over breakfast,
my father asks what you see in me.

I bite the inside of my cheek,

shove a forkful of pancakes into my mouth,
notice the salt shaker eyeing my wounds.


you launch “I love yous”
from a Brooklyn fire escape.

they travel 3,000 postcard miles
and collapse into my ear, exhausted.

I pinch their noses,
breathe new life into their lungs,
fold them into airplanes,

send them back to you
and wait.


there isn’t a building
taller than two stories
here in Orange County.
not a single fire escape.

no point in jumping.
the worst that could happen
is a broken leg or heart.

this is why the sad kids get
so goddamn creative around here.

the mayor’s son rigged his noose
to raise with the garage door
when the Mercedes came home.

a nine-year old leapt into the lion’s cage
at Prentice Park Zoo after
her dog was hit by a car.


on our wedding day,
when I tell you “I do,”

it’s because I do.

it’s because you understand
how ten-thousand dollar apologies
still keep fathers worthless,

it’s because my ribcage expands
every time I think of you,

it’s for all the things
you see in me

and pretend
not to notice.

—  “your airplanes,” from Rachel McKibbens

If I tell you
‘you are a riot’

it doesn’t mean you are funny.

When your eyes slink across me,
I get that feeling in my stomach
of a man with his new love at the pier
as she sees her old lover –
they wave to each other
and in that brief instant
you know she will never stop
missing his touch.

Love is truth
and truth comes easy
like a drill bit to the larynx.

You are a riot.

—  “Trigger and Happy Belong Together,” by Derrick C. Brown

You counted days by their cold silences.
At night, wolves and men with bleeding hands

colonized your dreams. The last time I visited,
you said you trapped a dead woman in your room

who told you to starve yourself to make room for God,
so I let them give your body enough electricity

to calm it. Don’t be afraid. The future is not disguised
as sleep. It is a tango. It is a waterfall between

two countries, the river that tried to drown you.
It is a city where men speak a language

you can fake if you must. It’s the hands of children
thieving your empty pockets. It’s bicycles

with bells ringing through the streets at midnight.
Come up from the basement. It’s not over.

Before the sun rises, moonlight on the trees.
Before they tear the asylum down, joy.

—  “Through a Glass Darkly,” by Traci Brimhall

to give back to God his ticket.

I refuse to—be. In
the madhouse of the inhumans
I refuse to—live. To swim

on the current of human spines.
I don’t need holes in my ears,
no need for seeing eyes.
I refuse to swim on the current of human spines.

To your mad world—one answer: I refuse.

—  “Poems to Czechoslovakia," Marina Tsvetaeva
Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering
any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.
—  “Antilamentation," Dorianne Laux
I’m tired of the way love turns us into animals.
I’m tired of roaring. I’m tired of you tearing
my flesh with your teeth, stalking me like prey
in the shower, lunging and growling; I’m tired
of pawing, and panting, and hunting
and wagging. Of course at first it was thrilling. The we
have no words for this. The we are just
our bodies. But look at my cortex. Look
at my opposable thumbs. I want out
of this stew, I want to use tools, I want to develop
agriculture and walk upright towards you through
this field of corn that we planted, on purpose, because
we were hungry, and human, and knew
exactly what we were doing.
—  “Neolithic Revolution,” by Ali Shapiro