peter

i thought you were
invincible, until
the day you showed up
with a cut the size of
a door nail on your
forehead

you were snowmobiling
without a helmet
the fear of death
manhandled me
the way the waves
did one summer
choking on seaweed
and salt

your hands are always warm
they brush my hair back
tucked behind
my ears

i remember them
cupping your mouth
every september
on the sidelines, you yelled
you were always there

i wish i could
stand on the tallest mountain
and yell until my belly bursts
until the world around us
knows how incredible you are
how important you are

so they stop
driving you insane
on the highways

the water’s edge

I have one hand leaning against the polished stone, fingertips gripping the fern moss that freckles the walls of the soaring Central Valley waterfall. I look out to see the laughing faces of our friends as they tread in the small, tepid pool and the red-winged bird singing from a feeble branch wrapped in flora and the shimmering of a half-complete rainbow on the wet rocks lining the water’s edge.  All hardly visible, as we stand behind the falling water, peering through a glistening rain that blurs everything in sight with the exception of a few fleeting moments of clarity. My other hand weighs heavily on his hipbone, my thumb slipped between the elastic band of his swim trunks and his flush, olive skin. I put more weight on his body than I do the rock wall. I am looking down at my wiggling toes, as they navigate the slippery rocks beneath them, trying to find comfort and stability before I look back up at him. He lifts my chin with the length of his forefinger. His eyes are narrow and focused, a hazel more green than brown. His hair is wet and when he tosses it back using a hand comb, it has a flow that frames his face perfectly. His chest is glossed over with an after-rain dewiness I’ve only seen in a place like this. There is a single breath between the moment our eyes lock and the moment he presses his soft, timid lips against mine. His mouth frames my upper lip and holds on for what feels like many, many years. I feel the tip of his tongue only briefly before he tugs at my bottom lip gently with his teeth.  My hand, the one against the rock wall, slips away to grab hold of of his angular, unshaven face.

I trust he will not let me fall.

small town

Lacy always gets bitch seat. She doesn’t mind it’s kind of cozy and that way she can keep her eyes on the road because she doesn’t always trust the person driving the car. It’s not great when the seatbelt is missing or broken which happens a lot because she can’t stop thinking about her head going through the windshield.

The bass ricochets through her eardrums and she doesn’t care much for the music but moves her head to the beat anyway. It’s the middle of July and the air is wet and sticky, unlike yesterday dry as a bone, and that’s typical for a New England summer. The Driver’s air conditioner is broken in his ’99 Civic so the windows are down and she wishes she could put her arm out but it probably wouldn’t make a difference.

The Passenger hands the spliff back and Jenna grabs it. She inhales and exhales and passes it to Lacy and Lacy passes it to Emily because she doesn’t know how to inhale without coughing up a lung and she’d rather not. Lacy is looking through the windshield and The Driver is speeding up because they are on Westboro Road by Tufts Campus and it’s really long and really straight and drivers like to go fast here. She hates when the drivers do this because she doesn’t think it’s cool to get into an accident and die over something small like this and that’s all she can think about as the speedometer hits sixty in a thirty.

Jenna asks The Driver to slow down and he does.

At night this town dies and life happens inside of cars and basements and parking lots. In fifteen minutes they are on the other side of town and The Passenger passes back the second one and Jenna grabs it and this time Lacy takes one hit and she coughs for five minutes straight. She asks if they can stop at Cumbies for some water.  They pass the high school on the way and in the parking lot, they see Joey Silva’s Mazda and later find out that Sara Strindberg was with him and left her ring at home. They pass the Stop and Shop on Pleasant Street and see all of the F-150s decorated with Confederate flags and the kids who drive them sit in the truck beds and have no idea what any of it means.

‘We can go to Paul’s,’ The Passenger says.
‘Do you guys want to go to Paul’s?’ The Driver asks.
‘Sure,’ the girls say.

They pull into Cumbies’ parking lot and Lacy sees the Black Acura. She looks at Jenna and Jenna is looking at her and Emily says, ‘should we leave?’

Lacy gets out of the car and walks into the convenience store and sees him by the slushy machine.

‘Hey,’ she says.
‘Hey.’
‘Where have you been?’
‘Around.’
‘I’ve been calling you.’
‘I know.’
‘I miss you.’
‘I miss you, too.’
‘I don’t get it.’
‘You know how it is.’

His eyes are bloodshot and it seems like he might be looking at her but he’s really looking just past her. He’ll never remember this conversation and it will live inside of her head for weeks.

She waits for him to ask her to come with but he doesn’t and when she walks out she sees Her in his front seat and it hurts. She starts to cry but only a little, no one notices, as she crawls back into the middle seat and waits to leave.

They head to Paul’s and they sit at the Millbury Street stoplight for what feels like hours and for some reason The Driver didn’t put the music back on and it is very peaceful. The crickets sing songs in the tall grass in the open fields and in the distance there are tires screeching and an engine revving and Lacy likes this music better.

Paul lives in the south part of town and his mom is never home and his dad lives in Florida so there are always kids in his basement drinking Sparks or Red Bull vodkas or both. They walk in and it smells like dirty laundry. Paul looks up from his water pipe and smiles.

‘What you guys do tonight?’ Paul asks The Driver.

The Driver sits down and grabs the pipe. As he exhales he says, ‘Nothing. Just drove around.’

ricotta and jam

i met a girl
at a coffee shop
in europe
i said hi

we got to talking
she said it’s time i get out of here
but i don’t know where to go
i said the same thing
to myself yesterday

follow your heart
what else could i say
her half smile, a crescent moon
her dark eyes, nothing special about them
she fixes her hair
her words flat:
i can’t take that advice

because my heart built a home
in a polished seashell
the one that lies on the coastline
of a ruined city
seventeen hundred miles away

disguised as a lipstick stain
on the rim of a red solo cup
filled half way with liquor
half way with lust
lust at a frat party
i am a passerby

it makes hootch
in the rainforest
and dances to the sound
of languages it can’t understand
makes love to flamenco
in cobblestone alleys far away in the past

i always forget that
it sits idly in this coffee shop
waiting for visions to become words
ten thousand words, ten thousand more
my fingers like rocket ships

my heart takes rest in a city
blooming in frondescence
wrapped up in auburn curls
curls that do not shed, i shed

underneath a sticky bar mat
in a busy city center late night
conversations of substance, or not
company of substance, or not
i’ll make you a white russian
with my eyes closed

my heart salutes the sun amongst the Joshua Trees
a place where it never rains
my heart hallucinates
the clouds put on a show
i could stay,
what happens if i stay
if i leave
do you see?

if i follow my heart
ill be stretched so thin
my skin will blanket the galaxy
my bones will float mid air

if i follow my heart
my elbow will live in France
while my toes march the rockies
my lips will sing country songs
in dive bars and dorm rooms

my ass will sit on a train
with a one way ticket to nowhere in particular
just because the thought of starting over
tastes as sweet
as this ricotta and jam
this ricotta and jam, have you tried it?

i have
how’d your heart get there
to all of these places
the wind, i guess.
maybe you should follow the wind, i said.
maybe i should follow the wind