Vegetables without Dessert

July days die a slow red death:
trees burn to shadow,
the street is smeared with sun,
twilight scabs over the lawn
as I watch my sisters swing ā€”
laughing and jumping with happy thumps.
I glance at Dad, his jet-black hair parted neatly
and Mom, overweight but happy and red-faced.
Iā€™m in bed early, lights off
and the night dims on;
something about the future
was haunting me.

– North Hollywood, CA

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Taken somewhere in Italy

October Weekend

Everybody and everything is amber.
Except outside the circle, that is black.
People eat and drink
and smoke things I cannot,
but it smells good
and I pretend I’m laughing too.
They let me stay for awhile,
until my uncle pees by the trees.
My dad walks me to the cobweb cabin and says goodnight.
I hear their echoes shatter the woods,
where the lonely crunches and creaks
creep me to sleep.

– North Hollywood, CA

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Taken in Zolfo Springs, FL

Half Days

“The Power Ranger’s learn their ABC’s!ā€
He is a funny friend, John, tossing my lunchbox up and down.
After a few minutes in his driveway, a head-nod means I can stay.
But sometimes his mom just comes out and waves
and mom drives me home.
Everyday is so sunny and smells like fast food.
A blue hot air balloon waves
in the field across the street.
I eat outside feeling the sun
and watching the flames.
Tomorrow I will eat double-deckers with John
in his kitchen where a tiny T.V. plays
Sesame Street for his sister.
We always watch it with her,
we are polite.

– North Hollywood, CA

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Taken in Cincinnati, OH

Rapid Eye Paintings

Back when you were defined
by what you hadn’t done yet,
books could write themselves
and you would travel the world without any receipts
in your pocket.

Then one day you wake up in Los Angeles with a degree in your backpack
and you haven’t written
or seen the ocean
or sat down at an upscale bar with a sports coat on,
schmoozing your way into an older woman’s bed.

We are caricatures in our youth,
embellishing our characters and casting
them out beyond the current.
And while we’re painting our futures in light
of the warnings we’ve heard,
the red tide returns. We find office jobs
and raise families with resignation.

Thoughts have more vivid colors:

a sailboat in the future has eggshell drapes
and rocks on a blue, blue ocean,

but the world’s beaches are green
and smell of fish,
and boy is it hot out.

– North Hollywood, CA

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Taken in Venice, Italy

Patience

My parents pour me small glasses of soda;
I can’t seem to handle an entire can.
I tell them that will be the first thing I do
when I’m 18. I’m going to drink
as much soda as I want.

I like family vacations in Florida,
I get all the chocolate milk I want
and I drink it out of wine glasses.
I pretend my baseball cap is a spaceship
and I watch it slowly
drift into the bottom of the motel pool
so I can dive down and bring it back again.

– North Hollywood, CA

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Taken in San Francisco, CA

Tension is a Very Human Thing

Seen also on Amarillo Bay

It was during a summer that lasted
long enough to be noticed. Back when we were young
and still sensitive to the seasons. The sun was flickering
through the dense tree line along our path,
warming our bodies the best it could. We rode
our bikes through the wood, away from all the things we knew.
And then you fell. Your leg had a nice
scrape on it, serious enough to have a look at.
Not that serious. Then I noticed I was touching your thigh and we both decided
you were fine.
Later on, we’d sit by the pool
and I’d pretend not to notice the occasional contact of skin here and there.
But I’d stay up when the sun went down,
listening to crickets rub their legs together without a care in the world.

– Columbus, OH

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Taken in Seattle, WA

Government Issue

The barracks were just an assembly of wooden benches,
steel mess tins and hooded trucks.
Captain called them breaks, when we’d go there,
but war is full of euphemisms.
Weeks of surviving in the trenches
generate a sense of immortality,
but we mustn’t forget that we are next.
So we’d sit on those benches and remember
houses and trees and girls
and let them go again.

I had a friend who’d write poems during this time,
personifying hubris as a vengeful toddler,
younger versions of ourselves coming to take us back.
I can picture him now,
standing in front of those earthy walls, struck by the sublime.
He’d hesitate to scale them with us,
our fixed bayonets sparkling in the midday sun,
running excitedly as if toward a recess playground.
What good did his Blake collections do in the end?
We can never return to nature,
and it will not take us back.

I still shave my head every month
and scan the distance for storm troopers.

– Columbus, OH

PENTAX Image

Taken somewhere in California