Friday, August 05, 2022

Sometimes in April, part 47

For so many years, my siblings and I operated as though we were living under a favorable sign, or a protective veil. We really had never experienced anything truly traumatic.

We had watched others and their families stumble through terrible life circumstances.

I am sure we never failed to say, there but for the grace of God...maybe not truly understanding how close we were to the truth.  

What does it mean when the grace of God falters? 

I don't know, but that facade started to fail that day in September when my brother did not wake up.

But we didn't know it.

We trudged forward, still protected by our belief in grace and security and safety.

It was a terrible thing, but we would survive.

It can't get worse? Right?

I still catch myself saying or thinking, "it can't get worse," and then I remember that it can.

Seven months later, a mysterious illness took my strong sister down. First landing her in the hospital and then killing her. It was truly the unthinkable.

"This can't be happening!" I repeated over and over to my other sister on the phone when she called to tell me to get on the plane.

Life, or bad luck, or whatever can definitely get worse.

And it did. It just kept getting worse.

Everyone was grieving, some in disastrous ways, and I was trying to trudge forward. I thought I was making progress. I was making plans, doing work, following through on all the commitments. 

I wasn't crawled up in a little ball on the floor. I wasn't a puddle that needed to be cleaned up.

But, maybe, I should have been... I should have been processing the grief that was tangled up in my body, looking for a release. I was still living in the world of "it can't get worse."

Seven months later, I talked my parents into coming to see me, in hopes it would lift their spirits, distract them from the intense loss, and bring them comfort. But when my mom stepped off the train, she was clearly not herself. It took me a whole day to talk her into going to the hospital. 

She was having little strokes ... and no one had noticed back home.

I think all of that would have been enough to break anyone. 

However, I did not break, I bent towards the need. Not my need, but her need. I moved home to try to get my parents healthy. All I could think was I could not take one more loss -- and that's where we were headed if I did not intervene.

But my parents' grief was not the only need I would find at home. Everyone was falling apart - and needing support. I took it all on. 

Maybe it was easier than dealing with my own grief. I just kept stuffing it down. And it kept coming out, but it didn't look like grief, it looked like anger. Anger is such an easy emotion, it holds it all.

My brother's daughter, already 16, had never been specifically diagnosed but was languishing in a special education class. She had not learned to read or write.

It didn't seem to matter that my entire professional career was in education. I couldn't get through to my brother before he died, and now I had to get my sister-in-law on board. What would become of any of them?

It was not my fight, but it was. No one else was in a position to notice let alone help.

My brother-in-law and nephew on the other side were making it day to day, but just barely.

Again no one had any bandwidth to help except me.

And, if  I am being honest, I didn't either. But if I didn't help, what would happen?

They all made it through. And the grief piled up in me and spilled out as anger. 

No one ever asked me, how are you doing?

I had come home, given up my PhD program (because in their infinite wisdom I didn't have to do this, and was abandoning my own program). I had zero job prospects in my hometown. I was eking out a living on remote jobs. And taking care of everyone. 

My friends said, you need to leave your parents' home, as though distance would erase the very real need I was filling. But for my own sanity, I decamped. 

I was just about to interview for a real job (April 26th), and that very morning, in the wee hours, my friend's only son died in a car crash. The friend, by the way, who had been housing me as I tried desperately to put my life back together.

I had known this child since birth. I was his first baby sitter. I had watched him grow into the young man I called my next governor of California. In a matter of minutes, he was gone. Gone. 24 years old and gone. 

His mother was in freefall and all of her friends were at a loss watching her spiral. She was the rock. She was the one that they came to for help. She was not in a position to help herself. And they were not used to be being of service to others.

I dropped everything. Lost my interview. And handled the situation. I made the funeral arrangements. I am not saying others did not step up and help. But I was orchestrating. I was getting what I could from my friend about what she wanted. Negotiating with the ex-husband and his family about their involvement. And keeping it all together.

This is how my life went for years. Though my brother died in September, April was the month of trauma. April was the month when my sister was stricken and killed. April was the month my friend's son died in a solo car accident.

It took me years to not crumble every April. Years.

And this year, April came for me with a vengeance.

I finally truly moved out of my parents' home in search of a life of my own. I had purposely stayed away for several months. But in April, I made the journey home. Hoping to forge the boundaries I needed to keep myself safe while still supporting my parents, I planned a one week visit. 

On the fourth day of my visit (April 14), my mom fell down bringing in one of the trash cans. 

She ended up with a hematoma that threatened her life. The neurosurgeon told us that 10 minutes more and she would not have made it. We got her to the hospital in time to save her life, just barely. 

Nevermind that my father did not even contemplate calling 911, or that my mother was not wearing the life alert button her health insurance had sent her. I could barely make the numbers work on the keypad of the house line or my cell phone.

April is the cruelest month. There is no disputing that.

My mom survived. She is not the same person. She cannot be alone. My father now understands that he cannot protect and save her from everything as he had once imagined he could.

We three remaining siblings are left to figure out how we go forward. These intervening months have not been kind to us even as my mother gains strength.

Let's just hope next April brings us peace and stability. I'll take peace if nothing else.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

what if?

What if I told you that I only feel worthy if I can be of help to someone?

What if nothing anyone could say could make it better?

There are lots of details that I don't want to explain right now. Foul, I know. But there it is.

But what if there was someone who you have always wanted to declare her love for you? And what if at this point, even if she did or could, it would not change how you feel about yourself?

I am trying to help someone I care about to confront and change the agreements that have left her vulnerable to predators. 

It's hard because I am still trying to disentangle myself from similar agreements. And knowing that they exist was a good first step. But what those steps are in between knowing and renegotiating are never fully spelled out. 

So, as I try to pull back the veil for my friend, I deal with the onslaught of my own agreements - and how knowing about them hasn't easily produced the new agreements I need to live a more healthy, happy life.

I don't know where I was headed with this. Honestly, this is the third or fourth post I have started trying to process the latest trauma. 

Trauma piled on trauma - not grieving any of it fully, just makes for serious trauma responses to even the slightest situation. 

But I have had some pretty big issues to deal with lately (again). So, sometimes this has escalated to panic attacks - and sometimes to what feels like relatively insignificant stimuli.

In retrospect, I can say that I have survived all the large and small traumas ... recalling the appropriateness of the ; in our lives.

; take a breath

; feel the feelings

; hold on to see what comes next

I type all this in the full knowledge that for some folks what comes next might be worse than what is now. It might not work for all folks to take a beat. I respect that.

For me, right now, I am remembering the times when taking a breath got me to the next minute. 

Friday, March 18, 2022


Yesterday, a FB friend posted about this phone number: 707-998-8410.

If you haven't called it, you should do it right now.

It is an elementary school's take on surviving and thriving. It's called PepTOC, a pep talk hotline done by children who are surviving and thriving through all the madness. [You can donate to the effort here if you are inclined. They are crowdsourcing funds to keep the number going.]

This is important and amazing - not only because their pure energy can be felt through the phone line. But also because according to recent studies, children (along with the elderly) have struggled during the pandemic on many fronts, but they are soooo resilient. 

That doesn't mean we shouldn't support them. It's just so wonderful that these teachers realized these kids had so much to give the rest of us. And then they gave it to us. 

As an old high school teacher of mine used to admonish when I was down, "you think you have it rough," read this. [And he was right, and only reminded me when I was on the upswing.] 

This is the opposite sentiment -- we're in this together, here's some pure joy and energy.

The ROI for dialing a number [we do this so infrequently anymore] is ENORMOUS. 

If you want to read/hear more about it, this piece by NPR is lovely. This piece is also lovely. P.S. #5 was my personal fave.

Teaser on YouTube:

If small children are not your jam, try this piece on sound art from the DF. I also found it soothing and lovely to think of city sounds as treasures.


Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Awesome start to Women's History Month

Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah

~Patricia Smith - 1955-

My mother scraped the name Patricia Ann from the ruins
of her discarded Delta, thinking it would offer me shield
and shelter, that leering men would skulk away at the slap
of it. Her hands on the hips of Alabama, she went for flat
and functional, then siphoned each syllable of drama,
repeatedly crushing it with her broad, practical tongue
until it sounded like an instruction to God, not a name.
She wanted a child of pressed head and knocking knees,
a trip-up in the doubledutch swing, a starched pinafore
and peppermint-in-the-sour-pickle kinda child, stiff-laced
and unshakably fixed on salvation. Her Patricia Ann
would never idly throat the Lord’s name or wear one
of those thin, sparkled skirts that flirted with her knees.
She'd be a nurse or a third-grade teacher or a postal drone,
jobs requiring alarm-clock discipline and sensible shoes.
My four downbeats were music enough for a vapid life
of butcher-shop sawdust and fatback as cuisine, for Raid
spritzed into the writhing pockets of a Murphy bed.
No crinkled consonants or muted hiss would summon me.

My daddy detested borders. One look at my mother's
watery belly, and he insisted, as much as he could insist
with her, on the name Jimi Savannah, seeking to bless me
with the blues-bathed moniker of a ball breaker, the name
of a grown gal in a snug red sheath and unlaced All-Stars.
He wanted to shoot muscle through whatever I was called,
arm each syllable with tiny weaponry so no one would
mistake me for anything other than a tricky whisperer
with a switchblade in my shoe. I was bound to be all legs,
a bladed debutante hooked on Lucky Strikes and sugar.
When I sent up prayers, God's boy would giggle and consider.

Daddy didn't want me to be anybody's surefire factory,
nobody's callback or seized rhythm, so he conjured
a name so odd and hot even a boy could claim it. And yes,
he was prepared for the look my mother gave him when
he first mouthed his choice, the look that said, That's it,
you done lost your goddamned mind. She did that thing
she does where she grows two full inches with righteous,
and he decided to just whisper Love you, Jimi Savannah
whenever we were alone, re- and rechristening me the seed
of Otis, conjuring his own religion and naming it me.

From Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah by Patricia Smith. Copyright © 2012 by Patricia Smith. Reprinted with permission of Coffee House Press.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Happy Valentine's Day y'all

If I Should Come Upon Your House Lonely in the West Texas Desert
~Natalie Diaz - 1978-

I will swing my lasso of headlights
across your front porch,

let it drop like a rope of knotted light
at your feet.

While I put the car in park,
you will tie and tighten the loop

of light around your waist —
and I will be there with the other end

wrapped three times
around my hips horned with loneliness.

Reel me in across the glow-throbbing sea
of greenthread, bluestem prickly poppy,

the white inflorescence of yucca bells,
up the dust-lit stairs into your arms.

If you say to me, This is not your new house
but I am your new home,

I will enter the door of your throat,
hang my last lariat in the hallway,

build my altar of best books on your bedside table,
turn the lamp on and off, on and off, on and off.

I will lie down in you.
Eat my meals at the red table of your heart.

Each steaming bowl will be, Just right.
I will eat it all up,

break all your chairs to pieces.
If I try running off into the deep-purpling scrub brush,

you will remind me,
There is nowhere to go if you are already here,

and pat your hand on your lap lighted
by the topazion lux of the moon through the window,

say, Here, Love, sit here — when I do,
I will say, And here I still am.

Until then, Where are you? What is your address?
I am hurting. I am riding the night

on a full tank of gas and my headlights
are reaching out for something.

“If I Should Come Upon Your House Lonely in the West Texas Desert” originally appeared in The New York Times Magazine (April 1, 2021). Used with permission of the poet.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Poetry Thursday, Native American Heritage Month

 Dear New Blood
~Mark Turcotte

You don’t need me, I know, here on
this podium with my poem. You
hunched in the back of the room,
tilted in your hard-earned reservation
lean. You ho-hum your gaze out the
window toward some other sky.  

Dear new blood, dear holy dear fully
mixed up mixed down mixed in and
out blood, go ahead and kick the shit,
kiss the shit from my ears. I swear I
swear I’ll listen. Stutter at stutter at me you
uptown weed you thorn you
petal, aim my old flowered face at the

I know you don’t need me, here on
this podium with my poem. You
pressed flat to the wall, shoulders
cocked, loaded for makwa, for old
growlers like me. You yawn your
glance out the window at the
tempting sky.

Wake me. Bang my dead drum drum,
clang clang my anvil my bell. Shout me
hush me your song, your shiny
impossible, your long, wounded song.
Tell me everything you know, you
don’t. Tell me, do you feel conquered
and occupied? Maybe I’ve forgotten.
Sing it plain, has America ever let you
be you in your own sky?

Sing deep Chaco, deep Minneapolis,
deep Standing Rock, deep Oakland
and LA. Sing deep Red Cliff, sing
Chicago, deep Acoma, deep Pine Ridge
and Tahlequah. Mourn. I think you,
too, were born with broken heart.
Rise. Smash your un-American throat
against the edge of the sky.

You don’t need me, I know. But don’t
go don’t look away. I need you.
(makwa: bear)

Copyright © 2020 by Mark Turcotte. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 23, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

 Black Parade

Darrel Alejandro Holnes

Coming out isn’t the same as coming to America

except for the welcome parade

put on by ghosts like your granduncle Roy

who came to New York from Panamá in the 50s

and was never heard of again

and by the beautiful gays who died of AIDS in the 80s

whose cases your mother studied

in nursing school. She sent you to the US to become

an “American” and you worry

she’ll blame this country

for making you a “marica,”

a “Mary,” like it might have made your uncle Roy.

The words “America” and “marica” are so similar!

Exchange a few vowels

and turn anyone born in this country

queer. I used to watch Queer as Folk as a kid

and dream of sashaying away

the names bullies called me in high school

for being Black but not black enough, or the kind of black they saw on TV:

black-ish, negro claro, cueco.

It was a predominately white school,

the kind of white the Spanish brought to this continent

when they cozened my ancestors from Africa.

There was no welcome parade for my ancestors back then

so, they made their own procession, called it “carnaval”

and fully loaded the streets with egungun costumes,

holy batá drum rhythms, shouting and screaming in tongues,

and booty dancing in the spirit.

I don’t want to disappear in New York City,

lost in a drag of straightness.

So instead, I proceed

to introduce my mother to my first boyfriend

after I’ve moved her to Texas

and helped make her a citizen.

Living is trafficking through ghosts in a constant march

toward a better life, welcoming the next in line.

Thriving is wining the perreo to soca on the

Noah’s Arc pride parade float, like you’re

the femme bottom in an early aughts gay TV show.

Surviving is (cross-)dressing as an American marica,

until you’re a ‘merica or a ‘murica

and your ancestors see

you’re the king-queen of Mardi Gras,

purple scepter, crown, and krewe.

Copyright © 2020 by Darrel Alejandro Holnes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

 America is Loving Me to Death
~Michael Kleber-Diggs

acrostic golden shovel
America is loving me to death, loving me to death slowly, and I
Mainly try not to be disappeared here, knowing she won’t pledge
Even tolerance in return. Dear God, I can’t offer allegiance.
Right now, 400 years ago, far into the future―it’s difficult to
Ignore or forgive how despised I am and have been in the
Centuries I’ve been here—despised in the design of the flag
And in the fealty it demands (lest I be made an example of).
In America there’s one winning story—no adaptations. The
Story imagines a noble, grand progress where we’re all united.
Like truths are as self-evident as the Declaration states.
Or like they would be if not for detractors like me, the ranks of
Vagabonds existing to point out what’s rotten in America,
Insisting her gains come at a cost, reminding her who pays, and
Negating wild notions of exceptionalism—adding ugly facts to
God’s-favorite-nation mythology. Look, victors get spoils; I know the
Memories of the vanquished fade away. I hear the enduring republic,
Erect and proud, asking through ravenous teeth Who do you riot for?
Tamir? Sandra? Medgar? George? Breonna? Elijah? Philando? Eric? Which
One? Like it can’t be all of them. Like it can’t be the entirety of it:
Destroyed brown bodies, dismantled homes, so demolition stands
Even as my fidelity falls, as it must. She erases my reason too, allows one
Answer to her only loyalty test: yes or no, Michael, do you love this nation?
Then hates me for saying I can’t, for not burying myself under
Her fables where we’re one, indivisible, free, just, under God, her God.

Copyright © 2020 by Michael Kleber-Diggs. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 5, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

octopus or vampire

Do you ever feel like someone is always asking you for something?

You are standing in a room and octopus arms are coming at you from all sides?

This is how I feel right now. EVERY DAY. Almost all day long.

It is exhausting.

My hard drive is full - I cannot contain any more useful or useless information. I am tapped. I don't have anything else to give.

Yet, my parents want me to weigh in on every single decision they need to make. AND to reserve the right to reject absolutely everything I say in response to their demand.

The dog drops the toy on my toes whether I am cooking or talking on the phone or trying to do something else. If I ignore her, she taps my foot, my leg, anything exposed, with her wet nose and then looks up at me.

Every once in a while, I can hide in the bathroom, but it only works sometimes.

I try to get a long walk in every day. It's generally the only truly alone time I have, but it is also not unfettered. The cars rev their engines at me as I cross the street even though I definitely get across the street faster than they could walking. The dogs rush me if they are allowed to be in their front yards. I greet people as I walk because it is polite, but it is another invasion of my private time.

I am exhausted.

I have nothing more to give.

We hear about the emotional vampires. But does anyone ever tells us not to give in to the marauding octopi? 


I started the day out relentlessly cheerful.

It's been a hard week ... starting with getting back to work after 8 days off. So, you know, a pile of email, and any number of "crises" that are really just the consequence of people not handling their business, literally, because work is business.

Beyond the work re-entry, home re-entry was just as bumpy. 

I returned home to find both octogenarians not feeling well. 

Part of me felt that they were just trying to make me feel guilty for taking a few days for myself.

But, the biggest part was just worried.

My dad's health worsened over the next few days ... all seemingly inexplicable symptoms. His head hurt, and then his left side below his eye was swollen, his ear hurt, and then his whole eye was swollen. 

My mom remembered him saying something about feeling he had been bitten by a bug. He could neither remember being bitten or having said anything about it.

So, in case anyone was wondering, memory issues of octogenarians make them very unreliable narrators of most things except their childhood memories (which of course are also unreliable but in a different way). My dad is especially unreliable because he hates doctors and hates demonstrating any weakness... so it is very difficult to get him to say how he actually feels. So much so that I have to rely on his blood pressure spiking to know he is in pain.

Monday night we ended up in the ER. Even though during the day he felt fine because, of course, I asked him how he felt, several times.

You don't know me, so  you will just have to trust me that I spend most of my waking hours trying to keep my parents healthy. And I have done a good job, if I do say so myself.

But this time, the roadblocks we have faced trying to get him care and figuring out what exactly is going on have made me feel like a failure.

Worse - I feel like the universe is telling me that I am not good at caring for him. It is not an emotion based on reality. I get that. But I am exhausted. And I am my only cheerleader, so when I lose hope, it is a big deal.

I spent the bulk of the day at the edge of tears with breaks to speak sternly with many people standing between me and actual health care professionals. Let's just say they know at this point that I have zero fucks to give.

I feel like I am ending the day defeated.

This is distressing on so many levels. 

I have tried to bring my vacation vibes back into my "real" life. I have held my head high through several days of really challenging issues (I didn't even enumerate the work woes here). 

But now I feel defeated. 

I feel like I need to just say, I give in. I give up.

Why does the universe feel the need to beat me up and put me in my place all the time? That's what I need to know. It feels like there is no need to keep trying to hold my head up when I just get whacked back into submission.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

 Menace to
~Taylor Johnson

after June Jordan

Nightly my enemies feast on my comrades
like maggots on money. Money being my enemy

as plastic is my enemy. My enemy everywhere
and in my home as wifi is

a money for me to reach my comrades
and kills my house plants. My enemy

is distance growing dark, distance growing
politely in my pocket as connection.

I must become something my enemies can’t eat, don’t have
a word for yet, my enemies being literate as a drone is

well-read and precise and quiet, as when I buy something
such as a new computer with which to sing against my enemies,
there is my enemy, silent and personal.

Copyright © 2020 by Taylor Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 18, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

 Along the Border
~Jasminne Mendez
                                        after Idra Novey
On a dirt road
On a drive to el campo
You found a batey
I cut the cane 
We sucked on a stalk
You gave me your arms 
I swam in the river
We locked the door 
Then the lights went out 
And the radio played 
You fingered the pesos 
I walked to the beach
We fried the fish 
You ate the mango  
I jumped in the water
We bought the flowers
Then the migrants came
And you bartered for more 
Then the sirens blared
And they were carried away
But we didn’t stop them 
Then the ocean swept
And the palm trees sagged
They were foreigners
We were foreigners  
And we lived there

Copyright © 2020 by Jasminne Mendez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 15, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Not Poetry Thursday, for Mother's Day

 My Nothings
 ~Ama Codjoe

You, who have bowed your head, shed
another season of antlers at my feet, for years
you fall asleep to the lullabies of dolls,
cotton-stuffed and frayed, ears damp with sleep
and saliva, scalps knotted with yarn, milk-breath,
and yawns. Birth is a torn ticket stub, a sugar
cone wrapped in a paper sleeve, the blackest
ice. It has been called irretrievable, a foreign
coin, the moon’s slip, showing, a pair
of new shoes rubbing raw your heel.
I lose the back of my earring and bend
the metal in such a way as to keep it
fastened to me. In the universe where we are
strangers, you kick with fury, impatient
as grass. I have eaten all your names.
In this garden you are blue ink, baseball cap
wishbone, pulled teeth, wet sand, hourglass.
There are locks of your hair in the robin’s nest
and clogging the shower drain. You, who are
covered in feathers, who have witnessed birth
give birth to death and watched death suck
her purple nipple. You long for a mother
like death’s mother, want to nurse until drunk
you dream of minnows swimming
through your ears—their iridescence causing
you to blink, your arms twitching.
Even while you sleep I feed you.

Copyright © 2018 Ama Codjoe. Used with permission of the author.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

 Duplex: Black Mamas Praying

Antoinette Brim-Bell

Black Mamas stay on their knees praying. Cursing

the lies folks tell ‘bout how the world don’t need you—

“The world don’t need you” is a lie folks tell themselves

when they step over blood gelled black and slick.

Folks step over black blood gelled and slick to get

on with things—don’t bring bones to the cemetery.

Bones in the cemetery, hear the prophecy:

—together, bone to bone—tendons and flesh—skin—

bone to bone—tendons and flesh—skin—together,

four winds breathe into these slain, that they may live—

—breathe, four winds, into these slain. That they may live—

Calling forth prophecy is no light work, No—

but, for Joshua, the sun stood still—the moon stopped.

Black Mamas stay on your knees praying—praying—

Copyright © 2020 by Antoinette Brim-Bell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Poetry Month, Jenny Xie

 To Be a Good Buddhist Is Ensnarement
 ~Jenny Xie

The Zen priest says I am everything I am not.
In order to stop resisting, I must not attempt to stop resisting.
I must believe there is no need to believe in thoughts.
Oblivious to appetites that appear to be exits, and also entrances.
What is there to hoard when the worldly realm has no permanent
Ten years I’ve taken to this mind fasting.
My shadow these days is bare.
It drives a stranger, a good fool.
Nothing can surprise.
Clarity is just questioning having eaten its fill.

Copyright © 2018 Jenny Xie. Used with permission of the author.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Poetry Month, Diannely Antigua

~Diannely Antigua

Outside, an abandoned mattress sags with rain
and the driveway turns all sludge when I remember
I could’ve died eight years ago, in a bed
smaller than the one I share with a new lover
who just this morning found another grey hair in my afro,
and before resettling the wiry curl with the others,
kissed the freckle on my forehead.
I admit, I don’t know a love that doesn’t
destroy. Last night while we slept,
a mouse drowned in the rice pot
I left soaking in the sink. I tried
to make a metaphor out of this, the way
he took the mouse to the edge of the lake in the yard,
released it to a deeper grave. It was
an anniversary, just my lover
taking a dead thing away, taking it
somewhere I couldn’t see.

Copyright © 2020 by Diannely Antigua. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Poetry Month, Claire Meuschke

 zero in on
~Claire Meuschke

I turn on a light in a room I pace away from
take comfort behind neon signs    nested in wires
an errant mirror propped against a commercial strip
or cradled awkwardly in the elbows of a passerby
my legs become their legs
mushrooms came before us needing no light
now they clean up oil spills    rebuild biomes
ripped green awnings of my youth have become
sleek noun and noun stores like Gold and Rust where 
you can buy boutique sticks    stones    dead flowers
I’m more turned on by the defunct Mustang
its turquoise alive in the rain    nostalgia is dangerous 
turquoise that took millions of years to form   mined up
when there was one woman per one thousand men
Jin Ho threw herself into the bay when she learned
she would be sold into prostitution
threw herself not jumped so even in history she is 
an object possessing herself in an act of dispossession 
you make everything about yourself    
as if there’s another realm where I am real
if only    there was something essential    
an oil I could purchase that would reflect only you 
in my floral wrists shielding my eyes
here    take everything    my social security number
my hope that the rush of a population will crash

Copyright © 2020 by Claire Meuschke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Poetry Month, Khaty Xiong

 The Seven Prisms of My Blood
~Khaty Xiong

after Yvan Goll

In the absent oils of your eyes two brown ores
resting leisurely on the view of your children.

You uncoil casually. My hand slipping
to the west and what was felled fills me

until I fall forward injuring your already dead arm.
I am so sorry. Our wills in a twist. Electric.

Some pulse between the gurney and the distant coffin.
My camera shutter clicking wildly around my neck.

Back home tus rab hlau searches for your hands.
The soil to harden. Rapture on the way. Onions

sprouting passionately as neglected gardens do.
The seven prisms of my blood bursting through my ears.

Your living children still living. Your garden goddess
drying the last goods in her shrine. With spring-like

precision the sun weeps until I boil. My head cracked
in four places. The ribbed earth catching fatal drops

of your blood or mine. You beseech me but in my time
I’ve slept away the sun. The underside of distance.

But I behold you now in this cool church and for a ransom.
I photograph you again and again. Your form crystalizing.

Your parted mouth a new annex to the ancestral house.
Your bones at the table. O how fair the jaundiced skies.

You get up to close that clear brittle door.

Copyright © 2020 by Khaty Xiong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 10, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Poetry Month, W. S. Merwin

 The Wings of Daylight

 ~W. S. Merwin

Brightness appears showing us everything

it reveals the splendors it calls everything

but shows it to each of us alone

and only once and only to look at

not to touch or hold in our shadows

what we see is never what we touch

what we take turns out to be something else

what we see that one time departs untouched

while other shadows gather around us

the world’s shadows mingle with our own

we had forgotten them but they know us

they remember us as we always were

they were at home here before the first came

everything will leave us except the shadows

but the shadows carry the whole story

at first daybreak they open their long wings

W. S. Merwin, “The Wings of Daylight” from Garden Time. Copyright © 2016 by W. S. Merwin.

 from “Please Bury Me in This”
 ~Allison Benis White

Now my neighbor through the wall playing piano, I imagine, with her
          eyes closed.
When she stops playing, she disappears.
I am still waiting for the right words to explain myself to you.
When there was nothing left to smoke, I drew on my lips with a pen
            until they were black.
Or is this what it means to be empty: to make no sound?
I pressed my mouth to the wall until I’d made a small gray ring.
Or maybe emptiness is a form of listening.
Maybe I am just listening.

Copyright © 2016 Allison Benis White. Used with permission of the author.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Poetry Month, Vanessa Angelica Villarreal (it might be a repeat)

 Corpse Flower
 ~Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

Yesterday, the final petal curled its soft lure into bone.
The flowerhead shed clean, I gathered up your spine
and built you on a dark day. You are still missing
some parts. Each morning, I curl red psalms into the shells
in your chest. I have buried each slow light: cardinal’s yolk, live
my trenza, a piece of my son’s umbilical cord, and still you don’t
A failure fragrant as magic. Ascend the spirit into the design.
My particular chiron: the record that your perfect feet ever graced
this earth. Homing signal adrift among stars, our tender impossible
What have I made of your sacrifice. This bone: it is myself.


Copyright © 2018 Vanessa Angélica Villarreal. Used with permission of the author.