All the Lives We Are

The dairy farmer replied, “Stop
Calling things that aren’t milk
Milk. The newspaper series
was compelling, even
to a city chick like me
I add oat milk to the grocery list
I think of the dairy farmer
The journalist earned awards
Delivery person trades texts, exchanging
broccoli sprouts for bunches or
Did I order that by mistake?

I tipped him fifteen percent, sometimes
I tip twenty. Every time is a goal
To not hesitate or have to calculate,
Project out for 30 days
The same way he, surely, will
I wonder if he does his own shopping
In between or other days

I thank him, wave through the screen
A woman sits in his passenger seat
Winter coat open, attention on her phone
I wonder if she rides often, all the time
After a fight
Could be his best friend, like my daughter’s best guy
friends from high school, their small colony of peers
Crossing over the gritty sands into maturity

The cicadas are coming this year
Billions, according to the news
I am intent to obsess over both groups of new adults
I shuttle the groceries from porch to kitchen

The Library

Bend pages at the corner
Folding into the stories
We tell about ourselves
About each other
About days dissolved
and seasons yet to come

Circulate riches to every spirit and spine
Stack rhyme schemes and prophecy
Humanity and hypotheses
Guard our stories, stretching from soil to sky
Common and crown, ground level to grand heights
And all of our mass in the middle
Mass, in the middle
The accumulated weight of all our question marks
Our catalog of anxious cells and eager breaths

Warm the hallways, the portals and platforms
Ignite hope along dim landscapes
Archive the shine of our collective living.
Our electric resistance to darkness

Bitter Winter

Forgiveness hangs flimsy between you
and the raw truth you've come to know:
Resentments do come home to roost, to peck, to force you
into navigating fatherhood from your knees. There are
explosives undetonated on your tongue, tasting
like guilt, goddamn and gunpowder all swirled together
You teach yourself to swallow, to repent, to deny the
flames licking from your chest. Arms crossed, she bids you a bitter winter.

Hope is a Bruise

Paintball pellets batter shoulders
and thighs at 190 miles per hour
I count the purplish bruises and
smile at the post vision of us toasting
laughing, being vibrantly alive

The woman who pierced my nose
Rushed outside afterwards for a cigarette
Whether my nostril or her nerves were to blame
We both survived an ordeal that day
I don’t think of the sweat on her lip 
or the tears on my cheek when my jeweled 
Black nose disrupts canonical spaces

Agony delineates child bearing from child rearing
Pain is the anticipated toll: the impossible stretch of skin and orifice,
wrenching of organs, the pinch and nip of nursing
I received no pamphlets about the pangs of panic and impotence
The deep marrow rupture when their ache explodes beyond your reach

A formation of police fired rubber bullets at my child
200 feet per second in defense of hatred and spiteful ignorance
She raged back in protest until her throat rasped, her heels
blistered and she shattered into sobs once safe in our home, in my arms
They gassed and maced my baby. She marched again the next day.
And the next and the next and the next and the next

Hope is a bruise, a nervous smoke and an unrelenting calvary