an untitled place

nowhere.
nightly fog &
a forever chill.
pink sky sunsets.
indigent clouds
orbit like smoke-curls.
a closet of cozy sweaters.
coffee by the mugful
held tight to my breast
tremorless.
incense deepburn.
oil-dressed candles.
ancestors from that
next room come
sit a while.
nowhere.
liminal suspended
between solar system
and sessipinae.
quiet inchoate.
a one-tricky cranny
of books and trip-hop,
poured libation.
nothing but living
on the to-do list.
sticky notes be
poem fodder,
fire kindling,
never for remembering.
here, the past
comes to call.
brings danish.
no consequences
of blood.
no wearing
anything,
not even
your body
on days when
commando
ain’t naked
enough –

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

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)…”

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

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.

sound I make

they like the sound I make
when I break.
ripe tendons
tend to tune
the snap
of limbs
deliciously

this is what
I remember about lovemaking
with men:
a kind of wheezing
in the chest that rolls
over mine
throats burn
when they smell my blood

once pulled,
there is a split second
in which they look
almost human
nuzzling my hollows
soft ’til saliva
saves their mouths
from need of me

eyes click open.
they are animal again
remembering
how to leave the carcass
once it is cleaned

why 19 poems?

my favorite number is 19. that’s a random factoid, not an answer. all right.

i have a problem with dwelling on things.

one of my professors told me during my mfa days that it’s sometimes necessary to “write through” whatever your mind keeps obsessing about. can’t stop thinking about your mother? write mother poems. just write tons of mother poems until you’re sick of them and cannot bear to write another one.

i took that advice. i started using the arbitrary (though inexplicably loved) number 19 to (attempt to) cure my dwelling habit. “oh, you’re dwelling on that one sad experience from when you were five? write 19 poems about it.”

which, of course, i never can.

so 19, for me, has come to represent getting real and moving on.

that’s what i’ve decided. like, just now.