The Switch

I sting and swell
It grasps a switch
A week's time it took to bend
back, and here again, the arm
Pointed at, commanding no army
Sweat in its elbow crease
My foot locked
Under tangled root
"Get up" says the stick
With a stomp to the spine

I wear the welts
Cuts stitched by needle in mouth
Bleeding stopped
"Look, look," it says,
"You're learning!"
Pick another and another
Thick branches
Tiniest twigs
A whole forest,
Trunks, naked
From the ground to the stars
Giant sundials marking its return

When the storm comes
Their arms will not catch the wind
Without greens, the trunk will die
I do not brush off the termites
or the carpenter ants that follow
the weathered hem of my jeans
Leaves and discarded switches crunch
Under feet approaching
It has to travel far, now, for whipping tools

"Which do you like?" it asks.
I tell it to go to hell.
"Knotted and dense,
Sticky with sap,
Straight as sin,
Or chewed by ants?"
I am learning. I am learning.
I tell it to give me the ants.
The air breaks and I cry out.
But I know something now:
The nest is built in hollow wood.

Once More With Feeling

A taste like sour milk.
My nerves split my eyebrows.
Shoulder blades contract
and stick, and stretching
won’t melt muscle fibers.

I feel my heart-- rounder,
And louder, and more central
than in the diagrams.
It falls into my stomach
To feed a hunger,
Then spins up into my throat
Until I cough up metal.

I can't even shit.

It was an easy dosing.
I was stacking orange bottles.
Antidepressants, mostly,
Up straight in a tower.
The pills freckling containers
Like windows
on skyscrapers at dusk.

I flipped the rearview mirror
to night view, anti-glare.
Glance up and see the buildings
when the freeway curves-- I'm
curious, who's working late,
and what do they do,
and who pays them?

I looked up the ones I couldn't remember.
Names patronizing and overconfident.
Grants abilities. Makes you well.
For sale on the national news:
"Increases serotonin and norepinephrine
and makes it easier to be happy!"

I've been doing this too long
I don't believe it.

I grab Ritalin out of the pile.
The news reports on Ritalin”
“Nightmare drug does more harm.”
I don't believe those either.

I'd exhausted myself hanging
the delicates on wires.
I wanted big fat checks
on the to-do list,
and the pills were past their potency so,

Just one?

Hello, Walls.
Have you always stood so straight?
I love the corners, sturdy,
like mothers wrapped over their babies in Pompeii.
Seems I haven't much to say
on the page.
The day stays

I knew better.
There's a reason the bottle's still full,
And I only trust doctors
to heal real hearts.

And I know, obviously,
this isn't "the one" for me.
But the tower is tall now.
Floors of orange,
Shaded in the glare-proof mirror;
It's just advertising.

It looks different in the day.
Just a big, gray block among many.
I trust more
The sky.
It is more mine than the buildings.
Stones you can pocket.

Skies owned by no one.
Equally yours
as mine and the landlord's.

And I get it,
Why, when the neighbor in 3B sees me
She picks the bottles from the dumpster.

The sky is inconsistently blue.

But the pills aren't there.
I mixed them with coffee grounds,
in a plastic bag in the kitchen trash.
I think she would've done the same thing,
But what do I know?
Half my friends are on something.
Maybe they're not stacking.
Maybe they're refilling.
Maybe they're working.

I wish them luck,
But I'm done.

Gun Control

What a relief it would be to be dead
I think of this when we discuss gun control

I won’t vote for it
I say
I probably won’t
I don’t like things that control

But I wish they’d stop making new ones
I wish the want went away
And just that wish makes you mad

I told you it must be easy
For you to see target practice
and hunting as casual sports

I see myself on stained linoleum tile
I know if I waited
Just one more hour
I wouldn’t want to pull the trigger

It’s like we are learning to walk
And you are better at navigating
sharp corners
You say I should have to put padding on the corners
So you can have your choice of furniture
I want rounded furniture
soft beveled glass
or sanded oak

In a couple hundred years
we can make the whole world safe for walking

Pretend it’s now
At home
As we stumble freely
Shins sliding against smooth pleather edges

I promise I am not crazy
You are two tragedies away from forgetting
how to balance your head
on your neck
Let alone
bear the weight of arms
Believe me
You are not even the reason for your own sanity
Some burdens were shouldered for your benefit
Some slave labors and surgeries and salaries saved

And if you think you owe
the founding fathers your freedom
You’re looking too far back

There were nights I stayed up
Because sleep meant
Waking to face another day
And when the morning came

I made you breakfast

Every Day (Things We Think About)

Contractions and flows
And flaps to valves
Messages coded in cells
Things that roaches eat
Sweet, meat, starch
Ten to sixty recurring faces
Typing at their desks
Playing Mary Poppins years ago
Selling baked goods at next Sunday's yard sale
Forty feet of fingernail trimmings per lifetime
Except for the ones who died young 
At 0, 10, 20, 30 feet 
Over the kitchen sink
Or in a bathtub clean
Hair in the drain
Hair up or down
The cats' coats by season
The heat and the lights
How well or if we'll sleep

Abecedarian on Hunger

Everyone's Image

Give her


Killing is on-
Ly for


People she knew
Ran if they still had legs

Starve quick
Taste delish

Undigested flesh rots and she
When she remembers 

X used to be so-and-so, could be
Yours Truly, could be a
Zombie Walker

Small Things Series: Scientist LEGOs

The toy store had two scientists:
1. The Crazy Mad Scientist, $11.25
2. The Female Scientist, $25.97

She comes prepared with two beakers
To his less-efficient one

Her hair is parted neatly on the side
His juts out in spikes

She displays her ID badge
Where his jacket is splattered

His solution is evil neon green
The look in his eye is effectively Crazy Mad

Do you think she costs $14.72 more
As a salary honoring her professionalism?
I wonder.

Small Things Series: Colored Pens

We didn't pick them out together
But Jeff had them too
A set of six three-inch, colored pens

Depending on the text, I had two practices
1. Colors by heading, subheading, body notes
2. Colors by section

He was impressed by my order
I was impressed by his shameless use
Of pink and purple

Determination of Flavor Following the Inclusion of Sweet in Savory

She says scientists love to cook
They follow instructions well
And everyone loves some version of chili
Buy the meat and peppers

Wash, peel, seed, dice
Onion, garlic, tomatoes
Heat up a pan
Stir with a slotted spoon

Lab work is the same
Source your materials
Prep the buffer solutions
Handle specialized equipment

Centrifuge, cell scraper, pipette
The artistry exists in knowing
To approximate in cooking
And quantify exactly in science

Things go wrong if they can
The spice cake was flat and dense
Baking is closer to science
You start over

Questions of the infinite
Answers in dehydrated milk
Three old white men grill her
On the knowledge behind her thesis

We used to question the inclusion
Of sweet in savory
Her friends and family
Sometimes we say the wrong thing

She starts over
The conversation
She is more likely to say no-
Thing, than the wrong thing

You can merge the word "porn"
After "food" or "science"
Passion is not added to taste
It is the taste and the process

Label a scientist cold
Feel the heat of her chili

The Mirror Stage

Note: Sexual themes and drug use. Maybe don't read this if you're a kid or those topics make you uncomfortable.

When I lost all that weight
I couldn't get enough

Of the mirror
Clothes from before or never
Reflections in newly-washed car exteriors
My shadow moving in the parking lot
I asked my therapist if I was a narcissist
She said, "It’s just a mirror stage."

In a musical charge
I listened to a recording of myself
Some silly little song
Hundreds of times
The ‘e’ vowels produced
In my endocrine system
The “within, sift” system
Cellular, sugar and mineral,
heart and guts, prolonged

How many half-a-days
Were lost to reading
My own posts, re-reading
Until the reading becomes skimming
Becomes staring
Until the screen sleeps
And glazed-over eyes stare back
A psychic disturbance
A face all double-chins and grease

Who is that?

One night when I was stoned
I turned the camera app to selfie
Needed to know I could be satisfied
Painted my hair and face like Venus
Soft features, everything soft, and white
White babydoll, white eye brightener
White breasts as big as my head
I didn’t know

Didn’t know a self cathexis
Could feel like Imago Dei
They say when a baby
First knows his reflection
The recognition is so pure
A judgementless consolidation
Of object and subject
The child seeks to see it again
For the rest of his life

He is unable to love himself
Except as a coping mechanism
Except as a placeholder for real love
Unable to see the gestalt of his actions
Unable to see the infinite forms of love
The process of the thing

I looked myself in the eye as I came
Ah ha, and I slept

Sebastian Chases Storms

Sebastian chases storms
with a Nikon d3200
and an eighteen to fifty-five millimeter lens.
"Science is pretty awesome stuff," he says.
He liked weather since he saw his first storm.

There isn’t much weather
in Central California,
Not like the summer storms of Missouri,
Not like the monsoons of Arizona.

He talks about before now,
Being busy with family life and stuff.
Before now he was seventeen.

He needs a lot of things.
A Canon 7d Mark II,
Or a d7100,
A better lens,
Another trip to Yosemite,
Better exposure shots.

One time his favorite photographer
Photographed the same storm as him
And he didn’t even know
Until he saw the pictures online.

He’s going stormchasing after he graduates.
After he gets up for school in 4 hours.
He’s gonna be all predictions and radars
reports and stuff like that.

"I'm just a troubled teenager who likes weather
for now."
Sebastian chases storms