• 2016

    The Places We Aren’t Meant To Go

    Poetry – Union Station Magazine

    There are places we aren’t meant to go
    And if we go we aren’t meant to bring others

    We know why the fence hangs ragged from its hinge
    Why the grass grows machete-long beside

    the cracked pathway We know why the porch cellar
    is awash in light and the grey psoriatic

    steps blister with abandon We know
    why the door is a gnarled hematoma

    and the entryway earthen with cobwebs
    gurgles a warning We know the rabid animal

    in the chimney feeds on grizzle
    We know the fire that stalked its rooms

    despoiling even the air the bodies
    it emptied feet-first on their final gurneys

    We are able to sneak in and remember
    but when the younger children ask

    to follow we tell them no as if death
    is a disease we can protect from

    an ash we can wash from our hands
    when we return home.

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  • 2014

    A House for Names

    Poetry – Union Station Magazine

    a single vine
    splits a storefront wall
    crawls up the shutterless window
    where the Alabama wild grass
    displays a faded brochure

    next to the Piggly Wiggly
    in the parking lot of
    the old bank
    that is now a museum
    a minivan pulls in slow
    a family slides the door open
    steps out
    is glad to see us
    is glad to see that we are open

    though we are not
    we let them in
    we let them inside
    because inside the museum
    in the center

    is a universe of names etched in terrazzo
    and the family finds among the names their own
    and the children don’t cry
    but the universe is a well
    the women steady themselves
    on

    throughout the south
    trees shed branches in shame
    whole buildings converted
    to houses for names
    the sidewalk is cracked
    where there is a sidewalk

    where there is none
    those who stayed behind
    to tend the gardens
    make do

    Close
  • 2014

    Fear

    Poetry – Ducts.org

    for Andrei Bolkonsky

    Suppose it rose, a coffin
    among swimmers

    Suppose it was a hand,
    brittle as the fall it was meant to break

    What alliances have you made
    in the name of senescence

    Suppose it could be shed and hidden in corners,
    behind appliances and doorways

    Suppose it couldn’t

    Suppose it was the surface of the moon
    and only a privileged few could describe it exactly

    Suppose it had no color

    Suppose you had no idea what to make of it
    and instead of cowering you sang

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  • 2014

    Dear Reader,

    Poetry – Ducts.org

    This morning the world tried its best to tuck me back in.
    I’ve been writing from the demilitarized zone

    Of my chest and the weather is almost always clouds.
    Who can recall the sun with all this posturing?

    I heard a woman say, “We ought to live more real life.”

    The next morning I climbed a stool in my kitchen
    And cried for a little more normal.

    I prayed for the lightbulbs I’ve yet to screw in,
    The weeds congregating the slabs up the walkway.

    There’s a prayer for every sadness because God
    Is more a Zamboni than a fine-tooth comb.

    Think of prayer as a tremendous pressure kettle whose
    Whistling reaches a fever pitch in times of grief.

    Think of man as a macaroni portrait made to look like God.
    What I’m saying is, there’s an art to living.

    I heard a woman say, “She never stopped doing the things
    that make her feel satisfied.”

    May I come in and join you in front of the tv?
    I’ve got so much catching up to do.

    How about the dinner table?
    I once dined with a pastor who loved exotic spices.

    After we prayed, he’d sprinkle atomic sauce
    On his pepperoni slices, while

    I praised the Scotch Bonnets
    On my family’s deserted table.

    It’s true.
    My mother will always be driving home from work.

    The meek shall inherit a deeply flawed ball of yarn,
    This isn’t a parable.

    I heard a man say, “We’re at a place in history where we know better.”
    I said, “I know, I know, I know.”

    Close
  • 2014

    I Wish I learned to Breakdance: An Interview with Matt Luckhurst on Design, The Creative Process, and What It’s Like To Author A Children’s Book

    Articles – The Well&Often Reader

    A large part of what we call inspiration is the experience of seeing something and saying, “I want to do that.” To that end, we’ve all had moments of inspiration. But how many of us act on that inspiration? How many of us have the audacity to say, not only, “I can do that.” but “I can do that in my own way.”? This, perhaps, is where we find the link between inspiration and creativity. Notwithstanding talent, discipline, and a general sense of that which is good; creative people have a knack for taking existing things and making them into imaginatively new things.

    Designer, illustrator, and children’s book author, Matt Luckhurst understands this. He hasn’t said this explicitly – at least not to us – but his work, a raucous menagerie of color, shape, line, and influences ranging from Cubism to the masterful work of design legends Paul Rand and Alvin Lustig, is the mark of a man who sees and isn’t afraid to say, in his own euphonic lilt, what he has seen…

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  • 2014

    I Want Taco Bell for Lunch

    Fiction – Third Place Magazine

    I. The Yearning

    The yearning came swiftly, with no traceable origin.

    Growing up in the suburbs of northern New Jersey, one becomes accustomed to certain luxuries. For every KFC, there’s a Roy Rogers somewhere nearby. For every McDonald’s there’s a Wendy’s within walking distance, a Burger King not too far away, and if you lived in one of those lucky towns sensible enough to allow a row – no, a stretch of fast food restaurants – you also had a couple more obscure choices like Checkers or Popeye’s.

    Certain chains never made it into town though. They were the kind of places you’d find at rest stops along I-95, or on the edges of towns, cast off like leper colonies, or insane asylums. For me, Taco Bell was one such place.

    Over the years, I’d met a few people who swore by Taco Bell, crowning it superior to all other fast food chains, the notion of which you can see actualized in the movie Demolition Man, wherein Taco Bell is the sole remaining restaurant in the film’s futuristic utopia (Which, now that I’m older, I realize was totally just a commercial).

    Finding a Taco Bell was easy – there was one just West of Union Square – but my half-decade long indoctrination into the so-called New York creative class had all but eradicated any willingness to consume, or more aptly, be seen consuming Taco Bell. My friends bought food from farmer’s markets, joined CSAs, or shopped at the Park Slope co-op. In their eyes, my eating lunch at Taco Bell would be a point of concern – a sign that my depression about work had gotten the best of me (Yes, things have been rough around the office lately. And yes, I did consider just sort of casually never showing up to work ever again.). But the Taco Bell thing was about freedom, not depression.

    For so long, I’d been pretending to be this thing I wasn’t – working ten hour days on something I hardly cared about, partying with people who never seemed to remember me, and eating all kinds of avocado paninis that really shouldn’t have been as expensive as they were. This Taco Bell trip was about repudiating all that. It was about reclaiming my true self.

    From the moment I entered the restaurant, a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut combo, I felt a little sick. An aromatic curtain of cow parts, chicken grease, wet mop, and tomato sauce greeted me as I sashayed to avoid the worker absentmindedly waltzing her mop along the floor. I attached myself to the back of the line and marveled at the speed and precision of the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut cashiers.  (Can you imagine what it must be like to work in a joint restaurant? You have to be familiar with two whole menus, including the specials deals, and possibilities of combinations, which would be especially hard in a Taco Bell joint restaurant, because despite its uniformity of ingredients, the Taco Bell menu is arguably the most complex menu ever conceived: from the basic dollar menu, with its Cheese Roll-ups, Triple Layer Nachos, and Caramel Apple Empanadas; up through its vast Taco and Burrito section; and on to the things that don’t sound Mexican at all, but rather seemed to have been thought up in focus groups, things with names like Gordita and Chalupa; and then there are the insane Taco Bell specialties, whose names could very well have been the names of Transformers: Your Enchirito’s, Meximelts, and Crunchwrap Supremes. Just Imagine having to memorize that menu, as well as a completely unrelated menu of Pizzas with equally ridiculous names. I’m pretty sure there’s an entrance exam.).

    Carefully, I surveyed the menu marquee whose soothing glow of amber and purple nearly moved me to tears. Chards of chicken never looked so good. Melted cheese so melted. They were photographed in what appeared to be a black hole, each item emanating the same calming purple. I can’t explain why but I got the same feeling I get when I see photographs of parents hugging their children. Whatever it was, these tacos really spoke to me.

    I ordered a Crunchwrap Supreme, a beef hard-shell taco, a chicken soft-shell taco and a bottled water.

    II. The Eating

    I unwrapped the beef taco and took a healthy bite, nearly cross-sectioning the thing. Beef oozed out the hand side and oil dripped into the plastic tray. The taste conjured memories of grammar school, pint-sized milk cartons, lunch lines, all four food groups, and that feeling of not quite knowing what you’re eating, but being grateful, because everyone around you is eating it too and that makes you feel special and a part of something bigger than yourself.

    I basked in the genial beefy glow.

    With one taco down, I had to choose between the Crunchwrap Supreme and the chicken. I figured if I ate the chicken first there’d be enough room for the Crunchwrap Supreme. But what if I filled up on the chicken and couldn’t finish the entire Crunchwrap Supreme? It would be a travesty, considering the Crunchwrap Supreme is a Taco Bell specialty, and the ostentation of its naming alone presupposes its superiority and thus its need to be devoured wholly.

    It was decided.

    I carefully unfurled the wrapping, flattening the edges to get a good look at this marvel of Pan-American delights. It looked nothing like the Crunchwrap Supreme I’d seen on the menu. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t expect a warm purple glow, or anything, but I would imagine the shape being at least somewhat similar. The Crunchwarp Supreme on the menu was snuggly wrapped, a perfectly hexagonal tortilla, while the one on my tray was a circle with glandular dysfunction.

    I picked it up and held it in my hand. Just beneath the perfectly grilled outer tortilla layer, a tough inner shell was holding everything together. This, I submit, is the genius of the Crunchwrap Supreme. It’s essentially a hard taco, wrapped in a soft taco, only prepared like a Quesadilla.

    On my first bite, I came up with what I surmised was the supreme part, a saucy mixture of lettuce and sour cream. I was, personally, more invested in the crunch, so I promptly took another bite. Not half bad. It wasn’t half good, either, but I could see the appeal.

    I ate happily for a while, but three-quarters in, something happened. A woman in a white lab coat sat at my table. She said nothing but as she sat, she looked first at my face, then at my tray, then back at my face. I could see the disgust in her eyes. The beef and sour cream, now a monochrome goo, formed a tiny puddle in my tray, drowning bits of half-eaten lettuce and broken taco shell. I probably had some of this puddle in my beard.

    I smiled and she responded by looking at her pizza.

    I want to tell you I didn’t take it personally, that I had somehow discovered self-worth and deep inner peace in that Taco Bell. But what really happened is that I was seized with dread. I realized how deeply alone I had been since I moved to New York. I realized I had to quit my job. Most of all, as I felt the bile rising in my throat, on a trajectory that would no doubt end in this woman’s tray, I realized I had made a grave mistake in ordering the Crunchwrap Supreme.

    I closed my eyes, held my breath, and prayed.

    *This story is an excerpt from an untitled and unfinished novel about working in New York City.*

    Close
  • 2014

    This Is Nothing

    Poetry – Poets House

    This is nothing.
    I have wrapped it
    in a bow. It is big

    and so the bow is big
    and the nothing appears
    bigger than it actually is.

    I am holding onto it
    because, of all my things,
    it is easiest to carry.

    It is not light.
    Nor is it heavy.
    But it has heft

    the way a gun
    has heft.
    I haven’t found a

    good way to conceal
    my nothing. I carry
    it with me at all times

    like an organ. I haven’t
    found a good way to
    tell my lovers

    about my nothing.
    Usually it happens
    early. My lover

    notices this nothing
    and asks about it.
    I say, “This?

    Oh, this is nothing.
    I am holding onto it because,
    of all my things,
    it is easiest to carry.”

    Close
  • 2013

    Success and Failure: Importing NYC Things to Philly

    Articles – Curbed Philly

    New York things: sorry, but you can’t all be popular in Philly. It didn’t really “work out” between Philly and Brooklyn Flea. Brooklyn Flea Philly, an offshoot of the successful New York City flea market, folded its many tables for the last time on Sunday October 27th and bid its Northern Liberties location a final goodbye. The flea’s demise got us wondering what NYC-exported businesses have flourished or flopped after making the jump to Philly…

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  • 2013

    What is it Really Like To Buy a $70 K Fixer-Upper?

    Articles – Curbed Philly

    Over the last decade, more than a few articles have been written about the influx of New Yorkers who decide to make Philly their home. Here’s one woman’s story, and it doesn’t involve lattes or private schools. In 2012, Emily, facing a steep rent hike in her shared $1650/month Brooklyn 2 bedroom (Now renting for $2100/month), decided to quit her 11-year relationship with New York. She’d already been commuting once a week to her employer’s Philadelphia office, so Philly seemed an obvious choice. “I asked a couple of friends that were moving apartments in Philly and they were like, ‘I got this one bedroom – my rent is $600,'” explains Emily. Convinced, she requested a full-time transfer to Philly and began looking for apartments…

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  • 2013

    One Way To Listen

    Poetry – MakeBlank

    at sunset the dead speak
    casting a language
    of eye and rust
    sea and fire.

    the dead speak to us
    as we whirl about
    anxious as marbles
    through tambourine leaves
    and whispering traffic.

    they know about heights
    and how they are among
    earth’s most unforgiving things.

    how blessed we are to have
    been planted firmly
    as mountains.
    they say

    between us
    is only time.
    all measurement
    is of time.

    every sky is a word.
    many words.
    one of Earth’s many
    dead languages.

    Close
  • 2013

    A True Story More Or Less As It Occured, Captured on Video, and On The Internet

    Fiction – MakeBlank

    The cop’s knee is in his back. All three-hundred plus pounds of his weight is applied precisely to the man’s spine. The man swallows air like ocean water. The man feels, distinctly, the pain of a rib against his expanding lung. There’s never enough air when you’re afraid you might die. Language tends to fall apart, too. The man cries for mercy. He pleads apologies but his words, slurred by the gauze of Schizophrenia and the copper taste of blood, are taken by the cops as provocation. The younger cop’s face glistens with sweat as he holds the man’s ankles. His partner’s broad back seems to swallow light in the dim parking lot. The younger cop thinks of catfish. More officers will arrive soon. The man can smell his blood in the wet cement that kisses his forehead. His arms are pulled far beyond any natural position. Wailing, he squirms, the cop’s knee pivoting his movement. Another car screeches to a halt just out of eyeshot. Soon another. The arriving cops’ steps are a faint rapping enveloped by shouting. The thwacking sound of a car door slamming or something worse. The arriving cops know only what they’ve been told; Some vagrant, possible burglary, resisting arrest. What is the legal definition of resisting arrest? Some officers use a sliding scale. Everything seems to add up, here. There’s no real time to assess. They’ve been trained to assist. Most importantly, they’ve been trained to assist their fellow officers. They shout at the man, telling him to calm down. The man is far far away. He is locked in a small closet in the basement of his childhood neighbor, amid half-empty paint cans and exposed fiberglass which he knows is not cotton candy. Just outside the door, the sinister giggling of children can be heard. His father, a police officer, is upstairs playing poker. The man can hear the screeching of the chair, sudden and sharp above his head, as he cries for help. He can hear the rapid thuds on the staircase and the children go silent as his father enters the room. He remembers how his father pulled him from the closet with just one arm and gathered his small body up under it, all the while, threatening to arrest whatever kid did this to him. No specific road led to this moment. Schizophrenics often begin to show symptoms around age 19. What is the legal definition of murder? The man cries for his father. Coming from the mouth of a 38 year old man, the cries sound a touch more helpless. The first cop, still on one knee in the man’s back, pushes the man’s face against the ground. The cop thinks of his younger brother. Children who are much smaller than him. He is annoyed and out of breath. He reaches for his taser. As he does so, an arriving cop fires his own taser. The sweet chatter like a tiny machine gun. There are many ways to skin a catfish. The man writhes uncontrollably. Now, involuntarily. The man has seen a gun before but never felt one against his skull, and certainly not at this velocity. He isn’t even sure it’s a gun. To be honest, he isn’t thinking about what just hit him. He is focusing on the gasps of air he can barely manage. The last thing he sees is a shoe, not unlike his father’s, kick him in the side. A wheel on a parked car. Orange light. For the rest of his life, the man’s father will wince each time he hears the word routine. His relationship with his old uniform will become troubled and somewhat problematic. He will remember his son, not as the swollen face in the news photos, but as he was before the illness took hold, a smart-mouthed boy, tiny and always afraid of being cornered.

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  • 2012

    What I Learned from Bill Bradley

    Poetry – The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You

    As a teenager,
    I wanted desperately
    to be in the NBA.

    Why?

    So I could be famous enough to
    get a book deal,
    leave basketball forever,
    and
    embark on a career
    as a writer.

    Well

    Basketball is hard.

    Close
  • 2012

    If You Leave Now You’ll Get There Eventually

    Poetry – Trip City

    Your lover lives on another planet.

    That’s at least how far it would be,
    according to your response when
    she asks the distance between
    New York and California.

    Geography was never your strong suit,
    but these things you know for sure:

    Keep her in easy to reach places.
    Say, “When I think of you,
    I hold myself here, here,
    and here.”

    Tell her how you’ve spent hours
    learning the chords to a song
    you’re almost certain
    only the two of you like.

    Make her a mixtape with that
    same song playing over and over
    and over again.

    Make sure it has the words
    “I love” and “you”
    somewhere in the liner notes.

    Close
  • 2012

    On Orhan Veli Kanik

    Articles – The Operating System

    I’m going to level with you; I know nothing about Turkey and I know even less about Turkish Poetry. Luckily, I have Buké, my sole Turkish friend. Buké is tiny, smokes cigarettes, and speaks with a directness that can sometimes be mistaken for rudeness. It is she who introduced me to the Turkish poet Orhan Veli Kanik (1914-1950). I can’t speak to Kanik’s stature but, like Buké, his poetry is about as direct as a poet can get. Like the work of William Carlos Williams or, more contemporarily, Billy Collins, Kanik’s poems have been described as the kind of poetry that convinces readers they, too, can write a poem. Take, for example, “The Hill”.

    THE HILL
    In the next life, after the factories end their work
    If the road taking us home
    In the evenings
    Is not
    So steep
    Death
    Is not a horrible thing
    At all.

    It reads like something your grandfather might say and that’s what makes it so effective. A good poem is a story that never gets old. It stays with you and no matter how often you tell it there remains the same spark of truth. In “People”, Kanik expresses a single thought simply and profoundly. The profundity is apparent upon first reading but the genius of it is a slow burn.

    PEOPLE
    All the time
    But particularly
    When I know you don’t love me.
    I wish to see you
    Like the people I saw
    Sitting on my mother’s lap
    As a kid…

    Unencumbered by ornament and deceptively simple, Kanik’s poems are as accessible as they are insightful. They’re a bit like the blues. Turkish blues. Is that a thing?

    Here’s my own poem, not exactly inspired by Kanik but in the same tradition.

    RUNNING 2
    if you come in last place
    and still manage to break records
    it’s all well and good
    but sooner or later you’ll come to find out
    that you’re only racing dead people

    Read Orhan Veli Kanik’s book “I, Orhan Veli” online: http://www.cs.rpi.edu/~sibel/poetry/books/i_orhan_veli/

    More on Orhan Veli:
    http://middlestage.blogspot.com/2006/12/orhan-veli-kanik-all-of-sudden.html

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  • 2011

    Good Friday

    Fiction – MakeBlank

    “I ain’t never seen nothin’ like it. Me and Momma was going to meet my Daddy at the bus station. I was hungry and asked if we could stop for something to eat. We walked by the hot dog man and I wanted one so bad but Momma said she didn’t have no money. I didn’t say nothin’ but—I mean it—if it wasn’t for Momma being there, I’da took one.”

    “You wouldna took nothin’! You know how hot them dogs is? You can’t just stick your hand in there and pull one out! That hot dog man be on you so quick.”

    “Shut up, Kenny. Lemme finish.”

    The three boys formed a half circle. LeMonte, or Montie, as everybody called him, stood almost a foot taller than the others. The charcoal fabric of his slacks were worn grey at the knees. A patch of faded navy covered a hole in one of his back pockets. Kenny purposefully whacked the dusty concrete with the broomstick they used for stickball. Chuck was the youngest. He crouched down real low, like a catcher, his butt up against a street post, listening intently, as he ran his thumbs up and down his suspenders.

    “Hurry up and finish telling it then. I wanna play already.” The broomstick flinched with each crack against the pavement.

    “We didn’t get no hot dogs but Momma must have felt bad for me ’cause we stopped at one of them newsstands next to the shoeshine boys and she bought me a Charleston Chew. See, I still got the wrapper and everything.”

    “Yeah, yeah. We all seen a Charleston Chew before.”

    “Kenny! Shut up!”

    “Okay okay.”

    “So after that, we keep walkin’ and we gettin’ closer to the bus station and everything, when, outta nowhere, all these police cars come shooting pass. Their sirens was goin’. I could see just up the street there was a whole bunch of people crowding up, maybe five hundred people, look like there was something real bad had happened. I asked Momma what happened and she said she didn’t know but she hoped my Daddy was alright.”

    “Did you find out?”

    An old black car roared pass. The boys squinted through the dusty smoke and into the afternoon sun.

    “Momma wanted to go around the crowd but we couldn’t ’cause the police wasn’t lettin nobody pass on the side. We had to walk straight through all them people and what I saw I ain’t never seen nothing like it and I don’t ever want to see nothing like it again.”

    “What was it?!”

    “Yeah, Montie, quit holdin’ out. What’d you see?”

    “Well, you gotta promise not to tell. ‘Cause Momma don’t know I saw it. She told me to look away but I’d already seent it.”

    “What was it?!”

    LeMonte leaned in real close and opening his eyes wide as two moons he whispered. “It was a dead white lady.”

    Six moons.

    “She must have been a movie star or somebody real important too because she had a white dress on, but it was all torn up. The police wouldn’t let nobody get close except for this man taking pictures.”

    “What happened to her?”

    “Don’t know. She was on the roof of this smashed up station wagon. There was glass everywhere and you could see her foot hanging off the side and one of her shoes was almost in the middle of the street.”

    “Dang! You think somebody killed her?!”

    “Don’t know. It looked to me like she fell right out of the sky.”

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