city girl

Give me the living lights
of these high-rise constellations,
and not just the pilgrimage of 
a billion lonely suns.
Give me the astringent musk
of a dozen factory workers
on the crowded bus home;
let our lungs pass oxygen
like relay runners
on the same team.
I'd rather be kept awake
by the drunken testament
to life on the other side
of paper-thin walls,
than spend my nights
pretending the universe
is emptier
than it already is.

Mom, why do you swear so much?

Because it's the only thing I've got 
to prove I'm not a child
aside from thirty some-odd years 
and years aren't quite as heavy
as they like to say so I'm afraid
my soul might be so light
it will float away before
its time and leave me here behind 
counting heartbeats like the ticks
of a clock always keeping pace
unable to remember when last
it raced when last it broke the rules
I've too few sins beneath my belt
too little skin beneath my nails
and too much across my knees
that never knew the pavement's
kiss and so continue to insist
that I've not bled enough for 
this right of passage and these
silly words increase my pulse
and weigh me down enough
that maybe I won't take off
in search of the conclusion
to the story of my youth
but mostly

because I fucking want to.

love language: a burning haibun

I love in apples: crisp-fresh, candied, or wrapped in my great-grandma's pastry. Her recipes were my first language, a silent tongue of peace; when have fruit and spice ever spoken of hatred? But making pie crusts with my mother taught me that words are not enough, some things have to be attempted and failed over and over until the knowledge trusts your hands so well as to call them home. When I bake a pie, every bite is a kiss years in the making. It gives without expectation. I can think of no purer way to love than this.

I love in apples: crisp-fresh, candied, or wrapped in my great-grandma's pastry. Her recipes were my first language, a silent tongue of peace; when have fruit and spice ever spoken of hatred? But making pie crusts with my mother taught me that words are not enough, some things have to be attempted and failed over and over until the knowledge trusts your hands so well as to call them home. When I bake a pie, every bite is a kiss years in the making. It gives without expectation. I can think of no purer way to love, than this.

My great-grandma's recipes
were my first language.
Fruit and spice 
taught me enough:
to trust your hands,
to call them home.
A pie is a kiss
without expectation,
pure love.

My great-grandma's recipes
were my first language.
Fruit and spice 
taught me enough:
to trust your hands,
to call them home.
A pie is a kiss
without expectation,
pure love.

grandma's first language
fruit and spice taught me to trust
to expect pure love

(note: if you're not familiar with a burning haibun, it's a really fun format where you write a passage in prose and then erase portions to make a poem. From there you continue to erase until you are left with a haiku)

between

Closed doors
          are so much more
                               enticing
            than open ones.
Odd or familiar,
          cherished or abandoned,
                             they lead everywhere
                     all at once.
Infinite constellations
              collapse like dominos
                               into singularity with
                 the twist of a knob.
What am I afraid of?
                Flowers pressed to paper
                                       lose the vibrancy
                        of impermanence.
Let me exist in the
               moments between moments
                                   in the space between
                      thought and action.
Let me persist
                forever in the breath
                           before the door begins
                      to open.

Work in progress.

This is the poem I can't write. 
I've never hit the backspace so many times, 
never scribbled out so many lines. This is the 
ball of yarn I'm not sure I'll ever untangle. 
The knot I've left unbrushed since childhood, 
but now it's so matted, it breaks all my 
scissors and combs. Look at me hiding behind 
metaphors because I'm afraid I'll cut my fingers 
on the point. Because the point is that I use 
other women to determine my self-worth. 
That I'm never sure if I'm good enough 
unless I'm the best and there is always 
someone better isn't there? 
That another women's success feels like 
a personal attack, and shit I don't want to talk
about this but I think we need to talk about this, 
because every time I see a provocative woman 
I hate myself, and I hate her a little bit too. 
And I get the feeling I'm not the only one who 
uses an outdated rubric to determine their 
grade. The only one who needs a grade to
feel they have value. God I want to scrub this 
off so hard that it stings. This inky stain 
ignored for so long it's become a tattoo 
so ugly I'd rather pretend it's a birthmark.
Like envy was the sin assigned to me by God. 
Some days I look in the mirror and think I'm 
beautiful, not despite, not in comparison to. 
Just truth. And then I hear an old coworker
telling me the hottest women are the ones who 
don't know it. A chorus of lamentation about 
my fat thighs. All the careful reminders that 
boys will jump when offered something better. 
And there's always something better isn't there? 
Now I've taken you down to the bottom 
of the well. This is where the echoes live, 
the place where I point fingers at corpses. 
Where I use other women's bodies as 
stepping stones to try to escape. 
Because we all want to escape.
But this isn't a birthmark.
And I don't believe in sin. 
Or God.
Or unsolvable problems.
So why the hell do I believe that anyone
could be better? Or worse? 
And I think I'm scared to write because I don't
know how it ends. I wish I knew how to 
translate thought into feeling. 
To transfigure conviction into belief.
But I don't.
I don't.

Just in case.

We should have said goodbye,
but "I'll see you soon"
inflates the hours like balloons
and softens our fall. 
I think we all know
the movies are a lie:
goodbye is taboo
for all but happy endings.
So we just pretend
we'll see each other again,
and even on a deathbed
we'll say goodbye
without the punctuation
just in case.
Just in case.
Can you hear it too?
The phantom ringing of a phone
we set to silent?
Weren't we taught that 
unlocked doors are dangerous?
But then again,
what hope isn't?

Why do you write?


Because I’ve never enjoyed a meal that wasn’t shared.

Because I feel lighter without shedding a pound.

Because all of my heroes are storytellers and if I am to meet them, I would have it on even ground.

Because it’s the safest kind of revenge.

Because taking your clothes off in public is illegal.

Because I fall in love with half a dozen strangers every time I leave the house.

Because every kitchen glimpsed through a well-lit window has a table I’ll never sit at.

Because no one tells me secrets anymore.

Because I am too greedy to live just one life.

Because my skin fits so poorly that I find my insides spilling out of my mouth.

Because right now I am a whisper inside your skull.

Because I like the feeling of my fingers tangled in your heartstrings.

Because I can make your emotions dance like marionettes.

Because I want attention.

Because it’s the only way I know how to do good while still feeling bad.

Because I am hungry,
			thirsty,
				greedy,
					bored.

Because writing is the power to turn that black hole into a sun.

Because if that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

@amnotpoetry

My Favorite Weapon

The United States Supreme Court just overturned
Roe v Wade and people are mourning their own 
bodies while others celebrate. The only sense I can 
make is that line: "you're beating with a book everyone 
the book told you to love," but then I remember that 
Jesse Lacey groomed two teenage girls and I remember 
that we were probably the same age when my best friend 
was groomed by her high school internship supervisor and 
she told me he was just so lonely and his wife was cheating 
on him until she found out he had kids and maybe the age 
gap was more canyon than creek. And then I remember 
our religion group project on abortion when I looked my 
former-preacher-now-teacher in the eye and asked him 
if he was sure it was always wrong. Read him the article 
I found about the little nine-year old girl forced to carry
the spawn of incest. Read him the words she said when 
asked how she felt about having a baby:

"Will I have to share my toys?" 

He told me it would still be a sin. 
He slashed our final grade and any tenuous thread 
I believed connected faith and morality. It would
take another year before I would learn that my body 
produced natural lubricant when sexually aroused, 
probably another three before I learned what a clitoris 
was, five more before realizing it's normal for women 
to feel sexually aroused. I learned all of these things 
in bedrooms from nice boys who knew more about 
my body than I did and what if they hadn't been nice? 
Would I even know how to judge? Do I now? And all 
I can think is how much my body has had to rely on 
the niceness of men when my daughter asks me: 
"What are you thinking about?" I'm thinking thank god 
you live in a country with the right to abortion (for now). 
A country with decent sex-ed. Thank god your daddy 
is nice. Thank god you were born to a family who will 
teach you so you don't have to rely on the capricious 
charity of men. But then I remember that I don't owe my 
gratitude to a deity who can drown his misbehaving children 
and somehow retain the right to condemn a person for 
deciding not to have them in the first place. Instead
I give her the sharpest weapon I have.
Instead, I give her the truth. 

the empties

I got a case of the empties
and no I don't mean a box
of two dozen bottles
smelling of stale beer
waiting to be returned
to be filled with fresh beer
or shattered and melted
forged into shiny new bottles
maybe crafted to carry
something different
I mean the single empty bottle
forgotten in the basement
or under the patio
or by the creek behind your house
I mean the case of twenty-three
waiting by the door
until it's full enough to move on
I mean the case of eleven also
waiting because it was scavenged
to add up to twenty-four
I mean the case of five
eleven 
twenty-three again 
case after case after case
dangerously rattling for a gap
that keeps opening up 
until you finally go digging
in the basement
under the patio
by the creek
but all you find are the bottles
in old photos of your
dead grandparents and
the friends you never see
and you can't recycle a memory
so you keep searching through
the places you used to 
drink together
laugh together
be together
and nothing ever gets filled
or broken down into anything 
that can carry something new
I got a case of the empties
a glass-sharp rattle 
begging to move on
while I wait inside the door
in case that single bottle
decides to show up

@amnotpoetry

let go

Do you recall the moment
you were introduced to the ladder?
Maybe you were sat on the ground,
forced to squint against the sun
while they pointed out some lofty goal.
Or maybe you were placed on a rung,
lifted by loving arms while you judged
the distance you'd have to fall
if you took just one wrong step.
No wonder you want to defend it,
all the hours you climbed and fretted,
the blistered hands from grasping
and lifting, bruised shins from slipping.
No wonder your fingers instinctively curl
when I tell you: that ladder never existed.
No wonder you cling so tightly that your nails
press false woodgrain into your flesh
until that imaginary position is as 
identifying as your own handprint.
If only you'd look around you'd see
those cuts and scrapes weren't in vain;
it's no shame to trip on the uneven ground,
and so much easier to get up again.
Without the dizzying vertigo of ascent
you'll see how far you've come compared
not to everyone walking by your side,
but to that unique place you started from.

@amnotpoetry