poetry

Hoops

My earlobes aren’t pierced, but

Sometimes I dream of

Giving someone a hollering while wearing

HUGE golden hoop earrings.

They shake angrily in rhythm with my jaw

And glint, shouting duets with my glare by

bouncing back shards of the day’s fierce sunlight.

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Gentle Request for Intimacy

I want to bask in the warm glow

That radiates off you without you even noticing, as,

Lips pressed shut,

You scrub a brittle green pad across the frying pan,

Then, setting it down, raise a glass of water

up to your mouth with your spidery, bony fingers.

I want to walk past as you brush your teeth,

your gaze averted from the mirror,

the bristly sounds audible from the hall.

It would be both an honor and a pleasure

To sit perched on the opposite end of the couch as you

Flip a book open and begin to read

silently, eyes alight.

It Keeps Spilling Everywhere

I don’t know where to put all my

Affection I can’t contain, it routinely

 

Overflows and spills out the tops of my pockets,

Rolls in smooth droplets and

Springs off my tongue before I can close my lips,

Pulls my eyes wide open and fills them with light,

 

Brings a warmth to my chest and hands and lungs that

Makes each breath feel more singular,

More deliberate,

Infused with extra oxygen, extra nourishing,

Can’t help but be gasped and held.

In Any Spare Second

Written on the back of a napkin with pen pulled from a purse,

Dents and punctures in the pressed plush of the paper,

 

Sketched on the back of the notepad by the cash register,

Pen drops from fingers as a customer comes,

 

Tapped as a rhythm on the taut leg of the jeans

Once the keys have found the pocket, as the feet cross the street,

 

Hummed at the stoplight,

Drawn on the back of the hand,

Drawn on the back of the newspaper,

Drawn in a margin,

Drawn on the notebook’s muted brown flipside,

Drawn in the seventh hour

Out of eight in the shift when the feet are sore and the task feels meaningless and every task feels meaningless and exhaustion is two warm dry foreign fingers lowering your eyelids against your will.

 

Outlined on the back of a receipt.

Scarred by a jagged scribble when the bus rolls over a bump.

 

Folded, and slipped into a pocket.

Preserved.

Extracted.

Unfolded, smooth, pen-lines like a blueprint.

Audible, visible—

The click of a pen. Its tip glints in the light.

Coffee

I started drinking coffee because

I wasn’t depressed,

Every day was just incredibly exhausting

And every task just felt insurmountable

 

But with my heart caffeinated and pittering as fast as a hummingbird’s

I was a wind-up toy able to lift my arms and legs and

Smile weakly at the right times and say half the right things

 

Until,

As the last caffeine would leave my bloodstream at the end of the day,

I’d retreat to my mattress,

Turn on both hot, salty taps,

And cry.

 

Now I take a pill, 8 am, half white half green.

It facilitates serotonin’s chemical reactions in my brain.

When I started treatment, a couple people noticed

That I looked more rested, energized. Caffeinated.

 

But I still drink coffee, black, 3 cups daily.

Black coffee tastes like woodchips.

I CRAVE woodchips.

At least I’m addicted to something

That’s warm and comforting held in my cold hands

Something I can fidget with at work

An ingestible, smooth security blanket

That makes me look alive and awake.

Bye I Love You

When I said those words I did not mean them

As an incantation to incite reciprocality,

Nor as a binding contract

Nor, necessarily, for obligatory reply.

 

As you pulled your hands out of my hands

And I pulled my sleeves over my knuckles

to protect them from the cold whistling wind

I wondered if you knew

I didn’t mean I thought we were cut from the same cloth,

Cortexes, parallels, halves of a whole.

 

I just meant that I could feel my blood pressure drop

And my breathing steady when you’d sit down beside me as I typed,

That I appreciated the time you held me when I was sick

And the way your apologies were not stick-on bandages

But warm steam rising from cups of loose-leaf tea.

 

I meant that I like sitting in silence with you as much as I like listening

As much as I value being listened to.

 

I guess I could have said,

“You are a warmth and a peace and a light.”

 

But I didn’t.

I said “I love you” and you walked away silent.

Super America, 7:23 P.M.

All I want to be is generous but not stupid.

 

Is it insane to leap and leap

and hope to always land upright

because I mean well, want to mean good

I feel the threads in the five-dollar bill

As I hand it over to you

trusting

you need it more than I

trusting

the look in your warm, tired brown eyes

 

I hop back in my car, turn the key in the ignition

The engine clears its throat

 

In my rearview mirror

(a gift)

through my glasses

(a gift)

I see the tattered brim of your Coca-Cola baseball cap

as you lean up to the window of the rusty Buick

lean up to check on the sleeping silhouette in the passenger seat

 

I pull the stick, bring the car into drive

warm hum steady

And behind me you hold up the waist of your too-big pants

while you push open the door of the Super America,

Cig ads swinging,

Sleigh bells beneath the “Open” sign jangling.

 

When I say “Godspeed,” I’m really wishing you

Not velocity but a higher love and protection, stranger.

Whiteshoes

She’d be lying if she told you that she started from the bottom

Clean white sneaker soles speak louder than her ratty sweatshirt

Student ID shining in her wallet, paper weighing on her mind

Louie said it best:

We live cush lives and stress to make them perfect.

 

Here I present you with a girl

Whose challenge is to lie beneath the borealis

Beneath a roof, no roof

Here on a patch of grass

And clear her mind of all except the mixed colors of the view at hand.

 

We’re not sure if this is her coming-of-age story.

She’s long had her driver’s license but bikes to work.

She pays rent. Tiny place. New and clean.

She comes home from work and lies on the carpet with her eyes shut.

She thinks this might make her immature. She thinks it matters.

 

Tonight, she sits up from the carpet and looks at her bike.

She slips the key into her pocket, leaves her wallet on the counter.

Takes her bike in the apartment elevator.

The ride to the river is just downhill.

Feet dangling off the pedals, she rides down. Alone.

Takes smooth, slow pedal strokes to mid-bridge.

Sits down on the ledge. Alone.

 

She aches with the realization that the best she can do from her vantage point

Is to become a listener.