Aluminum Ode

You hold everything,

number 11

on the periodic table,

hasty morning sammies

and riceballs.

You are the middle school crunch

of a finished meal,

a finalness wrapped around

tomorrow’s plate.

You get crushed

by some weight, too,

by the slightest cramp

in a schoolbag and cheese

oozes into the lining.


You are not foiled

but found in a spooling heat

retaining today’s meats

in the drawer recess.

You don’t know

tomorrow’s meal

but today you cradled morsels

from Huancayo and maybe

baklava from the desert.


But maybe

that’s astral travel

and we never left

the dinner table.

You paper

with mettle,

spreading black sugar

into a bread-like brain.



First (a ghazal)

The second to third to last men will claim first,

penetrate a womb, build marble idols, name it first.


Petty rock spirits couldn’t keep Cortés away;

The wooden and roped idols touched the Sun first


before a crown-wielding encroachment raped the shores,

stabbing tongues with fire speech and crosses first.


Next, they take the daughters, steal our hospitality;

Columbus’ collection is hungry and thirsty. Drink first


From the last forest vein, some old exotic sweetness

melting on teeth like Spanish fire. These old bones, first


of our kind, will break under the weight of their industry,

temples collapsing to churches. Above all, know this first:


it doesn’t matter who came, the second to the third to the last.

When the young ones ask, answer that the old ones were the first.

Shank (heroic couplet)


I was never made for this, Maryland of ‘87,

to sink, to eat into the flesh of committed men.

My brother, the knife, is the softer sort

made from soft and approved plastic, purposed for

dismembering tasteless chicken. But I,

a stir in some prison guard’s cup of caffeinated dye,

wasn’t meant to be in a surgical hand,

filed, teethed, honed for his courtyard plan

to square some beef with a child creeper

whose crimes reminded him of an old neighbor.


I was not made for sticking in someone’s jugular;

instead of spooning mash, I’m a kind of air stealer,

installed and ready in a breast pocket of lint and ripped words.

The surgeon says he hears conspiracies in metric thirds

so he cut up that neighbor as part of his therapy.

I’m an instrument, not an expert, so I don’t know this remedy.

He carefully cleaned me with the edge of a black shirt,

and hid me in an angry corner of his pissed-on cell dirt.


I’m tired of his bullshit spiel on Maryland of ’87;

it’s the same rehash about his justice on some felony men.

My brother worries about my nihilism setting in,

so I destroyed his beige eggshell softness; wherein

that wrong may be mine but no federal guard knows,

not when cheap Folgers roast clogs up their upturned nose.

Who was there to confiscate me after the first big blow?

A second time wouldn’t matter in the big house, though.

I was sharpened to serve his courtyard plan one afternoon,

but that poor man should have armed himself with something, too.

an engine for madness (a sonnet)


I’m seventeen and behind the wheel

and you’re old, probably heart attack-prone

in a thousand-pound machine, broken seals,

transmission issues you never got to.


We’re both scared but you drove fear into me

with most concern for your car above all:

take a right, merge here, stay under twenty.

But I’m not inclined to foolhardiness


when you’ve put airbags on all street corners,

red lights stalling with anecdotes of youth

as I circled school zones twice over;

A Goodyear on black-yellow avenues.


I test my mettle against car metal,

the road pulls forth when I gas the pedal.

Swimming with the Ocean


“Swallow the pill & I promise you’ll see.” Frank was keen

as he strapped rocket boots to his feet & flew.

I think we bought them in a Brooklyn bodega dream,

pondering over words & how a blank page is our greatest enemy.


We traded world stickers, see, about how he’s the black dream

& we’re all drops of dye in a cup of cat’s cream

that is the world. Though he’s from New Orleans, Frank

mixes the meanest cup of lean I’ve ever seen & we take it

to Coney to see the sea & those who buried dreams

by the white margins six feet deep.


We’re writers madden by fever, fingers on ink triggers

with nothing but a dream in hand & a cold Harlem nutcracker

in the other. Frank knows I’ve been here forever like I’m

tethered to this universe with a knack for pushing borders &

heating the ether. He looks beautiful against the sea & he’s

someone that I need to be: a dancer on the meter of words,

a drifter between tongue & teeth, the cleverest orator


& he’s the most enlightened speaker I’ve the pleasure to meet.

Frank says Brooklyn’s got the body of a woman, vastly

different from his Angel’s Desert. He says my sky dreams in

Pink & White creams because its daydreams are unclean,

smeared by those who just can’t seem to sleep.

He walks to the infinite seam of the beach, where the waking

& sleeping worlds meet. Smiling, Frank says, “When you get there,

do you think everything is there that you dreamed of?”