Trick or Treat

You dress up as my ex-lover: curly, blond hair and Scottish accent coated tongue. We collect treats and I steal a glance or two, stuff it between the candies. When we reach home, I sense a presence inside me, a light wobble, a tremor.

Two children are dressed as fairies. Their parents wait on the other side of the lawn. One girl looks at me, grabs three truffles and walks away. The other says, Thank you.

Tomorrow I’ll call the abortion clinic. But I need to talk to you first.

A woman walks up our driveway with a toddler. She looks like someone in a grocery line with a cart full of Campbell’s chunky soups and Hormel chili. Someone who drinks a lot of Coke and uses a lot of Bounty. After she leaves, I want to say something about her tangled hair, the delicate smile of her boy, but a series of elementary school kids appear: a bumblebee, two skeletons and a ninja. Twins dressed up as Snow White and Jasmine.

A pregnant woman is pushing a stroller on the sidewalk. Her shoulders are narrow, her gait unsteady. For a moment, I place my hand on my belly as if receiving a message from her fetus. I wonder if it is warm inside my belly.

We talk about what might be a cool Halloween costume: a talking gravestone, a time capsule, a laughing Buddha. Then we argue about right and wrong. More so about difficult and easy. The beginning and the end. How the wind knows its way even in darkness, how life always wins even if it seems otherwise.

There is a birthday party going on two houses down the road: the ruckus is on, teenagers in bandannas and ripped denim shorts, yelling, laughing and swearing all at once like a bad-flavored candy. A man dressed as a hobo shows up and says a mysterious word. You nod your head as if you know the meaning. He leaves without candy.

The sky looks like a translucent shell and an evening chill settles on our shoulders. You watch the falling leaves, the evaporating light. I sense the descending spirits, my child unfolding. Growing in the dark, knowing its way. We hold hands and I see your fingertips are all yellow from smoking. For a moment I forget, this is where I live. I could be a ghost already. A shiver slips through and lets me believe we still have time to be young and breathless. To treat ourselves with something new. To trick ourselves with love.

First appeared in Compose Journal, Spring’2016



In the years to come

An old man flicks his cigarette ash
onto the winter grass, recalls
his life, a shrine of memories —
as a young rancher, he hunted coyotes,
slept on the snow-stroked mountains,
woke to the first spot of champagne light
and sighed, Another day of work!
Now, with the virgin spring, the acidic fall,
the loneliness of beer-swigged winters
moving behind his eyes, his cigarette burns
down the tarred years, miles of breath
over raw land, his heart now halved,
God-bandaged, and in this year of death,
he is left to think of lying in the age to come,
with beaten man’s split skin, dirt rubbed,
time licking bones to nothing,
a heavy, unmarked stone resting on his head.

An old man flicks his cigarette ash
into the country club’s ashtray, recalls
his life, a thesis of memories —
as a young scientist, he studied particles,
slept in his chair, dreaming of fractions,
woke up to set a stopwatch
and sighed, Time always runs out!
Now, with the empirical spring and fall,
the uncertainty of quantum winters
moving behind his eyes, his cigarette burns
down the esteemed years, miles of breath
trapped in the cold box of a lab, his heart a quark,
science-draped, and in this year of death,
he is left to think of lying in the age to come,
with golf-tanned skin, slick-white hair
time licking bones to anti matter,
a handsome plaque resting on his head.

An old man flicks his cigarette ash
onto the trash in a dark alley, recalls
his life, an experiment of sorts —
as a skid row bum, he rarely made bail,
always failed to keep a promise,
woke long after the smog-smudged sun vanished,
and sighed, If only I was loved!
Now, with the conjugal spring and divorced fall,
the salt from empty-sky winters
moving behind his eyes, his cigarette burns
down the adulterated years, miles of breath
spread over the edgeless space, his heart an angry fist,
cocaine-rubbed, and in this year of death,
he is left to think of lying in the age to come,
with a tissue thin skin, a stray bullet piercing him,
time licking bones to garbage, a coroner’s boot tapping,
a blood-washed rock resting on his head.

Published in Bitterzoet Magazine July’2016

empty bowls and plates



It’s past midnight when I finish cleaning the kitchen,
sink emptied of mustard water, dishwasher scrubbing and turning.
Free as a Bird plays on the radio while I mop the floor.
The night, broken like glass, its sharp edge up.
I remember this is how it all began. I said yes to the cleaning up,
no to the screw ups, yes to the heartaches, no to the love.

I loosen the strings of the apron and stretch my feet out on the patio,
light a joint. Then I go inside the dining room, stack the chairs,
throw the soiled napkins in the washer, keep the memories,
and snuff the candles. Singing to myself, I set the table again,
empty bowls and plates. I draw the curtain to
ex-boyfriends, love letters, drugs, recipes and silverware.

I say my name out loud.

Published in Common Ground Review, 2017