The makeshift ashtray

A better word for purgatory

for all the cooks I fell in love with

it’s 2 am
the soy pots are washed
dried wheat
like polished rice
at what rate
does the heart beat
when

you smile at each other
in your own secret
ways, edged against a ceiling
to ceiling
green ladder
I knew slow

motion in turns
that’s how we know how much
to sell
called out advances
vessels
shattered,

your sunburnt,
blushing cheeks.

for courtney

I imagine us small
holding hands
eye to eye
finger to finger
afternoon sunshine

pours through crevices
erased
passed
reconciled
the tips of our hair touching

the summer I
drew through the rain
on a creaky deck
singing songs
that weren’t mine

I watched an airplane
lights against grey blue sky
we both hate the 4th,
who wouldn’t

if they knew
how to wear
their souls
on their skin

our ancestral
lines laughing at the
front door,
we met

the long meal

I arrange things
on my kitchen table, that’s
also¬†a desk, that’s also
a set down of groceries, that’s
also the space
between love and hatred,

like cousins you hear
loudly enough for empty seats

truly, I found no path
on your map of big goodbyes

hit by opening umbrellas
striped by shade and sun

I said
let me go
let me rest
let me pause

beneath that tree with the broad bottom
you return,
tracing your new skin
meeting lips so full of words

your small touch in a pink room
the red waffling of your shirt,
catching bad jokes just to talk
we talked all night

to remember in sight
to live in horizons
to die in their shadows

creating today

february in oregon

I thought Mary was disgusting

For wanting sex
with her students,
I let the copy machine blind
it out, no matter how
many times she said
I like
your skirt,
but

I think I’m falling
in love
with a student,
my student, not a mistaken
thirty
something you woke up to
muttering no nothings
to behind the rim
of his hat,

Yes,
I notice

you and I
hate it.

But nightdream on my porch,
it’s just where the heart

goes in the changing sky,
I’ve studied the weight
of your gaze
fresh off an idea
and how your anger, I accept
kicking and screaming,

the moments of least intention

Floral couch conversations

Teaching requires

the catch of a worn mitt
second helpings of pie
a niece’s toppling embrace

a stern captain’s eyebrow,
on the changing horizon
a closed door lined with Staples

paper, your shared mate put up
the door is closed,
my sign is folded upright

please can I finish this last bite
wiping cheap honey mustard
from my chapped lips
speaking comes with prices

enough to pay for rotten, greasy apples
you cut to slivers
and convince yourself they are fine,

teaching burns
like a coming star only
those that believe can see
of all
the teacher gives

the contents of a myth’s heart
the do is doing, but not
for a teacher’s heart, that
is tethered
to young souls,
teaching should

revere
those,
to learn, and beg
the drips of unread pages too still
to fill a cup,

teaching drove me home tonight,
all blinking reds, yellows, fluorescent white,
a woosh of dry eyed commuters, we
leave two rooms of cars
open

like a shredded can of comfort,
teaching.

When camping

jellyfish clear as old
hills, cleared of schoolyard
fish, stepping over
years of fallen trees
the islands too tiny to count

a smooth black stone
an afternoon of sunburnt cheeks
with cards in hand
a walk through crates of peaches
an unbearable wind with whiskey
in an old tin bottle
a long talk shared across shaggy dogs
and picnic tables at sunset

waking mornings shared
with mosquito bitten ankles
cold nights of long embraces
the walk

through the starry tunnel of
light green moss,

at night
we left
our shoes,
those tracks
easy to remember,

how we surrendered
hearts to moonlight in sea,
the dearest childhood friend
walking through sandy goodbyes

stitched hearts

and now I’m
thinking
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
surrender

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
reprieve

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

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