Author: Ptiza O'Delay


to barter for two truths

is she, he asked? not yet, you said.

driving 82 on 10

in a van full of drugs 

and your breath in my ear

in my dreams

we’re sitting in silence 

as the mountains light up 

and the shadows of cactus

define them

orchards and boxcars 

tell me, pull over

crawl over the fence

with the camera

get some more bruises

some more scars, funny stories

little sister imitations 

of her big brother’s work 

so now in the silence

steer through the heat

on the line of the love

through thousands of miles

through twenty years

did you know how i loved you

when you pulled me out of the quicksand

children keeping secrets

and losing shoes

did you know how i loved you

when you pulled me through broken glass

children keeping secrets

watching spiders in the sun

and glinting eyes in the dark

so just like when we were small

you told me it would be okay

you made me


it would be okay

did i know how i loved you

so the universe told me

it’s all balanced now

and you don’t need shoes

on someone’s shoulders

when i love you

when i love you


Coldwater suburbia ($125,000 house)

chainsaw to the wall, Mr. Kennedy

Jesus stands on rooftops
telling kids to tie their shoes
but they’re busy sewing patches
with strings of sturdy blues
and in a matchbox
in a mailbox
lies her cross on a chain
with the dust in the air
caught by too-late rain
for destiny’s a recycle bin
and death a dirty lane
and the sky is all unfinished thoughts
and hope, a weather vane
and in a locked box
in a fire box
lies her life without chains
with creosote scented air
that smells like city rain
while the past closes its oak drawer
and hate drops its blind man’s cane
there is a madly spinning storm
and hope
a fallen weather vane.



size six / size nine

This juniper,
this soft orange dirt under my heels,
these O’Keeffe clouds
white muffins on the glass pan of the sky
ants that carry their translucent pink and brown boulders

Will you ever understand the smell of the monsoons
with me

With 100 feet of sky framed by trees above me
how I miss the distant, blue mountains of the West
And once returned to the West
how quickly those mountains become background

If we look up
Into the convex mirror of the sky
Screened by the hay loft netting
Will we see the whole world
Left to us by dead men
As though standing on dusty cars in barns
Laughing to catch the sleeping bags as we throw them
Was the way to secret divinity?

And if I jump
From the sky
Will I become virga
Rain to steam
And evaporate before I hit the ground,
the buildings
the heat upon the street
the fountains and the birds and the beaches
the sound of the wind in the trees and the flags
the smell of sheets and milk and oranges and old brick?

Or if you jump
Will I evaporate you?

Or if we jump
what happens then?


homeless near a thousand homes

A brave man
and a handful of bills
to build a roof
A light to go out
when we sleep

Sinking again at nighttime
quiet eyes on glow in the dark

A rush in my heart
a shredding metal feeling
a fever in my veins when I have no bed to fall upon

Homeless near a thousand homes I stood tonight

How much could I fit in the backseat
In the trunk
How many miles can this tank take me
Where can I be at dawn
What lonesome highway truck stop in Texas

Oh homeless near a thousand homes I stand tonight
homeless near a thousand homes
a thousand homes

places, tucson


Inquiring, Inquirer

when you get down here give me a ring

You had said, “when you get down here give me a ring and I’ll set up a nice little welcome.” We had called each other “dewd.” We had called each other “man.” We had called each other “buddy.”

This is the conversation where we make plans, finally. Well, we make some plans. The first plans. These are just plans for me to use up the paid time off from the paper. Plans to meet at the Manhattan, a few years from 23 and newly 31. Four big hugs through the door. Your arms around me. Four clinks of bourbon and ginger. I don’t move my fingers away and they bump against yours.

I had said, “I miss seeing pictures of yr life!” What I was really saying: I miss seeing you. I miss being able to look at you. I’d liked the portrait with the towels rolled up, the door open, the shower curtain, the strap hanging down over the bare chest I try to look away from. You look sleepy. I want to be the person in the other room calling you back to bed. I don’t tell you that.

You told me, “so you guys are totally mobile.” What you were really saying: come here. Come HERE.

I had asked for fireworks, so that’s what we talk about at first. Concrete, practical plans for what to do in the dark, if the lightning flashing behind all those big ominous clouds lets up outside. You said you had access to bottle rockets and Roman candles, that you wanted to start out with the bottle rockets and finish the night with the Roman candles. It had been four years since I nearly burnt down a bridge in the rain in Brooklyn. You’d liked that piece. To get the attention off me, I brag about the person I’m there with, because I can feel the sulkiness emanating in waves and burning up in a fine mist when it tries to touch me.

You say, “Hm.” You mean: I don’t care and neither do you.”

You tell me about how much you ache from the first race you finished. I try not to think about how I could make you feel better. I say something about arnica and foam-rolling instead. It is purposefully lame because our banter is maybe a little bit too good and you and I are laughing a little bit too loud and the two people we are with are getting a little too quiet.

We call ourselves “easily entertained.” What we really mean is, “you fascinate me and I want to know everything about you.” You say “so we have that going for us.” What you mean is, “look how perfectly you would fit in my arms.”

I forget what we were planning to have for dinner, or if we end up going. I remember fishing out the pieces of mint with my fingers from the drink and how it looks on your face when I nibble on the leaves, and we both notice that only we notice this moment. There are cigarettes, first four, and then two. Maybe she went to the bathroom. Maybe he went with her. Maybe that’s what we hope for, because maybe we don’t care, and we can’t ever care ever again.

“You don’t want to live in Atlanta anyway,” you say.

“I know,” I say. “Silly me.”

“Well, I told you to move here,” you say, “but you were all like, ‘oh, i have to have a job’ or whatever.”

“Squaresville,” I say.
“Lamesville,” you say. “Hicksville.”

I make you take it back. Because it has started raining, and I actually like it in this place better than you know. And we are entertaining each other like we have never laughed before, never heard a joke before, never smiled before, never made a reference that had landed in anyone else’s company. The drops pound on the metal roof. I’m beautiful. You’re gorgeous. You tell me I’m cool. You won’t let me defer. And then, I wouldn’t let you avoid the conversation we’re about to have.

You had said, “some things are great, some things could be a lot better. You?” What you meant was, “everything is terrible.” I tell you everything is terrible here too.

I think about the photo of you in your green shirt and floppy hair, your child leaning on you. I think about how I would have gotten your eyes in focus. How I would have done it better. I have no right to think these things.

You tell me, “I sincerely hope you get everything your heart desires.” I wonder if you can see what my heart desires. I suspect, then, that you can. I know, now, that you do. That I do too.

You wrote something the night I asked, again, when you would update, when you would come back. You didn’t use my name. You called me “inquirer.” You pointed out I was the only person who had asked in all the days you’d been away. You said “thanks.” In the thing you wrote, you wrote a list of all the things you had done in the time you had not updated. You wrote that you had bought new undershirts, some hula dolls, and gotten a haircut. You said, “I bought a kite, but there has been no wind.” Then, there was a list of all the things you had not done. In the middle of all the silly ones — “been to a circus, built a robot” — there was “danced with my wife.”

I did ask for fireworks. The wind isn’t gone anymore. Let’s dance.