Tuesday, December 20, 2016

my father pries his brother up from the floorboards with a tire iron, he rolls him
tight like ruined carpet, drives to the train tracks
and leaves him on the side, thinks
maybe now he will stay in one place, thinks, 
maybe now i can be free, feels
guilty for the thought.
my father, always feeling guilty for 
hiding it away like a christmas gift in the attic
and hacking it apart in the garage while everyone
sleeps, i am always
hacking it apart in the garage 
while everyone sleeps. 

we are growing nothing but salt in this garden, 
the field still feels like home, absent, gaping, dry
as bleached bones. hiding it 
like a bullet hole in the ribs, ready to reveal
at the climax, look! 
i have been bleeding
the entire time, look! 
everything dismantled, breathing in fragments,
breathing in steps, consciously
hand-pumping heart.
my father pries up his brother, moths
post like sentinels in the seams of my apartment, look!
my biopic written in insect wings, look! no hands, 
I can finally do this with no hands.

Monday, November 14, 2016

7 years
of chalk in mouth, crumble teeth.
the last time i wore these pants i was
sitting cross-legged on your roof, shouting
at the moon. saying
"7 years since the blood, thank god, 
right?" the moon
shouts back 

Monday, October 24, 2016

hidden pictures

i hear the news and open up a folder on my computer, play "hidden pictures" 
with an old photo, can you spot:
the surf board, the shoulder tattoo, the horseshoe, 
the one that died behind a 7/11 yesterday 
needle next to him like unloaded pistol;
all red in the face, all blue in the face,
can you spot
the american boy?

hiding in beer cans, 
heroin sits at the breakfast table. forgets what to do with its hands because 
it's high and trying not to act high in front of 
the relatives so heroin digs a pin into its palm, pierces 
the thinnest layer of skin leaving pale white tunnels, ghost trails. 
heroin peels itself apart,
layer by layer by layer 
heroin buys a few more layers.
picks those apart too, see, 
heroin has trouble with impulse control.

the Mooseheads trailer park, everyone flicks cigarettes at each other, tries not to notice
all the lighters have charred resin on the bottom,
heroin sits on the left side of the love seat, 
geeked. sometimes, 
i try to figure out which parts of my brother to blame;
the ego, the valiancy, the privilege.
which parts to congratulate on living,
the ego, the valiancy, the privilege.
heroin is like a game
where some of the players make it and some don't but 
no one is really okay after, 
why are there so many brothers in the backyard? 
stubbing cigarettes out on the fence post, sitting at the breakfast table nailing their own palms down, 
some make it and some don't but
no one is really okay after.

the american boy gets bad dope off Ave D,
dies behind 7/11. 
a family sits at a breakfast table, plays "hidden pictures" with an old photo album
they move real close,
squint their eyes.

can you spot the american boy?
  can you spot it?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

the red tent

the crest of hip, two ridges rise and 
stomach pools between them, rippled like a glass lake.
the bump of ribs; speed bumps, wooden logs, things that make you go 
left hand pushing down onto the mattress, left hand pushing left hip like
grinding lemons,
sweet around the seeds.

the combination hidden
somewhere inside,
your fingertips graze the lip
of paper, almost.
i am a long, deep well
few have reached
in accidental discovery or clumsy

i slither like a snake around myself,
watch movies too dirty to be relatable, clean.
pour jasmine between my legs and 
cock-back my jaw
for swallowing
my own tail.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

"Rome is also built on ruins"
-Eliza Griswold

i still struggle differentiating
fever dream from memory, 3 pinches means
it tasted, means
palpable and quantifiable and real.
it would help if i had not 
been born out of my parent's love. 
kisses like hot wax leaving permenant welts of the places
we have touched, nothing seems to 
frighten me anymore, nothing seems to be able to kill me 
anymore; tiger striped
and untouched, my scars are birch trees
i am 
a forest. 
so, i walk the halls naked and eat chips 
unabashedly. when you learn to live alone
inside your own house, everywhere becomes
home. perhaps i drank from the fountain of life
Rome is built here, i am
built here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

i am always writing some version of a haunted house, 
creeping crawling phantoms, the things black puddles and dark closets 
are made from but
i am always writing a story with a better ending, 
one that does not taste bad, in which 
both characters do not have to die, in which 
one character does not have to die.
you have a freckle on your rib cage that looks like the moon but
a moon we have never seen before, like one
from another planet or something.
i keep finding teeth under my pillowcase
from the apology,
love is like an orgasm that doesn't stop
even after you start crying.
an apple too perfect
to eat 
or pick,
i went into a lake and came out covered in long brown algae fur
and felt like a wolf thing, baptized,
love is a jaw full of berries with the juice pressing past your teeth 
love is 6:59 AM when you are awake and waiting,
love is a bear's paw full of honey.
and hazardous to health if licked, 
love is the invasion of japanese honeysuckle to america, 
leading to massive ecological crisis in which 
everything turned pretty
love is like something growing 
in the basement
even after the house fire.

i have no teeth and i miss you more than japanese honeysuckle, 
your ghost looks like the moon but
a moon we have never seen before and 
i am turning into a moon you have never seen before 

Monday, September 19, 2016

a conversation between the ship builder of the HMS Terror 
and the HMS Terror 
after the shipwreck is found
168 years later.

darling, they've
found you.

(jewel) crusted hull, (brown sugar)crumbling at each touch, you are the lazy-day 
kitchen kind of yellow, i gave you a name to scare the dogs away, they say 
you lay 
so silent under the ice that, 
if it weren't for those machines, those great big whirling radar guns pointed at your neck, you'd have never set foot (96ft x 54ft, to be exact)
back on this snow. they show me pictures of you
suspended, eerily green and barnacled as something that 
no longer has any use might become but 
i loved each splinter, you were the best thing
i'd ever done. 

i remember you chestnut, golden, young,
arm thrown over your eyes from the sun, i remember
you with a long cigarette telling me that
the ocean is so terrifying because it is cold.
i disagreed, said
the ocean is so terrifying because it is quiet, that i regretted
the parts of me that built you to face it. you said
do you have any idea the kinds of wars i have won? 

you were found in less than 70 feet of water, your mast
peeking from the ice like a stray toe from the bed sheet,
nearly pristine. 
they said that if we were to dredge you up,
siphon away decades of freezing salt,
get your skin in the sun again,
you might still float.

so i guess that means
i did a good job.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

your hair is honey wheat, i hide my poems
under your pillow until Spring. 
cornflower blue and somehow, always a 
sundress, everywhere, and somehow
always cotton 
collecting like snowdrifts in the front yard.

tell me the story about your wheat-gray braid
and the tomatoes in the back garden, 
how you can never reach the top shelf, how 
that is what i am made for. 
tell me that i will always taste like 
apples, home will always be 
baking bread. 

your pillow
leaves feathers pierced through my shirt,
so i think about you all day, the scratch on my neck like
a far off goodmorning whisper.
the cotton blows through the yard.
i come home to your arms, you bake us 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

the night we unzipped the shells from each other and
i let you grab down
into the ice water
of me.

oh how, for weeks, your hands shook. 
how cold i must have been
to sleep next to. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

you have a rubix cube body, all stacked and 
tight together, all different pieces but luckily
i am a state-wide puzzle champ. 
listen for the clicks 
between your legs. 
center square red and throbbing, center square 
magnet, touching you like a cellphone to hotel key card, 
touching you like a jewel thief to a safe.

i'll be good cop, you be 
a racially biased judicial system
i'll bend you over this desk and 
fuck it all up.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


so, i doubt i'll ever love as deep
again, which no longer frightens me. 
it is a fact, it is a condition, it is an
that i am learning to share the apartment with.

fingertips as smooth stones, Nebraska is 80%

mine-system which no longer frightens 
i give whatever is not calcified in my lungs,
which not much, back.
you ionized every molecule, the deadbolt
sticks, everything sticks. 
she's like a goddamn page 
out of a magazine
that's dissected on the window of a subway newstand
i do not buy it

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

see, the thing is that i 
have never written a poem so early, 
see, the thing is that
you seem an awful lot like the Birch tree
i found in the backyard, the one that started
this whole
"getting better"

Saturday, July 23, 2016

i wrap my finger around the fish hook and
tug, i am using the puppet strings
to tie myself to the bed. 
slip into your silo, fuck up
the grain piles. grind
nails down on your sand belt, arch
yourself over the coaster, weld the dreams
shut. dribble honey over a name
and swallow.

mother says
there will be berries that are rotten and you will not know
until you touch them with your mouth.
they think that the softness makes me weak,
the scars a martyr,
but i was killed 
and did not die.
a violently resilient thing;
do not underestimate this. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

since the Doctor,
i have trouble sleeping.
each second of closed eyes, acutely aware
of the oxygen deprivation, june blanket smothering,
gasping, acutely 
aware of some 
curling black paper science experiment in which
i have no safety googles.
lift brow, expose iris, whisper
breathe, breathe,
see, see.

since the Doctor,
i have trouble sleeping, 
i am not done yet, 
i'm not ready for it

Saturday, July 16, 2016


all i'm saying is that if there were a 
nuclear reactor leak
somewhere in Nebraska 
it would look like a packed trunk, like a ringing in your ears, 
like bad news in a Doctor's office: 
ignorable and
not my fucking problem.

i test this theory underwater, 
salt the earth, 
write mean metaphors: your eyelashes are spider legs
your love is worth 27.99, the exact cost of a new set
of dishes.
if Nebraska were a color
i still wouldn't paint it-
let's test this theory underwater. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


i did not want to write about Orlando because it is not my story to tell.

1 part homophobia, 3/4ths cup race, garnish with 
religious extremism, shake
and shake and shake, take 
the glass and throw it against the side of a sanctuary, 
watch the way mental illness coagulates 
on the rim, eats through the varnish of a kitchen table we were gifted
by estranged aunts and uncles, people who still refer to your ex-girlfriend as
"friend", as in, 
"how is your friend doing?"
well probably not great since 
you are bleeding us all
and calling it an oil spill, calling it an accident, taking the tragedy like handfuls of sand and 
shrugging, "what are we to do with all these toppled castles? here, here, have them back, this is your mess to clean but we will 

i asked the universe for a drink, she brought 
2 parts solitary epiphany and 1 part
i tell myself, perhaps this is how she speaks- in a short gun bursts.
perhaps i don't know her voice and search in the trees, search in the newspapers, 
what does this mean? what does this mean?

on saturday night i was alone, bobbing in the center of a black lake, mountains folding in 
on me, the stars were snow flurry sprinkled and i willed
tears to come. willed the crevices to rise up and consume me, spit me out someplace
full of knowing, i wanted my heart to seep out and bob back to the surface 
suddenly whole again,
i asked the universe for a drink but i have been
holding her head under the water this whole time, repeating,
"do something that i understand, what does this mean? what does this mean?"
one message spelled out on every rock, every loon call, un-ignorable 

i lived i lived i lived i lived i lived

like walking back into yourself, like pushing your shoulders off the bathroom floor to 
find that you still have legs, still have blood, the earth has not left you
as you expected it might. i have been terrified 
to enjoy life too much, as if once i revealed how happy i was 
it would be suddenly, poetically, taken away again. 
because life isn't fair, right? because we need to live expecting the punches, right? hide our
joy away, no one teaches you how to un-die. i 
lived, i lived, i stole my second chance
and spent each breath smothering it for fear of hubris, fear that the universe might re-check 
her books and realize her mistake. 
the lake told me, saturday night, that i will not be penalized for happiness, that
it is a crime to not live while so many die.

we cannot rebuild our houses when people keep 
snatching our hammers away, calling it 
assistance, calling it alliance, 
the best tribute is one that you remember, they hand us a drink 
1 part apology and 2 parts "look, we get it, but not enough
to change", their names, 
their ages, we do not broadcast every missed love, every missed 
opportunity, no one asked if they wanted to become martyrs for a national 
dialogue in which most voices are muzzled, ask why a straight white man was chosen to 
ease the pain, ask who the fuck cares about 
Nick Jonas
when we are doubled over from 49 stab wounds, get out of our clubs, get out
of our pain, but recognize it. ask your queer latinx friends how it feels to be 
2 parts bullet and 1 part silence.
i did not want to write about Orlando because i was 
safe saturday night. i was un-invaded, my cell phone is not 
a mausoleum. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

a personified crucifix will try to steal your body from you, 
will try to pin you to a dissection table and turn your insides 
into an anger, will stomp their feet between your legs,
track mud all over the temple.
when this happens,
consider the bruises to be war badges, cradle yourself like an egg instead, reflect 
on the wonder of blood clots and involuntary healing, 
whisper to the parts of you that have been invaded: 
"my body, my body, 
i apologize for the years i treated you as a plague, 
baby, i'm gonna take real good care of you from now on."

decide on vegetables twice a day, drink water until your stomach bloats, buy
10 cigarettes and snap them in half 
over a river rock, a sacrifice 
to the god of second chances (or 3rd, or 5th).

oh body, i am sorry for the people i let you turn into 
in order to come back home. all the skins littering the bedroom floor, all the rolled up
pants thrown to the side. 
oh Penelope, oh my love, 
i show up at the door with seashells and 100 postcards
i didn't have the guts to send
before the war.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

teeth ache like too many
sweets, ache from grinding, 
hips ache
from flat mattresses and lack of use.
calcified lips, hard as stone,
eyes nearly black with it, chin 
with melting icicles, 
melt, that's right- just there, 
my lower back has a yellow flag firmly planted, 
"good luck".

grinding my pumice down to the 
quick, making it
easy for you.
the body remembers, yes,
the body cannot seem 
to forget.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

honesty hour

little ladders propped against ventricles, i see cartoon hammers and 
wince at the nails, my body is a constant healing, it is a 
church i stopped going to, out of guilt.
did i tell you that my elementary school burned down? 
well it did. 
i try to write about my childhood as an inferno, try to remember the way 
flames licked up the cobblestones, did i tell you that 
i tried to join the army, out of guilt, tried to
nail down the rug, stumbled like a fawn and ripped down the curtains, ripped
open this house. tiny workmen on the little ladders, sanding down the foundation.

did i tell you that, although acutely aware of the pointlessness,
i started praying again
but it came out all wet ash and menacing, all
threat and apology, i swear God, 
let me be soft again or i'll 
burn this whole place down. 

Monday, May 9, 2016


 my mother gives her callouses to me, she places them folded in my palm like a secret, she tells me:
"a good man would have made you 

exactly mother, exactly.

Friday, May 6, 2016

something, on fire, emerges from the gas station bathroom
     & slides into your car. 
eyes like watermelon, sweet soda, 
let's imagine everything is a something

the entire past condensed
into a single exhale of smoke 
out a single window. the moon,
throbbing with a sadness i would not find a name for
until losing you.
a new forest just means
something bad happened here 
     & our bodies, marbled with wine stains, 
happened here too.

the house i grew up in; on fire, 
the blackbirds in the ice-rink parking lot; on fire,
the sun always warm on 
one arm &
the sun, the sun;
on fire too.

call it a controlled burn, 
call home
mothers and fathers
with swollen knuckles in a rotary phone, tell them 
     "i'm sorry i've been distant but
         i just didn't want to be sad anymore."

Thursday, May 5, 2016

clock sinking down on my 40 days/40 nights, okay. self-imposed
exile, self-imposed cocoon confinement, "you can come out 
when you can behave", okay.  
different now, not better or worse but 
wider, expansive, pensive, alone. okay. just gonna
leave everyone else alone, whatever
feels softest, love, whatever
is softest.
the dryness of healing, the ache of cold air.
today, a schizophrenic man told me that rain is just
God washing the earth off. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

laugh lines

a dramatic 
grab-to-heart, miming gunshot wound in the kitchen
when she exits her bedroom for me 
the first time, be still!    my heart.
back when
i tasted like cigarettes and zip-up sweatshirts. she used to cry over the newspaper, a love so big it  trickled down the back of your hand 
like ripe fruit.

my laugh lines more shadow than joy now. 
my penance overflowing the bathroom sink, i shove
the bathmat under the crack to keep from spilling 
everywhere, i don't want to ruin your shoes again, in the dreams,
she places my wet hands on her hips like
teaching me how to ride a bike, you never forget. 

traces the laugh lines around my mouth, 
i want to touch her's, answer
    "yes, my darling, they are beautiful,
           we made these,
           we made these."

Monday, April 11, 2016

pantry moths

i opened the cupboard and it was full of moths.
tiny folded wing slivers, scattered like birth marks, or constellations or
malignant tumors,
each day a few more plastered themselves
like eyes around the kitchen, they witness
my wilting, they see
all of it.
the moths multiply, they speak to me, they started as pests but 
i am so lonely that i don't want them to leave.

they say the cicadas will come this summer, cover the city in glittering beetle shell,
and in the fall, they say they may 
take me
with them.

Monday, March 7, 2016

to resentful caretakers

the women in my family watch each other die

it's their way- spoon feeding water dropping withering, hand holding
until the other side, the last chest heave,
the men go quick, burn out like sparklers, drop dead of red meat half way
through their 50th birthday party. the women are
we sodden our wicks with bitterness, we nurse our resentful love
lika a 14$ Chelsea cocktail.

the women in my family feed themselves to their children, they break off bread crumbs
each morning, they whittle proverbial pieces of bark, the giving tree
no one had to ask for. 
my grandmother was the wicked witch
in the bedtime stories my mother would tell-
all swirling green smoke and broaches as big as poison apples, kept one
of her 6 dwarves locked in the garage, my uncle
still remembers the chain, my mother still
wears her's, golden with a crucifix
that she climbed right up on and starting pouring wine glasses
from her wrist, you know, she always was
a great hostess.

my mother and my grandmother are vastly different people, one hollowed her limbs just to
keep her babies warm
and the other ate hers.
my mother
smoked a pack a day for 40 years, she tucked herself into a bed of wriggling snakes- stress, anxiety, and a
fiber pill each morning, my mother has done everything in her power
to hurry this process along, i know she does not want to pass her dying down to me like a precious moment's figurine, she does not want
ice cubes to lips, she once told me that she made my grandmother
tilapia filets for lunch, each day, at the end of it. I remember
an old Volkswagen, the red cellophane, and the old woman like
a kraken poised in a hospital bed, "it's overdone, Karen, I swear it's like you're stupid". 
I never understood why we kept visiting
a monster. 

a note to my future daughter: your grandmother was a saint, martyr and all, i love you too much 
to ask the same.

Friday, February 12, 2016

i fought the monster under my bed
and won.

sharp teeth and cracking plastic fingers, how soft the addict touches their drug 
and how violent they inflict it upon themselves. 
i study, i write. 
i deconstruct the bomb, i learn its hows
i keep the bomb pieces in an empty shoebox 
that has never known such soft things 

while researching self injury, i have to browse pictures, measure 
the numbers of it (frequency, distal proximity between wounds, depth in correlation to area)
occasionally stop and grab myself, apply pressure to white scars, mimic the
holding together, i shake and grab in moments of weakness, i let the craving 
leave no marks. a long time ago i learned
to fear my own hands but 
they've become such beautiful things lately. 

i am no longer scared of any dark corners of my brain, 
i understand them,
i tuck them in at night

Monday, February 8, 2016

Gomorrah (spoken word performance piece)

she says,
"you should fuck me like i'm wearing a confirmation dress", i pause, less
concerned with the moral ramifications and more logistically on how
to fight my way through a sea of white ruffles.
this is my body,
eat of it.

12 apostles, 14 stations of the cross, 13 years of catholic school,
5 of those spent sexting behind Leviticus,
rolling joints out of bible pages,
burning the parts that cross us out.
she says, "fuck me
like you're pulling in fishing nets, you drive me crazy
on your knees."
i say, "my safe word is "apocalypse",
it's not wrong if we say 'we're sorry'"

i don't know my times tables or the difference between "left" and "right"
but i know that they say i will be left if i am not right.
i don't know my social security number but i do know
hailmaryfullof grace thelord is withtheeand blessedarethoseamongwomenandblessedisthe
fruitofthywomb Jesus holymarymotherofgodprayforussinnersnow and untilthehourofourdeath.

you should see the sheets when we're finished, stained and hanging from the window
like a white flag.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners
now and until the hour of our death,

Sunday, February 7, 2016

pay attention to the backdrops in which
you pay attention. 
remember that content 
is not an isolated continent, there are things
in these waters,
soft things,
you remember.

it is hard to do long division
with your eyes shut.
you must find 
the common denominators, tuck them in,
keep them 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

i met a man, the other day, who sees towers
[note: delusions of grandeur, pos. symptomatic e. 7 day; diag: unspecified. low risk]

working with the mentally ill has taught me to empathize first and

question later. the boy who has been raised by a gun sits in group and
talks only of guns. [note: possible homicidal ideation with visual and auditory
hallucinations e. daily; diag: paranoid schizophrenia. high risk]
the girl who smiles too much to be completely cognizant [diag: intellectual deficit. past incidence of violence. low risk]
the boy who shakes with the medication but rocks 
back and forth like a pendulum
without it [note: ataxia due to Haldol injectable. symptomatic e. daily; diag: bipolar 1. medium risk]
the boy who was gone for 15 years and now has the youngest voice 
i've ever heard
for a 24 year old. [note: diag: catatonic schizophrenia. developmental delay. low risk
the girl who was hurt so badly as a child that she no longer recognizes the hands
that did it [note: suicidal ideation with hallucinations; diag: early trauma. high risk]

and then there is the man who sees towers, everywhere.

he counts each siren at night, 
1, 2, 3. four means it's bad, 
four means the world is ending and he is
made of fire again. 
the winding wails of police cruisers in new york city are billows of ash and 
pillars of salt, he swears it's his fault. he swears
he looked back. 
he sees towers in sidewalk cracks, towers in the reflection of the spoon to cereal bowl, towers 
in the lines of his own hands,
he stays awake and thinks that, perhaps, hell is towers.
perhaps he is towers too.
[revised diag: post traumatic stress disorder]

i call myself a survivor but

i have never seen towers, 
for me, they were always