Golden State

I find myself

feeling sad for bad dudes.


One, a rapist. The other, also that,

and more. And worse.


The problem is that they’re old

bad dues, all cuffed khakis

and gnarled fingers gripping

gardening tools and


And worse.


They’re my grandfather, yours.

They’re who we will be

eventually, having also done

bad things in the dark.

And more. And worse–


our chins tiled up, gazing

down our long noses into

our mugshots, wishing we’d never

stolen that goddamn dog spray,

never made enough people laugh

so hard that we had to empty

out sixty others to feel full.


That we’d never done more.

That we’d never done worse.



I imagine that a butcher doesn’t need a diagram to know the difference between a front shank and a short loin. But we didn’t spend our childhoods carving up others to keep living. And so we do. We need posters and pictures and arrows pointing specifically or we’re lost. We laugh together at our ignorance in the arrogant way that only two people in love can laugh. Our words become so careful, so literal that we build entire rooms of silence around our verbs. There are slabs of beef slung up on our walls and yet we cannot say what we mean. Here, our anatomy is clear and secret and odd, a precious, shared thing. We may never find ourselves in an ivy covered city. The place where we met is void of us both. But there are these nutritive moments, still. We are, we are, we are.

Boston, #47

I can’t get you right.


I’ve written poem after poem,

plotted so many trajectories

but you refuse to travel in a straight line.


I dream about taking your hand

somewhere on a wooded path.

It’s probably Cambridge

because in my mind

we belong


There are ferns everywhere,



and you’re smiling because

you don’t yet know what I’m about to tell you,

haven’t yet registered

that it’s my hand

in yours.


Imagine wanting only this.


And then, the dream

is over.

And I’m left



Why are we touching? Why haven’t

we done this before,

spent so long not doing it?

How did we end up in this wrong

city, the cobblestones beautiful and, like this

moment, vestigal?


Diphylleia cymosa

I’ve decided not to tell you. Isn’t that insane, that I could just decide, just like that, like I haven’t been gathering a bouqet of skeleton flowers, unimaginably dead, for the past 18 months? I wonder if I ever thought I’d actually give them to you–pressed into your palm, an apology for something only half wrought. The sternum cracks at the thought of such an action, it’s fissure lines blooming into bone deep threads of longing, bitter as the rough side of the tongue. Is there any way to plant these without dirt, without making a mess of everything? No. And so I won’t give them. I’ll hold them under rain a drenched sky, watching them turn translucent, in need of an exorcism, in need of one hell of a burial.


I can’t tell you what it really is. I can only tell you what it feels like. -Eminem


I know more Lakota than I do my own language. Duwale. I know I’m not spelling that right.

Oki, saniitapi?

How many i’s are in saniitapi anyway? Have I got them in the right order? Have I got myself in the right order?

I am tired of my scrabble board self. Colonization bingo.

Nisto matsokapi. Poohsapoot.

I refuse to put my own language in italics. Fuck you if you can’t read it. This isn’t about you.

See, I can give you directives in my grandfather’s forbidden tongue but I can’t tell you much about how I feel. I can’t shrug you off. I can’t express gratitude in any way that you might understand.

For that, I have to go to an old enemy, to bands of misnomers.

I have to sit inside of their suffocation, holding bundles of sage to my face, to see my own reflection shimmering to life, bounced off hot rock.

Mitakuye oyasin?





Peripheral Logistics

When I imagine

myself in moments of unspecific

grand gestures, I am



arms outstretched, catching

sunbeams or

raindrops or

snow blossoms

in my cupped palms.

My whole being becomes

a chalice, collecting sentiment.

Who cares


what the gesture is? All

except this fragile

version of myself

is incidental. Until

it isn’t.



we are leaving, the sun

beaming itself off rain

washed grass, your voice


softly among the steam



from beneath


Goodbye Stranger

for Castiel


When love

looks like densely

woven flannel the color of last

life in autumn, getting stabbed

in the heart

is incidental.


You knew

this was coming


marching toward the inevitable

for eight years

does not an easier

death make.

Cleaner, maybe.

Simpler, yes.

But never



You knew

that in the flare

of your last


you would see

a crumpling face, maybe


and that there would be

no more reaching

out of hands, no more

grasping the arms of


in one last attempt to revive

a lifeline long since



You knew

that as you fell

to your knees

in the crumbling leaves,

the first

snowflake of a Canadian


would fall somewhere in the periphery,

it’s fragile fluttering

the subtle bookend of your



When loss

looks like that first solitary

sign of winter, being

remade is



You know.

Foundry Production

Yes, she is beautiful, cast in the half light of fiction. But did you have to say so? Your pronouncement is obscene–the melting, the pouring, the casting of it will burn you before it can hold anything worthwhile. Before you know it, you’ll be the man in the background of a Christmas polaroid, a wishing subject stuck in the periphery of a viable option. A vase bursting with daisies will block half of your face, your good side, and it will be all the more disappointing because you won’t be able to remember daisies being on your table at all that day. Truth is, the carefully golden container was scooped up and carried off by hands that may have fit quite nicely into yours had you allowed them to be filled with only things that matter: your longing friend, the yellow flowers from your wedding day, the copper urn you mistook for bronze.

Streetlight Sanctity

We’re standing in the lamplight

together while a friend

of ours rests her forehead

on the pavement.


We want to go home, but

she has to pray.


She keeps begging for your

forgiveness, taking your hand,

and you’re staring at me

like she isn’t even there.


I’m oscillating between being

chilled by the late

October air and being


set on fire by artificial

lighting and the accidental

piety of sky

blue eyes.

Knowing in the age of TED

In the age of the ever present internet, I often feel like I am giving a TED Talk to myself. Like I’m an expert on everything. Anything. Just ask me and I’ll tell you, I find myself whispering into my own ear. It’s as if I’ve saved these moments up like trinkets in a souvenir chest, waiting for the perfect moment to pick out the just right thing and display it with a flourish.

Here, I’ll say, here is the truth.

Of course it’s elegantly presented and I’m pacing just the right amount across my small red circle planted smack in the middle of the too large stage. I use all the right hand gestures and lean forward enough to look engaged but not far enough to come across as domineering.

It’s all practiced, yes. But is it all bullshit? Can anything truly be a farce? Can anything be real?

I don’t know. I suspect the audience will tell me.

If I could tell my 16 year old self anything…They’re rolling their eyes now, wishing they’d chosen another session with someone smarter, more original, more memorable. But they’ll be clapping at the end. I’ll shove my tidy little message into the not so tidy cracks in their still sixteen year old heart. And they’ll feel it. They’ll remember.

That pain you think you deserve? You don’t. When someone hurts you, it’s a reflection of who they are-not who you are.

My 26 year old self knows this with enough confidence to say it to a whole room full of imaginary people. Both of these things are truthful but they’re not exactly true. I can sell them without believing in them. It’s not snake oil as much as it’s a coconut oil cure-all. It’s not randomized or controlled but you’ll see it on click bait until it becomes a kind of fact.

You can buy it. Hold on to that receipt.