I carry a picture of the two of us
about to walk to our first day of school
I clutch the sleeve of your blood-clot paisley shirt
that’s untucked itself from your brown corduroys
long hair and longer collar, defiant,
the shadow of our mother falls behind us,
my braids tight, I wear a green checked dress
my thin arms cling, wrapped tightly around yours
head leaned on your shoulder, gaze serious
I am trying to keep you with me—

You taught me to run on the balls of my feet
panting air quickly through our mouths like deer
extra oxygen pumping makes us fast
we fly over the dusty cracked concrete
past thirsty palm trees, drinking in moonlight,
leaping off curbs, through the weedy mud lot
bare feet floating over broken glass and pop tops,
I keep pace with the wind, you outrun me
fearing I’ll never catch up, I find you,
a laughing silhouette on the stairs.

That was before the door slammed
before the glass was broken—
before a needle ever went in
before they told you that you were stupid,
before you believed them.
I knew one day, you would just keep running,
but I didn’t know it would come on such
an ordinary day, a nothing day,
when I knocked on your door
and you just weren’t there.

For five years I scattered whispered prayers on
the Santa Ana winds, to blow through every
city park, jail cell, trash-can lined alley,
street corner, freeway bridge, and smoky bar
hoping they would find you.
I hiked alone on the Carrizo Plain,
stole a rock from the heart of the
San Andreas fault, where spirits dance
without heed or consequence,
so I could bring it to you.

You dug yourself out, like Lazarus
came back a prodigal son
they gave you a crown of sweet redemption
bathed in praise and washed in hallelujahs,
you tried to shake off your past, ran
over the Rockies, across the Great Divide
blew past the prairie’s wild horses, but
I could see a bloodless crooked finger
was still pointing
at your altar boy heart.

You made a bargain down there,
you knew a clock was ticking—
and some slithering thing
would come seeping
through the melting asphalt
to take you back,
and now it sitting in the corner
of this stark white room, where I am holding
onto your arm for the last time, your body is
the color of wrong, eyes yellow, like a cheetah

At dawn, a nurse wheeled in a tray
with coffee, and a plate
overflowing with pastries
before he quietly said,
it’s time.
I wanted to tell your stories,
I wanted to sing, or pray
your soul smooth, but I just
watched as you ran,
fast as deer, not looking back.


Previously published in volume 1, issue 4 of The Grief Diaries.  




For his birthday and Pride

For his birthday and Pride

Alan Turing, 7 June 1954

With my eyes closed I can almost see you
playing a game of noughts and crosses
during French class at Sherbone
your china white schoolboy fingers
wrapped around a pencil
prying at the gates of mystery
with your vanadium steel mind.

Left alone against sulking cold bricks,
I pressed myself into your shadow
walked away with it and
puzzled my way through the war
in a whitewashed hut at Bletchley,
creating the bombe that proved
contradiction can deduce

Now I have bungled my way to infamy
The “burglary and buggery”
being turned into a woman
for not being a proper man,
one can only giggle at the irony.

Now, the war has gone cold
they fear one drunken stumbling kiss
on a cobbled Manchester street
might infect the world
with a rash of atomic weapons.

Under their microscope,
I have had nothing left to do
but search the whorls
of fircones and daisy carpels
mapped with all mathematical certainty,
combing through the numbers
for an echo that might be you.

It is time to give up
this young man’s game.
soon the scent of bitter almonds
will send me off to sleep,
the poison apple on the nightstand
a symbol of the forbidden, hope
that your crooked smile and lightning wit,
will wake me from this dream.

Previously published in Floating Bridge Review Number Five, 2012 

Deep in the Green

Deep in the Green

Das große Rasenstück 

deep green, ochre green,
mould green, amber green
earth untamed, unkempt
majestic perspective
rendered expertly
into perfect fertile chaos

a handful of turf
subject to trampling
by horse or by foot,
cart wheel or plow
anywhere, everywhere,
look down

dandelions unbloomed
bowed in long grass
holding petals tight,
will burst forth–
three brilliant suns
at morning’s light

leaves don’t care
if they are ovate,
or spatulate,
are unaware
that they are dactylis
and poa pretensis

the golden sky
halos the blades
of grass and seed,
the tallest growing
beyond the frame

worms wander
through white roots
tethered to a common plot,
creeping things live,
feed and breathe

Previously Published in Between the Lines, 2012.

Circe Invidiosa

Eyes flash like waves near crashing
throwing thunderbolts of despair.
Glaucus swims to me, an eel flowing
seal-slick tail and seagrass, hair.

“Give me a cup for love,” he pleads,
“to turn Scylla’s gaze to me.
She is the true pearl my heart needs
in this cold and lonely sea!”

Through the lace-gray fog I find her,
resembling nothing more, than
an ordinary pebble crashed upon
my mind’s sharp and rocky shore.

Her pale eyes must be broken
to miss the breathless beauty in
each curve of every glistening scale–
a divine man clothed in fish’s skin.

What gentle woman would refuse
to embrace such a godly prize–
immortal strength and bold desire infused
with raging powers of the surging tides?

I tell him I will help him,
and in that vow, I do not lie…
The dark magics I brew in my cup
offer gifts of deeper sight.

Smoldering branches, burn deceptions,
baneful leaves and flowers decay.
Fruit of truth—a revelation.
In this cup, the light of day.

Be revealed, scuttling cruelty.
Be revealed, heart’s dismay.
Be revealed, false hounds of passion.
With this cup, my will make way. 

Not jealousy, but love’s sacrifice–
a heart cracked pure and cruel
tips the cup into the bath
and poisons Scylla’s pool.

Truth strips the mask of comely skin,
lets loose the spectacle that lies within
the needle teeth, the shrieking bark–
an endless thrash of tentacled arms.

She will screech for all eternity
astride harrowing rocks displayed,
a warning to all unlucky sailors
who dare steer their ships this way.

Published by Alfred Music, 2015, in the score; 
Circe Invidiosa: Sonata No. 1 for the Piano, by Tom Gerou. 

A Found Poem in Honor of Walt Whitman’s Birthday

Walt Whitman

His dress, plain
an exquisite aromawalt whitman
of cleanliness
belonged to his clothes
his breath, his body,
his conversation
his mind, his life,
a purity
physical and moral.

His presence
provoked a state
of exaltation,
like intoxication
by champagne, or
falling in love,
some thought
his mental balance,

His way of singing,
an undertone
when alone,
a formless recitative
his intentions simple
and commonplace,
the average man
in average circumstance
grand and heroic.

Strolling, sauntering
outdoors by himself
looking at the grass
the trees, the flowers
vistas of light, varying
aspects of sky, listening
to birds, crickets
tree-frogs, wind
hundreds of sounds.

Writing with pencil
in a loose book
carried in his breast
pocket, a few sheets
of good white paper
folded, and fastened
with a pin, handwriting
clear, every letter
perfectly formed.

Fond of flowers
wild or cultivated,
he wore a bud or
just started rose
perhaps a geranium
pinned to the lapel,
he admired lilacs
and sunflowers
as much as roses.

His touch a charm
that cannot be described,
if it could, would not
be believed, except
by those who knew,
the well and wounded
if understood,
would explain
the mystery of the man.

Others instinctively
disliked him
poetic utterances
so ridiculous,
personal appearance
arousing sarcasm;
large figure, red face
copious beard, loose and free,
met with explosive laughter.

When he said, oh beautiful
sky! oh, beautiful grass!
the words, sweet music,
no alps, Niagara
or Yosemite
is more beautiful than
the ordinary sunset,
earth and sky,
common trees and grass.
Found poem, based on text from Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, 1901.
You can see the original online at the Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

AWP and Pulitzer Remixer Redux

AWP and Pulitzer Remixer Redux

The AWP Conference was happening in Seattle this year, so I checked it out for the first time.

I waded past the sea of very serious writers typing in their MacBooks in the lobby, followed the trails of mini-zines and flyers strewn across every ledge, got my hands on the program, and was promptly overwhelmed.  Trying to pick which writers and workshops to attend was painful.  I’ve heard there’s an illness that happens to art lovers when they go to Italy for the first time, and become so saturated with amazing sights that they get dizzy and fall down. It felt like that, only vertical.

My favorite author (not counting local writers), was Ursula K. Le Guin.  It was inspiring to see such a force of nature, so fierce and witty.  Her passion for writing is contagious.

At a poetry reading honoring David Wagoner, he uttered my new favorite quote on the art of reading poetry, after letting loose with a few “loaded” words

“If you don’t piss off at least one person in the room, you’re not doing it right.”  

He is still doing it right.

During the break when I visit the Lady’s, I noticed that someone had scraped the “W” off of the women’s restroom sign, so it read, OMEN.  I wonder how many aspiring writers took that as a sign from the universe?  I filed it under “good omen.”

A gang of folks who worked on the Pulitzer Remix were in town, and decided put together a reading.  Meeting everyone and verifying that they are in fact real people and not just head-shot icons on the internet was lovely.  It’s hard to describe the strange bond I feel towaPulitzer Remixer 3rd these folks after thirty straight days of frantic, scrappy, poetry-writing together, but the word kindred comes to mind.

Much thanks to the  Found Poetry Review, the A/NT Gallery, and Jerome Joseph Gentes for getting this shindig together.




It’s Alive! It’s Alive!

It’s Alive! It’s Alive!

The release party for Between the Lines took place Nov. 7th. Huzzah!! I finally got to put my hands on my first work as a literary editor, and wish it well as it goes out into the world; to see it in full color–shiny, glossy, beautiful, alive!

After spending so much time with the poems and prose, I had many preconceived notions of what each writer would be like–their personalities, what they looked like, their age, the sound of their voice, etc. We publish work from students, and the wider community, so it’s an eclectic group. So far, all of my assumptions have been amusingly, and completely wrong.

The Art and Design team did a wonderful job blending the visual and literary elements. You can get a peak of the magazine here. There will be more BTL events next year, so if you missed out on picking up a free copy of the magazine, you will have another chance.

You can see some photos of our little shindig on the Black Box Facebook page.

I have moved on to finish my B.A. in English with Goldsmiths College, via University of London’s International Programme, so I had to lay down my hat as Literary Editor at Edmonds Community College. I’m happy to be writing again, but it’s been a few months now, and I am starting to miss reading poetry submissions and torturing myself over editorial decisions.

And to think, I originally went back to school to get a degree in Horticulture. A story for another day…