2010s · Poetry

All The Ways I Love You

I was excited to meet you.
You would be more like me.
All those years being yanked
from one place to the next,
being pulled out of school early
means I wasn’t coming back.
I can’t remember the names
of my teachers, but I can recite
cities like family members.

Then I met you, Long Beach,
the city of everything,
of Cambodia and Mexico,
of apartments spilling bodies
in the streets, spilling ranchero melodies
and clicking tongues full of Vietnam.
My color was a minority.
My clothes from donated boxes
did not flinch you—
you with your narrow alleyways
and grubby-cheeked children.

I was at home before I knew
how long I’d stay. I knew you
were like me, born of struggle
and sitting on windowsills staring
out at distant city lights.

Even when we got a new father
and lived among your riverside homes,
it was all wrong like me.
Concrete banks dressed in graffiti.

Wilderness trails where teenage boys
played war around stained mattresses
left by public refugees.

I became a woman in your sunlight.
I never had to deserve you.

You knew all my names,
even when I left you.
I tried to be the golden boardwalks
of Hermosa and Redondo
but they pushed me out
to the gum-stained sidewalks
of Lawndale, where train tracks
drew lines between me and him,
where girls like me paid their own way
through city college.

Then he left me for Westwood,
a place I could never see
my own stark reflection,
so I came home to you,
and the best skin of you.

I wore my new clothes here
on all your borders north
and south, and east and west.
All your contradictions sang
like love songs, even when for years
I was only your mistress.

Other cities have soccer moms
and radio-friendly punk rock,
winter tans and French manicures,

but I know, even they find a place
in your diagonals, your Wardlows
that cross both apartment projects
and gated communities.

I will grow old here, far from your shore.
Even though I bought a house
next to the tracks again, your tracks
comfort me—not division but connection,
a literal line of how close we are,
side-by-side, lying in the lap of you.

First published in Cadence Collective.

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.

2010s · Poetry

Murrieta

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.

Events · Special Projects

NCCP Book Club

10994052_10152805053308795_684068183026255786_n This is really a thing I am doing. Nancy Lynée Woo and I are part of a book club discussion from the National Center for Children in Poverty, which chose our book, Gutter & Alleyways: Perspectives on Poverty and Struggle. Sometimes I still feel like that girl living on the constant edge of chaos, fighting to survive. Then I see this photo of grown up me, all together and stuff. If you have the time to join the discussion on March 18th (11:00 am Pacific Time), I would be honored to share this moment with you. Follow this link to register nccp.org/bookclub.html. It’s not too late to order your copy of the book in time for the discussion if you haven’t already. sadiegirlpress.com/bookstore

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)

Events · Special Projects

Lucid Moose Lit on ArtistFirst Radio

My poetry partner, Nancy Lynée Woo, was interviewed recently by Maxine Thompson on Artists First. She talks about the press we co-founded, Lucid Moose Lit, and the anthology Gutters & Alleyways (also being featured at the reading I co-host next Monday at Gatsby Books). She explains how we collaborated on the project and our mutual experiences on poverty. She also does a beautiful job reading a poem I wrote for the anthology, “Why I Can’t Kill Daddy Long Legs Hiding in My Shower Curtain”. Listen to the interview and learn a bit more about our poetry partnership and press.

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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.

Events · Feature Readings · Publications · Special Projects

Gutters & Alleyways Book Launch

I am extremely excited about releasing this beautiful anthology, Gutters & Alleyways: Perspectives on Poverty and Struggle, with  Nancy Lynée Woo through out joint social justice project, Lucid Moose Lit. If you live in the area, come out to our event on Sunday, September 28th! RSVP on Facebook for more details.

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Events · Feature Readings

Indiegogo for Gutters & Alleyways

Nancy Lynee Woo and I have been working on an exciting project called Gutters & Alleyways: Perspectives on Poverty and Struggle and it’s getting closer to being complete. It’s part of Lucid Moose Lit, which is dedicated to social justice issues. We have a release date of September 28th to coincide with the 100 Thousand Poets for Change global event. It includes over 80 contributors from all over. There are a lot of expenses involved with this project, the greatest of which is printing and shipping over 80 contributors copies. We started an Indiegogo campaign to help with some of the costs and if anyone is interested, please take a minute to check it out!
Click on the Indiegogo link here or copy and paste this: http://igg.me/at/LucidMooseLit

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2014 · Events · Publications

Gutters and Alleyways: Perspectives on Poverty and Struggle

I am working with my partner in poetry, Nancy Lynée Woo, on a project called “Gutters and Alleyways: Perspectives on Poverty and Struggle“. We are creating a perfect bound print anthology of poetry, prose, and art based on experiences in poverty. This project has been on our minds for several months, and we are now pushing it forward full force! This will be published under Lucid Moose Lit, a press focused on social justice issues, which already has new ideas itching to be born. If you have poetry, prose, or art demonstrating a perspective on poverty, please check out the link for more details. The deadline is fast approaching, July 15th!!

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