The Art of Release

I used to try to hold on

To every beautiful thing

That came my way

But now I know

That beauty is also found

In letting go


Published in Kentucky’s Best Emerging Poets in 2018

You used to tell me that I was your star,

But you couldn’t have been more wrong.

I am all of the stars, the sun, and the moon.

I am a swirling, blazing galaxy

With more light and beauty than you could put into words.

But behind all of that,

I have the potential to explode,

To crumble in on myself and emerge even brighter than before,

Which is exactly what I did

When you left.


You were smart before that first gold star on your kindergarten paper

And you were beautiful before a boy ever told you that you were

You are so much more than others’ narrow-minded estimations

You are stardust and magic and mystery

Woven together with passion and purpose

Overflowing with enough love to drown the oceans

And wired to do the very things that people say you cannot do

For Atticus

I’m beginning to realize

That my light shines even brighter

When I’m honest

About the dark it has replaced.

So here’s to all the pieces of me –

The beautiful and the broken,

The strength and the shortcomings,

My dark between stars.

Full Bloom

A bouquet of springtime blossoms

Sits atop my desk

Vibrant, enthralling, captivating

Straining towards the light

Petals unfolding to soak up

Every drop,

Never worried about exposing

The intricate canvas of veins and bruises

Hidden inside.

Hope settles

Like a blanket of dew

On my parched soul

As a new thought dawns:

Perhaps the unpretty parts of me

Are nature’s greatest work of art,

And maybe the scars I’ve tried to hide

Look more like strength than weakness.

I have much to learn

From these simple buds

As their beauty beckons me

“Teach me how to bloom,”

I whisper.

“Teach me how to be.”

Living Color

When you were young

You believed in the infinite possibility of each day

You knew that you were special and significant –

A burst of colors yet to be named

In the midst of a black and white world

Your life was a blank canvas

Waiting to be covered

By splashes of vivid dreams

And splotches of crazy-enough-to-work ideas

That could come alive at any moment

But somewhere along the way

Cruel words from small-minded people

Stained that precious canvas like graffiti

Until you forgot the beauty and promise

Buried underneath

No one would gaze upon da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”

Or marvel at Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

And say, “This is not art”,

So why do you look in the mirror

With disgust and disdain

As if you are not

One of the most breathtaking works of art

Ever created

Your very existence is a triumph

That deserves to be put on display,

So I will use my words as an easel

To hold you up

When you can’t bear the weight

Of the voices in your head

That tell you you’re not good enough

I will write volumes of books

That repaint the picture

Of awe-inspiring you

And I will not stop

Until you see yourself anew

In living color

The Long Way Home

I have traveled many miles

On this road of love and loss

An aimless wanderer searching for safety

Trying to find shelter in people

Who couldn’t seem to make room

For all the love I had to give

And just when I thought

I had reached a dead end,

You stopped me in my tracks

With eyes full of adventures

I had always dreamed of taking,

A mind I never wanted to stop exploring,

And a smile that said,

“Welcome home. Put down your bags, and stay a while.”


After only two decades on this earth

We are expected

To have life all figured out

With the highest grades,

Connections in all the right places,

And a career we love

That puts us on a track to retired bliss

Pressured by adults

Who don masks of professionalism

Unwilling to admit that inside

They’re just as scared and clueless as we are

But they’ve perfected the art of hiding it

They forget we are all works in progress

With yellow caution tape binding our wounded hearts

Swallowing paradoxes of the need to fly under the radar

While still achieving our wildest dreams

Starved for love and connection

Fed by résumés and paychecks

And forced to call it fullness

A Masterpiece

Published in America’s Best Emerging Poets in 2018

You asked me what inspires me

To put pen to paper –

Which poet’s words make

My heart race,

My breath catch,

And my soul feel understood –

And I said,


You wondered aloud

Which work of His is my favorite,

Expecting me to speak of

Sunsets and stars,

Mountains and moonlight,

But instead, I murmured,

”Only Love Himself

Could have formed

The exquisite masterpiece

That is you.”


Published in America’s Best Emerging Poets: Southeast Edition in 2018

You light up my life

And you light up my phone

Your glow lingers with me

Wherever I go

Warm rays emanate

From each thing that you do

My dear, there is no one

More brilliant than you

Short Circuit

We live in a world that promises,

“There’s an app for that”

A quick fix in a few clicks

But what do we download

When “I would never leave you”

Turns into “I never loved you”

Or “best friend”

Becomes “stranger”

If these machines we use

Could feel the weight

Of the rejection we carry

They would short circuit

Because they were not meant

To bear the pain

Of searing loss

And neither were we

Tempest // Temperament

Overflowing joy

(But spills are too hard to clean)

Unwavering truth

(But boldness causes bruises)

Headstrong confidence

(But opinions so easily offend)

Relentless love

(But closeness often suffocates)

Overflowing joy

(Empty souls get filled to abundance)

Unwavering truth

(Honesty and grace bring freedom)

Headstrong confidence

(Bravery sparks world-changing action)

Relentless love

(Chains break and darkness vanishes)


Expecting you to change is like

Expecting the sun to rise at night

Or the moon to shine by day

You are a force of nature

With a quiet inner strength

Unmoved and unmoving

And I know in my core

That nature is destined

To follow its rhythm

It will carry on unchanged

Without any help from me

And so will you

Under Construction

Ancient city
Built and rebuilt
Again and again
Like clockwork

Secret London
With new wonders
And old treasures
Waiting on every corner
To be uncovered

And yet
You are so afraid
To peel back your layers
To let us see
The mystery
The madness
The magic
Hidden inside

If your walls
Could tell stories
Of the foundations
On which
They were laid
They would expose
Broken Britain

Precious town
Let it happen
Let yourself crumble
Let your walls crash down

When you do
We’ll be here
To pave your cracks
To lay your Cornerstone
To bridge your gaps

And you’ll see
Your rubble redeemed
Your ruins restored
Your wreckage remade
Into the City of Light
You were always
Meant to be


Wading through a flood of images

Of glittering diamonds

And fairytale weddings

Each snapshot more posed and polished than the last

With captions that might as well read,

“You just don’t cut it”

And “You’ll never be this perfect”

And then suddenly, sweetly, miraculously

There was you

The realest thing in this airbrushed prison

That stays locked tight by likes, comments, and shares


Untouched. Unfiltered. Unbothered.

Perfectly imperfect. And exactly what I needed.


When did we start to mistake

Likes on posts for love and respect

Or swipes on Tinder for proof of our worth

When did we begin to call

Snapchat streaks “communicating”

And Netflix and chill “bonding”

When did we start to believe

The fullness of our inbox

Could dictate the fullness of our hearts

And our Facebook friends

Could give us the connection we so desperately crave

When did we convince ourselves

That the right filter

Could magically erase our flaws

And smooth over the pain and loneliness and fear

That threatens to break through our carefully crafted facade

At any moment

What if we shut off the screens

Took a risk with the truth

And gave others the chance to say,

“Me, too” and “I understand”

Unplugged, unfiltered,

And finally free


Published in Kentucky’s Best Emerging Poets in 2018

I’m not great at wrapping presents

I wouldn’t know quite where to start

It might not look the best, love,

But I’m giving you my heart.

It’s bruised in unseen places

Guarded under lock and key

But walls collapse and barred doors open

Every time you look at me.

They say home is where I’ll find it

I’d agree that’s very true

Because it feels like coming home, my dear,

Whenever I’m with you.

I won’t offer you exchanges

I can’t give you a receipt

For as long as it still beats, sweet one,

My heart is yours to keep.

You Have Words

You have words
Bold words
Words that will
Bridge gaps
And break chains
Of apathy
If only you’ll
Show up
And speak up
For truth, For hope, For them

You have words
Untold words
Words that form a story
That only you can tell
Words that will
Move mountains
Drown oceans
And outshine stars
If only you’ll
Be brave
Get real
Take off the mask
And say
What you really feel
And when you do
You know what you’ll hear?
“Me, too.”

You have words
Honest words
Words that those around you
Are desperate to hear
Words that will be messy
And magnificent
Because your mess
Is also your masterpiece
Every piece of your past
And your present
Has a purpose
And people are listening
You’ll see
If only you’ll
Turn around
And notice
The difference you’re making
In the lives
Of everyone you touch

You have words
Lasting words
Words that will
Leave a legacy
Of beauty
That will heal
Our hurting world
If only you’ll
Find your voice
When you do
Walls will start falling
And light will break through
Because that’s what words do
They move
So open your mouth
And let the light out
Because you have words

Your Biggest Mistake

Today is your birthday, and I can’t help but wonder if my face is what will float into your mind when you close your eyes to blow out the candles and if you’ll secretly wish for me as the flames disappear, vanishing just as quickly as you did on that summer night a year ago. Maybe you’ll realize that all the presents in the world can’t replace the only gift you’ve been given that could love you back.