Three Poems



after Goya’s Pinturas Negras


Saturn never expected
to devour his children,


his fingertips digging
into their ribs, light


-headed. Didn’t start
out weeping, or sense


as he hid in his winter bath
on that murky morning


up to his eyes
gazing over


the loosely level
surface that healed


its holes as his knees
withdrew. And he didn’t


remember it later
that night, even after


he found dried blood
in his nails. The steady rush


was all he recalled, a creek
after rain, a head slumping


forward, a riddle resolved.
One son he had raised


to the light like
a t-shirt he’d worn


every day for weeks
on end for a band


he could no longer stand.









if                                                                                                                                   then

they                                                                                                                            climb

nod off                                                                                                                your roof

as static                                                                                                          hail a cloud

drowns the anchor’s voice                                                            a bleak one teeming

freed from the pull of what they were                with lightning & hug the chimney

searching for & settling at last                                                sing the periodic table

into their separate                                                                          all the metal names

silences                                                                                                                mercury

biting                                                                                                                     copper

their                                                                                                                              tin

tongues                                                                                                                      zinc









Wanting not to be

misunderstood but blunder-prone

and only half-afraid, I tell

my friend, who squints at me

from a bundled roll of hay where he picks

at bits of straw even though we’re supposed to be

leaving, my friend, a young man who’s passed

between the sphinxes of Coltrane

and Miles (taped as they were

to the drywall of his dorm) innumerable

times while bearing his horn

to and from practice, I tell him

for some reason I’ve heard Malcolm

in person (when in truth, I’ve only

seen films) and not wanting

to be pinned in my lie, I rush

to share some particular, how

the folks in the front row tossed

their heads back when Malcolm

asked who taught you

to hate the texture of your hair

and who taught you to hate

yourself? and how the ladies

in the front row laughed,

their long-gloved hands lifting

from their laps, which is true (I saw

the crackling footage), but not

wanting my love for that laugh

to be viewed as missing its majesty,

I pause, and he cocks his head,

and I back up noticing also at his feet

where the falling straw gathers not

the stump of a tree but the severed thumb

of a giant, and backing up past even

the beginnings of language, I give up

trying to say flat out that it could’ve

been Chris Rock how hard they laughed,

the irony so blunt they couldn’t help

but lose it, and instead all I say

is this shrinking version of the truth:

He was dead serious, but—

He was dead serious—





’s poems have won the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize, Bradford on the Avon Poetry Prize, National Poetry Prize, and The Ledge Poetry Prize. Currently, he’s researching the poetics of stand-up and teaches online for The Poetry School.



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