Three Kinds of Everything

Dawn approaches and abundances stampede,
Our bodies make love as we weep and dream
With an effulgent smell of death engulfing us,
We lie to each other about the way we feel,
Bend time, curve space, to discover, in tandem,
What love is only by what is left of love when
Love returns, whether by death or dismantlement,
To begin, inch by inch, through suffering and song,
As though this unrehearsed, yet familiar, way leads
To the place breath insists us on to, melting edges
Off the fact we have come so far yet just begun,
What happens stalls out within the fear we have
Seen the truth of an instance a little too clearly
And now we are living only for emergencies.

[First appeared with The Poetry Society of America]


Sisyphus punches in, each morning,
At a mountain he must face all day,
In hell, for eternity, and at night,
Having not reached the summit
Again, he walks down slow, where
The rock rushed by, careful to see,
With new eyes, where it all went
Down, again, and then later,
At the bar in town, sits cooling his
Bleeding hands against a whiskey,
On the rocks, and maps new paths,
On a napkin, inside the wet ring
His tumbler made, again and again,
The routes running on to absurd
Lengths, hands shaking, and if it
Wasn’t a map, you might think
It was the history of history
Or parts of a nude in repose,
Patient with death and belonging.

[First appeared with Poem-A-Day, The Academy of American Poets]

The Good Light

There were always such beautiful shadows in your work,
Though many now dodge their taxes with your art. Rarely
As it seems, life involves death with every decision, which is
Why I miss the non-Euclidean idiom we used to argue over
Everything in the dictionary of what not to do. Somewhere
In a mix between Beaches and Häxan I have these weird
Memories of you sleeping when there’s no way I was there
To see you sleeping—a crystal ball above your bed lets
Tensors, in a tension of tenses, tongue-tie time and divine
Your urge to fearlessly abandon yourself to love as you
Understand love, where paradox gives way to paradox
And awareness is congratulated with awareness of how
This multiverse, in vast tribulation, ushers us on in unison
As one of many big bangs begins again to light the way.

[First appeared with Poem-A-Day, The Academy of American Poets and Literary Hub]

Night Blossoms

Once there was this kid in the front row
Raising his hand as though he would turn
Into a ball of light and vanish if he didn’t
Answer the question the teacher was asking.
I was convinced I’d grow up to be a samurai
Back then, so I didn’t understand a word,
But before the kid could answer, another
Kid boxed the ears of another kid and it
Was chaos in the way nature is a chaos.
The rain has been lying to the sun again.
And heaven loves knives. Bathe in the dust.
Flocks of surprise descend from on high.
Grass flourishes between the words where
Sorrow is isosceles and red goes black very
Quickly in the light that increases the light.
When I quit smoking, I became scared to fly.
Needles tack in their gauges to extremes.
The sun keeps us. Infinities are a poker face
Hidden in this moment. We read a line of life
And we twitch in an iron dream that remains
Blinded by the shadows of their referent stars.
Words are drawings that will be missed
And this guy won’t answer the waitress when
She puts his order in the computer and asks
Him how many eggs he wants—he keeps
Saying: Look, just tell them it’s for Tim.
Absence affects sleep and hands bloom
In a desert in me. I kiss the voice I hear
And pick flowers from my veins.
Fog is writing a world inside a word.
Bones cannot hide their light. The original
Road runs ahead collapsing into nightfall.

[First appeared in Granta]


Before my memory leaves,
I would like to say, one late
Summer afternoon, daylight
Was at its peak intensity,
The lights were off inside,
Everywhere, then through
The windows, the light made
Its own light in the absence
Of light, and an effect, quite
Real, grand and ineffable—
As precisely inscrutable
As the present moment
And as quickeningly sublime—
Raked through the room.
I stood there a long time,
Alone, and had to live
With a distinct feeling,
Radiating from the condition,
Something complete had been
Filed with the terrible library
Of dreams and experience
That were about to begin.

[First appeared in Granta]

Arrow of Time

Take the time we were all in bed after a day
At the lake, where the smell of fresh sheets
Mingled with the dead fish, weed, and beer
Rising from our skin as we drifted to sleep
In a nest, and I dreamt we were wanted,
Running through the woods for dear life
(Because we are together) breathless,
And when we rest, I stay up the night
Fighting to keep my eyes open as morning
Comes, not for fear of being caught,
But that sleep would take the way I feel,
Our futures folded in on the past,
Leaving a tangle of echoes in the present.
We are a funeral pyre and a bonfire,
The whole is not the sum of its parts,
The parts contain the whole,
And the whole contains the parts—
There is just this mountain of us,
A flare of light, and this empty awareness—
Ghost platitudes of the aboriginal star.
I still hear but can't remember who it was
Who laughed through their teeth as they
Bit my ear and tickled me awake
For farting and hogging all the room.
Seeing too much is seeing too little—
The sun in your eye is unfathomed time
With no regard for who and what remains,
An unending arrow of irrevocable loss.

[First appeared in Poetry Northwest]

Cargo Cult

My die-cut heart has grown implacably thin
On a hardscrabble fantasy, but that’s love
For you, dangling on a chain of keys to nothing.
She’s an insomniac drooling in the sun, my heart
That is, a thousand roses pressed in a book of flesh.
That’s not the dumbest thing I could say but close.
How about hunger is a voice field dressing a live
Wolf as we make out with it—the improper fit
Of our mouths pressing together in abject passion,
As its fur, a slipped-off negligee, drops to the floor
With measurable attack, sustain, and decay.
Blood resigns from the body as a voice says,
Yes, say that, except rise and fight with Satan
Who has long loved God more than any man.

[First appeared in The Kenyon Review]

Limitless Again

Deplete the ascent, carving up your arms,
Returning flirty glances with the windows.
A film will attend this so don’t bother,
Efforts dismay affections, and that’s how
It was at the end of a dinner party, we’d
Release a few bad opinions and think we’re
Saved. At least, that’s how I would choose
To remember it, and if a batch of Gods fell
Out of the sky to correct me, then so be it.
I suppose one could do worse than have our
Police feign to assemble in the plaza to patch
Things up in time for the fairest election.
The outliers inside me continue to drown,
Even try desperately to raise their hands
As if trying to vote for an unspecific good.
The only defense I use is my dedication.
I am and I am not and there’s no difference.
However, the other hands are crossing fingers.
Welcome to my anachronism. Dirty, filthy,
Stinking wretch that I am, I am still on time.
That was a joke aimed to please and discomfit.
My design was supposed to make life easier,
But there’s no evidence the host will seat me
In the ballroom filled with investors which
Is totally fine with me, yet not altogether
Unprecedented, seeing as we would just give
The slip to things like this in the old days.
Isn’t there a word for all of this anyway?
The anointed no longer wish to be anointed.
I drove through the night and parked out back.
Walking through the warehouse with a wood
Case full of trains and buses, I go to my bench,
Turn on a light, and pull out the best engine
To disappear from the full-scale world down
Through anonymous tunnels, past trees
And people all meticulously assembled.
With my headlamp tipped to the world, I am
The man in the moon, relentlessly in love.

[First appeared in The Yale Review]


Say it’s a form of heat that doesn’t rise
But passes from one body to the next.
Say it flows through you and then out
And back in again like some ghostly thread
Weaving a basic pattern inside of you
That will slowly begin to take the shape
Of what you’ll think you can describe.

[First appeared in The Yale Review]

The Unanswering

I thought I saw a bee’s
Nest made of cigarette butts
Hanging from the ceiling fan.

Each turn of the winding air
Divined my rest an inelegant
Proof no one cares to hear.

I mottled the idea of who
I came to be with soot
As drapes caressed the snow

Globe filled with venom
On the sill where moths,
By their measure, lined up,

One by one, unrolling their
Tongues to sip and drizzle
Lines across a canvas laced

With gunpowder burning
Bright around the painted
Parts where you used to be.

[First published in Harper’s]

The Erotic Life of Property

A truck delivers a forest back to itself
As lumber in the field where it once
Stood as trees—what is not lumber
Listens close, breathes witness into
The absence of what’s to become
Of what once was there, closing
The spaces between old shadows
Resolved into new forms, a single
Surface: Walls risen from one chaos
Stand alone against another chaos—
Who dares to breathe listens, or goes
Mad against the grain—tilled under,
Folded back against itself—a darkness
In the heart breaks its lost ground.

[First published in The New Republic]

Stained Glass

I hear people are concerned over questions of happiness.
All day, our new neighbors make noise, reminding me
To continue reducing the things I feel compelled to say.
The couple is miserable about not reaching their goals
As if having them sets a kind of alarm to go on upstream
Where no one is equipped to turn it off, and everyone
Thinks this is a reality show just for them, but it’s about
The neighbors, remember? Their loneliness, not yours.
The way their light is being spent across the green earth,
Not yours. I walked around for an hour trying to come
Up with a better way to break the news to you but every
Word came out of a mouth inside of a mouth. The hand
Is different, this time, but the note we carry is the same.
No one will ask you what this was about when it’s over.

[First appeared in The London Magazine]