Origins Poem

When my Obachan was eight,
American soldiers swarmed like ants over her rock of an island.
The soldiers with their wide eyes and khaki skins
left boot prints in the sand and
on the faces of children.

I come from Kumejima, the rock island
capped in mist and rooted in seashells the size of bloated bellies;
boy soldiers crouched among the banana trees
ambushes beneath the elephant ears,
palms polka dotted with blisters from the fibrous stalks.

I come from helicopters low over the cane,
bending with the weight of June harvests among bodies missing their limbs but
this is not a war poem.

I come from rose bushes pruned with arthritic hands
brush fires rising behind the double wide
taking the swing set into its stomach,
all embers and melted rubber in the morning.

I come from a marketable man
suit jacket tight across his stomach, pockets packed with children and cholesterol
when his pockets overflowed
he must have started filling his arteries.

I come from a rose bush running rampant
planted over the memory of a little brother with
holes in his heart and his brain and then just a
little hole in the ground to fill with petals and hospital bracelets.

I come from bathtub moonshine and mountain people
from cock fights and Cocke county and ditch weed,
from the long-winded Appalachians
knotting over our southern sentiments like vertebrae
from orange cats with bleeding mouths and
my Obachan with bootprints on her cheeks,
we are all writing war poems.



I crumble like 

Blue cheese, into uneven chunks

Onto used mattress.

An hour into 

Counting the darkness above my 

Toes I remember the

Japanese word for


And I undress, 

Lifting myself off the coat rack and

Piling into the sink full of steam,

Skin pink with the boil. 

Golden Hour

He blinks hard like he’s Overwhelmed by the world,

Right side up then inverted 

Tumbling darkly through his optic nerve

And exploding blindingly

Onto the folds of his brain. 
Hand waving physics and

a bubble of relaxed masculinity

Sprawling over red blanketed 

College mattresses,

Doused with years of 

God knows what. 

Johnson at State

escaping the office at
2 am my
hands bloodied with lipstick
i am relieved to
hit the sidewalks: kept free
of trash but cluttered with trashed

a two story urban utopia

a strawberry blonde with
little curls around her ears
throws her legs in front of her as
though hoping they’ll hit the ground,
her shirt cut nearly in half,
like the warmth of sugary Svedka suddenly made
her sexy in her skin,
her stomach stiff against the claws of october in the

a shoe-less Latino man with
bags on his arms and
the rest of his belongings beneath his
shrieks in the street and
waves a hand that
seems to have forgotten some of its fingers.

the hunch backed man
inhabits his usual spot,
(one of the last remaining after the
city tried to bury the homeless still
mummified in their sleeping bags)
and reminds me
“the first joke is free,”

I wonder what he has
laugh about

A Vertical Nature

a handwriting connoisseur I
change how I write my a’s
nearly daily,
first sharp-topped, then circular, then
carefully penned like
the sure-handed arm of a type writer.

my father’s handwriting
slants uncomfortably to the left,
and i wanted to elbow it hard in
its tilted ribs,
forcing it into a clean vertical nature.
straighten up, I ordered

a Friday night spent in the
library reading Kant and
hating myself,
my handwriting starts to fall left-ward
as I scrawl caffeine-induced
thoughts onto pages of
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
I nudge my d’s twice with my elbows,
poke my f’s forcefully in between the ribs
trying to force them upright again

i’m sure my father
nudged his d’s and f’s
(although surely less forcefully),
but their backs broke and slid down the page,
bent under the
weight of margin revelations