How do you fill
a chasm?With stone or wood
or earth?An artist doesn’t fill
a chasmbut instead creates
an amphitheaterand floods the space
with songSteep gouged walls
become a torsoits beating heart
begins to sing
First published in Hedgerow: a Journal of Small Poems (November 2014)
When do we lay these sticks down?
Having been rubbed raw of revival
no sparks enough for flames—
I am too tired to promise I’ll wait
faithful for another dawn.
You are more in love with saving the fire
than actually keeping us
warm and free from that frost that hangs
on branches above our heads—
it’s been itching at us for years.
I’m going inside the house now,
I will leave the door unlocked
but I won’t leave it open.
I won’t call out to you again.
My words caught in cold breath
as I pull off wet feet,
hang them on wires
stretching for decades.
Say goodbye in white crystal
particles drifting into the black.
First published in The Rainbow Journal (November 2014)
It’s the last thread
that’s so hard to cut
The chain’s long broken
the rope’s been unraveled
I’ve swum against the currents
I’ve surfaced near the shore
The thin line’s still tangled
through ocean tide hair
It pulls out slow and shining
like a timeline of a story
so I tie it in a bow
around my finger tight
where I’ve been
Write about important things
things that move me
things that crush me
Write about hurricanes
the earthquakes of my soul
It’s the grit beneath
it’s the cartilage in
I am driven to expose it
to pull it out
hold it up
to the light
I am only the messenger
of all the beauty
underneath the common face
beauty in the unheard voice
I hear it
I draw the letters
to form the words
to give it name
First published in Hedgerow: A Journal of Small Poems.
A poem I wrote for my niece to welcome her into womanhood.
Because I know he is home-seeking and hungry.
Because I see the fragility of eight legs holding tight to porcelain.
Because I once needed to be scooped up from drowning
showers to sunlit window panes.Because when I was nine, I had to break into our motel room on
a Friday night after church.Because my mom forgot to pick me up, but I knew she was just
sleeping inside.Because I didn’t have a key and I was sure she’d be right back.
Because the windows were slats of louvered glass, I could pull
them apart and lay them gently on the asphalt driveway.Because I was small, could slide between three removed slats, and
land on a mattressed floor.Because I’d rather sleep alone in a tiny motel room with navy-blue
carpeted halls leading to the tenants’ communal bathroom.
Because calling my father
was not an alternative.Because I knew my mother would come home soon even after I fell
asleep under a curtain of blankets.Because I knew if I was quiet I could be safe enough.
Because I couldn’t have driven myself home from church or climbed
up the window alone.Because someone had to scoop me up to push me through it.
First published in Gutters & Alleyways: Perspective on Poverty and Struggle.
Seas of us stretch like solar
systems. On all sides
she threads charcoal death.
Space between stars is space
between islands circled in gray.
Here, even air sinks heavy
into broken-hearted eyes.
I swim from the island of highways
and high-rises to the island
of roadless hills. Neighbored only
by sea nymphs and forever sky.
Dead wind whips like anger,
like sunrise, like avalanche.
If you stand at her edge, you must stare
right into her eyes and clench your fists.
Stand at the highest point turning
from the sea of gray to the sea of green
to the sea of gray to the sea of green
to the sea of
the universe of stars.
First published in San Pedro River Review
When you rise early from your wide bed
pull on your long pants, brush your porcelain teeth,
do you also decide to fill your mouth with pebbles
stuff them into your cheeks for stoning small children?
When you gather the keys to your reliable car,
drink your coffee, eat your toast and eggs,
do you then grab your territorial pissing sign,
join others pushing buses full of babies off the road?
When you kiss your mop-haired children goodnight,
stroke their cool foreheads, wish them quiet dreams,
do you tell them of slashing plastic jugs of water,
pouring it out into sand like a narrow-eyed bully?
When you brush off the knees of your own fallen children,
teach them to be fair and kind, grow up strong,
do you tell them how you dream of kicking the skins
of skinny brown legs, barely able to stand?
First published in Gutters & Alleyways: Perspectives on Poverty and Struggle 2014
*On July 2, 2014, dozens of protesters in Murrieta, CA, blocked 3 buses of refugee women and children from being processed in their facilities. In 2012, the humanitarian group No More Deaths documented border patrol officers kicking, slashing, and pouring out jugs of water left for desert crossers.
You are the mistake I want to make
I will wrap myself in your red flags
and let you peel them off
one silk layer at a time
You are the regret I want to have
I’ll bind you in my caution tape
lay on a bed of warning signs
cold metal against warm skin
cools your burning in my eyes
You are the fucked up mess
I want to roll around in
like a mud happy dog
drenched in your scent
I will not shake you out
How do you unsense me?
(First published in East Jasmine Review)
They changed the spelling of my name—
too many vowels—when they crossed the ocean.
Maybe that’s when France was severed from me,
my father’s name simplified to the basic sounds.
It carried nothing of its history, no region or dialect,
just letters on a page that claimed I was his daughter.
Distant traces of Parisian ancestry,
to layers of circling city streets and rolling country hills,
to some thick summer air lingering
across vineyards and farmlands,
I’ve felt nothing for her.
As if vowels lost were codes in my DNA
spliced by some genetic scientist
leaving me a stranger to my own name.
I’ve never felt those ancestral threads
pulling me back in time, discover the land
of a name that never existed on its soil.
I have no love for my paternity.
Even through a Canadian migration,
through a western reach and down to California,
there is no curiosity in her truth.
I write only five letters of my American name,
five letters I have defined and redefined
a thousand times and again.
I know more of Mexico—my neighbor
who has fed me my whole life.
I know more of Long Beach—its long avenues
and dimly lit streets. I know more
of California—not the one on TV—
but the long Pacific Coast, the cliffs of Highway 101,
the endless sky of the 5 and its pink dawn
across thousands of farmlands and
hundreds of thick summer nights,
the progression of her cities, young but in love
with all of us—rich and poor,
the Britneys and the Caesars, the Tyrones
and the Isabellas, the been-theres and the dreamers.
She is my sister and my ancestor,
we create our own motherland. I’ve never
been lost to her once.
First published in The Bastille.