2010s · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

Skin As Thick As Walruses

We stopped panicking ages ago.
We take a deep breath.
One of us takes a turn
and we run the fire drill.
You want us in a crisis—
we get calmer—
we listen for the beats.
We can walk
on a turbulent plane
balancing plates and
babies on our hips.

We can direct you during disaster.
We can cover our heads,
protect our fragile necks,
and look you in the eye
while singing a peaceful song.
We know how to keep a steady hand
when cutting the wires.
We know this too shall pass.
We hum the song of the screaming siren.
We have skin as thick as walruses.

When it happens—
We do not cry—
we do not feel it—
those are luxuries
for a child born into chaos.

Those assigned to protect us
were those who sinned against us,
used us as shields, caught us
in friendly fire, or turned
and looked the other way.

We learn
a constant state
of preparation
for impact.
One foot ready to run
—smile at your teacher—
but keep one fist clenched
and over time it fuses
into our breath
so there are no

No shock when your bags
are in the car before
you ever unpacked them—
no hesitation in the middle
of the night—it’s time to leave—
time to keep the clothes on your back.

And your mother crying means you
make your own dinner and your
sister screaming means you keep
your eyes down—stay out of the way—
but be ready to pick out
the shrapnel— put the chairs back
on their feet—hold your breath—

don’t wake the bear— don’t crack
the eggs—don’t make him mad— don’t
cross the line— don’t cry now—don’t
need—don’t look up— don’t be
a kid— don’t let your guard down—
don’t flinch—don’t blink—don’t

We will walk through fire.
We will save your babies
and you can thank us
for pulling the earth up
on wide shoulders
or else the orbit will fail.

First published in Disorder: Mental Illness and Its Affects.

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

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 · Anchors (Poetry with Music) · Poetry · Recordings · The Unnamed Algorithm

If I Ever Have Children

If I ever have children
they will never know me in my thirties
the woman checking it off
all the things-to-do
like a master’s degree
and home buying
like falling in love completely
and writing a book of how it ends
finding new community
and loving her whole body flawed
flinging open all the doors
and surrendering to the unknown next

If I ever have children
they will never know me in my twenties
the woman fighting against it
to save her own soul
find her own belief in God
and lose her given self
venture out from community
live alone, love alone
sort through the old baggage
give them names and abandon them
find focus for talents and energies
and heal the damage at all costs

If I ever have children
they will never know me in my teens
young girl trying masks
on and off each year
like too many friends
and partying far too young
like black dyed-hair and boots
sinking down through the cracks
sharp turn into a Christian life
and a radical-faced community
stepping through the windows
where she’d press her face to the glass

If I ever have children
they will never know me as a child
a broken girl holding
a green Picasso heart
running with one parent from the other
always leaving school early
memories in paper bags stashed
in the trunk of a broken-down car
with walk-in closets for the skeletons
and attics for hiding and running free
words swallowed in torn pieces
forcing her destiny as a poet


Originally published in The Mayo Review, also included in The Unnamed Algorithm.
Listen to the poem on SoundCloud, from Anchors CD.

2010s · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

White Sandals

A ten year old girl
stood in the alleyway

in white buckled sandals
that made her feel too tall—

like someone twelve not ten
like someone more carefree,

sandals for a girl who could just
be a girl and not—

one begging her mother not
to walk away,

pleading her only parent to stop
going farther down

into the alleyway dark.
Heels slightly wobble and tilt

on bare red ankles
on ten year old legs

always ready to run.

(Originally published in Disorder: Mental Illness and Its Affects)

2010s · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

The First Her

It’s always dusk or dawn
in my memory. When I open my eyes,
she smiles or I see laughter in the house
though I know those days were heavy
with labor. She does laundry
in the kitchen while she cooks me eggs.
I will always eat my vegetables for her.
She always moves across this
dimly lit room. If I watch her longer,
the sun must go down. It gets
very dark for days, dark for years.
I can hear her hum, though I never
remembered her humming.
I am so small and hate to have
my hair brushed. She is every
thing that connects me
to this earth. She gives me
folded clothes to put away: my rainbow
t-shirt sparkling glitter in my hands.
Her long straight hair is perfect,
a hippie part down the middle,
always pulled back in a loose ponytail.
I remember plants in the window sills,
long green and yellow leaves.
I don’t remember how
she cared for them.
She cleans other
people’s houses, burns
her hands on the chemicals.
I will climb her ladders,
I will hold her razor blades
on my fingertips. No one
will notice these scars until I show them.

First published in East Jasmine Review.

2010s · Poetry

Seventy-Five Hours

Holding Barbie up to me, you said
“My mommy’s in jail”
and broke the strong girl face
that walked through my door.
I pulled Barbie up while you
cried in your thick five-year-old legs
dressed in pink four-year-old pants.
In two weeks you’d be six
starting first grade. You knew
your letters and how to write your name.
How to write “I love you, Mommy”.

You said you were mad at her
for going to jail, for doing bad things.
In my foreign home, you laughed
at SpongeBob and played
with unfamiliar toys. You should
have been in Santa Barbara
buying new school clothes—
instead you were with strangers
in Lakewood Mall Target
buying clothes for a six-year-old,
guessing your size underwear.

I took you to a fair at the beach
but forgot to bring cash,
so we stared at the things
that neither of us could have.
We danced in my backyard,
blew bubbles for the dog,
and sang the song, “Whooooo
lives in a pineapple under the sea?”

They found the man you called
Daddy One—or maybe Two—
but you called him a number.
You cried when I told you
he was on his way. His name
was on your birth certificate,
so he drove from Santa Barbara
over two long hours.
He cried when he saw you—
you did not cry when you saw him.

I kissed you on your forehead.
You left with Daddy One
and bags of new school clothes,
back to Santa Barbara.
In less than five minutes,
I returned to my own house empty
of your laughter, SpongeBob still
on the Netflix queue.

Originally published on Ishaan Literary Review

2014 · Publications

East Jasmine Review Volume 2 Issue 1

East Jasmine Review V.2.1The newest issue of East Jasmine Review is available now! I have three poems in this issue, “Words in Stone and Liquid”, “The Truth of My Skin”, and “The First Her”. I am honored to share these pages with some of my favorite poets, Charlotte San Juan, Clifton Snider, John Brantingham, Mary Torregrossa, Thomas R. Thomas, Elmast Kozloyan, and K. Andrew Turner! Over 100 pages of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in three eco-friendly formats: Kindle, ePub, and PDF for the low cost of $4.50!

The first two poems of mine will also be in my upcoming collection, All the Tiny Anchors.

2014 · Publications

Disorder: Mental Illness and Its Affects

DisorderThumbNailCover  I am very excited to share this anthology I am honored to be a part of. Two of my poems, “White Sandals” and “Skin As Thick As Walruses“, are in the pages of this collection of poems about living with and around mental illness. The 140 page book is available through Amazon or through the Red Dashboard bookstore.

2000s · Healing the Heart of Ophelia · Poetry

July 1970

for my mother at 20

You seemed taller in the trees
Hair parted hanging long as limbs
How high did you climb then
How long did you remain
among the leafless branches
Twenty year old girl
Newly mothered
You must feel young smiling
Quilted dress does not stop you
You stand up and lean over down
It is dusk on another day
You swing— arms open— in the forest
Fingers spread wide
Thick red cardigan
You must feel free
I only knew you this way
Homemade dresses and open-toed shoes
You hated feeling closed in
You did come back for her
You must have known
As the woods grew dark
A new decade was upon you
A chance to begin again
The mountain air, crisp
I imagine, filled your lungs slow
Head tilted back as you swing
Back, smiling, and
Swing forward

First appeared in Healing the Heart of Ophelia.
Recently published on Cadence Collective.