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Cox Communications needs to stay relevant in a world of cord-cutters and Gen Z’ers who never knew there was a cord in the first place. They have introduced the Contour Stream Player—a new streaming device, enhanced by a voice remote and a more consolidated interface across all of one’s subscriptions. Finding a way to successfully advertise this product in a highly saturated field of competitors was the goal of our summer intern project. The brief my group put together was selected by the client for further development. I then led my team in developing two creative campaigns which I presented in person to the client and head creatives from Doner. Our ideas were enthusiastically received, and are currently under consideration for execution by Cox.

 
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Doner is responsible for those classic Simply adds featuring Donald Sutherland’s soothing voiceover, while a carafe pours orange juice in a sunny grove. I was thrilled to be brought onto the team behind this long-running campaign. It introduced me to a new creative group at the company, and it was affirming to see my script ideas embraced and ushered through several rounds of internal reviews. Erring a bit on the poetic and dryly witty side, this brand’s tone naturally suited my writing style better than most.

 
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One of my favorite experiences at Doner was being included on a high-level concepting team for a national The UPS Store convention in San Diego. The goal was to come up with outside-of-the-box activations around the city of San Diego that integrated the company’s ing campaign with popular landmarks. These ideas were comped into a presentation deck for the head of the company. Several ideas that I generated made it into the final deck.

On a more day-to-day basis, I am part of the Creative Request Form team, fielding requests from regional co-ops for updated creative content in the ongoing campaign.

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During my internship at Doner, I had the opportunity to produce real work for a wonderfully diverse roster of clients. I gained invaluable practical experience in writing for a wide variety of tonal voices, formats, and brand identities.

 
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Smithfield is the largest pork producer in the world. In summer 2019, I was asked to take over their Friends & Family blog and newsletter, which reaches an audience of millions. After receiving general briefs on themes to develop, I fleshed out the concepts into full articles pertaining to family life, recipes, and domestic tips. This provided me great experience in longer format writing and retrofitting content into various deliverables.

 
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Hungry Howie’s—one of the great Michigan pizza empires. Fun fact: when I was in 1st grade we were paired up with 8th-graders to author little storybooks. My partner in that early writing exercise happened to be the son of the founder of Hungry Howie’s. Now I periodically write copy for their esteemed product. How about that?

I haven’t done a ton of work for Hungry Howie’s, but it’s a fun tone to write in and I enjoy contributing to a local institution.

 
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Penn National Gaming is one of the largest publicly owned casino and gaming companies in the country. My role on the Penn team at Doner has been an incredible learning experience and one of my most consistent creative contributions.

This is an exciting, high-volume account—demanding quick-turnaround scripts for both TV and radio. Working on Penn also introduced me to directing VO talent, music supervision, and tailoring the tonality of my scripts to complement nuanced differences of various properties beneath the brand’s umbrella. It’s been an awesome crash course on how to generate a continuous stream of content with a dialed-in creative team.

Here are some radio spots I wrote & produced:

Sickly Bedtime Approaches / new poems by Matthew Milia

Inside the Larynx Metaphor

I could have guessed you’d cook the asparagus for dinner—
the spears popping in oil
as if the night
and ventless kitchen inside the night
and even the droplets
of your own after-work breath
were somehow fiercely carbonated

reminding me for some reason
of the Pepsi I’d suck from warm cans
through Twizzlers for straws
on Nana’s davenport.

I could have guessed.

And if I try hard enough
I can also predict
how tomorrow will go—

(it’s just that I like to keep all wonder
and disappointment
a perfect surprise)

but what the heck—

tomorrow I will park an ailing car
in various parking lots of gourmet grocery stores
and survey for free samples;

I will count the pay-by-hour motels
and grandparent boneyards
skirting Woodward Avenue;

I will notice the beautiful
bone structures of unkempt
bus-stoppers displaced
at the first outposts of affluent suburbs,
the bus-stops themselves displaced in the sun’s
inescapable fever and
touch.

There,
I called it.

Asparagus and licorice—
my metaphors are slipping

but why shouldn’t they

with everything else?, as

sheet cakes in the station wagon’s rear
shift wildly to the swerving course,

as the world
slips off-kilter
whether aged in dog years
or milk carton
expirations.

Hey, listen—
there—
the larynx of the late-day June dog
soupy and ferocious,
mechanically no different than the waxy blade of grass
rushed with a flatulence of breath,
affixed between two childhood thumbs

like goal posts pinched together,
a conduit between the power plug tines:

that’s what a bark is and that is the trick
with the grass. One in the same.

Or what do I know?

Perhaps I’ve lost too much in approximated simile.

Conflating this and that to force the sense
that a clearly defined one thing
can perfectly conjure another
thing altogether,
naked in the doorway.

It’s just—
I only wanna taste the beer
as it is
hot and sweetly stale inside your mouth

and see the TV
as it was

bounced a sickly blue
from the surface of your cheek
when the night is carbonated
with the immense singular pressure of what was, 
is, and will be
forever.

Gallstones

Retired dads
walk the end-stage family dogs
through the early afternoon
post-rain neighborhood

as

you drink the coffee
of the present tense
from the
I LOVE YOU GRANDPA
mug—

re-gifted to you
after
his final sip.

Your dad's having his gallbladder
removed tomorrow
and you have to Google how serious
of a thing
that is.

The coffee—
and the mugs or bladders
it warms in its
course, it seems—

is all simply borrowed.

And then not so much dispossessed
as it is
relocated.

Is there any point in asking anymore:
where to?

I once believed in the sacred map
smeared by paper cuts—
wetted by the dreamy breaths
of early-life yawns

to help relocate these things
once they've strayed.

*

Turns out that gallstones are made
mostly of cholesterol and I wonder
if my dad will get to keep his—
in some junk-drawer of his workbench
next to a souvenir baseball
we brought back
from Cooperstown
that
one
time.

When the phone has not rung for months
and even the sounds of summer birds
have a distancing effect—

like a spinning ambulance whir
signaling
endless goodbye—

there is only a half-hope that remains:

that, like our old cocker spaniel
tuckered-out hours after
his escape,

these things shall return to us
in small
almost unnoticed miracles

like the mug—
like the galaxy of stones
calcified through our processes of
endless
goodbye.

It all wanders back
eventually
by its own dumb
volition.

Soccer Storm

In the wind tunnel of your orgasm
my world deafens between the cushy tornadoes
of your calves and thighs.

This isn’t so much a poem about sex.

It’s just where I happened to be, gratefully,
at the moment when I realized
things’ll probably be alright.

Whose mind doesn’t drift a little during it—
with so many half-thoughts and hot feelings
bubbling up like a very specific
coffee pot?

In the thick of it I shot back to soccer tryouts,
with all my bowl-cut competition sitting on different models
of heavy-duty plastic water thermoses.

I remembered how terrifying it was to live
in that early collision of confused masculinity,
with teeth like a bunny rabbit, and nothing short of
the world’s entire purpose at stake.

In my dreams I kept showing up to practices
fully dressed and eager to give it my all—
despite having been cut from the team
and the coach staring down my unnecessary presence
so quizzically and cruelly.

In my dreams I still arrive
with everything to prove
as if mom and dad are always watching,
desperately, from some parked automobile
of make and year
I am ashamed.

In this coffeepot, pity and redemption steam
at the exact same terrible
temperature.

But the fact remains:
the specifics we fret over most
matter the least,

the coaches die in car accidents
or as broken old men
and we are still pre-teens in a meaningless sprint

but then again, that’s not completely true—is it?

As the mind wanders back across drunkenly-sprayed goal lines
of the endless tournament
we squint something welcoming and raw
in the gathering storm.

Face Time

On a shattered iPhone 5 I left behind who-knows-when
my mother FaceTimes me the lilacs
growing in my father’s backyard
like an entrance to their own museum.

They say lilacs are not overly aggressive
in their spread—they tend to grow mainly
where human settlements are
or were.

Bless them to pieces
for remaining
where we lost all heart to remain
ourselves.

Bless their beauteous stubbornness—
their oversexed showiness
their resilience to the quiet traumas in the homes
they shadow.

My mother was briefly a journalist before having me
and she now reports the world’s sex drive
to me solely via direct feed, live on location but
unaware that she is tethered
to the Wi-Fi in the house
so as she deepens in the yard
nearing the blossoms
pixelating in dusk—
in a chalky nectar
I can virtually
taste—

I lose her right before
she reaches the bush.

This is a sufficiently futuristic
future from where we began,
I think.

The future should feel like a splintered screen
looking in on all the world once
promised.

Poem Written Next to You in a Van Out West

Heaven's no longer the greased-up slide
chuting me into
cloud reenactments of
early overbite comfort

no, I think heaven is

discussing with you
what we should fix for dinner
through humid smiles
in our near-future kitchen
covered in Wednesday and
wonder

and then a walk to the corner for beer
past all the loitering galaxies
of summer dusk

and I know this exact scenario
has yet to occur precisely
but give it a week or two
and then
after that
give it our two lifetimes combined
and I promise the potentiality
will contain nothing short
of the world's very purpose:

your fingertips like door-keys.

In the freckles and inky pinpricks
of night—
in the codes of your muscular twists
and the wet constancy
of your dark grinning pupils—
each night presenting our home
in a new shape
of the same unalterable material.

Trouble eaten down
to a silly pit and kicked
into the garden.

The miracle of your love's
constant looping return

finding me at the sink
and pinching my waist

in the only moment we'll ever
need.

Constant Bedtime

1

In the cellular phone showrooms now gutted into cubbyholes
summer retires—

for summer is now a system of holes
waiting to be stuffed with travel soccer newsletters, phone numbers for guitar lessons
torn like hangnails, parishioner donation envelopes with windows of smeared vellum,
pizza coupons announcing two-for-ones that never arrive,
instructional pamphlets on how not to
readjust one’s own
spine

on how to check one’s breasts monthly
in a circular
motion;

in these storefronts of the semi-modern plazas
summer hopes to
suck the night clean
though cinder block burnt like toast.

I saw the children in the vestibule,
cross-legged around the bottle return,
attempting to count the number of nights
spinning sickly above us in broken durations

not noticing the crazed bagger
fingering the light switch
recklessly
with nothing to lose.

Have you seen the entrances to these chambers
strung up in uncoiled wires of orthodontic retainers,
caved in by 3-ring binders
that flicker loose leaf like horny tongues?

Did you crawl beside me,
into the budget motel banquet hall
where the marooned wedding DJ
took requests for every sadness
birthed by some mother or another—

that is to say, one for all of us,
of course. Yes, no one
is aging well and
rent is due.


2

Some things ride
the drop in temperature
back to this place
every year
like a vehicle—

perhaps a station wagon we were proud of
before the babysitter’s boyfriend
had his way with it.

I cannot hear the wind tonight—
somersaulting blankly through elms,
fresh from liquor lotto stores
primed to land in any congregation—

without picturing a mouth
without feeling a stomach
pitted and turning over
like the only muffler on the road
at this hour.

At 2:45 AM
I heard the woman’s maniacal sandals clacking,
opened the drape to find her tipping over
below me—

frozen in her tipping,
devastated by lamplight,
perplexed by an intersection of streets

blowing into the night
as if wishing to challenge
September’s return in

a race to fill the empty pop cans
of the world
with cold air whether
from lungs or river.

3

He’s a wreck without his full 8 hours,
without several inland lakes of coffee;

he’s a wreck if his mother has called too many times, too early—
and even more so if she hasn't called at all.

Something is looping like a DVD menu—
some feeling
like the emergence of egg shells
in the birthday cake batter.

A perfection that is just barely at fingertips,
at tongue tips
and pencil tips.

There was, for so long, a sweet rubbery stench
of back-to-school supplies
always in the janitor closets
of my internal organs,

in my armpits and
sock drawer.

But now
in constant bedtime, a dog is barking
at all hours. From where
can such ceaseless aggression find its source—
puttering in and out
again and again like a dial-up modem?

Today the wedding DJ was a different man,
but the same? Lurking in a long stretch limo, the color
of eggshells beneath fingernails, the color
of addresses smeared opaque in the waxy windows of student loan envelopes—
the uncanny rotation of life’s extras,
bit characters screeching brakes of sadly semi-dated rides
in orbits around my dad and I, where we hid

in sunflowers, ice cubes, and the smoke
of summer’s final
fuming.

Is there a shame in still feeling protected by one’s father?
I go inside.

I grow turgid within the incessant barking,
in cars passing by forever, revving violently—half of me
apparently always doubled over in dishwater.
But I wilt in my mother’s voice, the opposite
of barking—as she
starts up again to summarize Greek dances at Ms. Radio Shack pageants, or
the way Pappou would char the edges of ground meat
purposely, or informercial hacks to miraculously clean a pan
blackened by ungodly heat
like the burnt cinder blocks through which the summer sucks
its breath in storefronts of
abandonment.

There is a sweetness here,
a stickiness of cottonwood fiber gooping windshields
and crabapple holes mealy and agape to be stuffed
by yellow-jackets and fingertips; there is
a sweetness in my mother’s missing tooth and
the holes of parental stories—something so close to perfect
in how they humor my motions and strange age
that by the time they are gone,
my father of smoke and
my mother of syrup,
it holds me over. The murderers conspiring in
lamplight corners bark and bark
but can’t get
in.

4

I was born with cheap
plastic-mold Little League trophies
for bones. The flimsy
tee-ball bats and figurines
stretched my skin into delicate
tepees.

They branched out and splintered
in tendons of Scotch tape and
dental floss.

Praying that consuming parental coffee all day
was some alter-universe form of immense hydration,

I’d wake sensing all my problems
cobbled together in two-by-fours,
wrapped by the wires of old orthodontic retainers—

easily undone
but a nuisance nonetheless.

Yes,
I’d think,
I’ll manually adjust my vertebrae
until the world seems a bit more
correctly on course.

When the world reveals its nature
bit by bit
to you in your youth—
in warm foreign surges in your bloodstream or
the way you smell a color
blindly,
before knowing the neighbor is burning leaves
in the yard behind
at dusk—
you don’t know whether
to celebrate
or mourn
the news.

The worst part about trophies
is the year being engraved
right there on it
and as the year distances
the accomplishment
ages pitifully. All monuments,
whether of accomplishment
or disaster,
take on eventual
twisted meaning.

The only black kid on the street’s
dad invested in an etching machine
and made a business in his basement
customizing the little metal plates
for tee-ball banquets and bowling leagues
up at Sylvan Lanes.

Once,
in the trophy engraver’s driveway
I made a free-throw on the cockeyed hoop
and the trophy engraver’s son,
teasingly surprised, said
whoa
somebody ate their Wheaties this morning—
he was
at one point
my only friend.

5

I've cried trying to pin the origin story
of a certain item of food in the fridge—
how it wasn’t from the most recent trip to the store
or even the one before that
but some other one, somehow months ago now
on a pitifully specific day that seemed absolute
in its sense of permanence,
in the way the sky was like dark hair upon exiting,
in all its ways that return, laughably, now
vacuumed into that little tub from the olive bar. 

Sometimes I cry in the vague remembrance
of my dad coming to teach my Boy Scout troop
how to tie sailing knots in the empty cafeteria after school.

He had prepared by tying different lengths of rope to a board
and I can’t remember what grade or year it was
or in which run-down car of ours he drove us home—

but whatever love is
I know I harnessed it, wholly,
in the age of knowing
without knowing.

Sometimes I cry because I can’t cry
when I feel I should cry most.

6

The guitar teacher would make house calls
for our lessons
after the local shop closed.

He smelled the way clothes smell worn by
people who’ve just smoked a cigarette
and though I knew the smell
I didn’t associate it with cigarettes
because it doesn’t smell quite like an
actively lit cigarette
but kind of sweet
like grandfather breath
or off-limit rooms
or other things I only sort of
understood.

Mom would offer him a Rolling Rock
and he said it was his
favorite beer.

What are the chances?

He followed me into my room once
to hear some songs I wanted to learn
from my new CDs
through my new stereo—

these things that reminded me of Christmas
all-year round,

of feeling embarrassed by only-child bounty
incongruous
with mom’s threadbare
nightgown.

Like clots through the happy vein
guitar teachers and cocker spaniels
and mom in her housecoat
yes
we all swished through
the slender hallways of that
ranch-style
slab.

The moderately more well-off friend
opening a coat closet,
expecting a basement,
and inquiring

this is it?

he later found a drug habit,
car accidents and
fistfights

but he never found
our secret basement—

the machine in which
sickly bedtime
constantly
approaches.

Criteria

Criteria for establishing criteria in
the judgement of
criteria— fuck it all to
Indiana.

What I value greater
is my mother's Princess Diana
commemorative plate—
the infomercial commemoration
of pathos and

fresh towels for a hot shower
in a mansion of grandparent comfort
that no longer
receives the lotto
results.

In the porn star's right eye
you saw flash
a bad review for your
latest record
and a recent post
with zero
likes.

You rate the performance
by monstrous systems
performing
embarrassingly, themselves.

What I value greater
is my father groaning to sleep
above the racket
of enjoyable sitcoms
universally hated
and therefore miraculously exempt
from critique
and ding-dong contempt.

Defanged are the darlings.

Glorious are my cousin's orthodontics
transported to my Trapper Keeper
mouth.

I followed the red carpet into autumn
and in the urine musk terminus
of its unraveling
I played empty Cool Whip tubs
like babies
on the basement drums
daddy hid away.

On the red carpet grave
I stripped to my naked layer
of snappy elastic bands
in the candy corn of staunch
October
and plucked at the abundance of
my own flesh
with fingers and thumbs meeting
like beaks.

And by their criteria
my teeth are sliding back tectonically and
the blues of my particular Catholic school
uniform are unbecoming
and they called my mother overweight
and over-made-up
and my father underpaid
and my nasality harsh
and my toenails self-bitten

but according to the criteria
for establishing criteria in
the judgment of
criteria

their invisibility was located by
halitosis

and in the joy of my brand new
perfect
autumn day
the gauge is well-broken.

Ice Cream Truck

The ice cream truck
is really a broken record
of smoky summer grandmotherly larynx
or a mobile Gravitron carnival spinner—
later rebranded as the Starship 400 at the St. Mary's fair—
cycling in a cheek-sucking
momentum
of sound.

The ice cream man
saunters through the
roughest neighborhoods
without reluctance
for foppery
or backlash.

The ice cream
is a drive-by shooting
of desperate stickiness—

never not breaking down
imperceptibly.

Pine Knob in Winter and Summer

The creamy hue of
potato salad with celery
mayonnaise and egg whites
ruddily smeared at the borderline
of baked beans
can connect
with the color there beneath the chairlift's sway
over the local
landfill ski-hill's artificially icy
hazard

if the line is long enough.

The line for heat lamp pizza in the lodge
is long
and the crust tastes too sugary
in a way.

Pine Knob and Alpine Valley
pass for resorts in these parts
and that is no knock—

they are holy ground:
the bunny hills of concussions dressed
in embarrassingly cutting-edge equipment
worn by amateurs
waking groggy and
tethered to a snowmobile's pull.

Some
men from Waterford and Sterling Heights slice down
a frigid wall
in 90s neon and
tucked-in jeans
cigarettes dangling
Bavarian architectural approximation spanning psychedelically
in their goggles' polarization.

in June
the nation's top touring acts
as of 1988 load into Pine Knob's amphitheater
early in the day to set up for the show—

the same men from the fringes arrive
in the same jeans
perhaps cut and frayed at mid-thigh
by now.

High-schoolers are dropped off with their dad's Top-Siders
and fleeces and rum
spiked into large Coke
screw tops
that taste too sugary
in a way.

Late that night
after forty-two recognizable hits
it is cold
relatively for the season and

gazing above
upward to the hill
but beneath the dizzy stars
all breezily grassy there now

where the smudged black figures
ride down:

the first date night-ride
blazing floodlights
the towrope
the glimpse of hunched-over back-skin
sliver—
her bronze skin on creamy snow.

The next day is with a sweet-natured hangover:
the Fourth of July
and its memory explosions
pulsing in Nana's
potato salad.

The Spring Has a Nausea I Love Come Back Again

The spring has a nausea I love
come back again.

My mother
crawling for laundry quarters
and long coupons like scrolls
and fast food receipts
and the slick layers
of my dad's newly demoted
handyman invoices
and nagging nagging
sweetly nagging
are these your socks
your gray socks
to the terrible TV noise
soundtrack of the daytime
TV noise voices of
overdubbed
TV terror
soundtrack.

The spring has a nausea I need
come back again.

In the fast food smells
the spring drags itself
through the indecision
of its own identity.

I need to rest today.
Don't you have anymore coffee to make?
The little one was $6. The big one was $16.
Use the gold tablecloth
so I don't have to worry about Yia Yia's
getting stained.
Do you need me to take you home, Matt?
I'll need $10 for gas. I have no income.
We gonna go?
Do you want the turtleneck here? Huh?
Chris, do I look like I lost weight? YEAH.
Like I lost it from stress or diet?
Nobody says anything about the weight I lost.
The way you eat. You eat for four.
Take this. I want to clean it first.

Have you seen what you want to sell
for the garage sale?
You're not gonna be at that job too much longer
huh? Hope not. You don't like that guy.
Gotta go back and clean that basement tomorrow.
Huh? You gonna use the computer?
Oh God I'm sore from cleaning that house
yesterday. Did you see the chase they had
on 696 today? Huh.
It was on Channel 2. We watched it unfold.
Big white Escalade. They catch him?
Finally on Mound Road. Thank god
for
potholes.

The spring has a nausea I cling to
come back again.

In the soggy tentativeness of our
home's incompletion
I revolve half-formed
forever
draped in the sweatpants
material.

You know what. Can't make this shit up.
Use that coupon. $4 off.
Heartshapes in everything. Burnt toast
is a chemical reaction. Heartshapes in the
jelly.
Are you confident they'll maybe call you
for an interview? Do you want these?
Throat clear throat clear throat
clearance. Clearance clearance.

The spring has a nausea I have maybe caused
come back again.

Travel Soccer

I wish I'd done better at soccer
as a fuck-off to my hard-ass coaches
who were then new adults
with apartments and hatchbacks.

Each singer I'd hear
on the alternative rock radio station
in Doug's mom's minivan
on the way to practice
took form in my ears as attractively
adult soccer coaches
with sexy problems and a petrifying
callousness.

I had some slick moves and all the vision
but as in most things
they just didn't really get me—

I now dream of travel soccer perhaps every other night:
mid-game on an oversized field
like mowed vast meadows
at times rife
with pack animals
can collectors
vivd fanfare
and eruptive
fire hydrants
under a stormy milling sky
of curdled chocolate milk

where I always score important goals
repeatedly
until waking
lest be murdered
and buried in the shucked husks
of orange slice quarters.

No one really knew what they were doing
or where they were
in the world
at that age
in the era
of school-night practices.

In the winter we'd move
to enormous vacuumized
white domes

and for one season
to some small Christian college in the area
with a hardwood gymnasium
adjacent to a science laboratory by a
Dr. Pepper machine in the hall—

entering scared in wintry night
passing the dark after-hours lab
with tanks and cages aglow
where I'd linger for long
reluctant moments
before lacing up for
failure and inferiority.

One night I wore a southwestern-style vest
on top of my Umbro t-shirt
to exhibit some individualistic style
or maybe to foreshadow my lead role in
St. Hugo's eighth-grade production of
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Received by playful meanness
it was the means by which I was fastened to a hook on the wall
by suggestion of the virile-bodied coach
(the somehow sadly fit body which in scrimmage he would place upon all others with
unchecked and self-satisfied force—

I recall triangularly-toned calf muscles stirring ambiguous
pity and inadequacy in their furious kicking
an awkward intimacy with out-of-place
adult sweat
after-game arcade boasting
unnecessary bravado
and lake party roughhoused submersion).

Ostensibly fraternal gags
sure
but such men
in the company of children
were real horrors
and they now cruise the school districts of my
dreams circuitously
in proud Asian-manufactured cherry red compacts
circa 1997

where I preserve them
no doubt inside more malice
than the actuality of their current middle-aged
whiskery stubble.

When I was cut most cruelly
a part of me went back and hid in the blacked-out
nothingness of the mystery lab
with the mice and the fishes.

The door was open
and
with cold Dr. Pepper
and immense phobia
it was to be locked from the inside
safely.

So sometimes
it's the places and ages we've only known in minimal passing
where we can linger
with any sustained meaning or time.

Twenty-Seven

This is drafty modernity—
where our bike trails
are scabs and icy gravel

where my credit cards have been strewn
to freeze and brittle
in the van
stranded frantically
after nervous scatological
moment visible to no one
at the Gottfredson
exit.

No one sees me now.

I never smoke when I am in love—
I get fat and sleep late
in the twin beds of my feeders
as they go to work their jobs
in the mornings

where the rolling pin of my body
revolved hot
in the elastic snapping of
sentenced sexed fitted sheet corners.

Your roommate had one eye
and perhaps an envy for our love
but even she can not see me
now—

one cigarette a day now and
a wimp even in self-destruction.

The four athletic balls
of various shape
from 8th grade bazaar and cereal
promotion
invariably brittling in the heavy
yard of November cliches
still persist
in skin and temperature
but I will never
gather them.

I wrote a few poems
in our summer
with the walls of Indian buffet
between us—
waiting daily for you and
the fray of your
jean shorts to rise and dissolve
higher and higher
as the dry cleaners spun
for a purpose in days
and nights around the alarm clock
of the sun slinging us
for one year only.

I snuck them in greasy black wires
through the crabapple blossoms
and only now can I sense
all that I snuck
with no notion of any need
for sneaking.

Remember the silly constructs I toiled on
in the carport—
bathed in coffee and the heat rash

just nervous and nonchalant
for your presence again?

You should see how bare
all the outstretching reaches now.

One night in the beginning:
in the attic's pinnacle
from where we started
from which we descended
with your wild smell and pubis
and delirious grinning
you confessed the demonic things
that knocked you out
asleep and hot atop me.

I think then is when I closed my eyes
but still so awake
in love—
off-put
by love.

I cannot recall being cold once
last winter

it took the knife and the nightmare
and the disposable cameras
impossible to develop or destroy
labeled pornographic with
Scotch tape

it took the mental collapse
of your grandpa's north
billboard barn
with the sad lone stallion
and billy goat marriage
where we fucked in the field
of loud motor paranoia
and paradise
that exist solely in the sun's
tendency for blinking

it took Lake Huron and the circles
of ankle bones
of flea market coins
of nipples in swimsuits
and circles in circles
in circles.

I burned it all with friction
of paper cuts

of safety pins and dry cleaning
tags
because you asked me to
terribly.

It took all that to open again
my eyes from the attic:

how I'd piss blindly in the night
toward the sink with the dishes
and fruit fly
fermentation
of all our good times

sneaking and scheming
amateurishly
in the dark
but always to return
underpants or not
to our
naked sleeping fusion
off-put but horribly safe
and lucky
I thought.

You should see how bare
and high
the outstretching reaches now.

I turn 27 in two days
my father feeds me and
the election and the NFL
and the shooter on 96

the hurricane and the veering
distance
of dying apart
from your darling girlishness
and darkness and precise
pin location
dusked over
like the thinnest crabapple twigs
that impale darkness out of thirst

like the sweet bristles of your pretty mole
before you'd shave it
sneakily in the shower
when soap was in my eyes.

No leaves and no eyelids left
but I hope you're having fun

before it all shuts down for good.

Apple Blossom Milk

The apple blossom buds
this April
have been suspended in infancy
for a great while—

like nipples with droplets of milk
hardened to crust
in the openings.

I can still juggle a soccer ball
using both feet and thighs
a hundred times without
involving the ground.

All the balls in the shed
are child-size and flat—
the door finally came unhinged

leaving dead hives
and the comas of crowbars and
waterlogged skateboards
unguarded.

My father's bicycle leaned in front of the house
all winter
and nobody stole it

but the back tire is airless
and there is no functional pump.

The escapes of certain things
like air
are at once sneaky
and yet unsurprising—

when we bought a new refrigerator
my mother spent an entire
roll of disposable camera film on
the old one's
color

its special shelves
and contents

and she's done so similarly
with old washing machines
station wagons
and threadbare pairs
of soccer-ball patterned boxers
before tearing them
with a great satisfaction
defiantly

upon caving

admitting these things had
finally succeeded in their sneaky escapes.

I have pimples on my adult face
for some reason
that feel akin
to the apple blossom buds

or nipple milk
that will not arouse
from its sockets fully
and whose purpose
is at most times
obscured.

Wrappers Remain

Sugar—
I wrapped you in the cheap crinkled foil
of a small chocolate egg
and let the sweet yellow puss inside
ferment then
rot away at all that naturally and
miraculously once was.

I take pisses in the backyard
in semi-night
and wonder what the foliage
around and above once
must have been.

I don't say "remember"
as it is impossible now.

In the shed
in some random utility buckets
are the crushed orphans of musty
Top-Siders my dad once wore as a crewman
on the decks of sailboats
bought by other people's old Detroit money—

the glory days contained many shoes
and roughly half of them uselessly
remain.