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



Optical Illusion

The sun glints in the rear view

and spotlights a trash bag in the back seat


My eyes are pierced by a flash of white

and I mistake the bag for an intricate cobweb,

a creature’s hard-fought work of art


When my pupils adjust, it’s only plastic

and I wonder if I could ever see beauty

where there is garbage,

if I could ever look back and see boxes

filled with treasure and laughter

instead of mismatched socks and uncertainty


I’ve learned how to pack properly

how to fold clothes neatly

how to separate the pots from the pans

how to throw out tired utensils

but I can’t throw out the tired memories

no matter how much they exhaust me


I heard once that men are compartmentalizers.

They can tuck information into filing cabinets

and store them in the recesses of their brains

and control when anything is retrieved


But I am a [insert derogatory reference to psyche] woman

so when I see a cardboard box, my neurons scream

“abort, abort!” and suddenly I am 8 years old

and everyone is screaming

and we have two weeks to leave


and I don’t know where we’re going


and I don’t know if we’ll be together again.


People tell me not to look back

as if it’s a matter of fact,

as if it’s a decision you can make

even when the sun is behind you

and you can’t see what’s ahead.


Then and now and later are a blur

of here and there and fact and fiction,

but I finally realize it’s an optical illusion,

so I’m not running away.










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






Astral Projection

Dancing, black silhouette behind a snow-soaked pane

A tree or a sprite, maybe,

It’s hard to make out through her wings–

like mossy green growths from her chair–

brushing the walls in narrow halls,

trailing her scent of clove and citrus

with traces of glitter


when she sings, the trees bend in half

and my heart swells against my ribs

until we’re all pleasantly uncomfortable,

inside and out


For a moment I remember the first time

I heard Tori Amos while reading up on time travel

and I feel myself astral projecting

beyond the dark strings and siren notes


No one notices me flying before I catch myself

staring at the shadow outside, still dancing







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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