The makeshift ashtray

A better word for purgatory

valentine’s at the black sheep

at a pawn shop
I sold our wedding ring
from 19th century Europe
on a forgotten alley
tripping over crumbling cobblestone
and the pearls
my mother
wrapped in pink cellophane
on my 16th birthday
wear these
she said glowing
like I did
on my wedding day,
it was so hot I
sweat clear through lace
but you lived,
here on a fall morning

cool like a lion’s spring
matched only by your
pet names, like money
falling from the sky
a stone both blue and white
like dirty restaurant napkins
hanging from a blood red crate

only because our mouths craved
eternal harvest
and ugly sweater parties
with half cooked goulash
made whole from winter trails

recovered with footprints of the young
on your first bracelet made of string
and animal coils
I told my mother
how love came into being
and how I regretted covering
my ears, too afraid to fly

but she loved
in her dinner stained apron
talking architecture to big men,

I’d imagine
you still wear yours
proud like the night,
I sat
on the fire hydrant
outside our house
too green for harvest

I’ve traveled the continent
calling your name,
seeing your face
in every constellation
made on raised graves,

their flowers heaven’s morning

a love letter

you’d park your bike
at the suburban wawa,
chain smoking away your young dreams
chugging green juice,
on whispered conversations
about reuniting
on the pacific northwest
the latest
of many

because we love too hard
and have fickle memories
or perhaps the river is the same,
perhaps we could hold time,
perhaps we never argued over dishes
holding particles of our selves

I still smile
remembering the time
I kicked you in the head
and how we laughed
in the dark welcoming both
day and night,
and the humor of its clashes

your light blinded me
with your too dark hair,
a constant reminder of your loyalty
to the earth
and in its valleys
streams of clear amber and obsidian
finding home

how your earrings smelled like cigarettes
that first morning
because you thought
so highly of the ashtray
I found them
moments after you left
and knew

I’d remember
to buy you irises
the last day of your work
and grinning and bearing
your uncommon
facility with words

through silence on the train
to visit your sick father
and first introductions
the stories I read to you
during sleep’s time
placing cool cloth
on your wounds

every new moon.

coming home

with arrows in her hair, holding
her only wish
for safety from the tide,
after counting boats at sunset
eating lobster on crab crates
amber snowflakes floating
in your green eyes,
the day growing purple

she wept
a river of skates
scratched like grandmother’s hands
her hair a black net
sagging with sea water
and the many hands
of mother’s earth
like the undead
longing of the moon

her shoulders pressed
through grooves of cement
that tall
as an infant tree
nurtured by your beating heart

nestled in her father’s embrace


we woke up early
pancakes baked the night before
and eaten in the backseat
slightly soggy from used plastic,
for the first train ride to town

I wept in my father’s arms
dripping hair
black gossamer on his bare legs
and we spoke in memories
and dreams of the absence of time

his tears
finally shed on his mother’s grave
a day of hot lace
and brothers across enemy lines

the day he watched
our family van pull away
waving bottles of water
as we clutched the lines

in her favorite getaway
town where vines reigned
with the promise of a perennial
the first of her suburban backyard

not her aunt’s Paris
but a worthy quest nonetheless
but the children protest
at her breast, her heart

released in the dew
you asleep in my lap

the greeting

with setting blue sunlight,
alight on curious shoulders
and last night’s beer
on elbows,
slipping on mahogany chairs
was a dream awake
with autumn color

while looking at windows
through the party smoke
and hearing the notes
to an old tune,

at our favorite tree.

about love

to sleep for a week,

the lights of fading trees
and pink winter skies
a dot on a plane’s descent
on the way home,
with ice beneath
and falling birds above
brilliant enough

to match the sprawling vines
of your oldest mother’s
grave, long enough for the white
spring flowers on mounds of ending

made familiar by the embrace
of friends long forgotten,
by rivers of first melted winter

twin suits in a dressing room

beneath a dying tree
orange blossoms land
like a crown of last wishes,
sucking the juice
out of curled sardine cans
your face a plea
of jewels sold
in the morning’s market
from the ancient woman
with papered hands
and the temple’s blessings,

set in her eyes
an infinite album of light
breaking over winter waves,

jumping over last night’s
discarded bottles
poking with sticks
sea creatures on land,
moving heaven’s sighs
for a gambler’s chance
to the top

at the camp of leaning tents
red from the sun’s break
where heaven and hell danced
at long last
locked in a lover’s gaze
over pink sky,
and closed coffee shops

from awnings in rain
and blurry ink a river
in a glacier’s ascent


last year we promised,
with hands cupped over eyes
to never cheat
that last slice of pie
or the saltiest crab
at the bottom of the pot,
through sneaky stares between
a blind winter

and determined a trail
made for sun burnt thighs
and winking photos
of an egg given out of care,
only a sibling would understand

a favorite riff on a worn record
at rest finally
among growing plants

that year we promised,
to be outside ourselves only
to know the glance of a first bloom
to find treasure’s embrace
inside, under our warmest blankets.

for lovers

in a crook on the mountain
my infant father,
with silent sorrow
ever the good son,
the woman king
lit an undying flame,
in old stories and new
we knew

that season’s crop
would weather every
frozen pipe blowing steam
like a popsicle
that sticks to your tongue,
deep winter, you say

I love you
like this unending snow,
a trouble I care
to know

a heart in every heart
of deep beating earth
and spirits we see but deny
we proclaim loudly
in a hall of mirrors

from knee to head
covered in new fur
and first sun,

theirs in reach
of the steps of sanctuary.


you smiled at the memory of my arm
around your belly
celebrating a birthday we both
didn’t care about,
a breath lost
there you said,
it happened

on a night serious with cold
and twin moons
speakers full of holes
from darts
I remember feeling faith in falling,
tripped up on halos
of distant ravines,
with clenched fists but open hearts

for cubs that survive the midnight waters
at a window,
tonight I am the mountain
the morning after snow
your face a reflection off brick,
giving a lover’s kiss


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