Girls of twelve know curiosity, toying with petals between their fingers and in their hair. Plucking slowly, testing he loves me, he loves me not. Playing with flowers until they look just right. In the mirror, decorations of pink and purple and red. In the flesh, girls of twelve know bruising and with the most flexible ribbons, stitch the wounds. Fruit remains sore, but human flesh heals. Wilting can wait for a more natural dehydration.
I exploded into shambles on the bus.
And I don’t feel like writing. Or I do,
but it seems I have little to say that’s worth
Suppose one gets into the habit of writing
whatever arises to the surface –any emotion
that makes itself known, or any thought.
What sort of jumble would that make?
What sort of worth would such a collection of bubbles have?
And that’s what they are –these
emotions/ thoughts –bubbles!
Easy to make and easy to pop. Easy to vanish.
So suppose one writes them down,
keeps them somewhere –do they still pop? Or
do they harden over time –increase in permanence?
And at that point, supposing
they do harden –is it beautiful sea foam, gathered
on the banks of a person’s psyche at dawn…
or is it soap scum, hard to scrub off the bathroom
walls of one’s insanity?
I like to keep
these spaces –walls, shorelines –clean,
But suppose poetry never comes.
Is it any good then
to keep them clean –waiting in limbo
for inspiration that may never arrive?
I exploded into tears on the bus ride home
–and while buying my quesadilla for lunch
–and while walking to the park. I guess I cry all the time.
–And people were watching!
Maybe most looked away.
Others smiled sympathetically.
One man on the bus, perhaps uncomfortable,
started to tell his wife, who was staring at me,
about a man who was accidentally
run over by a subway train –if that’s even possible
–and survived. I felt like he was trying to
change the subject, even though no one
was engaged with anyone else in the vicinity
before he began his storytelling.
Suppose one starts to cry on the bus
ride home, little bubbles from earlier dismissed pains
bursting all at once and forming a hot,
stinging, overflowing liquid.
Are the walls
–do they remain empty then?
And as she walked away, trailing a line of pigeons,
he swore he almost saw her chase after one
that flew away. But he blinked, and she
her dry paces
echoing off the pavement.
The bird was a blot of ink
in the parchment of the sky.
Armed with one defensive tactic,
I am a millipede
curled upon a palm.
A thousand scratchy legs
and thin protein shell
shielding my buggy viscera.
Patience lulls me into a sense
of security, eases the hold
around my gooey affections.
I will unfold segment by segment,
crawl with increasing curiosity
along the outlines of your fingers.
It should tickle,
this tentative journey
across your life, love, health lines.
And maybe you will recoil then,
as children do, mimicking adults,
squirming at the sight of strange insects.
Or maybe you will chuckle,
your whole belly,
beguiled flesh, a rumble.
Notes From My Brother’s Autopsy
My brother does not sit
At the head of the table.
He is not king, but court jester
He does not always wear the three points
But should my brother die before me,
I would like to be present at his autopsy.
I will weep until my eyes fall out
And they can give me his sight instead.
They will find
Embedded in his brain
Of water in dreams.
They will find
Fossilized on his heart
Names of all the girls
He has loved
But never kissed.
They will find
Clinging to his lungs
That if blown into wind,
Will hunt and plant themselves
Into the palms of children
Who tickle pianos and doodle on
Apple of my heart,
Rey de mis ojos, hombros, y puños.
The papers might read that he died
Of illness or accident.
But the coroner will look at me,
And he will know,
And I will know,
Death by awe is hardly disease
We do a cosmic dance in the streets,
choreographed paths fluidly intersecting, winding,
missing one another.
Legs carry my body with
moist, heavy footfalls.
I am doubting if I ever learned to walk
in my childhood living room,
tripping over toys.
Along the water, smudged
between currents and pathway,
She rests by the river.
She is a baby.
Swaddled in sunlight,
blankets of newspaper,
Sweat beads sliding off her
shiny brown forehead.
I cannot see her face.
It is covered, too.
Perhaps it is better this way,
without more visuals to solidify
her bedroom on the gravel.
It is enough to witness
the unkemptness of her hair,
falling in feminine tousles around her ears,
dirt lining her wrinkled garments.
He told me a story
I had not heard before,
about how he was held
at gunpoint. My father.
My father, who used to read me
Held there, his first day in the city.
Threatened by a pimp,
locked into a thrift store,
I imagine his shirt see-through,
soaked in fear.
Present for my first words,
absent for much of the rest.
But he is here now
And I am trying
to not truncate this person’s history
at the point I began to exist.
We are water in bottles
half empty, half full,
crumpled in garbage cans,
or tightly gripped in fists,
our bodies shaped by vessels
or spilling out of them,
our tears condensing.
Lost & Found in Gramercy
To the wet black feather boa,
abandoned in the Bermuda triangle of these
three points: a messy last-minute Saturday purchase
(other items on the shopping list being
minty gum, eyeliner, sequins,
some toilet paper), Halloween on a Monday, and
Sunday’s steady stream of footfalls
from faceless passersby.
Where people rush back and forth so many times
you can’t be sure if you’re seeing them
or just hearing their echoes
A few of these paces are mine
As I follow my usual path to work.
I pour coffee in small-medium-large cups, paper,
to customers who forget their coats
hanging on the backs of their chairs,
like discarded exoskeletons of cicadas on tree bark.
Somebody wore you around her neck and haphazardly,
maybe while running to get the bus or slipping
off the shoulder of a more sober friend,
let you slide to the gum-stained concrete and rest there
to pickle in the rain,
down shearing between boots and sidewalk.
Black feather boa, I believe your beauty.
Stare long enough at anything
and you can find beauty. It’s there -
Like the coy image of a rose embedded in a red and pink stereogram
Like the love poem hurriedly written on the edge of page 235
of an introductory biology textbook
misplaced in the “for donation” box at the end of term,
picked up years later, resuscitated
in the feeble heart of someone recently dumped
Like the one moment of tenderness shared 37 years ago
between Gerald, the registered sex offender
who just moved in next door,
as a child and his father, Peter,
on a frigid day at the schoolyard.
It started to snow so Peter
folded his son into his coat to block him from the breeze
then disappeared forever,
imprinting his warmth and smell of cigars
in the space Gerald’s skin and his loneliness share
if you keep looking, just
A man with a mouth
once asked me if I thought
some patch of earth
one square inch even
a teensy wee little smidgen of land existed
where no one has ever set their big toe?
Yes, I do. Soil is not a one-time-use
It breaks down,
Page 235 reads:
It unnerves me when
Every day I realize
Your arrangement is new.