Monday, February 22, 2010

children who have been here forever

I sat on sacred land yesterday and then realized that

I am always on sacred land

Shopping carts and garbage litter the homes around me
Children laugh, and I smile at their teeth
Shining like stars against a Sepia backdrop of flesh

Sometimes in the glint of those very teeth
I see the ghost of what this neighborhood used to be

This graveyard of closed-down banks and broken windows
Seems like the only thing still shining is the children, so I follow them
Creep into shadows, see they’re still shining
This Sepia rivaled only by an Indigo sky

I want to paint them but I can’t capture such light
What I want to show is the flash
A captive firefly in the eyes of children who have been here forever

There are no words
There are no colours
I can only watch

Car Ride

His hair, or what is left of it, is blowing in the wind rushing in from the darkness outside. He is talking almost incessantly, and I listen with both ears, because I know what is coming.

A dog licks my hand and I am alone in the back seat, swimming in beige leather, listening to the sound of hearts breaking all around me. I myself am remembering things that I would rather not remember. I see my mother’s hands, empty , as she holds them out to me. I don’t know what I am supposed to do with these hands, only that they held me at one time, long ago, smelling of Red Door and detergent and sickness.

His voice startles me awake.

“I never wanted to cause that kind of pain to anyone,” he is saying, and keeps talking. I look out the window at the people flapping around like leaves on the street. I watch a drunken man lead a child across the street. The little boy`s hair shines like an otter pelt in the sun, and I direct my eyes away from him. Too bright, I think, and my head throbs.

He turns in his seat to look at me. His eyes are dark.

"I remember that," he says, and I hear my voice from somewhere far away asking him what he remembers.
"I remember suffering", and the world swirls around me, passing in and out of tinted windows. I remember suffering too, I think, but I cannot say this to him, because in front of me there are tunnels. Ones that you shield your eyes against because, like the little boy, they are too bright.

And the other kind.. the kind that you feel like you can't get out of, the ones filled with ghosts and men who drive in cars, whispering secrets to anyone who will listen.

A Walk to School

My daughter sits in a classroom with her arm in the air, waving an invisible flag of herself.

If I were to be watching her from the hallway, obstructing the bustle of teachers in tight black pants and thin painted mouths, it would be painful, so I wait until the last possible minute to enter the building. I can see it anyway, in the window of my imagination.

The children around her are shiny, like this year's pennies, and I wonder how they got that way. I grew up feeling like I entered the world through a second-hand store, like I had never been new.

I take my time getting to the school. In the beginning I never saw mothers, and now that school has started they emerge like butterflies whose wings have been removed.

Their younger children toddle far behind, noses running, and I want to pat their heads, but I know that I shouldn't, so I don't. I can't catch up with these mothers, so I walk slowly, taking my part in a parade of duty. My head down, I too feel like I want to be flying.

A boy steps off a school bus and disappears into the shambles of his home, like a cloud swallowed up by the sun. A man passing me shouts at his grandson in a language that I don't understand and I turn and watch them fall away.

Sasha is beside me now, and the wind is whistling in my ears so that I can barely hear her speak. She is telling me about who the helper of the day was. What I want to tell her is that it's all bullshit, but I listen, looking at the vacant lot beside us.

"That fence couldn't keep us out," she says, and I am stunned because I am thinking the same thing. I tell her this and she is pleased. She licks the ice cream that I bought her at the corner store, and skips ahead.

I run my fingers over the chainlink fence separating me from the concrete and weeds, thinking about how crawling over it with my daughter, who has the dark dark eyes of a priestess. We would kick the garbage to one side, and take our rightful places on the ground, on the earth, which belongs to all of us.

Bus Ride

Last night on the bus
I watched a baby fall asleep, drinking from a propped bottle. He was lying on his back and he was startled by the night/bus sounds off and on. His mom was looking out the window, but I never took my eyes off of him. His own eyes drifted open and closed as he drank his milk. I tried to talk to him in my mind.
"It's okay" I told him.
"The world is scary sometimes, but at least you have the sky, and that will be your blanket. The water will wash you. Sshhhh.... you are loved"
His eyes closed and stayed closed.

A man got on the bus shortly after that. He had cuts all over his arms and a big backpack and blanket. I tried to speak to him with my mind,
"Look at me," I said over and over again, and he would turn in my direction but wouldn't make eye contact.
"Shhh...." I said to him, and I knew he heard me. I rested my head against the window and wished I was home.

Another Bus

today was full of ghosts.

the bus driver's smile was thin and transparent, and there was a hint of rot in his breath as he said hello. i looked around the bus as i walked to the back, and there was no one there. there were no sounds; the bodies were skeletal.

the bus floated down main street, pausing to pick up people who wait on the sidewalk, sheltering themselves from the cold. a few feet away are others, ones who wait forever while an endless stream of cars and buses roar past them. they are invisible, frozen in the absence of the sun.

last night i walked to the river with friends in the middle of the night. we built a fire and my shoes were full of snow. there was no one around... the city was empty.

ghosts. some are more obvious than others. they leak tears endlessly, flooding doorways and alleyways while we look in the other direction, waiting for a bus.

Jesus Died Shoeless

Jesus died shoeless
I myself have no shoes
so I read "The Hungry Time" with my family
put them outside so the wind makes no mistake
they are alive

Jesus died shoeless
My children have no shoes
when I close my eyes I see them
like Him, strung up like Christmas lights
bare feet winking at me from above
and I cry

In this place of darkness we sell bulbs of hope
to light the way for people like me

For M.E

I saw you as a newborn baby, looking around for the man who wasn't there
No sharp eyes open, watching for intruders...
a baby boy protecting his mama
crying, saying hey.. I'm worth something, with a heavy heart
not believing it

I saw you as a child walking alone, dark eyes on the ground, looking for a glint of silver on the sidewalk
something to bring home to his mama
Eyes always open, waiting for something
saying what the fuck
I deserve something else
not believing it

I see you as a man, watching like you were never watched
scooping children up with your eyes
because they're not yours
saying fuck i can do this
not believing it

Because in this world some are meant to suffer
and I love you in your suffering
want to bring you back to the beginning where
there was someone missing
fill in the blank
so you didn't have to fight so hard
so you could believe yourself

as a baby when you said
when the little boy said
when you hear yourself saying
I should be here


On a Saturday night I stumbled out of my mothers womb
drunk with expectation
gathered myself up in newborn majesty
and told the room my story

I told about the kings and the whitewater
the morning I first heard the poplar trees whisper
that my heart was too big for this world
they looked at my tiny feet and then at eachother
and shook their heads

I swam away

Friday, February 12, 2010

Whose Children are These?

Whose children are these
blocking the sun like a forest wall
They run to greet me, tongue tucked away solid
like the night

Whose children are these
Children whose words die
on lips like candied ginger
Sweet, unwavering against a backdrop of burnt sienna
the desert up their sleeves

Whose children are these
bare feet like waves, lapping against the concrete
Who are you?
They lift their faces to the sky

Black rainbow eyes, an almond explanation of darkness

Thursday, February 11, 2010


There is a cemetery at the end of my street.

Day after day I walk by this cemetery and almost always there is someone else there. Usually they are men, and they are always alone. Watching, waiting, resting their arms on the stone wall, I stare at these men. They don't go inside, they just stand there.

What are they watching for? In my mind I see hundreds of skeletons rumbling in their stomachs, invading their veins. They look beyond the grass, into the dirt, past the concrete vaults and the easy wooden boxes and into the endless eyes of the dead.

Sometimes I wait for these men to look my way, but they never do, so I keep walking.

Sometimes I bring my daughter inside and watch her play in the grass beside the gravestones. There is a candle at the very back of the cemetery that we placed there months ago, resting thoughtfully at the feet of a statue of Jesus. Cast in bronze, forever suffering, a never-ending, undying death. Flowers are everywhere.

"Sometimes people think cemeteries are sad," I say to Sasha as we are leaving through the iron gates. "But I don't." I'm not thinking about what I am saying.

She looks at me. "They are if you or someone you know is in them." And I laugh. She's right.

Children trip through a maze of truth, the graveyards of their own minds full of things they thought they knew.. things they really did know, but were lied to and they disappeared. I'm grateful to be in this space of truth, try not to fill up her graveyard with too many fake flowers. I want her to grieve every moment, everything that is lost, because I never did. There were too many things and I stopped even knowing where truth ended and lies began.

We walked home mostly in silence, Sasha's pants dripping wet from falling in a puddle. My daughter, I think when I look at her and I feel like laughing and crying at the same time. I cannot believe this gift.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Policemen Don't Wave at Children Anymore

This place, where policemen don’t wave at children anymore
Whiz by in cars like grenades, blinds pulled against the light
Eyes that are not used to the sun

While little ones climb concrete structures,
Hair pulled toward the clouds
Cream soda and windburn give the illusion of
Tiny painted warriors, lined up against the sun

While mamas turn their backs and text boyfriends or enemies
Small brown fingers flap in the wind like flags

I have to turn away from their hope

Because policemen don’t wave at children anymore
Not these children anyway.