The Calm Before

the steam from the shower
was spilling from behind the coral reef
a veil
between the shower
and the cupboard of a washroom
he wiped away the steam
as his towel clung to his
protruding hip bones

he grabbed the cloth
on the windowsill
to wipe away the moisture droplets
embroidering the glass

he grabbed the moisturizer
he grabbed the foundation
and he began to apply scoops and heaps

first the bruise from last week whose fading pink gave him
hope that the scarlet purple adjacent to his left elbow
would soon heal
he tried his best to make the dark and blotchy wound on his
right inner rib match his own skin
but after all the creams made it darker, he clutched the
sink and gave up
letting the shampoo drip from his ears

he heard the knock that made each bruise
two low resounding thumps
all it took was two before he answered
on the other side was his father

he shriveled to move past him
allowing him in
as he turned back
all he could see was the half lit cigarette and mug he knew
to be filled with coffee dangling between his father’s
mouth and ring finger

he missed his step mother
because at least she could quell his father’s rage
but he learned to remain silent
he remembered to breathe once back behind the closed door
of his room

– he heard the two low resounding thumps
he knew a storm was coming again

Rolling Papers

at 10:25 pm on a Thursday night
my lips pucker
to kiss grape flavored rolling papers
because I want to be
the Lonely Smoker
and what does a Lonely Smoker do
at 10:25pm on a Thursday night?

in a backyard
dead and crumpled leaves
a possum scurries past

the moon rises
out of clouds
as my puckered lips
with each new exhale
a mist descends

“tell me what you know about dreams?”

as the mist drapes around my wrists
warming my fingers
inviting me to rest on the trunk
of the neighboring tree
to serenade the moon with my song

“tell me what you know about night terrors”

when a missed text
becomes a missed call

a hand accompanied by a bottle of beer
as the neck
to kiss your lips

the Lonely Smoker
kisses the grape flavored rolling papers
seducing senses

I sleep without warmth

the clouds part
the moon guides

We Didn’t Make It To 3005

let your hair flow down past your neck
i liked the hombre effect
as i grabbed a handful
i didn’t care if you wanted your heart back

your eyes
closed again
while you clung to your red comforter
i can’t remember the number of lies you told me

was that one too?
mumbled under your breath
it wasn’t because of your asthma –
you said we were through

i threw the comforter
on to the floor with the rest
of our clothes
i kept forgetting you were frail as paper

you preferred it that way
as i kissed the scars i left behind
and felt the contortions of your back – your waist was much farther away –
stop asking me to stay

you already knew
what my answer was
it never changed
your eyes – finally open – told me what to do

Nicotine reminds me of my stepfather

he smoked almost two packs a day
he’d drink coffee to mask the smell
stowing mints in his pockets
and cup holders
hiding behind expensive cologne

but he always took his
false teeth out each night
and had to sit upright
before he slept
so he would not suffer
in his sleep
from his coughing fits

he didn’t die from lung cancer
years of alcohol did him in
so only after a month
of being diagnosed
he could finally put the cigarettes down

I tried my best not to pick them up
but each drag
brings us closer
when I think of his laugh
I think of the crack of my lighter
sparking a flame

College, To A Five Year Old

I remember the penitentiary

I was less than 5
I thought my pops was in college
I thought the other felons were students too

weren’t they taking a break
from their studies to see their families too?

that was a lie
my mother let me believe
until I was ten

I learned abruptly
that college
was something I wouldn’t want
if it meant
I’d never see home again

The Desert Wolf

My father used
to tell me bedtime stories about a wolf

he used to call it
the loneliest wolf
trapped in the desert

its only joy
the stars
would sing to the wolf when
all he had
was his shadow

“Father, do you ever get lonely
without mother?”

My father said
with my reflection
in his bayous of mahogany

Not when I
have you shining so brightly
before my very eyes