From the Johnsons’



I have a pug nose.

It’s my mother’s

and my grandmother’s

and I assume her mother’s.

It’s the Johnson nose.


It is round like a bouncy ball

perched on tall wide nostrils

glued to my face like fat dew drops.


“It’s not a pretty nose,”

my mom used to say.

“I’m sorry you didn’t get your father’s.”


I used to stand on my tip toes,

ramming my ribs into the vanity

so I could look at my pug nose.


Fingers poked and prodded,

squeezing and releasing,

moving the fleshy ball

side to side, wishing

for puberty to come

like a magic spell and

drain my bulbous defect.


Sometimes I still stand

At the mirror, poking at

the spherical alien spacecraft

on my face, wondering,

“What will I tell my daughter

about her Johnson nose?”


I will tell her it’s from me,

sent with love, like her surely curly,

frizzy hair and her pimple prone

forehead and her sunshine voice

and her crooked smile and her

big blue eyes that see the world in words.

I will tell her she is beautiful

—like my mother tells me.






Look down at the grate.

Iron bars rust themselves

into the ground, adorned

with glinting wrappers and

shiny gum wads pressed like

petals by rubber soles and

truck tires.   


Look through the prison window,

down to the Princess

laying on the bank

of a sewer river

expelling perfumes of

last week’s roast beef

and dog shit.

She wallows in rotting satin

and grease stained locks.  


Her daddy thought every

knight looks for princesses

in towers, so he found a

cage not up in the sky,

but down in the earth.


What better prison

for a little dove than

only rancid air  

beneath her wings

and dye white feathers

yellow--to shutter the gates

of the Heaven he promised her.


So there she lays

with skin untouched save for the rats,

eyes transfixed on slivers of azure

six feet above her head,

a live burial the only way

to keep her from dying

before she ever lived.


Before the thrumming river

sweeps you down the avenue,

tear your eyes from city spires

against azure fields and look down.


A Monozygotic Study


I sit, sinking in

green corduroy cushions.

Tiny heavenly hosts

watch Grandma’s

words spark with

a flick of the tongue.


Flame licked screams

echo down the hallway.

Dressing robe askew,

night’s dark rings still

under rudely awoken eyes,

she barrels through the door.


Two twin beds

side by side,

one boy’s lips

pour fire and spit.


A mother’s arms

coil round the boy

like rivers circling

an island burning

in the black night.

Her words a soft

rain, smothering

his screams.


Sam’s burning!

    No, he’s right here.

He’s on fire!

    Your brother is fine.

Sam’s burning,

Mama, help him!

    Look, he’s--


Her hand rest on a bed of coals,

glowing white beneath the skin.


She leaps to the kitchen,

dialing the doctor.

The boy climbed into the other bed,

desperate to siphon some heat,

so his mirror image doesn’t

turn to ash in the dark.


Grandma turns in her chair,

Dad and Uncle John sit on

beige carpet. Not hearing a word,

bicker over how broken the TV is.