My concentration at Virginia Tech was in Creative Writing, and while I wrote both prose and poetry, poetry won out. Here are some of my favorites from the past few years. Some of them I made into videos.

 

LUCKSMITHING

I’ll always know home by how the

road winds through all these bones,

these old mountains that steam like

hot coals on cold wet stone.

 

Summer here tastes something

like honey and gratitude.

I have been lucksmithing my way

through bonfire nights

in deep Appalachian woods,

and there ain’t a place fuller

than this—I promise you.

 

You’ve never felt a moonswell like

you do here in August,

never felt it jump the banks of it’s craters

and land a foot deep in old Virginia dust.

 

The sky here never changes,

not the stars, not the moon,

and the Milky Way is always fat

and overflowing.

 

I have drunk my fill

of its constellations,

have ursa minored my way

through all this

star marrow.


BIRCH BURNING

I buried my bones in the

blue ridge before

coming to this place,

right next to a birch tree.

I marked them with a book

of matches, built a bonfire,

left it for someone

else to burn.

 

Smoke and leftover folk

both wander well through

the dark. When I got to this

town, I didn't recognize

Virginia in her, couldn't

remember Virginia ever

wearin' a summer so heavy.

 

And let me tell you—

she looked tired. Bet she

sleeps as much as me

now.

 

I have been spending my nights

growing new teeth; I no

longer want to be filled with

such bite, tearing through

every moment before

knowing how each

might taste.

 

I am growing new bones,

trying to find something

sturdy to hang them

from—a small patch

of home, or something

that feels right

enough.


Sometimes at dusk,

I still look south,

waiting for the glow

from a single

line of smoke,

and I'll know

it's me burning down

there.


YOU EVER SEE A MAN BULLY THE SUN?

I'm going to fight the sunrise until it gives me its

lunch money, shake it upside down ‘til it begs me

to go back to sleep. ‘Cause I don’t need this light

presuming its way through my window every morning.

 

I am three a.m. buzzing now, don’t you know that?

Watch me sleep four hours a night for a month straight,

look the sun right in the eye and win that

staring contest.

 

Milk and honey, Sun, that’s all you are. I am burnt-toast

breakfast when the bus comes late and there’s only one

seat left in class. And it’s in the front row. So don’t test me,

mister. You bring me morning on my terms—over easy

 

with a yolk that’s running for its life.


noctilucence

Cracks in the corners of his mouth

like the Grand Canyon, like he was sleeping

wide-mouthed terrified or surprised at something he was

dreaming.

 

This man, all slop toothed and wire-bearded,

came down from his mountain to a sky

dapple-bruised and tired,

aching from a year full of fists and not enough time.

 

He saw the sun a coward, wondered where its bones

had gone, saw the sun a cowardly slump, saw

it shamed into twilight come noontime, saw it

skip dinner and sup on dead stars and dead poets.

 

Come when the sun saunters square shouldered

into morning, with its guilt all packed into boxes,

there won’t be but a hint of noctilucence

to shout at.


And the dawn is too pretty a thing to be bruising.


there in the deep yawn of summer

Collector of collectors, I am Winter’s blustery

corner. She nips, chips from my edges

and makes a slow thing of me, filling all

of my spaces with restless debris. I will

soon get to these broken things,

I will, I promise you.

 

My desk is covered in odds and ends,

bits and buttons, drawer knobs and

leftover screws. I only ever want the option

to fix the things that need fixing,

and know where all my pieces are.

 

Once the good greenness comes back into

this valley, my finger prints are full of dirt

and I’ve got flowers growing from dresser

drawers. I throw laundry on a line out back,

pin it to the breath of Summer, chew on a

sarsaparilla root, and wait for everything to dry.

 

In June, the inside lets out. Windows

open like the house is a big man

yawning awake, waking from and into a dream.

In June, I become an earthy thing—got ants burrowing

in my pockets; they know my soil’s good.

I collect glorious piles of the stuff,

spread it all over Sunday morning,

plant twigs, wish for trees. I’ve got the stuff

shaking off my beard when I laugh.

I till noonday sun with sweet, sweet

lemonade, and a kiss on your cheek.

 

In the evening, I push the oddments and

button bits to the edges of my table.

The window that sits above it looks toward

sunrise; the curtains sigh as the wind rocks

this home to sleep.

 

There is paper and a sharp pencil in the top drawer.

I take them, smooth down the edges, keep a light on

in the corner, and wait for all manner of night to come

tumbling in through the window.


untitled

The word for when the heat clicks off,

when the whole damn place exhales,

when headlights scratch at the walls.

 

The word for when you spend all day

collecting three p.m., so that you glow

all night, like an old television just

shut off.

 

The word for when someone you love

swallows the sun; you, the moon. When

neither of you learned to read in the dark.

 

The word for standing in your bathroom

at 5:23 a.m., nose bleeding and stuffed

with toilet paper, your gut pouched and

heaving with every breath.

 

The word for flying at speed, at altitude,

the whole cabin panicking as the plane

skips like a stone over misplaced air,

flicking through the in-flight channels,

trying to find something you’d rather

watch if the plane went down.

 

The word for every noise carrying a knife

in the night, paranoia blending into numb resolve,

telling yourself it doesn’t matter if they gut

you to help you fall asleep.

 

The word for willing every cold morning to

be an old October—every single one of them

—from before you’d folded all of your

memories and stored them neatly under the bed.

 

The word for the sound of a dropped plate,

the small tremor wrapping itself around the

room, the apartment, the small tremor

shaking the strings of the guitar in its

case, the small sound from the case

in the closet that is a reminder from before

the plate, the fall, before the tremor,

before the case.


untitled

The wild spring wind, stomping and clapping,

pulled me from my dreams to dance. The moon,

how she dozes in the corner, toe tapping in time.

I am not much of a dancer, having replaced my

knees with typewriter keys; I hammer-step when

I should razzle-swing, I elbow-shimmy when I

should thunder-spin her around—

 

getting up to groove with her shakes my bones

just right, it almost looks like I know what all this

dancing business is about.