my hand, are we steady? If I wear your coat wrapped around me in the dark, what will be a word for that?

First published in Whiskey Fish Review.

2010s · Poetry

How She Will Be Remembered

Before he left, she offered a box of light
a spectrum of color against his black;

red scraped from her pulsing veins
orange plucked from her sunset sky

yellow combed out from her morning hair
green cut from the edge of her irises

blue pulled from the song in her ears
indigo peeled from her darkest night

and violet picked from her truest words.
She tied them with her blind-heart kisses

and let him steal her rainbowed sky.
Let him pour them out into his grays—

let him remember her only in this way.

First published in The Bastille.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Comfort of Cars at Night

Street lights pass one-two-three-four
light-dark, light-dark, one-two-three
white dim passing car windows three-four
left hand on the steering wheel two-three
right hand in mine one-two your night lit face
glows, flickers two-three-four dark calm
in your eyes caught tree shadows reaching
one-two across your face three-four
for days two-three I kissed you in the dark
one-two you turn the wheel slow three-four
my hips press towards you one-two
left arm against your right, you squeeze
two-three tighter between my fingers
three-four I see beauty in your shadows
one-two you whisper, “I’m lost” two-three
you slow brake one-two-three draw S.O.S.
on dirty glass three-four my feet press
against the floor two-three I whisper back
two-three-four I’m here one-two right here

First published in Spectrum 7: What’s Your Heaven?

2010s · Poetry

The Congregation (at Open Mic)

I attend church on Thursday nights
we buy coffee or tea sit in hard chairs or stools
we come like my hippie parents
in blue jeans and tennis shoes

there is no preacher but we all pray
one at a time we stand at the pulpit
with guitars and poems, notepads and piano keys
we pray to each other

we say, I have loved–I have hated
I have sinned–I have enjoyed it
I have hurt–I have broken
I have lied–I have told truth

we sing it loud–we sing it quiet
we come to heal here with our hearts open
we hold out our souls up high to God
we are ugly–we are beautiful

we take turns–we hear each other pray
and we mean it–we need to believe it
we clap and say amen or know we have felt it
right down there where all the truth lies

I feel it all here– all God’s creation
the young and the old–we all come as we are
I come to pray here with my eyes open
I feel God here as real as any congregation

First published in Long Beach Underground.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Circles for Words

Us and Our
became That
and what happEND
no You and I
but It and Was
boxed up
shelved
with photos
untaken
said again—
it’s unpersonal
something
so intimate
made demon-
strative pronoun
can’t be spoken
in Now-space
disrupts fragile
lines to keep
in, keep out
I never told no one
nothing, no person
doesn’t know that
We ever were any
thing

First published in Black Napkin Press.

17 Poems Not About a Lover · 2010s · Poetry

Center of the Nucleus

Another word for father, static
the chaos of electricity in white noise
every pop and crackle of it
holds so many nots
If turned slow motion, we can
hear all the misfittings
how many wrongs inside of us

Another word for mother, lightning
the flash of white against night
it circuits through tree limbs
into heart stops, into heart starts
If turned slow motion, we can
feel the strangled paths
motion of trembling feet stumbling

Another word for family, carbon
the black of what’s left after fire
after smoke and embers suffocate
resting in the ashes

First published in Black Napkin Press.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Slow Skinning

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.

17 Poems Not About a Lover · 2010s · Poetry

Boy, Emaciating Slow

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.