Cancer

The city breathes deep
in its asbestos lungs
and sucks me in,
and with each breath
smoke billows through the air.

Arteries pump thousands
across highways in
their cages of debt,
and with each pulse
shivers crawl up the cracked smoke stacks
lining the heart of it all.

This city is a dying animal
clawing at the lakes
for one last sip.

Resilience

Rows of trees have grown

where I once only saw square houses

lined up among dusty roads.

The snow doesn’t fall so lightly

with the rain scratching the mud

and the spring leaves struggling

to grow.

I’m watching the birds pickup sticks

and build new summer homes.

Resilient,

they build after the harsh winter season,

and I wish it were that simple to go home.

City Burns

There’s an orange glow
of light on the ceiling
coming from the lower east side of Syracuse
below me.
 
How fitting.

It streaks across my black walls and plaster
and pollutes the winter fog outside.

How fitting.

And as if upon a castle
that’s more fit for orange jumpsuits
I give this place less credit than it deserves.

The city is not a prison.
Its these walls that hold my heart hostage.

How fitting, that this box aglow with orange burns.

Thalia and Melpomene

 

Dear Professor,
They’ve asked me to write and read a poem about a tragedy, and I seek advice.
How do I come up with something that won’t make everyone cry?

Dear Professor,
Scratch that, I changed my mind.
How do I write a poem that innocently hides
my intention to make them all cry?

Dear professor,
I’ve got a draft. Would you mind reading it a couple times?
Please take note and send feedback on the specific volume and intensity of tears you cry.
I promise not to defame your manhood, but it’s important you do not lie.
I bought stock in Kleenex yesterday, so I need to do this right.

Dear Professor,
I apologize for my future absences from class.
My mother is having surgery and I need to be there for that.

Dear Professor,
Yesterday I found myself watching a woman breakdown and cry.
I couldn’t help but wonder how it feels
to have a camera in your face as you chase every trace of hope
that your child was one to survive.

Dear professor,
What is it like to die?

Dear Professor,
How’s that poem critique coming along? I’ve sent 8 emails now. Did you read it? Is it too long?

Dear Professor,
Did you know our textbook is 20 pages short?
The editor appears to have forgot and author, they don’t have any of my work.

Dear professor,
When I was a child, one of my best friends died.
I sometimes visit her remembrance tree,
sometimes I wonder what it means to be alive.

Dear Professor,
Do you ever wonder about tragedy?
How lost you must be
that your experience of reality
becomes so trapped in the TV
that you’d do anything to see the curtain close on you.
Mental state so deteriorated
that fear is no longer an experience
but an escape through the 6 o’clock news.
I confess, if they knew they’d think me a monster,
but I felt nothing like that mother.
I was too disgusted by the news,
jumping with a thirst to be the first to burst the worst updates
breaking in with the death toll,
3, 10, now 20 children. 6 adults. One mother.

Dear professor,
I don’t understand.

Dear professor,
What gets me the most,
is knowing those parents have closets full
of Santa’s gifts that will never get to be opened.

Dear professor,
I’ve submitted a poem for publish.
I figure I tell you I borrowed an idea now
before you come looking for royalty checks.
But let’s be honest, I’m an art student,
I’m sure I more so need it.

Dear professor,
I told an audience today my goal was to make them laugh.
The whole damn time they sat on the edge of their seats.
I wish you had told me, at that point, there’s no turning back.

Dear Professor,
I challenged myself to make somebody laugh
with the saddest story I was offered,
to put my light heart on something so fundamentally bad.
Dear professor,
I think I failed.

Dear Professor,
There’s someone crying in the back.

Dear Professor,
Did you buy stock in Kleenex?
Tomorrow I will be at the hospital, I might be late to class.

Dear Professor,
I’m running out of time and getting pretty nervous, I don’t think they got my message.
Death is sad, but it happens to us all,
and I learned pretty young you have to accept it.
But if you could shut up the news for just 5 damn minutes,
I think some premature certificates could be prevented.

We live in a culture where we shun the ill,
push them around, then are shocked when they fight back.
Somehow we’ve grown to expect the best from those we’ve treated the worst.

I think the problem here is something moral, nothing less, nothing more.

Dear professor,
I’ve tried not to be too political,
I’ve just tried to keep a grip to what’s real.
I’ve never had a child before.
I still often wonder how that woman feels.

Dear professor,
I had a moment of clarity today, I’m currently thinking it over.

They told us it was unsuccessful, they had to put her back under.

And suddenly, I feel everything.
Suddenly, I no longer wish to wonder.