photo by Vivienne St. John



Some people are not destined for happiness,
and I may be one of them.

You see, in certain parts of the world where
I have been and now live,

at least in my dreams, happiness is only
granted to a woman

who leaves a dish of mashed peas out in
the moonlight overnight.

But superstition does not name what moon
phase or if one must

eat the peas. Instructions too vague.
Peas uneaten. Moon dark.

No happiness yet. I'd ask my Nana if she
were still here,

but she was the one who gauged oven heat
with a bent elbow

and said happiness was to bake a cake
until done.

Familiar Tense, 2019

First published in The Southern Review, 2018




In chalk on the black door, someone has drawn
the world yet to come. A child—androgynous,

with a tangle of ink-dark hair—is taking that
future, using both hands to smudge it, to blur

the clouds, the ascension. Now chalk in hand,
he/she, in Oshkosh overalls and Keds, short legs

splayed, is screeching out a new vision. Here,
there are gateless fences to trap and imprison,

angry scribbles and, below, lines that might be
grass but are, instead, fire, conflagration.

We can't see the child's face, but when someone
bullies through the shut door his/her face will

be licked and crazed by the silent white flames


Familiar Tense, 2019

First published in Blue Fifth Review, 2018



by the age of nineyou knew everythingtra-la
had met two Presidentstra-la could explain pi

memorize Shakespeare soliloquies
or checkmate anyone blind-folded child's play

violinoboe harpsichord duplicate bridge
so whatthen was left to do

cut cornersfit in marry someone
polish silver slap your childrenor go back

back to one tra-la then two and so forth
‘til you learn to love all that blooms in the spring



Familiar Tense, 2019

This poem also appeared in the Denver Quarterly 2014;

Omnidawn Press, 2015, and Best American Poetry, 2016.