approaching some kind of diplomacy

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.

huddled beneath
our implacable sun.

Cat No. 135 of the 500 Cats Project

the shamelessness of sticker shock

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

when we wake up at five

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

demons, stigma, pills

I. the couple afar
you must admit, you do not
possibly know of
the tyrannical screaming
that has brought their walls to sand.

II. and you still persist
in these monologues, postgrads
bringing you to shame
for causes you can’t place one
thumb upon; likely, a sketch.

III. girl from that first job,
the one who dated your first,
a reed-like ideal
you had long sought to fulfill
with Vitamin C tablets.

IV. an odd fixation
your friend attributes to the
per-pin-dick-you-lar
cycles of rage, blind rainstorms
emergency lights shone through.

V. he has left you, then
so surely the effort was
a waste in methods,
years snuck away, and never
did you grace Vogue’s bold pages.

VI. medias rojas.
I wear these to look pretty.
my mother slaps me
though unlike Claudio, she
peddles my song, not my rose.

VII. fantastic Lauren
has been the blessed, to earn
four years of study
while Mother will always break
what liberal arts relieves.

VIII. my shaking, my throat
the pipe where toads so madly
screech, an anthem to
critics and teachers alike,
tests I could fail for decades.

IX. gardenias fly,
reminders of your placid
ambitions asleep,
a vegetative movie
lacking captions to explain.

X. I rid myself of
mediums that aggravate,
infect this bandaged
open wound where gangrene speaks
slowly, nothing true to say.

XI. he turns to face me
and asks with authority,
“What if all you’ve told
yourself are Benjamins, fake?”
well, I guess I won’t spend them.

XII. but the illusion,
I suppose, can tempt young girls
into keeping them.
fragilities, in the end,
moan cautiously—dreams unchanged.

what it means to be overbearing

I look it up in the dictionary
because like many other words,
I’ve heard and used it so many times
that I’ve exhausted its meaning.

usually, I think of a mother
crying loudly at night, demanding
that you drive to the nearest rural convenience store
to fetch some Nyquil for her imagined flu.

or, the boss whose list of directives
lengthens like the phone calls in her office
with a daughter who never listens,
a daughter whose flaws you’re told of.

I will leave you alone,
to the extent that you knocked,
every three hours, several weeks
when I was busy too.

eventually, the adaptation will fail
and I will worry,
seeing you’re back in the air,
flying kites dampened by melodramatic poetry.

I show these to the friend
who compared me to a headless rooster,
the one who gently told me
that everyone has feelings.

a search result mentions domination,
excessive energy, insatiable want
that I’d say you exuded openly,
myself the one at your call.

the most gratifying experiences
you claim you’ve had
in shorthand, prose, and video
the same day you request.

and like the boss, you had a list
and because I am a fiend with pens,
checkmarks, planners, Post-its,
it irked me to see things undone.

so I unraveled the spool,
each time you rang
in every color available
as I wanted to give you the world.

naturally, the more time spent with you,
I gave away pieces of my world,
finding comfort in our pseudo-anonymity
in an arrangement we both thought fruitless.

in spite of the things you’d divulge
and dismiss as things you’d never say,
or fantasies you’ve been denied access to,
you remained fairly silent.

my cups of water had spilled
to where I couldn’t mop up the mess,
and as the room began to flood,
I gathered the voice to call out to you.

fumbling again towards failure
as impulsivity grabbed what grew
exactly at the root, obscuring the light of chance
before the battery could even charge.

the best definition I settled with
discussed the application of emotional force
and the exhaustion suffered by one struck
with yearnings and aches unprecedented.

rightness is not planned

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

to be like this

write me an essay—
untimed, please.

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.