I only knew Charles for two weeks
at a summer camp. I was nine, and
he was ten. He asked a lot of questions.

Questions are tricky. There is such a thing
as a bad one, and the people
who say otherwise are the best proof of it.

Charles asked me
on the ninth day of camp if boys
could love boys like boys
love girls.
I told Charles that he was being
gross and weird, and
that was the end of it.

I hadn’t been taught that answer.

Charles was quieter after that,
but I didn’t notice much at the time.

It’s been a while since I’d thought
about Charles, but I hope he would laugh
if he saw me now.


Boys vs. Girls

Eighth grade Global Civics class,
we were talking about gender.
I was in the chair in the corner.
The boys were being idiots,
and the girls were getting tired.
Adam said that boys were better,
and the rest of the boys agreed.
I was mostly quiet, but all the other
boys were talking. They thought
I was a boy, and I agreed.
I said: “it’s called human kind,
not huwoman kind.” Adam said,
“yeah! It’s called human kind,
not huwoman kind,”
and he gave me a fist bump.

I cried later that day in the bathroom,
and I wasn’t sure why.

This Damn Serpent in My Veins

To be honest, there are worse sensations.
I don’t know how or why this serpent found its way
into the veins of my left arm, but as it slithers up and down
my arteries, it proves adept at scratching some burning itches
on the inside of my arm that I never realized existed.
I suppose we all have these under-skin itches everywhere in our bodies,
and we just learn to ignore them as we grow,
realizing that our only method of relief is ignorance.
Maybe this is why infants cry so much:
they have not yet learned to ignore the untouchable itch.
As I write this, I can start to feel those itches come back to my attention;
maybe reading this, you are experiencing the same thing:
that tingling bug all under your body,
that odd urge to dig your hand through your flesh
and ease the loneliness and neglect of that inside layer of skin.
Maybe not, and you just think that’s a pretty fucked-up urge to have.
Unfortunately, there are also downsides to having a snake
roaming around without aim in your blood.
For one, it too needs rest, so for hours at a time it will rest in one spot,
entirely blocking whatever blood vessel it stops in,
causing whatever area of the body that blood was intended for
to become fully numb and limp. People will also give you funny looks
when they notice the large impression of a snake wriggling around
under your skin.
A spur of energy seems to have just struck the serpent, and its making its way
up my thigh and into my torso—Oh no. It looks to be headed to my heart.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, and now that I consider it,
I likely should have called an ambulance when I first noticed
this damn serpent in my veins. I can’t see it anymore, it must be near the heart.
I don’t knseefhghoicn ao’’ffiaaaaaazaaaaaaa

All the Good Times Left

Driving down a side street
firetrucks and ambulances surround
a two-story house with blue shutters.
The smell of smoke rushes through
the windows and permeates the stale air
of the car’s failing air conditioner.
A couple stands, crying
hands on their heads
drawing circles on the asphalt
with their ashy paces.
I turned to my side and found no passenger beside me.
An EMT held his hand for me to stop
and let a car from the other direction pass.
As he motioned me on and I drove away,
I watched the couple slowly drown,
choked and suffocated by the blaring red lights,
regretting memories never made.

Weighted Air

“Zofran 4 IV”
“Brevital 40 IV”
“Etomidate 20 IV”
“Succinylcholine 100 IV”

“Zofran, Brevital are in.”
“Is it alright if we place this oxygen mask over your mouth?”
“Sending etomidate now.”
“You’re gonna start feeling sleepy now, okay?”
“Don’t worry, we’ll take great care of you.”

Air swallows my lungs.
Back arches to the crosshatched,
cardboard ceiling above me.
Head wretches over my right shoulder.
Bite holes in the suffocating oxygen.
Fisted kicks and flailing ticks
as time falls to a meandering sludge.



I watch you walk away
in the reflection of the oven,
as Sufjan Stevens sings death hymns
that ricochet against my back. You return
to take out the fish, and I feel
that intentioned gust of heat
caress my face.

I look at the tile like a window.
It’s been a week and six days
since the last treatment,
and I feel it deeply.
It wraps around my arms and legs,
binding them together—it swallows
my vision, damp and dumb and dull.

The pressure is constant
and oppressive. Coddling me
like an infant, it encases my body
and sways me through the minutes.

Dinner is ready.


Lightning is faster than thought,
I’ve learned. That bolts can erase
history as well as science-fiction.
And I don’t know whether a thing
that was only ever there for me
existed if I cannot remember it.

So it drowns me in guilt, over
the deaths of things that never


I can feel my future leak
from my mind—not in-
to world or onto paper,
but void. Tarlogged and
sinking, it pools around
my run-rough ankles.
Rising through my thin-
ning capillaries, murky
sap drags me catatonic
and dumb into its half-
paced ocean of weight.
God, I swear—some day
ago, I wanted to live.

Midmorning Coffee With Rain on 3rd Street

It was at the coffee shop—the one over on 3rd Street. My shoulder leaned against the window to my right; my fingers woven in and around the ceramic loop; my knuckles pressed up against the steady warmth of the cup. Music playing just loud enough for me to know I recognized it and just quiet enough for me not to remember from where. My fingers grew tense as I strained to catch a word or phrase in the lyrics. I didn’t and the song ended and I let go of the cup and I leaned back and the leading tone still hanged in the air.

The electric lights shown down not quite white and not quite yellow. The door swung open with a soggy gust of wind and a girl. She couldn’t have been older than seventeen.  Grabbing a muffin, she moved to the counter and placed her order. The barista kept his head down as he reached over to hand the girl her change. He always kept his head down, which made his bifocal glasses slump down to the end of his nose. His hands looked soft, and his skin was a burnt umber. Turning away from the register with no less grace than a figure skater, he danced behind the counter, pulling levers and twisting knobs and blending and twirling. In that moment it felt I had never seen anything more beautiful. He drew a rippling leaf with the milk and handed it to the girl on a small dish. She thanked him and sat herself at the table in front of me, with her back turned away.

She didn’t drink her coffee, but she pushed it forward a few inches, then pulled it back one. Her hair looked stringy and unwashed, lapping in soft curls below her shoulders. It looked like she was waiting, and it’s true—she was. Her phone rang, and she answered it immediately; she was already holding it.

She said “hey, Mom.” She stuck her finger into the near-boiling coffee in front of her.

She said “are you doing alright?”

She said “I’m sorry.”

She said “yes.”

She said “no.”

She said “no.”

She said “we don’t have enough money.”

She said “I know.”

She said “no, you can’t come home yet.”

She said “I know.”

She said “I’m sorry.”

She said “I love you.”

She said “bye.”

She pulled her finger out of the coffee. It glowed bright red with steam billowing off of it. She held it in front of her face and stared at it for a moment, blistered and scarred from all the days before that she had done the same. She stuck it in her mouth and sucked off the last drops of coffee, before she stood and quickly left, leaving her muffin and the rest of the coffee untouched. I waved toward her absentmindedly as she pushed her way through the door. She was looking away and didn’t see me or anyone else.

The barista was preparing another order and performing his routine. It was just as beautiful.

The steam from my own cup rose and made foggy stains on the glass. The door swung open with a brush of bogged leaves and a woman. She couldn’t have been older. As she stepped herself inside, she sprung open her umbrella, spraying rain all over the shop and its faces and held it above her head. The barista took her order, now with a big drop of water rolling down the front of his glasses. The woman checked her wrist, which was wrapped in a watch. Her skin wrinkled around the strap. She must not have taken it off in years. The leather was faded and frayed and weathered. It was her mother’s watch. It had lived with them through a century. Its face saw the Great Depression and two world wars and a dozen and a half presidencies and the birth of a little girl and then another in turn who would soon throw the watch against the wall out of rage at the belief that some stupid watch could compensate for her grandmother and it would shatter like rain. She looked a bit like death, with her umbrella raised above her head like a scythe. She took her coffee, closed her umbrella, and went.

I followed her through the window as she walked away, down the street. She was made blurry in the glass. The people shuffled around expressionless. Their feet were fountains dragging lines on cement. I pressed my finger against the steamed glass and traced a smiling face.

Then, through its eyes I saw him. He was across the street, head up, walking intentioned. He was under no hood or sail. He looked happy—and not just a “yes, I’m good” kind of happy; he looked genuinely happy. Startled for a moment, he fumbled around in his pocket and pulled out his phone. He spoke for a moment then shoved it back. He looked straight at me. There was no mistaking it—he looked straight at me. He didn’t see me, though. He never sees me. There is no coffee shop on 3rd Street.