If your head has grown heavy and unbearable,
away to the woods to regain your smallness.

You have no more use for economic theory and manmade history,
trust me. Count the rings in the trunk of an oak tree
to learn all you need to know.

Teach yourself to shed this worldly skin, to crack this corporal shell.
These walls are bones that cannot hold you –
splinter away like wood
like an acorn bursting forth
you must go, you must go.

Like a candle flame on a wick
lean and burn in the direction of the wind’s choosing.


Where is your armor, love?
You can’t drift onto the field
with nothing but the skin on your back.

It’s cold, and there are men
whose hands are colder still.
I can feel you trembling from miles away,
from years away.

Don’t you know you’re in a war zone.
Don’t you know what they do to children here.

I Am Just as Human as You Are

Too many times you looked at me like my fingers were grasping the switch
that would rock your electric chair.

No, I will not hold a life in my hands.
I am not your executioner or your liberator,
I am not your Christ.

Stop thinking of me as a raven in a graveyard,
my beak stabbing the ground, waking the dead.
Stop imagining me with the sky and earth in each palm,
bringing them together with a clap —

ground-shaker, thunder-maker, heaven-swallower.

I will not hold the world in my throat or on my back.
I will cough it out, I will thrust it off.
The only thing worse than being treated like an animal
is being treated like a god.

Too many times you gave me your heart to weigh against a feather.
Too many times you looked at me like I was Fate with her cruel scissors.

Slowly, deliberately, one by one

I lift away my fingers.

Litany of a Sunflower

“The sunflower is mine, in a way.” – Vincent van Gogh

As God loves his followers,
so the sun loves her flowers.
You’ve never seen disciples like these –
they raise and bow their heads to her,
they sway like women in church,
they never turn their backs.

The closest I ever came to a religious experience
I was hovering like a hesitant bumblebee
in the French countryside, the day
I tried to pick one from the edge of its field

I wrestled with its stalk for minutes
before my uncle eased my hands away
and snapped it for me.

Because my fingers were gentle and incapable,
I carried my stolen gift to a grave
in Auvers-sur-Oise where I laid it six feet
above a painter’s bones

and I swear he was breathing at my neck,
nothing heavy, nothing threatening,
just grateful –

gentle and incapable
of grabbing me by the wrist
and pulling me up by the roots.

I know you, I thought.
I know that hesitancy.

The realization came like water from the dirt,
it came to me earthy, it came to me holy,
pure as an epiphany at the altar.

This is the closest to God
I’ll ever be.

Tour de France

You step off the plane, and it’s like you’ve time-traveled. Your body finds itself six hours ahead of its time. Your eyes see sunshine where they expect darkness. Your ears find noise where they expect silence. Your internal clock is now stalled and completely out of sync with your surroundings. And yet – the sounds! The people! The language! Everything is colorful and lively and new and you’re afraid to blink and miss a single second of it. Your hands shake — with excitement or exhaustion, you can’t tell.

On the train ride down to France, you see its neighbor Germany through a window – your first real view of Europe. It is somehow everything you expected and nothing like you imagined. It’s a cluster of villages nestled into the sides of a rolling hill. A countryside that sprawls out far as the eye can see. The grass, the rivers, even the air – all have a foreign quality to them.

After two hours acquainting yourself with Europe behind glass, you leave the train and take your first step on the ground of this alien continent. You feel like Neil Armstrong, going boldly where no man has gone before. The people around you speak in a tongue that, to your ears, is complete gibberish. Your head swirls with English thoughts that you cannot express to anyone, and, for the first time in your life, you feel voiceless. Unable to talk, you listen.

French is music. French is ballet. French is a silk ribbon of sound floating through the air into your ear and you understand nothing about it except that it is beautiful.

Fast-forward to your visit to quaint French villages, where you feel as if you’ve been plucked from reality and set down in the pages of a storybook. Think fairytales. Think Beauty and the Beast. Think flower-boxes and horse-drawn carriages and outdoor cafes where poets, artists, and intellectuals recline and discuss the great theories of the universe over coffee and bread.

france 4

Bread. It permeates everything. You smell it in the air, on your clothes. You carry it home with you and smell it on your skin at night. Your first French pastry is a pain au chocolat and when you bite into it, you bite into the sun. Fresh out of the oven, it fills with you with warmth that runs like liquid gold along your taste buds and into your bloodstream, stimulating every drowsy atom of your body to life. Bread at home will never taste like proper bread again.

You spend a night in Alsace, walking its streets long after the sun has fallen and the shops have closed and the tourists have cleared. And suddenly, in a moment of pure clarity, you realize you have stumbled upon the secret heart of France. It isn’t in Paris, as so many believe. It’s here. It’s in this little village – this tiny, overlooked dot on the map. You know because you ate its cheese and you drank its wine and you opened your mouth to its every taste. Now you stroll under its streetlights; you kneel to pet its stray cats. You touch the stones of its cathedral and think of everyone who has ever bent to pray here. You want to smile and you want to cry but mostly you want to lie down on this cobble street and be swallowed up into it and become a part of this magical town forever.

france 3

But you leave. You leave and you visit Paris, which is gorgeous and vibrant and wonderful in its own special way. You climb the three hundred steps of Montmartre and view the city from its highest vantage point. You wander through the artist’s quarter and see an endless line of painters at their canvases and wonder if the next Monet is among them. You sit on sidewalks eating ice cream and listening to the tunes of street musicians, tapping your foot because music is a language spoken by everyone. You walk through the doors of a dozen cathedrals and raise your face to a thousand stained-glass windows and think to yourself, If I were God, I would always have an eye on Paris. It is dazzling and it is loud and it is impossible to look away.

france 2france 6france 5

It is also exhausting. You visit the quiet hometown of your favorite artist to get away from its hustle and bustle. You pick a sunflower and write a letter and leave both on his grave, where you weep six feet above his bones. You close your eyes and can almost imagine him standing over you, his hand on your shoulder, his kiss on the top of your head. It is a day he would have loved: blue skies above golden wheat fields. You wonder if he would love you as well, love your offerings – read your letter and touch your sunflower, every petal.


You visit his exhibit in the Muse d’Orsay and it is something out of a Doctor Who episode. You stand for thirty minutes staring at a single painting. Hundreds of people elbow you, snap their picture, then turn quickly to the next one. You take the time to look, to see. You study every brushstroke, every bit of texture, every fleck of color. Tears slide silently down your cheeks. To know that you are standing face-to-face with the canvas his hand ran across – that you are inches away, that your fingers could easily stretch out and graze the places his fingers grazed. To know that is to reach through time and touch him.


You visit medieval castles and hear history whispering in the walls around you. You visit Notre-Dame and understand why it inspired so many stories. You sit on the lawn before the Eiffel Tower and consider how profoundly lucky you are to experience all of this.

eiffel tower

notre dame

And then, just as France begins to feel familiar, just as the land beneath your feet has stopped seeming so strange and you’ve even begun to speak a little of its language, you’re on the plane back home. You watch Europe tuck itself beneath a blanket of clouds and you wonder if you’ll ever see it again.

But you do. Even in America, you see it. You see it in pictures and poems and the pages of novels. You read descriptions of towns you’ve visited and your heart swells with joy. You hear a French word or phrase out of an English-speaking mouth and your ears perk up to listen. Bonjour. Voila. Bon appetite. You see it in the eyes of others who also been to Paris, who seem to understand everything you can’t articulate about it. Who can only nod their heads and smile and say “I know” as you struggle to find the words.

You know that six hours ahead of you, France is just as beautiful and busy as you left it. You lay your head down on your pillow at night and think about all the people in Alsace just waking up, sipping their morning tea and watering their flowers.

And you fall asleep, leaving the world in their capable hands.

Setting it Gently Down

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.” – C. Joybell C.

The last time I left
the door slammed shut behind me,
slicing the back of my heel.
I wanted to sink to my knees
there on the stone walkway
but instead I stumbled forward,
a red trail of myself left there
on the soil leading up to your porch.

There is only one way to talk to the moon,
only one way to hold a fossil –
that is, tenderly.

So this is the last bit of time
I will spend on you, tonguing
your name and hacking it out with my pen.
I will stop trying to unearth you.
I will stop listening for you
in the full-throated scream
of the cicada beneath my window.

I will stop watching the clock and
envying its seconds.
I will accept that there will be
no seconds for us.

With shovel in hand I will go searching
for relics from someone else’s past.
I will hold them up to the light
and they will mean nothing to me,
I will break them if I want to.

It will feel good to speak to rock
without expecting a response.
It will feel good to handle history
with a steady hand and emerge
from the dirt unscathed.

The Eye of a Little God

For Sylvia

I am Plath’s terrible fish, darting between
the four points of her bathroom mirror.
I exist only when she is looking at me.
She plunges her hands into my silver pool
hypnotized with the glitter in my scales
and I slip between her fingers, wet
and slick as a sheet of glass.

This is our waltz, our
sacred morning ritual.

If you ask me what it means to be caged,
I’ll tell you the dimensions of the tank
in a poet’s gaze, how there is barely room to move,
barely room to flex your fins.
Pupils are no depths for swimming in,
but I can’t be blamed for trying.

I only exist when she is looking at me –
but she thinks she is looking into her own heart.
I haven’t the heart to tell her
that a mirror is no place for a fish,
no place for a piece of your soul.
I want to tell her to reel herself in
because I know too much to ever
bite onto her hook.

I know about pills and I know about ovens,
I know about mermaids and bell jars.
There will not be enough oxygen to go around,
not for your lungs, not for my gills,
we will part our lips and gasp for the same thing.

We will suffocate – she in her jar,
me on my back, flopping,
slapping the mirror with my body.
I will die alongside my creator.

I will shudder and still, she will curl
into herself like a crushed spider,
I on my side of the glass,
she on hers.

October the First

Well if it isn’t you, October,
waiting for me by the door.
You flash your jack o’lantern grin
as I grab my coat,
candelight flickering between your teeth,
saying let’s go for a walk,
you and me.

The day is soft, the air is new,
nature is sinking to its knees
in a Shakespearean death scene,
let’s take a moment

or a month,
while the world withers and dies,
to get to know each other again.

A Fruit Apologizes for Its Ripeness

I am a pomegranate, sliced in half,
each seed exposed and ready to be plucked.
When your fingers come prying at the rind
I pray to god my insides don’t go leaking out.

Sorry for spilling my guts on the table.
Sorry for giving up so much of myself.
You just wanted a quick look at my anatomy
before I molded, it’s fine, I understand.

I don’t know how to hold anything in.
Barriers make no sense to me –
I seep through like condensation,
like rain on a window
dying to get in where it’s warm.

I am organic matter; what I lack in metal and structure
I make up for with blood and bones –
too human to mimic a skeleton,
too fluid to imitate something still.

And maybe I’ve been exposed to you for too long –
exposed like fruit to oxygen,
exposed like mummified skin.

If that’s the case, I’m sorry for rotting,
and I’m sorry for bringing the flies in.

Learning to Die

My political science professor says
to study philosophy is to learn to die.

Like the good pupil I am,
I experiment with stillness.
I slow my breathing until it stops completely,
my pulse growing softer and fainter,
a clock with a stalled tick.
I am Captain Hook’s crocodile,
a swallower of time.
It tastes metallic, I bite down,
then it tastes like blood in the mouth.

(Is this right?
Am I doing this right?)

Like an engine, I experiment with stopping and starting.
I move my fingers, one at a time, I twitch,
kicking in the coffin,
kicking in the womb.

I practice dying so that when the time comes,
the movement will come natural as ballet
and I’ll go into the grass with grace and finesse.

I will not struggle,
will raise no fanfare, blare no trumpets.
I will come to rest like the tune of a music box
growing slower and fainter as the lever winds back.

(I am learning not to go out with a bang,
I am learning how to pass gently by)

I watch smoke unfurl from the end of my friend’s cigarette,
hoping it will teach me something about softness
and the art of floating away.

There is so little time, they say.
Don’t waste a moment.

I chew on this piece of time, thoughtfully,
until my jaw locks,
and it has lost all taste.

I am settling into the shell of myself.

There is time, still, for this.

Panic Attack

Gravity assaults me, grips my arms and holds me down,
insists I won’t ever stand again.
I surrender my body to the dirt,
my face down in the grass,
each blade tall as a building.
I feel the tickle of an ant on my cheek
and cannot lift a finger to swipe it away.
It stays.
It is a part of me now.

Looking down at myself
I can’t tell where skin ends and earth begins,
it is like trying to tell sand from water
when the surf is in tumult.
Every inch of me tingles,
hazy as bad reception,
I am a mess of nerve and fiber.
Breathing steady is like remaining calm
on a crashing plane when the pilots are dead and
no one else on board knows how to steer –
better in theory.

I have to tell my family I love them
before this thing goes down, but
my voice has abandoned ship,
my words scattered like startled fish.
I mouth them at the sky
in case anyone’s listening.

A Reading Recommendation

To they who scale apple trees and shake the branches until fruit falls,

I say: read the collected poems of Robert Frost.

If you take your tea in the morning hours, this is for you.

If you have ever wondered why birds sing in the day

and cicadas scream at night, take this.

Take it if you love December sun and August rain,

if you delight in the misplaced and the nonsensical.

If a firefly has ever caught you.

If you have ever watched an egg fall from a nest

and lunged to save it.

If you forget names but remember faces,

if you forget words but remember feelings,

if you forget the shape of the body but remember

the touch of its flesh — I have just the thing.

To they who live for the crunch

of leaf underfoot and apple under teeth,

I say: read the collected poems of Robert Frost.

Everything I Wanted to Say to Him August 11th at the Local McDonald’s

I was ten minutes late to the best night of my life —
the night I sat across a booth from a boy in plaid
who, in a moment of pure poetic clarity,
told me God is a place.

((But more about that later))

Across the table, I studied you like a student
confronted with a new philosophy.
I wanted to take you apart and see how you worked,
hold your gears in my hands and watch them turn,
is there a beating heart at the base of this machine?
Hey, I see you –
past the anarchist, past the guitarist, past the angry wayward poet,
I peel off the skin and get to the core of your apple,
the cream, the vanilla, everything that is sweet and milky about you.

But hey, can you take me to God?
Do you have His address?
Can you drop me off on the doorstep
and ring the bell?

You see, the Christians – they’ve got it all wrong, you say.
I’ve stumbled across God in grocery stores
more often than in churches,
I’ve seen His face more clearly in tree bark than in stained glass windows.
God is a park bench every homeless man stops to rest his broken beaten body
God is a car with a stalled engine, abandoned on the side of the freeway
God is a dumpster on the corner of Despair and Anguish Avenue
where humanity throws away its hurt and its suffering –
to understand God, you have to crawl in and sit amongst the garbage –
I have been inside the mind of God,
have you ever been INSIDE God?

Your eyes are electric with the question
they pick me up and turn me over like an hourglass
and I watch in amazement as my sand starts flowing
who knew time was so alive
who knew it could be resurrected
who knew flipping everything upside down
could get you running properly again?

You’re too busy dismantling my world
to see how hopelessly, stupidly in love with you I am –

because you’re ME turned inside out,
and I want to understand you the way
a skeleton craves understanding of its body –
how do you hold it all IN?
You are an inversion,
an upside-down, inside-out,
tangled knot in a ball of yarn
and I want to see everything
from your perspective.

Where do you end?
How deep do you go?
You are a well I could drop a stone into
and never hear it hit bottom.

God is a noun –
person, place, or thing –
you remind me that God is a concept
we’ve never stopped trying
to slap a label on.

Oh, and thank you for pulling me outside
after we had already said goodbye
and pointing upwards and saying
and it was a curtain half-eaten by moths
and Van Gogh’s Starry Night blue –

God, did you know how beautiful you were?
Your eyes glistening like a child seeing a firefly for the first time
your hand callous and sweaty over mine
because you couldn’t leave, you couldn’t drive away
without showing me the sky first.

Did you mean it when you said God is a place?
God is a place, you said,
God is a place –
well, I’ve been on the hunt –
find me in your local graveyard,
tripping over tombstones –
searching for a living voice
in the lost land of the dead –

In France I drove through a field of sunflowers,
their heads all raised in the same direction
as if looking to heaven for answers –
so when you think of sunflowers,
I hope you think of us

and that night we stood shoulder-to-shoulder
beholding that blessing of a night sky

I don’t think God’s a person,
I think He’s somewhere you are –
and there we were standing
in God’s beating heart

You told me God is a place –
I think God is a McDonald’s parking lot
and tonight I’m coming home to Him.

I must apologize for my extended absence. I’m starting my first year of college, and it has left little time for poetry.

Musician in More Ways than One

Sometimes I forget I am a musician –
the way an ant probably forgets
it is an ant.

It comes as postscript,
once I’ve already introduced myself and the words
“I’m a writer” have been repeated
to the thousandth person to ask.

I wonder why I consider it
a P.S. at the end of my autobiography –
this ability to hold a violin
and somehow convince it to speak –

and then I remember how it feels
to hold a pen over paper,
so much like holding a bow over strings,
and I realize there is more than one way
to make music.

Love Letter to Janet Fitch’s White Oleander

On the inside back cover
of my library-borrowed copy
is a list of everyone who has ever
checked out this book and loved it enough
to claim temporary ownership.

The names lined up neat and orderly
as items on a grocery list –
people brought together by happenstance,
sliding their names one after the other
like beads on some invisible string.

I cast my eyes over the crowd
that has gathered here,
listen to their whisperings:
“God, what a story.”
“So beautiful I cried.”
“I thought I was the only one.”

It is a family I would like to be a part of
so I add my signature to the stack,
scrawling it out like I’m painting on a cave wall –

in the hopes that I may be preserved here,
that someday a girl like me
will run her fingers across the ancient ink,
these sloping As and Ls,
and know that someone
once cradled this book before her —
passing it into her hands
like a baby to its mother,
as if to say

This is yours to love your whole life.


I pick poems from my mind
like berries from a bush,
reaching to where they grow thickest –
those far-up places they can stretch out
and whisper to the sun.

Some days the bush is bare,
leaving me to scavenge
the spoiled and rotten fruit
at its base.
Some days the berries are
bursting with juice and
I’m just too tired
to lift my arms and
harvest them.

And some days,
on a day like today –
when the sun smiles
and the breeze lingers –
I emerge triumphant
from my garden,
a basketful of them
swinging by my hips.

Greetings! If you are reading this, I am currently in France, where I will be exploring and picking poems for the next four weeks . My blog will remain active, as I have four more pieces scheduled to publish themselves, but I will not be here in person until late July. See you then!