A letter with no return address

It’s the things that I remember at midnight that will kill me.

I hope I forget the curve of your under eye,

When you’ve barely slept.

I hope I don’t turn over in the night;

Dreaming, how I heard your voice

Pulling wire between my ears,

Tuning over and over.

I hope I crawl inside that cardboard box

At the back of your mind so well,

And collect the lacework of spiders,

Mixed in with the dust.

I hope I carry my heart to the grave,

And never try letting her attach herself to people like stickers which peel off-

Eventually, turning into faded stamps

Which never grace letters.

I hope I remember not to pack a part of me

In your suitcase,

Pushed under the bed,

With shiny new locks.

I hope I pick myself up like a wooden doll,

Arms held up by string,

Succumbing to God’s puppetry,

How I step step step across the floor,

With nothing but a wandering eye,

Which falls on the grass,

Where the shade never casts the silhouette of a dandelion.

I hope you forget me.

 

 

Appropriator: Employment application OR Lost and Found 

I ate from the table, making sure that my elbows rested,

left hand never rose from my lap,

and that my water glass sip

didn’t crumple the invitation given to me.

It’s all one big chance to win it big,

find your place,

use two euphemisms,

about finding a culture that doesn’t make me feel like an outsider.

See, I’ve never been outside the United States

but I’ve been a guest in more than four states-

examining each spine I come in contact with.

I look at backbones on sale,

placing wagers if I can score one like that,

like hers prepackaged without shipping and handling fees.

You don’t understand,

how misplacement in adulthood

asks the questions: who are you, where are you from,

and will you fit in here?

I look at skin, eye shape, collar bone,

and find myself in a Polly Pocket world

switching between identities, communities, 

and grievance of reparations in hopes I will be invited to eat

at this table again. 

Divinity, makes her laugh

She talks about heaven as if it doesn’t exist.

She sees the world as an expanse,

where our entire beings are smaller than our pupils.

In the burst of stars

 combusting anxieties across the galaxy,

I stop putting factions of what is right or wrong

in people’s mouths. She believes there is a world

a part from humanity that should benefit.

She reminds me that the world is alive

tingling in the veins of leaves,

and on algae gripping onto coral bodies.

She makes heaven sound otherworldly,

Out of place for the bound book –

I forget to open. I forget to search nose down,

As I’ve been taught. I felt religion came in waves, 

I teleported through peace intervals,

and smiled when I saw the earth as not mine.

Instead, I, in origin belong to the ground, the sea, 

the duty of sustaining life other than my own.

She speaks as if heavens don’t matter, 

because indulgence doesn’t matter if the earth is hurting.

She makes heaven sound like another planet,

out there orbiting as a moon.

She makes heaven sound so old,

That the clouds remember the grazes of prayers,

my people already sang when they came crammed in ships.

She makes heaven sound like a body,

washed and wrapped in burial cloth

waiting for the younger generations to come

pay respects. She makes heaven sound fleeting as a

shadow over the grass on summer day. 

Eating lemons with sugar (Reflection on childhood)

Sometimes I do not want to tell my story. I sit there listening to everyone else’s description of their old neighborhoods or how such-and-such relative said yes or no to change. My silence becomes stuffed with assumptions of how my story is told.

Once, I sat with a group of women outside on a terrace. Protected from the sun’s beams, each went around the circle and told how location raised us all. Country borders had brought a few of them to realize how their lives could have been dramatically different. They could have nursed multiple children, but instead they sat in iron chairs comparing philanthropic discussion. The privileges blew clouds above us. I watched as some recalled a time that was much similar. A part of me sat there and wanted to claw at the air with my hands how life could not be bottled. I cannot tell my stories without feeling as if those around me understand what I truly mean.

I wasn’t born into this…but it’s a choice to observe these rituals.

I wasn’t exclusively oppressed, but I know of chains that exist solely in the mind.

I wasn’t denied access to resources, but we hid the fact that we used them.

I had moved several times in my life. Each city brought different views of the same sky. In the background, things I have learned to covet about myself could not be good enough for the new home. In third grade, I used to sing. When I took a shower or a bath in our brick house which seemed as if we would live in it forever, I sang loudly.. When the cars of both of my parents were packed with our most essential things, I left my voice behind in our old house. As we backed out of the gravel driveway, the trees which had the etched initials of my best friends could no longer be a part of me. I could not sit out there in the rain, on one of the higher branches and rub my fingers over those grooves. I didn’t cry  when we left for a different state. In the embrace of my friends,I told them I would come back. It would not be long, but it was. Years had gotten between us, and I had visited once only to find how much I didn’t fit inside my old school. The stairs I could not run up and down as quickly, and skip two at a time. Familiar faces no longer worked there, and ones who did – did not possess the same wonder I had once found.

Ode to writing

I wrote a thousand different poems.

Each one, pressed like flowers and leaves

in dictionaries, my parents told me to read.

Some days, I think there aren’t enough words

in me. I used to chew on the margins of my

grade school notebooks, so when I talked- a sound

came out in the classroom. I wrote a song for a

girl whose hands are as warm as the steam

against my face, when I’ve opened the pot’s lid.

For this sensation, I remember the places and

people who’ve made me feel warm. My hands

are cold, with my self-deprivation forming

rings around my fingers. I wrote a letter to

people I’ve never met because I would have

liked to know them. Their words seep into the

graveyard’s grass, and shower a mist in a

mausoleum of urns. Somewhere, I learned

that if I think my words are important, I can

never say them directly face to face. I wrote

a paragraph or two for my parents on how

my childhood left me with an unrealistic

perspective that my younger self was the

only self I could be proud of. I wrote a

lullaby for my aches and groans, when I

held my arms tightly across my chest in the

night. Silent decays of belief and hope are

mine to keep. I wrote a song for a man I

knew who would never love me, and now

I think of how I don’t want him to. I wrote a

song for sex, afraid that when it happens, I

won’t like it at all. I wrote a song for rain, add-

ing an extra refrain for the days it never stops.

I wrote a limerick for myself, because the day

laughing gives way to sickness of a tearful mind –

I’ll read it again.

 

The trellised fence (draft)

Bending down, I picked up the shards of the locket’s glass face. A sepia toned picture of my grandfather smiled up at me, as the tears lined the sides of my face. It finally happened. I knew she had enough of this family, and would leave for good.

With the plumes of incense smoke rising to the ceiling, I saw her favorite book on the recliner. Half-way through the poetry anthology she had read more than five times, I wondered if the bookmarked page had predicted the moment she would leave. She was like that after all. A word, a phrase, a scent took her away from the present and threw her into the need to get away from wherever she was.

In my hand, I saw the metal back carved into criss-crossing triangles on the locket. Mom had worn it last. The clasp, full of my sister’s curly hair, had been replaced twice. We rummaged through antique stores, and thrift stores to find a clasp the same tint of the metal. Somehow, I thought we picked out a worn-out piece, which would break just as easily. Yet, a new clasp would not do. Old things are meant to be preserved with ones just like them. My sister had said this over dinner. Mouthful of fried rice, she explained that it was betterthat  she wouldn’t be young forever.

“I’m tired of not knowing,” she said tapping her chopsticks on the side of her bowl.

“You say that now,” our uncle said. “Doesn’t get better from here on. You get wise not invincible.” Lifting one of the vegetable dumplings from the middle platter, I watched him smile between bites at our mother.

A knock came from the door.

I placed the few pieces in my hand onto the side table. A vase full of daffodils, my mother’s birth flowers, stood there alongside two sets of keys. Whoever knocked the first time, waited patiently. Before I turned the latch, I peered through the peephole. A young kid with black bangs fraying out of his snapback held one of my sister’s shoes in his hand.

Birthing fragile flowers

My unborn children are wilted flowers.

I fear their feet will touch the frigid floors,

where I trail my sadness behind me.

My unborn children are potted plants,

because I am afraid I will fail them –

if I let them see the world –

where I have become a failure.

Incarnate god,

God, whose face rests like a lotus,

brow  not furrowed by calamity,

I weep for them.

My children, whose ribs ache of hearty tears,

I promise I have thought of you-

since I knew I had twigs in my uterus

capable of building nests.

My children, whose chromosomes are half,

my love is afraid to make you a whole being,

so I shall wait.

My children,

I was born in the flower bed,

where my parents used spoons

instead of a small spade to till soil.

My unborn children,

I hold my hand against my cheek,

and think how my love breathes only a few feet in front of me,

as a frost cloud when my lips are parted in winter.

Inherited sorrow

Grandmother died,

With her daughter

Tucked into the folds of her skin

Creating pouches of fat by her middle.

Head, propped up by a pillow,

Her jaws relaxed and slacked down. 

I imagine her dark brown eyes,

Searching my mother’s face

In a sea of stories

Still hanging in the air. 

Laid, a blanket hugging her frame,

She was the size of thumbelina.

Two thin braided plaits,

Laced with silver tinsel- gleaning.

I imagine her soul,

Roaming the forest of Mississippi,

Visiting the trees 

Outside the plantation. 

She’ll trace her hands on

The old mobile home of my mother’s house.

Windows with splintered paint,

My grandmother crawls in their sealant.

She died,

And came into my mother’s home

Still illuminating in her

Like the safety light on top of the stove.

She died,

And came in between my mother’s teeth

When the years had worn her season to season.