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

To myself in grief state

you don’t believe you know how to grieve. death loss feels different from heartbreak, sits wrong in you. you keep moving your mouth from hour to hour, minute to minute. you fear if your mouth isn’t full of sound the ache will surge up and slump off your tongue. you surround yourself with people and want desperately for them to see through you. both in the way you can be unseen and in the way they see below your skin. you don’t want them to ask because you hate the effort of simple answers. equally you hate the weight of darkening a party of light-faced people with your honest answers. you are a paradox of love and emptiness. you want sleep like submerging oceans. there will never be enough sleep. you forget and want to be forgotten. want to remember before when you were the light.

First published in Incandescent Mind: Issue Three, Selfish Work.

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2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Somatic

I can’t treat you like phobia
try to desensitize you out of my skin
so that my muscle fibers
won’t gather together
at the soft crease of your eyes

you are not a fear to faceat the height of a bridgeopen my eyes and gaze
at the depth of youlean forward and release

I cannot see you spider
across my arm and deep breathe the shiveryou raise in me

you are less like fear
more like heroin
a need I must starve
from myself
fast out the hunger
until the follicles
in my hair
have escaped
your scent

First published in Snorted the Moon and Doused the Sun.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

What To Do With Empty Hands

I don’t know what to do with my hands
I opened them up, I released my grip
the rope was ripped away
last strands tangled in my fingertips
so I cut one thread at a time
with the razor of my teeth

I still don’t know what to do with my hands
I washed off the blood, cleaned out the burn
they are bandaged and gauzed
but my fingers keep curling
around the ghost of your wrists
I press them out flat against the shower wall
against my bedroom wall, one hand
against the other, finger to finger

I still don’t know what to do with my hands
I’ve been writing you out of my heart for months
I run out of lead, I run out of paper
still my hands move around the ghost of your neck
your voice murmuring in the center of my palms
I try but I can’t suffocate your shadows

I don’t know what to do with my hands
so I press them to my mouth
let my lips surrender to your memory
I drag them everywhere you’ve been
across the back of my thighs
down the tip of my nose
they circle the round of my shoulder
(the last place you ever kissed me)

First published in Snorted the Moon and Doused the Sun.

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.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Damsel

I will never be damsel enough
to be claimed victory by savior
the way he swoops down
in her destroyed
sword out and crowned
I am without tower
without step-mother plotting
I need lover like home
not savior
not prince
I need lover like foundation
under bare feet

First published in work to a calm.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Crescendo or What I choose to remember

The last time was unremarkable.
The last time with him was ordinary
in its duration, its position, its intensity.
That is to say it was one more time before
he was off to work. One more time being
that it was the second time that morning.
The first-time being everything the last
should have been. The first time that morning
was consumed starvation. Being that he made
my body forget gravity. The first-time being laid
gasping off the side of the mattress.
It was the culmination of months abandoning.
The synchronicity of his chest against my shoulder
blades. The last time he set me alter high
and drowning in his sweat. The last time he’d fuck
anyone else on that mattress. He left me in love
with college boy sheets and summer fans
in November. The last time was a muted sigh.
The first time being crescendo. Arms tangled
in thighs. He refused to have me exhale
on his behalf. Being that he made my body
forget about gravity.

First published in work to a calm.

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.

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 · 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.