My song is a sacred scream

“…we have been socialized to be the keepers of grave and serious secrets—especially those that could reveal the everyday strategies of male domination, how male power is enacted and maintained in our private lives.” ~bell hooks, The Will To Change

My song is a sacred scream

Learned from listening

To my friends on our street—

“No, No, No”

The tip-tap of slamming doors.

First a mother’s, then a sister’s plea

Then a brother’s rising silence.

Their dad stood at the end of the driveway smoking a cigar;

Mother, sister, and brother were inside, the lights on.

 

I brushed my teeth to the rhythm of the cries and slaps that reached

Me through the open bathroom window.

The furies inside my hand brushed up and down. My gums bled.

I couldn’t stop the bleeding. I turned off the light.

 

In bed, I heard Papa and my mom waltz down the hallway

His buckle scraped her ear and his battered knuckle held her wrist;

—Her countenance could not unfrown itself—I didn’t need to see

What I knew. He seemed happy, and the last few nights weren’t too bad.

The whimpers and sighs subsided in time for my waltz to begin:

 

Papa’s heavy stomps from down the hallway rattled my baseball trophies.

His ring clinked against the metal doorknob. I covered my head. Stomp stomp, stop.

I smelled the wine on his breath, felt the slap on the side of my head, heard the ringing,

Pled “No No No,” and listened to the silence echo in my room.

The day was over when Papa left my room for his, and began to snore.

My swelling and sobs passed, and left in their place—tomorrow.

Why Is The Blood Brown?

“For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

 

After getting home from school, I put my lunchbox and homework on the kitchen table and went into the bathroom to pee. Next to the toilet was something new: a blue box with the word “KOTEX” on it. The top of the box was open and inside were long white pads. I peed on them a little and the top ones swelled.

I went to my room and made a fort out of my blankets and nightstand. Later, my mom stood in my bedroom doorway and asked, “Why’d you pee on the box next to the toilet?”

“I wanted to know what’d happen.”

“Today your sister became a woman and she needs those. Don’t pee on them.” She left.

The next morning, I found one of the pads wrapped in toilet paper in the bathroom trashcan. I opened it. The inside of the pad was stained brown. I wrapped it in more toilet paper, put it in my jacket pocket, and went to school. Before class began I showed my teacher, Mr Collins, the inside of the pad and asked “What is this brown stuff?”

After school let out, my mom was waiting for me outside of my classroom. When home, we sat at the kitchen table and she tried to explain what the brown stuff was. I don’t remember everything about what she said other than being left with the lingering question: Why is the blood brown on the pad?

After dinner, I asked my sister why her blood on the pad was brown. She pointed to a scab on my elbow and said, “Blood turns brown when it dries.” We went into the bathroom and she pulled the scab off my elbow. Red blood droplets formed. She pressed a white pad against my elbow and the red blood soaked into it. She rolled it up in toilet paper, gave it to me, and said “Check it tomorrow.”

In the morning, I opened it. The blood was brown like my sister’s.

Intimacy

Allen and Jessica said awful things to each other before getting in the car. The dry July air wisped into the open car windows and brushed across Allen’s face. He wanted to smile.

After driving on the freeway for a while, Allen realized he was picking at a gray thread attached to the car door. He didn’t want to argue in the car because there was nowhere for him to pace. He picked at the gray thread for a few more miles.

Jessica stared out the window. The drive to her mom’s house was familiar: the yellow and white freeway daisies, dents in the guardrails, low flying sea gulls.

The silence in the car was broken when Alan said, “I’ve been peeing with the door open for years and now it’s a problem?”

Jessica opened her window a little to let the rest of the silence out of the car. She said, “And for years I’ve asked you to pee with the door closed.”

Allen ran his fingers along the door handle, searching for the gray thread once again.  Finding it, he pulled on the thread until it broke off, and then dropped it to the floor. The sadness from arguing with Jessica began to fade away and the memory of her smile from last year’s church carnival made him laugh. He said, “You remember last year’s church carnival when you wore the jester’s hat and we played with the kids?”

“So.” She uncrossed her arms and relaxed into the seat.

Allen said, “I’ll always remember your smile from that day.”

She poked him in the side and said, “We had fun,” and smiled.

Love & Smiles

When I dripped ice cream onto my shirt, you smiled and

The sparkle in your blue eyes said, “I love that you’re not perfect.”

 

But I want to be perfect, to make you smile again with

One touch of my lips to the sweet of your neck.

Four Haiku in A Minor

I.

Dusky summer haze

Powders the darkening hill

Tops on fire with ash

 

II.

The crow flutters west

Loose from the flock flying east—

Rising dark star flees

 

III.

A spider web strand

Serpentines up, severing

The day from dark night

 

IV.

Salvation, only

One lemony lick away

From Salivation

A Bird’s Song

Majestic—bejeweled:

Red gorgets shine like shields—black-tipped, dipped in gold.

Courting bluebirds stir the swarming insects into the sun’s rays.

 

A fluffy-feathered sparrow swoops down and pounces

on the ground, up with an earthworm. A lark swoops down

And pounces, up with an empty beak, then shrills upwards.

 

A boy, bubbling and toddling, grasps his daddy’s fingers,

Hears a bird’s song, spots the flicking wings

Among the leaves. They clap in bejeweled majesty.

Last Spring

The Pacific sunset refracted—

Long shadows and golden reds.

Her daughter made a sandcastle

And she felt a lump on her breast.

 

Home showering, cupping,

The sedated memory of

The extracted reason why

Her husband left her (alone).

 

Her little girl

Tied a handkerchief

On her head

Like her mother,

And played tickle-tickle with the knot of skin

At the end of the scar,

Above her mom’s heart.

 

Mid-day while knitting she recalled

Her surgeon’s name, put down her needles,

And kicked at shadows and the wind.

Her little girl twirled, thinking her mom was dancing.

Dusk Over Pier A Park, Hoboken

A mother bird nests in the bowed eves;

Her young dead on the ground below.

 

The reddening dusk etched and balanced

Above the palisades—the sky pressed down,

Distanced.

 

The clamor of the city’s rattle

Squeezes tight the pulsing blood:

Heals click, flip-phones clack closed,

The last commuter train bumps to a stop

With the weight of the city inside.

 

A girl and her brother dart ahead, snapping;

Mom and dad stroll close behind, silent.

When she gets older, the girl loses her brother.

She watched the tower fall with him in it

From the same spot they darted ahead, snapping.

 

Two derelict men kneel down,

Lower their faces to a fresh spill

Of water on the floor, rest on their elbows,

And lap the cool water.

Birching the Dust Below

The tingle on my tongue,

From a late summer nectarine:

Glistening, ripe, swollen,

cracked by desert-warmed wisps.

 

From my lips the tiniest

syrup-rich droplet drips,

birching the dust below,

alerting the ants to swarm, feast.

Lost in the Garden

Uncle Ezra sat expressionless in a frayed nylon lawn chair next to his yellowed herb garden. Cigarette butts fell out of the full pie tin ashtray and onto the table as he stubbed out a cigarette.

I sat between Ma and Papa on a shaded bench under the overgrown fig tree. The dew-drying spring morning heat smelled of damp dirt. In my boredom I squirmed side to side, like a wild spirit weighed down by a wet lose-weave blanket.

Uncle Ezra’s coughing fit broke the silence. He gasped to catch his breath, stood up and leaned against the wall with both hands to sturdy himself. I too gasped for air.

“You okay?” Ma asked him.

Uncle Ezra didn’t say anything as he turned to face us. He unbuttoned his shirt and shoved his clenched fists into his pockets and inhaled, deep and deliberate. I too inhaled, deep and deliberate. Our chests barreled and tense with the damp atoms of decomposing fig leaves.