And then one day you spoke
and I had nothing to say.
Free, just like that.
Oh how the lightness
starts to weigh.
Here’s something about watching birds:
you become them.
You become the heron slim and silent,
walking on her toes.
You become the crow who just for fun
slides down a pitched roof after snow.
You become the seagull who can’t lift
her wings for the weight of the oil.
You become the robin looking over her shoulder,
hopping lightly, not taking off
until she knows you’re coming closer.
You become the hawk’s focused soar,
the vulture’s misshapen roar, the finch’s stutter,
the kestrel’s hover, the hummingbird’s all of a flutter.
When I cannot speak, you ask me what is wrong.
I am full of birds, I mutter.
I never imagined the job
atom for atom, breakthroughs
and item lists.
I imagined sitting on a
lab floor, tossing a ball
against the wall, catching flashes
of something in the periphery
but trying not to scare it,
humming back at machinery,
averting my eyes and then looking,
hearing you and being heard
until I've lost my footing.
I imagined that the knowing
would be burning.
We'd go right up to the edge
of the cliff and instead
of going over, learning.
Why are you trying to stay here?
At the bottom of my eyes is just
retina, muscle, gore.
Have you never seen the sky before?
What am I tethered to?
The tree will die
if you dig out the roots
but I’ll close my eyes
while you do
what you must.
In a moment of stress
I count the many ways to dream:
one, flying on a dragon’s back;
two, parent having heart attack;
three, dog chasing squirrel;
four, sun swallowing world;
five, duck in a witch hat;
six, her hair falls in curls.
The peaceful transition of power and I
needed a walk. We sat on the edge
of the moon with our legs dangling over,
and we looked at the Earth.
We waited in unrest, her head
on my shoulder, my hand running
up and down her arm for warmth,
waited for sun to set in the west,
for the planet to turn,
for our home to come into view.
It looked blue.
Day 298, if you can believe it
In you grows the fig tree, lush and green
and bold against the sky. The skin
around the fruit is half-hearted; open
it breaks and out spill the stars fully charted,
and there you are pointing, did you see that
falling star? And the leaves rustle as you nudge
everyone and whisper: make a wish.
And everyone does.
What was it about you? It was the moon.
It was how the night was suddenly not
black but purple with light swirling through
like snow, the whole thing glowing all
the yellows and blues Van Gogh ever dreamed of.
It was the sharp intake of air after running
up the tower but just before looking down,
when you feel the space between you
and the ground but have yet to discover it.
It was the confidence of music when you know
which note comes next but are still thrilled to hear it.
It was sitting on the floor with a breakfast pie,
running through a field with a fluttering kite,
being always at the apex of the arc of the swing,
living the aerial view but looking forward
to the wind on the way down.
It was potential energy. Let us take hands
as we run in circles like children in the grass,
me the earth and you the moon, and we pull
each other in as the spinning pushes out
and we balance that way, suspended in space,
gravity’s most natural motion machine,
orbiting instead of falling.
I didn’t need you to look
at someone like me and see
a rattlesnake where your
pillow should be. I didn’t
need to see disgust thrown
down at the feet of one of us,
or to imagine me as something
I’m afraid of, or to slink around
with my belly in the dust.
You cannot take the coal mine
out of the canary.
But with time watch closely
and I will teach you
how to spell sanctuary.
Vote, I dare you
It’s possible to love someone
beyond their demons. The devil
was an angel and all that. It’s
possible to stay inside and still
be free men. Please just put
down the monster-- that’s
not your hat.
Falling in love?
Falling into the well that is love?
Falling free through space until you hit
the bottom of love?
Gasping for air and rubbing your neck
from the weight of the drop?
Climbing the perimeter of the pit
of love, eyeing the top?
And in a place like that,
what is there to do but try
to climb out, see what you’re made of?
And yet I don’t seem to remember
that anyone wished for District Five
not to have exploded the dam
that lit the Capitol’s lights.
I don’t seem to recall people
buying the tale that the police
were keeping any peace.
We were not given the mirror
to look at ourselves and say
"no, that’s not me."
unironically re-experiencing the Hunger Games trilogy in this the year of our lord 2020
There is taking off
and there is jumping.
One for up and one
There is sitting in
a garage and there
is waiting, in its air,
There is falling for love
and falling for gravity.
There is the clatter of
your fallen crown.
A drop in the bucket,
a nail in the wall,
the wind lilts east
and an acorn falls.
A grain in the sand,
a change in the weather,
the wind shifts and
we are not together.
Next door the king who’d ****
a sorcerer on sight,
Merlin is living plain.
He nods at me on the street;
we know what secrets
can do to the sane.
The bigger the tree in the front
yards I pass, the more my eyes
narrow, focused on the hunt.
If I’m quiet and choose my
moment just right, I can catch
the future I want. Don’t look
at me that way, like I’m all
the songs I haven’t sung.
I have only ever been young.
Gnats are just a nuisance,
Mosquitoes are a threat,
Fireflies are a fleeting try
At remember instead of forget.
Space all fills up with futures
that flow between the cracks
of everything like water:
everything is murky thick
with what we could have had,
bay windows and granddaughters.
I swim through the parallel universe
in which you and I hold up
your father’s old desk between us,
tilting it to follow the bend
of the stairs and leaning it to rest
against the wall of our new place,
aching with the weight of it
and with the possibilities for how
we’ll organize ourselves together
in this new space.
An apartment that is empty
but not hollow.
Eating takeout on the floor
and imagining the bookshelves
we’ll build tomorrow.
Day 153 and it's not getting easier
Hit me with that difference
between nodes and cores
and processors, between
being me and being sure.
Tell me again how to
calculate it, I missed the
first time, don’t shout--
remind me the difference
between comets and asteroids
and meteors, and how computers
and space are not the same
because to me it’s all voids--
the Perseids could be anything
as long as I get to watch
something else burn as it falls.
someone tell me that grad school is worth it
The future used to be tomorrow.
Lying on our backs with our eyes
lit by the fire's glow, our hands
to the stars, our plans hurtling
towards us, raining from the sky.
The future used to be tomorrow.
Floating on our backs and if we
didn't have a sunrise, we'd borrow.
Water and wind build the air
up thick and the siren slices it
clean across the middle.
Across the suburbs and towns
people gather their books and
their computers and hunker down
in bathtubs and basements, tucked
into hallways with their feet splayed
amongst their families' shoes,
listening to dark skies and music
and other sounds, working by flashlight
while the fireflies drown.
the midwest and its tornadoes
I am the boat as it fills
with water and drops
like stone, and I am
the crane that pulls
it up to the surface, and I am
the knot that comes undone
and the boat that falls
again in earnest.
In the morning before work
I sit on the floor and pretend
that it’s dirt. I look out the window
and pretend that it’s church.
That gods of the earth and sky
and space all did their research
in collaboration to be sure
that today is worth it.
I need a little something
to remind me I should start.
A little piece to click in place,
then no more broken heart.
The sunlight filtered
through feathers splayed
hits different when
the wing is stayed
The bolt on the door must be thrown,
so out of bed shrug my shaking bones.
We are a pile of tired connections
and joints creaking over the floorboards.
Shadows and wind hit the window and
every stir jostles all these pieces.
We ask the streetlights for help to shine
and the trees for help to stand and even
the stars for help to fall but those things
are outside, and we are in here.
The book was soaking on a bench
in the park.
It was dripping from my hands the
whole way home.
It was drying on the sill when first
It was warm and dry again when
out it roamed.
dare I say that this series is almost over and things are slowly... returning?
Eleven years ago I am a vulture
picking at a rabbit on the side of the road.
I am just doing what I must to stay alive,
and the casual observer passes by
to observe, rapt, disgusted but unable
to look away. Then a wind blows and I
am Victor in the motel hallway, knees
enclosed in my elbows, head tipped back
against the wall and eyes on the ceiling
in dismay. Then the train hits the tracks
and I am cracked and reassembled
in the present day, carrying all these
ways that we’ve been gay. Feeling our
burns of each degree, how we are
A foot slips on moss
from rock into water.
Like the phantom final
step at the top of the stairs,
the ground that’s not there
is my final monster.
I’m collecting keys,
weighed with opportunities
that stretch my pocket
a poem a day, but the opening is ramping up
Between the sun of my eyes
and the canvas of my eyelids
is the silhouette of you
which I must always look upon.
There is only dead.
There is no gone.
a poem a day... still going
As adventurers prefer
hot air balloons to trains,
death is convenient
but I've found something better.
This time, please,
can we take it?
stay at home day 54
Just sit still. Look
out the window and wait
for the wind to change,
and the tornado will teach you
to feel relief when waking up
held by no one.
shelter in place day 16
My bones remind me
to love what can be broken
every time I stand
My heart reminds me
not everything that falls breaks
so I'll shake your hand
here we are, dangling
our feet over the edge
of the meantime,
here we are, sitting
on the edge, dangling
our feet over, letting
the cracked skin of our
fingertips skim the surface
of the meanwhile, waiting
for our reflections to break
all in Illinois
The lightning goddess taps her
finger against the glass of us
And flinches back as it shatters
and if the very sky can break,
surely hardwood floors were a mistake?
It’s not safe to fall.
The tornado will teach
of the relief of waking up
again outside your arms.
shelter in place day 13
Wake up. Stretch neck
left, then right. Swing legs
over edge of bed.
Water the plants. See
how they drink up another day
shelter in place day 15
Other kids think I love
you too much, and adults
tell us children, behave
because we aren't playing right,
arm in arm climbing up slides
or otherwise hiding with hands
where our feet should be.
When I was scared of other kids
and monkey bars
I would have been relieved
to see police tape
surround Fireman's Park.
Now again I look such
surfaces in the eye
and think: if you killed me
I would die
shelter in place day 11
I am not a moth
but I fly to other flames
moths do not feel shame
I am melting.
There is me and us and the air between us.
The falling is the best part.
Will I ever start again?
See me crystalline, and marvel
at all of us different but packed, whispering across space.
The best thing I ever did was grow
into the shape I am.
I slicked the roads.
I slicked the roads
but in the morning I refract the light.
I am for growing, then falling, then rising.
For children not knowing how I came to be.
sometimes a lemming
can't make it across the street
you're my incomplete
But don't you get tired
of being the kite?
whipped around on high,
to be sixteen again, to look
down and see nothing
but still be waiting
for the fall, to lean in
familiar for a human kiss
and step back to see
a glass eye.
If you killed me,
I would die.
I read books and had the practice
wedding in Sunday school, where Benjamin
got to break the glass with his foot
while I watched--I watched films, I knew
what I looked forward to. As sure
as I knew my baby teeth would fall
out. But unprepared for five years old,
when my first loose tooth fell in.
Not me and him but me
and Sandrita, little milagra, on the swings,
she knocked into me and the tooth was
swallowed whole and nothing to show for it.
I had the tooth fairy pegged from day one--
how would she have have known to look
for the empty promise under my pillow?
Now every time you stretch your neck
to glance up at the moon, hair behind
your ear, roll up one sleeve and then
the other, every time I fall again to five,
unblinking eyes, something shatters and I have
to run my tongue over the gap in my gums,
leave a note for my mother so she can see
her girl smile gap-toothed for the fairy
who will never come. You tilt your head
towards me and I must take the promise
of the broken glass beneath Benjamin's foot
and swallow it whole.
All right, you’re pretty. But more specifically,
you are falling snow, crystalline in the street,
muffling motorcycle engines and businessmen,
falling, falling up and all around,
you skip along the shoulder of a forest road
snow falling up but still covering the ground.
Whimsy but efficient.
The sun sets to back down.
You smile and he wraps his tail around
his paws and tilts his head at your feet,
how was he to know?
He flattens his ears and looks down
so that you may rise with all
the glow and murmur of the moon,
a bulb of sun draped with a lampshade of snow,
snow falling up, moon may rise
during sunset, the sun can’t succeed
even half as well as you can try.
Finally I have done what you do. I did it
by sitting down and starting to try.
It turns out anyone can draw a bird.
What other talents belie?
It turns out not just any feathered thing
You start with withered hands clasped,
shoulders hunched, knowing it all,
avoiding the highway in Indiana,
the telephone wire reminds you
of yellow birds (that remind you of her)
and the stars are that time on the soccer
field, july 4th is a flinching
kitten under a couch, and all
these pretty things make you close your eyes,
but imagine living sunset to sunrise. Back
to birds are birds, and this is sky,
fingers relaxed, every day growing down,
focus and simplify.
Why is there so much sugar
in cake? Why do we never notice
mosquitoes on our skin
until it's too late? How do some
butterflies travel farther
than some birds? How
have you not heard me?
How come an eagle always
soars overhead the minute
my camera dies? How come
it's so easy to lie?
How can the lake look so much
like an ocean, but I
always just look like me?
A cloudy sky offers so much
more than a clear one--
more texture, more tough.
There's not much salt in
Lake Michigan, but
there's probably some, right?
That's gotta be true?
I'm sorry I like you.
scientists ask more questions than they answer.
In a land without hills
there are as many bicycles
There is a synagogue
with a steeple.
For every boy on a swing
there swings a man
on a pendulum,
explaining Illinois to you
like he invented it.