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 · 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.

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

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.