Dearly departed

Yelling out,

Where are you,

doesn’t make the dead return.

Yet you convince yourself

that the tingle on the back of your neck in the black

is more than just the ceiling fan.

You want to tell yourself that they returned through the steel veiled doors

but remember, you and yours,

When you’re kneeling –

Screaming –

Pleading –

On all fours –

They left in September and they’ve never left,

Always in the urn.

Funeral Flowers

She was dead long before she stopped breathing.

Her sunken, empty eyes

held no hope as she sat idly

on the deck or face-down on the beach as the sun

breathed her in.

She seized her moments of clarity around their necks

and submerged them, whining in ether.

She starved her body of loving embrace

and recoiled to touch like she was toxic

and contagious.

And when her eyes fused shut when life burnt out,

she reached towards the ceiling for God to hold her.

Open-Ended

I often wonder what moment

for you was the pistol

and what moment

was the decision to pull

the trigger.

It’s usually a split

decision that moves like

an indiscernible 

brush stroke, uniform – 

An obvious beginning

and end but no sign

of the climax.

I often wonder what life

you would have led

if you didn’t stay – 

If you didn’t say yes 

to a rock that was below

your worth – 

If you didn’t measure 

your life in poorly 

assembled dominoes –

A uniformity doomed from the moment

you began self-medicating.

You were never meant to fall straight.

Would you have 

remained

in the Native Land

with red clay to call

home and ground yourself

to ancient beings who never fell from the sky?

Who would you have become

if you stopped

holding on so hard?

I may have never been

but I speculate the sacrifice 

would have been worth you knowing 

old age.

Untamed

In my grandmother’s kitchen my mother told me,

You will never get a boyfriend 

with your hair parted down the middle.

Her cigarette burned down as I burned down to a pile 

of inferiority. 

Clearly, naively, innocently, I listened.

I heeded the woman 

whose hair was frozen in Aquanet since 1984

that my romantic endeavors were reliant on where my hair 

fell from the top of my head 

and how delicately my hair sat atop my shoulders 

and how I should probably brush out the curls because they look messy 

You look messy. 

Sloppy. 

Knotty. 

Untamed. 

For years, I concerned myself with the aesthetics of my coils

rather than the intention of my character and the intentions that fell

from the bottom of my heart

and how loud my heart beat on my sleeve 

and how unimportant my hair was but I could not see —

Could not see past my hair 

past what I needed to be for my mother

in order to be loved by another. 

That I was raised to be thin 

to diet 

to move 

to try 

to critique what I was 

and not who I am.

To be thin and pretty God forbid I be a fat child and love my middle part —

Because we need to be thin and pretty.

My mother was thin and pretty

and blonde.

And tall.

And had sky-high hair and box dye status.

As an adult I could be fat and pretty but not pretty fat and ugly

and only after I found someone to love my hair placed delicately to the side 

could I be fat and pretty or ugly and thin 

because at least I’d be thin. 

I could let myself go only after

I placed my intentions and the messy heart on my sleeve

delicately to the side.

I could unravel like my mother did and stand behind the kitchen island 

and treat it as a podium and tell my daughter, 

her granddaughter 

You must change before you are loved.

So I walked the line of my middle part of

black and white —

Of judgment — 

Of hope someone would fall in love 

with my placement and one day I woke up too many years later and realized

This. Was. Dumb.

My hair coils and curls and speaks for itself

and spoke for me before I found my voice.

My body moves and grows and shrinks like my mane

and I am ever-changing

and always speaking.

Some days I may feel thin and pretty

or  fat and ugly and now instead of dwelling 

I release my hair 

I appreciate the entropy

and whoever can love that entropy will love everything 

I’ve come to love about me.

Dragon Woman

Smoke coiled through the seams of the car

and we sat in the back in the haze while classic rock blared

into your ears and you forgot for a moment that you were a mother,

that you were my mother. 

Loosely strumming on the steering wheel,

palms and thumbs drumming.

Music maker child maker — 

I wanted to be just like you.

I wanted to be like you until the sun went down because 

when the sun went down the bottle came out

and there was dracula — 

And the werewolf — 

And you.

You damaged, fermented 

Dragon Woman with hands that curled

to knotted tree branches and poison spat out of you.

We hid 

I hid in my closet until the lightbulb died.

And I realized I never wanted to be like you.

But you taught me so much.

You taught me to be afraid 

(I was afraid of my mother) 

So I had to be strong  

And you taught me to be strong and to question you

Question everything — 

Go against you.

Your vicarious wishes of who I should be

who I was — 

But I didn’t have a fucking clue.

And when the morning came that I watched breath escape 

your chapped lips for the final time you somehow taught me right there to look Death straight in his face 

and fear nothing because I already knew you, Dragon Woman.

And I don’t want to be you but I came from you

you created me — me.

I am the daughter of patricia — 

Of teased hair and electric blue eyeliner — 

Of wild coolness.

I grew up at the altar of an ‘03 mustang

With empty diet coke cans and Bic lighters on hand.

Bic lighters everywhere 

fire always on hand.

And you drummed your primal ancient animal skin beat to the chant in your head — 

Do no harm. Take no shit.

The final lesson of my mother.

Old Souls

I call on old souls,

complex and raw.

Centuries old –

Millennia old.

Those that see the world

with new eyes and familiar feelings.

Gut warnings and wishes.

Lessons of parallel dimensions.

Learn,

or come back again.

Portugal

We took a sunset hike

up the Algarve cliffs, sincere

and ancient and strong like our grandmothers.

Red clay marked up our legs

as proof we didn’t stop climbing,

all just to see the azure 

from a new angle.

We were told secrets by seabirds,

perched on the eyelids of the ocean.

We gazed down into a cavern 

as seawater pumped blue blood into the heart

of the cliff. 

The sun, midday and sleepy 

looked bigger than I remembered,

steady.

And I stood like the seabirds – 

The beauty of how small we are.

NYE

New Year’s Eve was mangled 

in heaps of bodies heaving back and forth

like an angry sea – 

We beat the rain

but were stopped by the cover charge.

Everyone pushed around in such a way

where some were trying to make it to the new year first – 

And others wanted to hide in bathrooms 

and corners 

and alleyways

and under lovers.

Abandon your purses under bars,

lose your identity so the spirits of the new era 

don’t recognize you and you can start 

with a new name,

a new mission.

Drowning in liquor and kisses from strangers 

we spill into the streets of Queens 

with her 24-hour fruit stands 

and public indecency.

We wake up with our IDs tucked neatly in our pockets –

Hungover – 

In places foreign to us.

But we are as we were only hours before 

when we had more time 

and less headaches.

Twenties

I thought my 20s

would be when everything 

made sense – 

I don’t know what I was expecting, though,

since my 20s began with the death

of my mother

and ended with the death 

of my limitations.

My 20s held funerary services 

of who I thought I was –

who I thought was worthy of me.

It was the death of ignoring myself;

My 20s ended with me coming to life.