2010s · Poetry

Suffocation Is Anxiety’s Friend

she says
I have paper bags in my throat
she says
I am coughing up light
she says
mother is recycled pulp
she says
he filled them with his shredded drafts
she says
paper-cuts are her father’s tongue
she says
she speaks around them, crumpled masses growing acid soft
she says
sleep was the first lover who left
she says
mother is glue-handle secure
she says
she’ll swallow stones to make them pass
she says
bags will either suffocate or fuel brighter flames
she says
salt-pulp are her father’s hands resting on her shoulders
she says
she’ll wrap her mouth in brown silence
she says
coughing aches her ribcage
she says
I am emptying light

First published in Incandescent Mind: Issue Two.

Advertisements
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 · Poetry

Five Miles Away and I Miss You

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.

2010s · Poetry

Some Haphazard Line Tied onto a Kitchen Table

Be here. Be centered. Be a girl on the verge of everything.
Be the wrong kind of naive. Be the wrong kind of experienced.
Be nestled in pine bench seats. Be as bright as fluorescent bulbs.
Be a mother cooking spaghetti. Be ducks in blue flower tiles.
Be a wall telephone, spiral cord stretched for miles. Be a
pimpled-faced teen. Be a former homeless child sleeping
in her own room. Be dancing on clean white sparkled
linoleum. Be a shy step-daughter. Be a visiting sister
towing another man behind. Be glass tabletop,
chipped edges for all night D&D. Be a pile of
endless dishes. Be cooking sherry snuck by
seventeen-year olds. Be cartoons. Be drawn
on the refrigerator door. Be gaping windows.
Be a kind of glue. Be her best memories.

First published in Like a Girl: Perspectives on Feminine Identity.

2010s · Poetry

First Ride

Not at four or five, but nine—my first ride,
two wheels under, long seat, long handles
reaching out to hold me like how
I’d imagined my first kiss. I pushed
my feet against the pedals—move forward,
stay straight—push down. I was wavering
but I challenged the authority of gravity.
Sidewalk rough and cracked upwards
from the rebellious roots of trees hovering
over, shedding their seeds and leaves.
They dared me to ride under, past
their obstacle course—I did have something
to prove—I needed to win this race.
I held tight to my handles, gripped sharply
onto the balance I found there near
the street. I understood how simple it would be
to gain the respect of nature, though
I was never more than city-child,
born of wire and concrete.

First Published in Drunk Monkeys.

2010s · Poetry

Pressboard Salvation

I rolled under the church pews,
long rows of orange and brown.
Most don’t question the reckless
abandon of a six-year old.
I could spy under their knees
after the service, grown-ups having
grown-up conversations.
It wasn’t their secrets I sought
but my own secrets squashed down
in the carpet between rows and rows
of tight loops, pushed hard
into the waxy terrain.
Under the pews, the pressboard bellies
gave me ceiling as I studied
the mangled sawdust glued
tight with thick unity.
I’d scratch its skin for weakness,
finger-bit nails hunting splinters
on those bellies achingly smooth.
But I knew where screws broke in.
I dug those edges deep.

First Published in Drunk Monkeys.

17 Poems Not About a Lover · 2010s · Poetry

What I Mean When I Say My House Is Now a Park

I stand on cinderblock walls barefoot
holding my hands out
over the edge.
He says he gave me his eyes
so I close them, walk brick to brick.
My heels, calloused, a line of infection
is growing. If it reaches my heart,
I will die at age seven.
I count to ten, then one hundred seventy.
South of me is demolition, a chain
of commune houses sunken into grass.
It is always so tall here.
The pain in my foot is muffled, a woman
held captive, screaming silent.
I toe-to-toe down the cinder line
towards our junkyard neighbor.
We built a fort into bamboo soldiers.
When we leave here, we will forget how
we need to burn everything still standing.
This place will not be for children, but
black tar parking lot.
That way, it won’t have to remember us.
Remember my seven-year-old hands digging
nails from my feet. A tree house
of death threats can die here or
lie buried under asphalt.

First published in In-Flight Literary Magazine.

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.