it all came down like algebra

Tectonics shift in the cupboard next to my head
A new variable in the algebra of the room:
the NPR announcer’s voice, the gush of water
from the faucet, a crackle and a crash.

Algebra: Arabic,
from al-jabr meaning “a reunion
of broken pieces”

My sister is a nurse. She tells me
hospitals are edifices of algebra.
Each bed contains
an equation to be solved.


All of my drinking glasses: why did they enter
my life only to unleash their algebra
one night in February? They are sketches
of tigers mid-leap. Still able to scratch.
The fragilest of problems to solve.


Funny to think through all of history,
Pandora’s box winds up being an old cupboard
secretive as algebra, on my kitchen wall.


My husband is a custodian. He grabs a broom and dustpan
and begins to sweep. “You are fine,” he repeats.
I imagine gluing all those pieces back together,
tasting wine sipped from algebra.


Outside, algebra is the bulb of the traffic light
and the ventilator in the ambulance whizzing past.
It is the oak tree
smiling at the world it created.


My heart is a mathematician. It quickens,
nourished by the algebra­
it drowns in. A-positive, B-negative. No,
I do not know my type.


The letters in algebra
are unknown variables.
The brackets under shelves
are unknown variables.


I prefer the washrag and plate in my hands
to any algebra underfoot:
the solidity of x
to the inferred question of y.


My brother is a welder,
soldering the algebra in metal
with a white-hot torch.

Variable: Latin
from variabilis meaning “likely to bend”
In algebra, “having no fixed value”


When the kitchen floor is clear of variables,
the internet supplies more drinking glasses.
My kitchen will contain an algebra equation
I finally understand.


Majorly revised poem from a few years back. Constructive criticism welcome.

Unemployment, Night 6

When thunder woke
finally, my living room
windows perfectly framed
its burlap anger, evangelical

The corduroy couch beneath
me, that lonely pilgrim,
knelt amidst the wildling
morning, fragile as

matins On a pathway in a park
called Adulthood, a woolly storm
dangles acorns above the ground
in which they will take root,

huffs to tamp the sound of azaleas
pining for one another,
tears magnificent holes
into the damp fabric of

an august morning In my empty living
room, I wake somehow facing
the window and wait for tendrils
of gold lamé to again point me

toward a fog-laden city My hands
will rebuild each patchwork block, only
stopping when the inevitable silken
evening blots the buildings from view

Early draft of an elegy. Constructive criticism welcomed.

Take Root

The field lies like a still lake, an opaque film
of silver or green—water or soil, apathy or
memory—obscuring the mayhem underneath

A tenebrous home once floated here. Inside:
chrysalis, pupa, larvae, whatever
I left those costumes in closets to mold over years ago.

But, then again, my home was never on the ground.    Shh.
The trees drowse; their boughs rake the ground now,
remembering the press of sneakers in their moldy

crooks. Do I hear Father’s stale breath, the wheeze
of counted gates opening, the inhale of the afghan
mother comforted me with. Do I hear the things hidden

in the soil? They, unlike I, achieved their wishful plan
to stand still. The truth is I would never forget them;
I brought them more memories packed in boxes 

from a different land. Kneeling, I dig in the soil, disturbing 
the swimming creatures underneath, sprinkle the gypsum seeds.
My calloused hands cover them, then play the guessing game

Perhaps something will take root now baseboards, an oaken
table, a window shutter gripping the numbers of an address.
I am a season wandering away, knowing

the exact date of my return.

This poem was inspired by Alice Merton’s No Roots.
Photo by Marcus Lenk on Unsplash

Early draft. Constructive criticism welcome. What, if any, message did you get from it? What were you confused by? Did you listen to the song? How did it relate back for you?

Future Flower

here we spin
stationary in our eerie
stations / there is time
to worry when feet are

the air burns
wild with after
thought / how will

farms without fruit
mitigate a fraught
past / are we future
flowers or coming

and does Mother push
our blades with pride
or pity / when human engines

they pluck our spines
pilfer every song
we dare to hum
decipher every

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Early draft. Constructive criticism welcome.

Break Up

There are two lies waiting after this poem. I am a prism,
each day’s light bends inside me, inverting
the things I see, like the man punching wads
of bulbous dough in the pizzeria next door.

The best pizza I’ve ever had was in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
My college friends forgot that the booths filled up
early on Thursday nights. I stood at the end and danced
with men who were just trying to get to the restroom.

Two sets of those friends will marry each other and later
one of the women, Jeannette, will sit at that same booth,
trying to wave away seventeen years with Lee. “Maybe
you should travel,” I will say. Strings of cheese stretching

From the sizzling pan between us to the slice on my plate.
“People used to travel out of state to divorce all the time.”
The day’s light will bend inside me like Jeannette’s sigh.
“Still the proper way to do it.” She will chew with her mouth open.

Inspired by Philip Levine’s poem “Truth.”

Early draft. Constructive criticism welcome.


I should have heard, dark cherry moon,
when voice met ear like mallet, gong
the raven’s caw ring through my tomb
You came to me more night than song

My first mistake, the tonic drunk
Two lips divide; you crooned                 belong
the word a cave I’d yet spelunked
You came to me more night than song

The amulet you gave that day
shone bright against the blinking throng
’til cricket fog hid you away
You came to me more night than song

Early draft. Constructive criticism welcome.

Such Risk

a smile from you is at once glory and responsibility     it’s a beautiful razor
threatening to slash history    (every minute with you is such risk)    a glowing
orb that soothes while illuminating a peril without match

your glance sets me on fire     (the color of love is red)     it knocks together the match-
ing decanters of us     still your hand next to mine is a razor
needful but shimmering     playful with danger    we are embers glowing

from the forest floor      we are a resting gun (look around: the threat of loss is glowing
from all those in love)     have you doubted whether your flood and my fire match
too perfectly     how an eon of us fits on the edge of a razor

how we are this razor glowing on my cheek     we are this match burning in my fingers

Early draft of a tritina. Constructive criticism welcome.

A Prescription

Doctor’s orders: to swallow words whole, to take
opinions, a pill the color of bone, a
lozenge the color of tongue. Grind them with a ball-point pen,

mortar and pestle-style —Take with food, avoid alcohol, and
if you experience any symptoms or side effects, write
them across your pubis or on the soles of your feet, put this

lab-coated totem into your veins, jog in place, then lie down
but don’t rest. Resign. — The doctor knows shit, but do it anyway: let the pencil draw
your shadow onto the earth because something

caked and aching will rise from its center. Mud? No. More than that.
Mud and twigs and the sediment of autumns, a seed you can’t
open; you just have to bury it, and walk away. Bury it, and be

broken. Wander the Earth until Spring that drunken ex has finally found
his way back to you. Let him stew awhile on your porch. Learn
astronomy to tell the trees of their brothers the stars, to

cajole the glow from any Sun. Leash the inevitable storm and walk
it to that place in the soil that was you and you will be well again.
Let that doctor marvel —You did this without me somehow?—

A golden shovel poem inspired by lyrics from Jack Garratt’s “Surprise Yourself.”

Very early draft. Constructive criticism welcome.

A List Of Structures That Can Be Washed Away

we all stand on the same bridge
between birth and death
our braided hair pinned
back with memory neither smile
nor scowl in our stance \ do not deny
the air \ supporting
the delicate \ suspension
trusses \ girders \ cement
steepled above \ a thread
the river does not appear
dangerous from this distance
remember \ rising water can upturn
cars \ swallow buildings \ innocence
can coax \ the bolts \ from their casings
one droplet \ can deliver \ a frightening ultimatum:
swim or drown

* This poem was inspired by the work of Gabriel Jesiolowski

Note: The format of this poem is not supported by my blog. The backslashes represent large spaces between words. The intent was for the poem to look as though it is trickling down the page in streams and joining back together at the last line. It can be read if one flow is followed or read traditionally line by line, left to right.

written for the YeahWrite Fiction|Poetry challenge. Click the badge above to read more entries.

Early draft = constructive criticism is welcome.