​​​​Joint with Christine at a Tool Concert

             ~Tempe, AZ: October 31, 2015

 

Oh gods of ink and paper cometh!

Make me put into words this woman

whose mouth has buckled inward

 

from meth, and let me kiss the purple

flowers tracking her arm as it crooks

open like a creek bend. We met

 

only a few minutes ago, but I look

upon those marks, practically scars,

and call them the Church of Superfund—

 

it’s where my ilk have come to assemble

and shout infrequent Amens. Her

fingers touch mine when the roach

 

is passed like a newborn at hospital

bedside, and my fingers touch hers

when it comes round one last time.

 

The band is revving up backstage

when this thirty-two-year-old mother

from New Hampshire tells me she’s

 

staring down a prison stretch after

the show, once her flight touches home.

Listen, whether I recount her affairs or not

 

reduces that troublesome shit none.

This world of ages present is driven by

twitter shocks and avant-garde mind

fucks, but lo this woman hides her mouth

​with lips, mouth with teeth splayed like

​shrapnel, and not even I can save the blood

 

from her veins. It’s too late for healing,

too early for baptism, but I look anyway.

Look at her fingers naked and pressed

 

to mine until all that’s left is an image

wrenched from a chapel ceiling whose

name just happens to rhyme with hers.

  ~Originally published in basalt, Spring 2018

Cigar (with audio)

 

There’s death and then there’s ash. This is the latter.

I follow the smoke of it from a cigar’s gray crown to air

on its way to becoming nothing, which seems better

somehow than following the river that haunted Apollinaire:

 

Sous le Pont Mirabeau coule la Seine,        he said,

and quickly the night came and went leaving his lines

embossed in implacable bronze. I carry the dead

weight of words. Each one is lowered into the mines

 

of these poems like a miner. Each one has a headlamp

that switches on when I speak its name.

When I say cigar, one end grows a little damp

on my lips while the other assumes the color of flame.

  ~Originally published in Antioch Review, Fall 2012

The Colony at Malibu

 

Glassy eyed on Scotch, my brother and I watched

the electric faces of waves, and I said that nobody

really gets drunk in poems anymore and gets away

 

with it. Not like William Matthews did. But we

are drunk, he said, and getting away with it

at this borrowed château in the colony.

 

We all harbor a private sadness, I said.

Melancholia, he said. Melancholia, I said. 

Melancholia, confirmed the moon in Morse code,

 

and the ocean must’ve known what it felt like—each

wave another failed attempt at becoming. People here,

I said, must take great pride        in the celebrated virgins

 

of Pepperdine          who graze in the pasture

of finance and architecture          for all of the practical

reasons. Was that Keats? he asked as he poured

 

a few neat fingers of Glenmorangie Artein.

Keats had the heart of a sparrow, I said, always

fawning over the things he would never have.

 

Like this beach, he said. Like these waves, I said.

  ~Originally published in The Southern Review, Winter 2014

Foreclosure

 

When the bank reclaimed

the house in which I grew up,

my parents weren’t ashamed,

didn’t board themselves up

inside and wait for the cops.

They were docile as mops

loaded last onto the truck,

their acumen won from a string

of luck—they called it downsizing,

used an inheritance to purchase

another family’s foreclosed home.

My father dug bulbs from loam

to replant the new place,

and they bloomed in the spring

with beautiful indifference.

  ~Originally published in Poet Lore, Fall 2013

 

 

The Abandoned Quarry(with audio)

 

We’d come only to get drunk and naked,

light a bonfire on the limestone ledge, slip down

to the night-blackened water and pretend

 

that we knew the first thing about romance,

that our parents’ unhappy lives epitomized only

their failure to commit to the principles of tragedy.

 

Someone stomped embers

while I dove headfirst into the rain-filled depths,

and had there been daylight

 

I could’ve shown you the blue Volkswagen

resting where quarry men stopped their dig, but it

was night, so there was only a pale ripple

 

of stars anchored to a crescent moon.

I knew even then I was a fool for diving so deep,

but I was the son of a salesman,

 

father who didn’t give a shit and sank

deeper each year into his broken life, and those girls

on the shore teasing off their skirts

 

came from money, so I dove until it hurt,

twenty feet or more, until I touched the car’s rusted roof,

until I’d lost all sense of direction,

 

and time became a thin vein of bubbles

stretching away from me. There was a rumor:

two young lovers swerved off the road above,

 

landed in this pit, and their bones supposedly

were still seatbelted just below the place

where my hand touched. But this

 

was just a story, and the car was only a vehicle

in another metaphor—love was the tenor.

I stood on the roof in the darkness for a moment,

 

pushed away, and as I neared the surface I began

to blackout: the entire Milky Way

reducing itself to a single point of light.

  ~Originally published in Natural Bridge, Spring 2016

Cigar - Travis Mossotti
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The Abandoned Quarry - Travis Mossotti
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