My sincere appreciation to these editors who took the time to nominate these poems. Many thanks! JK
“It’s about the dog, but not really about the dog,” was nominated for a 2019 “Best of the Net” Award by Sweet Lit.
It’s about the dog, but not really about the dog,
which is why I continue to cry at odd moments
popping up in my day like advertisements on
social media several weeks after we found her
dead in her crate, a cold log of dachshund,
the other two dogs who had slept there with her
for fourteen years eager to scramble out and pee
on the fallen toast of palm fronds outside, come back in
to crunch kibble and take another nap, do all the normal
dog things that they do, as if they didn’t notice anything
wrong. It’s about how they knew, having curled around
her body sinking into that foreign place all night,
but also about how they really didn’t know, or want
to understand, how they look up at me now every time
I walk in the door, my arms empty of her, then settle
their heads on their paws with a single, mutual sigh,
and give her plot on the cushion the girth of a large belt.
Or it’s about how I project these feelings onto
them, the loss, the space, the childhood she held
in her comedian’s body that encapsulated
both of my children and the time that we lived
in this house that we can now clean of her final
traces to put on the market for a family with young
kids or pets, who want an acre of yard with too many
mango trees and scenery that Facebook identifies
as India instead of Miami. It’s about the mangoes,
which the dachshund scavenged for only one season
and inexplicably never ate again, but also not really
about the mangoes, which I don’t have energy to gather
anymore; she preferred the half-rotten avocadoes
anyway, sneaking over to the pair of trees marking
the property line by the fence every time I let
all three dogs out at night, coming back with
the mottled shell of fruit in her snout, or the sugary
sapodillas, brown as rats, rooting like a pig in the brush
as if for truffles. It’s about this nest but really also not
about this nest, emptying though not vacant yet, built
by a raptor though I am now a sparrow or whatever kind
of bird a bird of prey hunts. But oh, how I recall that raptor,
how I still want to eagle the sky and look down
on the world the way I did when I felt it owed me
a galaxy in it that I didn’t have to earn or catalogue
or think about when I would have to downsize it away.
“Marching Band Perp Walk” was nominated for a 2019 “Best of the Net” Award by Boudin/The McNeese Review.
Marching Band Perp Walk
You never forget the way
you’re taught to tread:
Gaze straight ahead. Limbs
on alert. Feet barely lifted,
a watery shuffle. Toe to heel,
toe to heel, a needle through
the arch, threading the seams
of the path in front of you
like it’s a uniform too good
for everyday wear. No slouch,
no saunter, no shimmy. Keep
the deviations only in your mind,
expression neutral as midfield,
hands shackled to instruments
of goodwill, visible to the ones
who sit above. When you reach
your place, raise your proof
to your lips, inflate the dome
at the base of the bags flattening
your chest, and put it all on blast.
“Forward Motion Coaching” was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize by The Evansville Review.
Forward Motion Coaching
Mama says never to put on stripes, they make you look fatter than a chick still struggling from its egg. Mama says you should sit on the edges of benches to reduce your thighs, dimpled and lined by the spaces between the slats. Mama sighs when she catches you eating ice cream and chips, slaps the flesh of your underarm like a damp bed sheet on the line, filling slowly as a dry pump with the lumpy ghost of itself. She says she doesn’t know why she bothers, she gives up, you’ll have to live with your nature the way a pig lives with its snout, and why buy lipstick for livestock. You don’t say anything to Mama the night you wait for the bus going west on the old Route 9, sit up front right behind the driver, following the long pipes of headlights as if they are bamboo, hollow and lean, continually forcing back the fluid wall of dark.
“Voyage, Closed and Done” was nominated for a 2016 Best of the Net Award by One (Jacar Press).
Voyage, Closed and Done
The hijabs may hold off the sun
but they will not keep them afloat
should my hull, overfilled like rain barrels
in monsoon weather and trimmed
with tires that peel in machete-resistant
vines, keel too hard through ferry routes.
Under moons the width of rat tails,
they will trade the fishing nets
they sleep under for fences, tents and taunts,
and it is only smugglers, anesthetized
by prayer and paid with the succulent
currency of heritage, and their vessels,
sisters gilded with urine, who will ever return
to the bare, scalded bones of homelands.
“Anecdata” was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net award by The Poet’s Billow, where it was runner-up for the 2015 Atlantis Award.
At first, Anonymous was a crack in the bark, identical
to the others running up and down the trunk of the tree.
Just by looking you couldn’t tell it apart: one smile
in a maze filled with mirth. At first, Anonymous was
a grain of rice, a kernel of wheat or corn, the hull
and the embryo, the bran and the germ, the horny
endorsperm and the pedicel. Anonymous was a flower
on a panicle that held thousands, where all but one would blow
away in a wind that had no bottom or top, it only had sideways,
the single remaining blossom a missionary, hanging
at the tip like a drop of semen, anticipating the anointment
of porcelain. At first, Anonymous was ceramic, stone, tile,
a bone, a pale sliver of spare rib curdled with back fat, bacon,
a hook to tie to a string that was so much stronger than it looked,
a totem to wrap around a limb, digging in, scarring it so the fruit
would be that much sweeter. An invention, it was a wheel
to carry the cart, to be manufactured in its own image
until Anonymous was as infinite as a galaxy, and as silent.
Then Anonymous never existed but will always live on,
the mother who did not give birth, the sister who is not
a sibling, the daughter never given life, the lover for whom
there had never been desire and no given reason why
but who fucked and got fucked in return. Then Anonymous
continued to march in place like a band practicing on the football
field after the players had left; Anonymous was the preen gland
on the tail of a duck, manufacturing oil to ward off the water
with the underside of a beak and keep the vessel afloat.
Later, Anonymous tried on a different body, a braver
face, a heavier moniker. Anonymous pointed a shaft, held up
a stiffer shield. And later, Establishment was accused. Who was
responsible? Not Anonymous. Later, Anonymous was hanging
by the tool belt, bumped off the wagon when the jailors
had their heads turned. Anonymous was sentenced to the electric
pencil sharpener for noncompliance, to the needle, inserted
like a pen, to the eraser. The choice amounted to what was
the quickest way to go when originally created by an echo?