My internal world does not match the exterior
I open my eyes and the flourishing trees
Are bare and shivering
Your face has grown old, years of pain,
Yet I did not see it change.
Your prickly chin now rest above my head
Now hung in dispare, trying to disconnect the past;
The pain you bring is the pain I create
The tides don't pull when I'm not by the sea
The rain doesn't fall when I can't feel the tears of the sky
The wind doesn't sing when I don't feel the rush
The sun doesn't shine when I'm locked in the dark
And my heart doesn't best when it does not belong to you.
she left when i was four
no explanation or anything more
it cut me straight to the core
you may think i was too young
to understand but my heart tore
my baby sister she was two
she barely could walk without falling
down onto the floor
now I barely see her
she's growing up too fast
she doesn't remember much of that past
she remembers calling me "Sissy."
And that she loved saying "it's purple."
I remember so much more
The smell of my moms sweet perfume
how she always had these really good cookies
her hugs and her kisses
but that day when she left it hurt me so much
because a girl needs her mother
a mother cannot leave her children
but my mom she was different
she never said "Good bye."
She never taught me to fly
she didn't see Jillian become the beaut she is today
she won't be able to see my sixteenth birthday
or be there for graduation
or my wedding
but whatever at least I have my dad
and my little sister
and family and friends
at least i have you guys/girls
because i know if you were going to leave you would at least say
In the Fall, when the temperature of the Bay would drop and the wind blew ice, frost would gather on the lawn near Henry Oldez room. It was not a heavy frost, but one that just covered each blade of grass with a fine, white, almost dusty coat. Most mornings, he would stumble out of the garage where he slept and tip toe past the ice speckled patch of brown and green spotted grass, so to make his way inside to relieve himself. If he was in no hurry, he would stand on the four stepped stoop and look back at the dried, dead leaves hanging from the wiry branches of three trees lined up against the neighbors fence. The picture reminded him of what the old gallows must have looked like. Henry Oldez had been living in this routine for twenty some years.
He had moved to California with his mother, father, and three brothers 35 years ago. Henry's father, born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, had traveled across the Meixcan border on a bent, full jalopy with his wife, Betria Gonzalez and their three kids. They were all mostly babies then and none of the brothers claimed to remember anything of the ride, except one, Leo, recalled there was "A lotta dust in the car." Santiago Oldez, San for short, had fought in World War II and died of cancer ten years later. San drank most nights and smoked two packs of Marlboro Reds a day. Henry had never heard his father talk about the fighting or the war. If he was lucky to hear anything, it would have been when San was dead drunk, talking to himself mostly, not paying very much attention to anyone except his memories and his music.
"San loved two things in this world," Henry would say, "Booze and Johnny Cash."
Betria Gonzalez grew up in Tijuana, Mexico as well. She was a stout, short woman, wide but with pretty eyes and a mess of orange golden hair. Betria could talk to anyone about anything. Her nick names were the conversationalist or the old crow because she never found a reason to stop talking. Santiago had met her through a friend of a friend. After a couple of dates, they were married. There is some talk of a dispute among the two families, that they didn't agree to the marriage and that they were too young, which they probably were. Santiago being Santiago, didn't listen to anybody, only to his heart. They were married in a small church outside of town overlooking the Pacific. Betria told the kids that the waves thundered and crashed against the rocks that day and the sea looked endless. There were no pictures taken and only three people were at the ceremony: Betria, San, and the priest.
Of course, the four boys went to elementary and high school, and, of course, none of them went to college. One brother moved down to LA and eventually started working for a law firm doing their books. Another got married at 18 years old and was in and out of the house until getting under the wing of the union, doing construction and electrical work for the city. The third brother followed suit. Henry Oldez, after high school, stayed put. Nothing in school interested him. Henry only liked what he could get into after school. The people of the streets were his muse, leaving him with the tramps, the dealers, the struggling restaurateurs, the laundry mat hookers, the crooked cops and the addicts, the gang bangers, the bible humpers, the window washers, the jesus freaks, the EMT's, the old ladies pushing salvation by every bus stop, the guy on the corner and the guy in the alley, and the DOA's. Henry didn't have much time for anyone else after all of them.
Henry looked at himself in the mirror. The light was off and the room was dim. Sunlight streaked in through the dusty blinds from outside, reflecting into the mirror and onto Henry's face. He was short, 5' 2'' or 5' 3'' at most with stubby, skinny legs, and a wide, barrel shaped chest. He examined his face, which was a ravine of wrinkles and deep crows feet. His eyes were sunken and small in his head. Somehow, his pants were always one or two inches below his waistline, so the crack of his ass would constantly be peeking out. Henry's deep, chocolate colored hair was that of an ancient Native American, long and nearly touched the tip of his belt if he stood up straight. No one knew how long he had been growing it out for. No one knew him any other way. He would comb his hair incessantly: before and after a shower, walking around the house, watching television with Betria on the couch, talking to friends when they came by, and when he drove to work, when he had it.
Normal work, nine to five work, did not work for Henry. "I need to be my own boss," he'd say. With that fact stubbornly put in place, Henry turned to being a handy man, a roofer, and a pioneer of construction. No one knew where he would get the jobs that he would get, he would just have them one day. And whenever he 'd finish a job, he'd complain about how much they'd shorted him, soon to move on to the next one. Henry never had to listen to anyone and, most of the time, he got free lunches out of it. It was a very strange routine, but it worked for him and Betria had no complaints as long as he was bringing some money in and keeping busy. After Santiago died, she became the head of the house, but really let her boys do whatever they wanted.
Henry took a quick shower and blow dried his hair, something he never did unless he was in a hurry. He had a job in the east bay at a sorority house near the Berkley campus. At the table, still in his pajamas, he ate three leftover chicken thighs, toast, and two over easy eggs. Betria was still in bed, awake and reading. Henry heard her two dogs barking and scratching on her bedroom door. He got up as he combed his damp hair, tugging and straining to get each individual knot out. When he opened the door, the smaller, thinner dog, Boy Boy, shot under his legs and to the front door where his toy was. The fat, beige, pig-like one waddled out beside Henry and went straight for its food bowl.
"Good morning," said Henry to Betria.
Betria looked at Henry over her glasses, "You eat already?"
"Yep," he announced, "Got to go to work." He tugged on a knot.
"That's good. Dondé?" Betria looked back down at her spanish TV guide booklet.
"Berkley somewhere," Henry said, bringing the comb smoothly down through his hair.
"That's good, that's good."
"OK!" Henry sighed loudly, shutting the door behind him. He walked back to the dinner table and finished his meal. Then, Betria shouted something from her room that Henry couldn't hear.
"What?" yelled Henry, so she could hear him over the television. She shouted again, but Henry still couldn't hear her. Henry got up and went back to her room, dirty dish in hand. He opened her door and looked at her without saying anything.
"Take the dogs out to pee," Betria told him, "Out the back, not the front."
"Yeah," Henry said and shut the door.
"Come on you dogs," Henry mumbled, dropping his dish in the sink. Betria always did everyones dishes. She called it "her exercise."
Henry let the two dogs out on the lawn. The sun was high up in the sky and its heat had melted all of the frost on the lawn. Now, the grass was bright green and Henry barely noticed the dark brown dead spots. He watched as the fat beige one squatted to pee. It was too fat to lifts its own leg up. The thing was built like a tank or a sea turtle. Henry laughed to himself as it looked up at him, both of its eyes going in opposite directions, its tongue jutted out one corner of his mouth. Boy boy was on the far end of the lawn, searching for something in the bushes. After a minute, he pulled out another one of his toys and brought it to Henry. Henry picked up the neon green chew toy shaped like a bone and threw it back to where Boy boy had dug it out from. Boy boy shot after it and the fat one just watched, waddling a few feet away from it had peed and laid down. Henry threw the toy a couple more times for Boy boy, but soon he realized it was time to go.
"Alright!" said Henry, "Get inside. Gotta' go to work." He picked up the fat one and threw it inside the laundry room hallway that led to the kitchen and the rest of the house. Boy boy bounded up the stairs into the kitchen. He didn't need anyone lifting him up anywhere. Henry shut the door behind them and went to back to his room to get into his work clothes.
Breaking water, diving in with my body, head first.
Rippling seams and leaving stitches unfinished. I dive in to let the purity envelop me. Cleanse me and my pores,
return me to where I started from.
Release me from wars, unopened doors I wished I turned. Forget wounds of battle on my skin.
Open me.cut me open and leave me bleeding. Let my blood sink into the earth until there is nothing left, let me walk this earth for miles and miles, let me feel the pain in my lungs and the hoarseness of my being escaping from my throat. Let me build a moat around my princess castle and then tear it down. Lightning strike me and rip my particles, rip the matter from me like guns on glass. Crack me and tear me. I will get up again.
I will rise.
And Let me sing,
sing until my prayers are whispers.
Forest water, reflecting green, serenity.
I have dreams of black claws like raven glass closing in, scratching me bare. Howling and deep long nails and witchy eyes cackling like the darkness overlapping. The demons within closing in. I hide from the light, unaware of how I’m blocking out love from my life. Is it just a dream what my heart has seen. Now I walk like wind or stones in snow. I trudge along trying to remain strong when the forces pull and tear the ramshackle down to the ground.
I’ve been breathing and living, these stones suspended, seeing so many things and this compilation of stories warms my belly and tears my flesh.The happiness is what breaks me. Suspending the never-ending. I am so close to the grave that I dug for myself but I must keep walking past that linear line that I set for myself. It is lines within circles. So many flows, I thought I chose the whole. Breathe. Pouring myself out into you. I wonder if I give and give it will fade into the soil and the bottle will empty. Melt like water. Feed you and leave me. Is it releasing or is it unhealthy for me to give myself away.
I gave myself away.
I have strewn pieces of myself into everything I have touched but I am afraid that one day there will be nothing left. Nothing left when finally I receive pieces of someone else. . Excuse me, it is not like me to be so dramatic and I am afraid to write things like this because it feels so cheesy except the process of seeking deeper is breaking that boundary and that un-comfortableness. Where did our love go? It existed between the skin and the bones. It was a facade or something else. I am not very sure. Not lust but colour, it was dewy green like steam from a coffee cup in the morning. Or the rain on the window pane while I slept in your arms and refrained from needing you too much, I cannot write about you without tears, write about your skin or your smile, and I am in a confined environment as I write this where such things are not very acceptable. I am hiding on the screen, escaping my heart. I cried this morning because it was all too perfect.
I am cut open I suppose. Like that song “And it was your heart on the line / I really fucked it up this time / Didn't I, my dear?” Mumford and Sons even feels too perfectly imperfect that I laugh at myself and this funny hole I am in. I don’t like the swear word though, sometimes I laugh because it works. The “f” word in that song it just kind of fits. It is like the pathetic-ness and the hilarity, when we slip in mud and are covered in filth when we have nothing left but to cry and to laugh because we are crying because nothing in this world really matters or it matters all too much. Because I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t think anybody does. We just muster our determination and passion and roll with it but still there is an element of unpredictability no matter how routine we have gotten. No matter how far we have fallen from our roots. Excuse me for crying this morning, don’t worry I laughed it off after. I laughed because of life and laughed because I cried, and I cried because I love you.
And now I walk like wind or stones in snow. I trudge on with all my strength. Wisping like whispers caught from the ears of children and passing through the world. Cold like ice on swing sets and little hands clasping them. Red fingers and red noses. Snot on mittens and sharp pain. Winter.
I Wisp like wind in water. I crack like stones of sand and rock. I break like waves on the shores of life. I cry like the trees at night. Howling to the moon. I open when you call me. I close when I’m falling. I hide like children at night. I am under the streetlight, orange, alley cats in shadow homes and grey cement, dead rats, broken bones. My eyes are bare, sunken in the light. I suppose I should muster my might. Find peace beyond my fight. Escape distress. I wish you saw something more. I wish that there was something else. Speeding on.
It’s the hollow sound of a toast to fill the silence of unaddressed questions,
the celebratory clanging of glass on glass
ringing from assumptions based on past experiences and theories
from synapses of protagonists or all
that is mystical; a god or a God
for the rhetoric of bad days; the precatory shoulda, woulda, coulda’s
you can count with all digits and the humdrums,
the lalala’s to songs with lines you can never remember.
It is to fill in, with pencil, the
blanks of unclear intentions, capricious endings,
the what comes after the highest number, tentative now, for it is a trick question,
the true stories of Bermuda Triangles and Altantises,
for the ones Amelia kissed goodbye and all that is brief,
promises neither broken nor kept;
some, hypotheses for what happens after waiting.
It is the makeshift certainty ascertained the day he left
all these unfinished, unanswered, incomplete… things. The sure of it
invented by staking everything in a nebulous something,
a nebulous anything that will have to do, like cotton patches
on satin dresses or saints for hopeless causes.
It was the invention to quench the constant
need to know, to fill the in-between start to end
for all that we can not stop. A made-up map by pirates below ten
for every time we must set destinations beyond unchartered unknowns;
a make-believe place holder to hold us to the relief
we get from closure when
the universe gives us none.
It is the lemniscate, the amen,
the St. Jude we assign to our altars
until we find actual satin or the aviatrix herself,
or surrender everything in the spirit of faith
that not all things unfound are lost.
she does not speak to me often in this way
she is the virile silence of walking truly like meadows
their time is always perfect and infinitely perfectlessness
how skies do not sing birds but are only masters of truth
but she is tender and fierce she shows me that they are innocent
when, I, confounded, aswirl with origami of things past,
she shows me a bestilled flapping silence of forgotten things
she does not speak often in this way
when her hands are like eagles tending planets
there is a secret river her eyes are filled with
these pupils of newborn seeking first sight
its graves and their strolling kisses no clock dares lie another tick
she is brightly curved; night seeks to master her sleeping motions
there is the skin of all salads I imagine I came from
when she is gone I feel rain graveyards feed to oceans
when water braided through myths and legends and lies
is truest perfect lover, but no perfect lover is so tender and fierce
she has taught me in this way how I am
if I am a perfect child, then I am a perfect man
but she whispers to me
"this is why the wind is so filled with sleep"
I know why the wind is the slave of kites
and why balloons are thoughtful, secretly joyless,
but filled with bad dogs and hope
when she touches small flowers and leaves them be
I know why birds are most beautiful in flight
gracefully jetting terrifying rivers
she walking strums wild instruments into me
I wish to play like birds but only newborns are masters of truth
but she whispers to me
"this is why the wind is so filled with laughter"
Beats flowing in beginning to spin sharp like a drawing pin
Remember your future don't forget your past, were all here living to have a blast
When I hear the music of my past;
An echo of the person I used to be,
I wish I could speak to it as it does to me,
And tell it notes to play so it may last.
A melody of perfect beat and scale,
Imperfect as I play it back now;
Music then, and broken hearts now,
Still magic of the moment, never fail.
And even with the sorrowful notes,
The change from G to E minor, slow,
And my love for the symphony grow,
As I play each beautiful note I wrote.
My life, is a lament to Her creation,
All the happiness that seeds,
And the sadness that breeds;
It is all true, and never imitation.
And when Her music plays with mine,
The harmonizing ring of morning bells,
Of forests, creatures, and ocean swells,
She rules 'til the end of time, with a single line:
I didn't think it was real:
Didn't want it to be,
'Til words from birds told me things
That I would never see.
Not about your new lover
Who, I guess, is old.
And not about all the lies
That you solemnly told.
All the things I couldn't see:
All the things that would never be.
How your dreams are nothing but rubbish
Of regurgitated shit that is strewn in money.
How your aspirations are nothing but fleeting dreams
Of something that will never happen.
And maybe love is blinding.
And maybe you're a good liar.
But poker faces and empty space
Will never fill your desire.
You are that low, sinking feeling
That never truly leaves.
You stay past welcome
With rolled up sleeves.
Your dirty work is never done
Because you're never dead.
All those feelings you saw fit
Was all in your head.
I didn't kill it.
And you will kill yourself.
As I sleep in his bed.
Desolation occupies the streets,
dusty debris greets me
as I kick past a pile of rubble
where my neighbor used to live.
The mailboxes of the mostly abandoned bungalows are overflowing
with FEMA fliers, and contractor business cards.
Hammer wielding men make their way through the ruination.
Trying to feed their families
on the gutted remains of disaster.
Greedily grabbing the copius charity funds,
they diligently restore houses
that will more than likely never be occupied,
They carry with them an air of determination and optimism
that covers over the film of despair that coats everything.
But, determination alone
cannot transform a shell of a house
back into a home.
In the mammoth mansions on the corner
there are signs of restored life.
The rich can afford to ignore devastation,
and rebuild, as if their neighbors haven't all fled.
Aside from an occasional pounding hammer
The streets are silent,
save for the moaning of the wind.
The burned house still stands,
a stoic reminder
that the source of pain may change,
but, beneath the smiles, it always remains.
I cross the bridge,
stopping for a second to stare
at the thin layer of ice that has formed
on the surface of the scummy stream.
A moment later I arrive at the guardrail,
and I marvel at the lack of condom wrappers,
and cigarette cellophane on the floor.
I crest the berm,
now a skeletal remnant of its former stalwart self.
The gray black rocks are exposed beneath the sand,
like the bones of a corpse,
with the skin and meat washed away.
The beach is absolutely deserted,
The wind itself refuses to walk along the shore.
It comes rushing from the landside,
and stops at the sea wall, as if to say,
there is nothing left for me to play with here.
Even the birds have abandoned the beach,
There are no tracks on the sand,
Aside from a set of dog's paws,
paired with the sneaker tracks of the dog's owner.
The sea is calm,
with baby breakers lazily lapping at the waterline.
The sky is a motley mix of frothy white, and pale blue.
Both vibrant and dull,
like the eyes of a Nazi.
The winter sun is hibernating behind the cloud cover,
shedding dull light, that chills the spirit,
steals my smile, and transmogrifies it into a sigh.
I am surprised at how clean the beach is.
Pebbles and boulders are strewn all about,
but, aside from a few pieces of pale plastic
there is nearly no trash to be seen,
and I snicker internally,
for I know where the trash has gone.
Having spotted some of it in the street
on my way to the beach.
Several of the naked trees on the hillside have tilted over,
revealing ruddy reddish roots.
I come to the tilted flag pole,
with it's once buried base
A circular concrete mass,
that I never would have expected existed.
A shredded blue strip of cloth
is all that remains of the state flag of New York,
and it thrashes violently in the wind.
Down at the far end of the beach
the hunk of blacktop jutting from the sand is still visible,
but, today there is no torso laden box beside it.
There is something comforting in its presence.
Something comforting, yet deeply saddening.
I step past the flagpole, and I am instantly assaulted by the wind.
The chill air caresses me cruelly.
Biting my ears, and slapping my cheeks.
There is still standing water at the edge of the road,
and I walk down Kissam in a shivering stupor.
The quaint house where the hens once pecked and warbled
is now just an empty lot,
with the remains of the foundation as the only proof
that people once lived here.
I am shocked to see
that nearly every house at this end of the block is gone.
A lonely inground pool looks severely out of place
without the house that once stood next to it.
A green triceratops statue sitting poolside
smiles at me as I pass,
I can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.
In the middle of the block two men operate jackhammers
while another hoists hunks of the street
from a hole with a backhoe.
I can't imagine what they are doing here,
I slip past them without making eye contact.
On the other side of the vehicle
I see that most of the houses at the top of the block are still standing.
Boarded up bungalows, every one unoccupied.
A standup piano with its guts exposed
sits in front of the last house on the left.
A once treasured possession,
destroyed and discarded.
I come to Mill road, and turn left.
Here, things have mostly returned to normal.
Although the Syrian orthodox church
that has slid off its foundation,
still sits askew,
and the trailers and semi's lined up along the road,
remind me that normality is a long way away.
Construction equipment is hauling
what is left of the smashed and shredded houses
that were washed from Kissam,
and deposited in the wetlands
several hundred feet away.
I wonder why they have bothered
to clean up the debris,
trampling football field sized sections of the wetlands to do so.
I pass by the VFW post,
and stop in to see what progress has been made.
The bar has been rebuilt, and the walls have been painted
a hideous shade of purple.
I leave as quickly as I came, and continue down Mill.
Past the group home on the corner.
A three wheeled police vehicle sits there,
guarding against looters.
Two cheap Chinese made American flags flap furiously
in front of the abandoned building.
No one is smoking now.
The sunflowers are long gone,
a rich brown mud is all that remains.
I pass tragedy after tragedy as I walk up the block.
Broken windows, and abandoned death sites,
of families that had lived on this block
since before my mother was born.
The people who had defined what Oakwood Beach meant to me
had all left.
Now, only a handful of families tries to live their lives in the shadow of Sandy.
I walk past the ancient willow,
in a few moments I arrive
at the building I once called home.
I stand outside,
reluctant to enter
the moldy and bare interior.
There is nothing inside that I need,
but, there is a canteen of grain alcohol that I want.
I can see it sitting on the front windowsill.
Which is where people leave the few "valuables"
that they had salvaged during the initial cleanup,
but left behind when they moved on.
I open the door, and quickly snatch the canteen,
holding my breath to avoid inhaling spores,
and with the canteen in hand, I shut the door,
and turn my back on the world of my past.