death is welcome here

today I attended a funeral
for someone who walked
right up to her diagnosis
and hugged it
like an old friend.

It was she who planned
all the arrangements
down to the verse
on the card everyone held
in fidgeting hands.
When we stared
into our laps it was as if
we were reading
her own words,
which were punctuated
by her booming laugh
that was as healing
as any church organ.

I don’t have many stories,
only bits of encouragement
she scattered across my life.
“If you’re spending
that much time cleaning
you’re not living right.”
“You remind me of a young
[journalist I regrettably
forget the name of].”

I never quite understood
someone who loved
so fierce from far away
and tried to stop myself
from being envious of those
who saw it up close.

But if she taught me
anything it’s that
people like her are
everywhere if we listen.
They’re the ones who
keep daring us to dream
when everything is broken.

“Talk to me, I’ll listen,”
she scribbled into the
last letter to her sister.
Her cursive curled
around my eyes
and kissed them.

You see, it’s a gift
to catch the end on
the horizon. You get
to say goodbye
in every tongue you’ve
ever known.

for my neighbors

when one dog barks, they all do.
I hardly recognized my neighbor
in a mask, but she knew me
in line at the grocery store.
her name rhymes with mine.
she sits with a six pack
on the tilted bench
outside my apartment—
the same spot where
a young girl texts the person
she likes. I can tell she does
by the way she smiles
and looks around like some
one caught her stealing.
this is the same spot
where a woman rocks
an infant to the sound
of leaves singing in wind,
where everyone stuffs
ducks with bread, which
also make house visits
now, and apparently
they prefer full loaves
to breadcrumbs.
Bless what's left 
of this weather,
we all seem to agree
and stoop over our
porches in our pajamas.
 
 

holes

my sister
calls me
to show me
a hole in her foot,
and she’s like:
what do you think this is,
as I nurse my cavernous life,
the one I want to begin with you.
why are you smoking that thing?
(she disapproves of my new habit.)
My addictions aren’t that bad,
I just listen to music for every mood
I’ve never been able to explain.
Today I sunk into strong black females
because they’re the only ones who
seem to know how to heal the world.
I cleaned my whole apartment to them,
I jumped around to women on the loose
with a rope so big it scraped the ceiling.
I bought a bike to ride the chorus line
away from everything I’ve known.
During the work day, it’s wordless,
bottomless, foreboding piano,
and when I’m missing you,
it’s the sound of whatever
is currently killing me.

Considerations

A baby bird screams for food
as I wonder if it’s too early for wine.
It is, I say to no one.

I’ve been sitting on this patio all summer,
watching time go by,
watching fatal duels
between squirrels and robins.

Every morning I relearn how to breathe.

I wanna write.
I wanna heal right this time.

This isn’t blockage.
It’s a fear of hemorrhaging.

I construct my nest,
conjure a string of lights,
flowers that waterfall out of baskets.

The bird’s chirp pierces my ears,
as I begin to type.
Dear hiring manager,
I say for the hundredth time.

please consider me, but please
consider the other artists, too.
please consider the teacher and nurse,
please consider families kept apart
or on the brink of exhaustion.
please ensure that every person
can feed themselves and their kids.
please consider the recent grads,
addicts looking down bottles and bags.

My mom reminds me to dance.
My dad sends me a verse.
He apologizes for failing me as a Christian father.
I send him Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.
You do not have to be good, Dad.

I’ve been making living eulogies for as long as I can remember.

 

Now hiring (seeking love)

“How are you?”

The silence is deafening,
but I remember that I’m a catch.

“What’s new with you?”

I was let go on a screen.
I don’t recommend the feeling
for my mortal enemies.

Then again, I realize
the biggest enemy I ever
had courses through me.

She wants to destroy every mask she sees.
She’d suck the virus from your lips.

Your hands are clean enough for me.
I will kiss them dry.
Will you hold me where it hurts?

I will cook an egg for you in the morning.

I know.
This is not the time for love poetry,
but will you come find me at the end of the world?

your reminder

surrender is a sunset,
that time of day when there
is nothing left to do but to accept
answers from the sky.

this is the trail
where I had a run-in
with a crayfish,
a fury so small
I almost missed it entirely.

I crouched low enough
to see its dewy eyes.
It shook its claws at me
demanding an explanation,
to which I had none.

Hi, I’m always just passing by.

When I was younger
I left three layers of skin
on the pavement here.
the burn was a better
reminder than any timer.

the clouds swirled over my head
like a bruise,
and I dared to be broken.

Fall but please don’t drown

I fell for your mountainous mouth
for the waterfall down the middle
that pours both filth and love,
for the sweet and salt you whisper
into my ear at night while my dog
sleeps between your Greek art legs
or at the edge of your flat feet
that don’t hurt when I pull your toes
backward. Your hands know what I
like and where to find me in the dark.
Their wanting washes over me,
tirelessly surging like waves.
We make love in the hospital bed
that was gifted to me. Ophelia
drowns in a painting on the wall
alongside our transfigured bodies.
Hers was the worst way to fall.

Friend

I want to say that I’ve been hiding
on stable grounds and in warm beds.
It’s okay to want these things,
but I’ve been cooped up
in the kingdom of “you and me”
I’ve built for everyone.
And I’ve been an outcast
staking inside windows,
watching birds build nests,
passing up friends who make me
feel the massive depths of myself.
If you were still sitting across from me,
Franco who likes men and M2M,
Anny Banany, the aspiring missionary,
Jess who helps animals give birth,
and all the other healers of my life,
I’d tell you that I’m an accumulation
of our memories, that no one is anyone
without sincere friendship.

Mundane Lemonade

Two girls and a lemonade stand.
One has overalls with lace flowers
on the pockets. I want to tell
her how pretty they are, but
she’s not making eye contact.
It appears her mother taught
her about stranger danger.
The whole fire department
pulls over to the curb.
We’re all heroes supporting
homemade business. I’m trying
to hold onto the liquid light
swirling around in my cup
like a sun. It’s not as sweet as
it could be. I don’t need pills.
Just a squeeze of humanity.