2010s · Poetry

Drawing Maps for the Lost

I learned the names of all my family demons
gave them faces instead of shadowing ache
bottled them in jars of science
labeled, set in rows on the shelf
But the devil,

I sat down for dinnerfed him chicken soup for his soul
He drank for days and months
and now, we live like roommates
share the kitchen and household chores

I am not naive—
I know his claws are sharp
and his teeth still bleed
I sleep now
with only a pen at my bedside

But always leave a light on
in case he feeds       on the dark

First published in East Jasmine Review.

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17 Poems Not About a Lover · 2010s · Poetry

Gill Growing

I will give to you my lifesaver. You who are sinking in the ocean
alone. I didn’t see you diving over the edge, but you say you want
to sink under, feel the weight of ocean crush your chest. I know it
gets exhausting. I know because when I dove down as deep, I grew
gills. It was dark for so many years I stopped believing in sunlight.
Breath is memory. You will remember how music makes you dance,
but water keeps it from you. You can’t move through currents like
hallways. You, gill growing boy. I keep throwing down ropes but you
are not done sinking. You still need the weight, so I will wait for you.
Watch you from the surface while you walk ocean. I don’t know
when your arms will grow strong enough to pull yourself up, so I
give you my pen. Write me letters. Send them up on rays of sunlight.
I will keep them at my heart until you are ready to surface.

First published in Paper Plane Pilots.

2010s · Poetry

Fruit of Your Offspring

You were so damn handsome
in nineteen forty-two.
Dark hair and brown eyes
and that long Swedish nose.
You always stood upright,
taller than your own frame,
Navy man in an impeccable uniform.
Your native tongue was Testament
both the Old and the New,
always dressed in humble blue jeans
and that humble plaid shirt.

I was enamored with you—
we all were, the fruit of your offspring.
I laid at your feet and
pulled on your long eyelids.
The silver-gray brows hung like
eaves from your Swedish forehead.
You taught me calculator tricks,
I thought you brilliant and soft-spoken.
I loved the way your words trickled
out like a creaky faucet,
vowels lingering around the spigot.

I never believed in Santa Claus
so I believed in you,
in a man of few words
except what Jesus spoke.
When I remembered you,
you lived in a trailer-shack
on an orphanage in Mexico.
We would drive four hours
to see your leathered hands
and oil stained fingernails.

Then I grew up, just like three
of your five daughters.
I became a boy-kissing girl
with breasts and summer legs.
(Did they all disappoint you like this?)

The man who married your middle
child gave me his green eyes and more
than half of my bad memories.
So I looked to you to show me
your God’s unconditional love,
but you had no words—
I could not make you creak.
Instead you typed letters
on a silver-gray typewriter,
single and mechanically spaced.

There is no treasure here on Earth
but store all your treasure in Heaven.
Love not this world or anything in it.
Love not the woman who wants to be held.
Love not the girl who wants to wear lipstick.
Love not those who want to love this life,
who love their physical bodies,
and the pleasures of this Earth.

Ten typed pages sent as a reply—
verse by verse you sentenced me
to my worldly life, an unchosen child.
Love me not, my holy grandfather
for I was born the child of your daughter
who also once believed in you.

So, I turned your faucet off tight—
we all did. Your spigot left dark and dry.

Previously Published in Elsewhere Lit.

2010s · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

Yellow

I am seven
yellow-blonde girl
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
yellow-blonde hair
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.

2010s · Poetry

Why I Can’t Kill Daddy Longlegs Hiding in My Shower Curtain

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.

2014 · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

The First Him

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.

2015 · Publications

Yellow Chair Review

yellow chair Very excited to have a poem published in the newest issue of Yellow Chair Review! “Oil-Black” is one about my grandfather I wrote shortly after his death last year. I had the hardest time setting on revisions for this poem, but decided it was time to send it out into the world. There are many fine poems in this issue, including one from my friend, Jeri Thompson. Enjoy!

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.