Dear Clare,

Do you remember that coffee house out on Cleveland Heights? Birchtree, I think it was. They served the Wet Chihuahua to us every Friday night at closing. Well, it shut down a few years back. The building still stands. An art café is scheduled to move in, I think. Soon the piano and kazoos will be replaced by paints and brushes.

I ran into the owner of Birchtree a few months back. He was managing a new restaurant off Harden Blvd. He remembered you. Said he never thanked you for turning him on to that Social Distortion record. He said it ended up shaping a year of his life. I told him you were special that way.

Do you remember Hollis Gardens? The concrete barriers still stand like grenadier guards. Remember those days? Our backs wet from the condensation on the cool grass. We lay there watching the stars and listening to the trains pull through the station. I’m not sure if you feel the same, but I’m glad we misplaced so many hours in such a beautiful way.

Our shared memories stand like skyscrapers in this city. Their antennas outstretched, grasping for Orion, and Cassiopeia. Your DNA is spliced with that of our city streets and hot spots. We’re reciting poetry in Munn Park. I watched us just last week. You’re still spilling coffee on me outside of Mitchell’s, and I’m giving pocket change to those who ask kindly. Last Thursday we had dinner at Fat Jack’s and watched Legends of Rodeo play Evolution Records.

I’m working downtown now. All of our memories within walking distance of one another. Inside of a lunch hour I can visit Palace Pizza and the ghost of you and me. This city is as much a part of me now as you are. Lakeland is home.

In closing, I’m sorry for the trip down memory lane. It happens every time I visit you out on Oak Hill. I guess I am writing tonight to let you know that I have finally learned what you were trying to teach me all those years ago. I see now, how Love beckons with a holler and dismisses with a whimper. I realize it is both the parachute in a falling dream and the faulty airbag in a fatal crash. Love knows no limitations. You can never bridle, lead, or command it. All you can do is smile and let it be.


A Love Poem


I hate you

for making me feel
what was locked
away so tight.

for master thief
combo lock
all of my
jaded, jagged

every cohesive

for playing
hide and seek
behind every

beyond every

I want to puke
at the thought
of what I would do.

Like how
if your nights grew teeth
and fed on your tired dreams
I’d sing hush little baby
and keep watch
all around you.

when I think of you
lying in his arms
I want to jump
from a second-story
Not for death, but

or like how
every time you smile
I’d catch a bullet for you.

Like how I would save your life
so fucking hard right now…

love is no magic trick,
no prestigious final act.

Love is all of the miniscule
moments in which we
kill one another
with our dance of longing
and respite.

It’s the inside jokes,
the stolen glances.
It’s the mayday broadcast,
the save me simulcast.

It’s you and him,
and the seed that’s been sowed.
It’s our fortunes forever limbo’d.

So pluck this heart
still beating,
from my chest,
and bury it deep
within the Earth.

Let its craving pulse
churn for a million years.
Let its languish echo there,
in the deep dark,
and out of its final tectonic gasp,
let a mountain crash.

May it stand monument
to the time we’ll never spend,
to the moments we’ll never share,
iris to iris, breath to breath.

To the immovable object
that is our never-was.

Photo Credit: Sunwalls

A Sailor Went to Sea

Art by: Graham Grecken

I know it’s not easy being alone.
Your little girl heart hopscotching solo,
trying to gather her scattered pieces
from the compartments you’ve made.

You’re muddled with self-doubt,
and a constant nagging voice,
comfort-nestled in the back of your mind,
whispering: this is my fault,
at least he loves me in his own way.

Temptation to return may be too great,
when he finally drops to bended knee.
So you will go back to him and
time will swell like water in a lock,
unfurling its complacency
beneath the surface of your seasons.
Why can you not see?
He’ll always be your sailor at sea,
never fully loving you
through his own duplicity.

But I know your beacon.
The one you no longer see.
It shines bright
along the shoreline
of my surrender.

Tripartite Poetry Regarding the Human Psyche of the Emotionally Inept Girl

human psyche
Photo Courtesy of Edward Salas – Deviant Art


Come one. Come all!

Step right up
to the greatest show on earth.

Stare into the eyes
of our Emotionally Inept Girl!
But don’t let this Medusa
turn you to stone.

We found her back in ’85,
after white coat men
whitewashed dirty deeds.
Her prescription hooked
comatose mind,
running endless
rat race maze.

Yes, this pickled punk
is dead inside!

A true wonder of creation!

Oh, but she was alive once.
Before trepidation,
familiar and cold,
nightly fed
on callow innocence,
pure as snow.


Judgement casting
jumbotron spotlight
searching every corner
for a piece of the
emotionally inept girl.
You won’t find me.
I’m nowhere thin air
four star boxcar.
I’m everywhere
here nor there.
Hidden in plain sight
paint by number
Starry Night.
Arbitrary mimicry
finicky facsimile
of love/hate
Tip toe running
through your
deep, dark well.
Tickling doubt
beneath resolve.


From a road show, fear came crawling,
with her clenched-fist apocalypse
and pocket full of temptation.

I watched,
paralytic and feeble,
as my shoe box heart
was dissected.

With steely eyed surgeon precision
she extracted all of my well wishes.
Sold them like a 2am junkie
looking for her midnight fix.
Being but only nickels and dimes,
she went to market with my
freshly harvested humility.

Now my two tone personality
only has a sharpened greed
and ever aching envy.
I stand here
a coward and a thief.
I’m a liar and a cheat.
A better faker,
you’re likely to never meet.

But I was alive once,
before frailty,
familiar and cold,
nightly fed
on fleeting beauty,
lily-white and bold.

Death is a Dirty Houseguest


Death mocks my living
by wearing the neglected faces
of all the people
I could never save.
Her many voices
whet with despondency,
have taken up residency in my home.

We share breakfast every morning
while divvying the Times.
She loves lightly toasted Italian Five Grain
with the morning obits.
“Drink your OJ,” she says,
as her forked tongue licks the jelly knife,
“you need your vitamin C.”

Death is a dirty houseguest.
He disrobes in the foyer
upon returning home from work.
A trail of crematory ash follows
as he slinks down the hall.
His bloody scythe, repulsive and mean,
Pollocks the walls of our not-so-humble abode.
I’ve tried to have him evicted,
but Death claims Squatters’ Rights.

She keeps strange company, too.
Just the other day,
Death had Time over for tea,
whereupon they discussed
the morality of Brer Rabbit,
and whether or not
a tar baby would work
on the absent hearted.
And just last month,
she employed ex-pantheon members
in an elaborate pyramid scheme,
designed to trick elderly retirees
into investing in cloud front property.
Death diversifies.

Sometimes, late at night,
after I’ve drowned my sorrows,
Death delivers a cold cloth rag,
and seltzer tablets.
“Still your heart,” he whispers,
“I’m breathless without you.”
His bedside manners
are quite delectable.

We’re familiar strangers,
this Grim Tennant and I.
Spectators to our very own
dance macabre.
We writhe and shake
through empty corridors
where he tickles my fancy
with the beckon of slender finger.
Who am I to deny
Death’s carnal calamity?
I’m his favorite toy.
He spins my crank,
dances to the anxious tune,
but never, does he ever,
pop my jack out of the box.
Death is the ultimate tease.


wheelchair heart

It’s always the same.
There’s no one until there’s someone.
You appear like Napoleon, 1799, out of nowhere.
Staging coups and exiling her better senses
with good-guy tales of misfortune,
like chocolate dipped delicacies,
always ending in the same
but that’s nothing compared to
what you’ve been through


Her father told her;
when she was just a top-knot,
to never trust explicitly.
It’s not lost on her that sometimes
beneath a candy-coated exterior
lies a dark and bitter center,
but longing never met a truth it couldn’t erode.

Now your heart is beating in her chest,
and what she doesn’t know
is just how deep your malice grows.
How you move from one forever-love to another
using their affection like a needle and spoon,
to satiate the prosthetic spirit within your shell.

Tell me; was it a game for you?
Did you eeny, meeny, miney, moe?
Or just mark your prey by the wheels on her chair?
You’re like the clown in a dunk tank
crying “Virgin mobile, here! Virgin mobile!” all the way down.
You’re the carnie whose joints are never quite rigged,
just bent bottles and tilted tables,
tipping odds in your favor.

Now her tears trace their tracks,
as you’re off projecting new-life comfort,
flaunting your glamour shots debutante,
hoping the pain you inflict
will, somehow, finally break her.

But what are you?
Compared to phantom limbs and catheter tubes?
What are you, compared to walking memories
swimming through nightmare undertow?
What are you, really, in the grand scheme of all things,
compared to the permanent loss of maternity?

Answer: Nothing.

Just one more little boy paralyzed,
watching her walk away.