songs about death, pt. 21

the wishing has gone to the bottom of the well
but the words come now like an ocean swell

at the edge of the world is a girl perplexed
she does not know if she should stay or flex

the wheat that is not wheat grows with the weeds
when you are dead you can no longer plant any seeds

change your name, change your face
soon you’ll be going to a different place

a place where the moon is always dark
but you hold in your cupped hand a spark

sometimes it can be more than just a trope,
this thing called hope.


the reflection of the moon in water

i thought i saw a light where the land meets the sea
a signal that you were coming back to me
i’m staring down the ocean like i could make it recede
and go back to where it was birthed from a trembling seed
all rivers leading to one place: my heart, of course
and drowning is just a return to the source
and even the moon has to let go sometimes
when the water rushes in at the shoreline
to comfort me where i am buried up to my neck
waiting for you to come back from the wreck.


a slosh of rain stirs the gutters; you’d rather a slosh of gin,
some clear liquor made for searing throat and gutting brain cell
but then you remember that you don’t drink, it doesn’t mix well
with the lithium, and i hear your voice through the phone, a tin-

can voice banged out with a heavy metal rod on which a heart
is skewered. you can bandage the wound but it will still fall
to sepsis, it will turn into a putrid black hole and still
we will drown ourselves with vodka and make this a heavy art

where we have clumsy hands and a crooked needle stolen
from a rusted-out compass that never stops spinning
and i suture you back together while the pain is blinding
only to realize it is myself i have sewn up with love so swollen.

fairytales for adults

knick knack patty wack give a dog a benadryl
this old man’s got a tab of acid and an electric drill
one, two, buckle my shoe, three, four shut the door
on my fingers again and again till i can’t feel no more
hands that once held your sweet shape like the moon
that no cow jumped over, just a razorblade at midafternoon
it cuts and it cuts like the sharp edge of a story told
that delights young children and horrifies the old
because we know what people are really capable of
and that the train is coming and all it takes is a single shove
to end the dream and wake up with someone sucking your face
and it’s not a prince, it’s just empty fucking space
maybe one day we’ll shake off the drug of the happy ending
close the book for good and get back to living
and all the tears will crawl back into our eyes
and there will be no more lies, no more lies.

the body, rejected

she sleeps with the moon beneath her pillow but
it never comes out, the daylight comes and guts
what is left of her till she is just a soft frame
of skin, hollowed out and empty, and just the same
as a rotten peach. sliding beneath the door
she inches her way across pavement, the sun a sore
in the sky, and the neighbors will all
wonder if that lump of flesh took her pills
or turned off the heater or emptied the dishwasher
but no one will think of what it takes to fill her
nor will they care. she becomes an amoeba,
single-celled pain, the quiet penumbra
of her heart lost maybe beneath the sea
or shit on by birds as they nest in the trees
and forsaken as she is by her own bones
she will abandon her body’s colorless tones
and ascend through the atmosphere
with no thoughts of yesterday, so far from here.

why i don’t write to advice columns anymore

dear abbi:

this october night finds me lucid and sober, and by sober
i mean i haven’t taken the benzos yet. i could write you
a pharmaceutical history but it just begins to repeat over
and over, the way the pills sometimes repeat in my throat,
along with so many other hard foreign objects. sometimes
when i stand in the shower i open my mouth and try to inhale,
as if through drowning, i could relearn how to breath again.
what do you do in the shower?

–stands in the shower so long my heart starts to pucker


dear stands in the shower so long your heart starts to pucker:

i am glad for your sobriety, and yes, the days pass in such a blur!
i’m not sure what a ‘benzos’ is but i’m sure you’re a nice girl too
and did you ever think that maybe you ought to transfer
all that negativity? when you cry you should wear a raincoat!
here is a pamphlet where you can teach yourself and others
the heimlich manuever. thank you so much for sending me mail!
i always make sure to wash behind my ears and could send
you a sample of soap that smells of lavender!



i am the smudged phone number on the back of your hand
i am the phone that rings and never leaves a voicemail
i am the one who never requests but always demands
i am building a cross on the hillcrest, and i am the nail
through your palm. there used to exist a requisite
goodnight kiss, they were always goodbye kisses,
when it was the hello that was always the culprit
that incited the riot of hands and mouths that missed
the mark when it came to saying what we really meant
and fingertip to fingertip, we tried to send signals
to each other’s brains that never really got sent
quite the way we wanted, always garbled, and it pulls
at my heart like the static electricity of thunder,
or maybe just hands trying to pull me under.

songs of paralysis, part 108

you prick me into silence. my mouth that opened to you
and let you inside, split my whisper of a frame into two
halves– it no longer works, it is wordless and frozen shut
but still hurts like a bloody, bloody cut.

you sting me into stillness. my hands lay dead at my side,
hands that felt the bird-beat of your pulse that hides
beneath your skin, your vulture’s wings and browned talon
that tear into my heart, collect my insides by the gallon.

you lacerate me into numbness. my body is now without
any feeling, empty as a promise, and there is no doubt
that you have turned me into nothing more than a plaster cast
of who i was, just a discarded thing of your past.

the ark (for irene, august 2011)

for irene, august 2011

she told me to build an ark, and since she was the size
of a continent who was i to argue. there was a prize
inside if you could reproduce, because after all,
it was the reason for pairs. i made a phone call
and we were off. i gathered pine and oak and beech,
and though i knew nothing about ship building as such
i was confident i could build a vessel worthy
of weathering the hurricane’s flood with surety.
the rain began to come down and the parade moved forth
in went the giraffes and elephants all ready to give birth
followed by the two cockatiels with clipped wings
and the duo of raccoons with their eyes all ringed
in went the wolves, the frogs, and the domestic
animals, the cats and the dogs and ferrets, the pick
of the litters, and we were just about to close
the door when in some others came poking their nose
in came the alcoholics with their huge packs of beer
followed by the depressed pair practically in tears
in came the drug addicts with their needles and pipes
and the hookers with herpes and vaginal wipes
in came the catholics demanding seats at the front
and so the homophobics moved over with a grunt
but not before making sure of the gender of the former
when it finally was settled and everyone seemed to concur
i closed the portal and we settled in for a long night.
with all this cargo i knew everything would be alright
and everything would be back to normal at first light.


boil your heart down to the stone. line them up between
the hedges. for you i called down the moon. the foam-
ringed shoulders of the sea did more than shiver.
the silver lining of your mouth glinted in the light,
shed its lips and what was shadow went unseen
i wandered your coast filled with white shells and loam
where i buried my journal and ink in a watery blur
there were too many prophecies hinging on what might
happen, how just the flick of your wrist could clean
the shore of debris and i couldn’t go beachcomb
for moonlight anymore, drunk on frankincense and myrrh
looking for something hidden like a pearl so bright
and how many times must i be held and submerged beneath
and how many hearts must i pluck from between your teeth


dark comes like a pinhole opening from underneath
into a gaping abyss lined with red clover and heath
i have grown to love the feeling of being beneath
i like the way your spine feels between my teeth

we do not fly, we do not float
where we end up will be some place remote
this poem was for you, that’s why i wrote
so take my hand but don’t forget your coat

it’s not a rabbit hole, it’s a wormhole
the truth is written on an already-burned scroll
and though i am fallen, at least i am still whole
and i’m never giving back the heart i stole

it’s the best kind of falling
inscribed stellar messages scrawling
through endless space we are sprawling
so tell me you love me and stop fucking stalling

we meet together below a digital sea
a universe is handed from you to me
you breed thoughts that spiral into infinity
what will come of this, we shall see.

songs about death, part 96

draw me into the conspiracy of your arms and i will tell
you everything, how closely i listened to that shell
for the sound of your voice calmly telling me everything
would be okay, back when my only belief was nothing
that ever set foot upon the soft muscle of the heart
planting a flag, one giant leap that made my body start
to know what it felt like to be encapsulated in the fur
of your mind that wrapped itself around me, that would stir
within me something heavy and scarred, something old
that had been lying dormant waiting to be told
that we must take a break from suffering, at least for
a while, that in fact there is something more
to be discovered, to be fought for, that the universe
is held within a drop of dew and that while i may converse
about death, at the end, everything goes in reverse
and you’ll see me waving with a smile from my hearse.

twenty-seven: a birthday poem

pull me up
out of this twist of blackness
i feel myself lit within
with the dark spark of madness

my flesh hangs on my bones
as i near the day of my birth
when i was coughed out
of an unknown woman’s girth

the summer burns red
a time for dying
if i said i loved august
i’d be lying

it feels something akin to
drowning in dry air
i write my epitaph
on a strand of my hair

i ask only this
in a voice so low:
forget you knew me
and let me go.

[somewhere between recognition…]

for shawn.

somewhere between recognition and acceptance
i sought to realign myself without further repentance
the universe had become accustomed to my grievances
but i have not grown used to life’s severances
even the stars, after a while, become repetitive
but lying next to you is my heart’s calming sedative
and when you call me yours gravity ceases to exist
and though the stars die their light continues to persist
i see them above the ocean inside your eyes
as we go to sleep together beneath these spinning skies.