a broken ballad of sweet cherry wounds and where they come from


When it’s time to undress, I hook my lip like a curtain

pulled back, and it’s what you’d expect.

A grimy finger digging a gemstone ulcer, the sore utterance

that sat salted and festering just inside my cheek for 2 years.

I bite it when I speak, fall asleep to its pulsing ache

and wake up with a lolling head full of seawater,

but I do not bleed.


I did bleed from the knee

when I was 14 and fell from my bike,

watched the glittering cherry-pie opening in my skin

as it stitched itself hair by hair together before my father

saw. Before he could find out I zoomed to the elementary school

down the road to meet on the tracks with a boy from second grade

who I’d converted to Christianity.


A tiny backpack-bible had sat on my desk like a brick

and seeped stone juice, I recall crisply how my mouth watered

at the gold-leaf paper, wafting the same smells as cherry wounds

I’d forced myself not to drink though I ached to:

I’d like to rend my cracked lips and suck their supple

blistering sin from my skin like a mother lioness.

I’d like to nurse the fruit-rot dessert into ingrown fruition.


If I hadn’t eaten my bible, maybe I’d have blossomed

In yellow explosions like the honeysuckle I pointed out to you

along the railroad tracks, maybe my father’s face wouldn’t

have contorted like rotted vines, maybe he’d not have

retreated underground glistening invisibly among

the charred grubs. When they saw my wounds

my family receded like singed frayed

hairs dragged on the dampened sidewalk like

a leash without a dog but the biting under-earth smell

still there, trapped in my own hair, smearing me

across the flat clouded years.


Maybe if they’d known that when it bubbles, my cherried palm

crowns nuggets of gold which I eat to glow. Little do they know

I am one of those goldleaves, the rotted tar sugar of cherry

Potholes in the road, the unfurling fresh hot truths from

Broken skin, the chugging of the railroad which

Ticks out the lifecycles of honeysuckle blooms that

Rattle as no train passes.


I remember clearly they’d rattle quietly without dropping,

underbrush lilting against the heaven-bound train

towards a sweet Jesus future of endless blood.

crisply speaking stories which taste like distinct copper

filaments found in the body, in the tracks beneath the train,

the human brain, and the innocent glistening wound from

elementary school when time stopped under the sun to

inscribe a girl in god-history

in the neighborhood’s very veins.  


So here, I am naked now; this is my body,

My blood and my chugging seawater head

On repeat underneath the empty sidewalk

of my old town, a broken bicycle leaning

in the rain like a rusted shut music-box

streaming copper in silent refrains.


(Still) in this café
Seems like you should write a letter
(You) clutch your jawbone aching from its clasp
After year’s end, assign it to a bin then
(Grind) your coffee-pulsing head to ash
You’ll pick your finest fountain pen
(Ever) stagnant in that sticky seat
To dip in textured golden flakes and
(Taut) with a premise
Seared bright in paper so it can’t be read
(With) possibility that renders time
But appreciated for its shine
(A) word


A word,
but appreciated for its shine,
with possibility that renders time
seared bright in paper so it can’t be read-
taut with a premise
to dip in textured golden flakes. And
ever stagnant in that sticky seat,
you’ll pick your finest fountain pen,
grind your coffee-pulsing head to ash
after year’s end, assign it to a bin then
you clutch your jawbone aching from its clasp.
Seems like you should write a letter,
still in this café.

You: the starving portraitist sitting outside the Shubert


You just

spilt art on your clothes

lifted your palms, twitching,

reading ruddy black, white

swathing your baffled body


inhaled colors’ smells

While paralyzed 


How The Hyperreal smells like leather, reminiscent,

An inside-out glove, Muscle drained of red–

Realized how you contract, molting fermented opaques

Caricature frame evaporates, vaporized by rubbernecks, eyeballs

Cocooned in ink, papier-Mache`d, amateur art, peering hard,

To atrophy your rigid frame.


You, vacant, rickety, intoxicated by the cold and wet

Leaning on cement

Elastically embracing your own bones, your being, oddly well

Watching passengers smear by on NY time   on charbroiled paths



swingless in the indigo rain

A broken pendulum, An unrolled marble-


There it is, that
pulsing magma that
dizzying charcoal that
deep, dark-black liquid
brewing grossly,
gaining consciousness
like a long-silent soul
when you polish the oil-lamp
but this one–
this one it doesn’t spring from
the spout
it doesn’t
burst from the seams
or drizzle to the floor like
it just
sticks inside
my ribs
telling me–
you’d better
open your fucking mouth.

Hymn of the Rescinded Daughter

I stepped into the room of stone.
I stepped onto the mark
I stepped upon the soiled throne
Whence rained around me sparks

Whence walls ignited, white as fear
My limbs, enthroned, went slack
Skulking vernacular pricked the ears
‘fore silence barked forth black

And whilst I clench myself to stone
And whilst I grit to life
A regent kin emblazoned bone
Now bellows charring art

Thee, in-furling shards of truth,
Are blemished from within
I ache to flare these injured texts
To sear in script
your every sin.

Meticulous Landscaping: A Sonnet*

Here in the passenger side lie Wendy’s bags crumpled by boots
The gentle pungent mulch compacts beneath each nail
Picking at the leather seats to stroke the tattered brail
And decode Dad’s lesson of the day like stringed stray roots:
Roots you tossed mulch over, the mornings of summer through July.
Disembarking the diesel F450 with silver smokestacks,
You’re mapping on your hands the clay-dried, thorn-bruised cracks
Wiping the Wendy’s grease on your sister’s off-brand “Nike” slacks
Step out into the cicada-thick air where, like Wendy’s, you fry.
You let the grass prick your bare calves and adjust in the sticky bed
Wiping soil across your forehead, swatting away flying things
And quietly recoiling from the grubs unearthed as dad sings,
Something he beat-boxed under his breath about marriage and rings-
Wash your hands in the cold hose-water until they turn Wendy-hair red.

*This poem was featured on the Cornell University Press blog for National Poetry Month, and can be found here under the following tags: civil rights, gender, national poetry month, poetry, women’s studies