living won’t

[an odd way to celebrate life as i enter my 41st year on this planet, but i am quite excited to be thinking more about living than dying these days. so here’s my happy birthday to me. from the yawning empty out of which i’m just now stepping.]

when i die
it no longer matters
what i wear or where
or how i am arranged
fashion my limp limbs
into a signpost
or pulp me
into napkins
float me down
some tepid oklahoma lake
and laugh louder, louder
as i swell
with my own discarding
or create a sacred soil
from my daughter’s slimes
and my old coffee grounds
make up a new ritual
say it’s for me
just bury me and be done
but as you do whatever
with the body i escape
let your openable eyes
roll back in your heads
loll out your tongues
breathe and sweat heavy
grunt and growl
open every door
of your Self
and let it all come
gurgling forth
you pus and pulse
of existence
become more alive
as tribute to
or mockery of
me
honor or defile
my name
chew it to a wad
in your mouth
spit or swallow
just go
and don’t try
to wake me
i’m done

Diary of the Mid-Level Bureaucrat Who Could Fly

[author’s note: i’m a little surprised at how much i enjoyed writing this one. it was a strangely satisfying experience. i wrote it for a competition-based poetry event i participated in, and about which i was kinda unenthusiastic because competition isn’t my thing. this poem woke me up. AND i won my round with it! i performed a truncated version to keep my time under three minutes, but what follows is the complete piece. excited to share it here. comments always welcome!]

Diary of the Mid-Level Bureaucrat Who Could Fly

September 2nd.
Monday. Listened to an inspirational podcast during commute. Traffic avg. How much coffee ISN’T too much coffee? And how much is actually enough? Discovered an entire Facebook page of Monday memes. Wonder if the creators of the work week curated our emotional responses to days.
September 3rd.
Taco Tuesday, amirite? The assonance of that term kinda sounds like crunching actually makes you want tacos. I’ll text my wife on lunch. Realized while creating the 3rd backup for my report that I don’t look out windows while I’m here. Seeing the sky makes part of me want to laugh or sing or fly away. None of which are appropriate to do in the office. Sounding crazy. Must set Google Assistant reminder to ask my therapist about work-life balance. Whatever that is.
September 4th.
It’s Wednesday, my dudes. Sorry diary, that was cheesy. Speaking of: some big vendor brought nachos for lunch. Talked to us about brand-building and breathing exercises. How many people are actually breathing here? I almost asked during the Q&A. Amlodipine well tolerated. Blood pressure stable. Doctor said I should relax. Whatever that means. Wish I still had my guitar.
September 5th.
My son is sick today. With his grandma now, since neither of us could take off work. Video games and coddling. Lucky him. Lucky grandma. She probably knows what that kid likes these days. Who he is. I don’t think he even remembers me. So at least we have that in common.
September 6th.
TGIF and Pavlovian salivation. Or celebration. Or both. Everyone smiles on Friday and it’s so fake. Boss is jubilantly mini-golfing and micromanaging from his office. That man has called me the wrong name for eight years now. I once introduced myself as that wrong name at the office Christmas party.
September 7th.
Sex and sleep in Saturday. Minus the sex. I guess waking up at 8 counts as sleeping in. But not really since I woke up in a panic, thinking I was late for work. Wish I could play my guitar today. What haven’t I sold of myself to pay bills? Line revision: it’s protein bar and Vistaril Saturday now.
September 8th.
Sunday. I shook hands with a man at church whose smile was frozen to his face. He clutched me with cold fingers and dead eyes. Grinned like a scream would crawl from his mouth. I introduced myself to him by the wrong name. Feared for my life ‘til he released my hand. I think he might be my soulmate.
September 9th.
Monday again. Listened to silence during commute. Inspirational. Can’t tell if this
heavy breathing is mine, or echoes from the man at church. I could feel his smile in my throat all day, chewing me while I chewed my sandwich at lunch. “Chew” is a funny word. Can’t seem to stop laughing.
September 10th.
My son’s birthday is either today or three months from now. When I asked him about it, he just stared at me. I laughed. Everyday is somebody’s birthday, amirite? That’s a song I wish I could write. Currently playing hide and seek with the sky from my cubicle. I don’t think she can find me. If I win, I get to stay here under my desk for a while. If the sky wins, she gets to swallow me whole. Win-win.
September 11th.
This day has historical significance that I forget. Something went crashing on this day. Maybe everything. Hiding under my desk again. The sky was none the wiser, but my boss sent me home early. All the good lies start with M. Marriage. Money. Management. Multitasking. Mother. Wife looked at me so strangely tonight. She claims I kept chanting the word “fly” at the dinner table, but I’m not fooled. I know I have neither voice nor name.
September 12th.
Today Google Assistant reminded me to ask my therapist about work/life balance. Is Google Assistant crazy? Who the hell is Work Life Balance? The sky’s been looking at me all day. Asking me where my guitar is, and why I don’t sing anymore. Decided to sing my reports instead of writing them. Boss didn’t like that. Probably because I have no guitar.
September 13th.
Friday the 13th is perfect. I understand now that the man at church ate me up with his petrified grin, and I am partially digested. What is left of me, I’ll give to the hungry sky today. She deserves it. No more hiding. I’ll fly away before the boss can yell about appropriate office behavior. I make a run for the windows. Sky laughing. Me laughing. Everybody in the office calls to me, but they’re all shouting the wrong name. Funny. TGIF, guys! Eternity should be a nice long weekend.

04/08/18

“swing baby swing…”
arms flung straight
aside
chin craned skyward,
genuflect in raucous air,
oh how we are best-loved
when flying
“as i start to sing…”
or rather spread
our aliveness out
like fingers of breath,
become a chatterchorus
of cacaphonic sound,
“your favorite song”
let’s fill up all open spaces today,
rush into the cracks
of our own sadness
we are honey beings
baby, “let’s go dancing
(aye)…”

two poems published in Q/A Poetry

it’s an honor to have two of my poems published by a sharp, young poetry journal centering work from women, femmes, and nonbinary people. go check out Q/A Poetry. editors quinn rennerfeldt and audrey lawson-sanchez have planted something fresh here that deserves to grow! read the amazing work featured, and submit your own badass poems.

my poem “what to wear” is featured in issue #2.

my poem “firegarden (for frida kahlo) is featured in issue 3.

anguish and famine at their own intervals: stage notes

here comes
famine, the warring
spirit,
knocks over your tea
scoffs at the baklava

not precisely unkind
yellow-belligerent
will dance you from this
room while
you hug her neck, suck
like a baby

famine
if nothing else
will hold you.

anguish the goldenrod
flourishes in a corner
coming          spectacularly          undone
he cannot write your letter
of recommendation
                                                     all things
                                                     so busy belonging
to someone else
too much
                                                     to bear

(anguish pulls his cape tighter)

then here comes you
a lovely-quick stardust pocket
a cinnamon and sandalwood
girl-universe seeping
the tiny confines of body

famine falls before you
anguish splits open to pour laughter
at your feet

the only thing
they cannot do for you
is disappear

god-dirt, a musing

as far as days go, mine are vacillated between feeling like god and feeling like dirt.

i am both.

how do i reconcile these two beings?

full existence as one or the other, wholly everything or completely nothing, exhausts me.

either heaven is under my tongue, or my spinal column is pounded beneath people’s shoes.

descending from high hurts. forming dust particles back into a body hurts.

at optimal human-ness, i imagine people are balancing their sprawling possibility against their yawning insignificance.

a center, found.

harmoniously both god and dirt.

that’s where i need to be.

god-dirt.

keep your eye

[happy mother’s day! i hope you enjoy this poem i created for the may 5th services at all souls unitarian universalist church in tulsa, as part of my artists’ residency. the whole church is exploring the theme of truth for the month.]

keep your eye (interpolates excerpts from the song “anticipate” by ani difranco)

1.
“we don’t say everything that we could
so that we can say later, ‘oh, you misunderstood’”
in the story i heard,
someone else played the role of villain,
though my mother never revealed
their evil deed.
she just said it, like sliding
a note underneath the door.
when my mother doesn’t give
explanations willingly,
don’t even bother asking.
she clearly did not want to talk about it.

2.
fact: noun. a thing that is known or proved to be true.
eventually, we started having an affair.
both she and i, cheating on our respective partners,
all under the same roof, all under their noses.
after six months, we came clean, endured painful breakups,
then reuinited with our partners, and started cheating.
together. again.
i kept telling myself these lies:
that i was changing, becoming better,
but the truth is,
i never had good intentions to begin with.

3.
“i hold my cards up close to my chest,
i say what i have to, and i hold back the rest”
the internet became, during that time, its own magician.
people could prestidigitate themselves
into whatever they wanted.
so, that’s what i did.
slipped on new names, stole beautiful women’s pictures
made the boys of my dreams fall in love
with the girl i’d always wanted to be.
i wasn’t really lying to them,
not even about how much i loved them.
it was my voice, my feelings, my personality,
just poured into a package they actually wanted.
a package that didn’t look like me.

4.
qualifier: noun. a word or phrase used to attribute a quality to another word.
i do this thing
where i add words like “little bit” and “kinda”
to my statements. it’s a coping skill.
to make me smaller. to make me feel more protected.

5.
“you are subtle as a windowpane standing in my view,
but i will wait for it to rain so that i can see you”
my grandmother always said my parents left me with her
because i was sick. i believed for a long time
that they didn’t like me, didn’t want to be with me,
because i was sick.
my grandmother never told me how she convinced
my parents that my bronchitis would heal faster
if i were with her, that her house was warmer
than theirs.
better for me.

6.
omission: noun. someone or something that has been left out or excluded.
it felt like a betrayal to have ever had my uncle near us.
It felt like a betrayal that my mother never
told us what he did to her,
what he could have done to us.
he’s in prison now. for molesting another little girl.
i hate him.

7.
“for every hand extended, another lies in wait”
he told me he loved me. said, “in the unlikely event
that we don’t end up together, i will never
disappear from your life.”
what he didn’t say was that he was already
somebody’s husband, and five children’s father.

8.
“repetition is the secret to developing a powerful belief.”
listen. hear the chanting in the distance.
now, whether those voices encant
truth or lie,
bottomless love or brittle hatred,
they are doing the same work.
they are making themselves
believe

cradle

there is a house
in my imagination
strong enough to cradle all
this light in my belly
close enough, soft enough
to rock me when i stumble
indoors exhausted
from flinging rays out of me
bathing in its glow
as much world
as i can reach
& when i think of
this shack
this palace
this lean-to
firm-standing & wide open
as me
i weep
or either don’t
as often in God’s work
i am too tired
for tears

mornings

(a poem about mothering. in honor of my late grandmother, patsy johnson, who made sure i didn’t walk through this life uncovered after my mother passed away.)

mornings,
sunlight is a cruel authority.
my bones whisper one word:
“buckle.”
then the ocean-tide
of your sleeping breath.
the heartbeat of you.
i defy my skeleton’s
seductive stasis.
i move.
it does not matter that this
isn’t joy.
this is the slick-stout medicine
of what is.

mornings,
knees groan, feet swell,
and the warm architecture
of your forehead
instructs me: move.
this is no whimsical aching
in the blood.
no sweet thing.
this is the unquivering jawline
of a million women,
comprising the hand of God.
this, hard and simple.
because you are here,
i move.

melodies and play

[this is an impromptu poem i wrote during a service on creativity at all souls unitarian universalist church in tulsa, ok. i wrote the piece during that service, interspersing words and images therein, and then read the finished piece as the closing remarks. i hope you enjoy reading it as much as i enjoyed writing it!]

…and here is our standing

invitation

to come and play –

sleep has released us from its embrace

we have rolled lazily, groggily,

inventively into this day

spoons clink in coffee cups,

saxophones trade notes

with piano keys,

babies cry, dogs bark in the distance,

earth-breath of wind tickles the leaves.

we are part of the improvisational

symphony of living-

we paint it:

in ketchup on dinner plates,

in doodles in meeting agendas,

in finger traces across a lover’s cheek.

“the most elemental and in most

aspects of our being…”

connect us like a great

guitar string of consciousness

one to another, one in another,

we share in melodies of deep silence

and raucous laughter.

we dance it:

walking down the street,

stumbling tiredly into the supermarket,

hugging our loved ones.

if only we could see ourselves

in each moment

weaving and whittling new worlds

from the organic matter

of our oneness.

what color is your courage?

how will you choreograph

the dance of your

every single day?

build a fire in the form of memory

and let it guide us to new truths.

this is the day we’ve been given,

and the invitation is infinite.

you are never early or late,

the time is always now.

come.

come and play.