I remember...

roof wrangling, gripping the cargo rack - wind shuffling my sagewild hair
the feel of hot metal on bare skin
posing, lotus-style zen in my denim cutoffs
howling coyote at sunset
Kristi swearing and grinding gears, singing "Semi-Charmed Life" at top volume, the Pioneer cranked to eleven
rubber squeal and gravel tailspray
the SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY of blaring of summer radio
convincing our parents that we were post-church pious
barefoot stomping the sand while we snorted white dust
my thirteenth birthday
the slight sunburn prickling above my nostrils
my brother-in-law's smug face when he tossed us the keys, saying "oh, you think you can go it alone, huh? Good luck, kid! Have fun."

while teaching my son to shift, he asks how I learned to drive stick. I let a laugh slip -
resist the easy lie "Carefully". Instead, say "It took some practice."
I don't tell him I do not remember.

Triathlon of I'm Possible

40 feels like a hard halfway tickertape.
I am riding a bicycle in the tiniest of bikinis
I am surrounded by sea creatures, and I am the walrus.
My tongue salty. My head full
of wet jabber. My hips slick undulation - black and blue
from all this mishandling. All this exorcise
slimming me down. Svelte scent of nightfall and rosebuds
pricking my hopeful skin. Toes dragging dual pedals -
my eyes curled to cradle their fill of beauty - it pools and drips
prominent cheekbones.

Yaasika Quist says "There are only two types of people -
those who choose Love, and those who choose Fear."
When we break down
for the third time in Oxnard, California
I give up completely. Cry my eyes out in the Walmart parking lot.
I wonder which one I am.
I am still wondering.

I have never worn a bikini.

I have only lived naked,
or wrapped
in the thickest of woolen overcoats. I do not want to be cold
but sometimes I am. My thin epidermis, torn
between shiver and itch.
If there are only two sides to choose from
how does the coin maintain its edge? Outline its boundaries?
I like my rims janky. Lopsided and rickety -
periphery edging towards the undefined,


like the side-of-the-road rainbow deadending in a ditch.
I swear - you’ll never see life properly from behind the windshield,
but it flashes before your eyes, right when you fly through it.

That’s the easy way out.

The Bulgarians say there are two types of people -
those who piss on the floor
and those who lie.
The sodden mezzanine of love incontrovertible proof
of truth - and I am a parched puddle
I am evaporating outward
I am brow sweat times distance traveled -
the Verbal Kensington of flight risks - of cycling
of road divided by yellowbelly lines - and there are no pitstops in sight,
so I will choose love. I will decide
to become one with everything - a cloud swelling and sobbing
into the ocean. An eager tsunami - somersaulting to embrace the shore

The full force of Love
is a barrelling walrus. Moist blubber and bellyflop -
full leap and faith splash.
No peripheral nervous system. No theatrical pause.
Cercas claras hacen bien vecinos.
I am clearing the fences. I am jumping hurdles. My walls
graffitti themselves into welcome signs -
they tear their overcoats off, and run for the finish line
flailing for the red tape.
Every breakthrough stands shivering in a light breeze.

Look -
you can see right through me.


When the bullets hit the building
I slept through it
only woke
when my neighbor
pounded the door.
She said
They're shooting
stared at me
like a maniac
when I offered her tea.
A whistling kettle
mimics the sound of sirens
3 minutes to steep
before answering the officers questions
if you didn't see anything
you're useless
all you can do
is point to the shattered stucco
the broken windshield
the lead embedded
in the window frame
your friend's panicked breathing
too late
to identify
anything relevant
except the fact that we're all
still breathing
everyone shivering
in the crisp air
and their pajamas.
When I tell my boss
there was a shooting
She asks if I'll move
somewhere else
somewhere better
I say
It's usually so quiet
But the truth is
I can't think
of anywhere
that feels


More impressive
than the revival
is the brotherhood.
Lost boys
who unhurl
sticks and stones
broken bones
with careful words -
plaster casts mixed
with palm spit and promises
road trips and flapjacks
and isn’t that

I wouldn't call it a vacation.

It might help
to explain
we were never a family,

We were my father’s
Ponzi scheme -
my mother’s
for more wishes

A narcissistic genie
in his own magic -
keeps the hex bottled
up right til it bursts -

  • (4)
I digress.

  • (3)
a lemonade stand -
juice fresh, squeezed
from stolen lemons
sans vessel
saccharine in lieu of sweetness
and zero change.

a bake sale
without cupcakes
is just a street hustle -
a well-crafted sign
and a frosted smile. Try
to franchise a lack
of sustenance.

What then?

  • (2)
I'll try again.

  • (1)
when the refridgerator
gaped empty
we filled the seats
of an ’82 Buick
our hungry mouths turned
ninety miles
into marathon -
the backseat
a tired chorus
of heated want.

My father’s mania
for the trip.
Soft blue pills
fastened my mother’s lips.
A roadside tourist trap
was the only thing open -
a good sign -
packed parking lot
in scenic views.

my father's
lip curl
at the stiff price, still
hold up
five fingers - burgers
one index extended
to silence
all protest.

See us
desert hares
under the hawk’s gaze
for the cover of plates.

My delicate brother
first - cries
at the sight of an avocado -
soft green barrier
to fulfilled needs
and thus,
we are actors
in a play,
hot food congealing
under cool stares of strangers

my father's indignance -
his scene closing
on downtrodden, marching children
on an empty checkbook
on the stricken face
of the teenage waiter

one steak fry,
my stolen memento -
sole souvenir
a bumpy ride


in those years

Road trip

On the side
of a dried riverbed
we sweat off
the tires
back-breaking twist
over hot asphalt
all that laughter -
in the distance.

Tears, weary
perspiration or
perseverance - no
the rivulets
all mix
with dust

Thirsty ground
doesn’t question
moisture comes from -
accepts it
a dry sigh of relief

when the tow
truck growls
over the highway’s
laryngeal prominence
I swear
the horizon swallows,
our good intentions, or

Even super heroes succumb to weather.

At 165 miles per hour, I closed my eyes
Relaxed my belly against your backbone, took a deep breath
Thighs pressed taut against your hipbones,
Felt the tight curl of my fingers against your ribcage, loosen
unfurling in your jacket pockets
Released it all to trust -

When I opened my eyes next, I saw the ground sideways
Asphalt black and slick with mist, slipping past
Inches from my lowered lashes
But it held no fear for me -
All was peaceful.

This memory resurfaces, years later
On the slow descent from his funeral service
When the turbulence takes me.
My sweat-crowded brow battling the surge of nausea
I close my eyes, and relax into it
Swallow bitter fear and pain with the stale tang of coffee
Surrendering to something greater than myself.

These are the moments
I've learned
to let go.

Fair to Middling

When you are forty
you will smile graciously
on another first date
you will have good posture
and impeccable table manners
nibble arugula like a well-nourished rabbit
and measure each bite.

You will still eat roast chicken
at one am, hunched over
the kitchen sink like a wild beast
stripping the meat from the bone
with your carnivore teeth
inner scavenger, slipping.

You will learn to walk gracefully
you will wear high heels
to the board room, or
special occasions
dance barefoot
in the living room
in front of the silent, judgmental ficus
your tree pose, reflective
and effortless.

You'll choose public words
still spout irreverent poetry,
at inappropriate times
in the midst of a party, perhaps

where attendees
will simply assume
you are drunk.
You will let them.
You are not drunk -
but sometimes
you’ll wish you were.

When walking home alone
you'll often recite
your favorite song lyrics
out loud
and passersby will believe
you have lost your mind, entirely
you’ll think it’s funny

And, maybe that’s crazy -
or maybe
it’s strategic forcefield
unwanted eye contact
and West Oakland’s frequent muggings.

It’s probably both.

You might still imagine yourself
a rockstar - but
you'll only sing in the shower.
You'll look at your line-less face
in the foggy mirror
swear you'll start using sunscreen
tomorrow -

Your home will be perfectly organized
you’ll still lose your voice
for no reason.
Your bones will ache
even in milder seasons.
In winter, you’ll consider a cat
for company, instead
fall for a warm fur coat.

Your best friends
will have babies.
You'll daydream
of giving them candy
and kisses -
handing them back, all hopped up
to go home
and watch Netflix documentaries
for once,
you'll sleep peacefully.

You'll find yourself
lying, often
prone on a pristine beach
weathering waves of dysphasia.
Your face an unsettled seascape
of honest dimple, confused brow

the tide of contentment
always turning.
Each day,
your mind will waver.

You'll tell yourself
to give up
on writing.
You’ll hear yourself

You'll think back nostalgically
to days of waiting tables,
remembering the hard ache of shinbones
less than the trim waist, or the tips
or the ease

At this age,
still unsure
if your life
is courageous anthem
to living one’s dream
or merely an endless catcall
to unheeding sacrifice

the answer -
more gray hair
and contrast.
Your perspective
will never be
black or white

Welcome to the soft plight
of middle age.

The Craftsman

He was renowned for his facades - his soaring minarets, and demitasse scrolling - his gingerbread trim - so detailed and delicately colored, a delicacy of frosted-wood glory.

His attention to detail was flawless - each feature carefully researched and represented in its full glory - but with an artist’s flair for design - the most well-considered placement of flourishes - the creator’s subtle fingerprint. A Cape Cod’s hand-carved cedar shingles, for example - each smaller than the pinky nail of a tiny child named Violet, for whom it was crafted in honor of her mother’s favorite childhood vacation spot. He had weathered these on his own humble kitchen counter - using a mixture of sea salt and substances he would not reveal, though he insisted they were all as natural as time's progression.

Nothing creates the look of nature like nature herself, he would say - and he was the kind of man you were sure to believe, when he spoke like this - confident and firm, wholly dedicated to this craft. It was his passion - his life’s pursuit.

He won award after award, commission after commission, until he began to turn most away. His time was limited, though he filled the days. He did not raise his prices or form a factory to fulfill these new requests - simply continued to accept the ones he could; those concepts which struck his fancy. Those which pushed him to learn a new aspect of the trade, or hone a particular skill to perfection.

That is what he crafted - perfection. The most exacting, minuscule replica of some doting parent’s dream - a diminutive Edinburgh castle, a minute Edelweiss chalet, a petite pagoda, an infinitesimal ivy-covered brownstone, a Lilliputian island. Still, he merely maintained his own simple standard of living, despite spending his days crafting the microscopic mansions attainable only in other’s dreams.

The Craftsman grew old. His sight failed, his hair faded, and his lean, sturdy frame became stooped with age. He remained alone, always - and though his hands slowed, he continued to carve out a steady existence. He chose away from wealth, and fortune, and fame - and maintained his quiet existence. Eventually, he took on an apprentice, in preparation for the inevitable.

The young man, one day, grew bold, and asked his master why he continued to live such a meager existence. A bachelor, still, in his spare, tiny flat - he spent all of his waning days in the workshop, dawn to dark, crafting one impeccable, bijou masterpiece after the next - these immaculate models of the superb. The Craftsman said, simply, I design perfection, it’s true... but inside of this perfection, these flawless rooms, there is space only for the imagination - the semblance of family. The idea of life. The essence of happiness. The dream of love.

le coeur veut ce que le coeur veut

The heart wants what the heart wants
and tonight, it is coyote howling the moon
all bared teeth and bloodlust
and taking no prisoners -
howling hollow on glass claws
chewing doorframes
to splinters;

The heart wants what the heart wants,
cannot be sated -
growling belly prowling
veins twitching for a fix
that cannot be needled

The heart wants what the heart wants
but cannot find it,
so it crawls the barren night
lonely nose to broken cobblestone,
searching for a wafting scent -
a counterfeit whiff
of nostalgic familiar.

The heart wants what the heart wants -
palms down
and ain’t taking any shit from anyone
tonight - just
pumping bloody reckless
all hard thump and feckless
and just what the fuck
do you think you’re looking at,

The heart wants what the heart wants
has no problem taking it
doesn’t want to

The heart
the heart
the heart