Cult of Benevolence

A group chant in the back room. Espresso
machines hiss
in the main. The chanters clap. I may 

know the words but I drink
the standard drip black
up here with coffee 

jerks. I was no mixologist. Sometimes
it still hurts to mingle.

In the Literary Commons

Words read upside
down, written
at an angle, the floor vibrates 

when people pass by. Sticks
for the wobbly
table—that one’s mine. 

I will use
any excuse to be this
shaken without visible calamity.

Tags East

She’s going to repeat
herself. Another third
rail near miss, search

for a boat to catch
before it goes
beneath that bridge. Guardian

angels smirk
behind glass block. A white
fire truck unhooked and parked

at the curb. Self-plagiarize
enough, and slate won’t hold
sleep walkers in


over the riverbed.
To know what will
requires more

encounters with trap doors
than she’s willing to risk—no
matter how many

times she gets that urge.

No Access

A different cast
of characters, the chain
of cause and effect drapes
across the same

forbidden entrance. She burns
through them too intensely
on an old diesel train
passing through towns

named after men
she knew for a night
or two on the way
to more. She never got off

the rails long enough
to recognize how she was using
up this allotment
just as she used up

all her drink tickets
half a lifetime
too soon. Now she never gets off
at all. Better to listen

to that rhythmic chug and roll
from inside this coach class car.

Census Blanks

Rebellion in long black
boots and Paper Mate flare
ink. Are those hearts 

on the cap clip—a branding
she wouldn’t trust? Never
bother with a steady pace. No grace 

in her stride toward another
pair of male arms. It hurts her
more than they would imagine. 

One person household, an apartment
number she recites
over the noise of a question 

about a parking voucher
she’s entitled to. She’ll answer
the next one—tightlipped for now.

In the Audience with Eyes Closed

Speaking in captions, she drinks
nostalgia from a red rock 

glass. It tastes almost
sour—sweet kicked in 

the jaw with a steel
toed boot firmly encasing 

the foot of a man
she used to know. In biblical stories, 

the knowing
would be absolute. Once two 

bodies collide and become

with two hands can pull 

apart the memory of their imprints. 

But outside official belief, she lays with grace
in a black striped shirt. Forgotten 

or not, she won’t get
drunk from a cocktail tonight.

Exposure Closure

To cash in
a past, pick
a year—1992,
better yet 1991— 

would be too easy.
I’m done being
easy. Narratives
wrap around words 

compressed. A loose loop 

of letters with clear beginning,

end would be a legible expose
yourself delivery
method. But 

it’s what gets packed in
so tightly—one lover’s lip
smashed against another’s ear.
Turns out, boys tell secrets too.

Record Store Day

What’s left of her
independence could be lost
on those leaves budding
too early 

to be in tune. Survival
of the opportunistic—the fittest
in a fancy new suit. Who
would wear a dress, 

a tie, to a basement
house party where the pipes
might be about to burst? This leather
jacket has no secrets to hide 

yet. Will there be time? Tornadoes
can’t destroy the true wall
where faces and signatures
are faint but there, if 

you study the brick
long enough and in the right light.

Wellington Place

After all these years, all
you have said, you’re still

of him. He has only a few
words left. They won’t hurt. Rarely did.
It was the ones 

he threw at those around you.
To be so privileged
can be a burden. In his weakened 

state, new hip just beginning to settle
into the mechanism that is
what’s left 

of his life, why
this fear? Yes,
you’re losing him 

the way we all lose
one another. There are no guarantees,
no ultimate reprieves. This is a slow burn 

singe around your original
edges. No way comes without terror.
Whose? Yours? His? 

All of those others?
With the spoken
language disintegrated, 

what’s left is this raw
love. You must look it
in the eye. Don’t turn 

your head off his
steady gaze. Remember,
who he is.