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.

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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.

2010s · Poetry

Why I Can’t Kill Daddy Longlegs Hiding in My Shower Curtain

Because I know he is home-seeking and hungry.
Because I see the fragility of eight legs holding tight to porcelain.
Because I once needed to be scooped up from drowning
showers to sunlit window panes.Because when I was nine, I had to break into our motel room on
a Friday night after church.Because my mom forgot to pick me up, but I knew she was just
sleeping inside.Because I didn’t have a key and I was sure she’d be right back.
Because the windows were slats of louvered glass, I could pull
them apart and lay them gently on the asphalt driveway.Because I was small, could slide between three removed slats, and
land on a mattressed floor.Because I’d rather sleep alone in a tiny motel room with navy-blue
carpeted halls leading to the tenants’ communal bathroom.
Because calling my father
was not an alternative.Because I knew my mother would come home soon even after I fell
asleep under a curtain of blankets.Because I knew if I was quiet I could be safe enough.
Because I couldn’t have driven myself home from church or climbed
up the window alone.Because someone had to scoop me up to push me through it.

 

First published in Gutters & Alleyways: Perspective on Poverty and Struggle.

2014 · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

Dust Universe

when sun falls in dim slants
through holes in thin curtains
you can see the universe of dust
they have not traveled here
but revealed by narrow sunbeams
in the quiet light of morning
suddenly, I am afraid to breathe
the enormity of it
billions of particles floating
hovering like microscopic gnats
when I see them swarming
I can’t let them in my lungs
molecules of dead skin and ash
lit up as thick as stars flickering
landing in my living room
I can’t tell anyone how
we are always swallowing
parts of each other
I have to keep it secret
so I open up the curtains wide
for ancient light to swallow
this exact moment in time
and deliver it to the past

First published in East Jasmine Review.

2014 · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

The First Him

It’s home movies on a reel-to-reel.
Light is always dim, pouring in
from thin covered windows.
He is carpenter, framing houses.
Long days in the sun tan his skin,
make him sleep late on weekends.
We play Ambulance anytime I bump my head,
scrape my shin. He lifts me over his shoulders
and mocks sirens rushing hurried to hospitals.
He lays me down like a patient and makes me giggle,
fingertips under the arms, across the belly.
For seconds, I forget.
I am a laughing four-year-old unafraid.
Until I am not. Until the looming frame of him
scrapes ceilings, pulls in the weight of rooftops
down into the darkest room, windows covered thick.
He does not lock his door. I play the secret game
of Find the place he is not. Stay quiet enough
and he won’t see you close the door.
He will not call after you.
Scratches flicker across film spliced memories
as the reel hums, tick-tick-tick-tick-tick.

First appeared in East Jasmine Review.

2015 · Publications

Yellow Chair Review

yellow chair Very excited to have a poem published in the newest issue of Yellow Chair Review! “Oil-Black” is one about my grandfather I wrote shortly after his death last year. I had the hardest time setting on revisions for this poem, but decided it was time to send it out into the world. There are many fine poems in this issue, including one from my friend, Jeri Thompson. Enjoy!

2015 · Publications

In-Flight Literary Magazine Issue # 3

paper-planeThe newest issue of In-flight Literary Magazine is out today! I have two very different poems up, “What I Mean When I Say My House Is Now a Park” and “Paint”. One is a memory of my young childhood house that has since been demolished and the other is a lyrical poem. There are many other fabulous poets, including my friend, Don Kingfisher Campbell. Take a few minutes and read a poem for the first day of National Poetry Month!