for h.

April 25, 2013

in your eyes
brown as dark chocolate
(but sweet as milk)
i see a hard-fought hope–
wounds healed
disappointments overcome
tragedies survived
and a daily choice to love
the ones who need it most and
appreciate it least.

i have to look quickly–
your eyes dart away, like
carolina wrens–but when i
catch your glance, and you
smile like sunshine,
i’m hit with vertigo,
dizzy and happy and
sinking into the warm velvet
of your gentle gaze.

seventeen years.

March 25, 2013

when you passed away
i was fifteen
a sophomore
i didn’t know you
i wish i could have

they say she has your smile
and if that’s true, then i know
we would have been fast friends,
because her smile is sunshine
and i delight in its glow

you must have been a great lady
because she is strong and kind
loving and sacrificial
tender and compassionate
and though your absence may
have helped to forge
the steel in her soul and the
strength of her character,
i cannot help but imagine that she
gets her mighty heart from the
few years she had with you

i never got to meet you
(i look forward to introducing myself
beyond distant shores) but by
making her who she is
you have helped to bless my life
beyond measure, beyond words


March 19, 2013

[post redacted. a little too much, a little too soon, but someday, i may repost it.]

i want to burn my notebooks,
delete all my blogs, vaporize the electrons
that record my emotional rages and sulkings,
the feigned affections, the stirred-up emotions,
everything else i’ve felt about anyone else–
burn it all, burn it all down
because i never felt before what i feel now,
never understood before what now is so clear.
i want to reread all of my favorite poems, all
the beautiful stories, all of the dramatic speeches,
for now I find for the first time I actually speak
the language, and can grasp what before I suppose
i merely pretended to comprehend.

i am foolish and prone to overstatement.
but i do not think i can overstate this:
i am undone by the thought of her,
and this both exhilirates and terrifies me.

i’m in a state, afraid yet unafraid,
feeling like i’m destined to bring this china shop crashing
down around my taurine shoulders.
and you speak peace to my doubts–
but my doubts are loud when you’re away,
so i have to walk through the litany of your attentions
the rosary of your encouragements
the catechism of our conversations
to remind myself that flowers still bloom and stars still
shine and you still want me to come around and
all is still well–and maybe after a few weeks
i’ll settle down and set my heart at ease, trusting in your
quiet stillness, but you know already that my nature is
more prone to noise and movement and
flashes of fire and floodwater
so it may take me a little time to match your calm exterior.
and you smile and favor me with the softest brown eyes
that i have ever known. and somehow my pulse both
quickens and slows, as i begin to open up my frantic, fearful heart
to the care of your tender hands.

once more, with feelings.

January 24, 2013

when i was a boy i had a crush on a girl named juliana

and we passed notes through her best friend

and it was as close to love as my third-grade brain

could comprehend.

i was too afraid to hold her hand during the

movie show at the church one sunday night,

too bashful to dare something so outrageous

(no matter how much i secretly wanted to,

and for weeks regretted saying no)

but i wrote notes bursting with elementary-aged eloquence, and

i gave her gifts, as much as my meager allowance could afford.

one day, i heard that her feelings may have waned,

so I declared (via note) as bravely as I could,

“if you like my friend more than me, just let me know, it’s okay.”

a folded sheet of notebook paper returned,

inked in careful little lines:

“i don’t like you as much as you like me.”

third-grade heartbreak at its worst.


twenty-five years later, i’m still that boy

feeling too much, investing too much,

letting my heart run much too freely,

living too much in the realms of could-be,

forgetting that love takes time to grow

and always withers under the glare of

too much constant warm attention.

yet now i confess i don’t even have

the courage to put on a brave face and

say “just let me know, it’s okay.”


January 22, 2013

he writes in notebooks
because his words are loud and carry weight
gusts of wind and thunder
they echo and echo and echo
so when he speaks, sometimes he shakes
because a stumbling phrase or ill-measured thought
could come back and back and back
and when he wants to open up
unpack the compartmentalized frustrations
he writes in notebooks
safely caging lions in their cardstock covers.

to hear my mother talk, you’d think that she was still 16.
“when i met your father, i didn’t want to leave his side.
if you and this girl don’t feel that way, what’s the point?”
i want to argue that things are more complicated
when you’re a decade and a half past sixteen.
you think about things like compatibility and shared mission
and how you need to break your hard-set habits that leave no
room for another person to invade your world.
and sometimes people are skittish, and sometimes simply cautious,
navigating histories and insecurities like rocks and reefs
surrounding friendly ports.
and i want to say, “you just don’t understand the way things are in the real world,” which sounds alarmingly like the speech
my parents gave me when i was sixteen and certain of everything.
but i say nothing, because my parents, greyer and softer and
less idealistic are still those two love-struck teenagers,
30 years hence. so what do i know.

Noah sailed across the sea
completely without irony.
He never understood his fame,
much less the origin of his name.
His bark, a vessel all hand-hewn,
his cost of transport, picayune.
He braved the surf, the wind, the tide,
Until a shark ate him, and he died.

(Not exactly “Richard Cory,” is it.)

December 7, 2011: “negative self-talk”

i can’t help but feel like
you deserve better than me
you deserve a better version of me, at least
someone sensitive
secure in himself

but you’re stuck with the shabbier me
the one with the cowlick
the ill-fitting coat
the dearth of confidence
and abundance of belly

i almost feel a little let down with myself, for your sake

each time i look forward to seeing you
i imagine heartfelt conversation, laughter,
maybe a little sexual tension,
but when we share space i start to second-guess myself
my conversation is stale, my jokes almost non-existant
and i wonder if you ever wish i were someone else.

i don’t really think that’s true–i guess i’m just
suprised that it’s not. i mean,
you’re simply incredible–
what in the world are you doing here with me?


January 25: “Please, Lord, Please”

how can i lead
when these days i feel like a fraud,
a rolling wreck of wasted potential,
a living, breathing missed opportunity?
i shudder to imagine their state if they
followed me as poorly as i follow Christ.
please, Lord, please
deliver me.

how can i speak
when the witness of my deliverance
is undercut by the wickedness that
still lurks in the corners of my heart?
it’s for freedom Christ set us free?
my wrists still burn with the memory of
self-forged chains, dark and sharp-edged.
please, Lord, please
deliver me.

how can i love
sacrificially, when my heart is selfish
and my mind is lazy and my soul is needy
and so eager to make women into idols and
then despise them for lacking divinity?
love like Christ loved the church? better to
keep silent and alone then fail so miserably.
please, Lord, please
deliver me.

[i’ll write no resolution for this complaint,
though i know there is hope,
and i know He is Faithful and True;
in the shadow of these stormclouds,
i can only pull tight my coat
and brace against the howling wind
rather than wait patiently for the
embrace of the sun.]


February 14: [untitled]

feeling historically voyeuristic
as i read your hastily-penned lines
a lovely overture and speedy response
so much clever praise


September 10: [untitled]

i’m not looking for the ultimate,
the perfect ten, the checked-off wishlist,
believe me, i’m willing to settle.
not like i’ll take just anybody


October 19: [untitled]

i can’t quit place my finger on the feeling
a bit like wanderlust but rather than
looking for another picture postcard destination escape
i begin to desire another life
another calling
another version of myself
as if there were parallel stories running
and i could step into another set of circumstances

the other me li


Two days ago: “enigma”

[this is not a poem–
just a note
to the ones and twos of you
who still poke around these old lines
like a shaman scouring runes
to read the fate of
my restless heart.
so i’ll rattle off this
measly Morse, dots and
dashes to satisfy the

“the worst kind of no is the kind that tries to wear the yes’s clothes.
despite the kindness of intent, the sound hangs ill-fittingly on the sense.”

December 19–an addendum to “enigma”

[allow my to interrupt transmission
for a moment to update status STOP
things may not be as bleak
as they first appeared STOP
still developing STOP will update
when appropriate STOP]

there’s something about
the way ben pounds on the keys
as if the notes themselves weren’t
enough to communicate what he’s

then he sings
almost off-handedly at first
as if it weren’t a big deal
just doing my thing
a winking, world-weary voice
until the sound begins to grow
thick with emotional weight

darren and jesse’s harmony weaves
its way around the minor chords
and the backbeats until the chorus
unleashes an emotional explosion
and the lift of “aaaaaaah”
floating up up up

i can’t tell you what the song is about
i have no clue
but i can tell you how it makes me feel

and inexplicably homesick

bad reruns.

September 10, 2012

bad poetry
the overflow of childish disappointment
i’m becoming a bad rerun of
my high-school self.

in tenth grade, i filled notebooks,
chronicling in badly-rhymed lines
how the One
(there have been so many Ones)
chose someone else over me,
leaving me doomed to loneliness.

you’d think that fifteen years
would cure me of such silliness.

but here I am again,
typing and deleting,
over and over,
hoping to find just the right
words to capture the elusive feeling
that’s overtaken me

i’m still sixteen–but a different me.
she’s still the One–yet a different she.
the tune’s the same–the partners change.
(did i say partners? no, we’re “just good friends.”)
and in the end, i resign myself to a lifetime of
Saturday nights spent watching reruns.


May 4, 2012

a quick poem
in two minutes time
listening to royksopp.

that’s not how i feel.
i’m hurried.
i’m feeling second-best.
ill-fitting and ill-put-together.

but i believe there is more for me.
more to see,
another chapter,
a better story,
even if today
sleep-deprived and fretting
i feel like i’ve lost my plot,
let slip the thread of the better story
through my fingers
and wandered into
someone else’s book
where i’m a minor character
who meets an inauspicious end.