2010s · All the Tiny Anchors · Poetry

Global Warming

Every September
seems to be hotter
than the years before.
Maybe because
all the weekends I spent
in his one window
studio apartment
waging war against the heat
with midnight baths
and dueling fans across
our shieldless bodies
humming of sweat
and creamsicles
dripping milk and sugar
in florescent orange
and raspberry
refusing the day-glow sun
for our own
luminescent
atmosphere.

First published in Gambler Mag.

2010s · All the Tiny Anchors · Poetry

Love Letter No. 2: To My Inner Light

There are no more demons in your closet.
We sent them home years ago.
Love burned out the last of your fears,
so you look for more to conquer.

Behind the ears of any man are his secrets.
The soft space of hair and skull and lobe.
You press your fingers to it,
it collapses under your strength.

You will fall into the space you have emptied.
But then, you must come back here.
Return from that he-space.
Breath in the she-space where
you deserve to live.

First published in Cadence Collective.

2010s · Poetry

All The Ways I Love You

I was excited to meet you.
You would be more like me.
All those years being yanked
from one place to the next,
being pulled out of school early
means I wasn’t coming back.
I can’t remember the names
of my teachers, but I can recite
cities like family members.

Then I met you, Long Beach,
the city of everything,
of Cambodia and Mexico,
of apartments spilling bodies
in the streets, spilling ranchero melodies
and clicking tongues full of Vietnam.
My color was a minority.
My clothes from donated boxes
did not flinch you—
you with your narrow alleyways
and grubby-cheeked children.

I was at home before I knew
how long I’d stay. I knew you
were like me, born of struggle
and sitting on windowsills staring
out at distant city lights.

Even when we got a new father
and lived among your riverside homes,
it was all wrong like me.
Concrete banks dressed in graffiti.

Wilderness trails where teenage boys
played war around stained mattresses
left by public refugees.

I became a woman in your sunlight.
I never had to deserve you.

You knew all my names,
even when I left you.
I tried to be the golden boardwalks
of Hermosa and Redondo
but they pushed me out
to the gum-stained sidewalks
of Lawndale, where train tracks
drew lines between me and him,
where girls like me paid their own way
through city college.

Then he left me for Westwood,
a place I could never see
my own stark reflection,
so I came home to you,
and the best skin of you.

I wore my new clothes here
on all your borders north
and south, and east and west.
All your contradictions sang
like love songs, even when for years
I was only your mistress.

Other cities have soccer moms
and radio-friendly punk rock,
winter tans and French manicures,

but I know, even they find a place
in your diagonals, your Wardlows
that cross both apartment projects
and gated communities.

I will grow old here, far from your shore.
Even though I bought a house
next to the tracks again, your tracks
comfort me—not division but connection,
a literal line of how close we are,
side-by-side, lying in the lap of you.

First published in Cadence Collective.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Your Dark Sunlight

You, carried by wind, fill my horizon
I am tangled in your kite strings
knees bloody from the drag
arms ache from wind yanking

I squeeze eyelids tight
can’t find sleep in your sunlight
eyes grow dark
circled by your high maybes

Your wild flight, soar and dive
I have no wings to carry
can’t pull to your height
you only rise, grow farther

Hand me your knife
cut me clean of you
Let my wrists bleed and clot
let me fall asleep

in the quiet dark

First published in Snorted the Moon and Doused the Sun.

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 · 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

To the Men who told me my Love was not enough

1. They told me with their hands

the first man I loved used his hands to pull down
my panties without asking
I had loved him without question
his carpenter hands
rough against my abdomen
my five-year-old heart was
blackhole becoming

2. They told me with their mouths

the second man I loved used his mouth
—when I gave him my free forward,
my unrelenting, my wide-open
when his empty was filled
with the red vacuum of my sex
he mouthed “I still love her”
and the her of me was vacated

3. They told me with their silence

the third man I loved used his tornadoed
soul against my earth-bed body for landing
then he pulled his sleeve up to his wrist
and wiped my name from his eyes,
rubbed my wetness from his now-landed
—took his relit fire and left
my heart, soot-thin
and never

First published in work to a calm.
Nominated for a Push Cart Prize.

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.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

What I Mean When I Say We Can Talk Without Poetry

When I dance for you and our knees brush at the bar, we begin to forget. The more I think about the space inside your coat, the more you learn the names of my favorite drinks, we stop saying them. Words like wife. Words like marriage. We become teenage-nervous where mouths cannot form words like separation. All I know is giggle and heart-dotted-i’s. We are back at the edge of unknowing. Where our grownup selves are strangers we might not want to meet. You use the word awkward when I give you a book on a poet’s divorce. You are a teenaged father all over again. Except your children are leaving now, one-by-one. You regress a decade for each one. If I am fifteen and you are seventeen, sitting in my living room listening to records, maybe we also forget the word husband. You are just a boy with grown man scars. I am only a girl biting my nails, chewing at the cuticles, wishing that boy would lean down and kiss me, but fearing. Fearing if he does, it means we need more words for you and me. And if you hold my hand, are we steady? If I wear your coat wrapped around me in the dark, what will be a word for that?

First published in Whiskey Fish Review.