California

To me California had just been a word; one that stung the roof of my mouth with the acidity of a lemon. A word so popular it had begun to garble, the meaning lost, the mouth unsure if it had ever spoken correctly before it.

To me it couldn’t matter that her sun was warm like the breath of my mother, her water lapping like a cat’s tongue. Because to California, I always knew, I meant nothing; her sunsets had been gazed into with lover’s eyes each day before this, her praises thrown up into the breeze until they, too, garbled among the seagull’s call.

Like Aspens

And now two adventurers

Stop to smile and share

That their roots like Aspens’

Have spread and grown together

Uptown Pastoral

 Families run in cities

like packs of hunted deer,

pavement reflecting heat

into suspicious eyes.

Shifting.

 

Crisp grasses razed

down and shellacked and

trees so hidden that

instincts make grey buildings

right.

 

Sneakers as hooves.

Basketball Season

A basketball whooshes by my face so I shuffle my feet quick like I know what to do–but I miss the ball again. Whoosh, pass, rubber on asphalt, and I still haven’t touched the ball once. Big brother lands a slap on my shoulder but he slaps hands with all the older kids. Ball back in play, but the puttering of a car twists my neck around fast so big Derek stops dribbling to watch me and laughs. My left shoe grabs my eyes by the laces and the ball slams into my back. “Your brother’s a twerp,” Derek says, sending shivers through my bent elbows with an outstretched finger and they all laugh with curled hands over mouths. Now waves of mismatched jerseys bend up and down with the laughter and I think of running inside but I know they’ll call me a crybaby so I stick to one spot with my face wrenching itself from the inside. “Whatsamattah?” D-wreck jeers, and the tears just start wringing themselves from my twisted face and I don’t know where to hide or to be and when I look to my brother he stops for just a second then laughs and points like the rest while the bottoms of my shoes melt and glue me to the craggy asphalt of the one-hoop basketball court on Main.

Mountain’s Song

People say I came to be

When fragments of earth

Collided with themselves

But

That’s always seemed a bit

Of a stork-tale to me.

.

Instead I like to dream

That I grew upward like a tree

Toward the clouds and the sun

And the stars as I was fed

By pools of melting snow

And streams and fallen pines.

.

I’ve always loved the pines.

.

Sometimes when the air is right

The clouds come down

And keep me company—

Moistening my rocky cheeks

And whispering such cool secrets,

As they rush by.

.

I would say those clouds

Are my best friends,

Though I don’t see them much.

.

Yes, it’s strange for me

To be so much taller

Than the oceans and lakes

But that’s why we often

Come in groups or pairs:

For company’s sake.

.

And though no mountain

Ever has been cruel to me,

I must admit,

That I would rather

Spend some time

With the bears and the pines—

If only they could hear me.

Miami’s Washington

One oblong birthmark peeking through the folds of pink bikini bottoms (buried by one step, resurrected by the next) that’s all I can see of the girl in front of me. Procession, shuffling nowhere-forward together, nostrils trading scents methodically: smoke, urine, smoke, booze, bum, bum—Green light. Some separate, more space, girl’s birthmark comes into view, brown Long Island ponytail too. Backside burned, “Didja blackout?” friend asks as they melt into the 30 ponytails in line for that Kardashian boutique (birthmark giggles as we pass, and it’s coy). Booze, smoke, salt, burnt asphalt, another glass-eyed bum calls out but we can’t because Fendi Karan Jacobs Klein. Coolers roll. Hair coiffed by the salt and the breeze and the beers, three half-clothed mothers stumble into us from a tattoo shop but Lee Ann Drugs boasts hookahs and thongs on porn-star mannequins so we lose them again. Club Madonna at our right so the men pull out tongues to lick air between peace fingers and I try to keep my nose from turning up, keep the bulk of my brows from tensing down and in (but it’s not my city) and it’s funny how easy it is to see needles in the cracks of the sidewalks and the lipo-dents on orange roller-blading thighs when I squint (and I’m not wearing sunglasses)—so I do.

Peak

The shadows we rushed by always pulled us back around the kitchen table. Trailer park dances, jobless nights of Parcheesi and even the day Mom’s flannels were ripped by the anger. I still see the eye-daggers ripping them first, making his hands seem stronger than they were. “Hard times are hard times,” she said “but we sure are rich in dogs.” And she was right—Four dogs larger than our Sky-blue house on the mesa could hold.

Somehow she always knew that Jewels lived in the broken things.
Somehow, that overnight our hearts would grow like the Sandias through the dark, past the clouds and rest by this orange sun. The roots to their kisses reach to those broken shadows now. All the way down to the soil where tension-talks bred love-roots too thick to break.
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