20 minutes

Let’s split up.
She says it without malice or force,
and the words fall like
an act of kindness.

Warmth drains from his cheeks
into the wind; the red rock surrounding them
absorbs the dying light. His heart
a painful fist.

Then she
is handing him
the keys to the Honda
and saying 20 minutes,
and tilting her head in question

Air finds his lungs,
expand, contract
oxygen, CO2
in, out
rhythmic footfalls like a pulse
rinse the panic from his veins
nodding away the fear
20 minutes

Midst of the Gale

It drains us, the cruelty
Prejudice seeping up from
Under stacks of paper
Compassion folded tight
Into a wallet, & squashed

Exhausted tears cannot
Sustain life; we lean heavily
Against each other’s shoulders
Palms in an island tempest
Grown weary
Grown suspicious

A plague gnaws the very land
Our trunks anchor to
Without it,
Where can we go?

Snowy Morning/For Emily

The snow falling this morning reminds me of you
Tree limbs so crisp and the world is new

I sit at my window, watching the street
To reminisce and envision the next time we meet

My heart knows I likely won’t see you again
So my imagination must fill that void in

Are you building a snowman, or tunneling deep
To a whole different world where wild wolves sleep?

Are you sipping hot cocoa and playing a game
Of witches and fairies and dragons to tame?

Are you running through snowdrifts, wild and free
Knowing all of the good things you’ll be?

I sit at my window, not crying, not really
Recalling the serious times and the silly

Thinking back to our jokes, our games, and our smiles
The frustration and anger every once in a while

When you love someone, see, each memory sticks
So you carry them always in your bag of tricks

And when I start to miss you, I’ll think of those days
We acted like sloths creeping down the hallways

The students and teachers all looked so confused
When we said, “We’re just slothing around, how ‘bout you?”

I wish you goodbye as snow creates a fresh place
And hope wherever you are, you’re smiling and safe

What’s that smell?

Poverty doesn’t just look like
an empty kitchen, smell like dust and stale air.
This kind of poor smells alarming,
like something is very sick
It looks more shameful

And the children know it. They say,
“Miss, what’s that smell?” and look
towards one of their classmates
And I have to say, “Don’t you worry,
we’re taking care of it, now
get back to your writing.”

And in their eyes, I see
no gratitude, just a quiet grief

Resolved

Why did you leave me that night
terrified, all alone in that big house
sloppy and stumbling and then throwing up
and not remembering and chewing pills
and taking long gulps of gin and vodka, why
did you leave, how could you?

And when she asked, “Resolved?”
I said yes.
And she marked it down on the chart then
said, as an afterthought
“I guess those things are never really resolved though.”

Salt

I salt our toast,
spread avocado thick and ripe.
I worry the drive to the coast will strain
this friendship
so we stop in the fog
to catch salt in our lashes.

The coast of my bed drops off
into thick fog. I lash our friendship
to the bow, ride through the night.
We strain to spy land
or taste something other than salt.

Fog seeps through the curtains,
invades the coast, thickens in our lungs.
A friendship under strain; I lash out.
You are salt in my wounds.

This friendship is thick with salt.
I strain to leave the coast, but
the fog has lashed me down.

The Gamble of DNA

Thumbing through an album of my childhood,
I am caught by the urge to cradle a child
in my arms, wild-haired and scarlet-cheeked.

I want not my former self, but an output of my DNA;
a genetic product of the traits I wish to express:
the subdued artistic sensibility,
neat gleaming rows of teeth,
a curious athletic vigor, intelligence.

I list the qualities I would do away with:
dark unending moods, panicking on plane rides,
the tendency towards alcoholism,
nocturnal jaw-grinding, and skin cancer.

Did too my parents ponder which features I might
inherit or escape, as embryo me swelled and matured?
No, for I was a surprise, a niggling itch,
and then a heart-stopping realization.

Each bleached photo of my youth reminds me
a child is a lottery ticket, a gamble
revealed over the years
as their silvery surface is slowly scratched away.