when the planet does
and your words slash my
I, in the fetal position,
feel the blood beat
in the skin beneath my ears.
A hand touches my back and,
like IV leeches,
when the planet does
and your words slash my
I, in the fetal position,
feel the blood beat
in the skin beneath my ears.
A hand touches my back and,
like IV leeches,
You are pure fire, expansive light. To sculpt, to
create art, you have to remove extraneous material, leave some marble
or wood behind to bring forth a jewel, but nothing should be extracted
from you. You are as complete as a seven-colored rainbow.
Suppose God left you in a forest with peridot
trees, mountains of ochre rock, gold veins running through the rivers.
Suppose God asked you to create something from those elements that
would honor nature. How could you? Paradise doesnâ€™t need art. I
canâ€™t describe the man who is beyond a flower. No thorns, no dirty
root, not even petals with their brief vitality, only perfume
spreading over the plain. On this day, I send you searching through
the garden for the flower that I cannot narrate, but must conjure.
Imagine such a flower. Imagine your grace.
â€”from a letter to Murphy
* * *
â€œOh Heavenly Father
looking up from roses and birds on the sixth day
to make every soul deliberate, every tint perfect,
certainly I should have come to earth.
I am not a martian the color of celadon seared to ash by the love of a none-too-prudent sun.
I come from the dust of Adam, too,
the rib that is Eve,
I am your child, too, God,
certainly!â€ I imagine you prayed.
â€œGod, there are only two plants recognized in this world:
dark balsa, light hibiscus wood,
and in their branches are the letters, the maths,
and even your sacred words.
God, not in a garden under the gaze of a cherub,
but in a marshland scented like gumbo,
school and church are forbidden
to your Creole childrenâ€”
black in blood, white in appearance,
vandalized of heart.
And I know that I live in a town of Creoles
who run out their night-hued siblings,
but God, I did not make the town, nor the school, nor myself, nor the world.
Maker, render me safe.â€
* * *
there is nothing like the incontinence of tragedy:
the horses of autumn and spring fleeing,
dragging their bullion, russet, lilac, bronze, blush,
(future in fear of the sadness)
and the sulphorous flaming ghost of what might have been
raising its one tattered wing in the night.
So life removes its brassiere
and drains all of its milk to the soil
with neither pity
Daedalus is author of Icarus’s fall
and Noah curses Ham and all his kids.
My father is crippled,
so I lose the letters and geometry of life.
At twelve years old I am condemned to the fields
and poisoned by canes of sugar.â€
* * *
You converted brown sugar into lone star dreams,
took your youth from the fields and cradled it in your hands,
and carried it across the southern border from Louisiana to Texas,
spun it among the wheels of a delivery boyâ€™s bicycle and flew.
Spirit of fruit (lovers of the sun,
globes the colors of various roses
knitted with assorted medicines and strengths,
you, the guardian of fruit, I address,
delivery boy not yet a patriarch
too smart to be the courier of bulbs,
sent to New Mexico to reign over cantaloupe operations
and discover the magic of Spanish.
French, Creole, Latin, English, Spanish,
patron of fruits and tongues,
splendor the hue of rose beryl,
with eyes of celestite.
Brother to fauna,
summers pass and orchards grow heavy a dozen times,
now you own the fruit you sell,
and eggs (the magic of beginning!),
and vegetables (the fortitude of men).
those who work for you later take the Hippocratic Oath
inspired by your light.
how do you re-cook your clientâ€™s once-cooked Cajun turkey
un-cooking the original cursed cookery?
Ph.D.s treasure your advice.
the spiciest crawfish and the most luscious boudin,
superlative delights you sell in your store,
and under your eyes there is no shame in a clientâ€™s food stamp.
friend to each client,
saint on earth.
Spirit of fruit,
man possessed by the sweetness of life.
* * *
Boys can carry his name throughout millennia,
yet Ann is the sacred child.
More the daughter of Terpsichore than Rose,
she sings and dances all her waking hours.
Your reflections mingle in the lake water of Conroe
no definite place where daughter ends and daddy begins,
yet at fourteen she manages to loosen herself from the brambles
and leave behind the fruits of the earth.
Her sickle cells doom her to a journey
past the lakeâ€™s playful blue,
more like shadows-dropped-in-the-catharsis blue,
blue like a glowing mirror,
like a hymn sung in the sea catching on to the first veins of sunlight
* * *
Spirit of fruit,
after diverging from your thorny Rose,
you interlock your limbs with my grandmother, Dear.
You re-christen her Cookie,
to make her your own
and your world is the span of her heart.
Spirit of fruit,
to love again,
to inherit two daughters from your new queen
and a baby on the way.
Yes, I am coming to be born
to chart the courses and mark out the xylans,
to record forever the horticulture,
regarding the Spirit of fruit.
* * *
Here is the thing that I must know,
Spirit of Fruit,
student of life, nourishment, sugar,
what is the plant that grows inside of you making you so kind?
You weep, as Joan of Arc Wept, as warriors weep,
but not for the loss of an empire or a lack of world to conquer,
but because for you the world is torn if you see one person suffer.
Grandfather, woven from compassion, splendid beyond belief
teach me where to scratch the earth,
where to furrow, where to till,
teach me where I might find the seeds,
to grow your heart in me too.
There’s a time before sunrise
With quiet streets bathed in grey light
A time after dawn. Watch the world
Emerge from the chrysalis of the night
It’s a quiet time, the in-between time
It’s my time, the in-between time
With its in-between people
Some out too late, some up too early
Too tired to raise their walls
Shut out the world
Put on their masks
Or maybe they’re sharing, intentionally
This sliver of their life
This glimpse of their psyche
A cadre bound by being awake
Too early in the morning.
You whisper to me across
The words, forever lost to the distance
Never reach me
A look of pain crosses your face as I fail to understand
So frustrated, so angry, so desperate for connection
But you move not close
You raise not your voice
Just continuing in an endless whisper
The indecipherable tones softly strangling our last chance
Each syllable a note to the requiem
“Her hands are like icicles on the horizon,” he said and took a drag of coffee. She nodded blankly at him, barely registering the observations that swayed his tongue and flavored his mouth.
“Do you see how she’s shaking?” he asked, not taking his eyes off the porcelain doll ordering dinner across the room. He fumbled down distractedly to the table, found his plate, and devoured a fry in the half-reflective way that dressed all his actions.
To this, she murmured a vague, “Mmhmm…” It was enough of a reply to fill the empty space he controlled over the table, but still enough to be noncommittal and inattentive. She reached through the maze of their cups and plates to spear a French-fry from his plate. She shifted her weight. The chair rocked under her, threatening her already uncertain balance and attempted grace in one blow. She shifted the feet of the chair, hoping to find some sort of equilibrium, but again the seat rocked under her, still precarious.
“Look at the angles to her face,” he went on, working his words around mouthfuls. His eyes never wavered in their stiff critical stare of wonderment and interest. “There’s just something about her that screams vulnerability.”
“Hmm.” She swallowed the hot, gritty remains of her tea. Her cup clunked as it hit the table, jolting the settled objects, but his attention never strayed from the Raphael-wonder. She picked up her croissant, then lowered it back to her plate seeing the tanned lines of her knuckles holding her fingers in place. She turned her palm up and followed the trained lines that traced her destiny.
“You really have to wonder about people like that,” he continued in the silence. “How they think, how they feel, how they see the world. Don’t you ever just wish you could go up and introduce yourself to a stranger and learn their entire life story?”
She repossessed her croissant and took a voice-saving mouthful, nodding her head disjointedly in case he possessed the consciousness to glance at her tongue-trapped tangle on the other side of the table. She sneakily slid her feet out of her shoes and flexed her toes in their freedom under the tablecloth-tiered table. The ache wrenched in her bones and her thoughts drowned in the haze of mid-stride wonderment, but not before the emptiness and pain of dismissal.
“I guess it’s time to go,” he said finally, still not moving his unblinking eyes or shifting his stranger-struck body.
She mumbled affirmative and followed through with her purse. The crowded bag jostled against her hand in the fruitful search for cash. Dumping the entire contents out for the finding and usage of a pen, she scrunched up her eyebrows, figuring the total into halves.
“Mind getting this one for me?” he asked, raising himself up to gather his belongings before heading out the door. Still his attention wandered over to the daisy, blooming at the opposite table. “This was fun. Let’s get together again sometime soon, OK?”
She fell back in her seat, drowning in the whirlpool of inattention. Establishing their funds, she turned to see herself in the shadowy glass window reflection, and saw herself slipping away.
I awoke… Caught within
Of my two pillows.
Covering myself in a once sensual
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
Dreams are dangerous and wild things but, once captured and tamed, powerful insights to who you really are. I had the classic American dream: growing up, finding Prince Charming, getting married and living in a nice house with a white picket fence, two kids, and a dog. As I got older that dream of mine faded away until, one day, it no longer nexisted. The funny thing is, I can pinpoint that day exactly and how it changed my life.
I was a sophomore in high school and, after overcoming the stresses of my freshman year and having made a name for myself, I was quite content with who I was. I wasn’t the popular cheerleader Barbie that everyone adores, but that was OK. I was me, and I was finally beginning to accept that. Years before, elementary through junior high, I was the kind of kid that was constantly insulted and teased. High school had been a new start for me, and I was proud of it. I seemed to ooze confidence myself, and however it happened, it drew others to me that shared my same interests. In other words, I had real friends. It was the most amazing feeling in the world, to have friends, to belong! I was me, really me, and I completely belonged.
Then it happened. I was at band practice, as usual, watching the marching drill from the sidelines. I can’t remember what exactly caught my eye, but the next thing I knew I was totally entranced by the brass section. Maybe it was one of fate’s silvery threads; whatever it was, I was under its spell. Did I just see what I think I saw? Yes, yes I did! It was the weirdest thing: there was a green trumpet. Not gold, not silver, but green!
“Wow!” I thought. “That’s just awesome. I wonder what kind of person actually plays a green trumpet.” And there you have it. The day that changed my life all started with naïve curiosity. What can I say? It was so hot outside that my skin was melting into puddles on the pavement, I was absolutely bored out of my mind, and a green trumpet (and the owner of such) offered a pleasant change of pace in the monotonous tone of my day. I know, it sounds crazy, but from the first moment I saw the midday sun glint off that emerald instrument, fate’s plan had already been set in motion.
From that day forward I made it my goal to talk to this unusual trumpet’s owner; a shy girl with short red hair who, as far as I could tell, went from school to band and then home every day without talking to much of anyone. Surely there was something more, wasn’t there? After all, green trumpets aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. Little by little I made my approach to her.
“Hi, I’m Kaci,” I smiled at her one day. “That’s a cool trumpet. How’d you do it?” Not much of a conversation starter, but then again, I’m not much of a “conversator.” Plus, after weeks of planning, that lame line was the only thing I had actually come up with.
“It was dipped in this colored metal. It’s pretty interesting actually. I don’t see anything like it down here. Oh, by the way, my name’s Amanda.” Amanda! Deities be praised! My trumpet player had a name! Amanda! Great! And… now that I think about it… an accent… hmm…
“Down here?” I asked. “Where are you from?”
“Massachusetts,” she replied, “up near Boston.” (Tweet! The drum majors blew the whistle to call us back to attention.) “Hey, I gotta go, drill is fixin’ to start. Talk to ya later?”
“Sure,” I answered, grinning ear to ear. “I’ll write you a letter. See ya!” So, I met a new person. What’s so big about that? Why was I so happy? I meet new people all the time. And what was with that “I’ll write you” thing, did that sound as stupid as I think it sounded? It’s just a new friend, gosh Kaci, get over it. But this person was different, I could feel it right down to my bones.
Just from that first short conversation I knew that Amanda and I were going to be great friends. I don’t know why, just something about her “clicked” with me. She made me feel alive like nobody else did. And, keeping with my promise, I did write her. That’s where our friendship really took off. We started writing each other back and forth, two to three notes a day, and with every word that was written I could feel us getting closer and closer. We had the funniest debates at lunch that carried over into our letters. “Yankees” versus “good ol’ country boys,” Mass. versus Texas, “y’all” versus “you all,” and even taking opposite sides in the Presidential election. And, in all of the stupid things we discussed, we told each other secrets that we had never uttered before to a single soul.
It got to where writing just wasn’t enough. I mean, we’d take pages and pages up and still have more to say. So, we started to call each other and talk on the phone for hours. Either the phone would ring the minute I got inside from the bus, or I’d rush to the phone as soon as I got in the door. And if anybody thought our notes were random, our phone conversations were even worse. I remember the most unusual, and the longest, conversation that we ever had started off talking about Interview with the Vampire and ended up with us debating Catholicism. It was kind of creepy because it seemed as if all I could do was think about her. I even went to sleep at night and dreamt about her. I had never had anyone that I could talk to like this before.
Anyway, after months of getting to know each other, Amanda started to tease me, always inquiring about whether or not I was gay. It came out of nowhere, and didn’t bother me at first because she was always joking, but when she kept pestering me with the topic I started to wonder. I’d say certain things and she would just jump in and ask me about my dating preference; it was the oddest thing. One of my friends would do a stupid thing and I would say something like “but we still love you” and she would pipe up with “are you sure you aren’t gay?” I’d ask myself why she was so adamant about this subject, but I couldn’t find any reason for it, so I just blew it off. A little while later I found the answer I was looking for.
A week before Christmas break I could tell that something was weighing on her mind. She had become really snappy and more reserved than usual. It got me worried so I tried to talk to her, but every time I tried she shied away from me. I had no clue what was going on with my friend, and it was really bothering me. All of a sudden she started to get really “chummy” with everyone but me. From my point of view it seemed like she was avoiding me in particular and it really upset me. Another one of my friends, Layla, found me crying one day after lunch and asked me what was going on. I told her that I was worried about Amanda and confused because she wasn’t telling me a thing and I knew something was wrong.
“Babe,” she said to me—and I’ll never forget this—“she didn’t tell you? I thought you were like her best friend.”
“Tell me what?” I asked.
“It’s not a big deal or anything, but she’s told a few people that she’s, well, you know, bi. Maybe she was just afraid to tell you because she thought you would see her differently or something.” Bi? As in bisexual? Wait, back that up a minute, explain. I didn’t get it. What was the big problem? True, I was kind of shocked inside, but it really wasn’t a huge issue. This was the big secret she was hiding from me? This was the reason she wouldn’t look me in the eye? Didn’t she know that I was going to be her friend no matter what?
After Layla’s “confession” to me, I started to look at things differently, life differently. I had always thought that, well, bisexuality/homosexuality was an understood “taboo,” so to speak. But… Amanda? That was different; she was different. I had to think about this and piece some things together now. That’s when I started to take a good look at my life and myself.
Almost immediately I began thinking about me, and who “me” really was. I spent hours in my room after school picking my thoughts and feelings apart until I felt like I finally understood myself. And, when I thought about love, I thought that love should have no boundaries, not even gender. So, I looked deeper and deeper into my heart and found that I loved. I loved Amanda, deeply and passionately; I truly loved her. That’s all there was to it. So many different doorways she had opened up for me, so many lessons she had taught me, it was totally logical that I loved her. With many conversations and “discussions” between her and me, I came to some important conclusions about my life.
First of all, I learned that “wrong” is not always wrong for all people. Some people’s “wrong” is sometimes someone else’s “right.” True, you just can’t run out and kill somebody and say it’s right, but some people’s outlooks on dating preferences are bound to differ. And some people might think that the other people’s dating lives are wrong. It’s what that individual believes in their heart that makes his or her own moral code on the matter.
Second, maybe this whole bisexual thing wasn’t as bad as I first thought. Come to think of it, how can you ever be expected to find your true soul mate if barriers of gender stand in the way? There is an old Native American legend that when the world was created two souls lived in every body so that nobody would be lonely. And then one day a huge earthquake shook the land and the two souls were separated into different bodies. Now every lifetime the souls search the corners of the earth looking for each other so that they may be whole again. Now, what if those two souls got separated into bodies of the same gender? Should they still be kept apart and doomed to search for their other half for thousands of centuries more? I don’t think so.
In fact, that brings me to the third big conclusion I came to about my life: I was, and in fact am, bi. Once again it seemed to be the only rational explanation for everything that I felt. So, to end the awkwardness in the whole situation I came clean to Amanda, and we eventually started dating. It seemed that it was uncomfortable for a lot of my friends, our friends, at first, especially when they had never thought that a sweet innocent girl of my nature “swung that way.” But, I can honestly say that it really wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable for me. It was as natural as breathing and writing and talking and walking. For the first time in a very long while, I actually felt whole.
I guess that you can safely say that my whole outlook on my life in general changed. I saw things in a whole new light. I began to question the world around me. For so long my life had been filled with childlike hopes, dreams, and fairy tales. Now it consisted of emotions, ideas, and, yes, even heartbreak. Before, I would have longed to go back to those days of childhood, days of sweet ignorant innocence. But I now realized that children were not always innocent, and that reality was not always cruel. I used to sit back and watch the world go by, crying from my safe perch far away from reality. I used to wonder what happened to all the fairies and knights and unicorns that made everything all better. I used to wonder what happened to me and why life had to be so complicated. But now I knew. Life changes, people grow up, and sometimes you have to make your own fairies and knights and unicorns to make the world better. I learned that things aren’t always what they appear to be, and sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find the real truth. But I think the most important lesson that I learned was that your dreams don’t always have to stay the same.
No longer was I content with sitting on the side, waiting for my prince to come and whisk me off to that classic suburban palace; maybe that prince of mine would be a princess, and maybe I didn’t have to wait. Maybe I could just take that extra step out into the world and look for what I want. And then maybe, after finding that, I could just go out and take it.
That dream of mine, this new twist, is powerful, and it does say something about me. I’d like to believe it says that I’m not afraid of being different; after all, just how boring would the world be if we were all alike? I believe that I have finally found who I am. True, my dreams have changed, but that’s OK, change is good. It’s still my dream; it’s still me. The best thing is that now I know who “me” is: an intelligent, bisexual girl with a little bit of a wild side, who stands up for what she believes and goes after what she wants. I’ve learned that white picket fences are always a good start, but sometimes you have to see the sun shine off that green trumpet to be able to look at your dreams from another perspective and truly understand yourself.
If you were to fly
upon high, courting the sun,
would you think back upon humble
If you soared,
higher than the envy of the clouds,
would remembrance of the pleasures
of the world give you pause?
Do, my love, fly,
but as you pay homage
to the stars,
think on me as I sigh
gazing up to the heavens
for the lost.
down a road with no destination.
Crowding the backseat
are Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen.
They all love me.
Love me? What do they know about love?
I keep driving
trying to hide what we seek.
It’s hidden in my bag.
Cradled inconspicuously next to the boys.
Our path soon wavers
and the boys attempt to sound like men
as their voices rise.
I want to keep on going with our lives,
but I pull over,
knowing it’s best.
I smoke my Happiness
while the older boys
leave parts of Fifteen’s life on the side of the road.
Hopefully someone will come along and pick up the pieces.
History is destined to repeat itself
and too quickly the car is filled only with me and Seventeen
who wishes to show his affections
and have his daily dose of Happiness.
I drive a little farther
and park in front of a beaten-up motel without a name
that opens its doors to us
Seventeen goes to check in
keeping his Happiness near and dear.
I wait in the car
my hand on the ignition
knowing I can leave,
wondering where I have driven my life.
Me duele en verte
Me duele en verte en la luz de sus ojos,
La luz deslumbrante de los ojos de ella
Ella, quien nunca llora
Nunca llora para ti.
Mis lagrimas están sabrosos
La comida como dijo
David en los Salmos.
Son mi banquete,
Porque son regalos de ti.
Translation into English by the author
It hurts me to see you
It hurts me to see you in the light of her eyes,
The dazzling light of her eyes
She, who never cries
Never cries for you.
My tears are delicious
The food of which
David spoke in the Psalms.
They are my feast,
Because they are gifts from you.