My daughter shuffles through her stack of drawings from Spring semester.
Says she doesn’t really know what they mean.
A woman pulls her flesh over her head like a sweater.
A man-balloon flies over puzzle pieces that don’t fit.
A toddler smokes a cigar in an armchair.
Life will take everything until you do what it says is scrawled under a burnt-orange tree with hands.
“This is my favorite,” she says.
I note her chipped green nail polish
and faded henna tattoo.
And as she sprawls out on my bed, I wonder when she showered last.
She tells me she reminds her digital art professor of Cyriak.
Because he is disturbing.
“You or your art?”
And we both laugh and she shares
she hated her geology class but rocks are really wise though.
She puts on a bunny costume she bought for her roommate’s extra-large boyfriend Dante who doesn’t go to college or to work.
Tells me she wishes she got one for herself.
Tells me she hasn’t signed up for her classes yet.
Doesn’t know what she wants to take.
But she did acquire a purple ukulele so she can jam.
“This is so cool,” she says,
as she thrusts her iPhone in front of my face.
And I am forced to view a time-lapsed YouTube clip
of a fungus boring its ways through an ant’s body,
infiltrating its mind, moving the creature against its will.
Shows me a picture of this girl’s huge stick-and-poke of a bear.
Not your average one. “Must’ve hurt,” she says.
Adds that she tattooed a guy’s thigh for fifty bucks.
Informs me that she doesn’t want to dye her hair violet anymore
because everyone else does that now.
Shows me pictures of a guy that she washes pots with at 7AM in her dining hall.
He is not her boyfriend.
And she tells me about a dream she had last night
of clinging to a rope swing as she watched a cat smoke.
She seeks my interpretation.
I tell her I can’t make sense of any of it
as she puts on a flannel robe that belonged to her friend Marie’s grandfather.
“It’s all good ‘cause he’s not dead.”
Did You Write Poetry in Ninth Grade Too?
Poems in the shape of coffins?
Poems about time and spiders and epiphanies?
Poems that proudly off-rhymed ghoul and soul?
Did you love Sylvia Plath and Edgar Allan Poe?
Were you Dracula for Halloween?
Was your favorite memory of freshman year the field trip to Salem MA?
Did you have a crush on Billy Idol and Holden Caulfield?
Do you remember when Emo and Goth
weren’t just labels for people, but music
you listened to at max level on your Walkman?
Did Beetlejuice exist in 1984?
Would you have been friends with Winona Ryder’s character?
What was her name?
Edward Scissorhands definitely wasn’t released
’cause you would have been in love with him, right?
Also, are you aware that Donnie Darko
would totally have been your favorite movie ever?
Did you ever center your verse on the page?
Did you own green nail polish that you found in Greenwich Village?
Did you have bobbed hair with a blue tail?
Why didn’t you dye
Did you know you were having a panic attack
when you thought the walls were closing
in on you in Miss Manion’s Algebra Class?
Did you get shingles in 9th grade?
Did anyone miss you when you were out for two weeks?
Did you write your freshman research paper on Greek tragedy?
Did you obsess over the number symbolism in Dante’s Inferno?
Did you go to East Catholic High School?
Did you hate those white shirts they made everyone wear?
Did you join the supernatural club?
Was your principal an exorcist
who brought the Warrens’ in as guests?
Did you know that Edna St. Vincent Millay poem by heart?
To what purpose April do you return again?
Were you that idiot babbling about brains and maggots
repeating these lines over and over, hoping they would somehow signify something?
I teach creative writing at Rockville High School in Vernon, CT. I am also an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut. I am this year’s NEATE New England Poet of the Year and took first place in the CWP’s poetry contest. My work is published in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Pank Magazine. I have also been published in the Connecticut English Journal, and The Leaflet. My students have always said my poems somehow manage to be ugly and beautiful at the same time…and I take that as a supreme compliment.