Welcome to The Family
-After Cesar Vallejo’s “Black Stone Lying on a White Stone”
A summer’s day like any other day.
It was warm
and innocent and
the Sun’s arms hung
like golden ribbons
off the tree branches.
And then I died.
My insides turned outside
and the creases of my fingers
swelled up with somber sweat
and the beads ran down
my lifeless hands.
A final escape attempt.
Suddenly, I believed
in a reality that had not
existed before. Wretched
thoughts, creatures of habit.
An unbreakable spell.
Yes, I died that golden day,
which turned to amber afternoon
to a violent violet evening.
And the crickets chimed
their bells in a steady rhythm,
the night alive and breathing
—warm with life—
and all I could do was
stand cold, crying.
-After Eugenio Montale’s “L’Anguilla”
Angela, shrill, a siren
day many any
the glacial little Baltic
sure genuine honestly,
many, honestly, and any
a fool, me,
how risky and profound,
such a ten anniversary
dear ammo in ammo and
pointy acapella acapella,
assorted, hear me,
simply you and yet
through, simply you
yell coarsely, yell magically,
fill and though
tragically delve in the
finicky, see you’re no
soon you look you saw a
gray ascending, eulogy’s can
be so imposing downward
mortal, fussy, hey, declining
able, all see
I need no
all and come on, I hear the
Angel, yeah, torture,
fruit, fresh and more, and tear and a
day solo I don’t see
but trios, oh, I discreetly, rush, see me
prying at me, recline, you
know though, a paradise see
the animal, very stay lurking feet and
a dove only more days absurd and a desolate
zone, the scent wheeling a day
each day astute, and comically won and you don’t pray
incarcerated near me
on, go, step, leap, go;
your ears, brave, gems
a melody, can you be okay in costume? No, and to you
I see, a day, brilliantly intact, a mess, oh, finally
Indelibly so low, immerse me
To you I go, put you on,
I dare love, so yell, yeah?
-After Joe Brainard
I remember the smell of Mohonk Mountain House:
Oakey and earthy and thick and rich.
Mahogany and collected brown dust.
Charcoal soot from the fireplaces
and the permeating smell of pine
in between every grain in the wood.
I remember when my first dog—Maggie—died.
It was cold and the house felt haunted
and dark even though all the lights were on.
I remember watching in awe at my Dad crying
inconsolably into his hands. Choking on his tears,
completely unable to breathe, unable to speak.
Never have I seen someone cry like that before.
I remember the last day of sleepaway camp.
And I remember my first kiss:
Jesse and I had been dating for a week.
We hadn’t slept, and I felt gritty and grimy
and the early morning dew caked coldly
on the back of my neck
behind my greasy hair.
I remember that his lips felt rubbery
and his barely protruding tongue
was uncomfortably moist inside my stale mouth.
I remember feeling too nervous to look him in the eye,
so instead I looked beyond him at a red suitcase.
I remember when my grandfather died in a car accident. It was the middle of the night when we found out. I was 13, and I shared a bottle of wine with my mother, because somebody had to.
I remember the moment
that finally convinced my mother
to let me be prescribed accutane:
We were in our parked car,
and I had the prom issue of Seventeen Magazine
open on my lap. The cover girl
was wearing a sparkly yellow prom dress.
Through the tears I said I was terrified
I couldn’t go to my prom
because long sleeved prom dresses didn’t exist
to hide the bumps and scars all over my body.
I remember going to a therapist I didn’t like.
Her office was all one stained, beige color.
I do not remember ever going back.
I remember the day my best friend got into college.
I remember wearing pajamas, and shrieking
Off to Northwestern for Betsy!
I remember my cousin Zack frequenting our house during his first year of college.
I remember how pale he looked and how dejected he seemed.
I remember not knowing what “being stoned” was or what it even looked like.
I remember that time I lost my virginity – weird.
I remember seriously wondering whether or not I was going to survive that February night of my freshman year at college, lost on a highway somewhere in Northeast DC. I remember praying.
I remember feeling the coldest I have ever felt in my entire life:
Nighttime right before dawn. January, 2009.
I remember putting on a dirty trash bag to try and block the wind.
But Barack Obama was now our President, so it was worth it.
I remember my guitar teacher handing me a sheet of the pentatonic scales.
I remember thinking this will be impossible to memorize.
I remember him telling me it was possible to memorize.
I remember the day I finally got it.
-After William Carlos Williams
Coyotes howl up
the silver moon
down, the northbound
whistle echoing far
The bees can’t fly home;
too much harvested pollen.
The grass can’t blow straight,
each strand wobbles merrily.
The horny toads
croak out of key.
The moon snorts and chuckles,
stardust still sprinkled about his cheeks.
Deers dance and
for all those happily lost.
An owl hoots, then hiccups.
Old Man Coyote Howls.
The Mockingbird sits smugly
on the cooked branch
of a silent Dogwood
that can’t stand straight,
An army of ants
march back to their Queen,
each with an oversized
this bountiful night.
It is time.
(Across the universe…)
across the FUCKING universe
I sit alone—alone
why? I know where I
want to be, won’t be, what I want
to do, to be, I think…
I want to scream, internally.
And then throw something
—ANYTHING—onto a canvas
into a wall
onto my body
Pierce me, tattoo me, shave me, share me
for the story.
Make my head spin, in
a beautiful fucking disaster.
I can feel my nerves
((my hands are shaking as I write this))
shocking and prickling
tingling—off the ends of my finger tips.
Shock the page. Punch a wall,
dare to call it ART, SOMETHING
(Nothing’s gonna change my world…)
I want to pierce my left eyebrow,
get a tattoo of The Grateful Dead lightning bolt
right below my left
And I want dreadlocks.
And then I want to shave them off.
And then dye my hair bright blue. Or purple.
I’m only young once.
LOOK AT ME
Please? My insides are screaming,
my outsides are shaking
my heart is angry with my mind.
(Jai Guru Deva. Om?)
At least I feel alive.
My Kind of Blues
Car windows rushing past, looking
up and seeing the sky and trees
The sun adds tint and the clouds add dimension.
A transcendental palette.
Sunday morning. Winter.
Bagels and eggs and my
brother blasting something foul from the television.
My dad makes a fire in the
living room and he and my
mom sit in their
pajamas reading the
My dad flicks his stereo on. It hums, hums, soothing.
Saturday morning. Spring or summer.
Screen’s are lifted open and outwards
and freshly cut grass.
I hear my dad strumming his guitar out on the patio
outside my window.
My dog and cat listen to him tentatively,
the turtles, too.
And my mother is in the garden.
First day of school, after some cold, cozy break.
It’s dark and early. I struggle to pull my jeans
on. I can feel the denim constrict and loosen
It’s nighttime. The sky is navy and I am nervous for
that feeling again. I can feel it—it’s coming.
Too much to do, too little time. Not enough sunlight.
Never enough sunlight. This is never a good thing for me.
Where’d I put my lightbox?
A light drop. My right ear picks up a wind-up, snap, and plop
of a something heavy into the stream.
My brother complaining until he finally catches one.
Although he’d never admit it, the only reason he ever catches
a fish is because my
dad tied the hook and cast out correctly.
Maybe he’s getting better now. Perhaps.
Brassiness and saltiness dance up and down my senses.
I look up
and the trees are talking amongst themselves,
every now and then glancing upwards
towards the sky.
(Somewhere in Between), Just Before
A raindrop about to land,
the second time it freezes just before it
hits, crashes, bursts open, explodes, floods,
gray and blue mirrors.
The ground glowing,
vibrantly asleep right before
day trades with night,
and golden ribbons start to weave through the weeds.
Inhale, the last breath,
muscles constrict and tighten,
lungs fill up, ready,
right before that
dive in head first,
or perhaps a cannonball.
right before sleep,
when the dream of the night
comes on in waves, slowly,
with the current.
In it rolls, out it goes.
A snowcapped wave, right before it breaks.
A silver cloud, right before the rain.
Up and Out and On and Gone
Wake up, stand up, sit up,
It’s time to get up!
up and out and into
New and fresh and clean and bright
and fresh and clean and bright
and clean and bright
away from the darkness and depths
to start anew;
Pulsing pumping primping prickling
alive alive alive alive—
senses spark and shiver and shake
wake up! Stand up, sit up
Straight up? Straight up!
Smacked up! Smacked awake!
(Hey! I got smacked today!)
going going going going
going going going
going going going going
There is a janitor down at the Lincoln Memorial
who mops the dirt off the white marble steps.
It’s cherry blossom season and
tourists clad in neon matching shirts and
name tags run up
the steps to see Ole’ Abe.
Right after he’s done once,
he turns around and
there it is—more dirt.
Back and forth and back and forth
never faltering, never frustrated.
He pauses for
wide-eyed visitors to
take snapshots of themselves
amidst all the monuments.
White marble, white marble.
Never in the picture, he is sure he
remains invisible. And continues
to clean off that brown from that white.
An old stranger,
wearing a khaki hat with long
walks down Lincoln’s steps and
shakes the janitor’s hand.
They exchange smiles, then
go their separate ways.
I was leaning against one milky pillar,
without any rest. Replacing sleep with
“a medium iced coffee with milk and two splendas.”
In fear of arrest for smothering those who kept me awake
for the entire night prior, I rose
and walked down to Old Reliable and
sat down to let the tourists glance at my dismal appearance.
The springtime sun warmed my body and the
illuminescent marble attempted to
cool my nerves.
Then I saw him:
Without impatience, lacking hostility, all pervading and persistent.
Back to work, an infinite work,
just keep on going.