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{Originally published in The Literary Review}

If you were you, you would be yourself by now,

myopic & blonde, patriotic as ozone yet pitiful


as a broken ox—your mustard-yellow yoke

melting in the sun.


                                 If you were you, you would be

the iconography of a good marriage, a Brooklyn-


bound train, the refrigerated charm of an airplane

over Appalachia.


You would be a violent thing to love, your tongue

poor in vowel & grooved with dust.


                                   You would be play money—

tender if legal—a kind of pyramid scheme sunk

on the wrong side of profit,


your capital humming on the other side of childhood

like a dutiful daughter.


                If you were you, you would be a bad

Polaroid of a bad birthday, a toothy postcard


printed to commemorate some intestinal moment,

your smile sinister as a ghost ship grounded in fog.


You would be the ghost of that ghost ship—

the shipwreck—salt & wrack under the ferocious

hands of the sea, your eyes scraps of mint fabric


bobbing on the reflection of your face.

                             You would be


a bird over the chalkboard of the west, lonely as rope

among the cheap advertising of clouds, no?


                                    Wouldn’t you, full of the anchovy

light of late summer & calm as dishwater, calm at last,

feel every qualm a feathered thing gone extinct & fast?


{Originally published in West Branch}

Tell me what

you deserve


& I’ll give it

at my expense.


Give me

enough string


& I’ll twine

your desire


to its fruit.

So long


as its fruit

is me. Other-


wise, go indigent

& handsome


on your road.

Go crimson


& unpronounceable,

your cosmology


porcine & gasket,

your grief an


incandescent cancer

that conjugates


all joy into loss—

your congregation


curtained as a circus

must be to protect


its profits from

payless eyes.



we’re curtailed


by pretension,



by everything

from maharaja


to messiah,

mulberry bush


to song about it.

We wander grass-


fed boutiques

of jussive animals


like Victorian

pensioners, twirling


umbrellas & in lace,

calling the lion





Nostalgia confers

narcissism like


a tree. So we sit

in the audience


of that circus,

suspect & brigand,


like a magazine

so estranged from


its congressman

that it falls


out of circulation.

So we smile


& show the barcode

of our teeth.


So we run. So

we run. Blown


out like a bride

on a beach,


all bluster &

white, the sky



with birds & secular


as a tomb

given to tourism.


{Winner of the Poetry Society of America's 2016 George Bogin Memorial Award}


Goodnight—Mary, Jane, Pat.
Sleep tight, you sweet operators

of America, your voices strung
like laundry across this nation

drowsy with a full century's-worth
of light. There's nothing you

can't tell me that I haven't already
heard gift-wrapped in your General

American grace, but still I wonder
in what chamber of a horse's ant-

eaten skull I'll recover my youth.
Our human garden grows rich

in these green suburbs and what I feel
is not so much loss as a lessening,

as if the self was nothing more
than a late-model sedan crossing

the city limit in search of a better
resale value. It's funny, this franchise

of molecules that fizzes up in each
of us, like motels viral along the interstate:

some full while others flicker and die.
When will the stars rain down

like cheap plaster? When will language
be little more than a dandruff shaken

from our heads? Ladies, you tell me
the number I've been calling has been

disconnected, but where did the person
it belonged to go? Alone on the line

I find only a prairie alive with funneled
wind, a nation heavy with wheat and light,

its chorus of dim voices locked in a kind
of pharmaceutical sleep. I find a system

unchanged, charged with electrical pulses
that send the receiver scurrying in their cradle,

the longhand breath of ghosts rising
through switchboards to ask Who's there?

Well, tell me. Who is there? Who goes?
Ladies, please wake up. I want to try again.


{Originally published in Gulf Coast}


We were poor in heat, poor in



                         Poverty then a plum

                                            uneaten in the icebox.


  The bank account a lunchbox

that ate itself.


                         On Halloween I hid

                                        in the swimming pool.


          Our house was forever

                     latched in dusk.


                                                 There were snakes

                                       in the walls.


                                                            They slithered a bitter

                                           alphabet as we slept.


                                                                                One day my father cut

                                                             a door in the wall.


                          A samba of sparks & venom

                  showered out.


                                           The ceiling fell like snow

                                                                         and the next morning

                                 I handled spent cigarettes

                                                           with a curator’s careful lips.


{Originally published in Denver Quarterly}


Argument grew


like algae after,

but only the emergency


exit would do


so we took our faith

in geography


and put it to the test.


                                    Then down to the soap-

                                    bones we decided to break


                                    even and took half of nothing

                                    nowhere the other was going.



                      In travel I saw buffalo, dorado,

                      cuckoo, & macaw.


                                                             I saw

                      murder & the missive peace

                      of small-town summer.


                                                                Certain states had

                                                                a hydroelectric hum

                                                                to them, as if their

                                                                fossils were angry

                                                                at being woken up.



                                                                                         A junebug

                                                                                                     of smoke

                                                                            lullabied Kansas.


                A wedding party

                                             of rocks wept

                                                                     in the Dakotas.


                                                   Everywhere I found

                                                   the long-lost bottom

                                                   of the sea.


                        Everywhere I found

                        gas stations & beauty parlors.


  Everywhere I found

  someone & something

  to sell.


                                                                      I broke up

                                                                      over Nebraska

                                                                      and showered down.


{Originally published in Anti-}


eat Ohio alive.
June is the first
month in bank
robbery season.


nestles in
the trash.
Angles of
neckties act
as compasses
for flight.


You will




You will feel
the need
to disappear.



In an abandoned lot,
a slow conglomerate
of green tongues
devour a dead bird.




Fill in the blank:
“This new-century
sky is ______.”


a) Noctilucent.
b) Nacreous.
c) Lenticular.
d) Unidentifiable
as fluoride.
e) All of the above.




The sky is
a cinderblock
smashed by
and mothlight.



is a kind
of question.


It asks you
to reconsider
your inventory.



Broken jackknife?
Decoder ring?


Come back.

Milk-white set
of marbles?


Come back.

Boiled shark
jaws? Sloop load


of clams? Antique

copper broach?
Please, come back.


This wristwatch

won’t tick,
won’t heirloom,


but disappoint.



In its abandoned lot,
the dead bird is gone.
Green tongues twist
slowly with its memory—


             a thing
                              that devours
     that will devour



Spare licks
of lightning
pepper the pan-



Trees teethe
in a locust




Come back.



workers wear
Federal orange


vests, smoke
cigarettes in
the noon haze


as they undo
the street’s
ceiling. Cars


run on boiled
bones. Smog
rolls in like


a prehistoric ghost
to slumber. At
night our cities


are swallowed
in swamps
of orange light.


Ghosts, federal
as bone, boil
around us.


According to
local sources,
a well-kept lawn
is the simplest
indicator of
economic stability.

burglars operate
under the night’s
braille blanket.


Conversation is
a politic of trivia.


A newspaper is
a politic of a tree.




In the beginning
atoms collided
like German


else stewed in
the oilfields of
Los Angeles.


And ghosts,
federal as bone,
boil still around us.



Already heat has broke
loose of its zoo.


chew tar, kick cans, call
strangers collect.


                        They drown
the radioman in his radio.



Come back. Come back,
children. Come back

and see the Midwest’s
checkerboard from


30,000 feet, the smoke
of industry leering like


syrup over the river,
alming the sky of life.


{Originally published in Boston Review}



Josephine, I’ve junked

a jazz band, some squall

grullo by the cobweb’s logic.

All skulls and bouillabaisse

but we’ll see come Zulu

time if it’s of goodwill

or gall the Zoroaster sings.

All this in the hallway where

July stalls jetlagged,

in the hallway where

the lemonade light lingers.




Every day was Halloween

in the Middle Ages:

the cravats of betrayed

consiglieri crispened under

Carpathian sun. So long,

Main Street. So sorry.

I’ve rung you jealous

to say slender things

from this fickle well.

I think it best we go

to bed now.




Roll them bones

at benthic measure.

The bankers of sleep

bicker in the break

room. I find telephones

humming in their buoyant

cases everywhere along

the river, all unanswered;

all when answered yield

the voice that calls

you to waking.




From the calcite

mountains of our mouths.




My time in Malaria,

among the mystic

zombies who dragged

themselves like trash

through the tropics

chanting no time

like this time like

this time to waste,

was accurately reported

as an adventure in

rudimentary calisthenics.

They haunt me like

hemoglobin. From behind

bus terminals they ply

us in paper suits, watch

us like iceboxes.




Upon alkaline lakes we

skate on alkaline skates.

In ermine the eel eats

the eggs of each oak tree.

I eye the exit out into

the taxi-infested night.

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