Place it on my tongue and wait
for it to dissolve—
It will leave the taste of chalk.
This is supposed to absolve me—
supposed to purify my sin.
But your fingerprint remains,
pressed into my drying tongue
as I wait with open mouth and eyes
closed tight so I don’t see what comes.
You were supposed to protect me—
supposed to love me forever.
Isn’t that what we are taught?
When they sat us down on wooden
benches with hymnals tucked
into pockets—never used—
because you know all the words?
It is the underside of a raindrop—
the sensation of shrinking
while rushing closer and closer
to the inevitable.
It could be the force
of the blackhole keeping
the entirety of our galaxy
together. Yet, it ends in a blip.
A hand brushes the drop
from a forehead as eyes
gaze to the cloudless sky.
It must be rain—
the clear liquid on your finger
could be nothing else.
But doubt still furrows—
shimmering wrinkles briefly capture
the sun. It is not captive long.
You walk on. A solitary drop
of rain doesn’t matter to meetings.
But it will stay with you—
a tiny splash of presence
as you stare through plate glass
to the cloudless,
The moon is full
A haze that pales its color—
a muted pink behind sheer fabric.
It peeks behind the mountains
like her nipple as she dips—
a warm, golden blush
that is just the reflection
of light sent cascading
across the star-filled asphalt
singing beneath my tires.
Her soft touch still lingers
as I drive.
The clouds rise like the ocean—
an impending wall of rain and cold
To crash against me,
over and over as we both shiver—
the blistering warmth that chills
as we race through each other.
I will write this down for posterity—
to the long distant generations that have yet to be born,
that have yet to feel the overwhelming despair
and hatred of existing.
We live in a dichotomy—
a polarization of suffering and spite
that belongs to us all.
No one is innocent. No one can claim
to be better, to be worse—
We are all the cesspool of humanity.
Is it so different to despise one another
simply because one of us is the other?
Political affiliations and ideologies
have obliterated and impersonated personality.
We are defined by our vote—
by the color next to the party and by the words
of those that don’t actually speak for us.
But they speak through us.
And through speaking they control us.
I don’t hate you for the color of your skin
unless you hate me for the color of my sin.
And we leave and breathe and are defined
by our hatred for each other.
I will judge you until you open your mouth,
and I will judge you after you open your mouth—
until your tongue twists in the manner I prefer.
You will treat me in kind—
with the same daggers, half unsheathed,
ready to riposte my own.
You are other.
And I am other.
And together we are so convinced
that our own words don’t poison just the same.
They cling to the walls, tiny
demons scratching. In a blink,
they are gone, fluttering away,
startled, the cat
not far behind them. Floating
around my living room
like ghosts, I try to catch them.
Isolated. Alone. Yet standing among others. They raise their arms around me. So, I raise my arms to join them. Like feathers along the wing of a bird, green leaves cling to the parchment like bark that covers my body. Isolated. But not truly alone. My fingers entwine with those around me, and together we cast the earth below in green sunlight. Light that gives us life, bathes us in warmth, and wraps us in a glowing cocoon of comfort. Knowledge that we are alive. I am alive. Isolated. On the inside, I am alone. Outside, surrounded by others just like me. Arms raised to the sky, holding hands, we blanket the heavens to catch the rain that revitalizes us. Deep in the earth, my roots hold fast, despite the winds that rip away my leaves, and cause my trunk to creak with the strain of standing. But I stand. And I don’t stand alone. I stand with the aid of the earth and the others holding onto my branches. Powerful. I can withstand the elements. Wind blows, but I stand. Water fades, but I have saved enough. Fire burns, but my bark protects me. And through the earth and the sun, I can grow again. Isolated, but not truly any longer. I am my own inside, and outside others love and care for me. And forces greater than I truly understand keep me standing, my roots seated securely in the earth, and now I raise my arms in praise of being alive, basking my leaves in the glory of the sun. And I live. Powerful. Secure. Myself.
Dog hair to me
is like the crumbs of cereal
and toy cars left on stairs.
The sheets cling to her curves, like
a toddler clinging to her mother,
afraid of leaving the comfort of stuffed animals
and cartoons for the terror of making
real friends, and learning what happens
when she has two apples and Johnny snatches
one. Makes her cry for mommy. The fabric
pulls taut against her, showing pale peach beneath
its white, where her skin threatens to fade
through and escape. Her breathing is captured,
breasts rising and falling like rolling
waves lapping at my feet. I can imagine
the sand feels pleasant spilling between
my toes, like she spills from the sheets.
Her legs escape, snaking over the bed
and sinking feet into the plush, white carpet.
For a moment, the sun presses through
the window, and she is golden
in the space between the sheets struggling
to contain her.
She sits in the shower
and he swirls down the drain.
The unstained oak is rough against
her naked feet. Un-sanded burs catch
and splinter. They were going to finish
the deck. She watches the sun dissolve,
Alka-Seltzer for the sea.
She has the shower hot—
her skin cherries and the steam chokes.
But she can still feel him. Fingers
brushing hair behind her ear. Lips part—
breath escapes. Eyes open,
and it’s just steam.
The sun is gone. She watched it dip,
reflected in the patio door’s glass.
Her hand sticks to the handle, eyes locked
on the darkness.
Eyes wide to keep them dry.
She walks past the coffee table—
ghost rings where he didn’t
use the coasters, a plate with bread
crusts. The newspaper.
She doesn’t look down. Refuses to read
what she knows is there.
Her skin is raw. Burning.
The hot water will run out—
she stays. Stays where she can feel him.
Feel his arms, the press of his lips
before the cold comes on.
All of the houses are empty.
I see lights drifting out of windows
momentarily lost in the darkness
before spilling on vacant streets.
There is no one. Anywhere.
No one is watching heroes fighting,
on the muted TV.
Electricity is being drained away—
Barry Manilow quietly singing
to empty rooms bathed in dimmed lights—
like a ghost fighting against the pull
of crossing over.
An open door pulls
me through its threshold.
It rests, almost carelessly forgotten
to be closed, but there is a sense
of urgency hanging in the air.
Decorative cushions neatly line
the beige couch. A TV Guide sleeps on the floor,
pages pillowed like a tarnished halo,
a nest for the remote and coasters
pushed off the coffee table.
Mixed in with them—a bra, boxers,
and several used condoms.
Did these people know they were
going to vanish? In a rush,
they left the door open to strip
off their clothes and clear the coffee table
so they could melt into each other.
But then why the condoms?
In a narrow hallway pictures
of a golden retriever—
playing fetch with a slobbery, red ball,
burying an old shoe, devoid of an owner.
Second door on the left, and I find it.
The bathroom. It’s clean—
almost like it was never used.
I leave the door open—who’s going to see?
The stream splashing into the bowl
echoes, enunciating the solitude.
A glint from the ring on my hand
brings fog to my eyes. A smile
that seems forever ago spreads,
tingling painfully through my body—
the pins and needles of a sleeping foot.
The bathroom floor is bare,
no plush rugs to comfort feet
stepping out of the shower onto cold tiles.
I’m reaching for the toilet paper
when I hear footsteps in the hall.
Stunned and unsure, I sit there, hand
limply holding the tissue. She’s in the door.
I’ve never met her, but there she is
staring at my crotch.
I wasn’t expecting anyone.
The world was gone. Her eyes
travelled up my body, until they
met my own. There weren’t any sparks.
Just a dull ache.
Her voice was quiet, and a little hoarse.
When she spoke, it was
a gear rusted too long.
“Can I use the toilet?”
My fingers fumble over the zipper
and the swirl and gurgle
of the toilet bowl cuts through the silence.
My mouth opens, but my voice left—
left with everything else.
I step outside as she closes the door,
water faintly splashing.