Shortness of breath

four walls

one breath

circulating endlessly


I can’t catch it,

even in good health


maybe it’s knowing

that you will die

that I will die

that someone I know will die


maybe it’s the rent

or utilities

or hard rain falling

on the bedroom window

when I’m nearly asleep


maybe it’s knowing

that we have no way out


you pace in cirlces

until the vinyl is worn


you wallow in nostalgia

until your cheeks are wet

and you tell me you texted her

because you worry


but you don’t worry about PPE

or the local nursing home

or the diabetic who raised me


you worry about her,

and ask “how is business?”

while she’s on a date,

vacationing in another state


as if there was never a virus

and we were never a factor


then you ask me why I’m quiet

and I say the oxygen is thin

(I want to share it, not fight for it)









Once was

Cells pumping in veins

like Texas oil,

thick and black as night,

red as waning sunlight


then the peace of disappearing hope

and the stagnant warmth of stillness


It hangs on me like dead skin–

an extra layer of once was,

the dichotomy of rain and rust,

and everything that should be

but isn’t


and everything that will be

but shouldn’t



Hard Work

Robin Hood, the wayfaring thief that fed the hungry,

has disappeared like the humanity

that prompted him in the first place

Friar Tuck tried to save the poor,

but the rich have always claimed

their full pockets are God’s blessings

Hard Work pays off, they say,

and pays no taxes

Hard Work pays no mind

to the misty eyes of the beggar

or the sex worker or the addict

Because Jesus made his choice

If only they could see,

Jesus was more of a Robin Hood

than a billionaire








I can hear him now


He knows what he’s spinning,

but fragility is a master crafter

and he is her apprentice


He tiptoes on eight legs

and argues that he is complex,

but I don’t think so


We all keep secrets in the bathtub

next to the soap

so when we cast silken nets

and late night texts,

we can clean what we catch


Anyway, stoking the fire

is better than burning bridges

and social media is just a pleasantry


So he reaches with each limb

to keep his web from crumbling,

but what’s left of our nest

has already fallen


You see, some secrets grow up

to be big black holes

and I won’t be sucked

into someone else’s mess





the dry leaves dance,
but the earth stands still


a hesitation


like one last squeeze of Mother’s hand
before taking the teacher’s

while the fog is crisp
and the sun is soft,
the mornings drag
like stale cigarettes
in a prison guard’s mouth,




as the world falls,
she soaks in hot springs,
shedding summer’s robe
and painting in brilliant
gold and then white

only for you to stain her canvas
with fumes and false promises



Barelegged and braless,

stargazing at the wall,

waiting for

a burning ball of gas

to sweep me into a vacuum

where the air is so thin

that my brain can’t

find it


“How does that make you feel”

they would ask

and I’d say “weightless”


for now, though, it’s all heavy

and my eyes are falling in

so I can’t see the starlight


only a wall







Another Bird Poem

If I was a bird

I’d fly as effortlessly

as she pulls on his heart

and watch him watch her

through the clouds


There are other wings

he’s fixed

but he’s never had to bandage hers

so I wonder sometimes

if he sees me as wounded

or if someday he could look up

and see me

in the same sky



Shattered Glass

Sometimes shattered glass still cuts my brain

and you see me wince like the child I was

when I went running through the tall grass

with snakes and ticks and spiders

who made better company

than the venomous tongues in the kitchen


Resolution was a closed door

and three young girls

talking about tomorrow behind it


Peaceful were the days when I foraged for

shredded cheese and ketchup sandwiches

and raced the dogs to the creek


Heavenly were the days when I visited

my friend in the trailer park

and we sang Shania on the trampoline

while her mom made us macaroni

(she always asked if I wanted seconds)


Now I nod along to J.D. Vance

but you can’t understand where we’ve been

and how hard it is to throw away the white trash

that we’ve collected in heart-heavy landfills,

our memories like landmines exploding

with a mere whiff of mildew

or the sound of shattered glass on linoleum floors






Speak Up

how do I talk to a river

when I am an ocean,

pushing and pulling,

swelling but never

reaching the mouth


you are constant and strong

most days I am quiet and calm,

but some days I rip through

my own flesh to break free of the tide


how could you ever understand

the storm that bites my heels

or why I never left it at the riverbanks

where I sought any semblance

of love or strength or presence

to stifle my little voice


I thought I was preserving it

but I think I may have lost it

somewhere in a prayer


so how do I talk to a river

now that I am faithless



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