The sky is grey,

Tall buildings all around

My eyes turn to the girl,

the girl walking alone

down the street.


I’m invisible.


Through the rain

she walks,

Hood of her jacket

thrust back.


I’m invisible.


She stops,


at something that’s

not there,

Does she see



I’m invisible.


She walks on,

her eyes


But she saw



I’m invisible.


They don’t want

to see


So they don’t.

No one does.


I’m invisible.


But she saw


She knows

And that’s


Washington Square

A cigarette butt lies next to my foot, still emitting a trace of smoke. Nearby on the dusty asphalt a pigeon waddles self-consciously, bobbing its head as if pecking the air for some invisible food. A squirrel churrs a threat to his brother, challenging him to romp.

The walkway before me never becomes silent. A buzz of voices blends with the city soundscape of cars driving and trucks backing, swingsets squealing and sparrows chirping. A toddler, holding tightly to his sister’s stroller, yells “Achtung! Achtung! Achtung!” at a squirrel that crosses two inches from his foot. His mother comforts him, in German. A man sits down on the bench across from me, eyelids dropping on his creased red face as he stirs his cup of coffee.

The bench I sit on is green, painted over years of dents and names scratched in wood. My backpack sits to my left with its main zipper opened just wide enough for me to extract my notebook and pen. At my right is my suitcase. Its pockets are crammed full like the subway this morning, barely room left to breathe, creaking and complaining of the overburdening load.

The subway. A couple of hours ago it brought me here, and soon, I will hike the blocks back to the station, shoulder chafing from the suitcase, and it will bring me to the train station. I’m going home today.

At home, the mountain overshadows our farm in the same way that the thirty-story apartment building a block north overshadows this park. They both recede as they rise, shadowed places standing out against sunlit sides, seeming to hold themselves back from too much involvement with their surroundings. This building stands behind a wall of brick rowhouses like the low hill of alfalfa fields blocks a view of the lower reaches of the mountain.

The rowhouses’ potentially beautiful façade is marred by rusty air-conditioner units and a high trim of metalwork, corroded to a bright green, contrasting with the clean brick and the white window frames. Trees obscure my vision slightly, holding onto their last few dirty-brown leaves. A puff of air, cool enough to make you shiver but too warm for a jacket, rustles them.

Strains of harmonica waft from the park bench opposite me. A street musician of sorts has opened for business, a blue-green flowerpot at his feet. His nearly empty bag is next to him on the bench, surrounded by his array of harmonicas. A contented Labrador Retriever disinterestedly glances toward him, not missing of beat of his lazy gait. “Swing low, sweet chariot…” The man plays each line of music, then sings it. “Coming for to carry me home…”

Two benches to his left, a couple of students eat their lunch. One feeds pigeons that strut in a semicircle around his feet. A sudden crash from a nearby construction site sends every pigeon in the park into flight. Their wings create more noise than the blast that scared them.

A lady sits down next to me, lighting up a cigarette. The noxious gray fumes begin to flow from its burning tip. I think it’s time to leave.


1. Crystal

The elephant,

fragile, distorts the waves

trumbling out of the lamp,

and throws an angry rainbow

on the wall.


The earrings slip

out of the case, their icicles

hang from a screw, and drip light

on your shoulders.


In the valley that the snow cannot reach,

It is cold and dry; the ice on the mountain

Looks down at it and laughs.


2. Window

“You must hurry up if we are to make it.”

I lounge on the chair.


The creatures below carry their light well.

Ants with lanterns, they rush home with food.


At a certain line, the moon bends,

And the stream twists to get a better view of our room.


One creature looks up: me on the chair,

You at the mirror, and we giving them a light from above.


3. Windscreen

Soundless driving. In this cage, we hold

Ourselves together as best we can


By looking at a road… some road, this road.

A dog barks in the distance.

The windscreen does not let me see it.


4. Cup

The wine seeps into the deep red carpet,

And is lost.

The maid cleans up the pieces,


It was not our cup.

Juniper Tree

Upon the sun-beaten hills

In the hot and citric embrace of the wind

Under the benediction of the coyote who loves

—the moon

Sanctioned by the sage and the deer, a quiet

—people without judgement


There dwells the Juniper, Old and gnarled

Arms open in an embrace of the midnight sky

He reaches to the stars in prayer and reverence.

His soft and weathered lips, whispering without



Waiting for the stars to answer back

Waiting for deliverance and absolution


I will miss him, that sad old man who is



Lost in a world of which he is no longer a part and

yet still watches over


You see we are so much alike

My soul and I.

The Viola Lesson

I strolled toward the double glass doors, deliberately kicking at a large spiky chestnut pod as I went. It skidded across the concrete and sent three more spike-balls rolling before toppling over the edge of the ramp. Gazing upward through the branches, which were camouflaged by green and brown splotched clumps of large, tear-drop–shaped leaves, I could see bits of crisp blue autumn sky. I repositioned the strap of my viola case on my shoulder. It’s too bad I can’t stay out here to enjoy the weather. At that thought, I slowed my walk. Why am I nervous? I’m more prepared for my lesson this week than I have been in a long time. The set of doors now loomed ahead of me, and I tugged one of them open, making my way up to the second floor of the building. I knew there was no reason for me to be nervous, but the butterflies flitting around in my stomach didn’t seem to care.

As I approached Dr. Sternberg’s office, his door came clearly into view—I always enjoyed looking at it. The dark wood could barely be seen beneath the dozens of cartoons pasted all over it. There was even a picture of Dr. Sternberg himself, with a carrot protruding from his mouth, and a sign below asking, “Do you know this man?” I smiled and could feel my anxiety floating away. Poking my head through the door, I spotted him working at his computer. Dr. Sternberg was in his mid-thirties, with dark hair and a beard he had just started growing over the summer. He looked up and smiled a greeting, motioning for me to come in. “So how are you doing, Miss Marie?”

“I’m fine,” I replied, closing the door and looking for a spot to set my case. The chair where I normally put it was stacked with papers, and there were orchestra parts, folders, CDs, and violin and viola music scores scattered in piles all over the floor. “How are you?”

“Good,” he said, before guiltily apologizing for the mess. We go through this exact conversation at the start of every lesson, I thought, smiling inwardly. I pushed some of the piles out of the way and laid my case down in the cleared spot. If he feels bad about this mess, then he should see my room—at least his stuff is in piles.

I unzipped my case and began getting my viola out. After clamping the shoulder rest in place and tightening and rosining my bow, I put my music stand in the middle of the room. Dr. Sternberg got up from his desk and came over to see what I had brought. Picking up the music and looking through it, he asked, “What’s on the agenda today—should we work on an etude, or did we do one last week?”

“We did work on one last week,” I began, “but after I played it, we got distracted talking about something else…”

“Imagine that…” he grinned.

I returned the grin and continued, “…and you forgot to give me something new to work on.”

“OK,” he said, scratching his beard and leafing through my etude book. “How about if we skip etudes for this lesson. I’ll put today’s date on this…” he scribbled 11/6 at the top of one page, “…and we’ll do it next week. Is that okay?”

“Sure,”I replied, not bothering to hide the note of happiness in my voice. Not etudes! Yes! This means we get to work on the fun stuff.

“Let’s dive right into the Vanhal then,” he suggested, walking over to his desk.

Nodding, I took a deep breath, prepared myself, and began playing the first movement of the concerto. After the first page I looked up to see if he wanted me to go on. He held up his hand, and I stopped.

“I just can’t figure out what’s going on with your bow hold,” he said. “I couldn’t do what you’re doing if someone held a gun to my head.” Oh, that, I thought. Is it still not right? We had been trying to figure out what my bow hand was doing for weeks but hadn’t been able. Somehow I was managing to keep my first, second, and fourth fingers curved on the bow, while the third finger would straighten itself out.

“Let me start by asking you some questions,” Dr. Sternberg continued. “Is your thumb losing its curve underneath the bow?” He illustrated what he meant on his bow. After trying it for myself, I told him I didn’t think so.

“Well then, do you feel like you are trying to push down with your third finger?” I tried that, too, but it didn’t feel like what I had been doing. He kept on asking me questions, and having me try different things until he suddenly had another idea.

“Try thinking of it as holding the bow with the tips of your fingers.” It worked! “Now play the beginning of the piece again.” I did what he asked and could tell he was getting excited. “What do you think?” he questioned.

“I think it’s better.”

“So do I—your hand looks much looser and more elegant.”

A little later in the same lesson, Dr. Sternberg switched the focus from bow to tone. We were working on a section with some relatively high notes when he asked, “Can you get a really big tone way up there? I don’t think you can do it—not the poor little sister of the violin. It’s just not possible, is it?”

“Yes it is,” I retorted. I could see the humor in his eyes and knew he was trying to get me worked up about it.

“Prove me wrong then,” came his playful challenge.

I put my viola on my shoulder and played, pulling my bow even closer to the bridge. I could feel the vibrations of the string in my bow hand, almost as if it was my hand touching the strings, not the bow. The sound spilled from my viola, rich and pure.

“Good! And you intuitively moved your bow closer to the fingerboard as you shifted back down. That was much better. You’ve practiced more this week, haven’t you?”

I nodded. He noticed a difference! The week before, I had gotten very little practice in, and this last week I had been trying to make up for lost time. It’s amazing what a difference three hours of practice can make.

While I was thinking, I took my viola down from my shoulder. It was then, however, that I realized my hair was caught in the shoulder rest. “You’re really getting ‘attached’ to your viola, aren’t you?” Dr. Sternberg teased.

“Yep,” I agreed, laughing as I tried to untangle it.

After my lesson was over, I walked up to the glass doors again and stepped out through them into the sunlight. The sky was still the same vibrant blue, and the chestnut seed pods still littered the concrete ramp. But there was a new lightness to my step, and a bubble of happiness inside me which felt ready to burst. It was wonderful seeing the progress I was making with Dr. Sternberg’s help. For the past few years, I had wanted so badly to play the viola as well as I could, and being able to see that I really was getting better made me feel light enough to float up among the clounds. I wonder if it works this way all the time? Would knowing I did my best at something, even if others could have done it better, make me feel this way in other areas, too?

Suddenly, I remembered something Dr. Sternberg had told me before. He said he had seen lots of students try to excel at too many things. It usually resulted in them being unable to do their best at anything. So, my thoughts continued, I should pick one thing to do my very best at, and then work hard in the other areas with the time and energy I have left. A smile of understanding slowly spread across my face. Through my lessons, Dr. Sternberg had taught me many things about playing the viola, but what I had just begun to understand was, perhaps, of even greater importance. I realized now that this truth, more than any technique, would allow me to reach my goal of playing the viola to the best of my ability. Sighing happily, I tilted my head upward, breathed in the refreshing fall air, and with a well-aimed departing kick sent half a dozen more spike-balls shooting off the ramp.

This essay was honored with the 2003 Frodo’s Notebook Essay Award in the annual Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Writing Awards.


Someday, this will be mine

This cold salted slab

An extension of myself.

It will crack and freeze,

In the fall it’ll cover

With red and pale orange leaves

In the summer it’ll clutter

With mothers and stroller babies.


I’ll live in these suburban castles,

And kiss my wife goodnight—

A ritual of eightteen years

From our wedding night.

We’ll be fighting our heavy

Eyelids, about half past nine

We’ve got to get up early

We’ll be working nine to five.


I’ll carpet bare floor.

Fine art will cling to my walls.

And I’ll slide the deadbolt

To keep the outside out.

I’ll sit by the brick fire

Reading in its warm light

One of the countless volumes

That my towering bookcase stores.


I’ll be a family man.

I’ll leave bright blue bulbs

Along my fine French doors.

Like harbor reflections of moonlight,

They’ll stay long past the new year

Breaking away the dark night

From my red minivan


And its double sliding doors.

I’ll read to Steve

And ask him what he’ll be;

Then I’ll sing to Suzie

Before sending her to sleep.

I’ll wonder what they’re dreaming,

Their breathing steady and soft;

I’ll lose track of their sizes;

Lord, they used to be so small.


I’ll stand in the warmth behind

My double picture window,

Looking at what I’ve shoveled

A few hours before.

Remember leaning a shovel

On my hardy potbelly

And thinking to myself

“Why’d I do this for?”


And I’ll snap back to my window,

My study light casting a glow.

Then I’ll see him running;

Hooded head sprinkled with snow.

I’ll see his breath

Frozen life, rejoining air,

And I’ll wonder if he

Is the boy I used to be.

Mother Tongue

My name is Jiniku but everyone calls me Joey, including my parents. My father is American but my mother is not. My mother grew up in a country whose name I cannot pronounce correctly. She was educated in French and Latin, Spanish and German, and when she went off to college, she did not learn in her native language. She went to college in Paris, studied in Berlin. She spent a year in Rome and visited Madrid. She wrote letters home to her parents in an alphabet that I cannot read. I believe once her parents died, she never spoke in her native tongue again.

My mother wrote all day, but never showed anyone what she wrote. She had notebooks she would write in, and a typewriter to straighten out the final copy. Once a page was typed, she ripped it from its notebook and lit it with a match. She left it on a flat stone to burn.

When she had typed pages, she put them in a box. This box was deep under the bed that she and my father share. Once, many years ago when I was very young, I went into their room when they were not home and pulled the box out from beneath the bed. I lifted the top and found two neat piles of typewritten pages. One pile was poetry. I lifted the top page and held it before me. It was written in French.

There were many poems and stories in that box, some in Latin, some in Spanish, some in German. I searched through both piles carefully. There were none in her native tongue. There were also none in English.

I closed the lid and never looked in there again.

My mother never spoke in her native tongue after boarding the train that would take her to Paris. At home, she spoke only in English. Who knows what language she thought in.

There were only two words that she ever said in the real voice, with her real accent, real tongue. I heard her say them only three times in her life. She taught them to me one might as I lay curled on her lap, sweating with fever.

Jiniku,” she whispered, stroking my forehead with her cool hand. “Jiniku.” I focused on her voice through my fever, realizing that something had changed. She was speaking from a part of her that she had not opened for a long time. She took my hand, unraveled my fingers, and placed my palm over her heart. “Juriszu.” She stared out the window. There was a long silence. I could feel her heartbeat, which was calmer and considerably slower than my own. “My name,” she said at last, speaking once more in English, “means ‘dark ocean.’ And you, Jiniku, my precious little one, yours means ‘life.’” She looked out the window again. “‘Ji’ is the word for a happy birth. One where everyone lives and there is little pain. ‘Ni’ is a tree that had its roots spread far and whose branches shelter all. ‘Ku’ is the essence. The spirit. You have this all-encompassing life.” She placed her hand on my heart. “The first and last letters of our names are the same,” she said. “Don’t forget that, Jiniku.”

At that point, my fever rose and I lost the sound of my mother’s voice. I could faintly hear ambulance sirens but could not remember anything of the three weeks I spent in the hospital.

I remember nothing of those weeks, but my father said my mother never left my side. She slept on the chair and she bathed from the sink in my bathroom. At night she would stand by the window and look out at the stars. She could feel my face and place her hand against the cool glass leading outside.

When my mother became ill with cancer, I took a vacation and flew home. We had never been what you might call close, but we both understood that we loved each other fiercely. So when I heard that she was dying I left without a moment’s hesitation. I called, asked a friend to watch my apartment, and obtained up a leave-of-absence form from the office. I had the kind of job where you could take a vacation and not have it matter too much, except that you wouldn’t get paid. When I filled out the leave form, next to the blank that asked for an amount of time, I wrote “three months.” That’s how long the doctors had given her to live. I was back at work in less than nine weeks.

The second time I heard my mother say something in her native language was when I was sixteen. I was in my sophomore year of high school, and though everything seemed to be going well, I felt like it was all sliding out of my grasp. I felt in control and then something would happen—a breakup, a bad grade on a test, an argument with my parents about something trivial—and I could feel myself digging my fingernails in deeper and deeper but still feel my control slipping through my fingers. And that was how it started. With my fingers.

At first I just made small half-moons on my calves, pressing my fingernails in hard until they bled. Things spun out of control faster and faster and soon I used my army knife to slice the skin on my arms and shins. At school instead of going into the bathroom to cry I would lock myself in a stall, take a pin and pick at my skin until it bled. Few people noticed my cuts and when they did I would lie and say I fell. I can’t imagine that they believed me, but whatever they knew, they never said a word.

One day I came home to an empty house after a miserable afternoon —it’s strange, but now I can’t even remember what was so miserable about it. I couldn’t see straight; my head ached and my heart hurt and I started to have trouble breathing. I went to my room to find my army knife but on my way, I glimpsed the knife my mother uses to cut vegetables sitting on the counter. I can’t remember what I thought. I picked up the knife and touched the blade. It drew a small droplet of blood on my fingertip. I sat on the linoleum floor and rolled up my pants leg. When it cut, it cut fast and deep. Army knives take coaxing to hurt you and make you bleed. This fell straight into my skin without resistance and when it came away I could see my bone. I screamed.

That is how my mother found me when she came home: sitting on the floor with her huge kitchen knife in one hand, blood spilling out of a gash on my shin, screaming. She called the ambulance and wrapped my leg in a towel as tightly as she could. The blood seeped through. I screamed. She wrapped her arms around my head. “Jiniku!” she cried. “Jiniku, why do you do this to yourself?”

I have this memory of my mother from a spring day when I was four. There was a lot of sunshine that morning, and I had woken up from the light dancing on my pillow. I padded, sleepy-headed, into the living room, where I sat at the table to a bowl of oatmeal my mother had left for me. It was still warm. I looked out the window and saw her gardening in our yard. She was wearing worn-out and faded jeans with grass stains on the knees, a button-up shirt that had belonged to my father. In one hand was a gardening fork and a straw hat rested on her head, covering her long black hair.

When I saw her, she looked up at something in front of her, and I saw in her sharp profile a nose that looked like it was cut from stone. She looked up suddenly and awkwardly, cocking her head. Her shirt was crooked and one of her pants legs was up too high. The hat began to slide. She made a shooing motion with her wrist, and that is the moment that I saw her, really, for the first time. That still awkward, still small person was my mother.

For the last seven weeks of her life, my mother lay in a hospital bed. I watched her hair fall out in clumps and the fat melt away from her body, leaving only bones and skin. I watched her eyes turn red, her tongue swell up from the medication. Toward the end she began to breathe in gasps, as if just the taking in of oxygen would soon become too much for her frail lungs to bear. It was on one of these days that she used my real name for the last time.

Jiniku.” she whispered, motioning me to come closer. I scooted my chair up nearer her bed. “Here is something important.” She stopped to breathe, and then continued. “I’m going to die soon—”


“I am not so foolish. I know I am dying.” She stroked my hair with her hand. “This is why I am telling you—I left you something.” She coughed. “It is in the closet in my bedroom, behind the dresser. Move it to the side all the way, and you will see a hollow. It is for you, in there.” I nodded. She looked at me. “We love each other,” she said. I nodded again. She looked at the ceiling. “The shame.” Her eyes searched the ceiling, and then she fell asleep. My father returned and I went back to my hotel.

One week after my mother told me about the space behind her dresser, she died. I was not there at the end; there is no dramatic retelling of last words or such sentimental things as grasping loved ones at the critical moment. My father was sleeping in the chair next to my mother, and when he awoke, she was dead. There is nothing more that that.

The funeral was held at the grounds a mile from my parents’ house. It was sunny but the air began to chill. Friends of my mother I had not seen since I had moved away came and offered their sympathies. There were flowers. There is not much more to say.

I stayed with my father in the house for two weeks after my mother died, to help, to mourn. He mostly sat staring into the distance and I made the meals and cleaned up some. My father couldn’t bring himself to touch any of my mother’s things.

One day I went into the closet and shoved the heavy oaken dresser aside, marveling at how my small mother had ever managed such a feat. I exhaled heavily, wiping the perspiration from my brow. And then I saw what she had left me. She had left me notebooks.

These were notebooks that I had never seen her write in. The pages weren’t perforated for easy tearing; she had not burned any of them. I lifted one and opened the cover. One of the yellowed pages I saw her small, clear handwriting, but I couldn’t read any of it; it did not use the Roman alphabet. I opened every notebook and all of them were the same. My mother left me twenty-seven notebooks of writing in a language that I cannot read or understand. She left me the story of the life in her own native tongue.

I did not tell my father about the notebooks. I packed them in a box with my mother’s dresses and jewelry and took them back with me. I hung up the clothes, arranged the jewelry in my own dresser drawers, but the notebooks I left in the box in my closet. I think they are a challenge from my mother; a challenge to her daughter to learn the language of her mother and read what she had written to me. Maybe these are journals she had kept since she left home; how can I know?

I have signed up for a language class starting in a couple months. I think I will go and see how it works out; a friend of mine knows the instructor and said she is very good. The first thing I will learn is how to write my name. I think I had seen my mother write it once, and I copied down somewhere and lost it. But I think I still remember what it is. I think it’s the first word on every page.


I was so excited. I could hardly breathe through the hour-long drive there. I was squished between my two ten-year-old best friends (whose names have been changed here to protect the innocent) in the back seat of a white Saturn, but I didn’t care. I was practicing over and over in my head what I was going to say to all the smart-aleck adults who would tell me I was too young to ride the water slides. I was simply going to reply, “Actually I’m ten, going on eleven.”

On the right of me sat the girl I met in preschool, the swimmer who was named after a state, like me: Tennessee. She was the observant artist. She sat there holding a deck of cards, trying to find all the queens. I could tell she was nervous. Her hands were sweating. The cards were damp and at one point they slipped from her fingers. She giggled unhappily. I looked down and realized mine were sweating, too.

On my left was the girl who spoke for the three of us. She was the big cheese. Anna was without a doubt the most daring of the three of us. She was the one who started the famous food fight of ’95 in the Travis cafeteria. She told the entire school that her sister ran away to join the circus in ’96, and in ’97 she broke a boy’s arm, wrestling. It was obvious that she was going to ride the infamous “death slide.” In fact as soon as we jumped out of the car she screamed, “I’m going to ride the biggest ride at Schlitterbahn, ‘The Death Slide.’”

I was still debating whether or not to go on the newest and scariest ride of Schlitterbahn. Anna was humming “Jon Jacob” and acting like it was no big deal. Tennessee was practically shaking and saying, “Everything will be fine. I’ll ride the kiddy slide.” She was joking, but I knew that thought was probably going through her head for real.

And there was me. I’m the one who would rather write an essay than talk. I’m like the invisible one.

We are all exact triposites, if there’s any such thing.

I was so nervous and excited at the same time that I practically leaped out of the car with my Gap backpack and my Wal-Mart towel flying behind me. I could hear the screaming and crying of children.

After we went through the long line to pay and put on a whole tube of sunscreen, we were ready to have some real fun. We wandered around trying to find the perfect ride.

Tennessee and I had decided on the water gym when Anna suddenly stopped short. She pointed way up in the air. Our eyes slowly followed her finger. Through our ten-year-old eyes we saw what looked like the scariest ride in the entire world. It was a fifty-foot tall sky blue slide that went straight down into a giant pool of deep dark water.

Anna looked around and smiled. Her short brown hair jumped and fell each time she took a long stride. Her brown eyes twinkled as she walked to the slide. She seemed so proud about being brave and daring to walk up to “The Death Slide.” Tennessee and I felt embarrassed that a girl six months younger than we were was going to ride it while we were going to play on the water gym. But Tennessee and I had a plan to cover up our embarrassment. We were going to act like we were going to ride The Death Slide, and then, at the last minute, say we forgot something and wait at the bottom for Anna.

As we stood in line, slowly approaching the fifty-foot ladder I tried to gather my strength and suddenly knew I wanted to go down that slide. I stared at Tennessee and suddenly whispered, “I’m going to do it.” She was in awe.

I looked at the ladder and I looked at my friends. Tennessee was smiling but Anna was looking very serious. She had wrinkles in her forehead and her eyebrows were down over her eyes. She was looking up to the top of the ladder, which was hardly visible at that moment. All of a sudden she started crying. It was like a low siren. Then it got louder. “What’s wrong?” I yelled over the voices of the screaming children. Anna didn’t answer. Her face was like a wrinkled prune. She had tears coming down her red cheeks. She didn’t answer me, she just ran to the water gym without a word, to her four-year-old sister. I looked at Tennessee uneasily. I knew it was too late to go over and comfort her. There were already thirty people behind us. If we got out of line, I knew we’d never get back in. If you give up your place in line at Schlitterbaun, you might as well go home.

Tennessee and I sucked in our fear and decided to ride the scariest ride in Schlitterbahn.

The climb up the ladder was long and miserable. Everyone pushed and shoved, not caring about the people above or below. I was surrounded by those adults who were thinking I was too short for the ride. We were stuck near the bottom for five minutes and didn’t make any progress. So many people were cutting in front of us that we were actually moving back down the ladder. Tennessee and I, the innocent daisy pickers, decided to let out our fierce side. We stuck out our elbows and pushed our way to the top. It only took about ten minutes.

When we reached the top we looked down. I suddenly got dizzy but thought about how much fun I’d have during those few seconds that I was riding the ride of my life. The lifeguard yelled, “Keep your hands and your feet together.” I sat down on the edge at the very top of the slide; he gave me a hard, fast push and I was off.

It was like sliding down a vertical stick. I had to squeeze my arms to my chest and keep my clenched feet together. I was screaming so hard, I had a sore throat the next day. But I wasn’t screaming from pain or fright but from excitement.

When we got to the bottom Tennessee and I were laughing and throwing up our arms in victory. Anna wasn’t too happy with us at first but she got over it, though she never did go down The Death Slide that day.

I know it was just a ride in a park, but I always think about day when I’m feeling too scared to try something new. I remember what it felt like to fly down that big blue slide. I realize that I might be quiet, even invisible, but hidden inside me is a brave

Trying Again… After Breakfast

I awoke… Caught within

the cleavage—

Of my two pillows.

Covering myself in a once sensual

Button-down shirt,

Which recently was deprived of its name—

I leave the room to stumble down the spiral staircase


Feeling a quick rush of pain from my bare feet

As I step to the sound of cracking silver corn chips

I notice the lipstick characters lining the railing—

And the crimson runes that decorate my collar

I can hear her humming to “Train” on the radio

Reaching the base of the stairs

I glance at her image on the couch,


My mind feels compressed with ideas

My stomach swells with pain

And my legs buckle with indecisiveness

For mind, stomach, legs, and I have been here before

I see—the sun through her hair

And on her skin

As well as the birthmark on her hip

Her fingertips feel like they are on my cheek

From across the room



She sits thinking, waiting—

For me to say something


For me to cry

For me to smile

For me to wait with her

For me to make breakfast


I am willing to try again… after breakfast

Making Movies

These are the shots of life

that we see translated to vision:

those dramatic slow motion turn-abouts

or artsy fade-outs with unreal light.


Though we cannot feel

voyeurism with public on our body,

we can identify the moments

of distinction

with a flat sigh,

or a cry,

or a gasp

as one of six billion.


And we fall into a

1st-person digital narrative

with nothing to save us

from life,

unless we should be swallowed

in the mouth of madness

and see ourselves as the way we would

be seen

by our own absent minds.