It’s been a time for living, some days I could even venture to say I’ve been living poetry. A good excuse for not keeping up my writing practice, which is not to say that the impression of these days should not be written down. A list poem, at least, which might include the words
ten and two
Biting on the gritty dust kicked up by hundreds of lightning bolts striking a purple sky.
Filling up the gas tank one more damn time.
In the past two weeks I have left, I have arrived, I have finished, I have started, I have reunited, I have jumped in, I have come home, I have returned, I have rarely been alone.
I am just catching up with the part that writes, that reflects, that tries to make meaning out of putting words together. I’m in no hurry. I don’t hurry very well.
The first thing I wrote after I returned, in front of the ocean, was a prayer.
Right before I left, when I was landlocked, before my love arrived, when I was often alone, I also wrote prayers. This was one.
Give thanks for prayer
when it’s the only thing
I have to slip into
the cracks of my cold,
tight heart. Give thanks
for clichés, though they
are the very things I warn
my students against using.
Clichés may be dead language
but we say these things over
and over for a reason, don’t we?
Sometimes things just need
to be said without a care
if it’s been said before.
The dead still need remembering.
Give thanks for warm nights
that let me stand out on my deck
in tsinelas and stare at the stars
Give thanks for the waxing moon
that is not yet half way full
because when I have nothing
to hold I imagine my own hands
hanging on to the bright edges,
dipping my fingertips into the dark
parts though I know the moon is always
round and full. It’s just a matter
of waiting for the light to shine.
Give thanks for all forms of transportation
the planes that carry my loved ones in the sky
and the car that will carry me away from this place.
Give thanks for the ability to take care of myself
even when it looks like having one more drink
even when it looks like smoke in my lungs.
Give thanks for the ability to run
and feel my muscles moving
even if my main motivation
to move is to release
my body from longing.
Each time you open
the door after looking
through the peephole
I leap across the threshold
into your steady arms.
My love if this apartment
is too small we can break
the lease and find a home
with more room for your
You and I are
in the kitchen
I have a sweet tooth
when you are craving salt.
Sometimes we are missing
an ingredient (and if you cannot
beg me to the store in my pajamas)
then we improvise to make it
tasty. But whoever cooks
does not have to clean
and we never go to bed hungry.
of your neck
is hiding precious
jewels. Rubies, diamonds,
emeralds, mother of pearl.
Don’t bother trying to cash
them in. I made a deal with
the crook of your neck
to stash them there just for me.
Don’t worry, you will forget
they are there once I bury
my face in them.
Good morning thoughts. Good morning cold. It is my very best when I write to you. Sometimes I forget the shape of my heart and the way of my words. Maybe I don’t forget. Maybe they change their shape and their ways and I have not been keeping up. But there is a whipping in that thought so I take it back. No more whippings. It does not make the words come out and play because they sit inside rubbing their bums from the sting.
So I was getting self-righteous in class yesterday talking about teaching as a political act and had to hold myself back. Missed my commie friends and their clarity. Missed the choir if I can assume the preacher role for just a hot minute. I felt like even though we were discussing the reading we were really talking about whether or not we, young privileged intellectuals, have faith in the people. I’m in the room with an Of-course-we-have-faith-in-ourselves-it’s-the-others we-don’t-know-about type of mindset and in my own mind I pick them up like statues with their arms folded smug across their chests and slamdunk them into elitism’s gold carat trashcan. Do you understand?
Yes. I don’t know how much more I need to say about it, but I miss my commie friends. I miss doorknocking tenant organizers and la gente de la Mision so ready so ready. I miss la gente that isn’t so ready, too, except to yell fuck you where’s my money? across the street. I miss seeing early pregnant mothers sprawled face down at Dolores Park to get their little ones inside acquainted with the earth in these parts and the ones that are buried there. I miss Walid ringing me up at the L&M Produce with his runny nose telling me that I look tired. I miss his chubby twelve-year old nephew out on the sidewalk standing on a crate cutting watermelon and calling out how sweet and cheap it is to the passersby I miss being late for work and cutting down Hoff Alley past Kid Power Park seeing fathers push their daughters in the swing, way too early for sucking on lollipops with blue bubblegum inside.
I miss these things and more. These were just the ones that came out easy on the tip of my tongue this cold morning,
today for a freewrite i told my students to write about the rain.
What the hell is gonna make it worth being here while the world hurricanes and quakes? While Frisco twists off a cliff one more thick root left. While my godmother’s rage cannot leave the bed or her body and she misses my cooking? While my mom’s eyes sparkle in retirement and she no longer holds her tongue. What the hell is gonna make it worth it if the stories are not coming?
Maybe the tears need to flow before the words do. Maybe each of my words is someone I love trapped in a house spinning inside a gang of hurricanes and I have to walk right through the front door and save them. Maybe I ain’t really shit and most definitely not a heroine and my words don’t need a saving. Maybe I’m here because I chose them and they chose me, we asked each other to the dance at the same time so I show up and my words are late as payback for all those times I flaked. And this dance lasts three years anyway so stop my crying.
Maybe I can finally let all the voices in my head come out and introduce themselves as the separate and divine guides they are, pressed butterflies flat between pages for so long. I’m sorry I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that candles and water and prayers were not nearly enough for you. I’m sorry for all the times I took your breath away, I lowered the sky until it became a low ceiling and you tall proud ones had to bend half your size. I’m sorry I mistook the harshness in your voice for punishment when you were really only an older smoker version of me speaking the wisdom of god. I’m so sorry that I broke my own heart when my heart was the only pair of rollerskates I owned as a little girl. What can I do now to show you that it’s safe and sound?
I will let the words spill out the morning sleep from my eyes.
I will cry to the sweetest music I can conjure up. I will play it for eight hours straight and leave all my doors and windows open so each song sails through as it pleases.
I will not leave you alone even when it feels like I’m the one who’s by myself.
I will make this a place of worship for you, but please be patient I’m still learning how to be humble like that.
The rains here are good and intense. A downpouring tropical rain that washes off the mild-manners of the mid-west. A rain that is close cousins with the ocean. A rain that makes me stay home on a late Friday afternoon and cry folding laundry. I lift my head to catch the sky broken open into many silvers. Steadying me just enough.
it never lets me down. like last night when i came home after class and made adobo, my first bloomington batch. i shovelled out two steamy scoops and topped it off with my extra vinegary sabao. then this morning mixed with green onion and diced tomatoes and then two fried eggs with soy sauce on top. sarap! it’s my own cooking that will now be my comfort food. not mama’s, not james c’s, my own. My rice cooker is my ace-in-the-hole. the part of the meal i can take for granted. i have so much love for the things i can take for granted…
i’ve made a few friends here, but we’re all still checking each other out, taking it slow. No one wants anyone to get the wrong idea or overcommit. To grab on to new friends sometimes feels like it means i’m letting old ones go. So I don’t grab. We’re all here to write anyway. The real task is making writing my new best friend. Figuring out how to stay up late with my writing. How to be loyal and stick up for my writing. But how, against the voices that say I’ll be neglecting my old friends? Who needs a new best friend? This writing is too demanding. And what if we don’t hit it off? Well, either way I have a story due in two weeks that I haven’t started yet. Best friend, enemy, flabby muscle, whatever I wanna call it, it’s time to get crackin. sometimes i wish my writing was like my ricecooker. Easy, reliable, comforting and filling me up. Taken for granted. But in the absence of wishes come true, there are deadlines.