I'm just happy to be here.


No one is awake
except the orchestral
male crickets, flexing
their wings, sound springing,
surrounding me, my mother’s home,
and for all I know,
the earth.
Over, and over,
a learned clockwork
of wings lingering
under the pinched-purple
suburban sky
where I too used to linger,
in the earliest days of
my heartbreak, before
I became used to it,
where I would walk, and walk, and walk,
the empty spaces inside me then
would consume whatever
I put inside, and now,
again, the empty spaces
inside me are still
filling up with song,
the cup of my heart
spilling over, all my wrongs,

working to be held,

with such precision,
it must be a performance
of some sort,
a love song in
the pre-dawn
a creature of both dawn
Am I any different?
A cricket’s temptation is a man’s determination.
But oh, how I wish I could stop listening to
the music I have pretended to
make when I thought a woman
was listening,
when I thought
rubbing my hands
against each other,
would teach me the words
of songs I never wanted to sing.

8/30: Fourth Grade on a Friday

It’s Fourth grade on a Friday.
Walking to my class, I stop
at the sight before me:
two birds chase each other
like a soft rhyme, their wings
seizing the same air running
through my thick black as new moon hair,
the same April air that kissed my face
when I finally decided to misplace
the sour flowers planted in the
deep soil of my unnamed hurt.
Walking to my class, I stop
at the sight before me:
Two boys chase a squirrel
The squirrel chases the world
Both move with no thought,
no belief in exhaustion,
no need to falter.
What you want will always run
Against what you have.

Can this moment last?

The other day, a black butterfly
cuts across the backdrop of green
in my backyard, the pink flowers,
the white crane, the bluest jay,
the wild worthwhile smile of the sun
is the sum of all I’ve lost and gained.

It’s Fourth Grade on a Friday.
I tell Jack in class,
If you turn anywhere in the dictionary,
you can find a new word with old meaning,
you story is unfinished,
your story is yours,
life is alive in the light of a word.
He calls out to me, shows me
the word he chose out of the rows
of definitions, the possibility of
knowing something new,
redoing the unknown,
until known,
I know nothing
other than nothing is more
important than the moment
where, he says,
Look, look what I found.


Depending on the flick of flint
in your cheeks, you could either
what’s up or what’s wrong?

I. What’s up?

Mirrors on the ceiling,

shiny thieves of my body
my mother grabbing my hand,
what do you want?

II. What’s wrong?

That unanswerable question,
is always the worst,
as well as,
dry skin, peeling,
more layers
more lairs of dark
hair and skin
to climb through

my mother’s perfume
leaving the room
before I do,

the sore spots
of my baby brother,
the knots in his perfect
shoulders, the problem is
our freckles betray us
Too easy to pick apart

II. What’s up?

a microphone
amplified reminder: no,
you’re not alone.
my friends, walking in,
beside me,
the path I’ve cleared
leads them back
inside me,
I’m counting the
faces I’ve misplaced
when I disappear

beneath, beneath, beneath

my peeled onion
steel heart—it takes time
to discover the whole,
begin with a part,
it’s really quite easy.
How far will you
go just to start?
Ready? Set? Show.
Your lips are a finish line
run your mouth,
win the race,
win a trophy,
take a pen, rewrite
across your lips,
then kiss me
like gold and first place.

III. What’s wrong?

Oh, I would be remiss
if I didn’t tell you about
the bells I miss,
Their brave kiss, loud lips,
All of it, a treat,
and none of it, a trick,
the songs I fail to catch
do not miss me back
do not care if I am late,
their sound still
rings, sings, strings
me the way a pearl
curls off the tongue
off an oyster, or
the way
oranges and grapefruits
my neighbor grew
were pulled off the
limbs of her trees,
taken delicately into her palm,
pretty little sun with its wrinkled skin,

the gift is so simple
I could not comprehend
the significance.

after she gave them to me.

I peeled one after
the other, all day,
my hands
smelled like a citrus kiss,
curious, but
I did not preserve these
homegrown things
Instead, I left them outside
for weeks, mistook their
sugar for strength,
a swarm of gnats
the last inch of orange
their hunger,
more than familiar,
but acceptable, real.
their hunger
holds me accountable
for the rot I’ve got
brewing up my sleeve.

IV. What’s up?

The sunroof of my
mouth, the floor
of my tongue,
Words stacked like ladders
each step a letter
whose shape I imitate
with the secret messages
my hands translate.

When I lift my head with
no hesitation, with
no ancient echo of ache,
just the image of a
wrinkled notebook paper folded
in half, held in Anna belle’s hand,
the same small hand
passing me a poem
she wrote at home
I read four words:

Love is a path—

then look in her eyes
the color of hope,
holding its breath,
she says,
It just came to me


If you change one letter,
lonely becomes lovely.
When I say cast a spell,
I want you to misspell
the ugliest word
you have called yourself.
Misremember its parts,
take power by the syllable
Grab a letter by its throat.
Every word ever spoken
stays invisible unless written.
Name the shadows in the dark.
Pick your tongue up like an ax.
No, your tongue is an ax.
No, your tongue is a tongue.
Sling the word you have reshaped.
If you change one letter,
wanting becomes waiting.
If you add one letter,
heart becomes hearth.
If you add one letter,
star becomes start.

The beginning is always like this,
metamorphosis through addition,

Listen, each word nothing more
than invention, invocation, invitation.

Again, again, again, my tongue spins
a sentence, a spool of creation,

Silkworm imitation.

Yes, your tongue is silk with blood
Alive with the words you’ve drug
through the mud of love, erasure
is a patient process.

A word, like any earthly body,
must erode, if only to grow again,

Must end in flames, if only to begin.