Maps

I thought of you when I was eight;
Mom was saying there’s someone out there
for everyone
and I pictured you on the other side
running errands with your mom too.

I kept you like a ghost
to talk to; you’d laugh
and cry and wait with me—
for my ghost to find your body.

We must have collided before,
our souls are still talking about it—
it’s like we’ve been given the map with directions.

This is called dramatic irony;
our bond is eternal but our awareness is not.

Go back further now,
when I was catching June bugs
in the backyard with my cousins.
They are not June bugs, Mom said,
they are fireflies.
I was six and did not know you,
but I told someone in my head
that June bugs was a better name
and felt like I had a secret.

– Long Beach, CA

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Taken in Long Beach, CA

Monet

Rain breaks in the distance
unfurling like a curtain
dropping to the sea.
Not everyone can see it;
to some it’s just a gray horizon.

Some people run when it gets here,
they shelter their head with newspapers
and hands on collars of jackets;
we hold our hands out
and speak louder, cringing
with grins through the cold
pelts.

What makes us tragic
is our attraction to pain,
even when we see it coming
like a storm over seas.

– North Hollywood, CA

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Taken in Seattle, WA

Yin and Yang

When I was younger,
all I cared about
was hockey—pushing a puck
down the ice
while everybody watched.
I also cared about history
and presidents
and making the right decisions.
When you’re pure, the death in you
finds a way out.

When I was younger,
I would pick up cigarettes
from the ground and smell them.
I stole my parents’ liquor,
and asked around for weed.
When you’re used,
life becomes a memory.

This is why we love cocaine.
The reuptake helps us remember
what we can’t at our age.
What does passion feel like?
Childhood.
It must be the dying
that we are here to do.
As if eating dirt
would make us clean as babies
who don’t know why
it feels so good to be bad.

– Long Beach, CA

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Taken in Long Beach, CA

Poem Noir

Bonnie and Clyde
machine fire in the night
dropping embers on gleaming streets
as we race toward nowhere.
You ask if this is poetry
and I say yes
because there are pictures.
Can you see the red taillights?
Can you see the black night?
Sometimes I hate belonging to you
but love is like a chain
and I give it slack.
We’re on the run because we don’t want to be better,
we want to be different
and we’ve stolen that idea haven’t we?
We are bats and life is day;
wait with me,
and we’ll never be too prepared to die.

– Long Beach, CA

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Taken in Long Beach, CA

Vacation 2025

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Taken in Seattle, WA

Picture Tangier, dusk: white
boxy buildings step up the hillside
and the sun falls down.

The sky behind you hasn’t changed
but I have.
It was in Florida
in the family pictures
over my head like a sibling.
I watched from my room one summer
my sisters rollerbladed late
around the dimming streets.
In the desert driving
it put poems in my head,
but I lost them along the way
like some of the best dreams I’ve had.

Now you stand in front
of the sunset still bleeding quietly
across the sky
as I look through the lens.
This moment will always hurt;
it is the end of things that haunts me,
and the coming night is the silent bell toll
I’ve heard since a child.

– Inglewood, CA

Empty Nest

Success is a candlelit dinner
with a graying wife—how many meals
have kept us alive? How many years
have we not died?
It’s been twenty, and gratification is still loving her
like a jewelry ad that says
“she’ll always be your girl.”

I see our future like a soft rock ballad
from the ’80s, where couples sway gently
to a saxophone under chandeliers.
What will we do when the struggle is over,
when the kids are gone and the dog has died?
Clocks move slower when you finally have time
to watch them.
I waited so long for a slow song with you,
and it comes now that we realize
the ’80s were never our future;

so you put on the dress and the music plays
and the fireplace glows and we clink our glasses
together for the last dance that sends our ghosts out
to struggle once more.

– North Hollywood, CA

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Taken in Long Beach, CA