Creative

A short selection of creative writings, some published by indie journals and others unpublished.

Proceedings

I don’t haggle, she told me early on.
But a taxi ride to the oasis
cost the driver his newspaper.

For a first-class ticket to Tangier,
the conductor lost his grin
in a photograph. It was mint tea

in the glaring outskirts of Ouarzazate
for a bag of blanched almonds.
And in Marrakech, un petit cadeau

of red, sticky dates to pay
full price for a kilo of figs.
What should I have asked for,

then, at the port in Algeciras,
where that black dog chased
acacia seeds in a breezeway?

Its master had just returned
with salted cod and a block of hash
to share with his friends.

The placards from last season’s
corridas sagged blanched
from the walls in the morning chill.

The coronas of parked cars
had not yet risen into gleam.
The muezzin was a ferry horn,

and the dog was raking dust
from a scirocco on the tiles
in a cool unbidden prance.

(published in Gravel Magazine)

Cellar Shifts (IX)

I’m down in the stock room counting cordials when the barback bundles in. He can’t change the gas for the soda gun, so I show him, joking, no quick hits. He says he’s not a red balloon. A month before he leaves he’ll tell me, at send-off drinks for the waiter he calls chupacabra, that his grandfather was the backup goalkeeper for his national side. That his mother’s mother, with civil war again all over the papers, jumped down the village well. No one heard a splash, he said, but when they hauled her body up, you could pour it in a jar.

(published in Unbroken)

Jupiter Sons

To be apprised distinctly of the vital fears
for instance, of pin bones
in a fishcake. Of purple gumdrops  

laced with glass. Of being magically
halved by the lap belts
in a skidding ‘72 Cougar,

of the singular dread of singing angels
or just Saint Bernadette
vamping in the cracked plaster

of our bedroom walls, her cheeks
fair as the pearl-handled pistol
under Nana’s pillow, as our odds

of waking up again in a car
in the Acme parking lot
and being driven away by God

or someone else who once said
he loved us. Just as somewhere,
now, you might be the Lazarus

of blood oranges, arising
to a strain of pot and pozole
hale as these cedar trees

here, braving a freak storm
of corn snow and lightning
torn like skin across the sky.

(originally published, in different form, in The Mojave River Review)

After the Blizzard

Below the salted sidewalks, stiff as taffy,
and idling delivery vans, with their drivers

stroked in taillight blear and radio bleat,
below a red-tailed hawk’s nest glazed

in a skyscraper’s eave, the Prince of Fractals
and Xanax struts the outer lane of the subway’s

inbound track, sorting stolen packs of gum
on a platform bench tagged with spit.

A dozen it looks, three stacks of four, their edges
kept crisp in a Ponzi scheme of plastic bags,

his wares blooming like flowers from magician’s silk
and slushed incantations—I got Spearmint green 

Winterfresh blue, and Fermez la bouche!
as you pass like a spell of déjà vu, an arrhythmia

of the station’s fluorescence, your stride clipped
like a woolen tie and the snow laid above you

like a thousand communion gowns spilled
from a shipping container and washed ashore

on the black beaches of the Prince’s island,
where he tempts you into his cave with a rainbow.

In Reluctant Praise of the Tsetse

If viruses are showering us daily
in the trillions, their riches borne

frictionless on sea spray and the agonies
of dust storms, if these invisible

galaxies can jig in a rain barrel
like angels countersunk on a brass tack,

then why not bluebells, just up with
the nettle in the thawing backwoods,

and their bruised shoulders for
my litter, why not the honey bees

swinging April into such uptick
with their fuzzed manifolds ablaze

in the yard as the houses hum
their metrics, and why the rinderpest

from a cow’s gut could cull the Maghreb
of its bucktoothed ruminants

and crown from scrub the acacia
its queen, and render from thorn

her legions, the tsetse their epaulettes,
with sleep on their scabbards, raised

like the vex of questions or a fat sun
blazing in a blood orange, or just

dreams unbidden from their swarms,
and also seeking life through invasion.