THE MAY, 2024 30/30 PROJECT PAGE

Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.

The volunteer poets for May are: Colton Babladelis, Caroliena Cabada, Victoria James, Jonna Kihlman, Katie King, Micah Mackert, Jacqueline Henry Moloney, and S. Salazar.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!

Day 27 / Poem 27

Some things are worth hard work
Worth the ripped calluses and
Raw dirt under nail bed sting
Things that are best learned
By motion, over and over

Deal me in a hand
I’m not much of a gambler
But I’ll be your huckleberry
Sure to be all aces and eights
If you’re playing

Infrastructure is best built once
Done right – something like
The Golden Gate Bridge, I’m
Sure it’s meant to be a narrative
Forged steel against rock island

Love is a molotov cocktail
Of chance and choices
Windswept blue and white
Pieces of my heart
Some things are worth hard work

found text from Obasan (1981) by Joy Kogawa

Silent Mother: do not speak or write.
Remain in the voice
the only sound a
wordless word.
You are tide water
on the raft begging
to draw me away
from this blood-drugged
country.

Martyr Mother
across the sugar-beet field:
Protect us with your
pain, the red flames.

Young Mother at Nagasaki,
am I not also there?

Gentle Mother: we were lost
in our mutual destruction.

Cotton balls in my mouth
soak the fear quickly.
Quickly expanding,
suffocating, numbing. 

Play the ace against
a brain fit for a Type A
host it feeds off of,
thrives on. Pop
a silencer on it, silence it.

Hours begging for silence,
safety, and ease plays front
while life, real life, plays
behind the scenes — 
easily looked over.

The dance of the fireflies will take you across words and seas,
Through hidden doors and closed-off realms.
You’ll spread out your wings to join them in flight,
Diving into the ocean, flying to the mountain’s height.
Let the wind flow through you and catch the sunset’s flare,
As millions of stars catch in your hair.

It’s popular to take drugs so you can work more.
I think about it when I practice for the grave, or, “meditate.”
There’s so much to be ashamed of. If you don’t know that 
is the greatest shame of all. But it’s not that sad.
People are going to kiss also. You wonder how many times.
In cartoons the kiss would butterfly off the screen to you.
In cartoons, you’d have to do what the writer made you.
In fact, you’d have to be only the skin that walks
the writer’s thoughts around. But the writer would feel 
through you. Sharing a nerve during a stimulation,
a spaghetti string of pleasure or pain
momently spanning two muzzles,
the dog of your nonexistent body
and the dog of my overhearing this
now, as I jerkily peck it to life.
You’ll never know how good this feels—

drawing myself into the poem
into our skin. It’s prenatal,
parietal. Gone.

It’s why they make posters of paintings.
It’s why we can dance and converse at once.
It’s why our species shades its lamps.
And if you don’t already hate mondays
it’s why now you will.

We

keep

looking

for

the

center

of

the

universe

In

hopes

of

finding

the

center

of

ourselves.

But

here’s

the

thing—

If

there’s no centerThere are no edgesTo fall offOr butt up againstNo center to run towardOr away
fromNo time to get Tangled up inNo looping thoughtsNo sharp edges to exploreNo walls to fall
from or dive from Or scaleNo way out No way inNo reason to pushOr be pushedNo
reason to spinOr danceNo reason for seasonsNo birthsNo birthsNo reason to love again and
again and again……………………………………………

It’s always fire season.

Above smoldering roots,

snow pads the ground, now infused

with smoky cedar and douglas fir,

some fancy restaurant entrée

nobody ordered. Zombie fires

are named after a creature so gone

it’s lost its spirit. So gone that

no amount of digging deep

can cure what ails it. 

Day 26 / Poem 26

Golden light breaks jagged
Bitten by shining black mandibles
The sun can be so deceiving
At this time of day

Scorched earth policy feels
So permanent, maybe I want
Some solutions to
Last forever, sawdust falling
In piles that blow away in
The wind, I burrow into the wood
And chew tunnels to the heart
Of things, to the meaty point
Of it all

I don’t have many enemies
These ones I’ll take to my
Grave or theirs, one of us
Won’t make it out alive
Feather and tar the roof
Something has to work eventually
Curses, maybe, will take hold

It’s so much responsibility
To own things, important
Things, like houses and
Roofs, so much responsibility
To wage war over things
Like shingles and rafters

As sunset deepens, I eat my fill of
all the fruits of early springtime. My teeth ache
from how cold the berries that hang low above
the ground—overripening. I will take
more than I can take. I am this way with love,
too—waiting so long that the flesh bruises mauve.
Everything is precious at golden hour:
jeweled berries, sunlight, and this love of ours.

A small sweet ohhhh 
dances on the leaves, 
crunches with the rocks.

A little mouth opens wide
for a slimy wriggly worm.
Sure thinking quickly
overshadowed by pure
excitement and wonder.

A sweaty hand holds tight
to my finger. Wobbly legs attempt 
to navigate bumps and gravel. 

A splotchy red face,
wet sticky hair matted
to his cheeks from sweat.
His eyes wander, taking inventory
of all the people who are his.

I laid in a field of grass, 
watching the gossamer clouds pass me by.
The sun warmed my eyelids and tickled my cheek.
I sensed the scent of water lilies, hiding by the creek.

I felt a sense of longing aching in my chest.
A quest to find a home, a place to rest.
But the clouds didn’t care about my woes.
They just sailed on by, watching the earth below.

Seeing all our moments come and go.
Everything beginning and passing through.
Soon evaporating into a mist.
Like the final light of summer or the first time we kissed.

what other sport must you don a belt and hat – My graduation you surprised me
stand around in the dirt like time is an open casket
because my brother loved the game 

\what other sport is theatre in the round – My baptism you surrounded me 
hear the coach saying good swing you got this like his words matter
because my brother loved the game

what other sport has food pairings hot dogs popcorn bubble gum – My home, run 
get a stack when you catch a type of ball I don’t understand the glove, fruit 
because my brother loved the game 

what other love do you gape without – Your love, safe. Brother, make contact. 
open mouth like food could feed it
because my brother loved the game 

wish I was there to bat away the bullets – Your presence, out
fuck those blue clueless cowards 
because my brother loved the game 

m&ybe Booger can bat a ball, Your fate, foul 
just when we need you back & justice for all 
because my brother loved the game 

I came down here to criticize these herons
for how they parent, but fell asleep. And now—

the bank is dissolving, the baseball diamond
sliding into the Mississippi, water is already

mudding my third bases. This year’s 
unfixed nests bob by like mail 

in a mail system, urging their hard, white
envelopes into the arms of certain destiny

in Galena, IL; Viroqua, WI, Elko/New Market, MN;
Shipshewana, IN; Cut and Shoot, TX; Chugwater, WY; 

Bucksnort TN; and Hungry Horse, MT; all towns
I woke up and ate eggs in. And I’ll eat eggs in yours too.

My long blue legs are running there now.

”Planetes”—Ancient Greek for planet,
meaning: the wanderer.

How lonely the planet
that can no longer wander.
To stay in one place and circle,
unable to see beyond your, own
limited sphere.

Per second:
The earth travels 18.5 miles
Light: 186,000 miles
A blink: .4 seconds (can a blink travel?)

II

We’ve heard: when we look at the stars
we see the past.
Our nearest galaxy, the Andromeda,
is a slide show from back 2.5 million years.
We have no idea what it has become.

The same would be true for anyone
peering up at our Earth today:
They would see only who we once were.
Not how we have changed.

III

How long does it take someone
to see you when you wander by?

When the light from you reflects
on my eyes
you are already gone

and I have wandered away from you.

My friend told me not to move to these quiet highways and gusty straits.
I settled there anyway, one stubborn chica refusing to be told

what she can and can’t do, picking a road and sticking to it.
I cruised leisurely before popping gravel faster than bullets.

Once I saw white picket fences, I followed them for miles,
not a symbol for keeping in or keeping out, not a symbol for

a marriage and a farmhouse and 2.3 children, but fences as blinders.
I spent evenings by my bedside praying for a sign, but didn’t see one

until the road before me simply could not go on. Before I had to say it
out loud: I’ve gotta turn around. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 3-point turn

or a 50-point turn, I’ve got to buckle up again, eyes on what’s in front of me,
above me. Embrace the blinking in the stars, embrace the stardust blinking in me. 

Day 25 / Poem 25

Sugar sweet and charcoal burned
Sparkle-sparkle-shine
Sprinkler coats the back yard
Slick and shiny, my thirst be quenched

When we met I spoke a mile a minute
Mouth moving faster than my heart
Was beating
Fingertips shyly reaching out
Branches in the crowns of two
Hardwood trees
Rustling in the wind, hoping
For some contact

Block of clay cut from the hillside
Mold my heart into a terra cotta
Pot, my skin pliable and ready
For your fingers, press divots
And fill me with wild flowers
And lavender that the bees 
Turn me into a sanctuary

Rough in the frame of 2x4s we
Swing from the silver maple
Hammock hung haphazardly
From octopus like branches
Hand of Buddha, names are funny
Things with a lot of power
And no short amount of prophecy
I knew I loved you when I
First heard your name, when
It first crossed my tongue

Bats in the dusk swoop
Low, open your mouth
Greedily kiss me full and true
Wishing well open to the sky
With purple borealis irises and
Yellow noonshine Haarlem tulips
Only a limited view of
The sky from down here,
Fairy lights and bedazzled trees
Pollen in my throat
That flowers may grow
To cut and to decorate the kitchen

from the text of The Archaeology of Mothering by Laurie A. Wilkie

Duh-Dum — kick start a metronome 
to memorize how our souls
came to life. Direct a symphony
with our beats — sway side to side.

Record it. Play it on vinyl.
Two-sided love story: 
one for their eyes,
one for us only.

Feel the melody on your
tongue, through your skin,
everywhere a whisper.
Intoxicate me by words,
keep me twirling
in each second of you. 

She stood unwavering in all her might,

The goddess of destiny, weaving threads across time.

She knows hidden passages and spellbound signs,

With a steadfast hand, she rolls the dice.

FETCH THE VAGNUS NERVE BATH OIL 

THE EARTH NEEDS THE HIMLECK 

MICROSCOPE ON SIMPICITY 

LET IT A NEW PHILOSOPHY 

I LIKE YOUR HAT YOUR DRESS LOOKS SWELL 

YOU PLANT CABBAGE & THRIFT

THESE ARE RESPONSIBLE THINGS 

COMMUNITY SERVICE IN MACREM&Y

MEADOWS & PHONE-FREE SOLITUDE YOUR WISH

DAFFODIL SPILL 

BUTTERMILK SWAY

THIS WAY THAT WAY 

LEFT LEFT RIGHT LEFT 

CLOTHE CONSCIOUSLY THE SPARROW 

WALK THE SIMPLE NO CAMARO 

(Order or adornment)

Sarco means flesh in old Greek.
Like sarcoma, a sort of tulip of skin.
Or sarcasm, which is to rip its 
petals with thorns. And we all 
have our pet phagias—
          Zoo-. Copro-. Oo-.
          (animal). (shit). (egg).

If words could be ingrown
zoo would be. From zōion, animal,
to the place I saw those snow monkeys 
catch a big goose, the meander 
of its black velvet neck among
their many silver hands. Prisoners
breaking into the asylum.

And,
in the zoo of the human form, 
or sarcophagus, or flesh-eating, we now see, 
from the common phrase 
“flesh-eating-stone”
the nickname, in toga-times,
for a special brand 
of limestone 
that made decomposition 
easy peasy.

As facts, this homely wreath
I’ve been weaving simply isn’t meaningful.

That flesh-eating-stone is the oldest 
ad slogan 

isn’t either.

We spend a long time waiting. 

             Waiting to arrive
                            Into ourselves–

                            Waiting to leave
                                             From ourselves–

             And yet, always coming back
                            Around again–

Unlike the child on a carousel,
             Already wizened, 

             Who just wants to stay on the ride.
                            She knows once she steps off

We spend a long time waiting. 

             Waiting to arrive
                            Into ourselves–

                            Waiting to leave
                                             From ourselves–

             And yet, always coming back
                            Around again–

Unlike the child on a carousel,
             Already wizened, 

             Who just wants to stay on the ride.
                            She knows once she steps off

                                   She’ll have to wait on a long line
                                              Just to get back on again. 

             And the white-winged horse with the crown
                            The one she’s been longing to ride

             Will be lost to her. 

We spend a long time waiting. 

             Waiting to arrive
                            Into ourselves–

                            Waiting to leave
                                             From ourselves–

             And yet, always coming back
                            Around again–

Unlike the child on a carousel,
             Already wizened, 

             Who just wants to stay on the ride.
                            She knows once she steps off

We spend a long time waiting. 

             Waiting to arrive
                            Into ourselves–

                            Waiting to leave
                                             From ourselves–

             And yet, always coming back
                            Around again–

Unlike the child on a carousel,
             Already wizened, 

             Who just wants to stay on the ride.
                            She knows once she steps off

                                   She’ll have to wait on a long line
                                              Just to get back on again. 

             And the white-winged horse with the crown
                            The one she’s been longing to ride

Will be lost to her. 

             And so she hides.

             Feeling a slight movement under the prancing legs,
                           Her heart already in wings

                           As the gate opens and the children rush in looking
                                     For the horse she now sits upon–

             Waiting for this ride to nowhere 
                                           but in her dreaming mind

Begin again.

                                             Courtyard colored paint                 for unfinished bedroom

                 Dandelions and horse radish                                                pulled from your flower beds

                                                          Take me as I am                 rolled like a blunt

                                                                                 Menthol vapor

                                   Vapor through your nose                         a whisper

                        Empty tequila bottles                                                 stowed overtop cupboards

                                                        The women                                 in your phone

                                                                             You, a back pocket

                                                    The back pocket                         of the wrong woman

                         Unlocked doors of your                                         house a metaphor

                                                      A metaphor for                         everyone but me

                                                                         One-day efforts to re-link

                                                                                                                      a

                                                                                                                                                           bro-                ken

                                                                                                                                                                     chain

                                                                            A different ending

Day 24 / Poem 24

We gather with such

Great hope to drink beer and lose

Weekly trivia

You know I love you when
I walk a cobblestone street,
steep, slanted with history,
sequestered to a district
that is a facsimile
of its original settlement,
 
and I wish you were here
with me, reading every
historical marker, commenting
on the way cities will list
their communal achievements
and not follow through.
 
You know I love you
because I ask, Do you
know I love you? and
you have never lied to me,
and you always answer
Yes when the answer is yes
 
and Why? when you
want to know why,
and you know I will always
answer, truthfully,
that I want you walking
with me, always, through history.

Elephant
Ears, face, and body spell Joy
a coincidence noticed after
the memory of grandma joy
was placed there with all 
her wisdom and grace.

Adventure Arrow
because why not —
it may face the wrong direction
it may hide under a watch
but it pierces my soul,
adventure — bullseye.

Starfish
A little too big, yes,
but it carries ink and lead 
belonging to me — a doodle,
a daydream of a place I reach
for when life is too real.

Sunflower
No color — it’s implied.
Pick up one life to build
another in a new place.
Sunflowers surround me
lay me to sleep, to pick
me up to thrive again.

Flowers
Lily of the valley weaves
daisies and leaves — pop
of color, pop of scent, 
little surprise every time 
a door is opened up again.

Flowers II
Numerous petals of Dahlias,
twists, turns, flips, of peony petals
all mixed into a bouquet of gray stippling, 
because the mind paints 
my picture, colors in the book.

Stegosaurus
You read that right.
There’s a matching one
on the inner ankle of
a best friend in another state.
Journey through life,
trees, no extinction here.

Smoky Mountains
Framed in pinecones,
trees and limbs — ours
intertwined — warmed
from sunshine and closeness.
Freeze frame us here,
let’s always escape here,
sing home, here.

Your eyes held a question I couldn’t answer.
Your hands reached for me, but I ran away like a trickster.
I swam in the ocean, my arms wide and strong.
You watched from the beach, wondering what had gone wrong.
I turned back to the shore, trying to find you,
But all I could see was the ocean behind me.
I swam and swam to get back to dry land.
When I finally arrived, you were nowhere to be found.
Now I travel the world in search of you again,
Hoping one day to see my long-lost friend.

1. You tried to know the answer. Bad move. – Pseudo-Dionysius 
 
2. This sucks but behold God in it anyways. – Julian of Norwich 
 
3. Honestly, spend more time with animals. – St. Francis of Assisi 
 
4. God is also piquing cortisol levels. You journey sleepless, together. – St. Teresa of Avila

Judgment is a skill, it takes 
the wind out of you. 

What’s not right is not wrong 
it’s not right. 

Left to right is the tempo

Between little Lulu and Susan Lucci,
hoist those skirts a little higher.
A wisecracker and a Venetian spritz.

Between curler and crossword
a Sunday of games
goes all day. 

Between the squat TV and the lacquer cabinet
a dry ponytail 
in a red vessel.

Between robe and gown,
she goes up in the air to nap on wide lace;
she comes down in slow motion 
with drama, and a clue.

Between barley and boiling,
add the sour cream.
We’ll be back from the courthouse 
in time to nab Santa, 
next year.

Between a screwdriver and a winston
a dance with no title
to overrule the shadow 
of a doubt. 

Between exhale
and exhale . . . 

Hulls in ash.
Forgotten Farsi. 
Purple satin scarf
full of brooches and Dukakis swag.  

It takes a hurricane in all kinds of weather.
It takes the wind out of you.

And between?
A woman on a bench, in black and white.

Ok, I believe you.

We spend a long time waiting. 

         Waiting to arrive
                        Into ourselves–

         Waiting to leave
                        From ourselves–

         And yet, always coming back
              Around again–

Unlike the child on a carousel,
         Already wizened, 

         Who just wants to stay on the ride.
               She knows once she steps off

                        She’ll have to wait on a long line
                        Just to get back on again. 

         And the white-winged horse with the crown
                        The one she’s been longing to ride

Will be lost to her. 

         And so she hides.

         Feeling a slight movement under the prancing legs,
                        Her heart already in wings

                        As the gate opens and the children rush in looking
                                    For the horse she now sits upon–

         Waiting for this ride to nowhere 
                                    but in her dreaming mind

Begin again.

Not anymore. Nah,
she became an atlas,
not that guy holding the entire world
on his shoulders, but a book of maps.
Bound and boundless,
an endless combination
of where to go with vibrant illustrations and
photographs directing her toward her best life.
Maybe she shoulda been
a damn almanac instead,
intricate predictions of life’s important pulses,
filled with important info, dates, phenomena—
things her body’s void of.
Or maybe she should still
be an atlas, the tiptop vertebra one.
She’s been shouting at her amygdala
to extinguish the sirens
blaring against taking
chances and trusting people with her heart
when the inner atlas shoulda whispered
to its cerebellum neighbor,
balance, balance, balance.

Day 23 / Poem 23

Awash in a sea of crude
foam and waves of polymers
it’s been too many years
where once beach rocks
rolled, rubbish lay in speckled
heaps, walk on the surface
of the oil slicked water, we
are this roiling mass, endless
depths of the coal dark earth
our skin and bones cast aside
greed fills my stomach, blood
and sinew brittle and plastic
this love affair we have

                                             Cherry tree branches      heavy with flourishing

                                            and blossoms shaded      tongue-pink, so

                                           fragrant spring breeze      like blushing but

                                              brighter than blood,      less ruddy. Rusted

                                            ball-socket and hinge      joints scraping,

                                                  sound cicada-like      screaming in the trees.

                                                 At least the petals      soft-fall in montage.

                                               I want to love slow,      more than fine parts

                                                 sublimating ice so      melting into rain.

I need an escape from the noise 
from the devil in my soul,
pushing intrusive thoughts,
pulling imposter syndrome.

Escape what I should’ve said, 
should’ve done, should’ve wanted.
Escape where the constant unraveling
of my identity magically calmed.

It could be mountains surrounded 
by gravel, path deep into hiding,
concealment of the devil.
White stone cliffs plummet,
murky water below
blurring an unknown identity.

I could shoot a bullet through the noise 
force silence to rest on slimy river rocks 
in the abyss. A lone canoe floats, isolated in the middle, anchored to the world.

Pirate flag waving in the breeze
daring me to let it all go, to steal 
my own treasure amongst 
the nothingness here.

(a note from a rainbow baby on her birthday* to her over the rainbow mom)

It’s beautiful here mom 

Thanks for bringing me. 

*written at age 36, the year before she birthed me at 37

When you are asked
to sing me into being
I don’t blame you that you
got freaked and bolted.
I’ll just tell them I was born wrong bone wrong—well
I’ll just tell them whatever I want.

My beard of nerves
reaches to your static, your tableau,
like screeching owlets
forking their hollow 
throats at you, it’s time to shave
my feelings off.

Waking to rain on small leaves.
Walking to then break into sprint.
Running on the sopping world.
Overshooting the stoplight a hair.

Arms full of cell phones like the dreams
god uses to track you down and 
connect to your personal hotspot.

I have trouble with the word inhabit.
Like to inhabit a body or a planet
or occupy a people.
The word implies ownership and yet
cannot help showing how unsure
of itself it is—the transient nature
of its inhabiting, dwelling
here and there, never fixed,
never really owning what
was never given to it to own.

But, sometimes inhabiting a word
gives me great pleasure.
Especially a word like: Smile.
Both a verb and a noun it always belongs
to its face.

Smile cannot help but be cast as flesh,
flesh in its entirety turning up into itself,
so the whole of the body reacts in response
and too whoever the body in the flesh
of its experience touches.
As we manifest the word the word reveals itself.
I can inhabit it, yes. I can occupy it, yes.
But it was given to me to share. And spread.

 

I’ve come to like the quiet life: the orchestra of crickets and tree frogs
bouncing between the rows of raspberries and garlics in the garden,

the rumbles of dog paws sprinting through otherwise silent acres,
the hush of single lane highways for single car traffic.

I don’t do city driving, with its spaghetti noodle streets
and Picasso-painted grids. Inevitably, a right lane

becomes right turn only, and I’d have to take it
to avoid creating my own collision course.

Without fail, this right turn will lead down
The wrong street. A one-way street. Our street.

Not what I expected, but still
a collision course. One I can’t fix.

Day 22 / Poem 22

Act 1: Old growth
Wind on rock, the month breaks apart
I use tricks, diversion of ice cold water
to slow things down, cross section of
my thigh, I’ve added another ring
of growth this spring.

Act 2: Foundational beliefs
Dig a hole right here and pile field
stones, one day we’ll have a view,
once I left the country right around
this time, a suitcase filled with hope
honeysuckle sprig pinned to my shirt.

Act 3: Ursus lotor
New neighbor moved into my backyard
bandit in the night, I leave the hickory 
nuts for her while I visit on the back patio
one evening the whole family will come 
down from the tree for a feast.

Act 4: Unexpected heat
Creatures of light and motion, my feet
finally come alive just as bees gather
in the garden, cottonwood fluff floats 
on the lake in the park still as glass
motes of dreams suspended in the heat.

This morning is my favorite morning so far:
an east wind rustling through wild onion blossoms
just coming up, pale purple and thin. I wake
up from another

morning after, warm light—warm skin. Everything
west-facing: witness the end of another
era, another life, another inside
whispering to me:

I don’t smell sweet, but I flavor this soft green.
Every dish lately is savory—I want
sweet melody echoes, a karaoke
tongue: sing another’s

final praise song for a lover, bittersweet
tasting with all of your mouth. This morning is
my favorite morning so far: a little
taste of tomorrow.

maybe my mind stays quick,
ever jumping, check lists,
reaching far ahead too soon,
to curate life that my son
looks back on and clings to

After S. Salazar 

Did we touch the same texture of sadness, in rhythm & in doing so, are we starfish? Are we purple?
underwater bruises any closer to love’s boundary the orange stone the orange stone

Did you stand & hear Your mother’s whisper under the rocks, opening the blinds, strumming the guitar strings, glowing in the dark, I told you so.

But in the best way, the way a cloud asks if its years of shade wove enough relief 
to shield you from despair on the hottest days she didn’t know of COVID of climate change.

You are left with sand sifting through Your hands, wind for a mother, wind who used to loop shoelaces

What is left but a sheet cake of utter hesitancy? 
The uniqueness she encouraged just another candle to be blown out by his bland breath they cut the rainforest by this erasure 

Her maternal view of Me once a shield against the world now invisible sword in stone 
can a single man pull it out?

Isolation & lack of social network are mother problems no one will do anything about did you 

Did you taste what is already on My tongue? Is that togetherness? Can it amount to that at least on paper?

Move on, wait a minute. That water looks clear like at the eye doctor. He is younger than me now. 

Of course we pucker at both ends.
But it starts with a lemon in the mouth.
With a cheerful name for expensive wax.

Of course your tooth will loosen and bleed.
Old scars opening to new life. Scales.
Blood mutinied against a failing vessel.

Of course the sea reaches around us.
Fronds terminating in poniard tips.
We’re firm of pith and pricked with pores.

Of course you need no yellow acid.
A pill like limestone, a pesky superstition.
A zesty plume from an ancient crater.

Of course, the pretense is the point.
Refusing to understand the racket.
Car-bombing a lawyer; placating a child. 

A long passeggiata off a historic pier.
It always finishes stiff in the drink.
Of course we pucker at both ends.

Sometimes, when the day is humid
And I am walking Henry near the pier,
He hugs the sea wall as he trots
Looking down into the brackish water
And I wonder with his black and white vision
What he sees in those depths. 

He hugs boundaries, sniffing at the sea 
like he knows something is beneath it;
he can hear the multitudes singing 
with their sound bowls, a symphony 
you can only appreciate during red tide 
when the fish are belly up and bloated. 

On their backs, splayed, offering themselves up 
to the sun. Stingrays and eels and sharks and 
flying fish– No, no longer flying. And not dolphins or 
manatees. Somehow they knew to stay away– 
Or I didn’t see them. Or didn’t see enough. 

I looked away from the depths 
of this world and its sadness. Paralyzed and 
powerless, wanting to undo everything, And then,
the tide cleansed itself. And here,

Henry pulls me forward when I need to stop and see.

I’ve clambered into my car again / so different than two years ago / so same / race car red paint a confident glow in the sun as I head to the grocery store / the office / the forest / the beach / away from your house / no longer home / another star-crossed story reflected back to me in my rearview mirror / I’m not confident about how to move on from this / the destination was supposed to be the remedy / remedy the repair / I filled the potholes with asphalt / avoided rush hour traffic / rerouted at every closure / delay / toll / your house in the rearview mirror fades / vague house shapes and colors / my eyes come into focus now / it hits me then / the road matters, but it doesn’t make / I’m in the same car / body / mind / no trade ins / just diagnostics and parts / only what needs to be replaced / and what needs to be replaced.

Day 21 / Poem 21

Weigh for me your words
and promises, the oaths you’ve
sworn to yourself and to
me, how much are those
truths worth, two sides of
a coin, flip it and find out

Biting sting of aristocratic
betrayal, poison words and
poison tongue, keep no honor
in your wine glass, hold your
facade of graffitied marble
in high esteem, these are your
own corrupt gallows

By royal decree and local ordinance
or by divine intervention and impious
action, my word be a rainstorm
we really needed that water, by virtue of
this old heart, weigh for me my promises 
in gemstones and my word in gold

Another month has not much longer now.
The sun hesitates more on each evening’s darkening.
Would all things God allows remain above ground
like grief and sweet memory, wildflower and barley.
Here, a little stream of light that I’ve found.
Here, another moment alone left over.
I’m sitting careful, unsure of a when or how
to search for a flower tucked in among leaves.
My love and my vision forever failing me
as I look for some luck growing in among the clover.
 
The sun hesitates more on each evening’s darkening,
stretching out shadows, deepening their shade.
I fall asleep now dreaming for the morning;
eight hours is the longest now I could possibly wait
for a glimmer, a portent, a last-minute prophecy
that tells of the right thing with all the wrong words.
Sorrow and suffering, sensation and skin.
Nothing remains but aftermath and slow
conversations that make lies of what I know.
All that I know are all the things put in the earth.
 
Would all things God allows remain above ground
in constant commitment, a little eternity
made in a vision of streamlined, lost sound.
I listen for the echoes of augury
make room for all prohibitions allowed
like care and devotion, deviance and elysium.
Little gossip gets its roots to run aground.
I am still breathing; I am still listening
for the creek and the light that inspires its glistening.
I worry every worry will grow in a womb
 
like grief and sweet memory, wildflower and barley.
Right now it’s springtime, though heat wilts the petals,
and fruit, dried and brittle, breaks off from the tree.
If I recall, there’s a use for stinging nettle.
Everything, even pain, hides its use in the leaves.
But why be of use? Why must I be of use?
When I feel like my lack is what’s demanded of me?
Still, I garden daily. Still, I make my meals
and make space for eternal mourning in the time I steal.
There must be a sign in this darkening view.

After Frank Herbert

Anxiety is silent killer
that brings painful psychosis

I will steady my bones.
I will whisper to my brain —
let it weave in and out
of my soul — to escape.

When it skates out, carefree,
I felt the grooves of the blade
carve the ice, frozen inside.

When it’s gone, warmth remains,
melting the hard surface — 
allowing flowers to remain steady.

My father thinks I’m still 16 years old.
He’s sitting and waiting for me to come home,
Stepping through the doorway too late at night,
With too much charcoal around my eyes.
To him, I’m not forty with a grown-up life,
A job, two kids, a husband, and a house.
 
In his mind, time runs completely free.
He asks about his parents, now far gone over the sea.
He talks about when he was three,
Cycling his tricycle over hills of green,
Mom and Dad proudly looking at him.
A time more simple, concealed behind veils.
It was yesterday and centuries ago.
Time moves in circles, an eternal flow.

this is spring

:

yesterday lemonade

today drama, wind & sh

                                                              ade

If it’s a little game, why does it feel so bad?
Why do I laugh and laugh a grease
ring into this chair from just 
how much thinking I have
to do? 

II.

+
It doesn’t have to be complicated:
Do you remember,
we saw those gnats 
come up from inside that root
that time? 

Those bushels of reject apples?
I remember going there at noon
and just kickin’ ‘em around.
Just kicking those fucking rotten apples around.

+
It doesn’t have to be complicated:
do you remember when I spoke
with certainty? It was 
a lie. I was nervous.
I was coursing with DNA.

I brought you here to show you
this pretty blue water tower and these lights.
There are so many ways to apologize
you can forget the whole thing.
Anyways, you get it, right?

+
I snuck up here to be alone
and worry about money. 
To own your mistakes 
is to make laborers of those whose properties 
you admire most.

Do you remember feeling 
engraved on the earth?
How good sliding down
the long divots of your name
must have felt to the drops of rain?

I imagine the tomb.
I imagine the womb.

Walls of rock and tissue
each made for rising and falling and
weaving in and out of this form.

Each layer made of the same elements, 
give or take a charge; each a 
gate with timed entry opening 
to a place we have no choice but to 
trust, and the truth is this: 

We have no idea where we are going.
All we know is we were made to go.

The problem is one of stopping. 
Stopping the dance, stopping too long to think, 
stopping thought, stopping feeling. Stopping 
compassion and trust and forgiveness and love.

Midway in the womb, grasping. 
Holding on
Midway in the tomb, gasping. 
Holding on
to a moment made for opening.

When I’m sleeping, I’m studying

maps on the back of eyelids.

My body, more often than my mind

knows the possibilities of what I’ll find.

Day 20 / Poem 20

Bouquet of bones and roses
Hands gripping tight to shovel and shears
Ground to dust under the millstone
Back sore in all the same places
I need to nap for ten thousand years
Or so

Calloused and rough like cracked granite
Nimble as a falling helicopter seed
For what do I rise today?
To build, to destroy – 

Oily and electric creation side by side
With a mound of sawdust and rubble
To where do we march next?

Perhaps tomorrow it will rain
And we can take a break
While the thunder croons and
Throws a pail of water on our
Well built little sandcastles

Today I write in vain, that I may
Bring semblance of  life to these 
Sheer, shattered, and sodden words

Tomorrow I turn soil with spade
Coaxing growth from small things
Like seeds, upended and rich media

We work against the stagnant sense of
Entropy I think all of us feel, we work 
For foolish reasons, like hope

Side One
 
1. Recorded birdsong from the sunrise alarm
2. Real birdsong on the other side of the glass
3. Joints cracking as I roll out my ankles
4. The first sneeze, the first sniffle
5. Tapping the alarm to snooze
6. The second sniffle, a whistle through the nose
7. Thinking, Five more minutes
8. Saying, “Five more minutes.”
9. Lingering dialogue from last night’s dream
 
Side Two
 
1. Do you want some coffee?
2. I’ll get it in a minute.
3. I had a wild dream last night.
4. We were moving out in a Conestoga wagon.
5. It was just down the street, but we had a whole prairie.
6. Prairie plants grew through naming them.
7. I only remembered big bluestem.
9. Made a monocrop of big bluestem.
9. And I got lost in the tall grass.

Rinse me in a deep
pause. Hold steady
the noise bounces
each curve – water slide.

Spray over me in gold
cut from shards spit 
from mouths in dirt.

Cover me in ashes,
burn it all away, burn.
Kaleidoscope shimmers
set me against you. 

Wait here. This
is just my brief
intermission

I can’t silence the echo of your voice in my head.

It’s spellbinding me, whispering words never said.

Deep in the caves where I go to rest,

Where I sleepwalk at night, trying to find a bed,

You haunt my dreams, binding my arms to your chest.

Sunbeams are breaking through the cracks in the stone,

But I can’t see where they’re coming from.

                             My first lizard in years I see 

                        at the crosswalk waiting for me I say ooh out loud and

                    then wonder about its thick skin on my butter bones 

                The hard grossness of its yanking cusp-mooned-tail I think of the lizard in the laundry room 

            my mother found stone crisp dead in 91

        but could not bring herself to remove 

    It lay between us. Our first obstacle 

Jump over it, she said from the staircase, while I wobbled, werewolf of a meltdown shaking My wavering ankles, milkbone Just jump over it. I 

 froze instead. Letting this betrayal become 

              a bridge only I could ever burn 

This was not to be repeated again 

   Till death 

      The lanky lizard 

          Her blue eyes jumping 

My first lizard in years I see at the crosswalk waiting for me I say ooh out loud 

At the corner of walk and don’t walk 

This was my first monologue 

The geckos in Guam lined the walls 

They, wet, did not dry, wait 

Like southwest Lizards 

seen stone crisp in 91

It was only in My mind the separation. The lizard bridge is just invisible ink. Bridges are only meant to bring us together.  I feel you are still 

on the staircase wanting me 

It seemed like the soles of my feet were sinking out of themselves. I was nakeder than naked, my nerves were leaking out, bare skinned 

& that dry lizard sure was sure thirsty for a  

Long-awaited bead of sweat. We 

fed the puppies born in that basement with a bottle dropper, whole milk till we buried them under the house in a large matchbox My mother used to light the stove one brown one white there were supposed to be more My brother said it reeked he was admonished for speaking ill of birth’s stench My mother advocating for the work of a vagina she lit a fire every night it cracked & popped much like the keyboard when one writes slowly in crackled spurts. I only ever write quickly like a frog leg boil 

But the snake, the live snake on the outside step I had no problem jumping over in 92 & no real reason to. That one was very very becoming on me, they spoke of it for a while. 

My father took a shovel to those things

I can only imagine 

I.

+
Personae, I’ve been them
less different, less alike.
Like coats for any weather
they still go home at night 
into their own black bags.

Bending at the hip
and at the knee 
holding my wardrobe
trying to cross the line 
and consummate myself 
with my little personae.

+
I don’t drive, but in my dreams
I do and a chance lapse 
flings us out into the river.
And I have groceries in the trunk.

I remember eating 
honeycomb with you.
And those watery green peaches.
You forget
the tides are also at work
on the shores within.

+
It doesn’t have to be complicated:
Twenty days
I’ve been trying to tell you something
and I still can’t decide what
for. 

I

Some mornings, when I open the blinds,
I am so excited to see the gray clouds
And the weight they carry.

I can stay inside and not do, just be–z
sit with my own weight
And acknowledge what I hold.

I can be the lightning that cracks open 
the darkened sky, and travel deep into those 
fissures.

Or. I can rain.

II

Some nights, naked and free 
of covering, I ride the waxing and 
waning moon, shapeshifting 
in the dark, any shape I want to be— 

free of night pains and teeth clenching 
and the tortuous retreat into 
my own marrow–

I am free to form whatever 
calls to me, and free to erase
that call and start again.

 

We can travel down freeways,

over beaches at low tide,

down switchback logging roads.

I’ve told you before

I can’t hit the brakes,

but I can. I have to.

The corners are coming up fast,

and overturning can’t be

the destination. 

Day 19 / Poem 19

Summer is almost here now, time
To shed our gray and cracked winter skin

See you somewhere green, the path
From then to now coils and blooms

Heavy handed with water and soil
I have good credit in the wild places

Climb with me from the ground, scale trees
Until we make cocoons and metamorphosis

The night grows loud with cicadas
And tree frogs and our thumping hearts

Something cosmic once came this way
I think we grew from spilled starlight

Scent of sand and heat lingers on your
Cheeks, a ward against the chill of night

Solar lights flick on dimly, no need to be 
afraid  of the dark around these parts

Faces in the trees cut and log them, today’s
Consequences are a field of daisies blooming tomorrow

The whole house is covered in webs and
We are both trapped predators and prey

Spring is almost over now, time
To come alive with cherry blossom skin

The sun breaks through the clouds before rain,
rain falls down and darkens the ground before I wake up.

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to make,
make of this morning that brightens before it shadows.

The longer I live, the longer I,
I realize the days aren’t a single forecast.

I’ve lived in places known for their cruel,
cruel summer heat and cold winter lake snow in April.

Where do I go for what I am used,
used to expect and used to remember? Remember,

things weren’t always sunshower clouds.
Clouds, when they’re right, aren’t always around. It will soon rain.

It will soon feel like another time.
Time plays tricks and terrifies us with its speed and its slowing.

The fringe tree on campus is growing,
growing and shedding its blossoms every new springtime.

I will walk by it when the sky clears.
Clear, but the day still holds the scent of rain. Rain again.

In response to Butker

Degree: I completed credit hours faster than my forty-hour work week.
Before, during, and after having a child I swallowed and spoke education.
I’ll flaunt those hours and that work — it wasn’t useless — I’ll use it.

Dedication: this family of three with a dog keeps my world spinning, yes — but my career, writing, and goals spins the colors of the wind, creating one solid shade of perfect.

Direction: to be whole as a collective couple or family, one must be whole as an individual. Yes, I’m his wife and his mom, but I’m also me — my own person.
To be enough for them, I have to be enough for me.

Dynamic (see also dynamite; explosive): constantly changing, reflecting, bettering, growing, dreaming — I won’t be stagnant — forever flowing.

Disdyakis triacontahedron (see also 120-sided die): largest life full of complex sides — don’t put me in a box. We can do it all, be praised for all 120-sides of us. 

Dauntless: fifty shades of fearless — that faction chose me. A lioness protecting hers, ready to tear flesh from bone — dare me. 

Denial (see also forgetful, see also busy): cooking, cleaning, or any sort of making at home folds to the bottom of the to-do list:
gets dropped in the junk draw
gets left for years
gets thrown out in the yearly purge
gets put back on a new to-do list.

Distraught (see also infertility, see also loss): in agreement many follow the yellow-brick road to motherhood to only find a tornado ripped through their dreams. 
             Should they not have dreams then? 
                          Should they not be praised then? 
                                        Should they not be successful then?

 I lingered on your salted breath, your voice ringning through the hollows of my chest.

Ashes floated gently to the ground,

burning comets came crashing down.

Black clouds with lilac hues were floating in the sky.

We heard thunder moving closer with a menacing sound.

Stay still and hold me, close your eyes.

Feel my heartbeat through the end of time.

It’s deep 

                       & went all the way 

through 

                     No more trampoline 

for awhile

In the farmland 
the ochre putty we put on fish 
that themselves have caught
the current disease 
is the paste we lay a blob of 
at the bottom of 
the community cauldron 
where the summer feast
is to be boiled to standard 
and from whose skimmings
we will take our free pint 
in praise of this form of work 
and the ways it disrobes reality, 
learns to turn to yellow and fall and fall
down corn crib down granary tower
down a mouthful of suds
and a sorry bubble
lifting toward Rockville.
In open land there is no shelter
for an emotion. It simply
isn’t significant. 

Slow down, my grandma yipes,

tossing her hand over my shoulder

like caution tape at the scene

of a crime. Wasn’t the point of being

here to get from point A to point B?

To leave the bumpy road for a smooth one?

It’s criminal how healed I’m not—

I traveled hundreds of miles

through potholes and construction zones

to get to something more concrete,

functional, only to wind my way

down gravel. I can’t hit the brakes now.

I did once, when the stop sign

was unmissable, when I thought

I’d reached my destination.

But there’s no destination,

only people and the journey

and what needs to be replaced.

What needs to be replaced? 

Day 18 / Poem 18

1) Try desperately to become a doctor, 
accountant, engineer, or really anything
else that makes rational sense (and fail).

2) Think about how you could sum up 
all human emotion and experience into 
one great poem (but you can’t find the 
right words).

3) Talk about poetry feverishly (but only 
while drinking coffee, red wine, or whiskey).

4) Avoid telling anyone that you’re a poet 
(lest you are asked yet again to recite your 
favorite poem).

5) Develop uniquely terrible handwriting 
and a handful of overused metaphors 
(attribute it to genius if at all possible).

6) Make yourself sick with nostalgia 
(preferable if you do this daily and/or 
on command).

7) Put on a playlist so sad that your 
spouse cries (I swear this is a crucial 
part of the process).

8) Find a favorite pen, refuse to write 
if you don’t have it, and guard it like 
a dragon guards its gold (bonus if you 
have a favorite notebook too, but this 
is less important).

9) Start a running note on your phone 
to keep all of your ideas in one place 
until you get home and have time to 
finish writing them (not one of these 
will ever turn into a complete poem).

10) Write the things long and short that 
define your place on the earth and put a 
spark in your soul (this is the only one 
that really matters in the end).

Let’s lose the day. I’m already
not doing all the right things.
So let’s do the wrong things
on purpose: eat everything
that clogs your arteries,
make something out of nothing,
write everything
except all the things
you’re supposed to be writing.
We’re already sad: let’s lose
productivity, too. Let’s make
bad decisions, remake
our to-do lists to make
room for sadness, a move
I don’t advise you to make
normally. But this day was made
to be lost. This day makes
me so crazy, so I choose
otherwise. I choose my time.

A masked face reflects
in the shiny sticky sap falling
from the cavity of the tree.

Cap it in brass, protect it
from softening and rotting.

Let it bite down — teeth indentations
tear the flesh of those abusing
life they steal under their 
dirty, lifeless feet. A flower
smashed by a heavy tongue, 
with butterfly wings stuck on
the forceful sole — soulless.

Butterfly effect: the reflected
face sees the future of a breathless
world — desolation and hardness.

Lost in your hopeless desire,

I roam the realms below.

Trying to find a sapphire,

That once enchanted me so.

I move rocks in underground chambers,

Searching for my gem of blue.

But it is hidden beneath a waterfall,

In a room I cannot breach.

“For Greenland is a dreadful place
that’s never, ever green.”
—Traditional, West Indies

Out there in Willmar 
is the hole your ankle broke in,
strapping in the immobile

till your thumb split.
Out there in Hollywood
is your lineage 

unaccountably blonde, 
unaccountably hitting
bed-time without a hitch,

your song on their pillow.
Out there, out here, and out near here
are the boys you’ve got left,

awake 
in the flunder of night at sea.
Like Robert, like you down there 

in the moveable darkroom,
the black velvet between you and 
the worldsworth

of things looking—momently—immaculate
between the ugly smear
of time. 

We have it too,

the knowledge of a crow
too proud to be or mean 
more than a crow.

Out here in the real world
four of us will fly back to you
no matter how far 

we’re driven from home.

I find myself in the tiny holes
of an over-soaked sponge
Holding more moisture
than this form will allow–

liquid thoughts seeping 
out of dimpled skin, all my words 
fat, emulsified and lying in pools 
on the kitchen counter– and dripping.

The energy of the night takes me
where it chooses and not where
I choose to live– I am drenched and drown in
what I cannot explain.

If only I can take in understanding
one drop at a time, like a slow-motion 
rain, or in a bead of dew I have all morning
to embody– 

the way a sea sponge absorbs the 
whole of the sea while it too is held.

about taking the high road, the one less taken,
he one to recovery. Sometimes broken ones. These roads were supposed
to lead to destinations, journeys with beginnings and endings mapped out with miles
and minutes, detours and speed traps. I tapped the path that yielded the fastest arrival time.
I took this road after you, after living in a house with footpad shingles and eggshell siding,
echo my only company. I expected my journey to resound with life. at the very least,
I hoped my car’s rolled down windows would wind tunnel harder, the warble
of movement startling me faster toward future peace. The cacophony
                               before the siphoning of spiral thoughts.
                              Bare minimum, I believed
                                 I would boom
                         with self.

Day 17 / Poem 17

Charge it up, store the gigabytes and
Electricity and stormlight and performance
Reviews, put them squarely in my veins
We check the boxes and do these 
tasks, day in and day out – 
For Progress! For Patria!
For Industry!

Never meant to be caged, complacent
With hands tied to cubicles by
Electric handcuffs

I commit myself
To these little acts of
Rebellion
That which keeps me sane
In a mad, mad world

Coffee at midnight sleep be
Damned, acrylic still life of
A photo of some flowers with
The colors all wrong, diving
Headfirst into Lake Michigan
In May when the water is barely
Knee deep, it’s Thursday and I
Wanted to read by the fire, to
The woods I would go to stare
At the sky and have a smoke

The whole world must be a
Little mad, and so I do these
Little acts of rebellion
That I may remain sane

These are a familiar sight:

yellow-bodied ceramics
earing
mottled brown glaze.
Many different versions of
Rebecca manufactured:

a woman bending over a well,
drawing water. 
Rebecca of the Old Testament,
the woman chosen based
upon her offer:
                            enough water.

The story fit well the view
of women as spiritual
household, the ceramic
embodiment of the sanctity
of the home. Rebecca
of the Well remained popular
through the 1930s, shifted
to nostalgia, a potent symbol.

You tell me a student must love 
to write 
and that if they love 
to write 
they will
every day 
I am angry 
at your educational violence 
there are no rules in the game of love
to write
have you 
ever played?

students, never let anyone tell you what
loving writing looks, functions or feels like 
it is different for everyone 
m&ybe you write on m&y 17th 
& love it
& then you hate it every day for the next eight
years trying to find what was once there 
& then one day again, the love – wow- 
& another 8 years of nothing. of pitstop. 

this is no less love than anything else 
if “love” means feeling good, screw that 
if “love” means daily forced actions, screw that also 

take your pencils 
& grind them up till they are the sand beneath your heels kick up the dust of tradition 
& hate writing 
but, if I m&y
hate it hotly 
sweating like a child who got stuck in a concert their parents went to see but escaped outside to play
the bicycle wheel with a stick instead

Kinneret Pudding

More sleep would hide these ferrous patterns from me
Ungirdled I would fall atop the mat.
Most people shift too swiftly when out boating,
Upending beers and tipping cans of ash.

I bend to bow my heart below my kneebone
In honor of the mysteries revealed.
Lie back, go limp, your strip is showing ketones,
The danger of a snack before a meal.

Ungirdled I would topple like a daisy
Once ravaged winter deer sniff out our stash.
Ungluing from the iris into jelly
Scared of the strict confinement of the lash. 

I write with my eyes closed
feeling the letters emerge from
my finger pads, letters with edges,
that kinetically cut through the skin and
slip into each faded key.

We pause. index fingers in rigor on the 
braille-like bumps below F & J, 
placeholders for the day when I will 
no longer see, or that dark night when 
I will open my eyes in wonder.

Sometimes my hands have to wait 
awhile, the knuckles bent and brooding.
But, I’ve learned how to be an able 
stenographer to my thoughts, taught
to type swiftly and feel for the keys sticking–
and that backspace of thinking, that still 
finds its way to the page.

After Katie King

The shingles are a patchwork quilt
of metal and asphalt, of nature and nurture.
The foundation was laid down cracked.
No amount of effort, no to-do list,
no pre-paid materials can fix
what no one had the intention
of working on in the first place.
Now, each morning, beneath a new
roof, I write this reminder
in permanent marker
on the bathroom sink mirror
of my heart. Every intention,
first place, not just some
item to be crossed off a list.

Day 16 / Poem 16

Look back at me
With all that history in
Your eyes, the austere and
Blue memories of those first
Few winters, smokey gray
Like the edge of a burnt
Page, incomplete and charred
Pale green of new growth
On the dead dry wood
Of the white hydrangeas
Flecks of orange sunsets
And bursts of phosphorescent
Fireworks on the fourth of July,
Look at me with honey
And whiskey in your eyes
All that history poured out 
And rewritten

They’ll say you must feel some way about this:
joyful or scared, or both with equal weight.
I’ll say it’s no different from your first kiss—
something yearned for, lamented the long way,
and yet, when it happened, it was not bliss,
but something more concrete than that. This is not fate,
not inevitability, not your
end, nor your destiny. You are more than
what you were made into. I can assure
you of this: in that room is a human
who will make mistakes. Remember you’re more
than mistakes. They’ll say you’ll find peace within
you. That’s not true: peace is something others
can disrupt. Peace is another cover.

Nothing was the same,
not that it had been before.

Time like muscles 
pulled taut over bone.

Gray memories walk the satin plank 
as if thread were to rip the last stitch.

Canceled minds in the abandoned 
boat seemed lost forever.

Love is to open sky as 
loathing is a locked prison.

If I should wake before I die
let me know the time has come.

The moon is out tonight,
Twirling under the violet twilight.
A ballerina dancing the performance of her life,
Like a star flying free beneath the sky.
The clouds conceal her like a jealous lover’s eyes.

I open the window; it is too hot inside.
A gust of fresh air flows through my hair.
I sit down to write some words about you,
But the paper stays blank beneath my unmoving hand.
So instead, I just stare out into the night,
Watching my memories sail away and take flight.

Tell me I am the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen since Monday

Tell me I’m candid, like candy & you want some 

Tell me the way I speak moves you like a river & you can’t contain your floodtide  

Tell me you actually want to hang out IRL. On a front porch. With rum and stroopwaffles. That you’re fluent in old timey friendship. –


Tell me I make this world joyful

Tell me your tastebuds outgrew me five years ago but you held on because I was a size two and you liked it that way. 

Tell me you wish you were like me when I’m so unsure

Tell me you’re hurting, that the day is a dove you won’t ever catch. The dove is molting. Hairless and hell-shaven it darts its eyes like Orbeez – glazing under and over, such yolked eggs in a watry spool of woe 

Tell me that grief is in your left foot but that joy, joy so sexual so taken over weakens your right also since the weight is too uneven

Tell me my lips are full like my dentist used to 

Tell me I’m a catch. And worth knowing. That I smell sweet potato. That you love me. That it is m&y, and you love me! Tell me this and get pork roast rosy when you do

Tell me no one is worth loving more than me. And then do it – daily – do it. Say it with a daisy on my pillow when the wind sheaths inside the swarthy hearth 

Tell me my legs turn you on. That my fire laughter is a hope-faucet for your daily soil grind, that it’s better than coffee 

Tell me you have no truth only guilty phrases from your taciturn parents

Tell me you like texting me more than talking because you only want me as fingertip-entertainment for your boredom, that I make you laugh nine times a day, but you won’t carry me over a single mountain let alone molehill 

Tell me the color of my eyes is an endless prayer because you wish her eyes were darker green, like mine are. It is everso Linkletter spring but Oh do you ever need a deep majestic-kneed midsummer 

Tell me you’re broke. That viagra doesn’t work for you. That you hit her. That your mom knows. That your dog bites. You’re married. You take the ring off when she is not around and then again when I am.

Tell me that life with you tastes like cherry melon lard squalor 

But don’t – ever – tell me that my phone light is on. I’ll figure that one out on my own.

II.

I set the prophets aside, but
their rage catches in you,
loiters between your inner noons. 
A man’s rage is a tumult, you might say.

A righteous man’s rage
shatters the reliquary of your

heart’s thin bone. Must we burn
the oil that smells so sweet?

If you ever
see the high star turn to face you

open your voice  and sing
of coming destruction, the shame

of the people, your welcoming arms 
will rise like blood past the breakers 

of your singed lips. The prophet’s 
offense is a hard knock to all. 

There, dashing a crook against
a crone, a retired preacher is 

secreting milk in the ossuary,
mortifying his brethren.

The place of the book
 is writing in shadows, having run out of soot. 

The chalk look of the moon is turned.

o hear! o hear!

cleave into chasms
houses of treason.
who deals in furious acts
will dwell in the local event 
horizon of the serpent. 

—A Shedding of All!

—A Shedding of All!

—A scattering of stones as of the paper of its skin!

in that gentle pause between breaths
two cells percolate—jumping
beans of matter titillated by
what dances between them:
glue forming
form forming
molecules fusing and splitting and
multiplying; a simmering
evolutionary stew…

Amoeba to jellyfish to a fish with a spine, and a spine with limbs—
a frog or lizard that makes that first leap to land, growing weirdly—
gargantuan—and shrinking again and growing wings and two legs and
two arms and a giant head and a hand holding a kiln-fired mug
patiently waiting with these percolating thoughts for, oh yes: 

morning coffee.

After Yasmine Seale

                           Ojos que no ven,                                                           corazón que no siente
          Eyes that don’t see—                            heart that doesn’t feel.              If we don’t see it,
                       we forget it—                            Visionless, heartless—              Memory an empty
                                  chamber,                         heart its echo.                Broken eyes lead
                                                to absent heart.                                         The forgotten heart
                                                                         leads blindly.                      Does it hurt
                                                                                      if we don’t know
                                                                                      we’ve lost it?

Day 15 / Poem 15

Paper thin cellulose membrane
Barely protecting my vinyl soul
Dust on the wind, love in the air
Voice crackles to the beat of Leon Bridges
Hands move busy and  fast, sometimes
Too much coffee, sometimes nerves
Let’s dance a little bit longer, the night
Is still young, do you want to go upstairs?
Burnt espresso and red wine dripped on the page
Mixed with ink and spilled with such ambition
A ream of love poems half finished either
Too contrived or not grand enough
Cut herbs, the kind that tug on your memories
And smell like the last days of summer
Pile of flowers from my garden, lilacs
And peonies and really anything optimistic
Notes of blackberry, wild and thorny
Bouquet of aching muscles and fresh cut grass
More books than I could ever read
Paving a mud and gravel road 

Bright sky with clouds
           and another storm incoming,
 
rolling, on the radar,
           across the Great Plains.
 
Quiet street—loud engine
           again, again.
 
What is silence—would I
           know it when I hear it?
 
Cold coffee, milk swirl
           with sugar settling to the bottom.
 
A morning, and mourning—
           the ‘u’ makes this sorrowful .
 
Sleep again—and again,
           and again, and again.

Guilt hangs over me: 
sweats out through half marathon training,
fights through pages for focus when I’m dipping,
no throwing, myself into a new world
mutes the TV and plays a little louder
coats my throat with a 9pm coffee
stares into my soul through a baby monitor 
guilt hangs onto me when I’m thankful
for a silent alone cave.

When you look at me, what do you see?
A reflection of a woman I can no longer be.
She is but an echo of days long gone.
A soft whisper on your lips going through locked and sealed doors.
Her form has shifted from the ebbs and flows of time.
Like a stone shaped by the ocean and a thousand storms.
You have to let me rest and be still in my arms.
A windsheild that secludes me from the weather outside.
Forget who I was and embrace who I am.
Be calm beside me all through the night.
Together we’ll watch the first sunbeams tender light.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
This m&y be me at My best. 1
I think it better that in times like these
a poet’s mouth be silent,
for 2nothing builds community like complaining 3
& My armor is flesh & spirit.4

It seemed a nice neighborhood
to have bad habits in, 5
but I am done with apple-picking now 6
to watch his woods fill up with snow.7

I.

Days of the earth I love you.
Wilting in your sun I love you.

Grillin’ franks with a brew I love you.
Infant scorched at the beach

I love you and your corduroy hat.
Infant scorched in white phosphorous

I love you burning four days and nights.
Rivulets of clothed families

sputtering green and black I love you 
are the soundtrack to all life, of the 80s 

90s and today I love you. It is a form 
of penance, we say. Doing my Sunday 

chore, rigid with guilt, shallot, and oil, 
almost mincing 

my mind, firm guidance
of repression, I pray,

steady my slicing arm. Emotional
mummy-wrap, the desire to blend

oneself into the foundation
this time, to beam redder and redder

the more and more powder 
you apply, to mean

enough for your betrayal 
to warrant a curse and your organs

worthy of a clay dish I love you and my
solemn observations, nauseous

and a cop out in their cautious variety, transform
me into batting in your cured body, I love you

depository of remains, unrecorded atrocity.
Sour dead lodged in the earth your

meat and bones I love you, sawing
you off out of love I love you 

And the no trace of you I love you,
no trace of what happened here at all.

Blue shapes taloned in the branches,
a vein of coal under your mother’s

home, and the aloneness I love you
I love you I love you indubitably,

as nonna said. The grief
of this exercise, I haven’t seen

the sun all day. When it became time 
to make money, I set the prophets aside.

I hear the wind.

The day is mild

reminding me

I should be mild

with myself.

Today, I can

be a gentle

breeze freely

moving in and

out of this Self.

The way, You

Lord, move

so gently

in and out

of me.

                                                    i think of myself                        as a cycle breaker

but really,

                      i’m cycle broken

Saturn’s rings,

                                                  unending collisions

dust to dust

Day 14 / Poem 14

She’s my kind of sunrise
palms swaying dancing into
the night to covers of
English rock broken glass
and spilled drinks – ZZ Pub
dancing over hot black sand
apricot juice on my mustache
on you. Careful now this sort
of happiness is fragile and
sweet and it’s so ripe right
now – did you go to the
market? Figs are in season
I want to eat them while I
watch the waves and
marvel at the constellations
strewn through your freckles.
Polaroids on the beach
this little bit of umbrella shade
is just for me and you
high noon and cool
seawater some things are
older than we can count.
My heart swells and outgrows
this bottle of rioja, outgrows
and intakes the night
moon on the bay kiss
me on the balcony
just before sunrise.

I imagine your mother
closed her eyes and said
you have five seconds to hide,
started counting, sing-song, before
you were ready.
I imagine you found
a place you were always
safe and sound, but
the war—the war
finds everyone, even
under the floorboards
where your brother could never
fit, or behind the cabinet
where your sister never looked.
I imagine your surprise
when your mother played
a game, unprompted,
the delight that cut
through the terror. I
imagine you are still hiding.

I look into your eyes to find me 
reflected there, only to find
empty space never meant for me.

I remember when we met a late evening in June.
You had a voice like silk through a summer dune.
You told me all your secrets and I told you mine.
As we walked on the boardwalk you reached for my hand.
A promise was given, but not said outloud.
I put all my trust in you through the noises of the crowd.
We were nineteen, not yet weighed down by the burdens of life.
We believed in tomorrow on that warm summer night.

                      Cantaloupe slice moon bird
                 nest 45 degrees white snow trail
              why do I care so much about being
        cherished? My mother used a melon baller
     I became fascinated with kitchen utensils and
   anything that could surgically organize what so
           wasn’t Your inside of a soft fruit warns
       me You m&y cherish My cantaloupe slope
                 & belvedere taste but Your love
                  I can only turn to toxic waste

Quiet. There is a vermin
writing me. 

Every stroke 
its claw 
taps my thought, 

I’m puppeted
subsuming
a one-way freaky-friday.

Get me out!
Get me out of the poem!

In Yin, I hang my head
surrendering to the way gravity
forces me to bow and leads
me into this space
where I can exist free
of form and yet embraced
by it. I am not just a letter “C”
curved into myself, but fully nobody.

It feels good not to look
up into my own eyes, Lord, to release
myself from reason, and ease
into a pose where I can bend to
your will, and be so utterly
complete and empty.

Every time my parents blew up a kiddie pool for us in our yard,
someone moseyed through, dragging a knife down the sides

until the basin was nothing more than a pale plastic carcass.
Every time my parents were called to work, I barricaded my siblings

into our living room, plushies, Legos, and door locks expected to keep us
safe under my protection. Then one time, after a weekend away

at our grandparents’ house, us kids lulling our sleepy heads
on the back seats of the pickup truck, I barely made out

what the headlights beamed at. Against midnight sky
stood tall cedar beams, bound together by metal brackets

and the desire for a childhood. We dashed from the car,
across the yard, to explore our new world, to finally play

as if we weren’t surrounded by total darkness.

Day 13 / Poem 13

devil in the details
forget me not
             forget me not
                              forget                         me                          not

left hand out of sync with the right
mouth no longer speaks for the mind
ceramic mug, tan and decorated with
pressed leaves and pine needles
lined by herringbone thin cracks
fingers of golden fate flaking razor
sharp arrowheads, mercurial 
memories slip past
one-by-one

something once important leaves
on the wings of a cardinal
something less important
leaves after breakfast
independence, once 
ironclad and infallible, 
a memory now
unto itself
memory-
now

                                                                                                                          Based on a photograph by Gabriella Grego Splaver
 
Black text on white tape
on a black-and-white
kuffiyeh with edges that
disappear into a solid
white background:
 
ALL
EYES
ON
PALESTINE
 
My eyes are on a screen
displaying a digital photo
of a protestor—is it
possible to vicariously
see what they see, have
eyes on a tragedy that
are not my eyes on a tragedy?
 
All eyes on Palestine:
a photo that is a rebuke
for being moved.
 
This static image
convinces you—what of
ghostly video echoes
of 35,034* dead? 
 
 
           *Number based on the Israel-Gaza War live tracker from Al Jazeera, as of May 12 at 2:00pm in Gaza (11:00 GMT)

as in the way the cool
color wraps around me,
calming my eyes,
quieting my mind.

He’s blue like an Oceanwater 
blast, blasting off into a quick crawl,

Not an Eiffel 65 blue,
but a party like a Rockstar 
blue. Blueberry pop rocks,
pop excitement in the sky 
on the Fourth of July. 

Blue planets swirl with shining
stars — lighting up my life
pulling me into an indescribable 
experience meant for me only.

Through the shadows of the sunset, I whispered your name.
As the seagulls gathered at dusk, yelping my pain.
I was not sure if I would hear from you again.
Eleven days had passed with no sound from your lips.
I waited for your call and tried to be brave,
Though my heart was shattered by every message unread.
Were you off on an adventure and couldn’t be found?
Had you decided to leave me and sneak away into the night?
The summer breeze was warm, but I felt cold,
Simmering through memories and words never told.

My son asks how 

being made of stars. 

we can recognize hunger, thirst

Tiredness.

I think he is asking me 

If stars have feelings 

If they suffer. I know he is asking me If suffering is natural 

worthwhile 

                                                                     We blow bubbles in the backseat. Try to snake the gum over our tongues &Aerate it  

Meanwhile, the core of the star collapses under gravity’s pull. seems that stars, too, tire 

Once there is no fuel left, the star collapse

You blow your first bubblegum bubble 

You are angry that I didn’t see 

We cuddle while we can, making time capsules of ourselves, knowing 

In a trillion years 

Any two points, no matter how close, will be ripped infinitely far away from each other.

&

By 1014 (100 trillion) years from now, star formation itself will end. 

Last night 

Auroras could be seen as far south as Alabama, as long as skies are clear. 
I sleep through purples & pinks, saw dark at 10, called dark dark 

& turned in

Italicized lines pulled from the following websites: 
*What is the big rip, and can we stop it? – Space.com
How do stars die? – BBC Science Focus Magazine
Future of an expanding universe – Wikipedia
https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/auroras-illuminate-night-sky-world-rcna151775

I’m thinking—
write as though
breakfast was almost 
ready. Life will roll
back to you
like butter on a puffy
belly of pancake.

I’ll hear— 
your voice. It’s time.
The magnetic
laptop clasp will click
as I rise and javelin
down the stairs
I will die on
one day like ghostdad. 

We’ll sit—
ready to smile, but I’ll 
be remembering—see how 
quick I can reclaim
the narrative—I’ll 
be remembering
that ghostdad is 

bill cosby—
you see: those medieval 
peasants were right.
There are spirits
among us, lying 
in wait for a careless
invocation. 

Those peasants—
I see them hunkered
with their baskets 
of mugwort and ramps,
time falling through 
their loose-woven
tunics like scotch
through a ghost
through ghostdad.

When I reappear you’ll be asleep.
Extra pulp hardening on my unwashed cup.

I don’t get it, you say as if I’ve just told you
the stars are made of God. Your whole posture is a rolled eye.
Are you really going to leave me for just any man
who will marry you? For a stupid piece of paper
that legally allows you to screw me over?

 Is this what ants feel like as our colossal feet
create craters all around them as they try
to construct the lives of their dreams?
Grandma’s got dreams. She spent a month
in Alaska with her brother and never saw

Aurora Borealis. I get spending so much time wishing
on crossed stars, so when I heard the lights were gracing
the lower forty-eight, I packed us into my car with four flashlights
and a fleece blanket for our hike down the beach. From a sun-bleached log,
we tilt our heads skyward to witness nature’s magic. While we wait

for our show to begin, I think of Dad, who spent his life
touring the galaxies with me, of Mom, who creates stars
with her laughter, of Grandma, who’s a star beaming me home.
Look over your head, she says, her voice trapped in her throat.
Above us, a starburst blooms, fuchsia and teal waves pulsing

like curtains that protect us from our realities. As I gaze,
I realize the curtains are the ends of an angel’s robes, wings,
their hands placed over heart. The tears come as I witness how even lights
get the power of protection, safety, how Grandma has given me that gift,
especially when you wouldn’t. Without even asking. 

Day 12 / Poem 12

Maker of things, like
Places that feel home and
Games out in the snow and
Long grass, stories read
At bedtime like the midnight
Song of the whip-poor-will

Foundation carved from the
Mountain side, follow the water
Downhill, flow of gravity and logic
Carrying the sun in one hand and
A storm cloud in the other

Tenacious dreams buck the wind
Blowing straw blonde hair
Such great strength, tectonic
Breath that grinds to the bone
Split this world in two
And make something better

I walk along a rock ledge
and wish I could name the landscape,
 
its features smooth-rough
winded over, flora
 
surviving tough—careful.
I’m told to beware prairie
 
rattlers, listen carefully
as I step anywhere. Scrub might
 
cover camouflaged bodies.
These lands are a danger,
 
eponymously Bad, and yet
a secret hideaway,
 
cache of hidden gems.
I don’t love it enough, I think,
 
to see it plain:
big sky and tall grass, bones
 
hidden beneath highways,
excavated for ancient extinction.
 
The most interesting thing
about this settler state is
 
the search of evidence for
what no longer lives.

 
 

In the sense that my mind
floats on little waves
in the bayou — ripples kiss
the boat edge — droplets on my lips.

Drunk in the sense that I finally
found a serene acceptance
of what I can’t control — liters
I carry everyday transcend
into starlight — the stars swallow it.

Drunk in the sense that I hear
my overstimulated thoughts get lost
in the whistles of cordgrass and leaves
whisper sweet lullabies in my ears.

A Story Untold / Jonna Kihlman

Within her lies a story untold,

Of secret chambers and travels forlorn.

Across secluded mountains and brisk spring streams,

Through morning mist and forests of green,

All hidden beneath an unlived dream.

The real Atlantis, which I don’t care about, wasn’t.
The real Moses wasn’t, but I do.
The real self-care is a nationalism of one. 
Its flag is the skin of the front of your head
so fuckably soft all alien knees hit the dirt
convulsing astride the gush. It’s not my fault.
You don’t need to love yourself 
and you don’t need to love me.
There is no future where the body is good.
There is no past to resume
and no past where the body was good.
The robed Atlanteans 
were rubbing themselves absently, 
as we do,
used their pre-christian monstrances
(or tridents, I guess, who cares?)
to bash each other’s heads in,
gather a fistful of silver hair 
and lug the form to the altar, 
depositing their sacrifice directly, 
as we do, in the ebbing warmth. It’s not my fault. 
You’ll see you’ll sink
same as I do.
We part waters
on a fool’s axis, 
borrowed kohl pens and beard adornments 
trending downward in the drowning out sky.
Are they looking up laughing
at our crude sandal-bottoms?  
The sin every day can be made evident.
The real sin—not to be bad, to be confused
about who your god is. Or, that’s to say,
about who your god would be, 
if you ever learn
to use your existent body to speak
the real language
before I do.

Upon reading of the death decree  
of the Iranian rapper, jailed
for “Corrupting the Earth” to the nth degree:

The Earth, well-versed in corruption, quakes 
with laughter at the irony of such assumption
and whips up a sandstorm to add a little grit 
to song, a little bit of disruption for a nation’s
wrongs, grit that gets down under the skin 
and into the mouths of those who claim to
speak for Him, when the Earth knows, deep 
down in its core, hymns of love and peace 
always settle the score.

I’ve talked about carnage before,

and it doesn’t care if I shit-talk the vessel

or criticize the ship’s inability to hold the load.

The pieces will fall, sometimes into breakings

and sometimes into place. Even trash, given time,

becomes beach glass, with the right journey.

Day 11 / Poem 11

Would that it were so easy
I drink from your conversations
Silver vial of silken ink
Hand-in-hand through
Knee deep river water
Bridge is somewhere downstream
We’ll make our own crossing
When the time is right

I think I hear music in the hills
You must hear it, too, grand
And sweeping, side of a mountain 
Slid away in symphony, little 
Black cat hunting mice in the 
Edelweiss, massif amphitheater – the 
Stars sing to us in an alpine hymn

Share with me this tinged bronze cup
Of soft red wine, this cold and well
Earned beer, petrified coral kicked 
Along on the trail, sharks teeth and 
Granite stones rubbed smooth in the surf
And vaulted into the sky by angry farther earth
Hide in this cabin with me, net and stone
For a hundred years, I listen to your heartbeat
Wind running down the mountain
Should it be so easy

Thunderless rain
crackling against
east-facing glass.
I’m never sure
what season is
coming, or where
things are going.
Hollow echoes,
embracing eye-
catching blankets—
everything warm.
I’m here, you’re still
over the clouds
falling quickly
into puddles,
as in, over
it, over rain,
over wonder.
Morning gloom and
glory opens
a door beyond
my closing hand.

I dreamt of mermaid scales,
perfect hips, seashell breasts,
long seaweed hair
cascades down a shiny tale.
I wanted the cool magic 
to rush into my veins.

I should’ve dreamt of a sea witch,
bright red lipstick, talkative body language,
loud opinions, the world at my
fingertips ready to take the crown.
A siren sharp enough to
flood voodoo into blood —
inflict her own revenge —
no questions to follow.

Sometimes when twilight settles over the sky,
a veil of sadness lands on the lids of my eyes
It makes my body heavy, not letting me rise.
I try to get up, but it pushes me back down.
I take a deep breath and watch the clouds.
The mist is spreading on the water’s edge,
the birds are flying by.
I tell myself that I will soon be free.
The night will pass through me, 
and the dawn will let me breathe.

Might be leaving 

Plz b sure I see ivan a day u b 4 I  go 

—————-

I am coming over are u home 

————————————————

whats up any reason you dont respond cordially?

———-

you will have to relinquish your totally obsessive

controlling  nature, before you can ever enjoy what God gives Freely  and is just waiting for you to accept, which is far more loving and genuine than you could ev er maintain, manipulatie or devise.

mom said that. 

—————

don’t take things out on him let him know he has a safe place to go 

I wanted to go on cruise

Be sure to lock upstairs door 

are dilapidating, zoned in kind in
the township of camaraderie, wadded
obviously in the outskirts, tall blonde grain 
across the nation 
turn at the T for the famous bread from here 
the store so far we settle for what’s
about us. Our last acts of commerce 
hardened in the shell of the grocer’s stall—
shame launches fleets of behaviors,
ingrown avoidances 
pimpling the flat sea, 
hunting a quest into a conquest, 
an egg bound buzzard glugging rum
and becoming too depleted to preen,
a failure to lay, blight stalks the land
My tired cloaca. 
Yours. 
This pathological journeying 
This fakeout performance
This country retirement and
This town with its details,
literally rural, distant. Distanced.
Turning our face so hard you can’t
get through it to look in the sky, that
unkind hope for a second story, a plot
more real than an actual acre 
spattered with light, a single
entendre of illumination where
nothing is changed and spelt
germs pickle in the gush of honey.
The sun, parched ovum, your lid 
glides down it in the final transformation
of your tract into a segment of orbit, your inside 
a China noon your outside 
your half of the night. 
What you say you saw now cannot be shown.
What can be digested is an option.
Another day langoring inside you. 
A failure to lay. An addiction to brine.
A saltbox shack. A hallucinated zoning.
A knock at the roost rough enough to
burst a fertilized yolk,
yellow as me when I moved away.

Somehow, the sun rises 
from beneath the trees, 
shimmering from the ground up,
as if it had slipped in with 
the morning dew and lay hidden,
waiting for the sky to lighten.  

Over the course of the day, 
it will play with all angles and shades
and the leaves on the cold side 
will patiently wait for their turn
in brightness.

On my place at the kitchen table.
This poem was actually a series,
a collection, of literal love poems.
The intention behind it.

Grandpa, with his 8th grade education,
doesn’t get poetry, can’t comprehend
why I prefer getting lost in words
over getting lost in the woods.

When I asked him about the books,
he said he’d gone to the thrift store
to find something for Grandma
but found something for me instead.

I dunno if they’re any good,
but you love poetry, and it’s love
poetry. I smile, gushing over
the poem gushing before me.

Then, I overanalyze, fixating on the stanzas
of Grandpa’s life, how there’s maybe
a few more left before the poem ends,
how the lines continue to deepen

with meaning. Even this poem
is a breakup poem.

Day 10 / Poem 10

Dark and strong beer
Six years old, more
Expensive than I would usually buy
Today I feel is a good occasion
The oaks are budding
And birds visited my yard
While I stood outside
My old dogs
Had a lot of energy
And played for a while
Like puppies again
Yard was a mud pit
But I got my hands dirty
And now maybe some grass
Or clover will grow
If I’m lucky, flowers next year
It was a good day
And that feels like all the
Occasion needed, sometimes

On the occasion of commencement, I
won’t say the obvious thing, which is
ceremony is just ceremony:

You already did the work, sacrificed
stability, did something hard, which is
still not as hard as perpetuity

of protest, of pushing for what is right,
of surviving from moment ot moment.
On the occasion of this day, which is
as any other day, except the night
brings curfew that you know must be broken.

I won’t see

The dog hair all over the floors
Crumbs in every corner
Toys in every room
Dishes piled high
Laundry piles, some dirty — some clean
Long to-do lists
Shoes missing their soulmate
Plants dying of thirst
Layers of dust glittery
A house with everything wrong

                                                                             When I look back on us
                                                                             I’ll only see

                                                                             Little pitter patters of feet running across the floors
                                                                             Little hands feeding the dog with happy screeches
                                                                             Late night cleaning sessions with you
                                                                             Finally sitting down as a family of three for dinner
                                                                             7:00am good mornings with you two
                                                                             Putting down work to pick up my baby
                                                                             Tiny shoes inside dad’s much larger shoe
                                                                             Birds making safe nests out of plant pots
                                                                             Little fingerprints grabbing at new things
                                                                             A home that held us until we outgrew it

Your web of words tied me to you,
Weaving threads so thick I couldn’t break through.
Like tiny daggers that circled my arms,
Continued on the other side and bound my heart.
Whispering sweet nothings in my ear,
When all I really wanted was to see you clearly.
‘Cause what are promises spilled in the sand?
I’m bound to sail the oceans with no sight of land.

+++

The heavy EV charges 
into my dream, collapsing the bridge 
back out. 

+++

Many of us live like wading birds:
faces designed to snatch the pickle of our sweetest desire
from the brine of our tolerance.

+++

live feed

it takes as long as a snake
til the light comes back.
Clock up tonight, friend.

+++

Multiple intensities inhering in a single body.
Troubled hubble.
Interference and inference.

+++

ideas.

+++

a forlorn messiah grudging early Isaac his loopy intervention

+++

The fear of being a button-masher, a nullity.

+++

Honk If You’re Harkonnen
For I have read the signs
of a late stage circumcision.
Capitulations on your achievement—.

+++

His hand was bleeding red his scalp was crusted black 
his muffin business was in the red and his new
SPF face lotion is stinging his lips. He was on tv. 

+++

—thank you all.

Walking the beach,

skeletons

piercing my calloused

feet, shells who’ve shed

shiny souls, waves returning

to knead and mold

the entirety of me—

all I am, all I’m yet to be—

into this soft sand I stand upon,

this living breathing sea.

I scan my front yard with bruised eyes, exhausted           from the first evening I spent alone
beneath my quilt, knowing I’d never feel             another night beneath it with you.
Beside my porch, I manage to notice         two imprints weighing down the grass,
depriving it of its usual morning dew.          These depressions may remnants of deer,
or maybe a coyote couple, or maybe us,        snuggled together like crochet patterns,
made with love tag stitched tightly to it,         one warm body entangled with another.
I search for prints, for hints at their story,        a hint at mine, because at some point,
one of these creatures steps away. I wonder        if they took their journey together,
or if one chose not to follow. Which one?         Did one awake in the night to gaze at the other
only to find the warmth snuffed out?           Did one wake because its instinct murmured
your compass is off? We’re all animals,            seeking the next great plain, the next clean stream,
the next best thing.

Day 9 / Poem 9

Sticky and humid
My wine cup sweats
Rivulets of vino de verano
Truth or dare, these
Lines bend and blur
A pickpocket reaches for my
Wallet as I eat gelato
But jokes on him
I’ve spent all I have
Just to be here
To wander the Gothic Quarter
Towering medieval walls, a
Piece of art as a keepsake,
To drink on rooftops and
Marvel at Casa Batlló
I get now why summer lightning
Dances over Gaudí’s work
We walk to the sea, the
Mediterranean really is
Melancholy at this time of year
As linden and orange blossoms fall
One day the Sagrada Familia
Will be completed
And I’ll come see it again 

I’m having a time, like, I’m having
breakfast, right? And I think
the bread is warm and the yolk
is so yellow, and that’s nice,
but then I don’t have the time
to enjoy it. I have to leave
immediately for work, eat
on the go. I’m having a time,
but don’t have time, and isn’t
that terrible? I’m having
to prioritize, and I’ve never
been good with numbers
on a list, never been good
with order. The only thing I
remember from chemistry
is entropy: the tendency
of the universe towards dis-
order, and that’s what I mean
when I say, “Not great,
actually,” because most days,
I’m breakfast: sunny side up,
or over easy. Lately I’m
scrambled instead, an omelet.
I’m having a time, and I’m
not great, but I will be.

Ulmus Rubra sways in the club
taking up space that she deserves.
                                                               Her drink sloshes down her arm
                                                               while she sashays side to side.
Liquid courage hydrating
her sappy sticky skin —
                                                               Keeping those who don’t belong
                                                               away from her. Passing off
sharp words, sharper actions
that would leave wounds 
                                                               for years that maybe 
                                                               she could grow out of — maybe.
                                                               A scar would remain for each carving.
Emerald green sequins flutter 
in the breeze of human traffic,
little pieces snagged and ripped off
exposing imperfections underneath.
She needs room, room to dance,
dance to let go, go to be free,
free to breathe, breathe to grow,
grow to shake off the scars, 
shake to make space for her.

Over my shoulder, I see the child I used to be.
She is trotting along, kicking stones by her feet.
Eyes wide with wonder, arms dangling free.
Lips red of strawberries, scrapes on her knees.

Should I tell her about the speed of the tide?
How the waves will erode her castle of sand?
I turn around to start but stop in my stride.
Closing my mouth, I step away with a smile.

What’s m is y   
                                                                                                                              What’s y is m                                                                                                                  

                                                    but that m&yo on the 

                                                                             lower fridge shelf ?

could be                                                                                                              anyone’s.

 
Reports confirmed the worm 
in his brain has passed away (elevated 
levels of mercury — all fish diet). 
A sea in mind and mud in mouth:

we’d noted distinctly 
subterranean ideation 
breaking out across 
his speech. A majority 
of such creatures 

Are concerned southern neighbors Are

encroaching 
      Peacefully into his home. 

Ancestral hunting grounds. 
Tourists and refugees      
exchanging autographs. Documentation 
of movement in relation 
to boundaries.

Tallied waves. 
Hand drawn ratios.
Hatchery marks—
—vulnerable grooves healing and reopening.

Succumbing to a bloom of bacteria
bedecked crevasse in my heel unhealing
Pulsing. Almost Squamous.

I stepped out of the shower
and digressed, my garments
rent in lamentation.
My guilty eyes 

treading in hot sweat.

Does the earth know it has aged? Does it remember its 18 billion birthdays?

Its bris? First pimple? First dance? First union?

Does it have its name on a ruler nailed next to a door, where it can reflect on how far it has come

—from the fires the storms the explosion of creation—and the ice and the waters and winds— 

to this stage of relative peace and the quiet descending upon its evening shores?

Relative. Yes. It has its moments. Its loneliness. Its tantrums. Its sufferings.

It seethes, and it breathes—deep belly breaths into its hot molten core— and as it settles

into itself, it comes back to the day and the dawn, and the seagulls banking over its waves, 

and the morning twinkle of rosy light. And smiles. 

that leads to Rome,                            all of them,
                           an empire can’t maintain
                                                                                                        during construction season
            isn’t a road at all

                                                                                                        is Swiss-cheesed
                                                                                                        with potholes

                                                                                to Olympic National Park

to Craters of the Moon

                           to the Santa Monica Pier

                                                                   with dips so deep it’s an ocean

I thought would take
me places
                                                                              that’s actually the path more taken,

to salvation, standing ovation

                                                                away from the cul-de-sac
                                                                I was living

I drove on

                           a back seat full of before
                                                  not always linear

not always one-directional

                                     never a home out
                                                                                to some a coward’s highway

                                                  without your bright orange blockades

                                     to find myself.

Day 8 / Poem 8

Almost sunset, doves below 
My feeder, plump and content
Mourning coo sounds so much
Like an aftershock of love
At this time of day
One bushel of berries from the
Tree out back – no more, no less
I’ll let them go sour, go to rot
Pretend they’re champagne as
I devour them on greedy wings
When I was 20 I saw
A Quetzal, and I knew then
That I was destined to watch
For ghosts in the shadows, retrograde 
Memories sprawled across the grass
Scatter seeds and suet
Songbirds are always welcome here
Birdbath overfull of rainwater
An echo of things to come, the
Dry season is just around the corner

If I wanted to feel a
life inside my life, I would
run away like usual, ignore all
calls to settle—I’ve settled in
that pattern, at least. You
can trust me to always flee.
Some day, maybe a change
will start in me, subtle as a lie
slipped between teeth like mint-
waxed floss. Indecision always felt
fresh and green, like a breath in my
face in a precursor to a kiss. Maybe
some day I’ll say yes, I want to have
kids, but I can’t imagine wanting to
have something like that—a life
within a life outgrowing a body.
If I wanted that, then I would
want that, and I don’t want
that, really. I can’t see
myself wanting that.

to kill you before she dies:

           you silenced her every hissing request,
           you plucked scales from her when she had none to give,
           you broke vertebrae pieces off as a means of discipline,
           you mocked her path in the sand and
           drew new grooves for her to follow.

           You spit burning insults as a means of control,
           but hide as you might, she’s now on a roll —
           you rattled her,
                       chased her tail,
                                asked for more than offered,
           played with her like a worn out teddy
           until she stopped trusting herself.

           Stuck her with venomous words,
           stunning her into silence and submission,
           chopped her to pieces,
           forcing her to grow a new body,
           leaving her lifeless when you were done.

But she’ll be gracious — you won’t feel her venom —
you’ll be dead before you’ve realized your mistakes.

One day as I walked, I saw a fox right next to me.
Her fur was soft as silk, and her yellow eyes gleamed.
The storm rolled in with heavy clouds, yet she stayed by my side.
I tried to get her to leave, but she ignored my pleas.
“Won’t you rather walk estwards where the skies are blue,
Where you can find shelter, lick your wounds andå worn-out feet?”
She looked at me calmly and replied like so:
“This is the road you must travel, and I’ll follow you through.
I’ll walk with you every mile of the way,
For I am your courage, and you need to be brave.”

Shetellsmetheartist’sheartisenlargedjustliketheathlete’sTheyholdbreathtomakebreaststrokeorbrushstokeWhatifwepaintedwhilebreathingWhendoyouholdyourbreathandwhendoesitholdyou?ShetoldmeofGermanbarrelboobsAndhowtheywouldsimply, 

f l o a t 

—After Ben Lerner

A kind of blind gouging
          Yes, I still get nerves 
into tomorrow, a bomb in time
Hitting the blacktop. The tears of the lord 
and the joys of the people
are our best payment, could you
          eleven-year-old violinist
There’s not much I won’t watch
          Not a tungsten filament

no mercury no gas ionization no light
          So real it’s eerie
now. Looking at its naked
About sixty and change
I don’t play that one,
not anymore
            I promise I’ll get there
Bookshelf’s weight fractured her
        or bad press I don’t need

but deserve
          for gouging my name
in my dream self.
Please wake up. A grenade 
in the comments. Burn to bone
and dissolve in fat
          Bound in leather, even breathing 
on it starts the sun to stop
          Open nerve-string sing soprano.

One day, science will measure emotion in things.

We’ll be shown how a table feels joy or gratitude for the dinner plates

or the 5-year Life Journal set upon it; or we’ll learn how a road scarred

with potholes feels angst and sadness, and this is why it sinks.

We’ll measure everything we think doesn’t think, and find in our things

something of ourselves. We’ll lay down our hands and heads and hearts,

trying to feel the feels, and do our best at listening. And then,

we’ll go looking for evidence of something more.

After Natalie Diaz

I don’t believe in maps—

human illustrations, errors, are

masterpieces masked destinations mapped ghosts.

What’s then and what’s now are layered

like dust crusting ciudades y barrios with

wishful thinking, patinaing people

with woulda, coulda, shoulda, and

using graves synonymous with places.

Moss covered stones ahead, I

can’t chart unseen,

can’t chart through.

Day 7 / Poem 7

Come now ferry man, I’m ready
To pay your aberrant toll

A tattered black shirt
Reflected in the jagged cracks
Of a shameful and foggy mirror

          To blend into my base and sinful nightmares

A few copper coins, only a slight
Greenish-blue patina on the
Faces of long dead monarchs

          To celebrate what wealth we once had in each other

A fresh cluster of red grapes
One day from overripe
And begging to be eaten

          To quell the bittersweet nostalgia in my throat

A blank piece of paper rolled
Creaseless and guileless
Around a golden fountain pen

          To write shining love letters from the abyss

A handful of soil, humus
Flecked with obsidian memories
And scent of pine and glacial loam

          To remember the smell of my homeland upon my hands

Come now Charon, I’m ready
To ride your tenebrous raft

Even with no sleep, I greet
a cloudy dawn with my mouth
wide open, still drooling
from last night’s dream house:
I moved through halls
only imagined, not seen
by astigmatic eyes, which means
every light is curved
at an angle. I can’t tell
the difference of distances.
In the morning I’ll make
my little breakfast, crack
eggs into omelets, eat
everything that makes me
feel full. Even with no sleep,
I think that my eyes are still
the most reliable thing
about me, consistently
skewed, accounted for.

She hid her deadly secrets 
in the petals blooming from her hair.

Golden tears stained her nightmares
leaving trails in the depths of the ocean. 

Her amber words like a vice
weighing you down, breaking the surface,
whispering petals float on waves.

To liquid you turned when I tried to linger.
Like clay from the lake, you slipped through my fingers.
Dissolving into dust as I tightened my grip,
falling to the ground with a thudlike sound.
Carried away by the evening breeze, drifting to the ocean after dancing through the sea.
I shouldn’t have clung on so tight.
I just didn’t want to lose you to the waterfall’s might.

Ned once had me
in Havana for honoring his life
I do and know why
                the old parlor trick — ones like shells
                circuiting chirping twos
                faces of a page, coinjoined dyads

a horizontal dadhood of socks and tennies
                mustachioed and astraddle
                divisions grinning apart
lusts and vices, ancient rivers 
grown wholesome from earliness
air racing toward union around a surfacing hunk

      the boy who mowed and mowed
      road and road, gas in
      a workhorse sonata, because of loving music

green and easy growing sappy in harvest maple

                habitating in the winter cellar
                that black drain grim and lidless
                pins in eggs 
                sims in showers
                stimming with a pickaxe and camcorder for the funnies
                sweeping big daddy’s bar for heggie’s barq’s and  pull-tabs

do you see the broom?

                a P-funk and a bud lime and a soak
                a chain of water back to the woods
                back to hardee’s
                back to back eye to eye
                boy to boy

have you ever been in trouble? 
because 
                I am
                             not the moon, I’m an American.

The minute it blooms

the flower becomes aware

of its death and begins an all-out push

to shine as luminously as it can muster

bursting from inside out, a dying star

blinking light billions of years

after its passing.

I’m not fierce yet, with my adios,
but with every falling apart,
I find a way to fix my shoulders
a little straighter. Since every poem is,

in fact, a breakup poem,
and most poems are paper,
I’m gonna call this one glass.
Shards, actually. It’s easier that way.

I can scoot the shrapnel away
with the scuffed toe of my boot
because I’ve been down this road before.
Because I’m dangerous with pieces.

Maybe, if I don’t caress the cold
breakings of your words to my chest,
I’ll find a whole lot more power
beneath the strides of my departure. 

Day 6 / Poem 6

Gunslinger, young cowboy with
A horse named Quicksilver, tadpole
Sprouts legs, now I am a sword fighter

Learning to drive fast and be quick with 
Wit, books lay in a pile banned or burned,
Tongue twisted around old arguments

Fingers stained and sore, splinters under 
My nails, currently masquerading as a poet
But words fall like dry petals from a bouquet

When the grass is long and gone to seed
I think I’ll have another dream, pick out
Something else to play dress up as

Where does your kindness
come from? I have never been
quick to give myself away,
prefer stealth acts of gratitude—
a generous rumor, your name
at a table, nothing but
good things. How can I
earnestly praise earnestness?
I want to give flowers—
I never do. I want to walk
in a storm to deliver food
to you—I don’t. We stay
dry-eyed and staring at
eclipse-clipped shadows of
eastern redbud leaves. Here
is the kindness of cherry blossom
petals. Here, too, is the promise
of lilacs, the tender scent
lifting from opening pinpoint blossoms.
My instinct is to close
around my closeness,
dismiss my delight, slip
past wonder. How unnatural:
the impulse to suppress
innocent laughter. What
happened to you? What happened 
to me?

She loved too easily, loved too fiercely, loved too much.
She was weak, was glass, was delicate.

Rapunzel, put up your hair.
wrap it tight — elastic
cage for the secrets you
keep, hearts you keep,
don’t let them steal it.

She trusted too easily, she dreamt unrealistically,
She was fragile, relentless, was small.

Rapunzel, cut up your hair.
Chop it short — blunt
barrier to keep them
out of your mind, out
of your heart, don’t
let them feel it. 

She found the color in a gray world,
she became resilient, ambitious, a rock hard force
throwing bricks at those who buried her inside the tower.

Rapunzel, brush your hair.
Smooth it out — a strand
Against the grain —
speak out, breathe out,
push out, break out.

Welcome in, 
what you choose,
who you choose.

The tower is yours.

In the hollows of my mind, there are rainforests at dawn.
Birds spread their wings, flying out into the night.
The waterfall shimmers in purple and blue.
The sky is lit up in a summery hue.
Sunbeams break through treetops high above,
I bathe in the ocean as the rain pours down.
I wish that you could join me here,
In this timeless land that no one has seen.

N o   o n e   t e l l s   t h e   w i l l o w   t r e e
                           To gogetahaircut
                             T h e   h o o k   u p   t h i n g   i s   a   m y t h .   T h e   a p p s   a r e
                                  F u l l   o f   i n d i v i d u a l s   w i t h   i n d i v i d u a l   n e e d s
                                    C r a z y   h o w   p i n k   t h e   c l o u d s   l o o k   e v e n   a t   n i g h t
                                       S u n   r e m i n d s   m e   o f   r i v e r   t r i p s ,   s u n   f a l l s
                                          W h e r e   h e r   p i e r c i n g   l i n e d   u p   t h e   n a p e   o f   t h e   n e c k ,   a n
                                            e r o g e n o u s   z o n e   t h a t   r u n s   i n   t h e   f a m i l y.

Outlasting another day.
With the chill, hanging around
till lights out to start 
checking off to-dos. 
Going 480p on life to conserve
information for an eon.
A Nova in the ditch.
A Nova bursts to light
when a gun blows
its atmosphere all over
interstellar space. A fun
car to die in is a life
long pursuit. To own a car 
from a land you always wanted to live in?
Che bello.
To be struck 
by a truck
buying gas
fly up 
land in the bed.
A heron was observed
in a drive-thru line.
They’re recorded to be drawn
to sierra mist. I too prefer
lemon with fish. And though my beak
wearies of opening tins
 it relishes closing lines—.

On Floor 3, they get to ask the deep questions.

At the elevator, in their wheelchairs, pushing random

buttons to another story, the deep pang of longing

to leave banked against longing to stay in this body

dark gates offering just seconds to slip through.

       —“Have the gates of death been revealed to you…?” Job 38.17

The sand and the sea still exist in harmony
even when the waves seek to smooth out the sand’s debris-littered bumps.

The nature of a thing isn’t always the right thing,
so I long for my next wave to hold me tenderly despite my shards and divots,

not flattening my edges—an error.

Day 5 / Poem 5

Carve this land up
Nothing but sand and bugs and
Savages and fools, none of them
Knows what it’s worth, these
Trees are green gold

Cut
              Cut
                            Cut

Birch bark canoe on root beer 
River, fresh water pure of form
Something I think I want to be
One day, keep within the lines 
Of these lapping shores, polish 
My soul with 100 grit, I
Once knew things
Like the histories of rocks

Drip
              Drip
                            Drip

My sandstone soft heart never
Stood a chance,
Do you think we fell in love
Like a rock breaking free from
The cliff and dropping into the
Water below, calamitous and clumsy
Or like the hardwood forest
Blanketed by orchids and learnt
To be endlessly soft
Over a hundred hard years

Using words from David George Haskell’s The Forest Unseen and Hozier’s “Wildflower and Barley”

Sweet-smelling fields,
crying laughter, women and men
so deeply cleft:
illusion empty again.

Ephemeral flowers
to the next generation:
harvest from the wind
everything in my vision.

Hermaphroditic design:
geometry differs markedly.
I feel useful as knowledge that
buried the city.

Less obvious,
this year, I swear it will
offer nectarless energy,
use pollen and stigma.

Each time, I’m shocked,
risking all for the kiss of a bee.
Pallid petals sheath
you apart from me.

magazine skies 
chasing picture perfect weeds

whispering fields
telling secrets of our past

mysterious marshes
exposing truth on our tongues

The forest nymph came to steal you one day.
She was too beautiful, made it too hard to stay.
Skin like the mist over the sea at dawn.
Eyes like silky water where you cannot drown.
She took your hand and led you away.
Her red hair flowed freely in the wind from the bay.
Not one footprint in the sand revealed where you went.
I spent months and years searching for hidden trails.
Did you go through the reeds that grow by the lake?
Or by the forest stream and secluded mountain fields?
I think of you sometimes as I close my eyes to sleep,
Wondering how she rocks you in her arms in your land of dreams.

  Missed  the          on     A on  people as     the     millions If 
your  map,  Somehow, nondescript  way    leading      desert   of    love
 love        lake          to    to       to        attracts tourists  is  
             on         nowhere nowhere nowhere       a      a    linear,
             the                          thing     year     year  it is
            Missed                    as      as        If    If  an
            your                    if      if        love   love  arch
           map,                    that   that        is     is    I
           Somehow,              is      is         linear  an   wander
            A                    a       a        I       arch   under
            nondescript           bad  bad      wander        Aimlessly,
            lake                thing thing       under        without
             on                   meanwhile      Aimlessly,    knowing,
             the                     the           without     only
              way                   desert         knowing,    moving,
             to                    attracts         only      forward
            nowhere               millions        moving,     with
                                 of tourists      forward     a
                                    a year         with     curve
                                                  a curve    (bend)
                                                  (bend)  In My
                                                   In My    step,
                                                    step,    it
                                                     it   has just
                                                    has just guarded
                                                     guarded me
                                                      me from
                                                     from an
                                                   an astray
                                                  astray raindrop
                                                  raindrop I
                                                   I wasn’t
                                                  wasn’t aware
                                                      aware of

mind-made meaning is a type of advertisement

for yourself, a tickle in the head,

like, “You Can Create Anything

the World Can From Your Own

Self. You Can and Will Discover

the Value of Your Life Before

I Will Allow You to Change.” It is identity 

as trap door, a darkened

Marriott ballroom where the carpet’s

tousled by the trouser catalogue of

conference-goers exchanging pamphlets

and forgetting where it was they

knew me from.

A man and his wife wait to be baptized in the river,

their skins seared and scoured by hot suns, skin

to be sloughed off and shed now in the sands. Watch:

up they come—smooth and tangled and undulating—

ready for the garden

After glazed ceramic “Plant Eyes” by Klara Kristalova

I guess it’s not a matter of if,
it’s how. Will you sweep out

toward the sun like an Allium,
Not content to be a flower

but a firework? Or will you stretch
like a succulent, dying to finally feel

the sun’s rays even if it leaves you
permanently changed?

Or will you fracture from what contains you?
You’ll either outgrow your vessel or die.

How will you burst?
Roots thistle out of your eyes.

Will they cloud your vision,
or free you of it? 

Day 4 / Poem 4

The sun is just right this afternoon
To go dancing on a match tip

Firepit sits in the wind looking hungry
But it’s been too dry of a year for that

Ants make their ancient wonders
Cities encroaching on the apple trees

First time in ages the pond dried up
Silt left of leaves and grass and tadpoles

I think the pine trees are moving backwards
Or maybe I just forgot how to sit and listen

Only thing in my bag a book of Jim Harrison’s ghazals
And a bottle of whiskey that’s somehow empty now

Everywhere around here spring peeling old bark
With urgency from the way things were

Remember to walk softly at this time of day
I promise the mud daubers won’t sting

None of my words come out right, so I’ll mouth
along the skin the lines the inside of
your wrist, your neck, your thigh. Tonight I’m out
of sharp precision, can only say “Love”
with half a tongue. The other half is drowned
out by frantic music blasting above
a dancing crowd. Listen: I’m not too proud
to say I think my life has just begun.
 
By which I mean: I thought my youth would be
more green light, more lasers, more hot engine
and cool customer. I know you know me:
not shy until it matters, sit alone
while a crowd gathers shouting new beliefs
into an unplugged speaker. Only once
the air clears of smoke and sound, then I’ll speak
to say I think my life has just begun.
 
Begun to matter, begun to sink in
like a shovel digging shallow, the blunt
edge of a spade. I think my life hasn’t
been much, only the full side of enough.
Empty glasses gather in the kitchen:
it’s time for our annual topping up.
My words are pouring from me. I don’t mean
to say I think my life has just begun.
 
I don’t mean the clichés, the paltry signs
of life behind a mouth that drowns the sung-
out pop song chorus. Pour it out: I’m fine
to say I think my life has just begun.

Almost to the end of the line,
              back to the thought from earlier
captivating you one more time
                          during a moment of 
                                                                  extreme importance.

Gathering nuts like a starving squirrel,
                          hibernation of the brain, wouldn’t
                                                                        it be great to   s   l   o   w,   
                                                    just slow down,

Almost to the end of the line,
              back to the thought from earlier
captivating you one more time
                          during a moment of 
                                                                  extreme importance.

Gathering nuts like a starving squirrel,
                          hibernation of the brain, wouldn’t
                                                                        it be great to   s   l   o   w,   
                                                    just slow down,

Almost to the end of the line,
              back to the thought from earlier
captivating you one more time
                          during a moment of 
                                                                  extreme importance.

Gathering nuts like a starving squirrel,
                          hibernation of the brain, wouldn’t
                                                                        it be great to   s   l   o   w,   
                                                    just slow down,
                                                                        keep a steady pace, steady
                                                                                                  linger on it forever.

More thoughts,      more questions,
            Now this, now that, no more, no — right now.
                                               Over the edge an overworking mind,
            power past the words from the mouth:
                                                                                  quit this task,
                                                                                                  right to the next, like right now.

S  I  L  E  N  C  E

That could happen later, too
                                                                   Ultimately, you pick
vacant niche forever. It’s true, 
            when the world is your oyster
                                                                   xerox the dreams for later, but instead
you just once want to feel rocked by a gentl
                                                                                zephyr, just once.

Unclose me, though dust and forlorn stars.
Let my being light up and beam in the dark.
Unclose me, crack open the doors.
Let me come out of the shadows and live once more.
Unclose me, evaporate my fears
That have caged me so long with uncried tears.
Unclose me, I am not afraid of life.
Follow me outside, across the divide.
Unclose me, let my soul shine through.
Watch the waterfall thrust forward with all its force.

a bike lane next to My car reminding me hey, 
I am a healthy option m&ybe ditch Your fast 
moving shell

a bike lane next to My car reminding me hey, 
I am a healthy option m&ybe ditch Your fast 
moving shell

a bike lane next to My car reminding me hey, 
I am a healthy option m&ybe ditch Your fast 
moving shell

a bike lane next to My car reminding me hey, 
I am a healthy option m&ybe ditch Your fast 
moving shell

a bike lane next to My car reminding me hey, 
I am a healthy option m&ybe ditch Your fast 
moving shell

a bike lane next to My car reminding me hey, 
I am a healthy option m&ybe ditch Your fast 
moving shell

I found where they’re accelerating light
for weathering ingredients of products, beautiful

gestations of products that do science, passively.
Possibly there’s a lab here using gas lasers to peel

skins off microsuns like long tweezers swipe irises
from cadavers. All daylights scent out entrances in

the body, no matter how fast they’ve been
trained to shine, so long as you’re nude in any region,

you’re weathering andante. Look at blobby clouds
of you receding at the flat horizon, the globe’s own

skin, the falseness of rhymes, I mean rinds — how
sexy it feels to believe no one can get in. No one can

get in is what I’ll be spewing when I finally drink
the wrong water.

Hemorrhaging, hiding; shredded cloths between

her thighs soaked beyond holding

she watches from the acacia’s long piercing thorns

women lining the shore waiting to be cleansed.

She calls to me,
        sometimes an eelgrass whisper,
                       and other times a thunder’s drum.
                                  It’s a fifty-fifty shot whether my eyes skim
                                              for little treasures to pocket or lock
                                  with the shoreline, a decade’s old dare.
                                              Mi Abuelita had always believed
                                  the Sea to be a dangerous thing,
                       what with Her raging currents
        and high body count.
Of course, She’s a threat—
        a mother grizzly fighting humans
                       to save Her cubs—
                                  the Coho, the reefs,
                                              Her peace of mind.
                                  Maybe that’s why I find myself here,
                                              not for the jasper, or agates or shells
                                  not for the ever-present winds,
                       but because She shows me
        how to be a powerhouse
while breaking. She models
        how to handle tides
                       high and low. How to
                                  embrace the salt
                                              instead of wiping it away.

Day 3 / Poem 3

Northern moon
scandalously clad and skeptically
late, howl now with the coyotes
wolves will come later and
clean up the scraps, get dressed 
we’ll go out on the town, it’s 
darker here than usual but no
less dangerous, I’ll lead 
the way with lungs 
full of smoke and water, 
breathe now or
forever hold me, or at
least until the chill of
night stops biting,
I think I have too much
electricity in my heart
to stop at this place of rest
Epoufette, once we get to the
big lake we can have a beach fire,
burn the driftwood and
jetsam, any trash we find 
that belongs here as much 
as we do, only one of us can stay
in the end, make it look like it did
a thousand years ago
under a similar moon

Mornings at the gym, I read Cruel Optimism
and contemplate irony: the way my body
refuses to explain itself to me, accelerate
heart rates beyond my capacity to feel
anything but fear, urgency, desolate ecstasy
and fruitless victory. I am afraid
 
that all I will ever be is afraid
of everything, even the kind of optimism
that is compassionate. My brain burns ecstasy
into a short, bright flare. My excessive body
does the same. Springtime mornings
feel like nothing, and that lacuna accelerates.
 
Everything, everywhere, accelerates
past me. Everyone, everywhere, is afraid
of missing out on the one big event that feels
like sea change, like waves, like optimism
that doesn’t come with punishment. Bodies
in a protest crowd, revolutionary ecstasy.
 
I have never been to a rave, never had ecstasy,
don’t know if it’s aptly named or just accelerates
the time we have left. My streamlined body
races toward a line I am afraid
of crossing. Every half distance is a kind of optimism:
the concrete kind, the kind the feels
 
like running toward something, feels
like a treadmill: circling. Even this can be ecstasy.
Even this—stuch as it is—can be a show of optimism.
At the gym, I push buttons to accelerate
my jogging in place, fast enough I’m afraid
my heart will leave my body.
 
I haven’t given up on my tender body,
my body of dreams, my body that feels
the most like it can handle being afraid
all the time. My fear and ecstasy
carefully created in the same place: accelerated.
Fear is its own kind of optimism.
 
I’m afraid that this isn’t ecstasy,
this living feeling, accelerating
to the next body, so full of optimism.

 
 

Little fox perks up over the fallen log,
paws drape gently over the buckling bark,
His fuzzy ears twitch at the sounds
of flying wonder and shining magic around him.
Left, at echoing chirps and buzzes of swift hummingbirds —
right, at the pop of droplets from sprinkles on fat leaves.

Drops drip between his eyes weighing down the fur 
on his snout. He’s a glowing illusion — water delicately 
coats the edges of his fur. Treetops sway in the whispering
breeze — a lullabye — gently rocking him back and forth.

Cradle him, keep him safe in the wild wood around him.
Let him only see iridescent reflections of his dreams
in the dark spiderwebs lurking in the corners of his nightmares.
Encourage him to be the curious and clever little fox he is.

I mourn that first kiss,
When we were sitting on the beach.
You took my head in your hands and secluded me.
It was a warm evening in June,
I could still hear
The traffic and voices from further up the street.
You promised so much, as you whispered in my ear.
Words of love that were stolen by the breeze.
I wish I could go back to that moment in time,
With everything unbroken,
The pain undone.

  War Alive
War                Alive
         War                        Alive
                   War           Alive
     War               Alive
             War                    Alive
                        War         Alive
   War                            Alive
          War                   Alive
   War                            Alive

I’m the hell that you’re the devil of.
Two discreant brains seethed in our own
alternative milks, the newest issue, the latest
entry in the listicle of known glands.
          I was never really one for priorities.
          What was is of concern, what is is why.
          Befores and afters like Freds and Gingers,
          sweaty vortices coming onto then
          slapping off of the lacquered boards.

          //step-ball-pivot//

          And lazy as flecks of ash, the freeheel toe
          swims bashfully down through humming limelights.
          A dramatic shift in the body—
          a quick torsion or rigid judder
          can shatter the cobweb of fascia famous for inhering between
          rather than bloating with self, pecking for feed.
With a rustle and squeak arrives a steamy two-yolks egg.
Nodule, meet Node. Node, Nodule’s slated to converge 
with your ecliptic in what promises to be a chilling vision:

like twin silver coins flashing in tandem and tarnishing
in real time from the still oxygen between them.

I am not broken.

These smashed shards glued golden

Filled empty with Light.

You cup my sweet qualities
to your mouth ‘til they’re sweet nothings,
until they bitter our tongues.
A spoon full of sugar doesn’t help
the medicine go down. 
No measurement of medicine
will cure what ails us. 

Day 2 / Poem 2

Graceless and lumbering thing
And not sweet or nice at all,
Go westward, or at least forward
Young man.

Streets paved boldly by manifest destiny
Sidewalks mortared with brick and blood
Don’t walk this hallowed ground
If you don’t have a strong stomach.

By day, my dreams go to work
Making machines of ruin,
Sometimes I wish I could be
More like Woody Guthrie
And wield machines that kill things
Like facism and greed
Instead of the dreams of others
In faraway places.

When something grows without
Cease or limits or empathy,
For that matter,
We call it cancer.
If we are to excise this grand
Idea of ours, we must dig
A hole, shovel with a scalpel’s edge
Through dirt and sand and mind
My pen will have to do for now.

Breathless stillness before brief
cyclonic motion in the clouds.
The danger has passed this time.
The danger always passes, and
isn’t that something to write
home about? Dear Mom—
I made it through another day
safe as the safe under Dad’s desk.
Safe as the pin holding closed
the skirt with a zipper I broke
in my haste to change. The sun
came out quickly after
the tornado warning. Weather
reminds me all things
are capricious. Incredible,
how much light a cloud blocks,
how patchy cover creates
pockets of bright. Dear Mom—
the radio DJs here say to stay
safe, so I’m safe as one can be
in Nebraska. I’m grateful for
this rain, grateful, too, for
the warning. That’s the best
we could ask for: a warning
that comes to nothing.

Light blue porcelain whale perched 
on the dining room table holding room temp butter –
hiding so much more under its glossy humpback.

Resting on the handmade table, like her own butter dish did, for years. This way, she’s a part of it all. She’s still here, feeding us memories:
traveling breakfast, 
tailgate lunch, 
dinner traditions.

It looks different now:
two tables, a highchair,
but a butter dish remains
in the middle where Grandma’s
chair would sit, where her memory remains.

At the edge of midnight meet me by the bay.
Feel the breeze touch your lips like a kiss left unsaid.
The cards has been laid out, there are no more left to play.
Let me simmer in your thoughts for just one more day.
Bathe in the pond of your heart until the stream has run past.
Be still in the moonlight with me until dawn.
When the veils of the night passes slowly through.
Wake me up with a soft touch so I can watch you leave.

            april snow
        brings m&y beau 
      butterscotch yellow
   need a springtime fellow

   there is one lone tulip
    at the rock climbing place,
     that’s what we called
      the pile of rocks you
        used to climb that
         now you can step
          over, like the
           donkey who
             turned
              into
           Steig’s
        rock I wait
     for you there,
   the pastel-lipped tulip 
in the crisp of motherhood’s
         thin air. Who needs
             a spring fling
                 when, oh if I
                   could carry
                        you
                         Over
                         these
                          things.

Windmills on the rise like garter clasps
yank the world up
over this shameful sky. Plugging
you in. Leaving you on. Walking away
from meat on a plate, the indica
style of rage propelling those posts
about the trouble of the bats. No
matter how pretty, all parks must
be gone home from—the out-of-doors
as innuendo, the doors more of a
data security policy, you could
osmote straight through if
the friend was to ever offer up a dare.

Weaving between wholesome salespersons,

waving my rights accidentally,

making a mummy of Lucy with snickers wraps
and stirring the nubs into pudding. 

Transformations are chirruping all
around us. But it is a primal law that: 

Any ask of attention
makes a spike in the juice.

I was a vessel, but he didn’t know what I held.

The sacredness of my story. My imprint on air.

You finally see it, the monumental task
to mask the fixation in my brain about your tone
leaving the grocery store, about impressing

your mom, about whether the throb
in my chest is anxiety again or a heart
attack gone ignored like my dad’s.

I see my whirlpool mind
drain into silent mouth. A closing
you wish to make an opening,

wishing to fishhook into a smile.
The pit in my stomach—
It’s written all over your face. 

Day 1 / Poem 1

What few things I know
I’ve stumbled into
Equal parts careless and lucky.

Like how eating outside
Makes food taste better,
Fare of sun and wind
Or a weary traveler
To get the last room at the inn.
Blanton’s, on the rocks,
But only if I can watch
The prairie grass divide.

It’s good when your hands
Are coated in grime
And dirt, and holding mine
The day to day sterility
Of this world
Bores me to drink and dance.
We rose up from sand
And muck,
Constitutions carved from bedrock.

Whether or not there is music
Dance, fast or slow
Soles of my feet ache, legs
Pump steady like nodding donkeys
In the scrub and heat of the plains.
Work the life back into these things
I’m not ready
To leave here yet.

Seasons pass, and I feel older
Despite my best attempts otherwise
The weight of imagining myself
As the hero of all the
Books I’ve ever read
Is wearisome business.
The rain washes the dust
And withers the pages
But not the weight of
Having to grow up.

Rain released lilacs’ soft scents to hang in humid air. Sunlight struck at angles through oak leaves. Is this spring? Soon, I’ll taste rebellious summer—watermelon slices dripping juice down my wrists, pale pastel sherbet push pops sticking to lips. The only thing cool about me is my mouth. Let me sunburn soon, let magnolias bloom, let spring spiral quickly into some new season always in between. I want this feeling forever—this fervor against climate fever, this heat wave of human kindness, this folk song singing hope and despair in the same meter. It’s summer break soon and I’ll have nothing better to do except make the world better. Split this fruit of our valuable labor. Drink this milk tea. Hear this singing.

HER dice dropped off the edge
of her glowy hands and hot pink nails.
She flipped the cards, played her ace.
Shiny sequins sashayed side to side,
reflecting the neon lights of the Vegas strip.
She didn’t gamble, but the facade was easy. 

HER sweat dripped down her temples.
Jazz music vibrating her muscles,
The cajun life was loud around her,
Cher, pshaw, boo: deep lullabies.
She manipulated her tastebuds to dance
when they experienced something new.

HER heels shot needles up her feet.
Click, clack echoed through the white walls.
Splashes of colors swirled through the gray
monotony of her past: vibrancy, her revenge,
blinded others. Slithered it’s way in,
as beauty grew wings and flew out. 

HER words bounced in and out
of fingers, her brain flowering around
planting new seeds. Ink, permeated
words left on her soul. She takes names,
she whispers them into the stars, 
swallows them deep into the ocean.

HER skin caked in dirt and salt.
Hiking boots worn from treacherous miles,
Trekking further away from normality,
familiarity out the windows of the red 
dusted RV. He rests on the steps,
raised a lifestraw pack up to her lips.

I loved you like fire, when you where made of glas.
Fragile was your being, like sand running through an hourglas
I should have listened more carefully to the wind through the grass.
But I carried on, pouring your cup.
Until the water spilled over and you couldn’t drink up.

                                         My
                                       handy
                                      man in
                                     vites me
                                    to a m&y
                                   pole dance
                                  My ex boy
                                 friend wants
                                to sleep with
                               him which wasn’t
                              helpful once he
                             brought us the top
                            of a Christmas tree,
                           on the house left to
                          the side of the living
                         room where my mind goes
                        blank we didn’t have much
                       but delighted in pine-gene
                      rosity he is handsome with
                     muscular flower tattoos a fa
                    ther & miner circling as he
                   m&y on the house left to the
                  side of the living room where
                 my mind goes blank we didn’t
                have much but delighted in pine-
               generosity wasn’t helpful left
              to the side of the living room
             where my mind goes blank we
            didn’t have much but delighted
           in pine My handyman invites me
          to a m&ypole dance My ex boy
         friend wants to sleep My mind
        goes blank we didn’t have much
       a m&ypole dance flower tattoos
      a father My muscular man your
     dream

Over the tracks where the Bedlam used to be, 
the old Medusa, where as a young guy I
used to play someone sounding
the depth of a genuine vocation—Braying Prophet—
over by there I 
squeaked to a standstill in the smudged 
city clover along the fresh bike path.

One man was telling one woman to stop yelling
at the woman who was trying to lift the wounded man.

A black scarf fell
where his scalp collapsed a black bellows—out of air—.

Like rain in the sun the sirens pattered and I
was yelling now she was forcing 
him to his feet, still as stone. 

She was just so scared. She knew his brother.

Scales of dry concrete spangling my legs
from the job of the day—fancy
details, forensic little thrills, really making the story mine. 

I was filled with canned water.
I was holding it for the cop.
Maybe there is a new prophecy of stone.
I was hoping this poem wasn’t about me, but it is.

Of course the moon breathes.

You’re a sneaker wave at low tide, a siren for a laugh.
You’re venom, bleeding cuticles, chest pain—a pathway,
a rest stop, an antiquitous dusty town on Route 66. 

Everybody tells you to not be a doormat,
but nobody warns you against being a door
everybody walks through to get

to somebody else.
Anybody else.
Anybody easier

to share air with.
To look at.
To talk to.