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.

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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 · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Keansburg Park, 2012

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.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Unanswered

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.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Diamond

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
across puddles
into the sewer

I tried to smooth the edges
tongue to teeth
teeth to tongue
for months
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
crushed them
into diamond

First published in Spectrum 3: Love Poems.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Love Letter No. 4: To the Nail Biter

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.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Oceans Once Receded

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.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · How to Unexist · Poetry

Mouth of Fireflies

What God there was in me saw
the God there was in him,
and it was beautiful.
-Amélie Frank

he speaks floating sparks of light
and lights a thousand eyes around him
he won’t follow their leaving paths
throws them out and lets them land
like seeds he’ll never see grow

I chase the fireflies of his mouth
the ones that miss their mark
I want to catch them in jars
drink them to kill my own night-growing
they sky-float beyond my reach
past the dim canopy of city light

I once drank him like a fountain
my wet lips glowed for days
my eyes shone too bright for sleeping
maybe I only dreamt him at my mouth
since the universe won’t return him
it steals his beauty for dreamers
and says, light your own fire

first you must crack your ribs
break them into brittle shards
cut your palms in your own grasp
next you must rub the sticks
of your rib bones fast
do this all on the inside
then sing out to the dark unknowing

your sparks aren’t made for eyes
your sparks are made to burn hunger
burn the ache in their bellies
throw them out like seeds
don’t wait for them to grow

First published in Cadence Collective.

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

Black, the Consumption of Song

It’s still the music—
how is replaces the pulse in your veins
how it stops all the other voices,
your own cut-throat deafening.
You still swallow volume
guzzle it down like hard cider.
In that way, songs can sing from the inside out.
They balloon inside your heart
pressing up against limping muscle
until its ache rests in them.
You will always have it—
when love after love after love leaves
it still gets darker. Still you
wrap your skin in minor chords
mummy-tight until you can only move
in the way the rhythm sways.
You don’t fight that.
For a while you are carried by it.
You rest in black—
how it still comforts you.
Sometimes and eventually music moves you forward.
Slow beats for slow steps
when you are ready to hit the ground
on your own swollen feet.
For the rest of your days, you will—
as you always have—exhale melody.

First published in Cadence Collective.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Dead Song

I wait no more for your polite
I run no longer to your cordial
I let no wind carry
let no night star
I fight not for your uncertain
for your wander, for your lost
not for your stroke, not your soothe
No more gray ink
photograph gaze
No collar bone
valley of skin
I set fire to your words
I drown your colors
all swirl of rainbow
I lie in your grave of kindness
I cough out your breath
I spit you out
wipe the taste of you
from my mouth

First published in Ekphrastic California.