A Tortoise Prayer

Tinker, tortoise, chip away

The darkest night yields a bright new day

Let every fall peal truth like a bell

Let every wound spill psalms to sell


The shameful slip sounds pause like a gong

The silent scar sings a mending song


Spin, shrewd spider, layer threads

A life is a weave of words and webs

Sew them sturdy, stretch them tight

But leave your loom to rest at night


Knit strand by strand, with measured care

Then hang them to dry in the drowsy air


Patience, boundless, you are young

Old age will come, and wisdom won

Deep the roots and black the soil

Honor the sun with gentlest toil


Growing is slow and wishing is fast

The nuts and the bolts make spring wishes last

February 23, 2017

Texting you made me feel better, my sister told me, her face a soft, pixeled glow. Once you’ve told somebody what happened, you forget how it actually was. But Elise is in Durham right now, and I – I have always wanted to be practical, a quick study who knows what he wants and does what is necessary to have it, no hang-ups along the way. The process, I imagine, should be simple: look around, decide, take the first step and then the second, a few each day. Spend the rest of your time having adventures, preferably with the people you love or want to love, or reading a book you’d like to be seen reading, maybe in some unconventional spot. A study Bible, anywhere, even in a church, or The Communist Manifesto at a country club, or an obviously pornographic romance in the stateliest university library. (You know the sort of romance I mean, because the bare chests on their covers have caught your eye and you’ve regretted that but wished you could bring yourself to buy one all the same.) I have also wished I were touchable, the kind of person who loves to cuddle and doesn’t mind sleeping in his friends’ beds when he stays over too late or drinks too much, or both. But I find that even on the most comfortable first dates, after battering at some stranger’s walls with the usual arsenal of tireless prying questions – or, if that doesn’t work, demolishing my own with a spectacularly self-sabotaging confession – part of me hopes they will forget to kiss me goodbye. I almost dread the feeling of their hand on mine. Would it cause him more or less distress, I wonder, if I were to flash him instead of divulging over calamari that last night – a Monday night – I stared at the wall for three uninterrupted hours before turning off my phone, eating an entire bag of Bugles, and then going to sleep on the floor to avoid my too-short bed? (Yes, they have Bugles here, and if they didn’t I would probably have ordered them on Amazon because they are perfect for devouring in large quantities at inappropriate times.) I often say things like this in a rush – even the part in parenthesis – after just a few sips of wine. My logic is not clear. Possibly, I hope that if I am able to prove right away my incredible openness through frank, lawless conversation and a stubborn commitment to ugly (but never pretty or unexciting) truths, these men will fail to notice later on that I am not open and in fact have trouble being held.

My Head is a Jungle

My head, my head is a jungle

Ancient and forever newly young

Snarled with vines and alien dreams

Drenched in the steam

Of a musky eternal summer

This is where I hide away

To steal my Eden slumbers

To lick my wilting fault lines

In the supple shade of a tree

I should never have touched

With friends I should never have met


My heart, my heart is a black box

Perched in some unnoticed angle

Of the mangled plane that’s hurtling

Toward those tangled trees below

Recording the prayers and the wails

Of passengers who will die in the crash

Or find themselves stranded

In this wilderness of words and pools

And glittering, slithering snakes

This burning bower of bliss

This strangest of utopias



I want to plunge my hands

into that main stream.

Sink towards the bottom

while it rushes past me.

All those people and their

slippery liquid dreams –

The technicolor deluge

tugs at my seams.

They may not know

what you know,

or whittle their souls

with a razor’s promise,

but all that wild neon raw,

so sleazy ghastly loud:

It makes me want to sing

and tell them thank you.

A Try

Our kisses went up like prayers

And your stares popped all my zits

When you caught my eyes like mirrors

I knew you were chasing your face


I loved to touch your skin

I hoped you’d want me to

You tried to smooth my wrinkles

But I couldn’t stay flat on my own


Your family thought I was bland

Till the day they saw my tattoos

I caught them searching for secrets

Behind all that innocent ink


I drink like Gideon’s men,

My knees and nerves unbent.

I look up from the sink,

Face red and dripping wet.

But meeting my stare in the mirror

Gives me vertigo in a blink:

And I shrink,

‘Cause I think

That I’m standing on the brink.

Insomnia gives me a wink.


I stretch in the morning sun;

I reach for Cupid’s quiver.

I pray his golden dart

Will prick my straying finger.

But Cupid has something to tell me,

This maxim to impart:

That art

Without heart

Is not the right place to start.

Now Cupid must depart.