I am seven
with missing teeth
wearing someone else’s clothes
I smile for the camera
I don’t remember
where I am
there are so many rooms
so many stops
I am never there long enough
to know if I will miss it
I keep following my mother
my brother, too, in the car
we drive for days and months
I forget the names
of all my teachers
just shadows of school yards
they say I need glasses
I have too many absences
I think this is normal
don’t all children hold secrets
like packs of gum
at the bottom of their pockets
I love my mother
I believe her implicitly
I walk in my sleep
in every different house
to find her
I am empty without her
so we keep our clothes in bags
and in the car
they are my sister’s clothes
or someone else who outgrew them
she cuts my hair short
to get rid of the lice
it’s up past my ears
I cry like a widow
corpses lying under my chair
I can go back to school now
the fourth one this year
twenty years later
I will return here
it will be so much smaller
the rooms will have moved
and ghosts of yellow-blonde hair
will wander in the shadows
of school yards
First Published in Elsewhere Lit.
Our words swing from threads
across our chest. They pull,
unraveling thin lines into
a soft jagged mess.
Some of you fight it,
snip those frays clean,
tuck in all the evidence.
Some dig fingers deep
wearing fringe coats
long into summer nights.
I know a poet when I see
your words dangling,
dragging, spilling like
out from our pockets.
First published in Uno Kudo.
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)
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.
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)
when sun falls in dim slants
through holes in thin curtains
you can see the universe of dust
they have not traveled here
but revealed by narrow sunbeams
in the quiet light of morning
suddenly, I am afraid to breathe
the enormity of it
billions of particles floating
hovering like microscopic gnats
when I see them swarming
I can’t let them in my lungs
molecules of dead skin and ash
lit up as thick as stars flickering
landing in my living room
I can’t tell anyone how
we are always swallowing
parts of each other
I have to keep it secret
so I open up the curtains wide
for ancient light to swallow
this exact moment in time
and deliver it to the past
First published in East Jasmine Review.
It’s home movies on a reel-to-reel.
Light is always dim, pouring in
from thin covered windows.
He is carpenter, framing houses.
Long days in the sun tan his skin,
make him sleep late on weekends.
We play Ambulance anytime I bump my head,
scrape my shin. He lifts me over his shoulders
and mocks sirens rushing hurried to hospitals.
He lays me down like a patient and makes me giggle,
fingertips under the arms, across the belly.
For seconds, I forget.
I am a laughing four-year-old unafraid.
Until I am not. Until the looming frame of him
scrapes ceilings, pulls in the weight of rooftops
down into the darkest room, windows covered thick.
He does not lock his door. I play the secret game
of Find the place he is not. Stay quiet enough
and he won’t see you close the door.
He will not call after you.
Scratches flicker across film spliced memories
as the reel hums, tick-tick-tick-tick-tick.
First appeared 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.
I love the teeth of your love
how you pit-bull deep
into the flesh of loving
How you make shrines
in the empty spaces,
Shrines to former residents
of borrowed books and toiletries
envelopes full of photographs
and letters in pen
How you never fill
the same space with new
but keep building out
expand the frames and floors
How you know when to change the locks
and when to nail it shut
I love how you calculate
estimate the risk
How you trust
the unnamed algorithm
the intuitive push, flashing “Yes,
love this one, let that one in!”
How soft your wrought-iron grip
holds every name tight
each face, its own story
each moment, a glass in your pane
How you refuse to argue
about the wrong
or right way to love
I love how so much of it matters
how you will forgive
as many times
as they will call
and ask for it
How you defend this weakness
with the expense of wasted time
Your time-to-give being
your love currency
not words, not gifts,
not your doing-for-me
But your minutes and hours
your speak to me, eat with me
your listen and watch with me
sit in this space of air
I breathe with me is love
I love how love-greedy you get
How you collect time
and stuff it in bags and boxes
shove it on shelves, in closets
covering walls, blocking doorways
in empty apartments
You guard-dog this house
an unapologetic hoarder
How you refuse to purge it
refuse to loosen your grip
Set shrines in windowsills
light blood candles
There is always room
Originally published in Silver Birch Press, Self-Portrait Series.
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