2010s · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

The Lost Vowels

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.

2010s · Anchors (Poetry with Music) · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry · Recordings · The Unnamed Algorithm

Love Letter No.1: To My Pit-Bull Self

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,
abandoned apartments
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
for more

2-3-14
Originally published in Silver Birch Press, Self-Portrait Series.
Also listen on Soundcloud.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

View at 4 A.M.

You, a landscape sloping
down into soft valleys
where I trace your bare
terrain outlined in moonlight,
I rest on your dark side
how you speak clearest
in silence still as mountain tops
I, lying in your slant night,
an eager traveler pulling
at your dawn, sunrise us—
turn and move earth in me.

First published in Cliterature.

2010s · Anchors (Poetry with Music) · Poetry · Recordings · The Unnamed Algorithm

If I Ever Have Children

If I ever have children
they will never know me in my thirties
the woman checking it off
all the things-to-do
like a master’s degree
and home buying
like falling in love completely
and writing a book of how it ends
finding new community
and loving her whole body flawed
flinging open all the doors
and surrendering to the unknown next

If I ever have children
they will never know me in my twenties
the woman fighting against it
to save her own soul
find her own belief in God
and lose her given self
venture out from community
live alone, love alone
sort through the old baggage
give them names and abandon them
find focus for talents and energies
and heal the damage at all costs

If I ever have children
they will never know me in my teens
young girl trying masks
on and off each year
like too many friends
and partying far too young
like black dyed-hair and boots
sinking down through the cracks
sharp turn into a Christian life
and a radical-faced community
stepping through the windows
where she’d press her face to the glass

If I ever have children
they will never know me as a child
a broken girl holding
a green Picasso heart
running with one parent from the other
always leaving school early
memories in paper bags stashed
in the trunk of a broken-down car
with walk-in closets for the skeletons
and attics for hiding and running free
words swallowed in torn pieces
forcing her destiny as a poet

 

Originally published in The Mayo Review, also included in The Unnamed Algorithm.
Listen to the poem on SoundCloud, from Anchors CD.

2010s · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

White Sandals

A ten year old girl
stood in the alleyway

in white buckled sandals
that made her feel too tall—

like someone twelve not ten
like someone more carefree,

sandals for a girl who could just
be a girl and not—

one begging her mother not
to walk away,

pleading her only parent to stop
going farther down

into the alleyway dark.
Heels slightly wobble and tilt

on bare red ankles
on ten year old legs

always ready to run.

4-20-13
(Originally published in Disorder: Mental Illness and Its Affects)

2014 · Books · Publications · The Unnamed Algorithm

The Unnamed Algorithm

Unnamed Algorithm PB Cover copyIn the spirit of Christmas, I decided to put together a new chapbook from many of the poems I had published in 2014 for my friends and family. The title comes from the first poem in the book, “Love Letter No. 1: To My Pit-Bull Self”. Most people don’t know how mathematically my mind actually operates. At the same time, I rely on my intuition daily. I do not see them as contradicting.  I see it as an automatic calculated procedure, or algorithm, my brain carries out to make many decisions the same way we breathe without having to tell ourselves to breathe. I have grown to depend on this more and more as I have Life less and less planned out. The cover art, by the ridiculously talented Fernando Gallegos, is a spiral staircase which also has mathematical meaning and beauty.

It’s a small chapbook with only 28 pages. I have some limited edition copies with a vellum-layered cover available by special request or in person. The perfect bound, matte cover version will be available through the Sadie Girl Press website soon.

2010s · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

The First Her

It’s always dusk or dawn
in my memory. When I open my eyes,
she smiles or I see laughter in the house
though I know those days were heavy
with labor. She does laundry
in the kitchen while she cooks me eggs.
I will always eat my vegetables for her.
She always moves across this
dimly lit room. If I watch her longer,
the sun must go down. It gets
very dark for days, dark for years.
I can hear her hum, though I never
remembered her humming.
I am so small and hate to have
my hair brushed. She is every
thing that connects me
to this earth. She gives me
folded clothes to put away: my rainbow
t-shirt sparkling glitter in my hands.
Her long straight hair is perfect,
a hippie part down the middle,
always pulled back in a loose ponytail.
I remember plants in the window sills,
long green and yellow leaves.
I don’t remember how
she cared for them.
She cleans other
people’s houses, burns
her hands on the chemicals.
I will climb her ladders,
I will hold her razor blades
on my fingertips. No one
will notice these scars until I show them.

4-26-14
First published in East Jasmine Review.

2010s · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

Not Sleeping

I can't keep
not sleeping at night
I can't keep
letting all those
        open cupboard doors
pull my shoulder blades
I can't keep
hoping for that miracle
        change black tea
        into coffee and cream
I can't keep 
recycling those words
        said and unsaid
replies and responses
never meet resolution
I can't keep
my head full of bees
whispering why
        it doesn't matter
        it never matters
I can't keep
eating the edges of my cuticles
it won't grow flat
I can't keep
my ear to my gut
it's holding on to a secret
        I'm listening
        it's not telling
I can't keep
waiting by the phone
waiting for that email
        to make it right
it will never be right
I can't keep
saying I don't mind
I get it-I understand
        I don't
I can't keep
not surrendering to anything
since the switch flipped
        it got broke
        I can't switch it back
I can't keep
a single person as ideal
as I have loved them
        stop idealizing
I can't keep
all the names off my lips
they push out daily
        hourly I form them
        my mouth aches
I can't keep
this pencil moving
        its eraser is shrinking
there's more mistakes to make
I can't keep
presuming the road's closed
my feet are swelling
        until it hurts to walk
        but I walk anyway
I can't keep
listening to the air in my lungs
rub against my nostrils
        I hear myself living
        I need to be sleeping
 
4-16-13
First Published in Something’s Brewing, Kind of a Hurricane Press (April 2014)
2010s · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

Child of the Alleyway

We were five, sometimes more,
in a one-bedroom duplex
with its back turned away
from the street. We made
it work, split the space

with my brother in the laundry,
and a cloth foldout couch.
We had two dogs and two cats
so the house was never empty.
I knew well the back ends

of other people’s houses,
apartments and wood fences,
gardens and add-on porches.
Telephone poles like redwoods
stood in a forest of garage doors

and parking spaces, while
sunlight and shadows played
hide-and-seek across the sky.
On holidays like Thanksgiving,
food drive cans of green beans,

cranberries and yellow corn,
and boxes of instant mashed potatoes
landed on our back-front porch,
three brown steps, peeling paint
peeling wood from white washed walls.

We painted the kitchen red
with forest green trim, so
it always felt like Christmas
underneath the long wires
across much taller buildings.

Originally appeared in Ishaan Literary Review.

2010s · 2014 · Poetry · Publications · The Unnamed Algorithm

January 1991

In the bathroom of that old theater
is where it started for us.
You stood by the sink
and we met eyes through the mirror.
I had cut my hair short,
dyed my blond hair black.
You were so heavy metal
with your endless platinum hair
and black suede boots with fringe
that made me resist you.
But I kept hearing rumors
that you liked my favorite bands
like The Cure and even Scattered Few.
You were my age
and the same height as me,
we were both on the threshold
of becoming women,
of defining our future selves.
Back in nineteen ninety-one
we’d come for the same reason
to hear the bands pour their hearts out
to bare their souls on the stage.
You must have understood it
the need to feel it raw
the bloody heart pulsing.
I looked through the mirror at you
in that bathroom in January,
the decade still fresh and undefined.
We talked about the band
the way we always would.
You smiled with uncertainty,
I smiled back in my arrogance.

Originally published on Cadence Collective