The gardener

Parietal, occipital and frontal lobe

fused together —a big green waxy watermelon head.

A mandible and maxilla connected by corn,

golden glistening teeth that roll his mouth every time he laughs.

He cries bright-red strawberry tears 

when he finds a pumpkin crushed by hungry deer,

or radish leaves nibbled on by curious rabbits,

or tomato plants starved by obnoxious aphids.

Day after day he works his crops, 

protecting them like they are his children.

Clavicles cut from celery stalks,

scapulas peeled from cabbages.

He picked the plums and apples from his trees

stacked them together to form his vertebral column.

Every day when the sun shines brightest in the sky

he bends backward, 

letting the sunlight enter his welcoming bones;

A sunflower of most peculiar creation. 

Ribs ripped out of the ground, 

carefully cleaned carrots that wrap around his torso. 

Protecting the area of 

what could be, 

what should be,

his heart and his lungs.

Late at night, as he stares up at the galaxy of stars, 

he imagines he can hear the “Ba-bump! Ba-bump!” 

of his loving, lonely heart. 

He swings his hoe with his cucumber humerus,

pulls weeds with his sweet potato radius and ulna.

Fingers plucked from bunches of snap peas that click, click, click

as he delicately touches his gardening tools.

Hip-bone and scrotum,

sweetly sliced cantaloupe.

But the sugary drips of his pelvis attract ants while he sleeps.

So every morning he dusts off their curious pinchers,

carefully making sure not to squash them. 

Femurs built out of zucchinis 

lifted by tibias and fibulas of squash.

Fragile patellas bend to pet a fluffy neighborhood dog,

kneecaps carefully carved out of onions.

Potatoes dig into the soft soil as he walks;

large, clunky, wobbly feet. 

He used to have cherry tomato toes,

but those were eaten by mice a couple of months ago.

As the summer grows into fall, 

a bountiful harvest season blooms in the garden.

He took care of his crops well. 

But the summer heat pruned his corn mandible and maxilla.

The plums and apples of his vertebrae bent,

melting, rotting in the sun.

Now his snap pea fingers can’t quite grip the hoe

—or rip out the weeds—

and his potato feet

take root in the soil. 

The approaching winter calls the gardener’s bones

to take rest with the earth,

to sleep with the snow.

He finally rests his weary watermelon head.

Knowing that when spring comes

this will all start over again. 

Closer

I stare at the trees, watching them sway.

And yet, I search closer;

the way the branches fold in the shadows,

the pine needles bending,

melding to the wind.

And yet, I search closer;

closer, closer, impossibly closer,

to the mitosis of our cells dividing,

all at once beautiful and tragic.

Black boy joy

lying on our backs,

staring at the sunset caught in-between bricks,

we pass a joint,

soggy from our lips,

the acrid taste of backwoods leaving burnt echoes in our lungs.

Down the hill a few men have gathered around in a circle,

playing with the hip-hop beats bouncing from their speaker.

Freestyle rapping.

I look over at you and I see you grinning.

“Black boy joy,” you say simply,

grabbing the joint from my fingertips.

I blow out the smoke I had been holding in,

letting the setting sun get covered in a smoky haze,

if only for a moment.

Laundry

Her little arms can’t fit around the whole pile she raked up and she tips over, falling headfirst into the heavy leaves. She breathes in deeply, letting the decaying earth rest in her lungs. She giggles and rolls over in the pile, looking up at the trees glowing with sunlight, a mosaic of flame spread along her sky. An orange leaf sways, controlled by the soft breeze like a marionette, until it lands on her nose.

She tries picking up the leaves again, using her arms as a shovel and waddling into the house. Her dad comes out of the kitchen, following a trail of dirty leaves dragged through his house.

“Luna?” he asks.

“Hi dad!”

Sitting cross-legged in front of the washer is his daughter. Watching the leaves tumble around in the soapy water. Soon the leaves will clog the draining filter, their thin fabric ripped in the rinse cycle and caught in the machine. But for now the man sits next to his daughter and watches, a technicolor whirl of soap and leaves.

Unrequited love

I’m sitting in a bus crossing over the Charles River,

looking at the buildings stacked over each other like legos,

the old man next to me sneaking sips of whiskey underneath his mask,

complaining about people who talk on the phone on the bus,

to a woman currently on the phone,

speaking in tones given to a lover.

She tries to ignore the whiskey man,

but he’s impatient.

This man,

drinking his whiskey,

trying to find love by denying its existence.

Foul Play in Funland: Charlie

 Sidenote: This short story/poem was inspired by season one, episode eight of Scooby Doo: Where are You? That’s where these first lines of dialogue are pulled from.

“Hey, don’t you wish Funland was open? The rootbeer floats, the chocolate custard, the rides? Man, that’s livin’.”

“Yes, but right now it looks a little spooky. Even haunted.”

“Haunted?”

“Don’t be silly Daphne.”

The lights start coming on.

“Hey, look at that!”

“But that’s impossible. That place won’t be open for weeks.”

Clicking of roller coaster as it pushes the invisible riders up the track.

“Look!”

The ride rolls across the screen, silently. No screams of joy, no playful chatter. 

“Well, this calls for a little investigation.”

As night sweeps over the fall horizon, the lights turn on in Funland. 

The roller coaster clicks as it pushes the ride up the track. The cash register opens with a loud ding. The cotton candy machine whirs into motion. The ferris wheel squeaks as it rolls around the moon. 

But no one’s there. 

Except for him. 

His name is Charlie. Or, at least his maker calls him that. He doesn’t know what he calls himself.

A blue robot with a pale face, completely smooth and without features. Mechanical parts that make his mouth perpetually frown and glowing yellow eyes that flash when he’s excited. 

He zooms back and forth across the park; making hot dogs and shakes, playing carnival games, and riding the ferris wheel. 

Floating through the tunnel of love with a bouquet of flowers clutched in his hard metal wrist. 

Eyeing himself suspiciously in the mirror maze; the different ways his body contorts confusing him. 

Riding up the roller coaster, click, click, click. Sitting in the front seat. No smile to curve, but eyes beaming like headlights with the hazards on.

In the summer, families come from all across the country to visit Funland. 

In the fall, there’s Charlie.

Eyes flashing, always flashing.

Sunset

I always write poems in motion:

a man spilling his coffee,

wind currents dancing with a flower petal,

or listening to love in a public place.

But you paint our moments,

capturing our memories with your colors.

You make me wait,

hold my breath for the next stroke of your brush on canvas.

Only then do I truly see the importance of stillness.

You see the world the way it was meant to be seen;

through iridescent waves of bright oranges and deep purples.

You’re my sunset,

so no matter where I go I’ll always have you on my horizon.

And when I don’t know where I am: lost, confused, and afraid

you paint me a map

that leads me home.

The man on the train

Is he cursing at his god?

He slings a slurry of swear words to the heavens,

gradually increasing his passion as he continues to curse.

He’s visibly drunk,

motions slurred and unwieldly,

like a baby learning how to move for the first time.

Greasy grey hair hangs thinly around his rosy cheeks,

but I’m too ashamed to look at him,

too afraid to provoke,

so I don’t catch the color of his exasperated, almost pleading eyes.

And he’s begging for what?

For a god to answer his anger?

For a friend to help fuel his thoughtless fury?

For someone,

anyone,

to meet the gaze of his eyes?

I can’t help but empathize with his soul shattering, empty rage.

But I can’t help,

so I file off the train.

Big city rats

When the air is hot,

hanging over your body like wet laundry,

the rats come out to play.

At first they’re a visage,

a hallucination at the corner of your vision.

Zoop! — There goes one,

diving into a horde of trash,

Bop! — There goes another,

squeezing between moldy building bricks.

As the lights of the city pollute the heavens,

the rats roll out in droves,

clumsily stumbling over each other like drunken fools,

searching for sewage,

searching for stink.