Last Looks

The ‘ol apartment is almost empty now, everything
larger than my body could handle alone, given away
and I worry if I’m making these moves too soon
much like, all the poetry I’ve been sharing
about everyone but the one moving
into my mind the rent just right
the sale closed prorated, I’ve been draining pens
over this and everyone else, to get ’em out of the way,
to open it all up and detach for the welcome-back
I’ve been daydreaming about, hoping to find there
on the other side of all these boxes
I’ve been sending off; somewhere
between what I’m keeping and what I’m leaving
behind, a life envisioned
decorated in laughter,
an open floor plan where I can sprawl
out, and fill in with all the words
I’ve been tucking into an envelope,
waiting to catch the postman
so I can hand deliver the offer
to come on over anytime,
I’d like to stick around
at least for a bit, long enough
to get to know how you find zen
or like the laundry to hang,
preferences in lighting and knickknacks,
the significant to meaningless things;
I know to rearrange a living space
can completely change your mind-
-set and in all this bubble wrap my hands
have found themselves in, I’m sealing up
the last of the art worth looking at,
I’m on the phone with the airline asking
if this ticket comes with any assurance
that sight-unseen for all these weeks
things will fall into place.
All that’s left to pack are my pens
my bed and my dreams.

Texas Hold ‘Em

A year after you first asked
how I like my mochas, you make me one,
though the moment does not go how
we thought it would. The world tends
to do that, thwart expectations
when you ante all your happiness on them,
so I don’t anymore. Truthfully,
I want my casino license back,
I want to crack open that ATM
and put everything on red, another
three thousand mile bookie call, but I don’t.
I sip the espresso slowly and swirl
the chocolate around my mouth,
practicing presence, taking note
of every sensation from the music
you put on to the warm air of the room
in the moment, truthfully,
I have shared half a dozen coffees
the way we thought we would since then but
the company never hugs me like it could be the last
one. You
still do, and I still wonder,
if I could have played my cards
any different. This fantasy of winning,
I am a moth to a clatter of neon lights
and lying Jackpot signs.
Did you know casinos don’t have clocks
specifically to throw you off your guard?
I wore a watch today

and still nearly missed my bus.

Golden Hearts

Every spring, the sun lines up
with the French doors between the back yard
and the parlor. The golden beam so perfectly
stretches like a long tired cat across the wood floors
bringing in a breeze with a sweet embrace of warmth,
past the kitchen, and over the carpets,
to my mom’s reading chair
blinding her.
My dad, finds this hilarious.
Every evening he takes a photo of her
illuminated, curled pretzel to dodge the light
using one hand to block, the other to turn
the page, then her posture, then her hand,
until the column becomes night.
He posts these photos online
captioning them with things like,
“my ray of sunshine”
“here comes the sun, it’s alright”
my mom, never looks amused
but stubborn, refuses to move.
Every spring my dad comes home
to my mom in the same spot, struggling
to see her phone, he uses his to take the photos
from different angles of the room
“it’s back!” he posts.
Someone comments telling him to get some shades
but in all these years in the same path of light
neither of them has wanted to dull the shine.
She calls him a jerk for taking the photo, and he sings “I’ve got sunshine…”
and they laugh until the sun settles in for the night.
I could only be so lucky
to, someday, be
loved blind.

Defined

A mouth full
of mnemonic words, part of
my body now.

I had that dream again,
the sudden anxiety, vulnerability,
where my mouth falls apart
and there’s nothing to say worth being heard.
All the poems, all the stories,
picked apart for consistent meaning, I know
I’m dreaming, the recurrence is so frequent.
Something missing or imperfect in
the design will catch attention
and get me back on the ground.

A mantra repeated to still the mind,
I lock a mentor’s words of advice in my jaw.
As a fortune cookie savored, sweet, crunchy,
I consume each syllable until I am full
with their assurance,
nothing I’ve written is without meaning
even when
we know these things to mean nothing,
expecting to go unnoticed, the moment,
the artifice of feigned sincerity.
Stories like nightmares are lies.
The poetics like Latin derive from romance.
Like a mantra I repeat, the meaning
is mine.

The ballerina breaks her toes to pointe,
the writer lays awake at night masticating
for hours, I stared at the wall thinking
about the dream and all the subconscious
things that could be grinding away my sleep,
I thought about the way certain words
worked to shape my world into one worth
smiling in. Even when
the twist lands sideways
or the reader is lost,
the creation of a lie is a form of processing
a truth buried in the subconscious
by blowing it up into something absurd.
If my teeth fall out, I’ll wake up
with a mouth full of anatomic words.

The Build Up

In the days after you were gone
I collected bar stamps
on my inner wrists and hands.
I let the door men question
how long’d been since my last shower
with a smile, the scent of our embrace
buried beneath layers of ink;
to think the process cathartic,
letting those bruises rise to the surface
with an artificial substance, solace
in ginger ale fizz and your smudging
like sage, until my touch leaves prints
where I rest the glass.

I dragged a bar of rose soap, side to side,
like an over-sized pencil eraser
pressing into my skin, letting
what’s left of you run thin.
Like a drawing erasing its own lines
I realized, the artist
doesn’t always know what shape comes next.
These little mistakes belong to the process
of a sketch in progress, my clenched fists
around your presence here,
is no healthier than trying to drink
the black and blue circling the drain.

Mt. Tabor

At some corner I’ll find the way.
In some shadow, under last season’s
decay at the base of the mountain
I’ll hum out the vibrations, a thousand
silent noises shivering to come out;
a thousand bubbles in my throat
trying to be thunder. Under one of these pines
I’ll rearrange the muscles in my face,
contort and gnash tongue and teeth
to push this atmosphere between us
in such a way that you’d understand
the gravel below my collar, this fist
full of road is pumiced,
I may veer up a mulch trail and catch splinters
but I cling to the movement of cement fish nets
open and sprawling;
by always moving on I am in control
by always moving away
it’s easier to find the highway
than arrange letters and curve my lips around
what I don’t know how to say.

The Salutatorian’s Address

 

The Salutatorian’s Address, published by Typewriters and Salve. Read the full poem at typewritersandsalve.com

He graduated second in his class from a top tier
clown college on the north west coast of the states.
Somewhere far from the city he grew up in
surrounded by acres of wildlife and woodlands;
on graduation day he sat at a lake
drinking moonshine mixed with maraschino
cherries and slowly melting face paint.