is a queer poet living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. His chapbook Eye, Romanov is forthcoming from SurVision Books. He serves as a contributing interviewer for the University of Arizona Poetry Center’s 1508 blog.
Life Reckoning with Lineage and Viola
Saints roll their haloes at my wish to prevent John the Baptist’s beheading.
Longevity, how do you taste to a martyr? Diane Wood Middlebrook’s
biography of Anne Sexton claims there’d be no Madonna without
Confessional’s progenitress, Truth or Dare what I saw wearing
eighth grade like a diadem not due to love that violinist until
we watched Star Wars, soul baring harder than landing
the Death Star in a bandshell. // Auditioning, I fought
a Juilliard faculty member named Sam over a Bartók
excerpt marked adagio religioso, shrapnelled my self-
advocacy, and made it in. Not confidence but a neuron;
sometimes I prodigious. // Early sick, my dad asked
What are you, Howard Hughes? He says it’s a good
thing I didn’t go to Juilliard. Imagine agoraphobia
in a city bigger than Cleveland, my efficiency unit
weathering a dick graffitied above the bathrobe hook
and faucets that perfected handwashing with OCD.
My trick to managing anxiety attacks? Cut the legs
off your jeans. Sever whatever gets a hitchhiking think.
Madonna, disinfect. Achilles, milk the landfill of reprieve.
// The professor for whom I produced my first illness
writing had a micro-bathroom and communal-oval
soap. You’d impersonate him with brown socks
and cenotaph tattoo. He came to a reading of my disorder
poems where a cohort trolled him for a kitchen punch,
mentor among arena silverware, truth taking a harrumph
to a shed. Baptismal John, a Herod cubby for your head. //
Ken who owns a rototiller business offers to set me up
with his cousin. I hear date, leap semen, courtship’s edict
almost. It’s not my fluids that throw me for a loop: mucous
a gel cap’s stage coach, seminal turning the happy trail to algae.
// There’s a silkscreener in Hattiesburg named Clinky. Next to
his shop’s a basketball court, its floor the readout of a granite EKG,
soap pump a whorl sarcophagus—his bathroom you’d mistake
for a calendar of outhouse commodes. I wanted him to custom-
print a T-shirt: John the Baptist on front, conditions for coupling
with me on back. Riccio, you may have cured, but your inner-
Gregorian chants agoraphobe. Retcon, pilot me a crystal ball
pruned of the enjoinder altogether on a day I’m not patrolling
my footpath for medical waste. // A minor school of thought:
WD Snodgrass’ “Heart’s Needle” catalyzed Sexton of the Cigarettes
who trained the smoke to dial Kumin, Maxine. The focus gone
from WD’s coparenting to thread-seminary, Anne self-canoning
in my creed. // OCD did not live through this. This is vicariously
OCD. I almost called it “The Fluidphobe’s Guide to Good Health”
but that would position me major domo instead of D Major
nine years from my last gig, at the Canton Palace Theatre
(its teak prone to break), to day of viola sold. I should’ve
de-splintered the edge where my bow thought allegro
vivace was a wood chipper’s permit, should’ve cleaned
the rosin off, that fingerboard up-tempo AstroTurf. // Have
you seen the Sexton documentary (′66), camera lensing her
pharmacopeia nightstand while she reads “The Addict”?
Anne apothecarious, those twist caps have three years
on the moon landing. Madge, the men I love don’t know
“True Blue” from “Eighteen Days Without You.” Heart’s
needle? WD, I’m the Roundup of Confessional’s family tree.
Grandpa Madonna, you should see all my bedlams partway through.
Biography in Aviaries
My father brings jewelry from the department of torn mail to our pierceless house.
A robin dines in the feeder built at Dad-and-Me weekend where a pastor
preached similes deemed interfaith. Sunday I molt to mother-defender.
If math, algorithm for mama’s boy, twig years as gate.
When contemplating the grackle bible remember a bird christening
at Confirmation. One day I was heathen Jonathan. A workbook later,
Cygnet standing near Andrea Trumpeter. Our chorister-on-stilts
had soloists aim their throats at a mouthprint preened on chalice rim.
Not wings but a way to pat the tops of crosses, he told us before a pelican
transubstantiated the archbishop of its gullet. // I cull incense into a kerosene
lamp whose odor theater improvises a vigil for tumors of the bladder’s orchestra
pit. The postman who raised me fought sepsis after the procedure to clear
his ureter turned furnace. Kairos thermometer, fatherless if centigrade roulette.
// On a lark my parents named me after Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Early in the hug catalog the mesa of their clavicles would lock
with my tanager pec. A cutting board to her twenties, today
my mother’s sorority paddle is a sliver conservancy
stored with a Milton Bradley based on Marcus Welby.
Optimism glutton, I debunk the dices’ withered probability
and throw double-fives to match the corset holes in a bodice
with kitsch. Want to unbox a mothball dreamboat? Here’s
your chance. // Ages four through twelve, my sister studied
at Dance Incorporated, its recitals perpendicular to the legwarmer
shop. Balletically, I patented the ‘fisherman’—upper thighs as if hula
hooping a catamaran, the left reel-retrieving, rod-hand like holding
a torch—premiered on a balcony whose rails bore that arms-will-bend-
the-bars-in-a-strongman-movie look. Slide a chef’s toque through them
and you have words I don’t speak to my brother. // My five-year soccer
run, goal free. Two-month baseball team, no diamond all demean.
Dad de-helled me from that one. Umpire, I had the nightingall. //
My therapist’s video, “Managing OCD,” recruits a shore’s contralto
undertow. Every grain, compulsion obeyed. The ptarmigan figures
we can re-choreograph, should I self-fulfill like a fuselage,
though an ibis promised, unraveling’s not until the entr’acte
then she threw a date my way. March 16, an Indiana tollbooth
and those always comorbidity with infamy which sounds like
a sprinkler flossing a rattlesnake. Hoosier, mason me
a headstone. Was it jizz, ides-adjacent? Biohazard embodied?
Sidenote, I’m steeped in Rorschach, re-imaging biohazard
or FEMA gone Olympics ring. Do you see Prince Alberts
line dancing? Sargent Pepper’s ménage à trois? Showerhead
trinity? Scorekeeper, when biohazard enters I cease. //
Return the hot-tub consolation prize I never use—admit it,
they revile you too—and cull a Ferris wheel from stock-market
ticker tape so the lyric agoraphobe “I” can say it did New York
like all the unafraids it tried to chameleon and I’ll answer
what befell me on March 16, 2003. Was it trial-by-OCD?
Weigh-station’s supermedicalifragility? Strapped for spout?
How about aftermath: The clinic receptionist’s bougainvillea tattoo.
// The grackle deacon lays its pinion-on-sinner then worlded I launch.
My parents ask, how much have you got salted away? The boogeyman
was my budget director. Careers when you’re an agoraphobe: thin
mint cookie with day-old stubble and four-finger gloves stationed
at the caring kiosk. Development manager of a Christian nonprofit.
The 4-H funds I raised went to chainsaw safety lessons, millennial
farmers fully digited throughout the Mitten State. OCD: a kowtow
TKO. Fallback or failsafe? Either’s the anvil to a whippoorwill’s
pas-de-deux. Yes, I began as a germaphobe. A handwasher,
I scrubbed my lifeline plum through. Sterile’s a vulnerability
so far. // I saw Communion wafers strung into anklets during a life
review, pontiff on a piano, quarter notes the noisemaker undead.
Orientation, have you got room for intelluctuasexual as valid thread?
Experience? I’ve only sipped through a flamingo straw once, humility
talon-proofing the strut that answers how sick were you?