Category Archives: Poetry

Big Damn Beautiful World

When she finally takes off that

God-awful sweater her grandma made—

The one with the cross-eyed kittens,

Foreign fruits that might be apples,

And no sense of season or dignity—

That no one likes but she wears anyway

For Grandma’s sake—

 

When all that’s left is a thin, snowy shirt

Through which all is clear as ice-capped peaks—

Where the whisper of the river climbs unfettered

Over trembling blushes of leaves,

Cupped palms of valleys,

And undressed trees yielding to the breeze

To rest at the summit and roll back down—

sweater
“She finally takes off that god-awful sweater her grandma made.” Photo from: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/91/9a/91/919a9144344e1996f967fc1cea459840.jpg

When she can dance without being whipped by knitted sleeves,

Exposing her teeth as a smile spreads—

The stars peeking through bare limbs

Where the crisp night sky cradles them,

Lays them down on the grass—

She cries out in delight

For this big damn beautiful world.

Like Nihilism, but Less Depressing

depressed
“I find a sort of comfort in the idea of a chaotic, unknowable cosmos.” Photo from: http://academyofideas.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/nietzsche-caspar-david-friedrich-468×375.jpg

When I was younger, it terrified me
To look at the universe as some brutal, uncaring thing.
I expected it to be organized and meaningful
Like all the little quirks
Mom expected me to grow out of.
(Neither I nor the universe
Ever lived up to expectations.)

I don’t worry over fate quite so much, anymore.
Now I find a sort of comfort
In the idea of a chaotic, unknowable cosmos.
It’s like realizing
That the prison walls are cardboard,
That the steel bars can crumble in my grasp.

Maybe there is some unseen structure to it all,
But maybe there isn’t.
Maybe it doesn’t matter—
At least, not the way I thought it did.

Radio Rust Valentine

My poems are shit.
My face ain’t much, either.
Meet me tonight
By the FM receiver?

The signals are mixed,
The liquor is steady.
Should you bring Hell,
Know my liver is ready.

We’ll put on a record
Of Coltrane or Davis,
Stare at the stars
With our heads on the pavement.

radio
“We’ll put on a record of Coltrane or Davis.” Photo from: https://grahamdunningreagarden.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/radio02.jpg

As horns fade away
To crickets and crankshafts,
I’ll read you Poe
As your lips recite Plath.

And when you walk off
Across the old levee,
I will not ask
So you can’t reject me.

Bipolar is the Game

The waiting room in the psychiatrist’s office

Is not the place to giggle.

I think about the juice head that is surely here for rage problems,

How he cut me off in the parking lot

And almost spilled his jamba juice in the process,

His face purple from screaming.

I look over at the woman

Who is seemingly always here,

Her caretaker and that permanent frown.

The woman who is in a club dress

With ugg boots in the middle of July.

And they think I’m crazy.

But the thing is,

I am.

I’m sitting in a waiting room,

Thinking about pick-up lines

Should the opportunity ever arise.

“Hey, I really like the dark circles under your eyes. It really brings out the crazy.”

They always make you fill out these progress notes,

I never take them seriously.

What is going well for you today?

I made it here in one piece.

What is not going well for you today?

Traffic.

The whole act of going to a pdoc is strange.

You sit in front of a stranger

Who is a politician with a medical degree.

Everything about you condensed into 10 pages

Of charts and medical history.

Your brain,

And how much you deeply mourn your last dog,

In a neat little packet.

The stereotype of lying down is so wrong.

That person must have stumbled into a massage parlor instead.

All I get are two chairs that are brown,

Are warm from other people’s asses,

Reek of the ghosts of long passed gas,

And sound like farts when you sit down.

psychiatrist office
“They always make you fill out these progress notes, I never take them seriously.” Photo from: https://st.hzcdn.com/fimgs/9f21d7040a942e70_6660-w496-h316-b0-p0–home-design.jpg

Doc lets out a heavy sigh.

I’m pretty sure that he hates me.

His eyes remind me of Leon Russell,

Could be stoned,

Could be indifferent.

I hold my breath

So I don’t giggle.

I have a nervous giggle,

An excited giggle,

And an avoidance of eye contact.

His scornful looks bore into me.

Yes, I’ve been taking the Lamictal.

Seroquel?

There goes my train of thought.

The image of me slumped over a desk,

Drooling over Scriabin’s greatest hits,

Reminds me why I hid those.

Honesty is his policy,

But I’m the best actress.

Putting on my Julie Andrews smile

Doesn’t rid his disappointed look from my mind.

And my brain is the only one I have,

Chemical imbalance and all.

I’m constantly pogo-sticking through a minefield.

He has to be an artist,

Chipping away at the veiny parts

Until there is nothing but smooth marble left.

The Pulpit at Izzy’s Speedy Station

In a gas station with a faded sign on the other side of

Burned Pine Avenue, across the street from

Our Father’s, Will Parish,

I shambled into the restroom where my legs collapsed.

My kneecaps cracked on the browned tiles,

Forehead nestled in narrow trenches,

Clear streams digging estuaries into the murk

Beneath the lightning of a flickering bulb.

I studied the scriptures scratched on the stall:

pulpit
“I bowed before the throne once more, Confessed in holy catharsis.” Photo from: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-mriEwIDY9OU/U8s7T9iAC_I/AAAAAAAAAPY/ENNC65jTpZY/s1600/pulpit.jpg

The Epistles of Kilroy, the Little Black Book of Numbers,

I bowed before the throne once more,

Confessed in holy catharsis.

Bells from the parish sidestepped the station.

Izzy placed his hand on my back,

Pulled me to my feet and smiled

As the flock left for their townhomes.

To My Aunt

One of the greatest gifts you ever gave me:
A rain-soaked afternoon
Digging through a shoebox of broken crayons
Spinning the stories in my head to their first willing ear.
(But not their last. I swear to you.)
Gentle eyes and complete conviction
as you tell me,
“I bet you’ll be a writer one day.”

rain
“My life’s greatest mystery: How to thank someone for being catalyst to some of the best parts of you.” Photo from: http://answerangels.com.au/images/doyoulikebeinginsideandwatchingtherainoutside2.jpg

A dozen more stories like that
Branded on the parts of my mind
That drag me to my early morning classes
When my comfortable bed warns against it.
There is no thank you card for that.
Prepackaged, Hallmark-branded sentimentality could never hold a candle to it.

My life’s greatest mystery:
How to thank someone
For being a catalyst to some of the best parts of you.
But I think I’ve finally figured out the answer.

Maybe I’ll tell you about it one day,
On the acknowledgments page.

Beautiful Brilliance

A beautiful thought of wisdom born,
A crack in the Great King’s head,
A beauty born with brilliance and strategy.
Even with great powers, jealousy still appears.

Athena
“An owl as her symbol, books as her comfort, A sword at her hip.” Photo from: http://orig05.deviantart.net/1086/f/2014/159/4/7/5_athena_by_sheppardarts-d7lm21r.jpg

The creator of the deadly spider, an animal made out of spite,
An owl as her symbol, books as her comfort,
A sword at her hip for war is always possible.
Intellect over rage, for with blind rage
No one truly learns.

Little White Snowflake

snowflakes
“Little white snowflakes falling on the pale white skin.” Photo from: https://writinginnorthnorfolk.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/snowflake-tears.jpg

Little white snowflake falling from the sky,
Little white sparkles falling on the curls.
White flakes hanging from the lashes,
Light blue eyes watching the gray clouds go by.
Watching the little white snowflakes falling all around,
One, Two, Three, time to fall down.
All the little white snowflakes acting as a bed,
Nice, soft, and very cold.
Little white snowflakes falling on the pale white skin.

Ode To A Desk Doodle

The smudged and abstract set of jaws
Hangs half open with the weight of teeth.
The crude body curls into a cruder spiral
Perhaps a tail, perhaps a shape undefined,
Tightening in on itself until it smears
Into shady gray. Already the decay starts.

You will not last. Your time is short,
A distraction made in minutes and set
To die a careless death in days.
Permanence is a flight of fancy to you,
Immortality a concept impossible to grasp.
A sweep of a hand could wipe you away,
Without even a memory left to hold you.

Were you worth something? Did you
Provide to the hand that so callously,
Thoughtlessly carved you into the world
Some small fraction of amusement?
Some minuscule joy? Or were you
Made and abandoned in the same
Tiny shard of time, a work orphaned
Before it could even hope to be art?

A hand hovers over you
But you do not have eyes
To see it with. Hold your breath
And wait as I consider you.

But I do not wipe you away.
You exist, for some time more
Is that a kindness
Or a curse?

(Inspired by Ode to a Grecian Urn)

Call Me When You’re Sober

Fiddling with a small lighter in his hand,
Sliding his fingers through his ghastly white hair.
His cigarette rests on a shiny red ring which graces
His harsh, red lips.
He is lost, struggling to find himself –
His purpose.
Brown eyes gazing upon the dark road,
He finds himself lighting his fifth cigarette.

Hand resting on the leather gear shift,
So begins the long drive down the highway.
Accompanied by her best friend Captain Morgan
And his favorite chemical –
Acid.
Electric pumpkin hair blows in the breeze.
Down the 20 she drives,
In no search for a destination,
Only herself.

Chance encounters happen every day,
Opposites attract, as do similarities.
Clashing and meshing,
Like a puzzle piece.
That girl, that boy,
Fit perfectly.

needles
“Their bodies unable to carry the weight of love, Addiction setting in.” Photo from: http://www.treatment4addiction.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/drugneedles.jpg

Days spent,
An opener on a bottle cap,
Cold ones drunk,
Injections into the veins,
Munchies and a craving for shitty Mexican food.
Telling stories of adventures
Thought to have happened,
But now never will.
Eyes redder than the blood
Flowing through their veins.
Bags under their eyes –
A lighter color than their lungs after the first pack.

They tried finding themselves,
But only found each other.
Their bodies unable to carry the weight of love,
Addiction setting in.
Destruction of themselves,
Their love for the substances
Tearing them apart from the inside and out.
Maybe if they had met,
They wouldn’t have turned to the poison for love.

Senior Photo

graduation cap
“I look at the girl in the photo, Innocent and young. I don’t remember her” Photo from: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51QFfuJyTbL._UX385_.jpg

Could this have been me–
This girl seated here
Before a blue backdrop,
Hair parted to the side
And a headband like a tiara,
Shiny, youth-blue eyes,
Skin smooth, cheeks rosy?
She has a smile
With brace-straightened teeth;
Eighteen
And starting life.
Months after graduation
I sat in the studio.
A straight-haired woman
Placed my arms
Across ebony folds of fabric.
I can hear the flash of light
And feel the stiffness of my arms.
I look at the girl in the photo,
Innocent and young.
I don’t remember her
Face, her
Hands, her–
Do I know her?
Is she still me?
Can I recollect that girl
Forgotten?
Should I let her stay behind?

Standing

I made one mistake–
To tell the truth,
It helps to believe
The door is slammed shut
In my face.

Keep your mouth shut–
I never said anything of value,
You’d remember.
Kick and scream–
I run
Past the gate and
Down the road
So you don’t hear me
Whisper.

To be seen and not heard–
I’ve walked on tiptoe
All my life.
Chastise and lecture–
I leap
Over fields
So you won’t know I’m
Singing.

You don’t know the meaning
Of hard work–
I’ve spent sleepless
Hours reading and typing and writing
And working to pull myself
Out of the hole
You tell me is home.

girl writing
“To be seen and not heard– I’ve walked on tiptoe All my life.” Photo from: www.culturacolectiva.com

I worked every day of my life–
And I was grateful
Until today
You called me
Fool–
For wanting more–
More
Than trashed up trucks,
A wrecked house,
And more cracked eggshells
To creep over.

Get out.
Gone and running–
I fly
Farther than the sky
So you won’t see me
Standing.

Rising Song

If I told you once
I loved you–
I don’t think I foresaw
A life held back
Against a cold hard wall.
You suffocated me
With sparkling chains of words
I tried in vain to embrace.
I was grasping at an empty vessel
Of half-meant hopes and dreams,
And ‘almost like a dream’ meant
Nothing
If I could not catch my breath
From running aimlessly to escape.

A young woman’s escape–
I leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind
As I run out of the monster’s howling lair.
You carried me away
From the truth of a thousand lies
And wounded me with blows.
The skin is thick on the scars
You dug into the mental flesh
Of my blood-stained heart.
The places you struck me
Will heal with the falling snow.

Ring off finger
And flung away.
My finger can bend again–
I was numbed to the bone
From hypothermic waste.
Screeching,
I flung open the bars
Of the prison in which
You held me.

Your heart’s key–
I never meant to unlock
That door.
I threw the key away
Somewhere in the garden,
As drifts of white
Danced in the solemn breeze.

You denied me life
And pushed me inch by inch
Into a living grave.
I was a foot deep in mud
Before I hitched myself up
And braced my feet against the wall.
I won’t say it was easy–
The grips at the bottom
Were hard to cling to
And you were there holding me down.
I made it anyway
And overcame.
Your smug face shuddered
And collapsed into itself
Before the smoke cleared.

That smile was a dream
I attempted foolishly to keep.
As the flames of your fire
Scorched the meat
You had me cook for you,
The bonds of female servility
Were already crumbling
At our feet.

running in woods
“I was numbed to the bone From hypothermic waste.” Photo from: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

As you held me down sweating
Against tear-streaked sheets,
I watched the window open
A crack to let the wind in.
As you pulled away and stood
At the door beckoning me to follow
Down the hall of portraits
Of faces smiling in false confidence,
I leaped at the chance
To fly out the window
And baptize myself in
Melting banks of snow.

You can swing at me again–
Your broken dagger was
Never too sharp anyway.
I won’t be hurt again
By untended wounds.

When spring comes,
I will run barefoot
Through the woods
With the sun beating down
And the wind following
My movements
There
And never back again.

Swallowed In Fear

Laughter pierces our silent night
As we explore
What lies beneath
Its ebony canvas.
You groan at the abundance of clouds
But I still spot scattered stars.

Warmth surrounds me as
Our fingers tangle together in loose knots.
I begin to melt into you—
But your hands are ice
(That’s why they’re shaking).
You tighten the knots and
We joke, tease,
Laughter replacing tension once again.
This time our faces inch closer,
Closer,
Close enough to see
Sparks of dread, desire—
Dreadful desire—
Begging to erupt.

starry cloudy night
“You groan at the abundance of clouds But I still spot scattered stars.” Photo from: https:media-cache-ak0-pinimg.com

Afraid of lighting a fire
We can’t control,
Reverting to a practiced posture as
Frigid as the air enveloping us,
We hide behind each other’s uncertainty,
Letting the radio talk for us on the drive home.

My toothbrush now scrapes
Across gingiva and enamel
While my mouth is left wondering
How these words
Swallowed in fear
Would taste in your mouth…

The Hardest Choice

Just a sip—
That’s how the addiction began.
They said it’d fix everything,
An elixir for my inhibitions.
I was passed an overflowing glass of something
And I eagerly downed this liquid god
To atone for the sin
Of being boring.
Happy medium? Too mundane.
I’m only happy living by extremes
And now my happiness is attached to
An extreme buzz
With lows just as intense.

drink
“I was passed an overflowing glass of something And I eagerly downed this liquid god.” Photo from: http://media.salon.com/2014/03/alcohol-1280×960.jpg

Maybe it was the regular blackouts
Or the sleazy boys who got too friendly
Or that time I vomited for two hours
While the world was spinning like that toilet bowl—
But I slowly realized my judgment had been flushed away
Long before my nausea.

As I walked away from the glamorous lifestyle
Of underage drinking,
Once-friendly chatter faded
And soon the loudest thing around
Was my own footsteps.
In their own coded dialect
They screamed to me—
Sobriety might be boring
But if it keeps you alive,
It’s worth it.
I didn’t argue—
Now I just keep myself busy.

Oh, How I Love You Broccoli Man

Dark earth piles up in neat rows–

Vegetables grow

In tall palatial columns–

A tantalizing treat

For the hungry young boy alone.

 

Over the fence and up the path,

Until he stealthily grips his prize–

A verdant head of broccoli.

Starved from days unfed,

He scarfs it down, collapsing

To hardened earth below.

 

Frost chills him to the bone

And an ominous wind moans

A witch’s curses from afar:

Ye dared partake o’ me produce

And ye shall be cursed to poison broccoli

Forevermore!

Whoever loves ye shall partake of the broccoli

Purged from your stomach

And will not die.

 

The lonely boy searches

For fifty years to find his love.

Youth is his until

A day when the sky is grey

And the sun is hidden

And the wind blows fierce–

He sees her!

A quiet girl with golden hair

And eyes of sea waves.

mirror
“We will meet again In the other dream.” ‘And she fell through The rippling mirror.” Photo from: www.vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net

He vomits and retches out

A head of verdant broccoli.

He fears the maiden

Will not accept his bouquet.

 

He catches her by her shirt tail

Pulling her into

An antique dwelling and in

A dark cavern hallway

Asks her,

“Do you care for broccoli?”

 

She replies to his timid inquiry,

“Of course I do! Why shouldn’t I?”

And gobbles it down in haste.

The boy watches in anticipation–

Lo and behold

She does not die!

 

A soft breeze whispers past

As he solemnly attests,

“You are my destined one!”

He pulls her close to him

And as he kisses her

A foul taste fills her mouth

As he falls apart like brittle clay.

 

“We will meet again

In the other dream.”

And she fell through

The rippling mirror.

 

All-Nighter

Sleep doesn’t come when I call anymore.

Maybe I’ll rub the tired from my eyes,

And write another thousand words before the sun rises.

I’ll let myself lose a dozen hours in a back-lit screen.

Just because it feels meaningful when compared with the alternative:

Lying in the cloying silence,

Inventing patterns on the off-white ceiling.

 

There is no heartbreak this time,

No creeping anxiety that drags at the back of my mind.

The weight of the cosmos is no heavier than it ever is.

Nothing to fix, nothing to blame.

These words may be the only meaning I ever find in it,

And even they won’t come easy.

night sky
“I’ll pretend every waking hour had been my decision So I can wear the dark circles under my eyes like some badge of honor.” Photo from: https://pixabay.com

Another all-nighter?” he asks,

And I return his well-intentioned smile.

I’ll pretend every waking hour had been my decision

So I can wear the dark circles under my eyes like some badge of honor,

As though my bone-deep exhaustion was a marker of academic fortitude.

But there is no significance or triumph in the reality

That rest has become some unruly beast,

And sleep doesn’t come when I call anymore.