pretend you are my starry night

pretend you are my starry night

wait i’ve always wondered
is a metaphor pretending
was that the wrong command
are metaphors pretending
if they really tell the truth
like oh hah i’m doing it again
say the truth is something flat placed
over a curved surface, sure
the surface is covered, but
perhaps not fully connected
to the truth set down on top of it
but if our truth has some roundness
to it a concave to a convex
and the metaphor which is also true
drapes itself perfectly over the
curved surface as if they were
carved from the same stone
is a metaphor pretending?


pretend you are my starry night
and every single detail that makes you
is one star in the night sky and
i am tasked with collecting every detail
every star and naming it
this star is your laugh
this star here, no, darling, the one just above
yes, that one there, that star
is your eyes and these two
they are your heart and your fire
and this one, i love this star
this is your posture when you are hungry
and this one is that face you make
when you think you’re being funny.

it would be impossible
to find and name every star
but goodness, me, my love,
what a wonderfully impossible task
to gather every star that is yours
and all of them are,
in case you need reminding
and to hold them – you – in my hands
and be able to show you
to reflect back upon you
your own light, your beauty,
my lovely gentle starry night.

kneeling poet to the sun

the hum of two fans
could not hide the absence of
his heavy breathing by her side.

and in the dark, the sun
lovely even when she’s
dressed in his tshirt (he hopes)
and with unshaven legs
because he is absent, remember,
ah forgive my sentence structure,
she is lovely then, too.

darling, when you feel least like
the sun, that is when you are
most lovely, most beautiful,
to me.

perhaps my consistency in language
and pursuit and eye contact
i love you’s, you are the sun
may assure you,

and i’m sorry i allowed my words
to run dry when the clouds rolled in
what’s the point, he wondered,
of loving a poet if he won’t behave like one?

i love you.
you are lovely, always.
i surrender, i submit, i offer
to help you pull back the
curtains on your own window
and to forever fill
the absence of my own breath
with you in the suddenly-not-so-scary dark.

gimme a holler, sometime, darling,


as he trots through clover

the fox slumped in a halfhearted semicircle of patchy fur
once blazing red now limp orange juxtaposed with exposed pink skin.
he gummed at his paws, teeth long since lost in the woods.

the sun came and went day and night.
he kept himself well shaded beneath the earth
and his eyes adjusted to see the dark.

he forgot how to run and hunt.

he did not, however, forget hunger
and she urged him to the surface.

clover parted ‘round him
and he laughed to himself
picturing this broken fox as royalty

and the scent caught him
eyes narrowed and body taut        how did this happen where has this been
a coiled spring to explode             he has teeth again his mouth is bleeding
blood and life and the miracle       bursting through his gums, sharp, white
of instinct                                        his fur blazing red again in the sun
that cannot be forgotten.               a rabbit snapped between his jaws
       hi                                                 as he trots through clover.

today, she rises

if i may make an assumption of the reader
we have all seen the sun
seen her face felt her warmth
even had her signature beneath our skin

let us say now that the sun has set
and for some reason or another
she remained that way
for many years
we could only wonder or guess
when she would return.

those of us who had known her
we would wake every morning, i think
whispering to ourselves ‘today, she rises.’
and no matter how long the days were
dark with no sun shining down on us

tomorrow, we would always know and always hope
tomorrow, she will rise.

not arithmetic but the learning and social disability

add is not funny.
it is not cute, either.

it isn’t oh he forgot his wallet again, that joel, whatcha gonna do.

it’s i can’t believe i forgot my wallet again, how on earth did i forget it, i knew i would need it, i feel stupid, i have to turn around and go back and get it, maybe i just won’t do whatever it is i needed to do, how am i going to explain this, especially since i did this just a few weeks ago, now this is going to take me twice as long and i don’t have time to do that other thing i keep meaning to do but don’t.

add is chemicals that make my brain
tell me half-truths
and leave me alone in the dark
feeling around with my hands
quietly asking ‘hello is there anyone else here’
too ashamed to ask for help
any louder than a whisper.

when i was in the fifth grade
i spent my entire christmas break
sick to my stomach, mortified
because i thought there was a project
i should be working on but since
i couldn’t pay attention in class
i wasn’t sure and since i felt like
it was my fault for not paying attention
i was too ashamed and scared
to ask anyone.

i wept openly at my desk with relief
i was eleven years old and in the corner
because i didn’t know how to behave
because i had add and wasn’t diagnosed
and felt broken because
i didn’t know how to behave and everyone else did
i wept openly at my desk in the corner
when i found out there was no project due.

add is drowning on air.
it is dreading every conversation
with a supervisor or any person
whom i may have let down by forgetting something
but i’m not sure because, well, i’m not sure.

my brain tells me
be scared, joel, you probably forgot something important.

it also does not tell me how to do things.
add is not knowing how to finish tasks or listen closely or be able to sit still
and not even knowing how to want to do those things.

add is being ashamed i cannot do them.
add is using a brick to absorb water
while everyone else gets to use a sponge.

or wearing an invisible 200 pound backpack
that even i don’t know i’m wearing
and nobody else has one on and i say to myself
‘why can’t i keep up?’
and everyone else says
‘why aren’t you keeping up?’

add is living scared and angry
inside myself and looking to most people
like a goofball with limitless energy when really
i am so tired.

add is why i can’t sleep at night.
my brain doesn’t know how to process
darkness = it’s time to sleep.

so the world sleeps and i am even more alone with these rampant thoughts marching down the mountainside, and i didn’t even hang the bell to ring in order to signal the guard, because i didn’t manage my time well and i locked myself out of the house again.

add isn’t an excuse or laziness.
it is an absolute fear of failure
it is a list of wounds and weaknesses
that cannot even begin to be patched and healed
until one is diagnosed.

it doesn’t go away once it’s named.
it doesn’t go away with medicine.
fear is etched in stone after so many years.
so even if the habits have hope of changing
the feelings of add
whispers snaking into ears
at any possible moment
do not rest.

my fear is a canyon.
fear of failure fear of losing what few things i know how to value
fear of being wrong
fear of being right about being a failure.

i wasn’t ignoring you
add means one has trouble processing
either sound or sight
we don’t do it on purpose
our brains do not work correctly.

i was not ignoring the kitchen timer
i could not hear it while doing something else
even though it went off in the next room
i’m so sorry i ruined dinner.

that is add.

and it never, not once, feels funny.

wingspan of a fox

today was a hard day, darling.

your daddy did many things

and isn’t entirely sure if he did


of those things as well as he could

or should because

well how on earth do we measure such things


sometimes your daddy feels as if

all he can do is walk into walls while

a door stands open how on earth did he miss it


today, goodness, today was one of those days

lots of up close and personal with drywall

and maybe you noticed because on your way

out of a door you turned to daddy who was on the floor

gathering our legos and you

waltzed in zipped pink cowgirl boots

plunged through scattered remnants of a plastic tower

and flung tiny arms as wide as could be

and i decided to measure this day

in the wingspan of a fox

and her grip around my neck.

today was a great day, darling.

i love you,