Poetry

Lamps

My mother used to tell me
there was a time
she kept a closet full of lamps
so whenever one of her kids
broke one, she’d sweep up
and pull another out.

I imagine her trolling
the Saturday morning garage sales
of the 70s buying every cheap,
ugly thing that lit, handing over a dollar,
50 cents, maybe haggling them down
to a quarter. A woman with a stock pile
of light sources at the ready
while her children flipped
like gymnasts through the living room:

my brother leaping for all he was worth
toward the old brown sectional,
the rug underneath a hot pit of lava;
my sister’s dance moves a sensation
before the crowd was stunned to silence
in the wake of a tragic mishap with the coffee table.

Mom could have told them to stop, but
she knew that sometimes you need Disaster
to strike, to cut yourself until you bleed
and everything goes dark.

At our house, Disaster walked through
the front door as familiar as spring mud.
We set it a place at the table
and after its belly stretched taut,
sent it on its way and got back down
to business. Some days you landed
your backflip. Some days you didn’t.

I can still see her: a widow
with a penchant for the practical,
holding an end table model
with off-white shade, its copper base
molded in the form of an eagle,
cord dangling, her hand
gripping the bird by the throat.

– Rattle #61, Fall 2018
(link includes audio)

 

At the Bakery

Caves of cookies,
cenotes of cinnamon rolls
and the scene of today’s paper,
dismembered on the dark wooden tables.

There is a mother in Juarez
who has watched her sons
bleed out on the street
where they grew up, the dark juice

of their lives running in sweet rivers
around her ankles; and for a moment
my craving is for escape through the slice of pie
that – when released from its perfect whole –

oozes with the determination
of the conquered: berries in midnight-purple juice
leaking their secrets over a moon-white saucer.
It is purely instinct. At imbalance we run –

like the young men from the party, fleeing
in vain from the bullets, toward something
to love, something we remember,
what will melt on our tongues, toward the cream,

simmering crystals, the aroma reaching us
even from the blackness beyond the oven door.
Stilled, they lie inches from the soft breath
of their mama who examines

their beauty, blessing them first
with tender kisses, then bitter curses,
and if she should weep, it will be for the abruptness
of line where these two things meet.

Anthology 2017, Celebrating the Writers of the Pioneer Valley

 

dreams of modern life

I

The café sits in the midst of warehouses and auto body shops. Pots of geraniums and jasmine overflow onto the concrete, stake out a place, establishing beauty. Behind the greasy garages exists a plate of delicate shortbread cookies and, next to it, the most delectable mocha cheesecake. The man on the other side of the wall, in the blue coveralls, with a socket wrench in his hand, is some days overtaken by smells of the soup du jour – tomato and roasted red pepper bisque, or gingered carrot. Some days he is overtaken by thoughts of a woman, standing, in a white apron, measuring.

II

We all walk piled with dreams. The ones you had last night and are still plagued by, even though you can’t remember the plots and only a few details, the ones calling to you trying to help, lifesaver after lifesaver hitting the water and floating away.

III

The alarm clock with its bothersome reliability, its dutiful timing, brings one into the day so unnaturally as to force a soul to pretend it is natural – to say nothing and to show up at work. To move in the world as if you belonged here, as if this were all you needed. And everyone is in on the joke, working because they need the money, doing the best they can. Outside, orange maple leaves go uncollected. It’s as if you can truly live with the knowledge that somewhere in eastern Ohio there is a playground where your childhood secrets are buried in the sand and you may never get back there before it’s too late.

IV

The little girl approaches the fountain with a penny pressed between her thumb and index finger. Qué quieres? her mother asks. What do you want? What do you wish for? Qué quieres? she fires again, without waiting for her daughter to answer. Miras, ‘yo quiero…,’ the mother models. Yo quiero… parrots the little girl, but then is silent. She stands next to her mother with the shiny penny.

Enizagam

Soul Food

A cluster of women
in traditional Korean dress
leaves the Mexican taquería
and crosses the street
in front of the Ford pickup.

From high, bowed waists
each skirt releases its own soft color:
mint, peach, custard, a velvety blue.
Their rich black hair is cut bluntly,
all just below the jaw line.

The wind billows
their exaggerated skirts,
so that they look like bells
or gumdrops
gliding along on the breeze.

I wonder where they came from
to appear here
in the downtown crosswalk,
in the bustle
of this Saturday morning.

Perhaps the wedding food
left that much to be desired,
and they headed – in full regalia –
for the safety
of a burrito and chips.

I picture those skirts bunched
into a vinyl booth while a ranchera plays
over the speakers. I imagine them
laughing together quietly,
as the Mexican hot chocolate arrives,

as they lick salsa from their fingers.

– Homestead Review