how many years have we been told

our eyes must sink like suns

behind the mountain men,

because warmth is an invitation

to strip the valley of its flowers


how many hours have we spent

covering our faces in flesh-toned tarps

to keep the rawhide in

and the tired out


how many times have we cradled

our sagging skin like babies,

damp from neglected tears

and swollen from the sting of

unattainable perfection


vanity is a word they made up

to excuse their expectations of

soft but firm

sweet but assertive

pure but provactive

wise but ageless


now when my eyes

are trapped in glass,

I liberate them with

a gap-toothed grin

and tell the world

it can’t have me








a million screaming voices

hang like moss in my throat


I want to hold you up

with the roughs of my tongue,

you’re in every word

that I can’t get out


instead, my mouth clicks

and quivers and I drown

myself in confusion

until I’m convinced

you’ll flee before I can cut

back the moss, swing out on a vine,

and say I love you


please stay










He couldn’t

he couldn’t strip me

of my color,

though he wished

I wasn’t bright


he couldn’t keep me

hidden from curious eyes,

though he tried to bury my name


he couldn’t keep my spirit soaring

lower than his own,

though he tried to strap his shame

like weight on my wings


he couldn’t break me

like a horse

(I broke away)












when you drink from

the fountain of youth,

you steal it from the children


while you stock up on gold,

they’re drinking only silver

until their throats catch fire

and their brains smolder in ash


you’ve never been a giver

so they asked you to take

the heavy metals


they threw their hopes and dreams

at your feet like pennies in a wishing well


still you only felt the paper in your pocket,

not the beating of your heart







How could she not love you


the way you walk with your shoulders forward,

pushing glaciers north,

carving mountains behind you


the way you melt ice

with the grays of your eyes

and pool that water

in the blues


the way your laugh shakes your cheeks

and the ground beneath you

the way it sings in her heart

and mine










Can you lick your own wounds

if someone else has your tongue?


The white oak breaches the clouds

from a field of tall grass,

its seed, once carried on the wind,

took root with little support

from the elements and peers


it guards its autonomy

with open space

and stays postured

for the valley storms


So why does it take a village

to pump your blood?






Settling In

I am baking in the earth’s crust,

burning out and settling in


The fabric of another life folds

like a patchwork quilt on the table before him

My fingers streak through his hair

and pave new pathways

he can feel, but can’t see


I sip him like hot coffee

in a cold car,

steam fogs the windshield

and I squint to find my place

I can’t see, but I feel him

in the back of my throat

and the pit of my stomach


burning up and settling in





Queen Arlene

I’m watching Lucy bite into a wax apple,

her jaw clenches shut and her eyes bulge

when she realizes it’s stuck

I can almost hear my grandma’s siren laugh

pierce through the cackling audience


I can see her sprawling toothy grin

pinch her cheeks tight beneath bouncing red curls

Her shirt is still caked with flour and

she pecks like a chicken at the scraps on the stove.


She hasn’t had a hot meal since she was a childless nurse

She’s too busy pacing and darting and stirring and sweating

She’s quick to tell her husband to get out of the kitchen

and even quicker to steal the punchline


She doesn’t talk much, but I follow her

around like a curious bee, trying to keep up

with her buzzing spirit


One day I’m watching her wipe the sink

when she asks what kind of cake I want for my birthday

I show her a picture I saw in a Barbie catalog,

the cake hugs Barbie’s tiny frame

in the shape of an elegant ballgown

She tells me she doesn’t know the recipe


Suddenly I’m nine and

she calls me to the kitchen for breakfast

Barbie is centerstage on the counter

with a flowing white gown made

of marbled cake and cream cheese frosting.

Her plastic arms dangle delicately over

a pink ribbon hem and she smiles at me

as if I’m invited to the ball.

My grandma’s face is downturned as she flips the pancakes,

trying to conceal a giddy grin.


If she would look up, she would see my eyes

are no longer fixed on the cake,

but on the nurse who healed an aching heart

with some frosting and a ribbon


I am the princess of a broken home

but she is my homecoming queen












And just like that

I’m back on the switch,

feet dangling over the edge,

the trampoline below

a milky fog beckoning

in hushed tones




the sky always opens in those moments,

its Jericho jaw swallows

the last kiss of regret

on my lips

as it steers me to Jordan


my thoughts of you span

the wings of condors

like black silk cutting through

the mist of that final morning

in Georgia, before


I don’t listen to the valley’s echo

any more than I listen to my own heart








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