ghetto son

[I was commssioned by a dear friend to write a poem with the same title as one I wrote when I was in middle school. I vaguely remembered the original, and could recall the first line. This last line of this re-envisioning is an interpolation of that first line.]

just hold him, mama.
life has loved him
like fist
cracking chest cavity.

life has splayed him
gaping sorrowmouth
all his flowers poured out.

try to hold him.
if his ribcage ain’t
razor blades yet.
if his teeth ain’t
turned bullets.

might be, though.
this world is quick
to prick that sugar maple skin
and bleed our boys for sap.
swift to swipe their laughter,
leave bombs behind.

just try.
and if your arms ache.
if he weeps you wet
as rupture amniotic.
if his arms are flesh
against your back.
then there is hope.

but if you taste gunpowder
on his promises.
his eyes arsenic and arson.
do not reach for the weapon
he’s become.

it’s all right
to save
for love.

let him go, mama.

till he finds
his way
to death
or some other
he’ll be out
in red night

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
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.

sound I make

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

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
how to leave the carcass
once it is cleaned