The makeshift ashtray

A better word for purgatory

piano lessons

waking from small
steps we watched
our parents
laugh like children,
passing red drinks
and shaking hands
all dressed up
in glitter and Christmas lights

caught between
your bedroom door,
sweaty from afternoon play

through hard wooden
spoons and swinging
dreams, this is where
you died,

during waking moments
too hard for souls in bodies

too soft to understand
to fading eyes,
staring up through
the fisherman’s hook
and her last song
combed through
salted hair and sunning fish

the last cut
the slip of the rope
the feathered weight
down to depths where
we run in summer sun

stitched hearts

and now I’m
of your words
before a smile,
frozen like tiny
fish happy to be free
of the season

thinking of badly cooked
dinners in two kitchens
blasting 90s hip hop,
our silly laughter
and light

down to the last
curve of the road
as we fought best intentions
and drew blood out of love
singing at Valentine’s
and screaming vows
projected slow motion,
through our memories

the first
summer I’ll see.

a rewriting

a writer of nature
she, torn from a mother
in darkness, to find
starlight on hand painted leaves
peace in shapes of white

tossed aside on a long
dinner table
caught with calloused hands
driven through every harvest
she, lost to the sea
embraced its shores and
storms of every articulation
of the bones of the dead

long tired from waiting
welcoming her smile
she, wore butterflies
landing for the night’s slumber
and tamed anger’s tantrum –

she holds the hidden black
corners of don’t tell me
dreams, closeted in curtains
of stained satin,
the scent of cedar its only

like fresh cut flowers

for the elk’s heart

on our first ride
I drove, your hands
over my eyes
inches from a missing
rearview mirror
long kisses prolonged
between traffic lights
easy banter buying
cheap cigarettes
and first glances

you carried me to bed
when I turned 31
far away
from home,
floating in the sea

drunk on early autumn wind
and endless rows of moss laden trees,
your latest project
thick in the air
we’d stare

for years,
so love,
to grow without fear.

a brother’s loss

when we miss calls
to birds with twine
in their beaks
hopping hypnotically

sometimes I feel
like a secret superhero
bound by titanium chains
by crumbling earth

a mother’s explanation
of her made up
name, for the sake
of all animals trapped

adrift like orange rafts
lit by a setting sun
a vista of speckled clouds
punctuated like chords

the drying paint hums
a melancholy whistle
just ready for toddler’s hands
and weary women

a triumphant first day

nobody’s burden

a daughter’s burden
to be the last
and everyone’s enemy
sweaty from chasing
nightmares up the dying tree
cooled off by dad’s shades
and swings to
stand up on

gone inside a precious box
full of family history
nobody’s worth
but our deepest

backs sore
that say child,
beware of day,
keep your own
draw your finest
walk softly

past the fearful gate
ankles dirty with the heat
of the end

the bridge

at sunset
two things happen

at endings more than
despite promising smiles

the tree is always
just a tree
for canned photos
and suspicious eyes
on fresh lawn

barefoot ankle deep
in growing grass
easy embrace,
like a folding deck of cards

drawn on a fisherman’s hook
in lace filigree
as it spills over the edge
a recounting of tea leaves
moss on porcelain

reflected in newly waxed floors
before the elevator
and after we forgave.

Two forks

The discipline
you put yourself
through at least that
you got from your parents,
metal gun finish
in a stroke
of glances
torn aside

Newspaper ads about our
latest fantasy
smoke filled office lamps
overhead cupped heads
and one too many
drinks against a mirrored wall
splinters of pleasure
a captivating mosaic
the show of the show

Where no’s and yes’s
are relative
and honor no family
truces fail
like a child’s first step
on a bow
slipping on coattails too long

Two trees
between city brick
at sun after work.

moving day

in new houses we
watch the blooms drop
lighting the stairs
with fallen pink lights
you laid me down
begging for one more
late for work
your foot caught in the door

I hushed in your ear
there’s always tonight

you surprised me
with precious tales
told with hesitation
between syncopated kisses

running through chance
encounters in past lives
watching for the bird’s return
as life stirs

on a boat always afloat.

dry eyes

treating wounds in the field
the full moon to your right,
I pictured you young,
full of hope and no sense
of regret
like still waters
too deep

but how new, how passing
a summer of love
true and gone
by winter’s abode
whispered from
a death bed,
the last smile

a lamb’s shroud,
falling into leaves

we’ve never
laughed like that again


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