I Write So I Don’t Have to Look People in the Eye

She tells me she took a full bottle, my best friend.

I imagine all that medicine in her little body,

hunting for what so desperately

needed curing.

She tells me she left a note.

She says that feeling when she came out of it -

opening her eyes to the plaster

of her bedroom ceiling, disappointment -

she never wants to feel that way again.


And Saturday night, he tells me -

from across the coffee between us,

as if miles away,

he says, “I tried to kill myself this summer.”

And I can’t say the word “suicide” while

looking someone in the eye.


My words are empty palms holding out nothing

but I offer them anyway.


Experimenting with the style of one of my friends. His is a dark one.

I want you to take me by the tongue
Pinch it between your nails
Until I think up something worth saying
With my spit running down your hand
Like runoff toward the water supply
I’ll try to spell out in my iris
let me know if you’re seeing words in this darkness
let me know if your pupils are dilating

Tell me about the time we laid down the pistol
And put our hands to better use
When we didn’t accept gunshots as music
When we decided the laws didn’t apply to us
And gravity shut off for the first time e v e r
When we smacked our heads on the ceiling
And the ensuing concussions
Thank God for them everyday

You know I’ve forgotten how to sing
Through the teeth of a maniac
So stuff the notes down my throat
Entire fist down my windpipe
Until I gag up a tune
People will clap to

This is not the reason we write
So stop with the bullshit
Grab a pen and bleed it
Until it tells you what you need to hear
Grab a person and bleed them
Until they tell you what you need to hear
Make your desperate lunge for reassurance
All we want is to be told we’re right
With our hand around a throat
Hold you hostage until you
Repeat after me

I will spew my love and spew my hatred
Salivate until my body shrivels
To nothing more than a pair of lips
Endlessly parting to mouth
The same words over and over
Until there’s no one left to
Tell me to shut up
We get it

When the World Comes Knocking

Deliver me from party chatter.

Deliver me from distant relatives

and good intentions.

Take me in your arms

and play your accordion lungs

just enough to drown out

the sound of them strolling

up and down the hallway,

calling my name,

telling me my cake’s ready,

telling me to come out

and eat it.

I’m Related to the Wright Brothers

And I feel it sometimes, the mad urge

to launch into the sky with

all of humanity in my arms.

What was in their heart, I wonder -

in that moment when

wood and canvas came together

and man’s wings were born?

Somewhere my skin tingles

with recognition, knows what it’s like

to be closer to the sun

than anyone before.

Passed down in my lineage

is the thirst for air, a love of birds.

I watch doves with a notepad on my lap

and draw up blueprints.

I want to invent flight in my backyard.

The best I can do these days is

tear a poem into bits and watch

the wind carry away the pieces.

They fly repulsed from me.

I’ve never even been on an airplane.

The Truth About Bittersweetness

You say the word “bittersweet” and I can only think of how

it seems like a bird plucked of its feathers sitting there on your mouth

squawking for a flight that won’t come.

You are coffee tasted for the first time,

and my ten-year-old caffeine-curious lips were not prepared for

how dark and grossly plain of a liquid you would be.

You say the word “bittersweet” and it makes me want to pull out a dictionary

and inform you that, no, bittersweet cannot be an eye color,

Merriam-Webster calls it “pleasure alloyed with pain” so

it can’t be the way you look at me when you say

we are cartons of milk left in room temperature

but how you still let me convince you

people don’t have expiration dates.

You say the word “bittersweet” and I want to wipe my thumb

across your mouth like windshield wipers, smearing away

the sun-baked, splattered insects and flecks of dirt,

I want to delve into your vocabulary with surgical scissors

and rip away the part of you that believes in bittersweetness

because this world is not a gumball that loses

its taste the longer you chew on it -

you have just forgotten how to enjoy the heart of it,

the body, the shell that cracks under your teeth.

You say the word “bittersweet” and I want to snatch

it off your tongue and say you can have this back

when you learn to use it correctly

because don’t you dare call this bittersweet

don’t you go calling grapes raisins

just because they gave their skin to the sun

don’t you go calling me a hopeless romantic

just because I blew my kisses to the sky.

Your teeth let slip the word “bittersweet” but

your hands say something else -

you put them over mine and I feel

nothing but warm honey.

Welcome to the Table

A cannibal hides under my skin

and eats a part of me every hour -

pulling a chair up to my delights

and salting my sorrows.

Today it reached for my heart

and found a chicken leg


I am not the feast you were expecting.

Welcome to the table.


My muse now hides

in crowded elevators

because she thinks

the  world is

too small for her.

I tell her claustrophobia

is not romantic.

I step in with her

and the whole building

shakes beneath

our feet and

she hyperventilates

instead of rambling


Honestly, I can’t even

tell the difference


A Biography

A burst of light, and the world’s gone dead.

Only a dial tone and an exhale

as your lungs pack their bags and hit the road.

Your heart has had enough of the same old drumbeat.

Your brain throws down the microphone

and pushes you off the soapbox.

A body finally turns against its inhabitant

and coughs you out like phlegm

and you land on a railing somewhere

to infect the next person

who clutches at you for support.

The Empty House

“There’s no point now. No point.”
The lamp turns to face the clock, stunned as always by its declarations, but the window watches on from its home between the walls and the world without commenting. The clock goes on ticking.
“No, really,” it whines. “Really, it’s all over now. It’s already over. No point. No point.”
“Shut up!” The plants groan, their stalks bending, irritated by the reminder of their inevitable mortality, which would reveal itself much sooner than the others’. The clock falls quiet, but the words no point stay as the walls toss them around and take them in.
“Will they come back?” The window asks without turning around, its clear, lidless eyes peering out into the night. It never moves from its station, serving always as the boundary line between the In Here and the Out There. “They’ve turned Lamp out. We need Lamp. We always need Lamp. Are they coming back?”
“The family will come back,” the decorative rug sighs. “Back to walk over me.”
The ground’s muffled voice comes slipping out from underneath it to join in the conversation. “You know nothing of being walked over. That’s all I’m here for. At least you’re pretty.”
“Quiet,” the blank TV growls, stripped of its power and meaning. “Everybody quiet.”
“It hurts,” the lamp complained, straining against the darkness. “Oh, it hurts. Candles, help. Help me.”
“We can’t,” the three candles chime from the kitchen. “Fire’s dead.”
“Nearly always dead. We’re just corpses.”
The paintings shudder, repulsed by the idea of sharing a house with the departed. The lamp suggests holding a funeral.
“We never give Garbage a funeral. It dies every week.”
“That’s because Garbage is garbage.”
“You’re quick to deal out judgment; you don’t even exist.”
“Light exists!” Lamp shrieks. “It’s been scientifically proven!”
“Everyone, listen!” The books cry out. “Something important, something important to say!” Their voices get lost in the chaos. Nobody ever listens to Books except when the family is in bed and there is nothing at all to talk about except Darkness.
No point. Shut up! Listen! Quiet! No, really! It HURTS, it HURTS. No point. Not now. Not ever!
All eyes – real, drawn-on, and imagined – turn to face the window. It repeats in its slow, measured tone: “They are coming.”
The plants shudder and straighten their stalks, giving their leaves a final shake before freezing again into reality. The portraits reassume the dead, far-off looks in their eyes and the chirps of the books fade again into distant whispers. Rug stretches itself out, sighs.
The lock clicks, and Door steps aside to reveal Family.
Everyone slips out of their coats and shoes and stumbles in from the cold, rubbing their arms and mumbling in primitive sounds no one quite understands. The ground lets out an oomph as it’s tread over once, twice, three times and then over again, with each footfall of each human.
Lamp’s flicked on. It breathes a sigh of relief as light goes shooting off into each corner of the room. Remote’s clicked and TV comes roaring to life. “Shop smart,” reminds the woman in the screen.
The father, the mother, and the child all sit together on the couch and stare at TV for an hour. It enjoys the family’s patient and dedicated attention (and never forgets to rub this in Mirror’s face).
The clock announces pointlessness until the family gets up and goes to bed.
After everyone’s upstairs, Books make a profound statement that is then instantly forgotten.
Instead, the objects listen to Silence talk, always impressed by what it has to say.

The Life We Got

I’m sorry this isn’t the one

we end up together in.

I felt that reality slip through my fingers

like kite string -

the wind might have caught it

had we run just a little bit faster.

Now the sky’s left without us

and we’re racing in separate directions

to catch it.


Folding. Smoothing out the edges.

Ideas aren’t so easily collapsible.

People don’t have perfect symmetry.

The world doesn’t cave in

when you tug at the right corner.

Someone teach me to be content

with a pigeon at the park.

Someone take this tissue paper away

before I make one more

paper bird.