The world of Twitter poetry is a niche that can often be hard to flourish in, but Tom did so quite flawlessly in my opinion. A couple years ago I started following an account called “avxlanche” for poetic horoscopes that somehow always rang true for me. After a while I began to read poetry that was from offsite links, and found that not only was his work good when under 140 characters, but all the time. So without further ado here’s our amazing Poet of the Month, Tom Leveling. Prepare to be amazed – but please do mind that some content may be triggering to those who struggle with depression or suicide. Art is by the lovely Areena Ang.

kiddy 3
there are only dates
i don’t watch home movies
hate them
reason being because
when i was young
i was looking for a movie
my mother
had recorded for me
and accidentally
put one in the vcr
that i’m not sure
i was supposed to see
i know the obvious response
“uh oh, porn”
sorry to disappoint
they were only marked with dates
1991
on live television
montel williams asks my father
“how can you just throw
your child away like a piece of trash?”
   1994
i spend so much time
in the emergency room
that my parents stop
penciling in growth marks
on the frame
of my bedroom door
i always thought
it was because they believed
i would never grow out
of this sickness
sometimes i believe
the reason that they
never bought me a dream catcher
was because they never thought
i’d live long enough
to see them come true
1996
i am eliminated
from a spelling bee
because i didn’t know
the ‘dad’ is silent in ‘family’
   2013
before i got into poetry
i used to do standup
none of my jokes were funny
one of the other comics
tells me my skits are dry
sometimes sad
he says “why don’t you joke
about something like your family?”
so i say
“i never wore any sunblock
because i didn’t want anything
to keep me from my father”
i say “what do you call christmas
without lights or heat?”
before he has a chance
to answer
i say “1997. better yet
why don’t you
make like a dad and
leave”
   2014
every time we drive
past the hospital
my mother reminds me
how much it cost to save my life
like she’d rather
have her money back
she doesn’t have to say
that sometimes she wishes
it was me who had died
instead of my brother
i can hear it in the way
she says “love you”
sometimes i imagine
that if i were to die
that she
would pick out a casket for a child
because she never loved
the person i became
yesterday i told my father
how close i’d been
to suicide lately
and he said
“that’s my boy,
livin on the edge.”
and i can’t remember
if i laughed
or cried
2016-04-07
window seat
there’s a cliff in town. you heard somewhere that someone jumped from it back in high school. no one talks about it. you woke up one day and you notice it where your front yard used to be. you’d never actually seen it before. but it’s there now. you tell your mother and she tells you to pray. you tell your father and he asks you if you want to go fishing. you mention it to friends and they change the subject. you want to ask strangers if they can hear that strange distant ringing too. you don’t want to leave the house anymore. not with this thing in your yard. you start thinking every room is dark with you inside of it. you don’t know if the cliff is moving closer to you or if you are moving closer to it. it doesn’t matter now anyway. coffee shakes without the coffee. who cares. you’re not sleeping anyway. you feel so clumsy. you don’t want to talk about it anymore. you woke up this morning and your feet are dangling over the edge. you can’t remember how you got here anymore. everything is in pieces. everything is rushing. everything is so very very still. you remember the how relieved someone is when they drop something and realize it wasn’t very important when it hits the ground. you wonder if anyone will sigh in relief.
kiddy 2
jamais vu
and i am eleven again
feeling like tomorrow
is a couple yesterday’s ago
smothered in cayenne pepper
hot enough to take off taste buds
and tonight i am eating a meal
only worth burning
it tastes like my parents anniversary
it tastes like a zinfandel
left on the counter too long
it’s a bad story, see
there’s no silverware
’cause my mom sold it
to keep the lights on
and somewhere in heaven
somebody in a suit
doing commentary
on this fiasco
is telling someone else
in a suit that
“you have to eat love with your hands”
so we sit, four plates on the table
for the two of us
my brother’s long gone
dad’s even further away
& he’s not the one who’s buried
i carry both their names like anchors
that i cannot unmoor from
while she looks at the empty table
and says something about the news
she says something else
but she’s not talking
we aren’t proud of this, see
my dad likes to wax his car
he’s proud of it
and my mom says
she sees a lot of him in my hands
says, i touch the things i find
like they didn’t belong
to people sleeping in the ground
she says i touch photo albums
the same way-
you know,
i never used to believe
that history could repeat itself
not until i could
fast forward seventeen years
and still wake up to smoke alarms
how i would go into our kitchen
to find it empty
and the dinner smoldering
& my mother in her bedroom
looking through family photos
like it’s a just another summer day
and the sirens are just the birds
i don’t ask, i never say a word
in this moment
i am an archeologist
afraid to dig up the past
cause history repeats itself-
you see
my brother is dead
and my father is gone
they have been for some years now
and my mother
sometimes forgets
and sets their place at the table
like they’re still here
and in the confusion
ends up ankle deep
in pictures of how it used to be
she let’s dinner burn
and douses it in red pepper
hoping i won’t know the difference
kiddy 2 1
ramen
you like ramen. you like to make it. sometimes more than you enjoy eating it. make it even if you’re not hungry. you make ramen before you ask if they want to come over and then get upset when they don’t. you get confused when you make things for them. you try to say “you need to eat something” while they’re hanging up the phone. your mother knows you’re not ok when there’s more than just a few of the wrappers in the garbage can. its her way of showing she cares she always buys more. they’re only seventeen cents. They don’t take up much space. sometimes you like to eat ramen while you sit on the spot where you buried your dog in the back yard last summer. you don’t understand when people say “how can you eat that stuff?” you remember how your mother has that empty nest syndrome syndrome. how people say that it’s not clinical. you remember the winter you moved out and the city shut off your water. you made it with beer and everyone laughed. how your mother told you she’d make sure there was ramen if you’d just come home. you remember being seven and your favorite flavor was beef because the packet was red. she’d always make it for you. you’re twenty something and you love oriental. you miss cajun chicken. you’ve checked around for the longest time. you remember her standing in the hallway the first time you made it for yourself. she was home. you wonder sometimes if she remembers how to make it

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May 4, 2016