I'm doing it again.
I'm missing the point.
I need to open myself to this world
Not like a flower that blooms only at night
If I am going to do this
I need to do this.
I am still afraid.
I can feel it seizing up my heart,
Making me huddle in around it as if something from the outside is hurting it.
I need to pry my arms away,
Unlock my ribcage and breathe deep,
I need to say
I will accept every outcome.
I need to remember
That I have come far
That there was a time not long ago
When all this armor hadn't even been imagined
Never mind forged.
When I crawled exposed through the embers
And emerged whole
I need to remember that I have come far
And that I am going farther.
I can't stop here
Just because something has finally made me feel.
I need to accept.
Accept that I may be let down
But that I can't prepare for it.
Accept that I could lose everything I've dreamed of
But that at least I had it for a moment.
I may never know why I get only fleeting nights of happiness,
Just enough to whet the appetite of the starving soul in here.
If I am going to be vulnerable
I need to be vulnerable.
I need to do it all the way, no holds barred, no fears held,
I need to drive my misery away when I am ignored.
I need to dissolve my terror when I am forgotten.
I need to have faith that if all this time
Through all these months
She couldn't forget me entirely
That I am not so easy to shake off
As I think I am.
I don't know if I can do this.
I have never tried it.
I've been told all my life that it is foolish
But I've been shown all my life
That it is the only way I will be happy.
I need to give everything I have to this world
I need to trust it not to take everything from me.
I am afraid that if I dare speak to you again there will no more be any words to say.
If we were to speak in another language and find a way to express this void,
Our hearts would explode from its sheer, bleach-stark truth.
There are not even any left to mean ‘I love you,’
but ‘I’ and ‘miss’ and ‘you,’
Promptly engraved on your organs by that gaping hole in your stomach,
The lingering taste of skin on your lips,
The thin sheet of sweat in your nostrils,
The disappearing bite marks along the curvature of your spine.
(The more distance sound has to cover, the less likely it will reach its destination.
There are no Grand Canyons in the Pacific Ocean, and words do not reverberate across clear skies.)
Every night, ‘You’ and ‘Miss’ and ‘Me’ form tentative droplets of water
They make their way down my neck,
Rest on the nest of my clavicle,
and stay there, stagnant, until morning.
(You were always a body of water to me.)
My stomach is gradually healing itself.
The stitches formed by the words
“Might’ and ‘Not’ and ‘Feel’ and ‘(the) Same’ are the most painful.
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
Could I blame him? He asked me to sing his favorite John Mayer song. Then the curtains fell from their state of grace, but there wasn’t any need to hang them until we finished; by then the windows had all fogged up. I didn’t know the lyrics to the song, so instead he had me struggling for the words to say. Because when the body struggles under another body’s weight, words become incoherent, obsolete, and syllables become the only words you need. Bated, gasping, ugh, unh, oohh. Our, he, his, my, I. I had invited him to our house. I laid him on our bed. He took his shoes off of his own accord, because to his (mis)understanding, it was my house.
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.
There lies the vast longing to be engulfed in suspension,
to lose one’s orientation in search of the true unknown
for salt waves that lick the skin clean and blunt
the sleek lines of the face.
It takes a while to ebb a whiteness into the hardness of time.
It is said that in flames,
the body forgets it is vertical on a stake
and the head is anywhere but above the shoulders;
that in cleansing with fire the skin turns red
then, in an instant, chars to black.
They say there are two ways to cleanse oneself:
while white is the color of salt-dried purity,
black is the color of fiery clean.
In the end, after the fire brittles our bones,
all we throw into the sea is gray dust.
To whomever who may be reading this,
I've heard that sometimes sadness can't be explained.
Sometimes the reason it's there is because it just is.
The same way that when someone asks you why you're okay, you say you just are.
And why you simply accept that colours exist because they just do.
Like how if you were to ask that boy at that school on New Years' Day why he loved that girl he could prattle on about her pros and cons but fact of the matter is that it was just her. And she was just everything he could ever hope for in that moment.
And that is how I'd like you to explain my death.
It just happened.
I came home that day and I just felt immensely dissatisfied with my existence.
So I carved my arms and wore my favourite dress only to stain it with blood.
Then I took those sleeping pills I bought of that kid by the alleyway and swallowed them all.
It wasn't your fault, Mom.
You thought I was strong enough.
It wasn't your fault, Dad.
I just didn't believe anymore.
To my brothers and sisters and aunts and cousins,
none of you would've seen it coming.
It's none of your faults. It's mine.
And I know I'm going straight to hell but I deserve to burn for my sins.
Dear you, I miss you so much sometimes I can feel it in my bones
and see my own heartbeat in my eyes
that's not healthy you know
I think you left because I was sick anyway
Dear you, I wish I could hate you
but I can't even do that much
you beautiful bastard
Dear you, I never knew my soul could ache this much
until I saw your sad eyes for the last time
telling me goodbye
Dear you, I have so many medical conditions that I'm not sure which ones to see doctors about anymore
but I bet the doctors would laugh at me if I came to them saying I had a case of heartbreak
(even though this isn't healthy)
Dear you, I keep jumping up every time the door opens expecting to see your face
I keep jumping up every time I even see headlights going by
even though there's no reason for you to come through this side of town anymore
Dear you, whenever I see a black truck I think you're here
then I remember you sold it a week before you left
it was probably a sign
was I always blind like that?
Dear you, you said you would call eventually
and I believed you
then I remembered that you didn't ever call me even when you wanted to talk
Dear you, I know you don't have my number anymore
maybe you might listen to what I had to say if I was a stranger
Dear you, hey I know you don't know who this is anymore,
and I know I'm a stranger
I'm a stranger who knows everything about you and even knows how you make your coffee and all the words to your favorite songs even though I didn't like any of them, and the exact angle your head takes when you're drawing and damn it never mind I can't finish this
Dear you, I still keep your picture on my dresser
I don't even know why
I still have all your drawings too
it seems I love ruining myself with you
I bet you threw everything I wrote to you away
and burned my picture
(seems like something you would do)
Dear you, I wonder if you ever would have loved me if I wasn't broken
you seemed to only be searching for something more damaged than yourself
you found exactly what you were looking for
then left as if you made a mistake
Dear you, I told you loving sad girls would get you nowhere
even I hoped I was lying
Dear you, sometimes I wear the clothes you left behind because it makes me feel safe
because they used to be worn by the strongest man I ever knew
I got catcalled when wearing your flannel the other day
I looked to my right expecting you to be there defending me
I saw an empty parking lot and I had never felt so helpless
Dear you, I can't stop dreaming that you're still here
Dear you, I thought you were gone
I WISH YOU WERE GONE
call off your ghosts and leave
Dear you, today I ran to catch up with a boy who was wearing a leather jacket that looked like yours and when he turned around I had to pretend I wasn't looking
Dear you, I saw you today for the first time in six months and I couldn't breathe and when you left I fell to the floor and no one understands that seeing your eyes constricted my wind pipes and if you still had my heart it was trying to run to safety the thing almost jumped out of my chest and everyone was hugging me and I don't remember the rest but getting into my car and screaming at myself
how can I still love you how can I still love you how can I still love you
Dear you, I will forever regret not yelling after you
"I keep all my promises"
"I miss you too much to forget"
I've spent years
(in a skewed totality)
placed just so,
back to back.
With a devil's hand
and an ink jet black-
I label each box
It's easier that way-
with every last one
blocked off like this.
For then I can know
who's what where
no one can move
from their labels-
though they may try.
But it's tiring you see,
keeping everyone so-
they surprise me, step outside,
I watch them all grow.
That's the thing with us humans-
we don't say the same-
we've got good sides and bad sides
and sides in between-
Forcing labels and boxes
only slows us down-
open eyes, clear hearts,
turns each new day 'round.
A practical mind opened up by the complexity of human character.
Feeling dr suess-y, can you feel it ?
the best thing i ever wrote,
i splayed across the lips of your chest,
the fibers of your hairs,
the pulse of your temple
t h u m p ing
and beneath my fingertips,
the best thing i ever wrote laid beneath your skin,
with-in your skin and deep, i rested open
above the best thing i ever wrote
fine songs of wine and youth
pulling away from us
sticking within my hairs
beneath your tongue,
the best thing i ever wrote
was us two nesting in a mango-peach
canopy frozen pre-spring and still
still fishing for the right word