He said you're beautiful like
black birds on a gray sky or
a tree that's recently died but
holds its last green leaves until
they wither and crack, swept away
by a northern wind bearing his name.
IntimacyI asked to be slapped—
and your palm met my cheek
with constraint, cupped to lessen
the ensuing redness, the responsive tears
that welled but only in my left eye.
There are things like tealights
and dinners after midnight that we agree
to be romantic: that we consume
through antique filters, lace
between our fingers, but your palms
sweat when we hold hands
and I've never liked skin webbing,
nor the catch of calluses—
So, I propose to rewrite
a definition: mostly for my sake,
but also for the sakes of others
who have found themselves wondering
if they might be a-something
because they don't like to be touched
softly on the skin
or loathe surprises of any sort,
who would like to make love
then smoke a cigarette,
go for a jog without meaning insult
to the man in their bed—
Because when I asked you to slap me—
I meant to say I trust you,
He was a boy in his own head,
a galaxy created from winter sunlight
caught between colored panes of glass,
then filtered through thick absinthe curtains
and slivers of cheap jewelry shattered,
knocked from his mother's wrist to attract
swarms of rabid phosphenes and the hollow sound
skin makes when it's assaulted, the proceeding nebula
of violet and sickened yellow and red,
the pleas that made her singing voice pretty
and that man's eyes soften: liquid, halted.
In rapturous observation,
he collected beauty, but beauty
always betrayed him by its falsehood.
her depressions used to wrinkle the bedsheets.she lay around for hours, then called out,
"i don't know whether i'm too old or young for this,
but i'm just too tired to face today and tomorrow
might be the same. will you get your brother for me?
i left him at school this morning, and i'm not sure what time
he needs to be picked up. i've been forgetting so much lately,
so maybe i should work less, take a vacation somewhere warm,
or sleep until the year settles its dust. but we can't do that now,
can we? responsibility's a bitch, jorge. don't get married,
at least not to someone you'll divorce."
like a good son, i collected adrian from the pavement
where he'd been waiting too long,
and his teacher asked me whether or not that would become
an everyday thing. i said, "it's not my business,
just my blood," before we walked to the running car waiting,
the fumes growing impatient and curling above
the cold that made my brother shiver. he wore a coat
traci bought him, one from a store i didn't know the name of,
and it was strange to think
we landed in oklahoma
and drank cheap martinis in the terminal;
you carried my guitar and fell in love
with my voice but not my tongue,
not my hands.
there's a man with a garage
that looks like a plane because nothing
meant more to him. will you make a model
of that bar? will you make a model
of my red cheeks? or will you live in a townhome
with her and three children?
the problem was you're not gay.
the problem was there was feeling
but it wasn't for us. i had you but
it wasn't for us.
i'm not sure if i resent you,
but i remember that bar and every pockmark
on the stool you sat on while i played
the song that parted your lips;
you remember every pockmark in oklahoma
like they were ours.
Census of Ghostshe now resides in susurration:
shaken from our summer sheets,
flags drawn taut and shuddering,
and wispseeds rising into the light
with their dressing gowns unbuttoned,
planting onto my lips that name
i've tried to hang with himself;
on a late morning,
while folding your laundry,
i found him again and held his tongue
when he yearned to speak of love
that once transpired in his passion,
or maybe it was the infatuation
of surrealists: brown skin but touched
upon each other,
marking the insignificant with brands
of remembrance: like the crinkling of
tinfoil or the crisping of smokers' lungs
or the thought that cigarettes are only
romantic if you can witness their glow
or hear them faintly burning—
white ash rests on the dashboard
and his fingers are caked with rust
in my flashbulb drug collections:
the color of blood that's been drying
in my mouth while i try to recall how it felt
to hold someone who might have come
and remained forever breathing
if that letter had never reached my
To His Coy Mistress[es]i. earl and lady grey
you have often graced me with your soft-spoken company, bergamot blossoms adorning your dark hair, fragrant as your steamy exhalations. you remind me of simple home and something untouchably elegant, pale and supple when i dress your skin with pallid cream and soften your thin, graceful hands. on a bleak winter evening, snow glittering by lamplight, you are a royal pleasure: a warm complement.
i will lay you on the finest saris, those embroidered with gold threads and flawless diamonds that shimmer like your black eyes. you are the champagne of my harem, floral yet astringent, fine-boned cheeks seeking nothing less than perfection. your tiger soul knows your worth, seductive and mysterious; in the autumn, you remind me of leaves ripe with color, falling from my desperate touch: a distant lover.
you are the sun's daughter birthed by soil, a celestial soothing who blooms
Compulsioni am awed by man's ability to create
in explicit symbolism,
bragging divinity in the face
of yesterday's mathematicians,
a garden on the storyteller's tongue.
MantisI thought I was a kaleidoscope of euphoric perceptions,
a sensual overlap of sixteen color-receptive cones on the acid spectrum,
creator of words to describe what only I could see when those sinews melted,
and the ocean waxed at my backdoor. I was bottom-feeding, heat-seeking,
capturing bent men like stunned seahorses boiling in the rainbow coral,
blinking wake of sonoluminescent dazzlement: tight jeans wrapped around their ankles,
faces blue but bubbling dank blood to their lips that sealed a pseudonym—
Then I was tongue-tied like a victim complex: always the receiver and never the sadist
of an infliction self-invented. I was wordless and mosquito sex stagnant,
playing in kiddie pools I called the Atlantic, wanting to tear a hole in reality or literature,
make the currents foam in the shape of wet letters that curved for my diction,
but I am not powerful: I am a shrimp. Not a writer, not a leviathan—
Though I don't think I've come to terms with it yet,
so I'll just keep br
daliin that second,
(when the sun beat so hard i could hear
every waving particle, see the color before it was
swallowed; i closed my eyes and felt the concrete
blaring, the refracting windows aching, and each
bird crackling in the parched trees, feathers rustling
and beaks clacking, blackness bleached orange and
my hands sought in the silence of my pockets,
imprisoned and pallid like a dog yapping in that hot car)
summergirlNow read aloud over here. Do give it a listen, won't you?
you are crowthroated and tumbling
through the aspen grove
hair on fire with sunrise, lungs
full of sky.
eyelashes like wildflowers
and every morning brings
a new spray of freckles
and a sharper curve to your collarbones.
the cornfields hold no shadows
for your lighthouse eyes
and there are no endings in that
ii. you have grown
autumn finds you with broken ankles
leaning on an oak branch
and watching the skies.
crow to sparrow--you are quiet.
summergirl, there is peace in silence,
fallen antlers in your hands.
you will come to mourn your deer.
keep them close.
iii. by winter you have paled,
and like the streams
your eyes have frosted over.
you feel the chill--
there is no need for sight.
ZemiThings having to be returned to their transparency:
/ green mist-earth / knit
atmosphere / fathomless
blue-lavender / lights
spun out from light
are recalcitrance / and you
& - a fingernail of summer
- a melting of rain
- a crown of flowers
- a priest of sunsets
(beautiful? I love you, because. Zemi.
Zemi. are you beautiful because I love
you? Zemi? )
I imagine this is what it's like to breathe sea foam
over the Cliffs of Moher: hydration. absolution.
To Rilke, it's a melody that floods over us
when we have forgotten how to listen for it.
I never could forget this: for how could I know
my hand as both well and chasm? and how could I know
time, a windstruck dimension, standing in her white street?
We go on morning walks and Zemi
laughs at everything I say.
wallflower clippingsthere's scar tissue in her throat,
swollen around the words she never said;
dark rings around her eyes
like planets unremembered, and
a staleness to her touch,
the crystalline Dead Sea.
she's living like a story
that's already been told
"if no one loved you
would you mean anything at all?"
in that moment,
we forget to exist.
with thanks to salingerAudio version.
it's on those cold mornings
when you are nothing but indrawn breath
swirling and knitted up inside too-big
skin and weightless bones--
when the horizon arches up against
the half-thawed tendrils of sunrise
with golden teeth,
and smiling, begs--
it's on those cold mornings
when leaving is easiest.
the car will be cold, and you will
shiver, and the engine,
much too loud,
will smack of blasphemy
but you will find peace in the steady roll
of tarmac and the yellowing light
spilling across it,
with dust motes kicked up and carried
like fish in the undertow.
when you come to that first
crossroads, it will shock you:
the way the decision hangs there
trembling and desperate--
but there are no right answers and you will not
hesitate. and each successive choice
will be made of its own accord,
and you will roll the windows down,
and draw down the scent of ear
rock bottom, ocean floorhalf-past a different kind of broken
on sadness, she wrote:
blind fool in the umbra
bury yourself in me
on the other side of lonely
and by god, i love you
(maybe i will be a landfill)
everyone i meet looks for a place to stay;
out of the woods, on wet roads
under wind, under rain
-i'm so far away
no wonder it took him 1455 pages
waiting for her to come this way
tramps like us-
in lieu of emptiness
in absence of a poem
(pour a little salt, we were never here)
your heart was a broken sailor
fishing for hearts with lace and not netting;
into the deep end of our story
i saw god leaving the shore
PositiveLeft to me, your worst historian,
to pick up, in a daze, some depth of diction
I never found while you had lived
and I can only now pretend that words are capsules
of sanguinity, that they’ll unmask the symbologies
of sound that bore your binaries to their realms
like sacred dreams of Hypnos.
Regret’s a simple word.
I always thought of "A Separate Peace", and in those scenes
you were this Mozart in the rough, a perfect chord, one
which I would meekly channel through cracks of light
shown through the fist of my own interference,
Why this wisdom, now?
The cosmic clown who wrote this song
does not annotate our endings with an epilogue.
I do not see the irony in celebrating
your new found space.
There is no iconicity,
no special shape
that serves the world
as you did serve,
to bend and writhe the streets
into a wellspring, a circuitr
Vishnui. (matsya - fish)
in the beginning, there was silver;
mercury inscribing cuneiform
beneath the bloodwork of your skewed scales,
throughout salt-drenched lungs.
and you laced clear planets into your slipstream,
wrapped solar systems in translucence.
ignoring all the shattered galaxies. ignoring
how easily their frail orbits
ii. (kurma - turtle)
your ribcage screamed a shattered warcry
of not-quite-god and less-than-human;
a shark's-tooth carapace crushed in.
forgotten names clawed out your sternum.
your spine fused into your biting back.
iii. (varaha - boar)
razor-wireless shrieked of true tales
thieved by midnight's neon-tripped true bones.
gunshot eyelids half-horizon,
you rose, arpeggio
iv. (narasimha – half-man, half-lion)
he walked like christian gods on holy
breaking waves of children's bowed backs.
a crooked tooth inside you turned,
crucified his smug steel-gray blue.
v. (vamana - dwarf)
eras of electrons scratched
themselves into your heels
SurrogateI stopped using his full title
because it started sounding too formal,
and it’s hard to be standoffish with someone
who swaps albums and memories so generously,
who loves German chocolate but hates the smell of oranges,
who knows me by my boneless,
drowsy form on the couch and by my words.
And maybe one day he’ll ask
me to drop the title altogether and call him Brad,
but I won’t.
Because it sounds too much like dad,
and I’m afraid of slipping up.
Growing Pains ManagementWhen I was four years old,
my mother told me that the sky was the limit,
so I ran face first into the
pine tree in my front yard
to get the ground knocked out of me.
When I was thirteen,
I busted my head open in band class.
In the clinic, I wiped the blood
that flooded down my face with my forearm
and made the Vice Principal vomit.
Since then, I’ve made a habit out of making
When I was seventeen, Kevin put a copy
of HOWL face down on my desk and told me
not to tell anyone. I didn’t.
He still lost his job.
Now, I’m twenty two and I don’t know
what I want to be when I grow up.
My hair is thinning faster than my
patience is thinning faster than my
blood is thinning faster than my
wallet. I buy time at the ATM
and gamble it away.
It’s all maintenance now, like so many
car parts creaking. I haven’t put on
that many miles but when you floor it
for twenty two years straight
there’s going to be some damage.
you need to have a plan...so here's to
to some forgotten shore.
2. fall desperately in love with
i. the ocean
ii. the sky
iii. the honey sunrise and
iv. the steelgray winter dawn.
soul-deep into the water and
4a. search out the requisite words
i. from behind white and blue curtains
ii. and underneath clam shells
iii. and in the wakes of fishing boats, and
4b. pluck them from the ceaseless
scrawls of sunlight
against the slopes of waves.
5. make time for
ii. and other
To LondonGypsy hopefuls once told me,
there are flights leaving for
at any given instant
Upon sizing up our town with
did you realise how little
our frustrations were?
I spoke about this ineffable feeling
of stepping out of one tub
and into new water.
The hotel was done up nicely,
chandeliers and polished English accents.
Labels aside they still mixed
milk into their coffee
and had toast with jam and butter.
I was living under the impression
that most of the Internet
came from my same slice of city pie,
conveniently forgetting about
the undersea cables.
I loathed the lack of vernacular
sentence styles and words.
She saw things through different eyes
and I understood her.
When I found out she was a writer
halfway across the globe
I was selfish
and I loved the world a little less.
It was different
but it was still water.
RestlessI’ve been living in the same breathy dream
for too many days now; I’m bed-ridden and
stale and I reek of those moments that come
full throttle like a car crash on a winter night
this is evolution where weak hearts
are afraid of the shadows and where
an apologetic wind births no remorse;
he will move on—anchored ship
set sail, I am the sunken wreckage
that never learned how to swim.
he will move on, Darwin says
I never had a chance
I wish I were the textbook sadness,
symptom and solution and endurance
but I’ve spent too long sleeping on the
thoughts of shooting stars and gravity
and reasons, scientific calculations with
thrice-checked proofs for the skeptics
that don’t believe in the sleight of hand magic
reality wants to imply
I am not the insomniac writer with
better things to do than sleep; I am
the heavy bones afraid of what
lies in the darkness beneath
the skeletons of childhood monsters
shhhwe are lurking too close to jesus,
on the empty edge of a lightless stage,
curved nails digging into the skin of our pale palms.
he asks as an afterthought
do you believe in something holy? and i think yes,
i think this is what i believe in.
Witches MarketMidnight fell like an old black bird;
I meant to wait for you.
There were tables rich with
amethyst and pearls,
and fragrance by the fistful,
mint and petrichor.
I meant to wait for you.
You were gliding through the haze
with your knotted bag half full-
shadows flicked their tongues
above your knees;
you meant to look for me.
Moments ran like mice;
a silver pot, a cup of tea.
She stank of vinegar and thyme-
the hand was hers, the heart was mine.
Her iron eyes reflected flame;
she took my lungs, she took my name,
though you had meant to look for me,
and I had to meant to wait for you
amid the black salt and the brew.
Ash for the handle,
Birch for the brush,
Willow for the cord that binds the twigs.
cool breeze across sultry skinorange morning
in the wind
like a bridge
in my breath
and my two lips cross
your soft skin connection
to reach the end
open and waiting for me
AutonomousShe asks me to tell her a story,
a quiet ignorance of the self,
the unaffected scratches
on her freshwater skin and
years she spent
searching for the dreams orbiting
her like forlorn moons;
love happens on the sharp
nights unbalanced with
a little too much of the things
you don’t understand. She never
liked her eyes, full and honest and an
unignorable admittance she was real.
But she never was a cheater,
she claims, no one
put a price on her; the things she gave
away cost too much like
doctored up, re-polished
silence. Sounds familiar.
Imagine a place where
no one has a nightmare. No one
has a voice, their lives are
in their hands: calloused and
beautiful. They wake unweathered
and they are not blind and
she is the sun, unaware she
could never catch her
dreams. Even now, she
wants to be a bird when she
grows up (the endless cliché
when you’ve already sold all your
time in exchange for a pleasant
absence of memories)
with wind gliding down her back
He doesn't write poetry anymore.He doesn’t write poetry anymore,
even if he still collects it, reads it, saves it, treasures
faded verses from his wife the way connoisseurs
savor vinyl over metallic rainbows on disc.
I don’t mind not knowing, but I can’t stand not asking.
The record needle hits the groove wrong;
he stumbles over words that aren’t there,
rummaging for an answer he doesn’t really have.
He doesn’t write poetry anymore
and his confusion is strangely endearing.
But there’s a lyricism to his words that I love,
poetic lines inserted between the daily grind
of character names and who said what;
voiceless boys in white and draymen carting the dead to saltwater lakes,
elegiac undertones that haunt historians and forlorn painters.
He doesn’t write poetry anymore –
except when he does.