I’m kicked back
in the recliner
with a pillow propped
at my lower back,
and the curtains drawn wide.

I pick the dead skin
from my heel,
where I had a sizable
blister in July, and now
a mosquito bite.

Every time I awoke
during the night
to scratch it,
I thought of the Zika virus
and what a pain in the ass
mosquitoes are —
their only purpose being
to spread diseases.

The women’s 100 meter hurdles race
is on the Rio Olympics,
and I feel lazy watching it.
I wonder how many hours of training
that woman put in, only to come in

Outside, near the sidewalk,
an old man who has a face
that is one continuous wrinkle,
dons a bucket hat,
and has the leaf blower
cranked full blast.
It’s only purpose to generate noise
in his perfectly manicured yard.
I wonder what he’s seen,
this old man:
combat, death, the first rose in June
for the last 78 years?

My focus goes back
to the itch near my heel
and smaller things,
like how strange my voice sounds
when I hear it on video.


You dropped words
heavy on me,
a fancy paperweight
from a forgotten vacation;
a rapper’s lyrics
so salty and stained
that spittle flies
when they are spoken.

You cried for a few minutes,
as incomprehensible verbalization
poured from your wicked mouth
like wet cement —
all the while, not understanding
the depth of what you’d done —
the final check mate move
you had initiated.

I ran outside,
for fear of suffocation,
with my brain a swirl
of reds and grays.
The cotton was thick
on the patio that summer,
dense as Utah’s dark, snowy winters.

I should have been
smiling into the sun
as I pedaled my bike
past the gurgling river,
but my mouth tasted
like I had swallowed sand
and it had collected
at the back of my throat.

That was when I realized
you were leaving.
I was a burden.
You felt saddled by me.
You needed some newer,
fresher horizon.

Now whenever I see cottonwood trees
shedding their seed,
I think of that July weekend,
my sandpaper throat,
and how you closed the door





Mr. Brooks smells like love
on a Saturday morning.
Love and passion fruit,
sweet with juice to dribble
and dark seeds.

Spreading himself too thin
jam or preserves…
she doesn’t deserve
him at all.
He gets hot when she smiles.

He barks, she bites
and which is stronger?
This bond is broken,
taking with it…dreams

of California’s ocean side
and a thin-lipped smile
which is never wide enough
to drive you home,
Mr. Brooks.


Our art class was held in the dark basement room of the since demolished Central Middle School. I always looked forward to that 50-minute period as a reprieve from asquared + btothethirdpower = a cow jumped over the moon or running endless laps in the gymnasium. The art class was also a time where I broke away from most of the same-old-same-old students in my gifted core classes to spend time with other students in the school. It was in art class that I first met Nancy, who became one of my dearest friends.

Mr. Wood, our teacher, was a non-descript man. He was rather short with graying hair and his words seemed to slur together. He probably had a flask in his desk. No one could blame him, for being with a classroom full of teens day after day must wear on anyone. I don’t remember learning much from his jumble of words, but once he was done talking, we were released into the expansive outer room — lined with tables, workshop spaces, and cabinets. For being a space that was designated for art, it was poorly lit and would have struck any outsider as depressing. There were a couple bulletin board walls where we sometimes displayed our latest drawings, but other than that, the room was void of anything that would have indicated it was used for learning the finer things. This was not the type of classroom environment where students would hang their artwork and then offer critiques or constructive criticisms to one another. Everyone was left to their own devices and many kids skipped out after the roll had been called. I was too much of a goody-goody during my junior high years to ever contemplate skipping class.

Despite the general lack of instruction, I have completely unclouded memories of time spent in the art basement. Mr. Wood was big on lettering. One thing he did attempt to teach us was how to create block letters, which had a 3D-like characteristic. I always found the “S” to be a challenge and could never get it to look quite right. Penmanship had been my strong suit from a young age. I loved the way the calligraphy pens had to be angled just so, and when pressed, the ink would flow into a wavy “r” or a loopy “y”. Another designated project I recall was meant to be an optical illusion. The instruction was to draw a grid within a certain shape and then fill in every other space with dark pen or marker. If you stood a couple feet away from the piece, and let your eyes soften, the lines would begin to move or suck you into their depths.

At one point during my eighth grade year, we made jewelry. This was a pretty advanced effort, given how infrequently we received actual instruction in the class. There was a hot blue wax substance we used to craft rings, pendants, and other items. We had little drills that we would use to work the metal smooth once it had hardened. During a lunch hour, Nancy and our other friend Liz were in the art room messing around with jewelry and drills, likely unbeknownst to the teacher. Liz wasn’t paying attention and before she knew it, she had a little drill spun into her wavy black hair. Hearing Nancy breathlessly retelling the story in between gasps of laughter became a favorite thing, “And then, ‘zooooop’ the drill was caught in Liz’s hair!” I don’t recall exactly how the scenario ended, but I’m fairly sure it involved scissors for drill removal surgery. I cannot remember which of us first discovered that we could decorate our fingernails with wax drippings, but somehow, the three of us thought it was a genius idea. Once we each had a finished piece of jewelry for “grading” (a loosely used term in this class), we spent a significant amount of time heating wax, and dripping it onto our fingernails. Each little drop burned and stung, but we had to try and be quiet practicing our craft so we wouldn’t get caught. (I’m not sure what the consequence would have been, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been significant.) Once a ball of wax was resting on a fingernail, you had to hold in an “eeeeee” or an “ah-ah-ah” and then casually blow on it until it was dry. At one point, probably as a resort of our tears of stifled laughter post-wax application, Mr. Wood turned from the drill area, sauntered towards us, and asked, “What are you girls doing?” It was as if we became synced robots. All three of us had our hands under the table, quickly rubbed the then-dried wax off our nails, and casually brought our hands up to rest on the table as we chorused, “Nothing.” While we held in laughter, Mr. Wood gave us a look of skepticism, and walked back to his drill bits.

Toward the end of my eighth grade year, I brought in a 110mm camera my grandma had given me. It was a great source of amusement to us. In 1991 you rarely saw a camera at school. We took an entire roll of pictures, and despite the basement gloom, it was definitely one of the happiest times of my young teen life. A nagging pit of sadness creeps into my gut when I think that students no longer experience the slightly oblivious Mr. Wood and the dank of the art room basement.
Nancy, Liz & me Nancy, Liz & me

                                Central Middle School                           Mr. Wood & his pupils


Last night
you haunted my dreams,
like the ghost-owner
of an 18th-century Victorian.

You peeled some twenties
from your back pocket
to purchase a bag
of weed-laced Doritos;
handing the crumpled bills to your ruddy faced dealer
whose hands were larger than was natural.

They were the best chips
I’d ever tasted,
even though they were the color of moss,
and after eating a few
we were giggling
like Catholic school girls
with a dirty secret.

There were paddles
and fluorescent bouncy balls
so we played a game of
table tennis,
but we were in such fits of laughter
that I don’t think we kept score.

I produced a notebook and a pen
and sat on the floor
in a nearby apartment alone.
The words wouldn’t stop flowing
and I could tell they were the best
I had ever written
but can’t recall them now.

I was happy,
blissfully happy,
and that’s how I know it was a dream
because you were there,
and I was elated.
That never happened in real life.


even when the story is my own,
I don’t know where it began.

Perhaps with a fly’s
incessant buzz around my head
or back to that time
you told me I didn’t matter anymore.

It could have started strong,
and eventually petered out
like an inexperienced runner.
Or the inverse could be true —
the beginning was a weak thing,
the neck of a newborn,
that evolved into a Led Zeppelin
guitar lick.

I often sit and wonder
where and why it ever started at all.
How my perfect visage
eventually cramped
and broke into all these shards —
a broom isn’t determined enough
to sweep them up completely.

People will talk.
They will say,
“She always was small.
She always looked tepid.”
I will lick my fingers,
and ask for a third helping.


Keep dishing it out,
and like the court’s fool,
I keep taking it.


This pile of dread builds
like macular degeneration
or my husband’s snore.

These knives
cannot even cut strings,
little lone the shards of yesterday’s defeat.

“May I speak frankly
for a moment,”
said the professor to his students.

Their thoughts trailed off
as their faint heads bobbed
in the rhythmic motion of “yes.”

I have this heap
of blue and yellow fabrics
but no idea how to quilt them together.

When I turned to the shadow,
Fear was there, smiling.
A toothy, pleased-with-himself grin.

The train runs every 40 minutes,
but it’s 2,000 miles away.
My only escape.


My mind
is a riot,
never quiet.
With wheels
that turn,
spin and burn.

I have this silhouette —
a shadow of myself
I carry around
in my pocket.
The other half
of a best friend locket.

Somewhere along the path,
self pity and disdain
gave way to blissful organization,
and a release of pent up pain.

No more crying in the closet!
No more aimless shame!
Only the realness of what is real,
And a shoulder for the blame.


When I was 17,
we met at the local coffee shop,
before Starbucks was a thing.
You side-long glanced at me,
over your book.
I noticed instantly
and was unable to be coy.

You were jaded —
freshly burned.
Her name was Noelle.
A few months later,
you showed me a strip of black-and-white
photo booth pictures —
smiling, tongues sticking out,
Noelle nestled comfortably in the frame.
You were looking for a rebound.
I didn’t know how to be someone’s rebound.

I was sharing a condo with roommates.
You moved into the tiny nook
near the stairs.
Rent was cheap.
I was a pawn.
“This doesn’t mean there’s anything
between us,”
you made sure to state.
I brushed it off, like no big deal.
But it was a huge deal.
You ate at me
through the walls.

I had a dream about you recently.
You asked if I knew where Virginia
was on the map,
but you had it covered with your finger.
It seemed like you did it on purpose.
You never wanted me to find you
or discover who you were…
another white mark on my chalkboard.
I woke up chilled,
my teeth chattering uncontrollably.


I’ve learned over the years not to hang out with people I don’t like; people who are cheap, people who aren’t funny, people who are mean or insincere. I’ve learned to say, “NO!” emphatically. I’ve learned who my true friends are. I’ve learned that I don’t have to finish reading a book I start and can’t get into, just because a critic liked it or because someone else deemed it a classic. I’ve learned to listen to music that makes me sing (and to my daughter’s chagrin) might make me want to dance. I’ve learned not to stress as much over things I cannot control. I’ve learned not everyone will like me; I accept it and move on. I’ve learned that having a bit of chocolate after lunch makes me happy. I’ve learned that hot Chai tea soothes me and can alter my mood for the better. I’ve learned to let go a little. I’ve learned that insomnia can be productive, and that a 30-minute afternoon nap works wonders. I’ve learned the fundamentals of a person don’t change too often, so you need to accept them for who they are or walk away if their behavior is off-putting. I’ve learned to make time for the people and things I love the most. I’ve learned there are things I will never understand. I’ve learned I’ve still a lot left to learn.