Poems

 
Patrilineality   
 
I glide among the dead   
males of my line  
Irish and Danes  
bristling comically  
clearing their throats   
with a horrible authority  
scalps reeking of  
whiskey and hair tonic.  
O magnificos!  
Did I mention they’re naked?  
O starvelings  
in this dusty ballroom,  
erections trembling   
like stamens in   
some deathless garden  
of a Blake poem.  
Is that the far-off sound  
of an army marching?   
No, it’s their wrinkled fingers 
rapping the tables,  
heavy rings stamped   
with old world marks.   
I’d like one of them  
to notice me. I yell,   
I smoke cigars!  
I went to a bullfight!   
I ride motorcycles!   
I’m not even gay!  
I’d love to chew the fat   
with this Bud Abbott   
look-alike, about firetrucks  
or Anna Karenina,  
but he is sticking a gun   
into his mouth.  
No, it’s a liquor bottle.   
I sit beside an unspecified   
greatgreatgreat-  
greatgrandfather   
stonejawed   
in a Confederate hat  
lighting a handrolled cigarette,   
and suddenly I am  
my own mother  
in a striped miniskirt  
in English class   
feet on the next desk   
and he is my dad   
smoking, eyeing me.   
Within me,  
a palpable kick. 

— (first appeared in Antioch Review, Fall 2018)   

Child Soldier Song
 
There was a bee storm, my sister flung her headscarf over me. 
A boy, she laughed, will chase a firefly 
into a nightmare. Hark your sister, 
my uncle said, She has a grandmotherly heart. 
Early morning, it was spring, 
we were ear to ear asleep in the orchard like dogs 
when the dust unrolled upon us like a rug. 
The river put on its hat, stumbled off. 
Infants sucked but there was no milk. 
My sister & I had a throat-torn goat, dragging it 
one hoof each over the bladebones & 
just then out of the woods the thin men stepped, rifles up,
like dowsers. Some carried hoes 
but they were not farmers. The thin men gathered 
like shadows at the balefire & when 
finally they slept the wretched hairless dogs 
edged into the light. The thin men 
called us boys Little Ones. We drank their wine, 
sang their songs. We tied our long hair back 
as they did, with red bandanas. 
We made noise night & day. In the noise was a silence. 
They had a bandylegged bear on a chain.
It was blind & danced, milkeyed, like a prophet.
The rifle in my hands pointed
at a girl in a dragon mask.
She shivered as if visioning. 
I shot, she lifted her arms in praise. 
They were yelling at the bear, 
Make him stop, make him stop singing! 
I slipped out of bed.
I carried her to the orchard 
under the silver tree of the gods. 
I lowered her in a hole 
with a firefly in a jar. 
Time came to cover her 
but I could not. 
At dawn, the thin men 
screamed like eagles 
& the firefly dissolved. 

— (first appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Fall 2019)


This This is the End 

And when and when my snaggletooth wife
Backs out of the driveway beside a grinning fool 
I think this this is the end 
I drive all night I run over a cat 
Her kitten clawing scrabbling blind in the dirt 
I scoop her up she purrs 
In the hook of my arm for a year 
And when and when 
My mother my impossibly kind mother
Holds an X-ray of her skull
Her finger upon a crabapple lump 
And she no longer talks and she hums 
That is no song I say and her eyes are stones 
I think this this must be the end 
I speak to the ocean at dusk 
I say Dear Ocean am I not the worst thing 
The spinning world has ever made 
The waves drink my hair 
The waves urge me like a leaf to my bed
And when and when I am kissed by a bus 
The crystal bowl of my ribcage
Bursts and the ripened fruit within it
Burns to fossil and to ash
My father stands in a forest a Vicodin moon above 
And my few close ones hold hands 
And when and when a war erupts 
For the water of my country 
And survivors encamp in the ruins of malls 
Thawing their souls at bonfires of books 
Still the women walk slow 
To the virulent river the rapturous river 
To wash their hair at dawn 
And when and when the last bird shuts its eyes 
And the flesh of the last whale 
Drifts like pollen in turquoise ink
And dust devils are lords of the squares 
And trees reclaim the stairs 
Still the stars glister like sparklers 
Aloft in the hand of a girl
Still the earth our grave hurdles with grace in the dark 

— (first appeared in American Poetry Review, 2018) 

poems online

Josef Mengele Song. Twisted in Time. 2020

The Dismemberment of PhiladelphiaProlit. 2019

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

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

The Epic of Senge. Philadelphia Stories, 2019.

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

PC Song. The Awl, 2017.

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

The Unspoken word. Dalhousie Review, 2017.

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 Tongue of Allan Pinkerton. Prolit, 2019.

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.