a choice

July 18th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

not to sensationalize your weight

but it did feel significant that you

were disappearing from the world

in a physical sense like how men

sometimes thin and sinew as they

age just raw muscle and hollow

bones worm-like ready to collapse

in the dirt

so that’s the prologue to the moment

when you let your hands fall from

whatever hopeless gesture you were

making your wrists as birds against

gravity saying what if my life

passes me by

which is the moment i return when i

think that you are actually the bravest

person i know because you looked into

the eyes of this parched existence and

said okay fine

and not to trigger any dysmorphia

but you have filled out since then

like your wrists have a bit of meat

on them i mean i don’t actually super

know what you look like right now

but i picture you dancing around

your apartment like a jackal lean

and wild and flashing teeth in the

sun

i tried to figure out the rhythm of her heart while she slept on my foot

August 24th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

my dog doesn’t like it when i listen to her heartbeat
i don’t really like it either i can’t quite place the rhythm it’s either
six beats one rest or four beats one rest or six / rest / four / rest
every rest i think she has died
i hold my hand to her heart to get the measure of something
and she slowly rolls away
maybe she thinks i will kill her maybe it’s simply a spot too tender
to touch

barely morning still dark
the space between inhale and exhale
i feel the wind between my cheeks
mouth full of summer leaving
song on the radio says isn’t it isn’t it
i find the tender heart of the present the space
between this suffering and that suffering
for one second it’s everything and then it’s gone and i can’t
quite get that beat down again

my dog looks up at me
getting dressed for the early shift all stretched out impossibly
taking up the whole bed she looks at me like stay
how is my look back i have to do these things to pay rent
she blinks slowly just stay
she doesn’t understand anything but the space between suffering i think

yes people are forever writing about what their dogs teach them
and this is my lesson she really is so good and not in the ways
i’ve selfishly shaped her here she is exploring each pocket of the porch
sniffing out bees and lizards and sitting among the flowers and chewing
the wood chips i painstakingly spread thick and wide she goes wherever
her heart takes her until basically until basically i step in

my heart is taking me somewhere somewhere pretty nice i think even though
i might just sleep with my coworker even though the fantasy of him is much
hotter than the reality and i might just have tea with my ex every week so she
can see me as good as healed as not the one who caused her all this pain even
though eventually i’ll cancel our standing plans closing the door yet
again when i feel better because that’s what i’m still getting unstuck from

my dog hates the car like hates it enough that the anti-anxiety meds i stuff in her
mouth just make her lay down not even sleep she pants her heart races
but ten minutes later we are in the woods twenty and we’re at the creek
twelve hours later we’re at the sea and she can spin like a maniac across the sand
never have i seen her bound for joy like when we get to the beach the creek
the forest but i wonder if the suffering is worth it for her
i wonder if dogs kill themselves ever like birds can pluck that one feather above
their heart that makes them bleed out
suddenly i’m wondering if that’s apocryphal

if there’s one chance i get to strip away suffering in this life
the only real chance i have is with my dog
so how am i doing with that and does it have anything to do with what i’ve
stripped away in my own?

i don’t know where we’re going and now i’m the one panting at the window
sticking my face in the breeze and then changing my mind it’s a little too much
we’re going a little too fast for all that and not fast enough how are we still
in this hellbox it’s been seven seconds hours lifetimes and when we arrive
it’s pretty spectacular i have to say even though it’s one space between breaths
one moment in a billion trillion moments where everything feels okay and
like maybe all the suffering was a different life or a dream or just a movie
i saw once and cried at and then we get back in the car even though i’m
screaming and shouting no and i
wonder how many more times can we do this
before it stops being worth it

 

 

for juniper

May 26th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

 

there once was a witch
who time-traveled with nothing but
two black cats in her small bag and
many names for every occasion

and they called her sister

her magic was born of blood dirt piss tears
her magic grew from the ground and rained from the sky
her magic wrote songs in the fire that burned themselves
deep into her flesh

sister she said
how does a cat mourn her brother
does she look through the glass and see him
slinking his way back through the garden
how does a cat mourn her brother
does she reach her maw into her food bowl
and take only half
sister how does a cat mourn her brother
or does she live with him still

the witch said brother how does a sister say goodbye
does she dig your grave with her fingernails
does she whisper your name to the setting sun
does she crawl through the night howling
or does she live with you still

brother she said i would claw my heart open to hold you again
to see you bathing sister under the achillea moon
to listen to you sing wild songs
to feel your magic once more

sisters he said you already know the bowels of grief
and you must not starve its hunger
feed it your heart your words your snot your tarot
feed it your song your ink your blood your breath
feed it until it can live alongside you
and wander with you through the forest
as your shadow

sister our paws will touch as i grow with
every rising and falling sun i will live with you
as your shadow in the light

sister in silence you will hear me
in the moonlight you will see me
in darkness you will feel me
as strong and wild as you are

there once was a witch and from her ribs
she conjured two cats as black as love
they called her sister in this life and the next

they say if you look closely into the thick summer dusk
you can see her walking through the garden
three shadows as one

 

 

despite

September 2nd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

when i was a child

my father told me marilyn monroe was beautiful

despite a small brown circle above her lip

when i was older

my father showed me pictures of the women he went on dates with

thick cakes of make up

dyed and thinning blonde hair

my father told me stories of the women he went on dates with:

vain cruel insecure

when i was a child

we had many large photographs of marilyn monroe

including one above the couch

where i sat beneath her

where his dates sat beneath her

we became a thumb

caught in the frame

people ask: was she really even that beautiful?

people ask: or did [they] decide who was beautiful and who was not?

people say: [someone else] is much more beautiful

i have no interest in individual beauty

either everyone is beautiful or no one is

beauty is so often cruel

beauty is always cruel

i hope i am beautiful

i look in the mirror

i see a thumb caught in the frame

i say i love myself and the despite gets swallowed

despite: hair

despite: nose

despite: skin

[she was beautiful despite]

my father wrote a book on empowering women

my father came from a shattered cruel woman

thick cakes of make up

dyed and thinning blonde hair

i hope i am beautiful one day

one day i hope to look in the mirror

and see the ocean instead

one day i will look in the mirror and see

something big and beautiful

and cruel

137 Second Ave (and Riddle Way), Manasquan, NJ 732-223-2976

December 10th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


1.

I don’t pay attention to the roads but I still know the way. It is my own map I follow: leave Thursday evening, as the sun sets. Pack the car quickly, bring no snacks, no coffee. Sit in the front seat and watch the whole world slide beneath me, listen for the click-click, click-click as the tires find the bridge with metal stripes. Repeat the names of the towns I pass through, say them with love and wonder, each one is a gift, bringing me closer to where I’m heading. Perth Amboy. South Amboy. Red Bank, Little Silver, Long Branch. Asbury Park. Belmar. Say them like a poem, as if their proximity and placement has meaning, has design. Say their names over and over, each one a bead to pass through my fingers. When you see the budweiser warehouse, make a right and sit up in my seat because we’re close. Let the orange lights pass over my face, a fiery bird reflected in the water. Take a left after the bridge, and another left at how loud my heart is. And there it is, and there it is. What do you say to me? Every single time, what do you say to me?

You’re safe now. This is where you’ll be safe.

2.

I’m talking about the house and the house is you. You are where I return to in my mind. I picture myself at the kitchen sink, washing dishes, overhearing the neighbors discussing the parties they will go to. Their voices float in and mean nothing. Their voices, the faucet running, the flag hitting the pole: these are your silence. After I finish the dishes, I lay down on the couch. There are two couches mirroring each other, pistachio and sinking. I picture myself lying down on the couch against the wall, watching the street through the screen door. People are walking to the beach, the soft siren of their voices are part of the silence too, the metal beach chairs scraping the concrete, the rub of a float against skin. Lying here on this couch, in the sounds of silence, I could be here forever. Every time I return to you in memory I lose you: something on the wall fades away, the feeling of the wood floor under my feet is disappearing.

3.

Your smells are small noises and you are music with them. The wet wood of the outdoor shower, the heat of the garden, the lavender, the hose, the wicker, the carpet. The stale smell of linen in the lofts and the smell of the ocean breeze through the open window. I walk through you and each room’s smell tells a story. Here we sleep late: the mustiness, the only room with air-conditioning, the painted wood, the glued plastic fruit to the dresser. Here we tell secrets: storage behind a tropical print curtain, an open window to the roof, and when I’m older, the smell of sex with strange friends under blankets. Here we dream: the moon, the sun, the stars falling all over the walls, the tin tea set, the warm sterile smell of the stereo. Even now, when I catch those same smells in different places—a Tennessee creek, a thick honeysuckle rain—the whole song plays and the song is you.

4.

All I have of your body now is what I’ve collected of you in pieces, in every shell and sea glass, in every corner of sand. I’ve salvaged you, in photographs, in paintings that once hung on your walls, bedsheets that once covered you, in all of the blue I’ve found, I’ve salvaged you. I gather and gather them closer because the thinking is this: if I press them to my life, to my skin hard enough I will become you. I will lose shape and become you: salt, wood, water, memory. Because without you, I am unknowable.

5.

I am not one for loving walls. I am not one for loving fences. But this is how you were born. And this is how the story goes: there was once a tree that spit and now it is the porch. There was once a spitting tree here, next to the outdoor shower, you see: this stump here, a stump to hang the hose on, to shave our young legs on. You were born as walls and fences and doors and windows, to run my fingers along, to climb out of, to lift up and push through. And how do I build you now? Words are not walls. Memories bleed and disappear.

6.

This is how I come home to you: I step into the bright light at the back of my mind. Every time I return to the kitchen window and I become your silence. No, I think it’s too short this way. I go back further. To the train, the smell of the leather seats. The train is surrendering me to you. Here I recite the names until I get to yours, I walk down Main Street, past the canal we named Lagoon. At Second Ave, I make a left. The ocean wraps itself inside of me, I carry the whole of it. Cross Riddle Way, along the sidewalk I am convinced is stained brown from a rumor I once heard. Then I reach you. Here you are: a small grey house, with puzzle-piece shutters, blue trim (the same color I will paint my room, much later, to crawl inside of you again). I go around back and find the key on top of the windchime. I remove the glass of porch screens because the ocean is large and we must invite all of it in. Open the back door: my mother is not here but she is in every inch of you. Since she was twenty, she has been building you, painting you in every color and design, no part of you has gone untouched. Love is painting everything you have. Painting the bathroom to look like a jungle, painting the cabinet to look like the world, the brick walls painted white. The moon is painted outside the wall of my parents room. The wall falls away, it is a lake, the moon over a lake and looking at the moon and the lake through ferns, a fake palm tree that she has place in front of the lake and the moon and the ferns. There is a lizard painted on the floor, running from the kitchen, and a spider creeping toward the back door. A painted bear and a tiger playing a horn, the tiger forever playing a horn, the bear reaching up its tongue to taste the music. On the driftwood wall of the outdoor shower, two turquoise seagulls flying over forever with R + D above their wings. I have given a home to those seagulls on the knuckle of my thumb. Because eventually the paint peeled away. I remember peeling the paint away. My parents divorced and I made a home for the seagulls in ink on my thumb. It is my favorite tattoo because it is a call to you.

8.

Twenty-eight years of me have been opening your doors. The train door the car door the front door the porch door the shower door the cabinet door the bedroom door the shutter door the shed door the screen door the front door. My memory of you is a door, that’s all it is.


Helen means light

February 5th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

I can hear you from the window
of my blue room
you’re walking up the hill, singing to yourself,
an unexpected voice, a lantern,
deep & strong & unafraid
your voice is a thread
to

the blue I find in your life always comes as a surprise
I am always looking for blue & there you
have it, the sudden appearance of the sea
drawn through a forest, a surprise blue which
is of course the best kind of blue

and of course the card I drew for you this morning isn’t
the epilogue, though it is the stillness of hope, the star that follows
the tower, they are two sides of the same card, hope & its
partnership to destruction, a forest burned to the
ground so new life may grow so that you may emerge
hovering above a still-beating body of water in the moonlight
so that a person may break open & pour out
cool water from the wound

I know what it’s like to be spun around what
its like to be told the ground beneath your
feet is actually the sky & you are falling & have
been falling for longer than you thought. I know what
it’s like to get lost in your own mind, to emerge
stumbling forward. I know what it’s like
to walk up the hill, my own voice ahead of me,
a rope pulling me forward, up the hill where the
lights in the house are on & your voices are ropes too
hoisting me up & your voices are ropes too
that form a net when I fall, I know what
its like to walk up the hill when
the stars are out & the moon is behind a cloud,
when the lights are on & I surprise myself
by singing: I know what it’s like to be led home.

 

 

It’s About a Book

August 24th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

I ask my heart, please, never stop speaking to me. I ask that, when I wander far from my dreams, my heart press me and sound the alarm. I swear that, every time I hear the alarm, I will heed its message.

– adapted from The Alchemist

 

I.
it’s
about a book
and the book is you

I look up from the last page
and there you are
ordering a small cup of coffee
from that place off Myrtle

you’re telling me
one hand like a catcher’s mitt in the air
how close you’ve gotten to the flame
how much brighter it burns at this length

the barista slides the small cup toward you
and you make a joke
something like “you’re like my favorite human alive now”
laughing first and louder
it’s that your laugh is a tower

 

II. next chapter

in whole foods the ceiling is starless, dark
you’re telling me your skin feels like paper
this close to the fire

“sorry” you say
“no sorry” I say

 

III. next chapter

you’re a gray bubble
worrying about the final chapter
an ellipses, this is you thinking

this is me thinking
of the star who drives
by her own light

who is very much the forest
who is very much the fire
who is very much the tower
who is very much the doe
who is very much the star

 

IV. final chapter

the author announces
on some late night show
there will be ten more books
each so thick you’ll need three people
to read it

its name will surprise you
it will tell you something about the story
but not everything

it will ask you if you should order
another coffee

it will draw another card
it will show you each brick in a giant tower

it will be a word, underlined, that you can live in
while the rest is written

 

V. epilogue

and the fire is you

 

 

 

Direction

February 7th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Over clasped hands,

over a crusty sourdough,

you told me I am an ordinal direction

I am a current

blood line

river.

 

Gesturing to yourself,

a forest fire, an asterisk of motion,

everything burning down and growing

all at once.

 

And both the fire, crawling out,

trailing along Sixty-Four;

and the rivers,

a letting of blood water body,

 

resemble a single raw nerve.

 

I feel more like a boat rocking

on the Gennesee river,

than the north itself.

 

When we’ve finished the bread,

when your name on the page races my heart,

ask me, tell me, how to carry my legs and

fingers and hair,

how to carry them

and still move forward.

The Persistence of Light

November 28th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

 

I’m through with choosing
how many volts and which wattage,
playing the persistence of lamplight:
exposing everything, all at once.

I prefer the flicker of flame
A light that twists against its tether
As my ribcage slides along my breast
singing: “I am lonely but growing”

Returning home, I kill the headlights
before they once-over the house.
This is my own breaking and entering
My own two fingers inside of me,
beckoning.

A dark home makes for less walls.
The trees sit before the curtains,
Branches I’ve tucked in as children to sleep
by candlelight, the moon in my living room.

The house, a diminishing circumference,
I pray alongside it. here in this quivering space
my heart resigns its
tether, felled from my chest
like oil to flame, set like the darkness
ablaze, and renounced, of the lamplight
forever.

 

 

how you are hungry

March 26th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

if you find something

small, leave it.

 

it was meant for someone else.

 

don’t be so hungry for beauty or meaning

for that kind of hunger

lives by feeding on itself.

 

you are neither Rasheed nor Mary

who wrote their love in 2011 on

this bathroom wall.

 

you only ever had a marker or a blank hunger,

never both.

 

tell someone nearby about universality

and why little boys who’ve never seen guns

pick up sticks and shoot them.

 

don’t tell yourself these things were meant

for you, these little droppings

to collect in your phone,

skating across the palm of

your hand.

 

eventually a neighbor will lose their child

to some kind of horrible

and that too will have to have been

meant for you.

 

the book you’ve been looking for

is marked “free” and sitting in a box of rain,

tasting like the sigh of the storm.

 

post no bills

untrace what’s been drawn.

 

leave that all here

sight unseen.