Category Archives: Poetry

Stop the Birds from Giving Up

They empty feathery nests,
smoke cigarettes for breakfast,
and grow black lung trees.

If you asked them anything
about their flight maladies,
they might croak something like:

my wings started folded up—
my chest was a suitable drawer.

or

when they said ‘down’ I forgot
I had feathers with the same name.

or

I built this nest inside myself, so
I have a darker place to hide

or

why do you want to know anyway?
Find your own forest to burn.

A Scenic Painter Steps Outside

If you sit and stare at a wall,
maybe hoping it will move,
first you notice how many colors
are contained in the red of the bricks

in dry-brushed variations of
burnt and raw sienna,
raw and burnt umber,
creating patterns that ripple and move

changing in the high noon sun.
The longer you stare at the wall
the more you come to realize
they are really all the same

color, contour, and composition.
The clear cut lines of mortar
stem across the wall in beige veins,
pencil lines hastily traced

between the stamped on bricks
from sponges dripping with reds.
The longer you look at this wall
the more you begin to wonder

if it wasn’t painted onto another wall.
even splashes of color spatter the bricks
as if a painted hip brushed across
or a brush from up high

couldn’t keep the paint in its bristles.
You can’t help but walk up
and touch it, make sure it is real.
Lay your face to the brick and feel the heat

of the manmade stone
erect and meant to daunt,
a big stick made of brick.
Look across with your cheek to the grit

see the lines expand
and lengthen to your eyes
look up and see the arrows
pointing to the blue sky

hidden behind the corner.
The stairs formed of brick
to that cloud country
where the robin and bluejay

sit on cloud nine, tails turned up,
discuss politics of the wall beneath them,
whistle through toothy grins
and quaffed plumage.

The stains of the brick remind you
of spotting, the rusty red of new blood
that disrupts the other colors.
You spot a spider sneaking between cracks

and the longer you stare at the wall
the more you begin to wonder
if he could find his way through
the maze of red and blue bricks.

Witchgrass

From childhood she concaved around
herself, ripped at the pink skin of her lips.
Little brat, her cousin called her and she took

the name and wrapped it around her like an absolute.
She had been given a name all of her own.
In church, she cracked the bones in her kneecaps.

The linened ladies gave her odd looks
and she wore them royally, because those looks
were all hers as well. She stole red paper valentines

and faded cotton socks, forced others
to call her thief for it. She wanted an existence
entirely of her creation. Grew up armed to her gap-

teeth, wading a foot deep in ancestry and filth.
She lit fires in the forests at night, danced around them
like the Devil. Howled them out of existence. She ate

foul language so she had something of weight within
her body that she could digest. When she went north
for the winter, just to show she could, they knew

that she would rather be devoured than denied.

Detection and Care of Root-Rotted Thoughts

he contemplates the stain unfurling
from the ceiling, dark and autumn damp,
the deadwet plant musk of it drawing him in. can’t
remember if it was there before; can’t remember
the difference between water and blood.

upstairs, something overwatered in the bathtub: cracked
porcelain buckling away from the pressure of it,
rhizomes like fingers choking copper throats.
if anything could leave this room, he’d like to see;
these days nothing ever comes clean here.

says every source: sanitize the scissors first,
but the sharpest thing around is the urge to wrench
the rot from the body, so his fingers stretch instead
to grasp the leaf at the base, tear it away.
the others sink their teeth in, hold on until they splinter.

if he felt any better, he would pull thorn from flesh; if this
had made him better, he would not notice his hands dripping.
downstairs, the bloodwater must hangs there undiminished,
grown no more than before, yet still the same jagged drape
the size and stink of a body.

Birth

They gathered first in the colic of her morning
To hear the gasped breaths of her forced life giving,
Yawping like some heaving epitaph.
Since then the gifts returned in yearly mourning—
A dark tradition reminding her of the
Sick, metal room that first received her
And her placenta-gargled birth screams.

Her beginning, a torture, an uninvited push
Hurling her toward the ever-deepening doom
With a speed fit for blurring nausea.
She clamped her lips around night’s mother teat
And took from it a want to fall into sleeping,
Umbilical tied to earth. But there is no rest for
The world, old, sore, and mother weary with birth pangs.

Thanksgiving

My uncle’s brother’s sister constructs
a crusty meatball sub.
My husky brother Henry puts
mayonnaise in the rub.
My mom is always screaming for
the country music’s end
and our pushy Mormon neighbors
are just around the bend.
My cat keeps shoving
fur balls down the venetian blinds
while we’re sitting by the fire
that smolders our behinds.
Scribbling this down on
a wet November day,
I think that you should know
this is my favorite holiday!

My Baby Cousin as Wonder Bread

They carry him in like an average grocery,
this flailing loaf in a white jumper
with red/yellow/blue polka dots.
Must be more than mere coincidence

he eats only the marshmallow topping
of the sweet-potato casserole. Heaven
forbid he try something dark, but
for him it’s just white meat,

Saltine crackers, and mashed potatoes.
If I carve him will I find any stuffing
inside? The same refined fluffing which
comprises me, and the rest of the family?

Or do appearances deceive? Maybe there is
something exotic below the golden crust
surface. All I know is that
for a multi-cultural kid,

he sure is awful
bland. I’m sort of
surprised my racist grandfather
hasn’t taken more
of a liking to him.

A Thanksgiving Dinnertime in Suburban Virginia

Two gay kids and a turkey walk into a house.
The sprawling Cape Cod-ranch lovechild naps
across suburbia like a cat segmented by sunlight.
The door is red and crisp against the pallor
of horizontal beams coating the exterior.
The stairs creak and groan like grandma.
They straight ahead.

Two gay kids and a turkey do not make eye contact.
What do they have in common anyway? Sure,
the short shock of hair bristling on both their heads
matches the array of disjointed tail-feathers on the turkey.
And yes, the fat on their legs and breasts is young
and fresh. Of the trio, nobody knows which will be dinner,
which morsels of their flesh picked clean off their bones.
They do not know who will be stock for the gravy
or who will marinate in wine and be stuffed
with scallions and chives and whatever else father can chop
with his Japanese knifeware. They cannot fathom
who will be cooked too long, dried out into sponges
on their family’s tongues, thrown into Tupperware
to mold in the fridge. Whose blood will run
with the cranberry sauce tonight?

Two gay kids and a turkey walk into a house.
They see mother mashing sweet potatoes, aunts
drinking their red wines and uncles laughing into their beers.
The smallest cousins are wailing on the floor,
the oldest turning up the volume on the old television set.
And father leans against the oven, preheated to 500 degrees,
sharpening his knives and staring into the distance.

Two gay kids and a turkey cannot make eye contact
because their eyes are too similar, too foggy island on the river,
too discus in the night sky, too small, too aware.

Two gay kids and a turkey walk into a house.
They place the bird on the counter,
and their family smiles, ready for the feast.