2 18 22
thunderous birdsongs encircle.
2 18 22
thunderous birdsongs encircle.
The summer breeze wisps upwards through
bending branches, summer-dried leaves flicked
afloat, flitting their way down to the ground.
We stretch out on a sun-warmed blanket
in the backyard—cat naps—and when
rolling over to kiss, the leaves crinkle under my elbow.
The sunbeams aglow on our faces,
eyelids half-closed, sleepy blinks, the hum of
a summer day—a sweet serenade.
A chickadee, perched upon
a flowering bough,
peeps and flitters, sunning her wings.
Head held high, songs lilt, and
wings flutter. She takes flight.
In the thin-blue twilight of
the sky, we join together.
“…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.
“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.
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.
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.
Dusky summer haze
Powders the darkening hill
Tops on fire with ash
The crow flutters west
Loose from the flock flying east—
Rising dark star flees
A spider web strand
Serpentines up, severing
The day from dark night
One lemony lick away
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.
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.