Before Bjork was known for being Bjork, she was a co-singer for the band The Sugarcubes. Even then, she stood out as what made the band worth listening to. For me, the songs were all little bazaar delights. Bjork has a way of making dissonance feel like a hug. Birthday felt like the songs I was warned about, seductive, entrancing, and lots of twisted. In 1989, I got to see them live at what was once called Irvine Meadows. They opened up for PIL and New Order. It was the very first big name concert I ever saw.
for not being
for not laughing
at all your jokes
and if I put my hand
on your shoulder
it will not be an invitation
if my fingers linger
which they will not
you will not have the rights to me
to my round parts
to my fullness
against your bare bones
I will not apologize
for not being
and fist clenched
my gaze always at the door
on the clock
for you to learn
my name is not prey
First published in Al-Kemia Poetica.
Long before the internet, the way we often discovered music was word of mouth. Like so much of my music obsessions, Cat Stevens was recommended by a guy I had a crush on. Now my life story could not be told without including his music. He felt like the father figure I never had. Whatever people felt about his personal life choices, his songs were a beautiful masculinity that the world is in desperate need of today. All his songs were stories of people and places I wanted to know. I spent years finding as many of his albums as I could on record. A lot of music loses its relevance over time, but Cat Stevens music is, for me, beyond time.
When I dance for you and our knees brush at the bar, we begin to forget. The more I think about the space inside your coat, the more you learn the names of my favorite drinks, we stop saying them. Words like wife. Words like marriage. We become teenage-nervous where mouths cannot form words like separation. All I know is giggle and heart-dotted-i’s. We are back at the edge of unknowing. Where our grownup selves are strangers we might not want to meet. You use the word awkward when I give you a book on a poet’s divorce. You are a teenaged father all over again. Except your children are leaving now, one-by-one. You regress a decade for each one. If I am fifteen and you are seventeen, sitting in my living room listening to records, maybe we also forget the word husband. You are just a boy with grown man scars. I am only a girl biting my nails, chewing at the cuticles, wishing that boy would lean down and kiss me, but fearing. Fearing if he does, it means we need more words for you and me. And if you hold my hand, are we steady? If I wear your coat wrapped around me in the dark, what will be a word for that?
First published in Whiskey Fish Review.
I’m excited to have my first feature in almost 6 months. Friday, April 19th at 7 pm.
This is the 3rd night of the 2019 edition of this reading series, which happens (usually) every first Friday of the month at Viento y Agua Coffee House,4007 E. 4th St. in Long Beach. I’ll be joined by Alexandria Espinoza and more TBA. As always, the first 10 minutes will be an Open Mic, and then there will be our featured readers as well as with your host, Alan Passman for a little Q&A.
I remembered a friend giving me a copy of Scatered Few’s demo tape some time in 1990 or so. While I was delving into the world of Christian alternative music, I was craving music that sang to the dark spaces in my heart. Then came Sin disease. It was like nothing I had heard before in any music realm. Their music was piercing, spastic, intense, twisty, and smart. Then, I saw them play live. I feel lucky to have lived in the time and place I did. I don’t know how many times I got to see them play, but they were never imitated.
Before he left, she offered a box of light
a spectrum of color against his black;
red scraped from her pulsing veins
orange plucked from her sunset sky
yellow combed out from her morning hair
green cut from the edge of her irises
blue pulled from the song in her ears
indigo peeled from her darkest night
and violet picked from her truest words.
She tied them with her blind-heart kisses
and let him steal her rainbowed sky.
Let him pour them out into his grays—
let him remember her only in this way.
First published in The Bastille.
Carole King’s Tapestry album makes me feel nostalgic for the childhood I was meant to have. Her songs make me feel like a familiar friend, a warm blanket, and the epitome of a woman who knows her voice. I didn’t discover her until later in my teens, but Tapestry became required listening on any rainy day.
Street lights pass one-two-three-four
light-dark, light-dark, one-two-three
white dim passing car windows three-four
left hand on the steering wheel two-three
right hand in mine one-two your night lit face
glows, flickers two-three-four dark calm
in your eyes caught tree shadows reaching
one-two across your face three-four
for days two-three I kissed you in the dark
one-two you turn the wheel slow three-four
my hips press towards you one-two
left arm against your right, you squeeze
two-three tighter between my fingers
three-four I see beauty in your shadows
one-two you whisper, “I’m lost” two-three
you slow brake one-two-three draw S.O.S.
on dirty glass three-four my feet press
against the floor two-three I whisper back
two-three-four I’m here one-two right here
First published in Spectrum 7: What’s Your Heaven?
No 80s child escaped the draw of Depeche Mode. They were dark, they were pop, they were androgynous, they’re music was so damn catchy. They became their own genre of music, often imitated. As much as young me wanted to resist them because of their popularity, they’re songs were so easy to sing along to. Black Celebration was this album full of hypnotic beats and angsty lyrics. I related. The volume always in increased times ten when the final anthemic song, But Not Tonight, came on.