Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Liturgy for a Son

On Sunday there is breakfast
while we stand in the kitchen,
your feet spreading sand
on black tiles, mote reminders
of yesterday's flood. Outside
some gathering storm plumps
the air so damp curls rise up
around your ears
and I do not cut their helix,
these waves your grandfather
would shave to the skin. Remind
Me of his ardent words,
the speech he gave you in the car
on the long drive home, the way
you leaned out the window, a hungry
Swell of winters slumber bitter
through the redwood, evergreen,
Usnea, a strange portrait of felicity.

Monday, April 23, 2018

America in Detail

Here is something that might turn into something or nothing. It's my story, but it is also just a story.

I existed inside the kingdom of childhood fewer years than I thought I might. I was gradually and inconspicuously drawn out through its golden gates by way of one long, cross-country drive. This was the summer our family was split and splintered so precisely at its roots that we hardly noticed it at the time. Mom packed up the car and then my sister and me and in a single month we drove down the interstate from the corner of Washington into St. Louis just as the sun was setting on a day in early June. This drive was necessary and yet it wasn't. We were fugitives or we weren't, a woman and her children crossing the badlands into new territory. Hadn't humans been doing this for so long? Shifting, traversing, and running towards something else? I wonder what my mom was thinking, what good things she was dreaming of. Was it the freedom? This word must have consumed her as she drove, she must have heard it on the highway, in the motel rooms at night, against each stone and surface of the desert, floating off of the rolling fields of the greenbelt.

Driving through each small town and briefly passing other people's lives, catching fleeting glimpses of their white houses, horses, diners, billboards, swimming holes, and great swaths of quiet woods, the days of the week felt useless. Time moves strangely in the great and expansive wilds of America, it takes something, but gives it back double. The grand and the tragic, the mundane and the consequential were pressed together so tightly that summer, growing more acute with every mile we drove further from and closer to. We were leaving and we were arriving. There was no end to the expansion and contraction. The outside world stretched out in wheat fields and in city centers, grew massive in my imagination. There were motel pools at dusk, campsites with usnea hanging from tree branches, pocket towns nestled among the red of desert cliffs, train-tracks, gargled radio stations, cactuses, and always the open map with each route lined in pink pen until finally we arrived. The Show Me State, the state of half-empty gas tanks, summer mornings with the windows open and cicadas calling, the limbo of adolescence, the sticky air of the midwest, my grandmother's porch swing, and my mother's laughter and ruin.

Time moved blissfully at first and so I did not leave the kingdom of childhood gracefully. I was only 11 and I still thought perhaps we would drive back the other way eventually. In pictures we are stopped at a tourist trap somewhere outside of Montana, a ten gallon hat on my head, a rifle I could barely lift off the pavement in both hands, fingers gripping the trigger. My sister and I are smiling. There are sheep grazing nearby and I am wearing Hawaiian print shorts, blue and white palm fronds. I am telling myself it it is a vacation because it feels like one, but there is a life after this and there was a life before it and so I stumbled out of the kingdom. I leapt out like there was a fire behind me. I slid out on my backside, but you could not tell this was coming from those pictures.

That ungraceful exit happened slowly and then all at once. We settled in an apartment with a sun porch where my mom hung a hammock swing. I sat there almost every day for the first three months doing what I had done in the living room of my father's house. I read. I read and twirled in the hammock swing, twisting the top of it until, finally in letting go, I would spin so fast colors from each corner of the room would blend together and the traffic and birdsong outside would press against both ears. It was constancy and mayhem on a minute scale. It was pandemonium I could handle and routine I could control. I spent the first summer in this swing, going through novel after novel and spinning, my bare feet grazing the warm sunroom floor until eventually I met two boys who didn't just want to kiss, who taught my sister and I how to smoke and skip school and steal alcohol from the grocery store. This is the exit and what comes later and also what comes all at once.

When I think of this entire story I never know where to begin and so I always begin at the drive from Washington to Missouri, but really we took that trip more than once and in reverse order. There was a being born and then a moving and then a going and a returning and a returning and on and on. We never stopped moving. Even after we arrived in Missouri, we bounced, richoched, boomeranged. My mom couldn't cease peering at and driving towards the green of the grass on the other side, couldn't stop trying to really get it right this time. Each apartment or rented house was an opportunity. She was certain of the geographic cure and so this is what my earliest memories are made of, the feeling of leaving a place for brighter pastures, escaping cross-country and into new neighborhoods. It was an education on freedom, maybe, but mostly it was good practice.

I wonder sometimes if this is true, if I was really raised the motion of escape and the feeling of laying down in the backseat of a car for weeks on end for those long drives. I think so. I remember watching the passing of sky within the strict diameters of a window pane so that the blue of the atmosphere and the white of each cloud would rush together as the perpetual cables of telephone wires dip and rise up again at each pole, but I don't know if this story is even worth telling. I feel conflicted. My life has been no more interesting than yours, no more complicated or mundane, but I love stories - really, really love them. Despite this, I am rarely a storyteller and more often a story asker. I feel that to tell your own story is to also believe that you are worthy of being seen and that your story is worthy of being written which is not always an easy proclamation for me to make, but I will tell this one in the hopes of it landing somewhere where it is needed and because we are all just humans doing our best and feeling weird and horrible and happy and so damn lucky too.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Love Poem

When I say dust I am really speaking about the morning
We woke early to the tide of cicadas singing in the woods near
My sister's house, their delicate bodies swallowing the sound
Of themselves. When I say bloom I am really speaking about wild
Things, horses in the river, hungry currents rinsing sweat from the swell
Of the belly. When I say surrender I mean the man I kissed
On a Sunday, the trapezius, its slope and nerve and uncommon grace.
When I say stone I am really speaking of the weight of the word
On my tongue and the shape of it being tender. When I say ceremony
I mean the ritual of the evening, the yellow leaves of a sycamore tree
Waving. When I say mercy I mean the beatitude of undoing, the shape
Of our geography, the bones in your fingers, their simplicity and fate.

Saturday, April 7, 2018




I try gathering my mother's blood
out of small
Grooves of marrow, from every
thin line that runs
Up to the each joint


I learned how to wait in two
places, how to shape objects
with devotion; a chamomile
A pink shell, the shrine
she made to her grandfather


I keep her under flimsy bone,
in the white,
half-moon lunulas on both thumbs.
I tuck her behind
My teeth so she might
not be heard, this learned muscle


There is something wrong
with your mother
She says, chair pulled up to the kitchen
table, indents
On her elbows from grooves
in the placemat.
I try holding up the air in the room,
feel the weight of us on my knees,
windows half open, May breeze
Lifting all the curtains, sun
making patterns on white
Paint. Flies buzz lazy
against the screen, thip, thip.
How things go on despite ecdysis,
the shedding of skin


On a Monday evening I begin praying
for the dream,
The one where we sit on the back
porch, bugs in the trees, a half eaten
apple sticky in my fist. Pollen lays
Thick, a delivery truck beeps.
My mother waters the hastas
And marigolds barefoot, kicking
sticks away with her toe.
In this dream we are unbothered
by the years that pass,
Nor their lasting retreat. Clouds bloom 
and puff like clean linen

Friday, January 19, 2018

Anthropocene in the Desert

It is hollow where the muscle was, the sea lapping at the cliffs.
In the canyon where waves kissed the sand into walls, smooth
And cool under the thrum of a highway. Still there is a miracle
In insignificance, to be born temporarily among evidence of our
Epoch and its end, the arches made from a patient ocean,
The Pueblo, the painted ox. It is a luxury to be only human
And in the desert, to touch these stones, a witness to brevity.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


We dream. Pink moss under rogue clouds.
Open roads, Canyons hover over me.

This morning I broke Hungry. Arms out, cooling
On the stone countertop. I let so many someday
Children go unborn. So what is to become of me.

This world, this Wide World drips honey on concrete,
Peels back layers, crosses borders. The skin next
To your ear grows soft.

I hear brooks, feel the chipped, green poles that hold
Up billboards get warm while we stop to fill the gas
Tank. Two dogs pull their leashes for a long-gone
Scent of coyote. Blood brothers, I think.
Same crescent moons on their paws.

Monday, July 17, 2017

July and Other July's

I want to write more prose or maybe more prose-poetry. in any case, I think I'd like to share more of myself here.

Here is something I wrote this morning. It's my attempt at turning memory out of the mundane. I think that's what writing might be for. So much of life is mundane, but writing ignores that. I have this feeling what I write is pretty useless, that I don't have any more memories to turn to and I've used up all that's slightly interesting about my life. Maybe this is true, maybe not. This piece of writing is about the summer my mom rented a garden plot and moved to Georgia for a few months so B and I took over the watering. There's not much I remember about that summer except those days we walked to the garden, how hot it was. So hot it actually hurt to be outside.

Maybe I will add more to this story.

We grew peppers in the garden plot four blocks away, their waxy bodies drooped near the ground well into July. Later on we heard those bees died - the ones you used to watch in the white boxes, hands on top of knees, bent down close to their busy world. We filled the birdbaths while robins waited on the iron fence, heads titled, wary of anything humans do. That summer something cracked in the heat. Certainly those days propelled us to move East even if we didn't know it at the time although I think I might be combining months now, everything rolling together into one long, lazy July. It must have been another summer I remember, my mother and grandmother sitting on the front stoop laughing, drunk when drunk still seemed okay - a normal afternoon in the Midwest, dusk rushing in making the concrete steps cool under our feet, cicadas offering the first notes of their symphony.