Interview and Reading on Everyday Poetry

Interview and Reading on Out of Our Minds

One poem in Poets.org

Three poems in DIAGRAM

Four poems in Tupelo Quarterly

Two poems in Hobart

One poem in MAYDAY

Two poems in Diode

One poem in Pine Hills Review

One poem in [PANK]

Five poems in Rattle

Two poems in Ragazine

Two poems in 2River View

Another poem in DIAGRAM

Yet another poem in DIAGRAM

Poetry Interview with Split Lip Magazine

Fantasy Interview with book r3vi3ws

...still hungry? Here's more!

The Man With Half an Ear Gets His Hair Cut

 

The blond, plump-faced hairdresser

describes the hickeys she found

on her boyfriend’s neck and chest,

knows they’re not from her,

asks me what I think she should do.

 

As I try to answer, her hands

tug my skull in different directions

beneath the whirl of razor and

the crisp wet snipping of scissors.

 

All day, she’s been tattooing

scorn and rage into other people’s

bangs and sideburns, and now,

for fifteen minutes, it’s my turn.

 

Then she touches my right ear,

the tip where the flesh never formed—

just the blueprinted pipe dream

of my parents’ DNA—asks Does it hurt

when I press here? This is not

 

the first nor the five hundredth time

I’ve been asked about my missing half-ear:

car accidents, knife fights,

once someone asked if it was true

 

that my own father shot it off.

But this one is new, I realize, this one

I’ve never been asked before—

not until this spurned hairdresser

 

distracted and tugging my scalp

like the rip cord of a parachute.

I tell her no, it’s like scar tissue, trust me,

I barely even feel it. She nods. Good.

I was afraid I was hurting you.

A Knight in Cross-Section

 

He ends, of course, with armor
like an iron cast of rivets and seams, 
the shield hewn from a living tree, 
his spear with its phallic handle
and hooked tip, plus the mace
spined on all sides like a stegosaur, 
beneath a facemask fixed
with ram horns or a victim’s skull.

Later, undressing after battle, 
we see the soft hands of servants
peeling off his stained metal webs, 
then his heavy vest of toughened
leather tooled with hungry lions, 
softer cloth for padding, finally 
some good luck charm hung 
like a clapper against the heart--

scrap of maiden gown, stag’s hoof, 
perhaps a pouch of homeland soil.
Further still—the downs of hair, 
strata of muscle and fat stretched 
like greasy paint on a cage of bones, 
enclosing what hovers on the soul: 
the darkest river, clouds of organs
like angels blocking the light.

 

 

Persephone and Oedipus

 

Tired of arguing over who wears the sadder fate,
Persephone and Oedipus decide to get drunk.

Oedipus knows this little Irish pub down the street,
a basement place with rusty swords on the wall.

He buys the first round, sips his Johnny Walker Black
and hopes she doesn’t catch his wince. But

Persephone is too busy wondering if her filmy gown
is the wrong attire for this place, her nipples

swaying like figs at the end of the bartender’s stare.
I’m tired of being a metaphor, Oedipus grumbles,

clenching his bruised knuckles around his shotglass.
Persephone nods, spine arched like a scimitar.

He stares at her then asks, Want to do some blow?
She says yes, but only if they go to the ladies’ room.

It’s cleaner in there, she says. Oedipus frowns.
I thought you said you’ve never been here before!

Persephone readjusts her gown. I haven’t, she says,
but everywhere you go, it’s the same damn story.

 

 

Dedication

 

In our house, not once did we hear
someone say you’re welcome
in answer to thanks. Instead—“it’s all right,”
backhanded reminder of the sacrifice
this or that Dollar Store trinket
cost folks well below the poverty line.
This is a hard habit to break.
“Don’t worry, it’s fine” when you thank me
for helping you move furniture
or coming to your reading,
your wedding, your beloved’s funeral.
“Oh, it’s all right” to students
when they thank me for margin comments,
for letting them turn in assignments
half a semester late. “It’s all right”--
the door held open a few seconds longer
for the jock on crutches,
for the blue-eyed girl breathing
into the straw fixed to her wheelchair.
I want to thank the moon for tilting
in time to highlight the rain
spilling off a parked windshield,
my body for keeping itself free
so far from cancer, diabetes, suicide.
I want to thank my fear of death
for melting whenever a beautiful woman
bends to drink from a fountain.
I want to thank the crows for mating
on any windowsill but mine.
And their answer, rising in chorus
with each day’s rusty sunset:
It’s all right. It’s all right. It’s all right.


The Trouble with Hammers

 

The trouble with owning hammers 
is that you have to store them somewhere, 
on pegs or at least in a drawer
or inside an emptied out tackle box, 
long after the house is built
and the circus folded like an envelope
on the backs of unfamiliar trucks, 
all night from Maine to Hollywood.
I want to go by three names 
like child actors and serial killers.
My father kept hammers in a drawer
and once, when he stopped by 
but I was out, he nailed a two-by-four
he stole from a construction site
under the sagging cushions of my couch.
I keep my hammers in the closet
but he found them anyway. I would
like to be a hammer, I think, 
and swing all day down on the heads
of thin, unsuspecting nails
even though I am not particularly 
violent or unmedicated, if that matters.
It’s true, I was never any good
at math ever since that one bronze 
star in fifth grade, and I know 
you’re not supposed to begin a speech 
or say in a poem how nervous 
you are, but I think there are more nails 
than people, and more hammers
than people, and I am weary of these
constant reminders that nothing
built after the pyramids
seems able to hold together for long--
not just relationships, but other things
like bookshelves, governments, 
the new consensus on circumcision.
They say Man’s first tool was a hammer, 
which makes sense since I can’t
imagine apes working a protractor, 
much less a sextant under the wet stars.
But each time I swing, I can feel
my own head loosen from its shaft
of lacquered bone, and I know
once it flies, it will never be tight again. 


Leaving Iowa

 

Forget the wrestlers with quick-
silver torsos and Spartan shoulders, 

the sheen of cornstalks like secrets 
wrapped in green evening gowns, 

sunsets that forgive our clichés
of spilled oxblood and lavender, 

lakes where marijuana grows wild
between farm-towns called Osage

or Sioux City after the lost tribes, 
teenagers swimming by moonlight.

Forget the impossible darkness
of freshly plowed soil, the heat

from the blacktop along 218, 
fields of turnips and bell peppers

and petunias, each seed pulling 
a different memory from the earth.

Forget too the full-breasted farm
girl blinking purple-tinted contacts

while she wipes each watermelon
at the fruit stand—just another one

wishing she were somewhere else. 

 

 

The Birthdays of Ex-Lovers

 

How they pinball through the mind
like the combinations of outgrown lockers,
a mishmash of Virgos and Cancers

on whose soft favor we once depended --
useless now like the few syllables
bored in from foreign language classes,

the equations of elementary physics
they swore we must memorize
if we held any hope for future happiness.

But no — the world knuckles along
whether we remember or not,
hauling everyone for whom the heart once

flounced like a broadsided schooner,
for whom we raised mythologies
all sin-sweet, proud as a dead religion.


Cardboard Urn

 

After the funeral, your hair 
and skin baked to ash, 

your body brought back in a gray box
with a bag of soot inside, 

box and bag on a pedestal by the table, 
your brother came to see you.

He asked where you were, 
and when I said By the table

he thought I said On the table
and he said Here? 

peeking under the lid 
of an empty drinking cup, 

as though we had gone 
to the local Kwik Stop

for gas and fountain drinks 
then decided what the hell? 

and used a cardboard Pepsi cup 
for our mother’s urn.

He actually thought that, 
and his eyes got wide

as he stood in the dining room, 
unspeakably appalled, 
staring at that cup

and mother, oh sweet jesus
how I wanted to laugh.


 

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