The Tame and Wild Olive Tree

*I adapted this piece from a short story I originally titled Wear Me Like a Winter Jacket which I posted on this blog in May of 2016. I’ve been in a poetry course for a little over a semester, and have found that where some of my single moment oriented pieces fell flat as short fiction, they translate well into prose poetry.*

The Tame and Wild Olive Tree

“How’s work?” Question.

“Great, mom.” Answer.

“And Will, how is he?” Prying question.

“Doing just fine, mom.” Blank answer.

“A proposal in the works? A grandchild, maybe?” Prying question.

“Not anytime soon, mom.” Avoid answer.

“And what about-” Cut off.

“Hey, mom, I’ve got work to do, sorry to cut it short.” Bite your thumb, tear a strip of salted skin down its length.

“Oh, of course sweetheart! I love you!” Desperate, sad, full of exclamation points.

“You too, mom. Bye.” End call before inevitable One more thing!

You sigh, shift pillows under your back, reach for pack on your table. Light cigarette with match, pull deep, watch blue smoke curl out of your lungs. Fill room with choke.

You don’t enjoy lying to mother, keep saying you’ll tell her the truth, truth is it’s just easier not to. The cigarette clicks as it exits your mouth. Baltimore is far from Salt Lake. She hasn’t visited since first year, you were still in school then, still living in a clean dorm on campus. Five years, more than enough time for good habits to become chain smoking and daily cheap wine.

You’d picked Salt Lake because it’s what good Mormons do, realized you were stuck somewhere you’ll detest forever only after breaking up with Will. You miss him, sometimes, then you remember he cried after every orgasm, hated most of your friends. Nothing else could be expected from a BYU boy. You only see him on TV, second row in The Tabernacle Choir.

You couldn’t imagine what mother would say if she saw your apartment, cluttered with not vacuuming, candles, half-pots of coffee, books filled with portraits of naked bodies.

Being able to hold down a steady job is relieving, it pays well, a boring position that is suitable for saving money. Saving money to drive yourself out of this Mormon hellhole. Daydream as you sit at a desk, send emails for someone else.

Daydream; Racing across icy tundra, through the Amazonian rainforest, climbing peaks. Maybe you’ve saved plenty, maybe your mind is stopping you, maybe your mind is shouting coward! on repeat.

You light another when there’s a quiet knock on your door.

“You know you don’t have to knock.” Playful statement.

She pushes the door open, small in an XL BYU Class of 2015 sweatshirt, baggy cut-offs, pads the short distance from the entrance to your mattress, plucks cigarette from your fingers. You grab her free hand, pull her to you, soft body folds easily into your lap. Long chestnut hair settles on shoulders.

Pass the cigarette back and forth, no prying questions, blank answers, avoidance. Last pull, drop the butt into a half empty glass of water on the floor. Sunset spews gold light.

Brush her curls back, kiss her neck, think maybe this is why you’re still here. Not money, not cowardice, but her. Best part of every day, when she crawls into bed in varying stages of undress, asks what you want for dinner.

She’s wonderful. She stays wonderful. She stays.


A Series of Chronological Haikus

London I
Countless days, wasted
Ever been this desolate?
Never sleeping right.
Rude, nice, confusing.
Why are they excluding me?
Who are these children?
Me, mom. Three others.
We shouldn’t have come here with
Them. Please stop fighting.
Highgate Cemetery
Wet: moss, ivy, leaves
Darling wife, mother and. She’s dead.
Bodies keep melting
Lights, fur cloak, champagne
I feel so old for sixteen,
I am connected
Me/the city is pockmarked
Pain she remembers.
Yellow, blue, gold. Cats.
Mosques sound like muffled beehives
Nature conquers faith
Sun, long car rides, lakes
I’ve never been happier
Laughing endlessly
Sheep bleating, dew grass
I cry on a mountaintop
The world is ending
Mother Nature doesn’t give a fuck. She will defeat us soon enough. 
London II
I learn to love you
No more wasted days.
Becoming home
Kew Gardens
Nice but, not real, not nature
What’s urban wildlife?
Peat, fog, Irn Bru
Where the dinosaurs once roamed
Cold wind. I’m grinning
Rusty typewriter
City of daffodil hills
A charming grey place
New York
Be my saving grace
Too much crying over boys
Dumb. Angry lipstick.
The summer of no bras and not shaving and wanting to heal myself.
Crystals, matches. Poof!
Blaze. Memories up in smoke.
All to heal myself
Gold: peaches, shells, sun
Back hurts. I can’t get up. Please.
Make me a sand throne
An entire year, gone
Slicing meat, taking names, I
Have to split, cut quick.
Water’s inviting
Where the dinosaurs roam, but,
Be careful, don’t slip
Dirty kids play drums
We are bad at making fires
Fresh. Doors stay unlocked
I feel rain on me
Wet, not made by my own skin
Elation chokes me



I used to be afraid of drums

When we went to parades

And I sat on my father’s shoulders

I could feel them in my chest and it scared me

I wanted to run and hide

I didn’t love music

I didn’t live for it, like I do now

Now I hear that beat

And I realize I feel it in my heart,

Not my chest


When I was younger

I didn’t love the stage

The theatre bored me

I had no interest in watching people perform

but that changed a some point in my youth

Now, performance is what I live for

Although I was born to be spectator first,

Performer second

Rarely and never necessary


I wonder if

When she sits there

In the back row

Legs crossed and a smirk

Like some kind of rock and roll goddess

I wonder if

She wants him

I wonder if

She knows he’s still hers

When he puts on an actor’s mask

And picks up an instrument

When he’s a rockstar for the night or just the hour

I wonder if

Is he looking at me?

Object Permanence



purple petals sprinkled

and mixed in a big silver pot

reduced and strained, poured

into a tall glass bottle

shaped like Paris’ favorite monument

kept in the fridge

to be combined with penguin seltzer

in an ice-filled glass

when the summer has finally warmed enough

to sit outside,

on a pink and green quilt,

and sip

those purple petals

adorn the dashboard

of a character I made up

named after a Norse goddess

and turned into a werewolf

the same small purple petals

that a broadcasting company attached to my story

when they marked me as top five

and made my name worth googling

and solidified my place as a writer



purple petals

that I want attached to me, drawn


as a reminder

of hot summer days when the lavender bloomed

and the bees went mad,

swarming our overflowing garden

as a reminder,


that creativity is not a choice for me


regardless of who does

or doesn’t

shortlist my words,

is as much a part of me

as the ink on my skin

importantly permanent

a reminder,


that I am an artist

that I am a writer

that I am still the girl on the pink and green quilt

It Didn’t Happen Like This

He noticed her when he walked in. She had mousy brown hair and a smile that looked like it shared a secret with her eyes. She was drinking espresso out of a tiny cup that didn’t match its saucer and writing in a notebook, surrounded by the debris of an artist at work. Pen caps, ink smudges and empty mugs laid in her wake. She looked up when he walked in, just like she looked up when anyone did, searching for someone to incorporate into her stories. Their eyes caught for a second, sending her blushing and him coughing awkwardly into his fist. He ordered his coffee, something he hated but drank anyway because it fit his image.

He watched her slyly, and when his heavy latte was placed into his hand, he took a small leap of faith. Footsteps approached her small window table, but she was busy now, half deafened by the voices yelling in her head. “Hi,” he said. She finished scribbling, a pointed period punctuating the uncomfortable pocket of silence inside the crowded coffee shop. “Can I sit?” The cup shook a bit in his uneasy fingers. She had been approached before, her silence there only because confrontation made her clam up. He pulled out the empty chair across from her and sat, sending her stomach fluttering. He was well dressed in a simple grey sweater that matched the sky outside.

“You’re a writer?” He waited, she blinked. “Aren’t writers supposed to be good with words?” She smiled at him, laughed a little.

“Only on paper, evidently.”

He looked relieved, now that her mouth had opened. Two sets of shoulders relaxed. Luckily they had enough to talk about, so him and her because us/we/them on a rainy, fateful summer afternoon.

Breakable, breakable

I thought I was breaking your heart,

but it was you who broke mine.

And it was silly to think, because you’re a city and

I am just a blip on your massive timeline.

I am just a human. I am nothing to you.

I didn’t even etch a single mark into you.

You are a collection of age old buildings and cobblestones.

You have survived great wars.

I am a collection of breakable, breakable bones

and skin that’s so easy to tear.

I haven’t survived anything.

You became my favorite place in the world and I was easily forgotten.