Poem: Charybdis

If you told me you were the ocean I’d believe it,

    Until the tide came in and washed the color from your eyes.

           If I told you I was a mountain you’d laugh and say I’m five-foot-two.

                                                I swallowed the moon

                                    To pull you closer to me,

                        But you ebbed

            When I was waning

So here we are, separated by    so    much    sky.

            I heard you were a waterfall,

            A whirlpool, a torrent,

                        But I believe you are a leaf on the surface

                                    Of a stuck-still pond

                                   With overtaxed veins

                                                            And tender edges.

                                                                        People are quick

                                                            To label quiet men

                                                Mysteries.

                               I know better.

            We’ll build worlds together

                        And tear them down one island at a time,

                                                            Like pirate gods or monsoon spirits

                                                Still at odds,

                                                                 Because I chose the devil

                                                                      And you chose the deep black sea.

Poem: The Oracle

I can promise you many things

                        (but the truth is not one of them)

Wouldn’t you like sticky fingers

                        to hold onto life better?

Wouldn’t you like to breathe honey

                        so your words came out sweet?

I built the bones of this city,

            Carved its name with my own beak.

I know a spoon of sugar spoils concrete.

            I have loved the taste of lug nuts.

You will die on a Tuesday

            With fifty dollars to your name,

The same name on the lips of a loved one

            Who you loved second-best.

The pigeons are more afraid of me than you are.

            Crows like shiny things, like tourists.

I ate a rat once, all crunchy bones and street-slime.

            It tasted like the look on your face.

You needn’t pay me with dollars.

            I don’t need the kind of favor you could give.

I want only your eyes, for a moment,

            Your ears, for a moment, your mind.

Haven’t you dreamed that the moths all lost their wings?

            One time you drove a Ferrari that frothed and bit.

Children know things that time should not allow.

            Your father thought you were special, once.

Can you read your future in my feathers?

            Won’t you look inside my amber eyes?

Didn’t your mother tell you not to talk to strangers?

            Haven’t you heard this all before somewhere?

I can promise you the world on a paper plate,

            Or love wrapped in butcher’s twine,

Or gold to encrust your lungs and lips

            (but the truth is not mine to give)

Poem: Running Away

Running Away

When I lace my sneakers

I tie a little noose around the bunny

& string him up

& that looks something like love

From a distance, holding together

Disparate parts with a little

Death & a little

Promise & a little

Tension & a little

Hope,

                        But I’m useless with knots,

                        Unraveling them like Christmas sweaters,

                                    & I don’t really go for the death penalty

                                    & I don’t keep rabbits’ feet for luck

                                    & I heard that Velcro is having a comeback

                        But sometimes you’ve got to just keep

                        Tying the laces up again

                        Even if your fingers fumble

                        & even if your knot’s too loose

                        & even if that damn bunny just won’t die

                        & the gallows topples

                        & your foot splits the seams like Zion in Nikes,

                        Because someday that knot’s gonna stick

            & maybe you’ll even double-knot it

            & kill two bunnies with one rope

                        Or maybe you won’t,

                                                But at any rate

                                                You can’t run with warring feet

                                                Or you’ll trip all over yourself

                                                & fall head

                                                Over heels

                                                When you’re biting asphalt

                                                Instead of wasting away

                                                Trying to kill an unkillable rabbit

                                                Like goddamn Elmer Fudd,

                                                                       & isn’t that the point?

Poem: Godspeed

I played God once or twice in my youth

And it made an atheist of me

            Turns out love             without conditions

            Is no kind of love at all           just different

            Shades of sorrow on your tongue       like soured milk

Once we watched the sun crack on the horizon

Over easy        while the wind blew through my hair

Because I asked it to                           The trees were stretching

            Toward me      I was radiant and calm

            You stretched              away

In the time it took your hand

To drop from my shoulder                  to your side

And dangle there        with a little curve to your fingers

            I created the universe

                        Thrice-over

I let there be    light

            The birds were singing           backwards

The flowers were growing                  too tall

            Until they strangled one another

And the ants were afraid of    the sun

Your ragged-bitten hangnails

            Trembled         as your arm fell

            Like they wanted to    stay

            So I could        rip their edges

Water was churning somewhere         but I was blind

My shadow was splashing a samba

In my mind     I heard the Bowie song

You said you outgrew             but didn’t

And I knew                 I could split your skull

            Like a watermelon

            And spit the seeds for miles

And you wouldn’t notice

            Until they sprouted                 vines

The little hairs on your arm

            Changed color in the light

Like feathers               or mirrors

            As they retreated

Everything was gilded                                                there were

            Daffodils there            and you were picking them

            And I was one of them

And I felt your warm fingers

            Holding me steady then

                                    Uprooting me              trailing little clods of dirt

Like breadcrumbs                   down my arm

And so I blinked and I blink

            To make it go away

But it’s sticking          to my eyelids,

            This final universe of mine,

            And while your hand              floats away

                        I’m still in your grip,

           Blooming furiously,

                                                                      And everything is gold.

Poem: Gap-Tooth

                                                            I can fit my finger in your smile

               and you could bite down                     and I’d be all pink gums

   and haven’t you heard of cavities

                       and the tooth mouse will come in the middle of the night

on alternate visits with the fairy—

                        they have an arrangement made after years of in-fighting

                                  between the Puerto Rican government and

                                                                                                     the president

            over tax benefits and the creation of the piña colada.

                                    The island got the incisors and canines.

                                                                               The mainland’s all molar.

You should smile more but you don’t because there’s something missing

                        that everyone else seems to have, all rigid lines like

                                                                                                    |  |  |  |  |  |  |

            so their tongues can hide their secrets.

                        I took my first tooth out when I was three, my last

                                                                                                     at age eighteen,

          accidentally, then on purpose,

                                                                                     alone, then with the help

                                    of opioids and gas and a sharp little knife

            and I bled                    because I don’t floss

                                    after years of little cages telling my mouth

what to do                 what to feel                 how to look             what to hide

                                                      all of the above—

I rinse my mouth with salt and lemon

                                                and laugh with open jaws.

Poem: I used to run through puddles

Someone taught me my soggy sock was too soft-squishy,

            that I’d catch cold from mud-knuckled fists

                        and asphalt scrapes, that I should comb and dry my hair

            to keep it soft for someone else’s fingers.

Someone told me there are no fish in Indiana,

            that I couldn’t build a frog-pond because the thirsty earth

                        would drink my work up swallow by swallow

            until the sunshine made mud dust.

I found seashells in my backyard

            where the only salt was snail-sprinkled

                        and snow-speckled, where the ocean whispered

            miles and millennia away like a hermit on a mountaintop

with only wind for company.

Hidden up a tree behind choke cherry blossoms

            I waited as the leaves turned inside out

                        before the sky crashed down in waves

            and all the birds went quiet, quiet in the call

of mother thunder.

They found me with toes curled into the earth

            and eyelashes caked with rainsong,

                        breathing the stones’ perfume in deep

and exhaling lightning.