A lion among sheep.There are ghosts in my bloodstreamA lion among sheep. in Free Verse More Like This
kissing concrete cells &
the bedroom eyes of nerve endings.
( foreign words
engraved into my marrow, birds in my chest
& wars not yet fought between my hips. )
I've taken myself apart every night
since I learned how to swallow a pen
limb by steady limb.
Passed around by grabby hands,
a sold, & borrowed daughter;
I am a lion among sheep,
drunk on life & ink.
FeverI like pretending I mean something to the ghostsFever in Free Verse More Like This
who wreak havoc on my bones-
impaling these masochistic butterfly wings
on railroad spikes
between heartbeats and bedsheets,
I got a heart in New Orleans,
palms engraving names like
Juliet, Alexandria, & Christine
on the seats of greyhound buses.
& I'm offering up 102 degrees of skin to a godless moon
as I breathe in her night scent.
Why I Can't Love a PoetHe said you're beautiful likeWhy I Can't Love a Poet in Free Verse More Like This
black birds on a gray sky or
a tree that's recently died but
holds its last green leaves until
they wither and crack, swept away
by a northern wind bearing his name.
there's something.there's somethingóthere's something. in Free Verse More Like This
i don't know if i can tell you
or just leave it on a wordless breath
with the rest of these confessions
that pass from my lungspace
to your neck.
but i'm not keeping secrets;
there's a garden of seeds unsprouted
buried in your fibers, where i
laid my last guilty conscience and
slept unsoundly, pressing my hands
to your chest, clawing until my nails
were black and gritty.
and i'd like to tell you, make sense
of the nights i just can't. i just can't
when the azaleas are dry and the rattling
begins at your thighs, when your touch
is the gardener's seeking my tongue
for rain water, asking for another
someday, i'll climb the trellis and
end your drought.
a string drawn tautthere are so manya string drawn taut in Free Verse More Like This
blue stars in your skin
but i can't believe
each neuron is a universe
alight with planets,
gaunt aliens signing god
in the absence of your name,
dim cars on the street,
beneath an awning
like a glowing orange womb
you shudder saying,
i just had a chill,
is this room cold
or are we in the gut
of a giant
who's strung out
seven days lifeless,
biting the apple,
wishing for his mother,
the earth is spinning
in the eyes
of a turtle
with a red shell
who swims in the flowers
who swallows supernovas
and they pass through his kidneys,
we could burst any minute,
a fly's nerves twitch,
a city laid,
between microscope lenses,
clutching wife to child,
do you know my name?
do you know you're shivering?
do you know i'm the son
of your nucleus?
i live in your cheek
and die at your
I Don't Miss AdolescenceMy sister asks if I'll do her makeup.I Don't Miss Adolescence in Free Verse More Like This
Mami promised she would;
now she's tired and screamed
when Maria reminded her
senior prom is tonight.
She says, "I have a hickey on my neck,
something she doesn't want to cover,
and you've always
done a better job
of highlighting the subtle graces
of my structure,
the angles we share."
but I can't pick you up."
So she arrives in a flourish of exasperations,
telling me all the family business,
waving her nails in my face
and talking about her extensions.
"Do you think we need yellow concealer?
I plan to take pictures,
and the last thing I want
is to remember him
every time I look back,
the purple ghost
of high school regret
on my skin."
"It's not a problem.
Just close your eyes;
when you open them,
you'll never be able to tell
he touched you.
Maybe you'll forget him
in a couple years,
as time washes by
and new experiences
dull what has already passed."
She sets her purse on the table
shaking her head.
Two Birds with One StoneToday, I found the fragile yet well-preserved corpse of a robin stuck to a gravel road that, by trick of the eye, churned steadily in the late afternoon humidity; when the evening cooled, I weighed, measured, plucked, and then boiled the songbird in one of Father's new iron pots until its remaining feathers and flesh easily parted from its saturated bones, which were left out to dry in the summer garden until they became as white as your teeth. With meticulous care, I cleaned and then arranged the skeleton in the shape of its natural design before I reinforced its structure with thin copper wires, mounting the finished piece on a cherrywood plaque I signed with my Christian name.Two Birds with One Stone in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
The robin now sits on my windowsill, staring onto the grey winter dawn. Its song has never been so sweet as when I imagine it whistling a mournful aubade, welcoming the sun as it rises and melts the snow so it will later freeze into a glittering sheet of ice. As I write this letter, hunched over my desk and fe
sister yesterdayeven our plastic flowers had faded—sister yesterday in Free Verse More Like This
an overgrown garden of concrete and pottery,
wrought-iron furniture under the sunlight, paling—
a broken lawnmower in a rotting wood shed, a swingset
creaking with each gust of wind—
but she said—
let's gather up these old tin cans,
empty the pool of its stagnant memory,
relight the candles and mend this picnic table,
recall the laughter we shared here when
our summer was in bloom—
when mother wore that sky blue dress
and planted shiny pinwheels,
You're Never Touching AnythingCarnationsYou're Never Touching Anything in Free Verse More Like This
have grown inside my eyelids,
pollinated by june bugs
flecked with bright recording colors:
We were away
from noon till morning,
froze in amber
because the horizon twitched,
of the damp sidewalk
planted in my skin.
He sat at my left,
picking week old plastic
and throwing it
onto the sandbar
for fish to eat:
I soon planned
on Gabriel's blanket,
a circular fountain
hadn't turned on yet;
with nothing louder
than the lake
on the shore:
Our sun rose higher
and bleached my consciousness:
I wake up
with mosquito bites
and flaking wool-worn elbows,
braiding stringy petals
a streetcar to nowherei.a streetcar to nowhere in Free Verse More Like This
he must crack
when his hands are tulle:
rough and tearing,
bought by the yard
or cent-marked minute,
spin a skirt
that won't last a winter,
and snort ballerinas,
hope he's flexible
thin and shimmering,
don't stay another minute,
clear the aisles to say
so he must crack
when his hands are tulle:
by a craving spark
crisp and burning,
thin black ash
like your real name or
just something i can call you,
something that won't make me
feel like i'm talking down
to you. not because
i respect you, i never—
no i don't think i
respect you, but
something soft like i can
pretend i'm decent,
or normal maybe, don't
look at me, i didn't pay to—
where are you going after this?
and maybe i won't laugh."
The Weather LatelyWhen I tilt my glass up,The Weather Lately in Free Verse More Like This
dregs of iced tea powder
become an orange starscape,
an eclipse pecked with holes:
summer, full and searing.
NamesakeThis letter is addressed to a man I don't know yet,Namesake in Free Verse More Like This
and I'm not sure who you'll be in fifteen years or less,
but I am sure that I will send this, unlike every other,
because it will be long overdue by then.
First, I don't hate you.
I never hated you despite the right to,
and everyone likes to remind me I have the right to,
like I have the right to never see you again,
but I think that's petty,
and you've been petty enough for us both.
Second, I would have kept the secret
where it burrowed in my flesh
and let it fester through my cells
until they found a chemo for thought:
something toxic to take toxins,
but we've tried that before, haven't we?
Third, I did not tell her what you did to me,
only what I thought you did to him
because you became a monster
when my pain was no longer exclusive but,
fourth, I don't really believe you're a monster,
and I'd like to talk, someday.
Maybe after you receive this
or maybe after you decide you can explain
or never want to.
Last, if you never want to,
humanlylet me explain:humanly in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
i am many things half-heartedly, and only one thing certainly: i am human. but nowadays, does that even mean anything? sometimes it means perfect but sometimes it means utterly imperfect. i suppose it just means uncertain.
i read a lot of books to try to figure out how the world works and what it means to be human, but no amount of reading could ever teach me. you learn when you talk to people and see the way they move their hands or the way they shake their heads. you learn from the way they love you or betray you or hurt you or support you and then you learn how the world works, because the world is made up of these people.
i once told myself i was broken-hearted, and i think at one point i was. but now i think it's better to call myself broken-boned, cracked like a fragile eggshell underneath a strong wind. though i think the pull of the earth is enough to break almost anyone.
just keep this in mind: the world's still growing, and so are you.
let me explai
of victors and survivorsFear is a poison that rips through my bloodstreamof victors and survivors in Free Verse More Like This
and tears at my arteries and fills my vision with red -
and all I can do is sit here and let it. Submissive,
but not passive: that's the difference.
For the first time, I am blind and caught in
utter darkness, engulfing and suffocating,
and I find myself thinking there is nothing here
that is not a tragedy; not me, not you, and not
even the constellations that we name after dead heroes,
or the meadows that we name after wars,
or the scars that we name after nightmares.
I am poisoned by terror, slowly seeping through
the marrow of my bones, inching closer and closer
to something resembling a soul, and I plead
for an antidote, but am told that I already hold it
in the pale palms of my hands, and would find it
if I would only uncurl my fingers and unclench my fists
long enough to drink.
When I write, I feel a rare moment of barely holding on,
of teetering on the edge and regaining my balance
for a sweet instant, of recalling memories burie
ode to youif you ever asked meode to you in Free Verse More Like This
to describe it,
i would tell you how
you spin my thoughts into poetry,
compose my heartbeats into music,
how your lighthouse presence
beckons me to a home
within your smile.
if you ever asked me
to write it,
i would write my fingers bloody
with all the words
that could have come between us,
all the conversations
that skirted past unspoken,
all the poems
that i should have surrendered.
if you ever asked me
to show it,
i would love your heart till it's raw,
your joints till they no longer creak,
your tears till they dry,
your bruises till they fade,
the whites of your eyes
till the bloodshot veins
fade into milky bliss,
your irises till they lose all dreary grayness,
and your pupils till they tire no more of the sunlight,
till they tire no more of me.
if you ever asked me
to prove it,
i would recite the thought-poems
that you spun
and play the heartbeat sonatas
that you composed.
i would paint you an ocea
flickerlet's find solace in the candlelight dripping through the cracks in the glass. let's find comfort in the twisting limbs of the hearth. there are no burns this time, just warmth. just warmth hugging itself around us and wrapping us in its arms. nothing more, nothing less.flicker in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
a spark is all we need to start a forest fire; but we'll need an ocean to douse it. yet sometimes a spark is all we need to see in the looming darkness; sometimes a spark is all we need to hear in the raging silence. fire is fear. fear is fire. but let's not run from the flames.
fire doesn't bite every time.
there's a sort of hidden ferocity in the way a flame lowers itself to the wind, yet will then jump back, renewed and restored, in a greater fury. fire hides a rebellious spirit, but remember, even rebels know when to yield. remember, the chains of gravity still bind fire to the ground.
let's not fear the heat or the brightness. let's climb closer to it, brush it with our fingers and just watch it dance in its own w
and i shall never recoverhow does a secondand i shall never recover in Free Verse More Like This
drag into an hour into a year?
i feel as if i've lived fifty lifetimes
and i am not even twenty;
youth is an illusion, a magic show, and the curtain
has long since fallen.
and so time crawls sluggishly on
but in the quickest of ways
because sometimes i blink and it is
four o' clock
in the goddamn morning,
and i swear to god i can hear voices in my head
and i wonder how much longer i can hold on for.
my joints screech in protest when i move
and my muscles creak like i am
a tin man come to life.
i am not a tin man come to life.
it's on these sorts of nights
where the hopelessness starts
to settle in,
nestling its way into
† between † my † ribs † and
† in † my † spine.
it is like black poison
my marrow and my veins and
† † †i can feel myself decaying
from †the † inside † † † † † †out
and † † † † find † † † † †myself
† †wishing † † † † i † † †could † †decompose
† † † † † † fast † †er.
discoveryhow to find the right words:discovery in Free Verse More Like This
whispers between barely opened lips,
when I breathe in, it's not oxygen I need,
but the words.
nowadays the knife is duller than polished stone.
and at night I find myself suffocating.
how to find the melting point of limits:
cigarettes stubs thrown to the blue,
almost burnt-out candles drowned in wax,
heat between bodies, lonely in the night.
warmth will set fire to everything eventually,
and then the world will finally become
how to barely breathe, how to balance
on the gossamer string of barely hanging on -
how to believe the things I tell myself.
how to discover all the things I miss
when I blink:
irrational fears never fade over time,
loneliness waxes in the darkness,
but still the flame I fear stays lit,
scar-litthe scar-lit passagewaysscar-lit in Free Verse More Like This
of my throat twisting
and turning as the storm
of sound drums its way
edgy glass voices cutting
through tissue, exposing
bare throats that dangle,
helpless, in front of
flooding my mouth
drowning my tongue
tasting the rawness
of the words
strange how blood tastes
so dead when we need it
to stay alive
strange how it pounds
through my ears until
even i can't hear
my own words
speech in its natural habitat
the scar-lit passageways
of my throat
and yet i am still
april twenty-fourththis morning i slid out of a bedapril twenty-fourth in Free Verse More Like This
that's never felt like mine,
heaving an exhausted breath
and prying open still-sleeping eyes.
when i exhaled,
i felt as if my life was seeping
out my lungs.
when i breathed back in,
the cold air slid between
the slits of my skeleton,
bringing nothing but emptiness.
it's strange to think that this is my life
in its rawest form, and that
if i decorated it with
ribbons of good grades
and certificates of good friends,
it wouldn't really be my life
in its rawest form
and something about that saddens me.
i'm just another girl, really,
who uses frilly words
and too many run-on sentences,
and hopes against hope
that one day i'll be able to lift my life
in its truest, barest, rawest form
in the fragile jail of my fingers
and the cracked cup of my palms,
and look it straight in the eye and say,
"today, you are not a tragedy
and you are not a sad lullaby.
today, you are the most
to ever grace these ears."
double-jointedwhere do i start?double-jointed in Free Verse More Like This
beginning, middle, the end-to-come?
where do i begin to decipher
words and sounds and beautiful hands
and a humbled tongue?
the (sad) truth is:
i wouldn't recognize my own life
if it stood in a line with everyone else's.
the truth is: humanity is the mere stuff
of pearl-white skeletons with broken-winged arms
and a thumping thumping heart -
and love: love is nothing more than another joint
in the twisting of my rib cage.
i wouldn't recognize myself
if i stood in line with everyone else
the way i close my eyesthis is the way i close my eyesthe way i close my eyes in Free Verse More Like This
while lying in the dark chill
and huddled under blankets:
shakily, with shivered hesitance
and a frosty breath of nostalgia,
with a will to turn the clock forward
and cheeks yearning for
the warmth of the sun.
this is the way i close my eyes
while sweating under the heavy air,
bare-skinned and bare-boned:
with resignation, wearily,
as if a hundred thousand years
have eaten away at my skeleton,
fragile as bird wings,
and the aching desire for another soul
to lie broken beside me.
this is the way i close my eyes
while trembling in a cold sweat
in the dead of the night,
too terrified to glance behind me:
with forced whimsy and
a manufactured, prepackaged diorama
constructed behind my eyelids
of your presence next to me
and a soft breath pressing
against the back of my neck,
an everlasting reminder that
i am not alone in living.
lovesong for sailorboyRead aloud and explained (somewhat) here.lovesong for sailorboy in Free Verse More Like This
i have always loved words as you love the sea
but i have grown to hate
because i have always had words
but never for you.
words for everything
but i have words for this, so
i'll take them
one by one.
the ocean was your first love and
i could always see it in your eyes.
most would call them blue--just
like a swell over a sandbar
blue like the spring sky over a poppy field.
but i don't think anyone
got as close as i did and they're not blue
not shorebound and
they're gray like the steelbellied sea itself
like the horizon at dawn as it
hems you into an impossibly vast canvas
like a demarcation line
or a promise.
one you always chased.
maybe i had a streak of ocea
with thanks to salingerAudio version.with thanks to salinger in Free Verse More Like This
it's on those cold mornings
when you are nothing but indrawn breath
swirling and knitted up inside too-big
skin and weightless bones--
when the horizon arches up against
the half-thawed tendrils of sunrise
with golden teeth,
and smiling, begs--
it's on those cold mornings
when leaving is easiest.
the car will be cold, and you will
shiver, and the engine,
much too loud,
will smack of blasphemy
but you will find peace in the steady roll
of tarmac and the yellowing light
spilling across it,
with dust motes kicked up and carried
like fish in the undertow.
when you come to that first
crossroads, it will shock you:
the way the decision hangs there
trembling and desperate--
but there are no right answers and you will not
hesitate. and each successive choice
will be made of its own accord,
and you will roll the windows down,
and draw down the scent of ear
sleepon quiet islandssleep in Free Verse More Like This
we are quieter--
breathing with the ocean's heave,
travelersthis silvertongued landtravelers in Free Verse More Like This
is fit for strange adventures
so we will roam as the city
sleeps, and the soft
of the camera shutter will lull the crickets
we will leave our trail
in incandescent flashes--
the negatives seared and crackling on
and drag our hearts on
moonshine wisps behind us--
gathering fog and scents and
strains of music
carried in on night-thin air.
ghosts of the border townsRead aloud here.ghosts of the border towns in Free Verse More Like This
the desertgirls all wear their white dresses,
braids cinched with ribbons wilted
like the crops.
they walk barefoot, and they have learned
how to keep from kicking up
the sand--they have learned
how to be perfectly still.
the scorchwinds start up, and they
stand beneath the rattling ocotillos,
dresses curling and brushing against
calves dark with dust and
they stare such betrayal, such trust,
as though you are the devil
or salvation--as though
they haven't made up their minds.
say what you like.
they won't smile, only
until long after you are out of sight
and the horizon has
north pacificAudio version thisaway.north pacific in Free Verse More Like This
icewater and tumblestone beaches, and i wonder, clifftop,
if the fog tastes like forest.
the ocean carves its histories
in the driftwood--creation stories and
lullabyes worn smooth,
bleached to a polish.
it might be sand shifting but maybe--
maybe i can feel the whalesong,
low and deep
thrumming in the hollow spaces of my bones.
i envy the seabirds
who have more room to feel.
rosemaryyou licked your lips when i walked inrosemary in Free Verse More Like This
smelling of woodsmoke. there was a weight in the air, and the empty space
felt unusually antiseptic.
somehow i wasn't surprised to find you perched on the old
rocker granddad had built,
your fingers tracing a labyrinth of grain.
your voice surprised me.
i sat on the floor,
spine rooted to the doorjamb.
i let you talk.
my eyelids were branded; when i blinked
the plasma echoes of the flames licked over your sharp edges.
the moon hung low and weary and it seemed too light, still,
to ask you to leave. hospitality
has always been measured in lumen. so i heard not your words
but the erratic rise and fall of inflection,
and remembered the way the fire sucked through the perforations
in the washing machine drum. feeding.
there was a brief insistence in your tone, and i
started paying attention again.
the question you swore you'd never ask.
'can i stay?'
i looked away from you then,
through the window,
and all i saw was a sto
sirensAudio version here.sirens in Free Verse More Like This
sometimes the mermaids will watch the sailorboys, and green ocean eyes will take in the powerful shoulders and the instinctive sense of balance, and sometimes one will fall in love. and sometimes this love will fill up her chest so much it hurts, and sometimes it will make her reckless--make her swim silently up to the sides of the boats and reach up (carefully, with just the barest sound of water droplets tumbling back into the depths) and rest her arms on the wood that's long since been worn smooth from salt and sun. and sometimes the sailorboy will turn, but he'll see nothing--but when he hauls in his net it will be brimming, straining at the seams, and he will look out over the ocean for a moment, all the way to the blank horizon, and sometimes he will wonder.
and it's easy to love the girls that swim up from the bottom of the ocean with nets knotted up in their
desert soulsociety sweetheart, you comedesert soul in Free Verse More Like This
with broom and holy water in hand
intent upon exorcising the contents of my closets
and sweeping out the dust of
my soul's a desert, darling,
and the sandstorms are unforgiving,
so spare your quiet cavalry.
some walls are best left standing, some graves
best left untilled.
lovecraft's oceansometimes i drown in memorieslovecraft's ocean in Free Verse More Like This
of bathymetric echoes
and those mad gods
vomiting up litanies and minerals
poised and lethal
in the deep.
and darling there are
s t a r s
down there in the dark
in the space stirred only by those pale ghosts
and spinning galaxies
and i need to be
i need the salt on my tongue
in my lungs
and the mortality snowing down
grey drifts of whalebone and squidflesh
f a l l i n g
to that last
and i will never stop loving the ocean
because our deepest love is reserved for our deepest fears.