i am the last person my father spoke to

my swollen father
wheel-chair bound
sitting beside my mother
stripped of speaking
by a stroke days earlier

his voice rough and faint
calling me by name
to take him to the bathroom
and explaining not a bedpan
in a simple request of his son

moments later on the toilet
surrounded by three nurses
my father there surrendered
despite the shared persistence
of his pacemaker and those women

we rushed my mother out
gathering in the hallway
trying to calm her solitary groaning
incomprehensible and terrified
like the muffled pleading from the room

people go to the bathroom and people die every second

—P.L. Thomas

i love a woman who swears

Your poetry’s bad and you blame the news

“Norman Fucking Rockwell,” Lana Del Ray

i love a woman who swears

xxxxxcussing often and beautifully
xxxxxas the sun and moon command the sky

xxxxxsinging along to songs that begin “goddamn”
xxxxxdropping a tune as offensive as the profanity

i love a woman who swears

xxxxxtelling me she’ll never leave me
xxxxxlike she is commanding me to go to hell

xxxxxcussing up a storm that ends in rainbows
xxxxxjust to ask me if i like her nails

i love a woman who swears

xxxxxtexting me what is this shit
xxxxxwhen i share a draft of this poem

xxxxxchallenging me ruthlessly along the way
xxxxxto saying she likes it and just kidding

—P.L. Thomas

the most often thing (nature is a force)

Underwater, you’re almost free
If you want be alone, come with me
“Rylan,” The National


the most often thing
was his heart lifting
out of his chest (it seemed)

the length of her legs
from bare knees to feet
and the joints along there

the most often thing
left empty and alone until
this of her filled him to bursting


nature is a force he said
not a sentient creature
an avalanche but not a squirrel

like loneliness she asked
sitting on bed’s edge in such a way
her hand resting atop her foot

later she was disappointed in him
welling slowly but fully into anger
like waves washing away a sandcastle


he began to imagine her
fourteen years in the future
layered unknowably around those eyes

how does anyone survive he wondered
the thousand little cuts of disappointment
that must erode the beach of their love

—P.L. Thomas

past (father’s day)

Round here, she’s slipping though my hands

“Round Here,” Counting Crows

i texted you in the fog of waking
having not responded the night before

i didn’t fall asleep
i past out

you replied
correcting me as you do

your sleep was so serious
that you went back in time

you often ask me to say hell
as entertainment so i thought

past out is what we say around here
like my extra syllable in hay-uhl

father’s day was a couple days ago
the recent past now passed

while you have been away
i have been looking at my hands

with summer tanning and 58 years
they look even older than usual

but they are all i have left of my father
who passed away two summers ago

mine not exactly like my father’s
because no one has those giant hands

but i see him more and more each day
in my own hands reaching into our past

i texted you i am sorry i am old
carrying almost more past than i can bear

and you asked me about my father’s day
although you know i hate holidays

because they become less holy
but burdens of remembering loss

these things, they go away
replaced by everyday

while i am here mishandling being alone
and you are there

i imagine us on your couch
i lean my head back and close my eyes

so i can only feel the arch of your foot
and not see my father’s hands there

i will not look
i will not let go

—P.L. Thomas

filthy feet (next step)

I’m still standing in the same place where you left me standing

“I Am Easy to Find,” The National

your black soles were filthy
you realized aloud
both of us looking
at your white feet in my lap

should we walk
the white line
facing oncoming traffic
during rush hour

or remain here
on this couch
curtains drawn
brick walls surrounding us

you picked maroon polish
from your toenails
like flakes of dried blood
left like bread crumbs

leading me back
to us laughing
about your filthy feet
and rarely showering

should we walk
the white line
facing oncoming traffic
during rush hour

or remain here
on this couch
curtains drawn
brick walls surrounding us

black asphalt in summer
burns bare feet
when we linger too long
instead of taking the next step

—P.L. Thomas

over full (overwhelmed)

I’m not afraid of anything, I want it all
“Roman Holiday,” The National

i am over full
i am overwhelmed

when i cry i am over full
but i am not sad

when i go silent i am over full
but i am not mad

i sit here silent & crying
i sit here alone

“I’m not afraid of being alone
I just don’t know what to do with my time”

you ask me if i am sad
you ask me if i am mad

you think i want everything
you think i want too much

i am so over full with you
sometimes i can barely stand

when i cry i am over full
but i am not sad

when i go silent i am over full
but i am not mad

“I can’t look at everything
hard enough.”

i sit alone at a bar
beads on a pint of beer

asked if i am reading Vonnegut
i say it is a novel by a Korean writer

but nothing is about beer or a novel
i am crying & silent inside alone

that is not me on the barstool
drinking another pint as i read

i have fallen into the black-hole well of me
that is the black-hole well of you & us

if you are looking for me i am always
waiting for you at the bottom of this well

crawl inside of me
to be inside of you

like overwhelm
i am redundant

i am over full
i am overwhelmed

—P.L. Thomas

vertiginous (Notre-Dame cathedral is on fire)

Now, in this moment, I feel that vertiginous thrill course through me.
The White Book, Han Kang

You have no idea how hard I died when you left
“You Had Your Soul with You,” The National

Notre-Dame cathedral is on fire
and i am afraid

you cannot see through the smoke
how deeply i love you

how easily you can hurt me
undone like a blood letting

i grip your ankle
to keep from falling

but you have no idea
my head is spinning

since my hands often find
your ankles and feet

so i must close my eyes
trying to gain my bearings

leaving me mute against
wanting to tell you this:

you are lying on your bed
in only a dark gray dress

with your legs there
white and beautiful and there

i will never be able to hold
you long and tight enough

if only i could stop this vertigo
releasing myself to slip into you

like leaping casually into snow
blanketing the world with whiteness

and promising a gentle landing
like a spiral staircase to everything

Notre-Dame cathedral is on fire
but i am afraid

you will never know
how deeply i love you

in all ways and always
because i too am on fire

—P.L. Thomas

afraid of ghost (v.)

i am not afraid of ghosts (n.)
i do not believe in ghosts (n.)

i am afraid of ghost (v.)
i do believe in ghost (v.)

we used to cut all ties
we used to burn bridges

in times before email and texting
in times before reality was virtual

now we ghost by disappearing
now we ghost by no response

i am not afraid of absence
i am afraid of infinite silence

i don’t want you ever to leave me
but if you can no longer be part of us

i don’t want you to ghost me
i want your last eyes and last voice

i am not afraid of ghosts (n.)
i am afraid of ghost (v.)

i will be lonely if you leave me
i don’t want that to be my haunting

—P.L. Thomas

the sun was never at our fingertips

Now we’re swallowing the shine of the summer
There’s no saving anything
How we swallow the sun

“Runaway,” The National


the sun did not go down last night
the sun did not rise this morning

the sun in fact has always been a static thing
perpetual combustion as the center of the universe

we humans leave it in the spinning of this planet
and then we return as things called night and day


i am driving into the so-called sunrise
when i find a shining strand of your hair

on the hoodie i wore last night sitting next to you
your hair recently bleached and then dyed copper

we have argued about anyone being everything for anyone
a tug of war over wanting to be the center of the universe


this is not a dream
xxxxxxxxxxthis is daydreaming while driving

i tell you “i would have dated the drummer
xxxxxxxxxxif i had ever dated someone in a band”

before taking your fingers
xxxxxxxxxxnails freshly painted black
one at a time in my mouth

pausing between your left index finger and thumb
xxxxxxxxxxi say “the sun was never at our fingertips”

—P.L. Thomas