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*Read at LOVE trumps HATE: poetry prose speakers on lgbtq equality event held at La Luna, Mansfield, Ohio 15 November, 2017.
man was not much different from woman
until I saw you changing, merging pieces
of your self with wardrobes of Madonna,
wearing dresses and glitter, high heels peeking
out from under the bed like a secret that
can’t wait to be revealed: a perfect birthday
gift you cannot wait to hand to the world!
gift that you hope one day, the world is old enough
I have called it merging, but I should
have said revealing: you allowed your body
to belong to your mind, exchanging coarseness
for beauty one lash at a time. One stroke
of nail polish in your becoming. I realize
you felt each tinge of difference between
what we believed to be male and female,
of who you are and who you are
told to be.
I imagine the aghast of welcoming
others to enjoy your body, to look
upon who you are for the first time. Your lips,
red petals around the petals of another so
similar flower – No longer Judas’ kiss:
betraying, but the kiss of Jesus: healing.
A kiss that makes the jeers of passersby
not cease to sting, but at least
finally scar over.
I look at you from my non-trans male existence,
hoping you can finally feel the synchronicity
between mind and flesh, between organ
and desire that I have always known.
I have never understood otherwise, or what
it’s like to want to destroy the body because
you are taught that the body you love,
its make-up and dyed hair, is not
your body. I have never been instructed
to hate myself.
I have learned from you, that this has nothing
to do with X’s and Y’s or science. It is
all heart, all depth. You are no longer
the myth, but the fact embodied:
the guts and the machinery of understanding.
driving Black Mountain, exhale
sun-choked words, blind
breath crisp and dumb,
crimson or wine
Music or universe –
said to shatter a piano
is not merely aleatoric,
music by Braxton,
or creeping exhaust. Face
of the pipesmoker,
Don’t reminisce, just race
We remember –
spotty as conifer shades –
I watch the robin picking at worms beneath
the frost of a winter morning. Dedicated searcher
– I will find my vein and touch
the blood – firm,
tight transport to the heart.
Pecking before dawn, before
I head off to work. We are unsteady creatures
balanced on the frosted world – entering arm,
returning unfulfilled. Not robin: pinprick.
Earth or arm.
The bird and my body are sprawled
beneath that same frozen
sunrise. Taupe pile
of clumping powder,
wet sandstone, dampened image,
changing image into golden object. The Robin’s dull, kinked beak,
unable to stab, it rolls. Turn this needle gold. A pinch,
a soft fumble, collapse. Not collapse
but alchemy. Soften these iron veins. Treat
the arm like the earth, the arm no longer delicate,
hardened like the earth,
sewing without thread. I once walked a road
I will never walk again. My footprints are still there, however,
deep or bloodless. My heels are still blistered,
the road has left its damage with me. Allow
this vagueness in my life, let me be
metaphor, keep myself safe.
When it collapses, it is a sinkhole big enough to swallow
the entire home:
mother, father, all. Man,
I’ve wasted a lot
of time not being forgiven.
I’ve wasted time not forgiving myself.
May there always beat stronger
may there be more graceful
not to absolve, but to cradle
and cradle again.
And once again to cradle.
At the corner of Halcyon and Silver,
A crime scene ribbon sashes the porch,
jack O’Lanterns melt on the stoop of a house
where no one, anylonger answers
the door, or even peers from the windows
where not even ghosts come knocking.
It was part of the conspiracy that
Tara and Ed had lived one year at the corner
of Halcyon Dr. and Silver Ln., One
magical year of marriage, of cutting
up, breaking down weight. One silver year:
pounds of coke, a television the size
of the picture window. Halcyon house.
Escalade, stacks of cash, re-upping
in Chicago, L.A. Salad days, laughing
at the irony in this very phrase.
Decked-out house, cursed abode,
haunted by yellow tape.
It was further part of the conspiracy that
it was raining at Halcyon and Silver,
while the sky was falling on South Main,
The police helicopter drum-battering the airspace
while Twon carries his naked mother
to the bathtub and eases her into the water.
As the door splinters inward she bounces
on hard silver ripples. He spreads
out her hand and puts the gun
in her wrinkled fingers. The weight
of the gun, pulls her under the water.
It was further part of the
conspiracy that in the kitchen, Tone opens
the cupboard, takes out his glock
and feels it turn to rubber, this alchemy,
– scuttle of dog claws on unfinished wood –
he was turning it to gold. Halcyon memories,
putting his hands automatically behind
his back. Which has he known longer?
This rickety house or one made of steel?
It was further part of the conspiracy
for Smitty to start driving and let loose
his phone out the window like an
erased farewell note and never see
anyone again. As he drove, the cops took
down Mad Dog and Black. Smitty opens
The door slowly, steps onto the berm,
He does as they say, putting his hands on
the hood like a blessing his son will never know.
It was further part of the conspiracy,
that when Michael Ginn was turned down
for his seventh job application
after getting out for the second time,
recidivism became a promise,
poverty, a guarantee, and heroin
a slick dream of halcyon and silver.
I wasn’t always political. Hand
me that ratchet, never voted, but gone
days don’t come back. Engine’s burning oil. Each
year I think about the year before. Plans
change, the world changes, these bolts are rusted
and I’m gonna have to change with it. Each
day’s a bit of luck. Look at my hands, hardly
know there’s skin under that grime. Busted
thumb – was caught in the radiator – each
moment I’m altering my life. Check
that drain pan, see how dark? you wonder
if there even is a future? To each
his own, but I’d take this ‘76 Camaro
built with my own two hands – I can only
do so much so long. It feels like each
time I crank on this bolt it moves, though
it never seems to loosen. All that’s
left will be the raw metal. Just watch, each
yank on the wrench we make progress. Hold
that filter for me. They’re not made to last
these days. There are always upgrades. Seems like each
time you blink your eyes, there’s something old
being outdated. I’ve changed this oil
fifty times – hand me that rag. There’s always
more to change when you won’t stop beating at
the same machine.
If we look out
the window of his highway garage,
we will see that the desert isn’t even
the desert anymore, but a toll road.
This is not the moon, anthropomorphized
lazy eye drifting over my tired city:
leashed creature in the hazy milk-night town
turning into shadows. Statues
in the park, eyes cratered as moons behind
stoney clouds, depict voiceless legends.
The city moves in pools of streetlights,
warming from the ground up, radiating heat
from its own asphalt. I prefer the lamp-lit
trees in the evening, the written word blank
-eted around me, filling the hollow nook within me.
This is not the moon but a glow. The feel
of tonight is opaque, unseeing windows
mirror myself positioned against
unmoving urbanity, unclouded within
the crisp dark. I form and unform
walking by. The road is a line
that no one follows. That tonight
I cross. Before I am visible
I look away. Before I am pictured.
I deny each thing before it exists.
It is not only the moon that cherishes
the human soul. It is not only nature
that is still and pregnant with inspirational
silence. Arve, you mumble like a homeless woman
unencumbered of language. Olympus
is not the only dwelling of heroes
or wonders. Running my fingers over
the pocked skin of brick and mortar laid not
by gods: legends are not in these walls. My
fists are full of rubble. This is only
touch and this is not the moon I feel.
Oh, semiotician, where in language
lies the echo? Small town night when Nothing
speaks again and again without receiver.