bandages required (20210422)

has memory
–i am told–
and holds on to old grudges
remembers the exact
temperature to begin boiling
–but has a few tricks
to lower the mercury–
rushes to the head
for the wrong reasons
thickens at the wrong time
turns poisonous and icy
and yet
still flows from every wound
the same color

the smallest
sharpest cuts
bleed the reddest

leave the thinnest scars

fruit (20191017)

my mother used a paring knife
slipped it in under the stem
like an assassin
and spun the blood red strawberry
in one motion
twisting out unwanted green leaves
then used the same knife to slice
small rings that radiated white to pink
to red
dropping them in a bowl
no two slices the same size

i use a tool like a tiny melon-baller with teeth
designed to gouge out the stem
little waste but more than my
mother would approve of (or leave)
with her small knife

it is a convenience

as is the strawberry slicer
humorlessly designed to resemble
a strawberry (insert a
stop cutting yourself joke here)
maybe so i won’t try to use it
to slice olives or golf balls
every piece is the same width
except for the end pieces
which sometimes get stuck
between the blades
or the bottom of the tray

our recipes differ in the application
of sweetener
i think she used a quarter cup of sugar
for every basket of strawberries she sliced
i am less generous and use maple sugar
trying to keep things less processed
(though sugar is sugar)
i don’t use two pints of half and half
though sometimes i sneak in some
almond milk (unsweetened)

we agree on using pie crust as a superior
supporter for its texture to sponge cake
and really, sponge cake?

i think about those pictures of
brains, images as slices, PET or CAT scans
(not all pets are cats,
but are all CATs PETs?
is this where the
syllogism breaks?)

what did her images look like?

i clean red stains from my fingers

once her memories were gone
were the lobes smooth
the crenellations filled in
like a smooth coating of chocolate
hiding the pits
and seeds in the skin of the strawberry
each a potential synapse where
a memory haunted like a little ghost

i measure my head
against the bed of the slicer
i might be able to fit an eyeball in there
just in time for halloween

the smell of success (20171207)

the entryway to the house
was tiled with black slate flagstones
irregular, rough

i don’t remember
how many times i stubbed a toe on
the stones mortared in place
with sandy grout as wide as a
farmer john sausage
but my big toe remembers
how easily the skin split
how freely the blood flowed out
like an old testament sacrifice

that was some cold shit to sit on
when the weather got cold
or as cold as it could get
in southern california

grandma came over almost
every day of the week
to cook with my mom and eat breakfast
with us every day
and she was old already

i remember sitting on it
when i was still too young to go
to school all day
once after my mom and my grandma
had fried an entire pound of bacon
in a cast iron skillet that
stayed at that house longer than
any of us kids did

i took that plate of bacon
an entire cooked pound
caramelized and crunchy
and a little black because my mother
hated flabby, flaccid bacon
and i don’t know what that says about her
i took that entire plate
and sat my ass down
on the cold slate flagstones
and tried to eat a pound of bacon

i remember cold stone
through corduroy
like ice through crappy gloves
that aren’t rated for the cold
i remember the smoky incense
of that bacon making a sweet savour
unto the lord
a soothing aroma
but i don’t remember them
taking the plate from me
or laughing at how i thought it was all for me
i don’t remember crying about it
though i cried at everything
since i was so sensitive

i can close my eyes
and feel that flagstone
when i sit at my desk
and i can smell that bacon
and the plate
the plate is in my hands
but is empty
without even the shiny raindrops
of grease

fallible memory (20171002)

every word from your mouth
is a hammer driving nails into my skull
drive like a truck driver, oil-stained cap
naked chrome women on the mudflaps, 10-4, good buddy
every breath out
the fall of the hammer against a nail
embedding itself in wood
it’s own act of will of volition speaking
squeaking as it crawls into the grain

remember when we were kids
and tried to drive in a nail with a single blow
into wood that was probably meant for
something other than keeping us amused
how many galvanized skewers did we ruin
bending them into right angles

or that time
you chased me across the street with a golf club
blood ran down my face
and mixed with the taste of candy cigarettes
you came for me again with a bat
days after the first stitches came out
the sound in my head was like a hammer
hitting an anvil and those words squeaked
as they crawled into my brain
and they said

upon discovering an old polaroid that should have burned (20170913)

i stare out
of the instant photo grinning
in a dove gray tux
a formal high school event
one of two that i can recall

it is hard to look at myself
the me inside recoils
at all of that youth
at that smile

as with many old photos
this one has faded
in a dramatic fashion
along with most of my memory
of that night

my chest
alreadybleached white
is now a blistering snowstorm
a blizzard over my heart
that makes me doubt
that foolish cockeyed grin
plastered on another me’s face

was being happy that easy?
or was that the beginning
that moment when the damage began
the frostbite in the bones?

dove feathers drift down
and i am moving softly, slowly
practicing a display of teeth

how to write a poem (20170902)

hide and seek is a fine
game when you are ten
and it is summer and hours
after lunch
and before dinner

if you are hiding
you have to decide if you’ll
be the ass who holes up
in a closet in the house
because it’s cooler inside
or go and get a snack
–screw those morons–
while everyone roasts
in backyards
crouching in flowerbeds
or lying under trucks avoiding
black oil stains
and smelling gas
until the world spins

but if you’re it
there is no slacking off
everyone knows if you’re not
doing your job when no one yells
free after four minutes

and those days
when you can’t find anyone
or you’re too slow or too fat
to tag them as they run for
those are long, hot days

shoulders squared, back curved (20170726)

never meant to be atlas

never willingly carried the world
on my shoulders

never wished
to be weighed down
by anything

but that candy you liked
–pecans wrapped around
caramel and brown sugar fudge–
weighs on me

wrigley’s double mint gum
always always in your jaw
even while you smoked

your favorite cigarettes
stain my fingers
linger in my hair
and my shirt

even your horrible taste
in music
your delight in department
store nachos with plastic
looking cheese
your willingness to
eat anything
and then diet for weeks

your utter obsession with
keeping secrets
so many
that you emptied out
and filled the house
with things and piles
of things

some days
the world seems like
a lighter weight to bear