When Asked About My Creative Process

This is what works:
Lure your poems out of the shadows
With breadcrumbs, cooing softly
At them like some lost baby bird.

Don’t circle them wielding a knife.
Don’t try death threats
And blackmailing.
Refusing to be held hostage,
Gnawing through bars
And raking themselves over barbed wire,
Poems would rather be bloodied and broken
Than trapped down in your cellar.

Don’t try scaring them.
Don’t wave flashlights in their faces
And try to blind them
Into running into your arms –
They’ll grow new eyes
And always colder ones.

Don’t try death and resurrection.
Poems lay limp when you shove
Stakes through their hearts,
Never alive long enough to utter
Insightful dying words.

This is what I’ve learned:
Collect the wood when you find it.
Stand where the sun shines fiercest.
And if – if you can rub stones just the right way,
Build fires.

Then wait to see if any come out of the dark
To huddle around you for warmth.

Rape Poem

She holds her life out
Like a candle
As each man in line
Stoops down and tries
To snuff it out with his breath.

Happy birthday to no one.
Stop forcing your wishes on us.

You come along like Daylight Savings Time
And strip her of her sun.
Unwanted, unasked for.

Go flick your own light switch
If you so desperately seek darkness.

Brief Encounter with Life

I know life.
How it goes limp,
Half-hearted, stumbling alongside me
Until I’m dragging it by the arm
Like a drunk friend I promised I’d get home safe tonight.
I rattle off each reason
Why it’s a sinking ship
And I don’t mind being on board.
Sometimes it leans on my shoulder
And smacks its lips
Until the sound rings in my ears
Like loose static
Shaken from the nearest television set.
Sometimes it chases me up trees
And keeps me there until the wolves go home.
You should know my eyelids are drooping
With the weight it takes to write this.
Sleep wants to carry me from these words
Like a stranger at the market trying to grab my hand
And lead me away from mommy.
You should know life has
Still got me by the shirt collar.
Tripping over itself, half hallucination,
It raises its face to mine
And with breath reeking of alcohol
Says, “Take me as I am.”
And I do.
I take it by the hand
And lead it to the bathtub,
Wash the smudged mascara from its eyes
And the dried vomit from its hair.
I lead it to the bed
And pull the covers over its waist
Like we will forget this tomorrow
But we will not.
Because I can see it clearly now.
The parts of its skin starting to sag in,
Where its teeth have gone yellow,
How its cheeks have deflated
Like popped balloons
And I’m holding the needle.
I look life in the eyes,
Those slow somber orbs
Spinning on some axis I can’t see,
And I tell it the only thing I can:

I tell it I will see it
In the morning.

The Feeling

This is me taking a feeling and running with it.
This is me tripping down every stair on my way to the bottom,
This is the feeling tumbling out of my arms
With a catlike shriek, this is the bang before the universe.
This is me, unable to write words as naked as Vonnegut’s
Who promised everything was beautiful and nothing hurt
And this is me not believing, this is me waiting for death
because I have the perfect epitaph:
“She tried to say everything but her mouth wouldn’t open wide enough.”
You can’t take me out to see the stars tonight,
Not when my breath flares up like light pollution
And I have to trace the constellations from memory.
This is me when the sky’s gone dead.
This is me, poverty-stricken, this is me with a poem in my fist
After weeks of dumpster-diving.
This is me the scavenger.
This is me taking a feeling and running with it,
This is me tripping over my own feet
And crying over my broken legs

This is the feeling growing its own
And walking on without me.

The Betrayal

You think everyone is as good as you are,

that’s the problem.

You stand with your arms outstretched,

waiting to catch whatever angel falls from the sky,

so sweet you’re stupid,

and your gasp of suprise

as they hammer in the first nail

fills the whole world.

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 that 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.

Untitled

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

I.
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
whatIcantarticulate
let me know if you’re seeing words in this darkness
let me know if your pupils are dilating

II.
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

III.
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

IV.
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

V.
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 warmth and 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

half-devoured.

I am not the feast you were expecting.

Welcome to the table.

Claustrophobia

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

poetry.

Honestly, I can’t even

tell the difference

anymore.