When I Heard My Childhood Name Cried out

Even before the fire
That summer afternoon
The cottage seemed to be melting
Like a sugar cube
In the mouth of a donkey
The field above it
A shade of ultraviolet only birds see
My father heaping sticks
And shrubs in a pile and when he lit it
The fire marched
Up the field ragged spitting rude
A motley army humming a ribald song
Wind the song
The field a feather
Barb aflame
Meantime inside I lay on my back
On hardwood
A book I loved above me
O and the sea the sea
crimson sometimes like fire and
the glorious sunsets
and the figtrees in
the Alameda gardens yes
When I heard my childhood name
Cried out
It was my mother crying it
Dad laughing
I ran outside
My mother keeping pace solemnly
With tufts of blue
Incandescent elementals
It’s OK it’s OK Dad was saying don’t worry guys
As flame sipped the trees
Like a bear a waterfall
Then came a caravan of trucks
Upon our path
Local housefathers
Uncombed dignitaries in high boots
Astronauts upon the green
Men who know damn well
What side of the bread to butter
My mother waved
Dad spoke to each
And the men unamused stamped
Upon the light
Crushing in a dance the afterfeather
As Dad walked the blistering ruts
Their trucks had made
Strolled in the cottage
Slid on a Thelonious Monk record
Put his feet up lit a cigar

— (first appeared in The Hopkins Review, Spring 2020)

Ivanka Trump Song

She watched a TV movie about Princess Di one hundred and seventeen times and that was it, her destiny. She used to wear plain cotton dresses. Now she stepped out in purple bouffant “mise en scène,” she called them, or “context.” We stood awestruck. Her face, once soft, resembled an imperial dragon mask. Spectacular. Her hair, once frizzy, rose off her forehead like an old stone viaduct. She’d become, we agreed, urbane. “Most royals,” she said, “even after years in fine rooms, never learn the art of the rich.” “You mean,” we asked, “understatement?” “No,” she said, “ormolu.” Someone whispered, “Wasn’t she a poet?” “Yes,” we said, “isn’t it great!” Once a kleptomaniac, now she touched nothing. She gilded through the mall, pointing at items with her thumb. She gave us a tour of her glittering condo. “Toilet?” I said. “Les cabinets?” she said. “Huh?” “Excusez-moi?” “Toilet?” “By the drawing room.” “Living room?” And so on. Last we saw of her, she was standing on her front lawn by the fishpond, straight as a tuning fork, chin lifted slightly, holding a cracked teacup with index finger and thumb, waving with tiny hand motions like a real celebrity. Then she stepped, in stilettos, backwards, across the surface of the water.

— (first appeared in Constellations, Spring 2020) 

SELECTED poems online

How to Float. ONE ART. 2021

I Received a Bitter Email from a Good-Hearted Man. failbetter. 2021

Rais Bhuiyan Song. Literary matters. 2021

The Triumphs of 1974. Plume. 2020.

Amateur Escapologists. Ablucionistas. 2020.

Josef Mengele Song. Twisted in Time. 2020.

The Narrow Road to Deep Marriage. The Maynard. 2020.

My Houseguest. Border Crossings / All Lit Up, 2020.

Distemper Song. Beltway Poetry Quarterly. 2020.

Child Soldier Song. Alaska Quarterly Review. 2019.

The Most Handsome Man in the Neighborhood. Literary Matters, 2019.

The Tongue of Allan Pinkerton. Prolit, 2019.

The Epic of Senge. Philadelphia Stories, 2019.

A Briefe & Marveyllous Hystory of Franklin. Literary Matters, 2019.

The Dismemberment of PhiladelphiaProlit. 2019

PC Song. The Awl, 2017.

The Unspoken word. Dalhousie Review, 2017.

The Problem with Love. Montreal Prize Shortlist. 2013.

The Stiltwalkers. Montreal Prize Shortlist. 2011.

Tale of the Boy with the Horse Head. The Stinging Fly, 2015.

Utøya. Malahat Review / E-Verse Radio, 2012.

On a Metro Gliding at the Edge of Jungles where Tigers Walked. Subtropics, 2015.

Crow & Fox in Love. The Puritan, 2016.

Last Words of the Old Man with the Photographic Memory. PRISM / Going Down Swinging, 2016.

An Old Man in Black Slippers at Rush Hour. Cortland Review, 2014.

Three Photos of Jayne Mansfield. Rattle, 2011.

Hypochondria Song. American Literary Review, 2015.

The Death of Jolly Dolly. Mudlark, 2014.

Festus, Hansel & Grendel. Literary Review of Canada, 2015.

Only Child Poem. POOL, 2016.

The Prince with No Asshole. The Puritan, 2016.

The Confession of Chunosuke MatsuyamaPOOL, 2016.

Hydra. Literary Review of Canada, 2011.

Public Cremation. Asia Literary Review, 2012.

Tiny Pageants of the Soul. The Puritan, 2015.

Returning What was Stolen. Mudlark, 2014.

The Last Death. CV2, 2012.

The Falling Man. Forget Magazine, 2013.

People Came Back from the Other Side All the Time & Told Us But We Didn’t Believe Them. Mudlark, 2014.