His mother’s condo still smelled like paint. She’d been moved in a little over two months, having finally sold the house in Bellflower where he and his sister had grown up. Pearl, his sister, had picked up a brochure about the place: “Emerald Villas, an affordable independent-living senior community.” For almost a year, their mother had been on the waiting list for a two-bedroom unit; finally, in April, a Villas rep had called with hearty congratulations—as if it were some final destination lottery—and she’d been settled by June.Read more.
There was a sigh on the other end of the phone, a long nasal sigh, the kind you hear only at the precise moment that someone has had as much of someone else’s shit as they can possibly stand. A woman’s voice spoke: “We buried your Goddamn father six months ago.”
“I’m not gonna bury you.”
Me and Woody
Nobody loved Woody more than I did. I adored the silky feel of his curly, copper hair. The rough creases on his hands were wild terrain for my fingers to explore. He loved me to scratch his back when he was tired and massage his shoulders when they were sore. Woody was a lean, solid man and if he didn’t have the biggest brain in the county, it didn’t bother me any. He was a genius with engines with his hands generally, and that was enough for me. I loved him first and best.Read more.
A Piece of Me
NETA had a hard time talking about her childhood without saying thank you. Thank you to her Nana and Papaw who finally took them in. To Lottie and Isabell who pampered her, to Henry who kept her warm. She could even thank her father for leaving. The only person she couldn’t thank was her mother.Read more.
Our brightest days are a rich subset of a broader story and the fortunate among us ration a few for the end, savoring them as that final nightfall advances. Petrakis appears to have plenty of life left in him, but his stock of unclouded days is depleted. Nora, his bride of sixty-two years, passed this summer and the combination of his memory outages and the solitude that her absence compels is more than the old man can manage.Read more.
The room’s mostly dark. A bit of light filters in from the the window next to her head. The fan blows cool air over her. White noise makes her eyelids heavy. Clink. Clink. Clink, the sound of metal—hanging medals for things that don’t matter now— hitting the wall. Two to three seconds of silence between each tap. The ceiling swirls. She blinks, an attempt to reorient herself, but it continues around in her eyes.Read more.
“Canada Geese,” “Boat Hull, Moving Party in a Small Town” and “Crows”
Feet splayed, leather between toes,
black claws meant for pedestrian tasks,
you meet me with your mate in the office parking lot.
Though there’s something regal in your head held high,
I’ve seen you eating grass on suburban lawns,
your hungry bill opening and closing as I approach,
greeting me like you were my pet.
“Iris the Goddess of Iridium and Rainbows,” “Rust-swollen Seeds” and “End of the Line”
your slow tongue peels my name
letter by letter by letter
my platinum resistance melts
its afterthoughts drifting to earth
I must go
“Speed Limits? We Don’t Obey No Stinking Limits,” “Gym Rats” and “Poking Insidious Eye With Sharp Stick — It’s About Time”
We’re revved up on Peet’s coffee
driven by Silicon Valley vanity
in our 24/7 disregard
for our city’s 25 mph limits
speeding up & down Middlefield Road
at 40 … 45 … do I hear 55?
“Song of Aylan” and “Crouching Caveman Hidden Cellar”
Three columns of scratches on the Ishango bone start the song of Aylan.
Forty nights of incessant rain, one lost sheep and remaining ninety-nine,
Thirteen heads on the hill, four bellies in the cow make the song of Aylan.
“Ticketed,” “Speckled” and “Hello, Instructor”
Late for work, I left my wallet, its gray
color a perfect match for the counter.
Guilty of excessive speed, with no way
to clear my name, I began to flounder.
With no cash and no options to make bail,
Who knew of the horrors that would be mine.
“Trading Cards,” “After Party” and “Ewing Sarcoma, Extremely Rare”
Papa and his child
play cards in a gaudy
I see twilight and
somebody in tattered rags
examine through scraped windowpanes.
The Boy with the Lysol-Sprayed Cowlick
The Examen – a preparation for Confession. To the boy with the pellucid blue eyes and the Lysol-sprayed cowlick, it almost sounds like an exam for men. He does not think he’ll pass. After final reflections, as though time is up and he must put down his yellow #2 pencil, he solemnly exits the pew.Read more.
“We Learned We Are Gods,” “Freshman Year, UAF: Fairbanks Fall of ’92” and “Downpour in the Height of Summer”
At eight years of age, we became creators of the universe
We made models of the galaxy with Styrofoam balls
A gritty marble-sized mercury
A sun with rays on the bus floor
Jupiter a fist of moons
The slumped crown of Saturn
A Bright Spot
Somewhere along the way, I lost all sense of direction. Life’s become this mundane, necessary task, and I’m growing tired. My brain is fuzzy; I lack enthusiasm. Most would say I’m depressed, but it feels more like I’m running out of steam.
So here I stand, sneakers melting to the cracked sidewalk.Read more.
“Pleasure,” “The Toys on the Floor” and “Within the Walls”
The block finds pleasure,
all that it needs,
as it is slipped into
the place conceived for it,
that spot where it truly fits:
snug, smooth, clean
without jiggle or sway.
Beautiful Lies, Wonderful Lies
Something about the smell of Dr. Schein’s office reminded Larry Dugin of visits to the school nurse when he was a child—white walls, white cabinets, and grey rug; next to where Larry was seated, the syringe disposal box with its tilted lid; the magazines on the table that previous patients had forgotten to return to the waiting room. He lost himself in the history of his own health every time he entered this office. Dr. Schein, standing grim-faced and stiff in front of the lightbox on the opposite wall, was Larry’s oncologist.Read more.
“Morbid Fascination,” “Food Pantry in Winter: A Visit” and “The Drone”
Yesterday morning I read with morbid fascination
That “more than 40% of insect species are declining”
And nature’s ecosystems are at risk
Of a “catastrophic collapse.” 
In my $70,000 electric car on the way to work
(charged by solar panels
On my 3,500-square-foot suburban home),
I listened with morbid fascination to the news
In my head, there is a Knife. The Knife is silver and serrated and wood-handled. It is the Knife Grandma tells Eden to cut the Challah with on Rosh Hashanah, the Knife she’s used since Livi D.’s would-be Bat Mitzvah. It is well loved, like Eden would say, or worn out, like Grandma would, and knows how to handle itself. It is molded to fit my grip perfectly.Read more.
In Flagrante Delicto
Police finally pin Silas a year after the fact, catching him daydreaming about a hazy childhood morning when Papa flew them to Buenos Aires without permission. And yet before the men in blue descend, while spelunking the depths of a storage unit in the outskirts of Indianapolis, Silas stumbles upon two old journals. One is red embossed, the other green and unmarked, protective cover stripped of its dog-nosed plastic by force of detrition.Read more.
“It’s the only place in the world that has all five species of scallop,” says the grey old man at the table next to us.
I didn’t know there were different species of scallop. I’m eavesdropping.
The man is croaking his words and waving his hands, his fingertips inches away from a thin-stemmed glass filled with a double-pour of the house brand Sauvignon Blanc. I’m dreading the moment he’ll send his wine flying across the room.
When You Try to Make Sense of a Breakup Through Racism
My paintings and art therapy hang loosely on his walls. The felt coloring I did in the hospital washes out to white. It sticks to the fridge still facing the sun. He holds my hands, looking at me with more love when I am sick than when I am well. He holds me and tells me it will be all right. It will be all right.Read more.
Prepare for Departure
New York City, July 2015
My mother arrived in New York City with a black eye and one arm dangling in a sling.
And by the time the dirty white van finally swerved to a halt after seven hours navigating the highways of New York State, she was clearly not happy.Read more.
The Dragon in the Garden
When she is seven, home is a suburban mansion on the outskirts of Manila. It has a deep back garden, aggressively green, encircled by a high stone wall overlain with lush leaves and serpentine vines. Right next door, adjacent to their property, barricaded back by the rough rock, is an empty lot—abandoned after its initial clearing and left to the mercy of tropical flora and fauna.Read more.