California by Halee Kirkwood


The place that fills

your plastic bag lungs with

trinkets and promises and ripe orange slices,

citrus stinging the cuts you got in Wisconsin

if only to remind you that you've got to go back


The place where you build more empathy for the homeless

than the year you lived in a van, than the months spent

in a homeless shelter where

a little boy named Ray-Ray

took daily shits in the bathtub.

The place where you search for specifics

behind eucalyptus trees.

The place that reassures that

cliques are a-ok,

that cheap love isn't found

beneath the waves.

The place beneath a jealous moon where

you wed the Pacific,

the salt on your tongue

reminding you of the cuts,

imploring you to stay as

your plastic bag lungs stick to your ribs and