my collarbones are toothpicks
once dipped in mercury—
the kind that’s found in
secondhand cream, online.
the knuckles on our feet
grow tougher each time a
disappointing phone call
says “grace” amidst the quiet.
the water gets higher, but
flipping the switch is a joke
that reminds you that life
is like waiting at the DMV.
yesterday, a sweater and
today’s sliced peaches—
their sweetness pouring
down sunburned skin.
balancing acts gone bad
like marbles on cats’ heads.
you can go to sleep, and
lock doors without shame.
no one stays out past nine
with paychecks already frayed.
a hot winged weekend comes to take me away
and like any sensible person on her front porch,
I sit awhile, nod my head, listen to the word
of the plastic pelicans, pinwheels shimmering
behind them – the finest background dancers.
my brother rests on an elevated plane, and I
dart my head towards the direction you’d like
to take, as if I know where you’re headed, as
if I’ve been there and could tell you how many
threads have contracted their lives to a doormat.
I keep my word, but as for my brother, his
memory is one built on convenience, tufts of
gray cotton bordering his neck like Elizabethan
collars, regal and intimidating like the elders
who scare you from asking necessary questions.
you’ve come to me with questions, and I’ve got
nothing but scarcity on this one plot of land, the
smoothness in froth-less coffee waking us up
as the heat of an unforgiving summer awakens
each wrist to rotate, clockwise and cautious.
the cars line up, the ants line up, and the weeds
grow unevenly, like brittle eyelashes rooted in
place for as long as you’d like to stay, for as long
as you’d like to tell me that nothing is wrong, and
water from floppy hoses tastes like guava nectar.
Cat No. 136 of the 500 Cats Project
Connie Undone is on sale at Amazon. Or, get a signed copy from me directly for $12, plus a handwritten poem on a topic of your choice.
hungry for something
sharper than mint.
this is my first invitation,
and although I lack the
qualifications to advise you
on how to deal with those
noisy neighbors, I do have
pointed ears, open and aware
of the crackling, your knuckles
gone pale from lost sleep.
once I was told that there is
a difference, that judgment didn’t
count against us if we took time
to assimilate, to foster these
saplings like the tastiest of greens,
drizzled in the kindness of cheap
olive oil, almost odorless and clear
like the tears we’ve swallowed out
of bitterness, our confusion tucked
beneath fraying and grayed pillows
gone hard between hospital walls.
gone for just a weekend,
but the floor screeches like
overworked vinyl, and I am
unsure that it is my smirk that
set the pundits off, that divided
the schoolgirls who come to class
a little after six in the morning,
brandishing their plastic spoons.
our implacable sun.
Cat No. 135 of the 500 Cats Project
I am the remainder.
that “Merry and Bright” that
whispers from shrunken windows
of overcrowded shops.
your grievances scurry to the edge
of a lopsided bed :: and rainfall
writes hurried speeches, made
heavy but not too pedantic, thanks
to the stutter that feeds the dead.
midnight comes too frequently,
and I throw away the last of my
birthday matches, those gracing
pastel cakes, lemon icing crying
that it’s so unfair, the dry center.
I pay them my retainer.
that dark “I promise” that
flings itself from tired shingles
onto many an unwashed car.
Cat No. 134 of the 500 Cats Project
doormat, or a shower curtain.
I am not sure which box to
select before the deadline.
weakness rolls off shoulders
while mosquitoes gather near
crooked toes, and I try to count
the pores across your face as
the mirror laughs at my hands,
curled and gray as fallen trees.
you walk towards the armoire
as I trace these sleeping tracks.
wordlessness, or censure.
Cat No. 133 of the 500 Cats Project
it is not so cold outside
when you choose to tell the truth.
I can see you quiver,
brushstrokes out of line.
a hole in the canvas
cuts into the edges of
thin, gray knees, sharp
at one point, but only on
days when it’s bleaker
and grayer and far too
saturated for us to decipher
details between blankness,
and answers beyond crimes.
when light becomes frail,
we walk the road blind.
I wanted them to see
that rightness is not
planned, nor is it declined
in the face of poppies
spare and pale, wilted
in a summer that never
came, fated to fall within
the cracks of one’s own
doing, the folly that shakes
up a storm in a bottle, neck
snapped in two like branches
reaching for dusk’s breath.
presumptions nip our ankles,
their framework unrefined.
Cats No. 131 and 132 of the 500 Cats Project
write me an essay—
divulge all the details
of last night’s crash.
our friend is sobbing
on the balcony again
because he finally found
a Kleenex to throw her way.
milk splashes, over
a paper cup’s edge.
you press on the timer,
look to your left.
they have occupied the corner,
wondering whether to call
the cops if she already
gave one bold statement.
it’s been so long
since you called back.
I never thought that
I would see you, frayed.
Cat No. 130 of the 500 Cats Project
I am pleased to announce the release of my first novel, sometime in the next few months. I will keep you updated. To celebrate, I’ve decided to challenge myself to write a poem for each of the first 250 people who purchase my book. The poem would be based on a subject of your choosing, handwritten and mailed to you. I’m very excited, as the project has been very dear to me. In the meantime, I will continue to work on short stories. The 500 Cats Project shall proceed.
this is a warning.
exclamation point on the
thinnest paper towel.
the coffee, hot and unkind
to my doubts, while tea
continues to sit and fade.
this is beyond me.
the simplest explanations
are sometimes correct,
even when you cannot believe
that they’re worth far more
than discounted groceries.
this is daunting.
streetlights blast red when
dissidents cross and pamphlets
written out of sheer insomnia
shiver on the asphalt, wordless.
this is opacity.
closed doors grow more heavy
than your palms can bear
to push, and tangled rules choke
on the feeble breath of yearning.
Cat No. 129 of the 500 Cats Project
the ice melts unevenly.
frost on the edge of a colorless plane, and
a frayed sense of time.
$0.99 cup of spicy mayo
makes my day, makes me smile.
you are the macadamia,
courting the chocolate
as if it needs a guide.
pigeons want what I cannot afford,
bok choy on rice.
every little sweet counts
and cries with the pop
of my salmon knuckles.
I blush as cherry trees fall.
you and me
down Hackberry street.
forgetting that the north
is soft and tucked aside.
Cat No. 128 of the 500 Cats Project
I walk a tightrope that rivals a spider web.
breathe me in, see me out.
the raindrops sting when they want to,
needles into fleshy thumbs.
love these hands which visit peace,
for they are dry and chapped
as my unquiet lips
that relay secrets, better left
unspun and elongated.
judge me harshly,
if you have the time.
take me through the scarlet
and all the confetti, pink and flat
across dappled paths
downtrodden with whispers
and flooded with sighs of white.
I yell the lyrics authored by youth.
see me past all you’ve known.
the water rushes as the sky defies,
orchids filling modest homes.
Cat No. 127 of the 500 Cats Project