She has black dirt on her face.

The ruins of a garden plucked

for winter stain her hands.

She has scratched that greenery free

and bathed in the empty

soil, praying for next year’s harvest

with touches of bare arms and thighs.

She rubs the flesh of the earth,

places stones in her mouth

careful of her teeth

though she knows

this is ritual.

Her tongue rolls in the grit,

hips turn the ground like a spade.

She says, “I will starve myself for the gods

so I can grow poison in the spring.”

This poem won the first place prize for poetry at the 2008 Lex Allen Literary Festival at Hollins University, Virginia. Since then it was published in The Camel Saloon and nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2011 before finding its forever home in Lupercalia.

Photo Credits: wormwood, Prosperina (1870) Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Mermaid’s Songbook

1. A Boat Alone*

phosphorous moon


a boat



of eyes and


dancing with

the horizon

the horizon


dancing with


singing of

eyes like

phosphorous moons

over a

boat alone

2. The Witch’s Song

love is spinning in the deep

mine is mine and

music is music

if you’re wishing for escape

love is love and

knives are knives

love is waiting far away

a song is a song and

sweet is sweet

if you wish for what you aren’t

love is love and

yours is yours

love is love


hate is hate


love is love again

come and see what I’m selling

mine is mine and

music is music

all the wishes you could wish

love is love and

knives are knives

when you regret, regret with your heart

a song is a song and

sweet is sweet

the tide will carry you home

love is love and

yours is yours

love is love


hate is hate


love is love


3. Dead Mermaid Singing

I can’t give you lapis less I open

a vein and rupture my organs in

just the right way

staining my blood

in a shade that will say:

“I love you more than that hand that gave you your lapis.”

I can’t give you sunset staining a canvas less I open

a vein and clot my obsessions,

fall into dusk

with a gesture that screams:

“I love you more than that hand that painted your sunset.”

When the waves call me back

to dance in the foam

you’ll never know how much

I hate my home.

I can’t give you music less I tear

out my throat and fling all my chords

to the sky-loving storm

to play on her way to crash down your door.

She’s the only one who knows

I do love you more.

The princess is so pretty,

her demeanor is divine

but her love will break in the shadow of mine.

When the waves call me back

to dance in the foam

I would open my veins and my throat

on your shore ever

singing ever singing:

“I do love you more.”

4. Redemption*

the grave sea

breaks and tears

the burning


of all that

has passed,


your fragile



These poem first appeared in Lupercalia.

Photo source: Waterhouse

A Boat Alone: Found poem. Source: Aquí te amo by Pablo Neruda.

Redemption: Found poem. Source: Las víejas del oceano by Pablo Neruda.

How to Build an Altar

To build an altar you need the familiar territory of a dry riverbed and the shadow of a nuclear power plant. You need the roar of a siren on the air, the highway in the distance, the skull of a kingfisher and the footprints of someone you don’t love anymore. You need a stone from a hand that killed in a war far from home, knucklebones that know the fractals of a willow branch and all the sounds of breaking. You need the smells of honeysuckle, salt, and gunpowder, a piece of iron if you’re superstitious. You need the oil slick iridescence of a cockroach wing and a lock of your mother’s hair. You need the cornerstone of a place that makes you feel safe, even if that place isn’t really a place but a scrap of paper or the empty air. You need a poem written by someone you haven’t met yet.


This poem first appeared in Lupercalia.


A body says, “Hello.”

Another body does not reply.

A body says, “Hello.” Again.

Another body does not reply.

A body walks into a bad joke. A body feels like a bad joke.

A body tries to tell a bad joke to another body and another body walks away.

A body has breakfast alone.

A body skips lunch alone.

A body has coffee alone.

A body has dinner alone.

A body says, “Loneliness is not the unyielding force but the soft buoyancy of humid air that no one else can see.”

A body says, “Loneliness is not the story locked in the past but the inability to explain what happened.”

Or the inability to find someone who will listen.

A body says, “Loneliness is trying as hard as you can but still failing because (insert your beliefs about failing here).”

A body sees.

A body tastes.

A body touches.

A body feels the memories a body doesn’t want to feel. A body blocks them out. A body smothers them with a crashing wave. A body pounds them into the ground and refuses to let them breathe even for one second. A body can’t let them breathe for even a second.

A body hears a body’s fist connect with what a body cannot kill.

A body smells a body’s blood.

A body wonders how a body got hurt when a body was supposed to be inflicting all the hurt, all the punishment.


This poem first appeared in my collection Lupercalia.


morning, we woke up

and you performed

another extraordinary miracle:

wings split

the paper thin skin

taped across your shoulder blades,

your wet spine

glistened through jauntily

angled prisms thatched

to your ribcage

with flayed nerves

and slippery veins,

as you flew around the room

you said: “No. That’s not how

it happened.”

I woke up alone.


This poem first appeared in Lupercalia.


Now I only write numbers.

05 line the 26 day line 2018

My initials are not letters but curves in the road, a roundabout, a punctuated swirl.

I never write my initials the same way twice

But the lab techs and quality know every time it’s me because they

Analyze beautifully

I don’t know what they write I do know

I don’t write words anymore, only numbers

And lines

10 line 04 line 2017 JH

And so on

And so on

With ballpoint pen

I used to hate writing with ballpoints but you can get used to anything if you do it long enough curls in the road like a ribbon, a strand of hair, a stray thought that begins where you are and takes you where you want to be with who you want to be with but if you lose focus you have to error correct and then there are more numbers and more lines

The physical physicality of writing

Holy Woman

for that high school be(a)stie we lost contact with

holes in her hoodie

holes in her cigarettes

holes in her pregnancy test

holes in her shaking hands

holes in her voice

holes in her fear

holes in her ferocity

holes in her will to live

holes in her teacup

holes in her tablecloth

holes in her sunglasses

holes in her family

holes in her willow-bed

holes in her bookcase

holes in her manga

holes in her memory

holes in her road

holes in her fence

holes in her iPod

holes in her loneliness

holes in her longing

holes in her breakfast

holes in her lunch

holes in her dinner

holes in her belly

holes in her window

holes in her way out

holes in her heart

holes in her shoes

holes in her job

holes in her prayers

holes in her latte

holes in her holes


This poem first appeared in Lupercalia.