Works of verse


Still water runs deep

Enough undertow to drown you

In invisible tides that at a glance seem so kind.

Children play in a haven of family strength

Unknowing, they charge across the dirty sand

Like soldiers with a war to wage.

Determination set in the eyes of one spring treasure

Sure that this time, she’ll reach the bottom

Even if she drowns,

She’ll be the first to find it.


The faint blue smog of a conglomerate sky


Another Victory is won for the Big Boss.

Clone voices of all shapes and

sizes rally hard for

the Senseless Slaughter.

Born of false pretense and

the great American Dream.

Graffiti River Boy

The caddy stowaway

And no one knew your name

The sandy foldaway

A kiss of dewdrop swing

Jazz-rataz and glitz of fame

Dummy up or be wasted

Raz-bataz and let that brass play

Until the blues turn faded


Reserved and not disturbed

A cigarette chews your silhouette

Piano percussion soul to fold

And trombones to play grass roulette

Fumble da raz, I wish you’d spoken

Dance, cat, dance

Fritz la blitz, we were holding

Trance, man, fence


The lost river boy

And no one knew your name

Bayou fever toy

Have a mosquito Christmas

Dame the game to ambiance

You were so alone, there

Lame and drab to conceive

Lost but always found, there


To the graffiti stowaway

I always knew your name

To the rickety river boy

Your beat was stronger than your fame

You’re alone now, so smoke on the water

The humidity will steal away the pain

You can’t get tired now, so walk on further

It wouldn’t be worth it without the pain

And the jazz man slipped again


He catches the “no” as it tumbles from my mouth

Shoves it back into my throat

I’m choking


He is made of granite, of marble: Stonehenge

Stone-boy makes the floor swallow me


I descend from Irish Chieftains

Recite Shakespeare

Love Vivaldi

It doesn’t matter

My head pounds on the bathroom door

And he hurts me

And hurts me

And hurts me


I am a child of rape, now I am its slave

I leave my life in the shower drain

I throw up and he laughs


Two hours of solitude

I cry as I look for my pants

He took my cigarettes, too

I am not my own


Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and

there they are—Diamonds, throned

upon a golden stud, glitter beneath

chandelier over red carpet, illuminate the

mesmeric azul of her irises, scintillate

supplication O lord look over here,

O my, how lovely you are tonight, dear.

I never knew you were so beautiful. Diamonds.


Diamonds are girl’s best friend, and

there they are—eighteen carat diamond

studded bronze/gold bracelet on

Home Shopping Network. Slouched,

faded blue velvet, glimmer/shimmer under

studio glare. Thousands of women all over the world

sigh with bored envy at $239.99

that tightwad husbands would never spend on them. Diamonds.


Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and

there they are—earth-dusted diamonds

wheelbarrowed out from the yawn of crepuscular chasms

in South Africa, to be cleaned and sorted

by sooted, callused palms, rough

from handling heavy stones. The sun

hammers merciless rays upon strong backs

lifting sacks of jewels into thundering trucks. Diamonds.


Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and

there they are—diamond stippled

petroleum probe masticates the

somber depths of everything forgotten. Diamond

molars grind the unfathomable recesses

beneath our feet for blackness to inject unsanitary

needles into the pulse of the world. Diamond jowls

swirl the earth around in their mouth, spit into

sink. Diamonds.


Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and

there they are—murky, embryonic diamond’s

swelling umbilical cord one deep mile

beneath the infinitesimal womb of

the world. They are restless,

one day they shall grow strong

and white, and kick themselves up

to the surface, stillborn, screaming, smiling, eager

to please. Diamonds.

An Exceptional Tree

Shimmering, flowing tinsel heavily drapes the small tree, filling the big holes in the sides where it had been held, or tied down.

Brilliantly colored bulbs give silly, fun-house–mirror reflections of red, yellow, green, and blue.

Little toy soldiers and sugarplum fairies dangle fancifully from green, prickly branches.

It stands as an array of colors.

And atop, a beautiful porcelain angel stares down upon the room, gorgeous and strong.

What a proud sight.


Would a fetus still want to be

born if he

knew that one day

he would go to see a movie

instead of a sunset,


Could he

still be forced alive

from his watery cocoon

if he

somehow foresaw one day

he is wasting away

behind traffic lights,


Would he spit back out his first breath

if he

knew about acid rain

and how plastic grocery bags

blanket trees outside of town

like first snow,


Yes he would. He wants to make

the world his own: a better place.

Somewhere without want, without waste.

Sans hatred, less haste.


He will be,

as Ghandi wrote,

the change that he

wants to see

in the world.

Begin with screaming

wrinkled fist unfurled.

And He Came Down From High

and he came down from high

and surveyed his lands

wiping a bit of sand out of his eye

from his ten-thousand–year nap


things had changed

since he had last seen this world,

he noted sadly.

the beat of wardrums grew ever stronger

as he watched

the women covering the eyes of their children

but not their trigger fingers

and heard the incessant refrain of

god will protect us

god is on our side

and we will be victorious


as bombs rained from the skies

like wish-seeds from a dandelion

he wondered where he had gone wrong


he climbed back on high

sighing heavily

and once again, closed his eyes

and weighted them down with sandbags

in preparation for ten thousand years more.

with a crystal tear tracing down his wizened face

Peace wondered how he’d been so forsaken.

Dried Flower

He becomes fierce

under the constant glare

of his enemy.

He has been given

a bad name

and no advantages.

Highlighted is his bloodstream.

It sticks.

Everywhere he goes, it rapidly follows.

His misconstrued thoughts

make much sense.

His words make no sense at all.

He becomes a dried flower,

pressed between my yearbook pages.


A blank sheet is placed in front of me. I stare at it.

Somewhere through the fog of exhaustion I hear a voice say over the sound system, “Here’s a blank sheet of paper. Write yourself a letter. Write about your summer: what you learned or maybe a favorite memory. Fold the letter and put it in an envelope addressed to you, but don’t seal it. We will put a group picture in the envelope with the letter and send it to you later in the year.”

There is a rustling all around me. The others sit hunched over the festively decorated tables and begin writing.

My hand reverently traces the edges of the blank sheet of paper.


Blank paper. Not photocopied pieces of paper filled with lists of names of campers, counselors, and cabins. Not crumpled pieces of paper covered with scrawl reminding me to order ice-cream for the snack shop. It’s a piece of paper as empty as my gaze, and as fresh as I was at the beginning of the summer. I tentatively pick up the pen emblazoned with the camp logo. It has been so long since I was allowed the time to fill a piece of paper with myself. I’ve forgotten how. If I had the energy, I would cry. Cry for myself. Cry for the words which used to come so easily and are now so elusive. Cry for the despair I feel because I have to be here when I don’t want to be. But I’m too tired to cry or feel sad, so I let the pen’s point rest at the top of the glaring white sheet.

There was the voice. Not the one over the sound system, but the one inside me. Hello? She says, Hello? Can you hear me?

“Time’s up, guys. Finish your letters and meanwhile, I’ll open the floor for any of you that would like to publicly thank another staff member.” So loud. The voice over the loudspeaker is so loud and the shadowy voice in my head disappears.

“I think Jessie deserves a big round of applause.” My name. Why was someone saying my name? Who is that behind the microphone now? I can’t remember her name. I’ve spent the last seven weeks with her, seeing her every day, but I am too tired to remember her name. “Whenever I turned around, Jessie was running somewhere; running to the office, to organize the campers’ activities, running to the snack shop to dip ice-cream, running to a counselor to encourage her. She made her job look so easy, didn’t she?” People clap. They clap for me, but actually, not for me. They applaud a person that is a façade; that gives them what they want to see. I smile mechanically and the person behind the microphone continues, “I’ve spent a few summers here and I’ve seen Jessie go from kitchen worker to program coordinator. She’s great at every job she does, and is such a support to all of us.” More clapping for someone they think I am.

If I had the energy, I would laugh. Laugh at the irony. Laugh at them because they think I enjoyed the summer. Laugh at the way everyone thinks I am just like them. But I am too tired to laugh, so I let my hand fall numbly onto the tabletop. The pen rolls from my fingers.

Hello? Hello, are you there? The tremulous voice again. Without thinking, I grab the pen as it rolls along the table.

Yeah, what do you want? I write.

The buried voice surfaces again and I transcribe the words she whispers. Nothing much. I guess I just want to know what you’ve been up to…

Like you care. Why should you care?

I care about how your summer went. I want to know what you learned. The kind of growth you had, the kind of discoveries you made…

None. It was a boring summer. I hated every moment of it and I wanted nothing more that to leave. I want to leave NOW, OK?!

No, wait, please don’t go. I know you must have learned something…


…All right then, what was one of your highlights?

I don’t have one. I don’t even remember anything.


No, I can’t remember anything. I remember a few things…

Like what?

…Like things I was involved in. But I don’t know why I was involved or what my motivation was.

So, what things do you remember?

It doesn’t matter.

It does.

No, it doesn’t.

Why not?

Because I don’t care. 

You don’t?


Are you angry?

Are you angry?

I… What’s it to you?

Are you angry?




Yes, it does. Why are you angry?

Because I am, OK?

Are you hurt?

Would you stop asking these questions?

Are you hurt?


Are you confused?


I don’t want to talk about his anymore.

I know you don’t.

Then why are you making me?

I’m not making you. You spoke of your own will. You know you need to talk.

I hate you.

No, you don’t. You hate yourself for not doing the right thing.

All the voices around me fade. I don’t hear them anymore. I can’t hear them babbling about their religion and talking to me as if I agree with them. I can’t hear my parents’ voices pressing me to fit in, to put my own preferences aside for the summer and build up the faith of others. I can’t hear my own voice saying amen to statements I know in my heart aren’t true. All I can hear is the voice inside, my true voice that I locked away so it wouldn’t say anything that would offend others. It says over and over: You hate yourself for not doing the right thing. You didn’t do the right thing.

I… Oh God, you’re right.

Stop fighting it.

I’m scared.

I’ll bet.

I’m gonna tell you something, OK?


I’ve never felt so dead in my whole life. I feel like my nerves are totally dead. I thought at first that I was just tired, but I think it’s more than that. I sacrificed myself for the sake of group conformity. Everyone thinks that I’m someone I’m not, and I haven’t resisted it. I’ve just drifted along. I have no idea who I am. No one really cares about who I really am. Actually, they don’t know. They haven’t had the chance because I’ve been too afraid to let them see. But, I guess it doesn’t matter.

It does.

I’m not going to whine about how I have to hide who I am so that it won’t challenge anyone else, or about how I have to live at camp whether I like it or not. I’m not a baby; I’m a big girl, I can take it. But it’s gone much deeper this summer. Before, I was one of them. But this past year, I’ve changed; I have a faith of my own. It’s not like their faith, but still I have to pretend that I hold their beliefs. I can’t just hide the truth I know, I have to suffocate it. I have to forget about it… otherwise it might slip out. Now I hardly know what truth is.

It won’t be hard to start fresh; it already feels like this summer never happened. It’s all a dream—a freaky, ghoulish nightmare that is over. I’m wide awake, and I’m moving on with my life.

“Jessie?” I blink and look up as she stands above me.


“You look like you’re ready to fall asleep. Tired?”

“No, I’m fine. Nice banquet, huh?”

“Yes, very nice. But I’m so sad that the summer’s over. I was just starting to enjoy it.” I laugh along with her. She thinks mine is a real laugh. “If I come back next year, will you be here?” she asks.

My hand covers the scribbling that fills the paper in front of me. “Oh, sure. I’ll be here. My dad is the camp director; I’m not going anywhere.”

Six months later, a letter peeks up at me from the mailbox. Tearing the seal, I find the piece of paper, covered with my angry writing. Tucked inside is a picture: there is the camp staff, and I’m seated in the front row, smiling my happiest smile. I’m just beginning to recover from the summer and the photo brings it all back. I’m not doing that again.

You lost too much.

I did, and I’ll never give it up again.

You have to be there again. Next summer…

Yes, but I will be there. I. I and no one else. No imposters. No pretenders. I will be there, and I will not lie.

I tuck the picture back into the envelope and bury it all in a deep drawer.