Ceremony Enough

the grooms danced with their fingers
pointed toward each other

the emcee, wearing a crimson crown,
talked over the clinking of wine glasses, and

the 90s techno-house music only the gays like
churned for our hips

we’d forgotten how the other looked
tied up in suits and buttoned to the collar

so when friends joked that we were next up
to order creamy invitations, to book a fedora-ed swing band,

to shuttle around town trying samples of lemon cake,
we seriously considered it

but after so many chicken tikka dinners eaten,
seasons of The Simpsons watched,

funerals attended, dishes washed,
and lullabies sung to tabby cats,

we decided life was
ceremony enough


what if we flip this crimson doubt
release each expectation lark
to skies refilled from looming drought
would we still form a question mark

beneath astonished flannel sheets
our viscous whispers drench the dark
forgotten hist’ry made complete
would we still form a question mark

If I’m omega hanging, high,
above the finite point you spark
would I ignite or gratify
would we still form a question mark

(Photo credit: Quintin Gellar/pexels.com)

Writing this kyrielle for YeahWrite. Click the badge above for more poems and stories inspired by prompts.


Can I be your quicksilver—that slick Forever,
that satiny poison you long to have near
but are too afraid to taste?
(Even the shadows under your feet radiate)
And may the line you walk
between the steel pillars of this city,
the threads you lay on gum-speckled sidewalks,
down regretful subway tracks, and over the rocking
boats docked in their places in this universe
be my orbit as well?
(You contain an asteroid cloud; you contain the Sun.)
And if you whisper Yes, Nathan, of course—
do I become comet or moon? Ignited or cratered?
Zooming or quietly watching in the dark
(such sweet poison) the glaciers of our understanding
expand and contract, the oceans swallow and rebuild islands,
the storms spiral and pummel and disintegrate and reemerge
across the geography of Years

Writing for YeahWrite #356. The prompt was using the words radiant, expand, and orbit. Click the badge above for more fantastic poetry and stories.


Cal noticed when I walked into the bakery. He wiped his hand on the black sky of his apron, and a shy smile had spread across his face before the doorbell finished chiming. The smears of flour at his hips made me think of sex.

I decided to sit as far from where he was working as possible to test the tether between us. We’d only been dating five weeks, but I found myself wondering if I could resist his gravitational pull?

I placed my laptop on a table and arranged a few sample books for the Fogerty house. But blueprints and furniture catalogs could not compete with the spectacle of Cal in his natural environment. His biceps flexed as he kneaded dough; his large hands shaped and molded small planets of rye bread. His every action seemed risqué. And he knew I was watching him, too. He checked me with his eyes each time he ducked into the back room. He looped his thumbs around his tied apron strings and did a little tap dance while waiting to ring up customers.

After a half hour of this, he came over to my table and whispered, “You gotta stop watching me, dude.” He beamed; his crooked smile, pale eyes, and five-o-clock shadow reminding me again of some action/adventure star I’d seen somewhere. “I can’t concentrate.”

“Can’t help it. There are too many sweet things in this place.” His blush was a trophy. “All right. I’ll get to work.” Sighing, I plugged my ears with headphones and, as much as it pained me, ignored him.

Eventually, I fell into my work. The next time I looked up, about a half hour later, Cal was at the end of the counter talking to a pony-tailed woman with a thin pink scarf looped around her neck. I had to shift in my chair to see her face: the bridge of her nose rounded from brow to tip and her chin was soft. She looked nothing like Cal, whose face was all hard, straight lines.

Taking my headphones off, I heard her say she couldn’t wait for Saturday, then she shyly took both of his hands and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him. Cal’s eyes shot to me as she did it, giving me the answers to all of my questions.

Without thinking, I stood. “What the hell, Cal?”

One of my notebooks slammed on the floor. Everyone in the room was staring. The woman—still holding one of Cal’s hands—moved behind him. We stood like that for what seemed like forever.

“Cal?” the woman finally said. “Is something wrong?”

“I don’t know. Is something wrong, Will?” There was a warning in his words.



His lack of shame confounded me. Wasn’t he in the wrong here? This was about the time in the relationship when you’d find out you were with a cheater. It’s a risk you took with online dating—the Netflix and Chill guys, the polys—it’s all fine if that’s what you’re into. But that’s not what I was into. I thought I had been clear.

“I thought…” I didn’t want to admit it. “I just thought I was the only one.”

People in the bakery weren’t staring anymore, but all ears were aimed at us.

“You’re gay, Cal?” the woman gawped, and I realized she was younger than I thought.

“Yeah,” Cal said with a shrug. “Cara, this is my boyfriend, Will. Will, this is Cara Wilson, a friend of the family. ”

Embarrassed, I returned her hello and shook her hand. As we talked, Cara mentioned that Cal was catering her wedding for free. I asked about the wedding and the menu, giving Cal praise for his kindness. Anything to smooth this situation over. Within a few minutes, Cara said she had other errands to do. She hugged Cal, whispered something in his ear, and then she was gone.

Cal put a finger up. “Hold on.” He walked in back and returned with a co-worker to replace him at the counter.

“Follow me,” he said to me. Outside, he turned onto a side street before he spoke.

“I guess I’m out to my family now.”

“Shit. I’m sorry. My big mouth.”

“Nah, I was going to do it soon anyway.” He took my face in his hands. “They should meet you.” He kissed me softly, then put his forehead to mine. We closed our eyes.

Doing something new for the fiction|poetry challenge: two required prompts. This week the prompts were the word “baker” and the sentence “We closed our eyes.” Sound fun? Join us! Click the badge above for more info.

This Dimming Light Between Us

The days, you keep tying them to hooks on the ceiling. Clay ornaments on strings knocking together like wind chimes in a summer storm or the eerie jingle of the Good Humor truck driving by. Somehow both immediate and fleeting. They make the most delicate clamor

The noise sends me out of the house late at night after you’ve drifted off with the raft of our bed. I dig up the neighbor’s yard, catch raccoons in the garden, walk to the bar on the corner and ask the bartender for something, anything. I make the most delicate clamor

She ducks under the counter and pulls out a pickle jar. Small holes in lid. Label advertises Dill Spears. I am not afraid of the fluttering moths inside, their wings outspread, anticipating flight. I find you at the kitchen table when I return. We make the most delicate clamor

The Invitation

My dearest,

I’m writing to ask you to my wedding on the 15th. Her name is Roslyn. You don’t know her. 

I don’t wish for you to receive this news as a rebuff. It is possible to be two things at once. Like you. What was that name you insist your mother gave you in that bleak time before we met? “Herve”? And yet will the Lord God judge me as a liar for calling you Harvey all these years? 

Two things at once.
Your Jonah

The Outbreak

His sneeze was so quiet I almost mistook it for a sigh, as if he were annoyed by something small like a poorly written scene in a TV show or a dropped piece of cookie on the gritty carpet. “Honey?” he asked. It was not a question, but a command. I stood, holding my breath. I only exhaled after I walked down the hall to the far end of our bedroom. His Rolex shined from the top of his dresser. A bowl of change sat next to his half-drunk glass of water. A half hour before I would have felt tied to those everyday things, the reassuring signs of his presence in my life. But I walked wide around them and lifted the overfull backpack from the bottom of our closet.

When I returned to the couch, his cheeks and forehead were already the color of a bruised plum. He noticed my quick pause. “Grab the ventilator.” He watched as I did what he said. Through the plastic cup over his mouth he reassured me as genuinely as he could. Nothing I hadn’t heard before. But his words in my head sounded like Darth Vader so I exaggerated my inhalations to mimic him. The smallest of smiles fidgeted on his lips. “Help me up, please.” He needed a break to catch his breath in the middle of the sentence.

We drove in silence. The unsettling flush of his face had quickly spread to his arms, below his elbows. Every time he gets sick, the speed of it surprises me. He put a plastic glove on and placed a hand gently on my thigh just below the hem of my shorts, his thumb circling in the hair. The lead singer of the Neon Trees growled and flirted from the speakers; I skipped to an Aimee Mann song. His favorite. He leaned his head against the window as he listened. I heard his wheezes getting shallower.

The clinic was squat and jammed between a chiropractor and a eyebrow threading place. I helped him out of the car after I parked. He pointed to the parking meter to remind me to pay. Other purple-faced men, women, and children met our eyes as we walked through the door. I found Doctor Juno, who put a finger up when he saw us. One minute. I nodded, even though my heart was spinning. My boyfriend dug for something at the bottom of his backpack. When the outbreak first started, the doctor had to treat me for panic attacks right after he’d administered the shot to my boyfriend. With every recurrence, I’d gotten better at coping with the idea of losing him, and, once again, I started the process of reassuring myself this wasn’t that day.


I still feel that humid night on me. Back then our apartment perched above the sidewalk like a vulture; my head perched above my heart like a parrot. Just before you wedged that stupid laundry basket you use as a suitcase out the back door, you told me to stop messing with the frays of things, and I spent I don’t know how long on the rim of the bathtub. Early, early, I wandered outside. I found one of your button-downs wadded in the yard—still wet from its vagrancy. I took off my shirt, smoothed yours on my skin like lotion.


I wanted to write you a poem about horseshoe crabs,
how they are born on beaches, how they spend their lives
sheltered, underwater, and only reemerge when they’re old.
They trudge across their grave, their chestnut lives etching
wales into every grain of sand. Every beach is their archive,

but I forget about your summer house—in Delaware of all places.
You must have stepped over them on your twilight walks. I bet
you think of them as army helmets encapsulating the precious history
of the world’s disappointments. Or maybe you thought of them as pins
pushed in a map, marking the exact moment of abandonment.

If you ask them to, they will arrange themselves quietly,
using their tails as compass needles, to show you the way
to me. They’ll point to a tangle of seaweed, then a perfect
stone for skipping, and finally to a knife laid bare in the sand
at your feet. You will pick it up. You will drag the blade

through the center of a belly. No remorse—just think:
it was finished anyway. Just think: even those most protected
can’t avoid their end. You will tip the shell to your mouth,
you will drink the crab’s blood; and it will search your body,
each magnificent cell, to scour away the etchings I made.

Then you will continue walking without me.

(photo: walknboston on flickr.com; no changes made)