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We turned

our tongues;

reduced them to simple machines:

all equal and opposite forces, and

objects in motion;

symbolic of

nothing more than

their physics and

physicalities —

tried to see-saw them to fulcrum

and levers we could use to pry eachother open

twisted like screws: loosed and driven like we

were trying to fix our hulls and

these sinking ships our mouths

had become;

searching for equilibrium

amongst pushes and pulleys —

had we stopped and asked for help, we might have found

a way to admit that at our best

we were wheel and axle,

and maybe we deserved more complex mechanics

than we knew how to build

between breaths.

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13/30 (Rain Dance)

counter-polar emotions

pyrexed into prism

smoked in rapid succession

she was the Mojave,

she was an Amazonian rain dance,

was shaman,

was conqueror,

was sister,

scared shitless;

she knew she would be a mother one day,

and if this was this, then what would that be?

She stared right through me.

I didn’t have the balls to ask what she was looking for.

I watched her butterfinger her hands over her face;

tried to catch the first few tears before dropping her shoulders

and white-toweling things she couldn’t carry any farther.

it was like she had lived her whole life fumbling after precious;

fights that she eventually lost to gravity…

like she had crashed into the roadbed after chasing

one too many things

off one too many cliffs that

she’d been too in love to see the edge of;

too in love to believe in her brakes

until she was flapping her arms

praying for feathers

those first drops fell so slow you could see into them like snow globes;

a polar bear and a penguin on the same iceberg,

eye flirting, waiting for space enough to say hi,

first-time-high-school-dance-slow-songing with space enough from claws to feather that you could do cartwheels between them,

I didn’t have the faith to ask her to swim under it for me,

to tell me how deep it went,

to tell me about the…

or if she still missed…

or if she had always been…

to tell me if this is the first time she had ever looked at someone

and cried

and cried

and cried

and not known

what to do next.

She eye-fucked the patio for twenty minutes,

and then asked her ducts if they could go again.

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Conversation Series #4 (11/30)

One: I waited.

One: Waited long enough that I forgot that's what I was doing.

One: So long that at one point I stopped thinking you would actually come back, and was waiting for my hope to die so I could leave.

One: Have you ever walked to the kitchen, and opened the fridge or cabinet, and immediately forgot what you went there for?

One: Just stood, confused, scratching your head, trying to find a name for the food you're looking for.

One: I forgot your name when you closed the door. I have not eaten since then.

One: I have never forgotten that I needed to eat, but you took the 'how' of it with you.

One: I have been hungry since you left.

Two: I love you.

Two: You look different now.

Two: You look like a star map.

Two: Your beard has molted; it used to be only city polluted night sky. Full and dark. Built of late night walks from cabs and cars and planes and trains to my apartment, knocking at my door in all hours of most nights. I would pretend not to hear some times.

Two: You were full of too much woke, and too little sleep, and completely devoid of any thought that 'this' might not be the way to live.

Two: Now it is full of constellations.

Two: Now I want to give you my address.

Two: Now I want you to knock, like you did then.

Two: Heaven painted along your jaw. Did you name any of these star-shapes after me?

Two: You always used to tell me my eyes reminded you of Andromeda, back when you used to spend so many prayers asking me to take off my chains.

One: They were all named after you.

One: I just wish you had seen them before. Before they burned themselves out pushing light across the cosmos. You don't know it, but those stars are gone. You're just far enough away that you can still see their light shining.

One: They are more pull than push, now.

One: So used to giving off light, in case you ever needed it to find your way home.

One: But time and love, like light, have a speed limit, and like fire, they burn out when there is no kindle added, and like the stars: just because you can spend hours looking up at me, painting your life into its glow and dance, my beard is not yours anymore.

One: *exhales*

One: I've been waiting to tell you that for some time.

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There’s none left in my dressers

or in the closet

or in toothbrush cups.

These are the first places I purged.

If I survive this, I’m writing a book titled:

For colored boys who have considered burning the sheets

because Tide and Clorox and OxiClean and fresh linen spray

is not enuf

to remove the remnants and reminders.

They never warn you.

Pad your pillows with cute idioms like:

"If these walls could talk."

I don’t know if it’s because it was you, or because it’s me,

or because the struts are gossipy queens

who stand and listen, propping up plaster, waiting for their chance

to whisper just loud enough to make you sure you’ve gone crazy, but

These walls talk about everything.


The stories we didn’t want to remember,

and the ones we never want to forget

all at once.

A constant stream:

stories that make your left leg jolt toward tomorrow, and your right leg turn-tail-and-full-tilt toward your baggage, and now you are standing in the middle of an empty room side-eyeing the walls, left and right leg action an amalgam of mettle that doesn’t mix, bleeding caucauphony, wondering how you will ever stop spinning in circles without throwing out babies with bathwater, and you are the baby, and you are the bathwater, and all you want is for the walls to shut up.

So you buy noise cancelling headphones.

And the walls grow faces,

you never knew you could read lips until the lips are saying things you wish they wouldn’t.

So you move across the country.

And the pilot greets you and looks like her father,

and the moving men look like they are more her type,

and your mother asks you what is wrong,

and you lie to her

and she doesn’t believe you.

But you’re home now,

where the walls have other stories to tell.

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You always drew us inside of lines:

blended wax like candles that burned too close

wiping skin tones and life onto

cartoon faces

and hands

in beautiful hues

that Crayola should have paid you for.

If you had a color named after you it would be hope.

You taught me how to

obey bold borders and made the most

negative space, like a coloring book savant.

You never let yourself be messy,

even though it feels like all I could ever do consistently,

in fact, in the history of the numbers

eight and a half and eleven

there has not oft been more elegance.

I just hope you understand.

It wasn’t that I didn’t think you were artwork.

It’s just that I’ve learned,

after years,

that sometimes it is better to strike a match and turn

beautiful into ash,

and always be able to smile when you think back.

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7/30 (Magic Bag Lady, 4.10.13)

I never knew if she was spot-lit,

or if my heart was InstaGram filtering the information

between my retina and visual cortex —

but she was illuminated.

I wanted to ask her how she could

glow this, inside of

(in spite of)

the darkness, but instead

I used my lungs and mouth and throat to

practice saying things other than ‘goodbye.’

I’ve learned better than

demanding too much of magic:

before you know it, you’re the crotchety bastard at your niece’s 7th birthday party asking the clown when he got out of the joint, telling all children in attendance, in no uncertain terms, that Santa Claus is a white-man-lie, so don’t bother writing him this winter.

and for once, I just wanted

to believe, or for once to

feel what faith felt like with it’s hands pulling at my clothes as if they had no place in this pulpit;

to fall in love again,

if only with her illusion.

I have a bad habit of asking questions

that I’m not ready to hear answers to;

asking questions

that I know the answers for

and still want to hear out loud:

as if I need to know that they have

the bottomless pupils and

scalpel teeth and

three-drug-cocktail and

pull-your-heart-out-because-I-missed-breakfast-and-you-are-just-so-nice that

they sound of echoing inside of me.

And this night, I didn’t want those answers

There was light falling out of

the curls she wore just

for me, and she had rearranged

herself —

spaces that were normally cluttered inside

of her bags had been neatly organized.

She wanted to show me she

could pack light, could not-miss buses, could travel as more

than one.

She reached out and handed me a ‘yes’ to a question

that I hadn’t found the armor to ask of her.

I will always love her for that.

I left the next morning.

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Yesterday I spent the

majority of the day —

all of the time I could find in my wallet —

looking in the mirror,

re-learning how to smile,

rinsing my mouth out single-malt antiseptic,

repeating until I couldn’t taste


except clean

speaking into the ether;

slurring into the reflection of this thing that I’ve become:

best yet, doesn’t mean best coming.

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5/30 (Arroz/Leche 4.6.13)

her skin reminded me of horchata;

her lips reminded me of my thirst,

her hands pulled me toward quench,

she had cinnamon and vanilla

buried just below her surface;

I could smell it dancing from the pores

between earlobe and clavicle.

I stopped occasionally

to let her kiss me back, or

to talk about Sao Paolo and Samba and Verocai

or Cuba and her abuela’s Arroz con Pollo.

I don’t know

If she knows how to dance

the songs of her people,

three-step counts might be one too many,

but she sings Prince and D’Angelo

like it is tattooed on her soul —

slightly-off-key and fearless,

like this these are the songs that matter;

I don’t know that her hips or lips or tongue

can speak my language, but

I could listen to them try

for hours.

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4/30 (Snow Leopards Cannot Be Domesticated, 4.6.13)

My momma asked me

why I would want to kiss a mouth full

of steel and lead,

as if taste testing scalpel would prepare me for the carve —

like when you dip foot into cold water

and try to brace yourself for what it will feel like pulling you down by your neck.

She asked why I would kiss a mouth without a tongue,

only teeth,

built for deforestation,

all slash and weld and scythe blade;

a mouth from which I love you’s sound like knife sharpening,

sequential canines lined by shackles she didn’t want to see me tether my trunk to.

I am still her child,

And today, to her, is like yesterday

is like tomorrow,

she will always see me sappling:

The tree she watered and showered with sunlight,

the tree she watched take root,

watched un-root,

watched struggle through each of successive re-plants.

I could hear Autumn in her questions.

She covered me in October:

cried brown and orange half-way up my trunk,

wrapped me in pieces of herself like she could blanket all the places my bark was eaten bare,

you have never seen fall leaves more fiercely protective.

She knows how I am.

Knows I fly “come at me” toward “I could destroy you’s” like a dance between moths and zap lamps,

and where she knows she grew me strong enough to stand the saw,

she still can’t stand the sound of rotary shrapnel tasting my mettle.

"I don’t know if chainsaws and trees can be friends, baby."

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3/30 (For Nessy 4.3.13)

Now Playing: The Root x D’Angelo (Voodoo)

I went to the doctor,
but he told me
there ain’t nothin’ wrong.

I told him I beg to differ…
because every time I try to look forward,
she’s in front of me.

The opthamologist said that when he dilated my left pupil
he could see you standing there
Calf-deep; stradling the line between cornea and iris.

I told him to look again.
To take a picture,
to frame it,
to show me;
that I couldn’t remember
The last time you stood that close.

I don’t remember when it happened, but
I see you next to me when I look in the mirror
and ask myself how I can do better tomorrow.

You have become a part of my mythos —
you are Nessy:
rising from the Loch.
And no one else believes me when I tell them.
I guess this is why I fable and tall-tell you
into every story and poem I write.
Exercises in typography turns to taught-on-the-job alchemy as I try to find some way to bend and alloy you into more
than metaphor.

You appear part-apparition
part-over exposed photo
part-out of focus rock star
part-uncagebirdable hope, floating in front of me, showing me my flight path
part-good hug giver
part-arched-back-bit-lip-hands-holding-hips-for-dear-life, dear
you are part-prayer club meeting
only part-here, but
that pennies thrown
into wishing wells
and fountains
and offering plates
are more than just
donations of heavy metals to ground water supplies, or
plastic cutlery to events, or slow-collections for building fund improvements, or
liquor buys of homeless people
who were just like me once.

I will need to go back to see the doctor next month,
to convince him of my malady,
and pray that the hem of his garment is grace filled, the way I hear
or I will risk relying on someone else to
hope and donate to my local penny pond
just to keep whatever you’ve become warm.

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2/30 (Measurements, 4.2.13)


“My right and left legs don’t match perfectly,”

So begins a long list counting the ways in which I measure up short.


My teeth have been knocked crooked

by names I could never turn into songs,

notes that latched onto the tops of incisors as I tried to sing them into clef;

refusing to leave my mouth like they were dangling from a cliff,

digging everything in their hands into the edge;

clinging, struggling the earth into shift with their desire not to fall on deaf ears.


My spine was built with as much ‘slither’ as ‘stand-tall,’ and

when I try to be more of the latter,

my ribs and vertebrae turn to a Venice Beach drum circle

before realizing they lost their song during years they spent slouched.

I am afraid of what I look like with good posture.

I am afraid that if I stand up straight I might remind you of my father

or yours, because I have been slumping since I fell from his image to this place.


If I speak to you with my chest held high, I am lying to you.


If I dare you to hit me, I am bluffing


If I tell you I love you, I mean it,

but i have never learned to love properly,

so I can’t tell you what that will feel like.

I only know hard, fast, reckless, overwhelming, unrequested, unrequited.

The kind that perches above you just outside of your periphery; strikes without warning or probable cause, and often without justification.

The kind of love that is always lonely.

that you wish had just stayed likes and smiles and winks and light,

it grows up and reminds you of the fact that thunder is indicative of electrocution.

The kind of love you wish would leave, because you didn’t invite it over and are too nice to keep your door dead-bolted;

not built for newcomers, who might give it up entirely because of one bad trip like: “If that’s what it is, then I’m just going to buy a puppy.”


I’ve never felt like I knew God, or even that God was knowable to me,

but still I searched for him in the backs of mouths, and crooks of necks, and the places where wings would attach to rib cages…

In the smalls of backs, and in the soft flesh between inner thigh and altar.

I wrote one hundred prayers before I realized I was writing love poems for you.

So I stopped writing prayers and started drawing your picture.

And I stopped asking God for help.

This probably should have topped the list, though.

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1/30 (Tree Houses, 4.1.13)

I spent all day

digging myself clean;

down to the places inside of me that I never spoke of,

where I would go late at night to drop your name like smooth stones into wells full of holy water

and listen as you echo praise through my insides —

from behind the hinges of trap doors flanking each of my hips to these hollowed legs,

the false bottoms of my lungs,

the space behind my heart that previously only guarded names of blood relatives.

all of my very best

hiding places;

places, where over the years I’ve kept all of the carts I didn’t name for fear I would never get horses to pull them.

the birthday gifts I’d bought months early for people I didn’t know would stay around, or ever say thank you,

anniversary gifts for women that I might never build up the nerve to kiss; who might not-see-me-as-the-type-they-can-see-them-selves-with-but-dinner-was-delicious-and-you-make-me-smile-so-good,

books I want to read my would-be-children, whose would-be-mothers still speak my name into the air like it’s cigarette smoke — sultry and charring — mouthing me like ‘just quit’ commercials.

all of the things that

I had nook

and crannied away for you-from you-of you-(for me),

hopes and dreams and wants and wishes and whispers and hugs and kisses and fucks and fights and all the things that felt so silly to say out loud.

I held on to them until they became things I screamed into the dark that made neighbors turn on their lights and ask “who is this man?”

"standing on the cliff, looking out at the sea and night and stars, yelling that he just wants to see her smile one more time, so that he might sleep easy; asking could she do him that favor, and do it like she means it, and make him believe for the first time, again."

I sold those things from those places today,

to get some money

so I could boss up

and build the tree house

you said wasn’t high enough

to have fun in.

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Calling Card (3.25.13)


I was 25 when I first told you my name.

It was when you looked it back to me that

I learned I could echo gracefully:

like I deserved the sound waves that carried my calling.

Before that, I always sounded


over backs;

auto mechanic work bags with oil-covered tools —


I always rolled off tongues and sank

like a balloon tied to a dumbbell, thrown in the deep end of a swimming pool

you reverberated me into buoyant, broke

shackled parts of myself previously tied to undertow


It was 2:38 AM.

It was a Tuesday.

I drank like I wasn’t terrified of drowning, and

started rehearsing my lines.

I’m starring in a voice mail coming to a cell phone near you.

I hadn’t had a chance to tell you because

you stopped answering my calls weeks ago.


Hey hey… It’s Niles…

I miss you.

I don’t know what happened, really,

because it never felt like we were far apart until I reached out

and realized you weren’t coming back.

I woke up this morning and couldn’t remember what your side of the bed used to look like before I pushed you out of it.

I guess that I have grown used to it’s empty.

I went to work and looked through my Facebook albums,

but we never took a pictures together;

it wasn’t our thing, or maybe it just wasn’t mine,

or maybe you already knew that it wasn’t worth holding on to.

I went home and tried to find all of the notes you left on the counter

on mornings when you had to leave for work early and didn’t let yourself wake me

because you knew I would make you late…

I couldn’t find them.

you always said you “wished we had more time.”

They might have ended up involved in a trash can fire.

And so then I came to this bar, and I sat in this corner, and tried to figure out if we could fix that.

How we might find more time.

Because one day I won’t realize that I’m forgetting you.

And then we won’t have existed.

And my name sounds so much better when you say it.


I never left that message.

You answered your phone.

I slurred, and

You talked about your new boyfriend…

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Freewrite 3.22.13

It took me nine days to find my footsteps and dance again.

Two-stepping over hollow-chested shells

split open like used cocoons;

skin stretched taught over bones like homemade hand-drums,

but these lovers lack percussion.

I could have wrote their names out on a treble clef the way I knew their songs.

They lined the hedgerows like discarded furniture on Los Angeles sidewalks.

Laid out, strewn, like they had jumped from story book windows;

had fallen from tall like the fairy tales we don’t believe in any more.

had landed and been quartered like

whole notes that didn’t reach their final destinations;

this is what happens to music that tries to mad hat its way out of Wonderland.

They never tell you that

Un-mazing this labyrinth

will be accepting that

lost is now a part of how you find found.

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Freewrite 3.21.13

I walk around

jetting a name toward skies I’m scared by;

syllables flying from my tongue like

fighter jets launching from a sinking carrier.

Each phoneme uttered is armed:

is terrified:

consonants and vowels suffering from

pre-and-post traumatic stresses:

They can still remember learning how to smile

through bad haircuts

and their first class pictures.

They stand like child soldiers,

who were forced to grow up too soon;

forced to fight and live the way their fathers died.

Fight and live for men in suits and stars;

men disinterested in the admission that the war is


or lost

or won, but

definitely over.