by caleb

Oak Park

Somewhere in a message to your closest friend - 

You enclosed a small fee to be paid at earliest convenience. 

And you took her penknife - 

Whittled a wriggly initial along the soap scum tree, 

Turned one-hundred-and-eighty degrees, 

And stared blankly at a bloody sunset 

Pouring like an egg yolk out of a white cirrus shell. 

Little bits of half formed chick still gestating in regrettable bywords. 

I’ve stopped by the brook to lick my wounds. 

You’ve awoken in a bunkhouse to the sound of unfamiliar snoring. 

I can see small angels over every star tonight. 

Yet in an instant I’m waking up soaking wet to a pale-half-lit-sky.


Pat was as good a grandmother as she could be, 

In her episcopal bathrobe - 

Honoring cocktail hour like the daily office. 

Quite good, 

Given that she was a substitution. 

Not a substitution like paying 50 cents extra for oat milk, 

Nor a substitution like an amusing older gentleman playing a bill NYE video for you - in lieu of another earth science lecture 

From the teacher who saw you begging for attention in the hallway. 

The one who didn’t give you what you really needed, 

A further push in the wrong direction. 

More like when the waitress asks: “is Pepsi ok?” 

Or - 

“I can offer you $50 in store credit or $18 cash”. 

I hope my long obedience has been in the right direction. 

But as far as mindfulness is concerned, 

The overgrown SCOBY in my kitchen, 

Who has produced only 2 batches of kombucha over these 8 months, 

Might say otherwise.


There’s something intimate about being irritated with each other  

To stare across the groggy seven am table  

And just seethe  

The way that only unconditional love allows for  

I would enthusiastically take a bullet to the femur for you  

But I cannot tolerate your tone of voice right now  

As we make this tofu together


 It was an evening of cheap wine 

And expensive cheese 

Evidence of well aligned priorities 

I asked whether you wanted the havarti or the brie with honey 

You said ‘the second one’ 

That didn’t inspire confidence 

I am not always sure I know what you want 

Or how you feel 

I’m not sure you really know either 

But I want to know how all the charcuterie is sitting 

Even before you’re sure it’s really settled 

Being inside out is scary 

All of my internal organs are there for you to poke around in 

And enjoy on a plain water cracker with a fig spread 

The only thing worse than doing this would be not doing this. 

As I peeled my face mask off I wondered whether I had needed any of this ‘self-care’ at all,

or whether I should have dug deeper into what I thought I needed a respite from.

That house looks like Peyton Manning 

Maybe it’s the way the space between the topmost windows and the roof 

is just a little too big 

Whatever it is 

Peyton Manning’s arcadian face is looking down on me 

Reminding me of days in middle school 

Where all the boys would play football on the one strip of green grass behind the lunchroom 

Wearing their matching socks that my mom couldn’t believe were so expensive 

Among other things she was letting me know she couldn’t believe as we talked over the headrest in the minivan 

She didn’t dare speculate about the socks, but she did speculate that homosexuality was maybe just an especially powerful strain of narcissism 

It’s a great time to be alive 

I can think of very few times when it isn’t


Every year the memory of world war 2 slips a little deeper below the surface of the lake, 

Next to which a christian summer camp struggles to help its counselors sort out what they read in the Bible 

And what they heard on channel 8, 

And becomes softer. 

Losing its sharp edges — its agonized clarity 

The altered genes of holocaust survivor offspring are steadily becoming soluble 

Like a powdered-grape-sports-beverage whose proportions air heavily on the water side 

Or perhaps the tightly packed essences unfurl in the waters like absinthe 

Revealing more than we knew was there 

Either way the once calloused hands are now eligible to model hemp-based organic hand lotions 

White 25 years olds talk about their “kinda messed up childhoods” 

Upon which the terms “abuse” and “toxic” are applied like a hemorrhoid cream 

And somewhere near Chattanooga Tennessee a mother breastfeeds her 8 year old child

Reading Rumi

I met my father in the desert

I asked Him to count to ten 


He said. 











No moment is not one 


7 is not seven, 

It is one 

A seventh time

On Conforming

The non-conformist in me 

Hates the fact that the Coca-Cola that you can buy in New York City tastes exactly like the Coca-Cola that I just bought in Hannibal Missouri. 

But then there’s part of me 

That loves the fact that trident gum will always taste the same way it tasted when I chewed it at my grandmas house. 

I love that a parliament cigarette 

Will always taste like I received it 

Stolen by my childhood best friend from his grandmother. 

I guess there are a few benefits to living in the post-industrial-late-stage-capitalist-eco-consumer-glamping-pre-rapture-pre-climate-disaster-hyperpop era after all.

It was unfortunate 


Strawberry milk 

Crossing the snake 



Poor Teacher