I tell them,
I am not writing about the men
you see unless it’s
my
dead dad

and
my
dead brother.

abandonment?
who me?
wearing my father’s knit
NY Giants cap and
bereaving, stripped,
replaying the final moment:
hand held, eye contact,
the knowing I had and decision
to forgo a flowery speech.
elision.
the last thing my father and I ever
said to each other was
I love you


before I left,
palms on the linoleum,
sobs held,
bargaining,
one more Christmas.

it’s brevity a poet seeks.

  1. (love)

and I think
I may be a masochist,
an undervalued trait of mine.

you are about five neighborhoods
away reading this and I
am heart felt, knee sunk
in one lost picture;
black and white snapshot
of the first rollercoaster I rode.
my father accompanied me,
and recalling when he went too
fast on the jet ski
knocking us both into the water,
two booming laughs,
it is the drugs that got us,
the suicide,
the dementia,
there’s nothing left.

but I held your hand in earnest
and exchanged a look.
I didn’t hug you during the
pandemic.
I try not to think
of these acts of
care as anything but that
but inconsolable,
bereft,
heavy cement cracked,
it comes for me as
failure.

II. (sadist)

I learned to drift
young and
listened to my Papa’s
stories, my aunt’s stories,
the whole family telling stories
and I learned to joke
too. it’s about knowing
what people respond to
but also a dauntlessness.
everyone in my family
laughed big and loud,
smoking cigarettes sitting around
the picnic table,
a pretty red wood covered
with some tawdry pear-slathered
yellow and cream plastic cloth
made to absorb ketchup
and beer cans everywhere.
the empty ones there for butts.
and bottles of Coke in giant
two liters   their tan slender fingers
and the confidence of lighting up.
I perfected the flick of an ash
off the end of a burning cigarette
long before I held one.

it’s ninety percent the way
your neck looks when you’re listening
and ten percent what you say
when you finally move to
enter the game.
I learned to grift too.
there were many ways.
more about fun then–
just how to sneak out
at night to grab cigarettes
from the bowling alley cigarette
machine; a preposterous
thing but came in handy.
I would sometimes crawl out of
my bedroom window,
my bed right beneath it and
able to slide the screen right open
without breaking it,

it was easier then the back door.
I had to tiptoe.
we had thin walls.
I slept with my door shut,
pitch black and covered with
pillows scared of my closet.

sometimes we took beer from my friend’s
parents cooler,
or candy pocketed from 7-11
or lip gloss from Eckerd’s
or something from a man’s house,
anything really.
I liked to take photographs of them
and items of clothing to smell
before they leave me.
sometimes I would stare at the pictures
he left out on his dresser
suddenly. not sure if they were planted
or just forgotten as he
offered me a shot of tequila on
his barracks colored carpet;
that off-white every sailor had;
stained with Friday nights
and teenage vomit.
movie ticket stubs falling
out of my coat pocket.
I always took my shoes off
out of politeness even though
I could see the scrape of dirt
from welcome mat to
cot and today:


a picture of him and his wife
on the rocks on the coast
of San Diego,
a card she left him,
something in spanish.
I would listen to the CDs he played
on repeat to get over her, later
alone, more holding the sting
and the shattering way
it felt forced to be fucked
to music like that.
fascinated that grief can transcend
between two people, same song,
two different ways.
two different meanings.

where are you running to now?

I’m at Lehigh and 2nd
giving a man directions
to the 15 stop and he is asking
me where I am going.
I have no job or friends,.
but tons of antique wood
furniture and I kind of nod
to myself without answering him,
just keeping that buoyancy of
knowing that

acquiring objects is half the battle.
the other half is unearthing.


“walls #1”

i make confession.
im suddenly angry and
crying, i cant stand the way
things turned out.
i am free.

i lived an insular, classified life
that no one ever saw and
no one ever validated
and every struggle i had
came with the parable
that it is indeed very
lonely at the top.
you are the epitome of
head so heavy from the
crown.
i have culture, have expanded,
am eager to self bandage.
i am a smile that is
bereft and breath that
is bated, waiting, holding
like i understand my own
precocity
75,000 miles deep.
like i understand the depth
of me.

you are talking to someone
who taped a mirror so she
couldn’t see her aging face,
the way i never learned to line
the top of my lids,
the way i gorge on lust
and cake.
i am free of vanity,
not mistake.

i do not care.
i do not care.
i get my hands back.
when they ask why you are crying
at the ground full of straws,
don’t bother answering.
look at your hands and praise
them.    leave your sad
face alone.

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