days

I have since grown.

farther, soundless, shedding theories
from dull feet caked
and often bundled between sarcastic twigs.

it’s been quite a while, I’ll say.

soft enough to push through wire
and send that telegram
wishing you a birthday forgotten.

you’ll remember, the longer I stay.

running from fraternity, crossing streets
that red bulbs lit without thought
and the simplest strategies.

spotting more gum on concrete.

Cat No. 59 of the 500 Cats Project

Busy

The first thing I noticed was the nylon netting, black strands, clumped onto her limbs like uncooked ramen. Then, the piercings. Uneven areolas. One was of varying shades, a color wheel, a pie chart.

She walked in a hurry, staring straight and stepping ahead as handbags of strangers clanged against her jutting hips. I noticed, after walking the same route home and back for the last two years, that out of all the underdressed people, she did not ask for money. She was like a mannequin that wasn’t a toothpick, firm enough to stand behind glass when sales disappointed, though able to contort herself to everyone’s liking when enough people walked by. She didn’t have to wear a dress. She sold it based on your scent. The coconut oil in your hair. Potato leek soup on the side of your tongue. When paid for a dress, she delivered, spinning those strands into something big, saturated with her blush. Of course, one was lucky to see this performance, on days when standing naked amid seventy degrees of complacence seemed a pretty sane suggestion.

I caught her at a bad time. She circled around a parking lot while I tried to find an underground bistro that supposedly had the best Italian sandwiches. I couldn’t find the staircase, and began to sweat. But I was nothing compared to the droplets that outlined the points in her stilettos.

She walked towards me, just as lost, and asked me what I knew about downtown traffic.

Releasing the Unlucky Cricket

If it were another day, another month, another era. When mistakes were not made, or we could make them without shame. If there was nothing to lose. If everything didn’t seem so tentative and quick to evaporate. Maybe, it could work out.

If I didn’t scream so much. If I didn’t wreck my body, my mind, my life. If I believed in myself. If I even believed in you. Your realness. Maybe, it could work out.

If you could feel. If you were free. If you meant those things you whispered and wrote. Maybe, it could work out.

And it won’t, and I’m okay with this. I really, inarguably am. It’s nothing personal, and outsiders say it’s the right thing to do, but of course they don’t know that this is one of those things I can’t let go without feeling the opposite of apathy.

I feel we’re like mirror images of each other, but I’m not sure if this is an accurate comparison. If it is, it’s probably a good idea to let go. When you’re so much alike in the most unflattering ways, there’s so much at stake, so much risk. And there’s a risk that’s not too bad, you see. It’s like having a disease that, in actually, isn’t that bad. There are perks. You just have to work with yourself. Manage the upsides. The blooming remission. The talents, like pearls within muddied oyster shells. So, I guess that would mean I’d have to work with you, and you with myself. Quite a damn bit. Each day. And I failed at that. Do I want to try again?

I can’t. Again? No. I love you too much to put you through the horrors of entrapment.

what was left

A few more miles
I will walk.

Muddied, unrecognized
And bothered by dust.

Remembering the day
Of cradled urns.

Remains of their plight
Tousled in rain.

Tell me these tire marks
Are dark and real.

Scent of raw leaves
Not of a past.

Remind me that I am a droplet more
Than infancy’s scuffed shadow.

Cat No. 58 of the 500 Cats Project

Blackbox Audition

She sat on a barstool, in the absence of Jeffrey in his pallid work shirt. Eight buttons perfectly aligned, but only when she came to drink on Fridays. He often corrected himself at her request, his fake I.D. their shared secret. He was going to college, and could feign infallibility in asserting he never cheated.

Folded chairs applied their rigidity on distressed, black walls. This was an audition. Veronica had a list. Already, there was a line in her hose, perhaps suggesting she had gone too far when she smiled at Allie’s request to step in after six. Like Veronica, Allie was busy. Caught in a flurry of poised activity.

Veronica bought a suit the week before. A jade pendant, charm bracelet, oyster shell barrette to restrain those frizzy bangs. She thought of the day a rabbit died, belonging to no one, but found on her yard. Ears now strands of scorched burlap. Jeffrey mowed lawns, but the cash wouldn’t suffice. He didn’t keep clients for long, because public negligence kills a practice fast. But Veronica didn’t care. He made her smile, until the day he stumbled on a ball of bones and blood. Her face tightened for several minutes, aging her by a decade. This was the face she fought to conceal, a shale slate Allie could crack if she asked the right questions.

But Veronica had the questions, and Veronica wanted to win. Allie wanted to win, but couldn’t afford the costs attached to Miss American Pie. Allie made her decisions, often at odds with the likings of a quiet mother who lacked the energy to hold her back. Allie needed to practice and refine her oratory. She could sell her legs, but if asked who bought her platitudes, she just wasn’t sure.

“Door to Door Saleswoman.” Allie found it on Craigslist, like her older sister who just finished school, hitting up law firm after law firm to learn that no one had open positions, that promises of health insurance were lies wrapped in pastel tissue, and everyone writing in Esquire’s name was a mocking middle finger from a third world country. But Allie didn’t speak with her sister, taking salt’s taste for granted.

Veronica didn’t know Allie, and only saw her picture. Allie had heard enough of Veronica to where she told Jeffrey she was done talking. Veronica didn’t believe this, and could only remember the dew on Jeffrey’s lips as he smiled and spoke of his pretty friend. This was after Jeffrey handed her a drink, noticing dimness in the folds of her naked eyelids. Maintenance stole her Xanax, in a box that held her lashes. The ones overlapped like “X”s, defying a natural death. Veronica had prepared to tell Jeffrey she wouldn’t be so lovely, that sooner or later, she’d walk past the bar with no odd jobs to offer. She had written herself into a bad comedy, made cruder as he asked her what Allie’s words meant.

Sunlight entered. Arms outstretched, Veronica fielded tension.

discarded cotton

silk worms.

their trek censored
by the musty walls
trash chutes offered.

shedding imperfection.

pockmarks of strife
and rings that segment
as gold keeps silly girls safe.

they’d make you a carpet.

but past transgressions
have taken stage,
quaking as laughter grows drunk.

hiding from the geckos.

multiplying in cupfuls
that beckon the splash
of the koi in Mulberry pond.

cleaning one’s old airgun.

*A reading of “discarded cotton” may be found here.

I am not above bad poetry (and screenshots)

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 6.22.32 PM

I am twenty-five,
not twenty-four.

and I’ve always aspired
to be some kind of knockoff.

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 6.22.54 PM

Chris Hansen with rouge,
but not that voice.

“a fifty-three-year-old boy…”
(see, I told you I’d fail.)

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 6.23.08 PM

Now, if you would,
have a seat over there.

chew on a burnt cookie
and forgotten chocolate chips.

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 6.23.47 PM

The doctor,
the lawyer,
the accountant,
professor,
photographer,
artist,
these writers to be,
the Mormon,
a therapist,
cops on the run.

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 6.24.01 PM

oh, the revolving door
that knows no national language.

aside from shallow breathing
and a sigh taken for granted.

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 6.24.33 PM

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 6.25.01 PM