Things to Say

A writing project

My brother can speak in tongues
I wonder what broken-off syllables
fall from his mouth
and onto his daughter’s ears.
I wonder if she hears God
of whether she fears the world is opening
at its seams
and Daddy’s words have been the first
ripped away.
Does she try to piece them back together?
Does she think that it is heaven?
She has learned to count her toes,
to make the sounds of a dozen animals
I worry for her tongue
I worry she will let God own it
before she has learned that it lives
in her own mouth
that she will believe it is he
not her
who is able to tell the world
what she is


I laid on the bed
in the dark
and watched you through the window
as you smoked cigarettes
one after the other.
The smoke curled around your head
and settled in your hair.
When you came inside,
you asked me if I had meant what I said earlier
I promised no,
but I saw in your eyes
that your mind had been made up.
It doesn’t matter if I never leave,
you’re preparing for my absence.


I drove through town today
and I saw a girl
in a polka dot dress
who couldn’t stop kissing
a man with tattoos
because nothing has ever
felt so good as his breath
on her neck.

I saw a woman
moving slowly
down the sidewalk
with knees worn down
from years of holding up a life
she never wanted.

I noticed a man
sitting on a bench
watching the empty
railroad tracks
who had grown his stomach
large enough to forget
he never felt worthy
of the space he takes up.

I saw my face
in the rearview mirror
writing about everyone else
to keep from looking at myself.

Things I couldn’t say without my voice shaking


I didn’t know
he had grabbed her like that
and now when I
watch your lips move,
I hear his voice say
"You’re not allowed to leave."

You are 20 years old
and your life should just be beginning
but you’ve got 5 different lies
burrowing their way through your brain
and you’re afraid you’ll never feel
free again.   

I don’t know that I can promise
anything better than what
we’ve had today.
But I want you to stay.   

I have less aching in my bones
than I did last winter
and less writing, too.
I fear I may not know how to love
without pain.   

The blankets on my bed
are still in tangles
from the love we made earlier.
I don’t mean the fucking,
I mean the laughing,
the kisses stolen
when you weren’t expecting them.
The songs we listened to
that reminded me how my skin
ached for you when you were away.

I am the moon
hanging in the sky
during daylight.
I don’t belong here
I was always meant for the dark.

10 people who deserve love poems. (number one)


You are nothing more or less than a lover.
You’ll never be a scientist
or a mathematician,
but even if you never pick up another paintbrush,
you will always be an artist.
Because you etch beauty
into the hearts of everyone you touch.

You’ve looked beautiful
every time I’ve seen you,
and I never told you.
I noticed you for years
before we ever spoke.

You were the first person I told
when I thought he might finally be back,
and you were the one to hold my hand
when he’d gone again.

I never knew I’d been drowning in loneliness
until I met you and felt full again.

If we don’t get to end up together,
I will always remember you
holding a tea cup.
And I will feel warm
recalling the summer I fell for you.


You’re nothing like the person I want to end up with,
but I always want to see you. Touch you.

And I hate that you smoke,
but I love the smell of tobacco.

I think you’re my version of cigarettes,
I swear I’ll give you up by the age of 25.


When I was a child
I used to think how the roads
were endless
that you could never be in front
in the line of cars,
because you can never see
where the pavement ends,
I didn’t know then you would be like
I didn’t know then
that I could only ever love musicians
because they make beautiful things
with only their hands
and I never thought mine were pretty.

I’ve become someone that says
like I’m hanging on by one extra syllable
like I don’t want to follow the commitment
slipping from my lips.

Remnants of my old life hang on to me
like the bible on my bookshelf
from years before I gave up on God
and Religion
and Love
like the pictures of him
the letters of him
I can’t
let go of,
like the way I still get his music
his voice
stuck in my head
like the texture of your fingerprints
that remains on my skin
from when we made love
years ago
moments ago.

I’ve gotten lost
but I think I meant to say
I didn’t know myself
before I knew you.

Sometimes I forget that I am young; that even though my bones feel heavy, they have only begun to feel the true weight they support. I’ve been carrying pain so long I thought myself old. Haven’t I learned most of the lessons already? — that some days will harder than others. That it will be hard to lose your lover, but harder to lose yourself. That the world will end and start again more times than you could guess. That music can save you. That music can destroy you. That loving him will always be worth it. That it will be harder to make yourself better, but that you should do it anyway. That you will be scared most of the time, but you will also be strong.

—What I wrote when you had gone


Everyone has a touch
they’d sell for a fifty dollar bill
and I’d rather bleed from my wrist
than accept another lie from your lips
I’d trade some freedom
for a kiss
I’ve got no poetry left to offer of my bones
but I could distract your hands for a while
we’ll both pretend we felt alive
before we turn back to the blues and booze
that keep us going.


You get lonely
it seeps into your blood
in the afternoon
and by night
it has taken you completely.
You want for anyone
to touch your skin
and tell you it is

I don’t get lonely
the same way
I would rather make dinner
for just myself
and spend the night alone
but god when I think of
your skin.
I remember that home
used to be your arms
and now
it is only a cold apartment
empty since your leaving.


Even now,
there are parts of my heart that belong to you.
And they never feel better.


I have an essay to write
but I can’t stop thinking about
the trip we took up north
to the town where every shop
was an antique shop
and how you held my hand
walking up and down the streets
not whining at all
when I would pull you into store
after store.
There was an art show in town
and we went inside a few of the places
but there was only one piece
I really liked
I can’t remember it now,
but I think it had something to do
with nakedness.
Can’t you feel how much
I am missing you?

This is me trying.

I have a friend who doesn’t quite say
I love you back
instead, it’s
the feeling is mutual
and sometimes that sits strangely in my chest.

Ask me how was your day?
and I will say
I didn’t call him
that’s as much as I can muster.

Your words echo.
They fell, angry
and I am filling in the craters
but the work is slow.

So I’ve decided to write an actual book.

To my Grandmother


As a woman,
you are strong, opinionated,
driven, thoughtful, intelligent
and all the other adjectives it took so long
for the world to see in women.
More than any other human I know,
you are governed by a deep sense
or right and wrong.
You give me hope,
that the world can still be changed
by the determined.

As a mother,
you are the goddess Durga.
Unstoppable, wise,
and endlessly loving.
Your patience continually leaves me in awe,
your grace gives me something to aspire to,
and your humor in all challenges
has taught me how to keep afloat.

As a grandmother,
you are a gift.
You gave me my only steady home,
a relationship with cousins I will have a lifetime,
a perspective on the world I will always return to.

I have many women who love me,
and many who impress me,
who I respect, and admire.
But of all these women,
it’s you I wish to emulate most.