I was 12 years old
when Ryan Akers
approached me in the arcade
while I played Centipede.
I tried not to pay attention,
tried to act like I didn’t feel
anything unusual—
as if the new and unfamiliar wish
for him to touch me
was as benign
as anyone’s desire to hold a puppy.
And I don’t remember
a single word he and I exchanged
but I remember the shock
of seeing Lance kiss Amy
in the dark corridor
before we got picked up—
and the next morning in Sunday school
I watched Amy open a Dum-Dum
which she licked with a kind of pleasure
that made me certain
she wasn’t focused on the Book of Joshua
or its heroine, Rahab, the prostitute
who got exactly what she wanted.
Amy’s mind
was on the tip of Lance’s tongue—
and on the tip of mine
were words like sensual and erotic—
words that weren’t even in my lexicon,
but their meaning was beginning
to take hold
on the scaffolding of my experience,
which wouldn’t include a kiss
from Ryan Akers—
but it was his anatomy
that first led my imagination
to cling to all the possible and varied
expressions of what I can now
identify as love.





Cropped area of “The Love Song” Norman Rockwell, 1926


He tried to pay me
that first time I cut his hair
and I said no—
no way—
said I was happy
to do something for him—
reminded him how much
he’d done for me.
And I found a twenty
in my purse the next day—
but since then
my dad just sits
in the chair on the patio—
closes his eyes
and crosses his arms
when its time for me
to spread the towel
over his shoulders
and cut away
the excess gray—
he knows that love
is the only currency
we’ll exchange—
and today we both know
that between this haircut
and the next
he’s going to have his heart
opened up for repairs
and someone else
will be making the cuts—
and I know both of us
are hoping
the surgeon’s hands
will be steadier than mine.








“Samson and Delilah” by Padovanino (1588-1649, Italy)

Where No One Can Follow

Rain all morning

nowhere to go

but inward

where the memories

are stored

where the only thing

that can reach me

is music—

a guitar

and a couple of voices

in harmony

that seem to be saying

all the things I can’t.







“Meridian Street, Thawing Weather” by T.C. Steele, 1887


Just for him

she baked

a beautiful cake–

multiple tiers

icing so white

it seemed to glow

and there were

flowers too–


pastel soft

and he was not


by this facade–

he knew that inside

was a different

kind of sweet–


the color of sin–

but just when

he was sure

the time had come

to enjoy

this decadence

he watched her


as he lifted a fork

above this

aesthetic perfection

and he realized

he wouldn’t

be allowed

to have his cake

and eat it too.

Deep Winter

You are winter.
Stripped down
to necessity
but not quite barren.
Still beautiful.
I’d even say exquisite.
But mostly
your warmth
isn’t enough
to penetrate
what is cold in me
and even though
I long
for summer
I find it impossible
to believe
that once it wraps me
in its blue skys
I won’t long
for you.






Welcome Packet

Dearest lover,
I have compiled
a list of instructions—
a user guide for this body
you claim to love—
know first
that my heart
is not filled by you—
you alone do not feed
or complete me.
There will always be
an unnamed vacancy
beside you.
Please know
my time with you
will never be enough
and will often be too much
and I will need
to recede into solitude
where I will suffer
from regrets
I will never share with you.
I will expect you
to read my mind
when I am silent—
and when you can’t
I’ll withdraw from you
for a while
until I remember
you can’t see
into my imagination.
When I re-emerge
I’ll require copious
amounts of affection
and will need
to give you even more
than I receive.
Know that I will need you
more than you need me
but I will never
show it.