Grandpa Jim

Winner, "Best Overall Piece," the Bridge: Student Journal for Fine Arts, Vol. 14

His laughter once shattered
like a Budweiser bottle. His teeth

the brown pieces. Now, his beard
ajar & machine breathing,

he's been poured. Cold tile
& divider curtain replace

his kitchen; its linoleum, wood
paneling & warm ESPN glow.

Sandwich done him in. Shook
& sweated more than sobriety

facing that last bite. Beneath
florescent hum I hear him chuckle

at how dumb that sounds. Light shines
through blinds & makes him less pale.

Dust floats in the rays. I once thimbled
his finger, was once gloved by his hand.

His palm tucks inside mine, I stroke
IV tubes. Squeeze back.

Poem Found While Working Overtime with Amilcar [In Progress]

Look at you reading that merda,
all its good for is wiping
o suor fora minhas bolas!

Can a poem tell you how good this peach tastes?
How sweeter the juice was pouring
down our queixos as me & minha Irmã ran
from our neighbor, pillowcases filled with his peaches.
Idiota couldn't outrun us children!
He liked his horses, se é que me entendes!

Can a poem tell you how beautiful minha Mãe was?
Her bare feet dancing the Virá
on the greenest grass you'd ever see.
Her hair, preto veludo above us. I held her hand
& tried moving like her, como o vento.

I wrote a poem once. To father.
Said if he ever touched minha Mãe again
Eu socá-lo em seu pau pequeno!
He read it & threw his garrafa de vinho
at my face. This scar is the only presente
he ever gave me. He left us shortly after.
I've outlived him trinta anos.

Agora eu segurar a mão da minha neta
e ensiná-la a Virá.

That's enough poetry for me!

Five Poems for Miguel

My good friend & Virginia-based artist Miguel Carter-Fisher challenged me to post five pieces for five days. Naturally, I'm late. So here's all five, all of which will appear in an up-coming collection.


Six Month Coin

It's true. Happiness
would come to me through
a syringe, sprinkler

    of light into my arm,
    savoring each drop
    like melted black honey

    by a blue Bic flame.
            With it—I was a boy again
                        laying on my lawn neck & arms
                                scratchy from the wet grass beneath it
                                        what troubles I had
                                                    would be as far as
                                                           the summer sun
          light turned to fire;
    A-bomb of mourning
spilled into my eyes

—burnt vinegar smell,
arms pocked with rust
& my troubles waiting

for that first blue flame
of memory. Food?
Black coffee will do,

    thanks. This morning I had
    a Moonpie—haven't
    had one in six months.

    Sinking my teeth through
                the soft chocolate coatin' the crisp flaky
                            wafer squeezing the cream filling out
                                    with my fingers cardboard &
                                                wrappers lay around me like confetti
                                    on the linoleum floor

                    That's when I was a…
                                    Silly to mention
        it, never mind. Those
    days are long behind

me. What time is it?
I should go, feel sick.
Might go lay down

            in the grass



to Jenny Masterson

Rustling through a pile of organic Fruit Roll-ups
                 & outlet adapters, you debate

              how many make up brushes to cram
      into the suitcase,

            the scale needle crawling closer
          to 50lbs.

In a sonic boom of memory                 you thrust across the room,
     grabbing our New Years photo strip.

This is essential, you say,
             placing it atop early birthday cards

before mushing your apple cheeks
            into my beard.

As you are bound for rolling
            foothills, fresh olive oil & wine,

 I lay in moonlight
            listening to the second hand

        tick, each a mile

            you go,
& my mind packs its own essentials:

    tucks your black coconut perfume
            under my nose,

    wraps your cold feet a
            round my legs,

     between my ear and pillow
            your voice saying, This is essential.


Tardigrade Black

    You eyeless bear
                            You crawl between the grooves of my fingertip
                                        as easily
                    against the sun's boiling
            Your wrought iron skin
                                    proves flannel
                where my skin would crack
                                    as ice
        Yet for you our world
                        is a doll's eye, black
                like my pupils
                              the black chapped cracks
                       in my mother's hands
            my father's once black hair turned gray
                                        the black around grandpa's eyes
                                                                    the last time

                    Do you also tire, Tardigrade

            ­—has time ever crawled through your fingertips
                                                        as easily?


Mother, Ship Wreck


over the sink


(from Getting Up S'Only Easy for the Sunrise)

for Fall River, Massachusetts

Her eyes are black without mascara, sunk in like Mason jar lids;
                       she smokes more than the cooling towers
                                            across the cove.

Her name is not Lizzie Borden but they are both innocent
                                            yet treated as guilty.

That part of the story is not unique.

She had a dream in her once,
               wanted to be a mortician,
               wanted to make the dead feel beautiful one last time,
                                                                      she tells me,

But she couldn’t justify the loans,
            worked hard to save
only to discover the college adviser told her the wrong information.

Now she works while caring for her extended family;
                             caring for her nephew, giving him the love he needs
                                                             so he’ll never feel ashamed.

He likes to wear dresses,
      likes to take dance lessons,
                           dances with people twice his age,
                    and dances well.

                             He’s happy, she tells me,
                              and beautiful.

Hope in heaven
                     we pray.

A high school shop teacher hung himself in his home.
                  Rumor has it his wife filed for a divorce,
                    left a note    for her    taped to his chest.

That part of the story is not unique.

He use to yell Tarzan calls that rang throughout the shop,
              sang the Beach Boys throughout the day in such a manner
                                            you could say he wasn’t singing at all.

He would say,
  I’m going to teach you little about machine shop and a lot about life
                                      —would teach work ethic in such a manner
                                                         it made  you   listen to yourself
                                                               so   others   would as well.

Hope in heaven
                     we pray.

A nobody overdosed on heroin,
                         found lying on his bed, face up, blue;
                         in the adjacent room         his elderly mother slept.

That part of the story is not unique.

He gave me a Christmas card
                 a few years back     when no other family member did.
      Inside was twenty dollars and the message,
A reason to care about the holidays. Love, Uncle Mike.

I thanked him then
           and still do.

Hope in heaven.
                   No—not in heaven
                                            hope right here, hope right now.

      that is more
                 than a lottery ticket,
more than a cigarette drag.

      that isn’t persuaded
                              by what can you do with that?
or get your head out your ass.

      that prevents
                      a person
from being anything other than
                           happy and beautiful.

Hope, we will.