MY EARLIEST MEMORY
My only grandpa is lying
On a tattered couch
In the black living room.
I'm watching his swollen belly
Rise and fall
In a dirty t-shirt.
He looks like Santa Claus
In a way
Only with less hair.
His stomach inflates and deflates
Up and down,
And, oh God, he wants a hug,
And Mom and Grandma
want me to hug
That swollen belly.
A quick hug.
The last hug.
We had driven on icy, isolated freeways
For twelve temper-breaking hours
So Mom could talk to her mother
In hushed, harsh tones
In the dimly-lit kitchen covered with
Familiar pea-green wallpaper,
And so I could hug my only grandpa
One last time.
I can still remember, as a three year old,
How reluctant I was to hug him,
How terribly reluctant.
Starin' through the black smoke
At the pearly white moon,
Going round and round.
That big green machine is a-workin'
Running it's little heart out
Going up and over
Down and around hills.
Got the tunes cranked on country,
The AC blowin' the sweat off me,
Tobacco spit on the floor.
Go back to the farm for some red diesel.
Head back to the field to try to stay awake.
Go round again and again.
Dew starts to settle;
Hay is getting tough.
Shut down the baler in the field;
Make the bumpy ride to the field's edge.
Get to the road and about fall asleep
'Cause that ride is smooth.
Down the driveway of the farm.
Wash my dirty brown face;
Shut the shop down;
Head home down the driveway.
Sun waiting to rise again.
Light dances through stained glass.
A mixture of dust and incense.
An ancient Gothic requiem arises,
thick with mourning,
reverberating off stone walls.
For centuries priests have stood,
glinting gold trays of communion wafers in hand.
Waiting to place one crisp circle
on my tongue.
UNDERNEATH IT ALL....
You told me you had lost all desire for it.
You attended your classes Tuesday nights.
You picked your sponsor and started working
through the steps.
“Sweetie, our life’s going to be better.
I’m going to be home,
and I’m going to be the mom you deserve.”
You went out with Mike.
When he brought you home,
you both sat down on the couch,
and you tried to hide it.
You looked me in the eyes and lied.
Screaming and crying, I ran to get Paige.
Mike grabbed me,
and I told him to get out.
After he finally left,
and Paige locked herself in her room,
I held your hair as you puked.
I changed your clothes
and put you to bed.
I stayed home from school the next day
you were so sick.
The color of the taste of sunshine
Spread on toast
Lemon zest sprinkled on white cake
In noontime meadows
The color of the sound of bumblebees
Striped with the darkness of cobalt
The color of the feeling of warm honey
Heavy on your tongue
Baby blonde hair softly slipping through your fingers
ODE TO THE MANGOSTEEN
Hiding down dingy, foul-smelling streets,
Gently nestled in cloth to keep the bugs out,
Or resting inside silk-lined baskets, used for laundry the day before,
Or simply sitting out on tattered blankets, growing mushy in the sun.
Reaching out, I take one in my hands, searching for
in its dark purple skin.
Satisfied with my selection, I make my way from the crowded
And head to a more solitary place.
I flick open its green flower-like stem.
A cloudy residue leaks over my fingers.
I sweep it off on my already dirty pants.
A slight breeze lifts a sweet scent
That mingles with the dirty smell of the streets.
Breaking off a piece, I touch the slug-like meat to my dry lips--
Stopping mid-bite as a small boy skips along,
Staring at me.
I close my mouth round the fruit.
Every taste bud rises like a goose bump
as cold juices slide down my throat.
Like an orange the fruit is split into sections.
I swallow each piece slowly,
And I am in the moment.
And, in that sweet moment, far from home,
My mind unwraps the beauty behind
I LIE ON THE COLD TRAMPOLINE
I lie on the cold trampoline.
I watch the stars wink silently.
You stood me up again.
I know where you are.
You're at that party,
Snorting some coke or smoking some pot--
One of those parties you begged me to attend,
Where you could be found
On a ripped couch, it's contents falling out,
With others, all with bloodshot eyes.
It didn't take long to fall for you,
But it sure as hell took a long time to get over you.
The whoosing sound of car ties.
Headlights briefly illuminate the snow.
The car pulls in to my driveway.
You get out.
You stand looking at me, gripping
The trampoline's metal frame.
The stale stench of alcohol and smoke
Clings to your mouth and body.
"Look, I'm sorry," you say.
"I'm only a little late."
I sit up and look at the eyes
That ask for my forgiveness once again.
"You're a little too late."
I jump to the ground and quietly head for the house.
You don't try to follow me.
I REACH OUT TO HIM
You see, my brother is autistic,
Different from the rest.
He has tunnel vision too,
Like seeing through two small tubes.
He looks at life in ways that I will never see.
He has learned to live simply,
For he knows of no life without his disabilities.
He loves giving gifts to others
And talking about his family.
He thinks of games that both of us can play.
He loves sleep-overs
And dancing in the rain.
He likes listening to storms on the TV.
And skating with his boots at the ice rink.
He is lying next to me in his sleeping bag.
I watch his eyes open slowly,
Awakening from our sleep-over.
He climbs out of bed
And quietly heads for the door.
Returning, with a flashlight in one hand,
He sits down beside me.
Not yet knowing that I am awake,
And not wanting to leave my side,
He has brought a toy with him to pass away the time.
Slowly, I reach out to him
And gently take his hand.
SO THE MEADOWLARK SINGS
The meadowlark sings.
Its song brings back the past.
A tree swing.
Black rubber hot in the sun.
My hands wrapped around a rope.
Hands pushing me from behind.
A white house.
Rows of flowers by the road.
I hold a bunch in my arms.
The hands hold scissors.
Cutting through the stems.
So the meadowlark sings.
Reminding me of the hands
That are no longer there.
I'm kickin' it in a parkin' lot,
& it's way past midnight.
The snow's comin' down
In quarter-size flakes.
Everything I see is muffled
By the quietness of snow.
A ball pops out of the dark
Into the light of a street lamp.
I peel out, trying to sprint
After it, sliding to a stop,
Barely got a foot on it
To get it under control.
Then I boot it back
Where it came from,
And even though I can't
See him, I know
That crazy Californian
Is out there, standing in the snow.
THE YELLOW BATHING SUIT
Wearing the yellow bathing suit,
I wasn't sure what you thought,
So I jumped in.
Later on the dock
My feet were cold.
You covered them up.
Though we talked a lot,
Not a lot was said.
I wished there was more.
I said yes.
Start from scratch
Shine up the frame
Bolt on the axles
Strap on the drive train
Hook up the gas tank
Drop on the body
Slap on four shiny wheels
Turn the key and listen to her roar
Adjust the carbs
Pull her out of the garage
Drive her to the show
A man offers a price
Then let her go.
AT FIRST SIGHT
I watch you from across the room,
But as you glance up, I look away,
Afraid of what I'll find in your eyes
Or what we won't say.
I wish that I could tell you how I feel,
But whenever we get close to each other,
My voice stops working.
When I see you,
You look through me,
And I am surprised at the pain I feel.
Still, I can't help
How my breath speeds up when I see you.
On the way there,
Yelling and fighting
Like we've done before,
Hiding the fears.
My brother's going to college;
I won't see him for years.
Unpacking his things
The fights disappear.
Feels like we've just met.
It's time to say good bye,
Showing it all in one hug.
On the way home
We're one person less.
Keep telling my mom
It's for the best.
Sitting in the truck
With the rain pouring down the glass
And pooling on the ground,
Our seats reclined,
You and I were warm, and
Sweet, heavy breath hung in the air,
Dense like fog.
We were just talking (about everything)
But all the while my heart was racing
In and out of the silences and words.
I was sure that you could hear it
As I leaned in and kissed you.
He stands at the top of the hill,
His fingers rubbing together like a mini violin.
His eyes glancing around the terrain,
Plotting the path ridden by few.
He scuffs his feet along the pavement.
His eyes blink and his lips moisten.
He taps his hands against his thighs,
Remembering a song.
"He's not going to make it."
Then I hear the cold clash of long-board wheels
As they hit the pavement.
1, 2, 3 pushes, his left foot leading his right,
Braced on the long, wooden board.
The curves approach.
This is the spot.
His green Volcom shirt dances in the wind.
His face gets nearer,
And the fear fades.
I see the smile of victory.
"All right, Alysa, you're next."
I push my board under my arm,
And I jog to the top of the hill.
Out of breath, I stand there,
Glancing round the terrain,
My fingers rubbing together like a mini violin.
My friend's dad is a drunk
alcohol owns his bald body
it owns his fists and mind
every time my friend's dad takes a drink
he takes out another loan
falls farther in debt
farther into the grip of his loan shark
my friend's dad
colors him with magic crayons
his favorite colors are black and blue
sometimes he uses red
but red turns to brown too quickly
and it washes off too easily
my friend's dad
is owned by a loan shark
who likes to watch him
use his magic crayons
They have done.
The reflection in the sea is
The color of the sky,
The water slapping
Against the sand
And their feet.
The wind swirling
Their long white dresses.
They have done.
I went for coffee today,
But I drove through.
Usually I walk in.
The barista still knows my order by heart:
Double, tall, white, chocolate-caramel latte, skinny.
My favorite; your favorite.
She hands me my change and drink
And asks how my day is going.
I tell her it's okay.
I leave a tip
And pull away from the window.
I went for coffee today,
But I went without you.
BACK OF THE ROOM
I can't wait to leave this place
Of cliques and boredom and failed assignments
People think I'm a druggy, punk, or a freak
Maybe it's true
Maybe it's not
Because around here I am no one to everyone
And everyone is no one to me,
I have always sat in the back of the room
With no one to talk to
Being as quiet as a mouse
Or even quieter,
If I wish to.
I have a photograph of my mother.
She is standing all alone
With her shoes in her hand
And the surf at her feet.
White grains of sand between her toes,
Painted blue, matching the clear Mexican sky.
The sea breeze
Is pulling at her dress and hair.
Her skin is golden brown
Stained from hours in the sun,
The sun that glistens off the water.
She is smiling,
Eyes half squinting from the glare,
Sunglasses atop her head.
I look at a photograph of my mother
As, all alone, we spent the day together.
The sound of hooves
Pounding into the ground.
Looking up to see the herd of horses,
Led by the brown, Arabian mare,
Running in unison,
Throwing their heads,
She trots up to you.
Slowly the others follow,
Nudging for grain.
The sound of hooves
Pounding into the ground,
The winter sun reaches through the kitchen window
and shines on the sheet of kolache dough
spread over a layer of flour four feet long,
so thin that I can see the grain of the wood
through the fingerprint flower I made on the edge.
I stand on tiptoe on a stool,
wrapped in an apron that is
decorated all over with puffs of flour
and lean forward
to watch my father draw a knife over the dough,
dividing it into a grid of three-inch squares.
When the blade moves on, I spoon
a small amount of filling from the bowel to my left
and spread it over the first square,
peel two fragile corners off the flour with my thumbs and
roll the dough around the filling into a kolache.
I tuck it into a cookie tray
and move on,
listening as my father hums
as his grandmother might have hummed,
and then he reminds me
not to use too much filling and to
keep the rolls tight,
as his father might have reminded him.
The harvesting of knowledge is all there is.
It is the root that feeds life into our fragile souls.
Knowledge answers our questions,
But, at each opportunity, we must wrest it.
It is what drives us farther in life.
Knowledge will bring you money.
Money will buy an Audi R8 V10 Plus.
A V10 Plus has 550 horsepower…. You’ll drive fast.
Driving fast gets you pulled over.
Gets you a ticket.
Ears are at best
of the flesh—
awkwardly molded ovals
with inexplicable tunnels
But, the essence
is their ability
the beautiful balance of
Too small to be a pond
Too big to be a puddle.
It’s holding its breath.
Within the whispering grass
It strains to be still,
To be reflective,
Or, at least, vaguely defining.
The world it reflects is distorted.
A roaring plane overhead,
The putrid smell of exhaust
Gathering on its surface.
It splashes and ripples
Like the basement sink
in which dirty hands are washed.
NUMBER 1 BY JACKSON POLLOK
but they don’t mix.
Picturing a place
where Chaos rules.
Black and White.
No blurred lines.
An intricate dance
MY THOUGHTS FOR YOU
I lie cold in my bed.
I think of you, sleeping, curled up with your beautiful hair
And I feel something I haven’t felt for a while:
My feelings for you must be true.
I think of how I will ask you and what I could take to you.
The sun rises, and I get up, still love struck.
I’m already on the bus when I see your dad’s big black truck.
You get out, and he drives away.
I still haven’t thought of how to ask you.
Then, you get on, smiley and cheerful.
You sit next to me, and I smile.
You ask why I look so happy.
I tell you I love you and would do anything to prove it.
And you say,
“Then, kiss me.”
And I realized I couldn’t see
The way I saw you.
And I knew you couldn’t see me