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.

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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.

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.

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.

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

Bows

for DM

I want bows. I want them tied on the tips
of my fingers. I want the end wrapped up
like a gift ungiven left at the party we
never had. I want to open it before Christmas
before families who keep expecting life
to be a painting, a 1950s Norman Rockwell
digging his claws in my neck. I want to repeat
the refrain again and again so I can memorize
it. So I can feel the comfort of the familiar.
I want to make a circle around my head, my paper,
my rectangular room, to return to, to come
back again, to summarize the dust on my fingertips
covered in bows.

First published in Spectrum Anthology.

2010s · Poetry

Tracheotomy

I said it all. Slit a line down my throat and pried it open like a dissected frog. I bent over and shook my head upside down to dump all that shit out. I don’t have time for ulcers anymore so I cut a line through my esophagus, past my heart to my stomach. I used the sharpest knife I could find and scraped them out. Word after word corroding the stomach walls.   daddy, sick, penis, bedroom, underwear   My hands covered in black-tar memories. I scrape them all out.    father, protect, shhhhh, coarse hairs, vagina   I thrust the knife in deeper until I find the last of them.    child, baby, girl, dim light, daddy    I washed them all in the sink. I scrubbed, rinsed, and dried. Then set them in the full daylight sun. Some I kept, put them on the highest shelf. Others went one-by-one, slow and deliberate into a grinding disposal. The last of them rest safely between pages of poetry.

  First published in Then & Now: Conversations with Old Friends

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.

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.

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.