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 listen to the dying voices outside my door
(they whisper like wind chimes on a breezeless day)
I listen to the dying music beneath my floor
(it climaxes and falters and sputters and dissipates)

I practice dying so that one day, when I meet God,
He will be impressed with the elegance in which
I came to rest, like the tune of a music box
growing slower and fainter as the lever winds back.

I attended too many funerals as a child.
Once I looked my dead grandmother in the face
and wondered how she could be
so utterly drained of movement.
Guilty, I looked down at my golden ripe hands
and wondered how I could be so full of it.

(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 my 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!

Bearing Witness

I wish to look at the world
the way my cat does:
often for hours as a time.

I wish my eyes could
sit in my skin like that –
glossy marbles floating
in the black universe of his fur –
forever bearing witness,
forever documenting
the happenings of my backyard.

It astounds me —
how he can stare into the heart of a window,
refusing to turn aside

even as a bird is torn to shreds
on our front lawn,
chirping for mercy
at the talons of a hawk,

how he can watch with cool detachment
while I, with my human heart,

look away.

Eggshell Heart

Day after day you pick at your heart like an eggshell
or the way a vulture might pick at roadkill,
peeling back the membrane, the layers, the skin.
Feel this, you instruct it,
pinching its fleshy softness between your nails.
Feel that, you say,
pointing to the bird lying dead on your lawn.
You press your thumb into its sides
until it bruises purple –
watching the color bloom
violent under your fingers.
You tell it to ache.
You tell it to throb.
You tell it to do
its goddamn job.

Mouse and Snake

Once in ninth grade
my class huddled together
as the science teacher lowered a mouse by its tail
into the snake terrarium.

My peers whooped and hollered,
their faces bright with horrific glee
as I, social recluse, finally saw it:

the ring of humanity,
and how I existed on its fringes.

Neither the feeder nor the fed,
but the observer
of the violent order of things,
wringing her hands and watching in mute horror
as life swallows itself.

To Live the Way the Fishes Do

Always the sense that I didn’t appreciate it enough –
This poem, that my eyes skim over
In the early hours of the morning
Like skates across the surface of a frozen pond.

Always the sense that I could’ve dug my heel in –
Cracked it and observed the fish at the bottom
Circling in their own cadences,
Darting in their own directions.

I read it aloud to taste it.
Perhaps if the words sweep over my vocal chords
Like water over a set of gills
I can begin to understand and
Live the way the fishes do –

Here at the bottom of the pond,
Here at the bottom of the poem,
Alive in the bowels of this lifeless thing.

Different Breed of Poetry

My friend Logan writes the kind of poetry
that eats itself –
that gouges its eyes out
and fingers the bloody caverns.

His is a poetry that’s fascinated
with the empty spaces in its body –
poetry with a mouthful of cavities,
that spits out a tooth
with each sentence it speaks.

I want to write the kind of poetry
that roars in the face of such obscenity –

instead of whimpering
and lowering its head
in disgrace.