I75 Downtown, Cincinnati

Property boundaries overlaid with satellite imagery. Data Source: CAGIS (Cincinnati Area Geographic Information System) 2022

A bundle of highway ramps snake and weave like veins
cut through the graded dirt. Three city blocks, measured by
the platt maps that outline a history of property lines
and every row house, social hall, and corner deli which once stood here.

Parcels of prosperity for Southern immigrants, they float above
the freeway, like ghosts haunting the land that belonged
to Black families, taken by government officials,
just one mile across the Ohio into freedom.

Welcome home to your back garden: a barren median,
your church, a bent guard rail, your playground:
asphalt divided by white dashed lines. A neighborhood
razed in the name of breathing air and dollars into the dense urban grid.

Today, an often clogged artery, lined with Semis
delivering vats of light beer, processed chicken,
and the American Dream to anyone still asleep.

Ode to My Left Ear

If I cut you off and mail you to a lover.
Promise to become a better listener.
Take notes and stay open.   If it happens today,
Remember, the last thing you heard was not me
Crying, saying things like, change is hard.
It would have been the welcome mat,
The one with a dumb slogan like, hello, beside
An image of Lional Richie’s sexy look. You spoke
The word aloud when you answered the first
Phone call. My lover oddly resembles Lional Richie
And might, after receiving my bloody ear, call it
a sexy look. I heard that a Jared Leto fan severed an ear
From their face, then mailed it to the American Psycho actor.
“I poked a hole in it, and wore it as a necklace,” Leto admits.
A meteorologist on a hotel bed remembers the quote,
And he tells us, laughing while leaning into his elbow.
Jay Leno wore a human’s ear around his neck?
I say in disbelief between bites of cheese pizza.
Leto, Jared Leto. My friend goes. The hot one
with a cult-like following, opposite to the late-night
host with a cameo in the Cars franchise.
I could have died in those giggles, but I stopped
To listen, with both of my ears still intact.

If I cut you off, dear left ear, and mail you to a lover,
The last thing you heard was the welcome mat
He dragged across the hardwood floor, Your friend
Decided to beat the dead insects and specks
Of dust out from the valleys of the coarse fabric.
Welcome back, welcome back your eyes scanned
The words over and over again, until they
Stung like a thousand honeybees.

You were getting good. You were getting really good.


a couple waits at the abandoned bus stop

the man stands with his hands in his pockets
looking towards the sunrise behind
the apartment building

the woman sits with her hands clasped
between her legs
watching the rare car and breeze pass by

the distance between them
is a curtain of the unsaid

his      too comfortable conversations
with the occasional coworker

her      with the young teacher
having been left to deal alone
with the children’s schooling

all the moments where “no”
kept them steady
gather dust in the cluttered rooms
of memory

the man’s left hand comes out of his pocket
opens to receive her right hand
and they walk true north

Experts Say

it is best, when experiencing behavior issues
with your dog to take them on a long walk. I have,
after some time, started to see why this makes sense.
exhaust the mammal so it no longer has energy for destructive
tendencies. if I were not living in the twenty-first century
and did not have a semi-reliable Honda to releases black molecules
full of waste and harmful chemicals into the air, how would
I exhibit my behavior issues? all mental health experts
and psychologists have leaflets full of answers and explanations.
you are this way because you are not that way. the semi-gloss
matte used to print complex diagrams of the human psyche onto
those leaflets makes the heavy cardstock non-recyclable.
the paper has behavior issues, refusing to be repurposed.
there is an at-home remedy. I am sure. the expert that
answers my video call eats ice chips from a Red Solo Cup
the entire time I talk about my problems. the link to the portal
did not work the first two or three times, so she had to send
me the email again. eventually, the portal opened and thank
god. now my boyfriend can eavesdrop from the other room.
it’s just, I keep ripping into bags of sourdough bread and
cream cheese while he is at work. I also continue to talk about
my discontent when he gets home, and unfortunately, it feels
like he is tugging on the end of the rope. instead of standing
on my own two feet like a human, I growl from the toe-side of
his tube sock. if I were not living in the twenty-first century
and could not whisper prayers of gratitude after driving by
the scene of car accident, would I go out and hunt for destruction?
would I walk among abandoned homes and oddly love the taste
of dirty water against my throat as I lap it up? would the mice
and woodland creatures become my friends, all of us licking clean
the insides of empty food wrappers and calling it survival.
I have decided to stay silent and ignore all experts in hopes
that someday, someone will appear with a brand-new,
cappuccino sofa set I can tear into with my sharp teeth
the second they turn their back.

late october

for all the dreams short lived
for all the sighs brief and deep
i will build a castle

cars have their streets
people their houses
we     moved to the wind

for all the nights i walked to nowhere
and ended at your side
for you, who waited     arms crossed
i will build a castle

to moments we sent
like arrows to autumn stars
i will dig a grave

the rooms are empty in october
in what we once called us

Your Voice on the Wind

Timeless feelings, the Appalachian trail
and the love I hold for you like the sky.
A time zone countenance and research
that’s gone all wrong.

Have you noticed, how the trees like to talk
mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays?
They whispered in my ear,
if you get it wrong, you’ll still be alright.

Lock jaw and tact as hard as rock,
you broke the ground and found something
none of us ever talked about.
You’ve been my hero for a while now.

I still read about that Golden Child
you say you saw,
still wonder what’s true and how to behave.
When I’m with you, I feel the freedom,
and the weight.

NOVUS Literary and
Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN