IN BETWEEN CALLS
I opened my legs
& smelled that feeling of loss
I am not myself
Some poems never
will finish; some just die there
skull on the table
I am my mother’s
Son, a pronoun for which I
Know much less about
in this place a single body splits not into two but five odd pieces that wriggle back
into one again but soon enough a guttural murmur parts my lips: this is not mine
a soft ravishing anhedonia lulls the same body you could once call your
own, unravels the bindings you wound so tightly around your chest, undoes the
braid of a spine that stemmed down your back
in their hearts lies their true intentions and there they will only
remain viciously still as they speak ill of you through deafening nothings
here: take the dagger, grip it well, put it to good use. let the
words dribble out like sap in the carvings you craft in the trunk of
the family tree;
tradition gave you nothing.
Our mothers were very different women. I saw yours, once,
in the parking lot behind the train station, her eyes locked straight ahead and
her hand on the door.
Your mom never fought back, but once your dad got out of the truck I saw her blink back
her tears and fix her make-up in the mirror,
covering up the face of a woman who couldn’t run.
If nothing else, my mother knew how to run.
That September, we walked to the baseball fields by your grandparents’ house and my school shoes got dirty but I didn’t care.
I’d tell my mom I missed the bus and she’d stay quiet because her ex-husband used to drive me home. I’d start spinning and you’d grab my arm a little too tight and look at me with this funny face I mistook for love.
I bruised easily as a child (and that’s what I was — a child)
so the next morning I’d wear long sleeves and wait for you by your locker.
There was a place for us, I swear it, with beer and honey in the fridge and
a screen on the door. But instead we’d stay out late on weeknights and
I’d get in the car even when I knew you were too drunk to drive.
When we got home you’d make me empty my pockets. “Pick one thing,” you’d say,
and I’d pick out an old gum wrapper or a scrap of ribbon or half a business card
and you’d tack it to the wall next to all of last week’s treasures. You’d throw out the rest of the day’s findings to make room for tomorrow’s.
Now that we’re grown I can’t help but feel jealous that you took Kathy to the ER when her guts spilled out. I was a little overripe and you left me there
to rot on the concrete floor.
Phước Huệ (fuhk hyoo): Name of a temple. Peace. Happiness
Nam Mô A Di Đà Phật (Nammo ayida fuhk): respect offered to the enlightened one, Buddha
Phật (fuhk): Buddha
Forty years in America
Yet you avoid learning the language.
As if English has blue eyes and hands
That’ll rid that durian smell
Off your skin with holy water.
Fuck you? No,
The temple you force me to go to,
Hoping monks will help me speak correctly.
Nothing but pink stripes on my ankles and wrists.
Nam Mô A Di Đà Phật
Bowing your head to the floor, you pray.
Can your god from Nepal understand you?
I join you,
The creation of words--
for I have sinned.
I don’t call him Buddha,
But by what you call him--
Fuck I said
Fuck I said
Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck
objects | objects that are housed in cages | objects that
are filled with sediment and silk | damaged objects |
damaged objects that you still want to keep | objects
that can be seen from space | objects lying supine |
objects waiting to be gutted | every object you have
touched | with your ring finger or thumb | objects
canceled by nature | jealous objects | retinas | objects
sustained by artificial means | objects suspended |
objects lost | the heaviest thing you have ever held in
two hands | your two hands | your broken clavicle |
the filament beneath your tongue | and a bone
between your shoulders | that you forget until it hurts
I Am Here
Which means: I’m Not There
You only live 9 times–in seven year cycles.
At least that’s how I feel about it.
I am Factory.
I am Vanguard.
I am Vision, embodying Volume.
I am Window.
Cage. I am Cage. I am in a cage. I am a cage.
I am Vision because I am Cage.
I am Window as I am Cage; Factory, Volume, Vanguard.
Earth behaving as water.
Hiding from this warm and generous host.
There is shelter and comfort should you seek it.
A person; steadfast, domestic.
Hiding from stability in any setting.
She is Cage; Steadfast, Domestic, Volume.
That’s not where your blood is supposed to go. You don't know much, you’re only four years old, but you know the blood is supposed to be on the inside of your body, cradling your organs and making your cheeks glow, not welling up in your mouth and definitely not being spat out on the bathroom floor. You wanted to see what would happen when you put the metal hanger clasp on your bottom lip and you found out the answer. Blood. Lots of it, everywhere. It runs down your chin and makes ugly patterns on your yellow tweety bird shirt. You look in the mirror, terrified but also impressed. You didn’t know your pint sized body could hold all that blood. You decide your mom needs to see this. You scamper out of the bathroom, your mouth still gushing blood at an alarming rate. It drips onto the hardwood floors your mother loves so much and your uncoordinated bare feet slip in the newly formed puddle of yourself. Your mom comes out of the kitchen to see you trying and failing to stand up in the pool of your own blood. She screams and drops the plate of tater tots that she was bringing to you. “Mom,” you say, “I need a band aid.”
Fuck, it’s hot. Sweat drips down your forehead and stings your eyes. You press the button to roll the window down with your grubby five year old fingers but the car is turned off and the window remains rolled firmly up. You try to open the car door but for your own safety, the child lock is in effect. You undo your seatbelt, which thankfully works, and forcefully separate your sweaty thighs from the vinyl car seat that they’re currently stuck to with superglue strength. Stupid rental car with its stupid fake leather interior. You position your knobbly knees on the seat and hoist yourself up so you can see above the window sill. Thirty feet away, you spy your oblivious parents chatting it up with your aunt and cousins. “MOM!!!!!! DAAAAAAD!!!” you scream with all the fury your kindergarten lungs contain but the car that your parents rented for the weekend might as well been a recording studio because that deathbox is basically soundproof. Your mom stands with her arms folded, car keys in hand, paying rapt attention to some dumb shit your cousin is saying. Your dad tries to discreetly pick his nose. Those dicks. Don’t they know their child is dying? You ball up your fists, the same ones that got you suspended from school for two days, and pound the window like your tiny useless life depends on it. “MOM! DAD! DID! YOU! FORGET! ABOUT! ME!!!!!!!” you yell until your voice goes hoarse. They don’t even turn around. You slouch down, defeated. It’s time to give up. So this is where you die. Inside of a 1999 volkswagon bug in a Motel 6 parking lot in Napa, California. Who cares, it wasn’t that great of a life anyway. School’s boring and your mom keeps making you go to soccer no matter how many times you get hit in the head with the ball. Oh well, better luck next life. You close your eyes and wait for the sweet embrace of the grim reaper or whatever reaper apprentice they send for little five year old shits like you. Two minutes later, your mom opens the door and shakes you awake. “Get up, we’re going to Applebee’s.”
Communion is just grown up snack time. Your mom scolds you for saying this, but as far as you can tell, it’s just an excuse for adults to have a bread and juice treat in the middle of boring church. And you want in. Normally, a pinch of gross bread that everyone’s been touching would be totally unappealing, but the mere fact that you can’t have it makes it attractive in your six year old eyes. Your mom says you can’t participate in it until you understand what it means. She tells you it’s symbolic of consuming the blood and body of Christ which sounds goth as hell to you and makes you want it even more. She asks you if you comprehend the gravity of the ritual and you nod your head as solemnly as you can. She deems you ready and on the day of your first communion, she mentions, oh by the way, the goblet on the right is wine and the grape juice is on the left. Make sure you take the one on the left. You line up for communion and nervously try to recall which goblet is which. Wine right, grape juice left, grape juice left, wine right, wine right, grape juice left, wine left, grape juice right, grape juice right, wine left, okay, got it. You approach the old round lady in your congregation with the tiny coke bottle glasses and she says to you, “Blood of Christ, spilt for you,” and you reach for the closest goblet and take a sip. This is some real shitty grape juice. You contort your face in reaction to the tart venom you tasted and the old round lady laughs at you. You realize you drank the wine instead and start crying because you think you’re going to die. Your mom told you once that all alcohol is poison and here you just took a big gulp of it. Your mom walks you outside until you calm down. You don’t die but you sit out communion for another year just to be safe.
You’re watching Harry Potter in the theater and something weird is happening in your eight year old pants. Everytime Daniel Radcliffe is onscreen, you can feel your heartbeat in your private parts. You don’t know what kind of dark magic is happening but you do know that for some ungodly reason, everytime you see that skinny British runt, you want to put your mouth on his mouth even though you are on the record numerous times stating that kissing is gross and you personally will never do it. A few days later, your parents leave you alone in the family office, where the monster PC computer lives. Your mom taught you how to use Google recently for a class project and your mind starts wondering about the true depths of internet. You close the door and hunt and peck out “HARRY POTTER SHIRTLESS” into Google image search. Fortunately, your parents had the forethought to put a safety search on and your pervy endeavors were fruitless. After trying a few more variations, (HARRY POTTER NAKED, DANIEL RADCLIFFE SHIRTLESS, DRACO MALFOY SHIRTLESS, etc) you give up and out of frustration and fear of getting caught and exit out of the browser. A few days later, your mom confronts you about a few questionable search terms she found in the internet search history. You cry big ugly hot tears of humiliation and vow never to think sinful thoughts about boys again. That night, you dream of Hermione instead.
You’re not asleep but you might as well be. The closing credits to The Princess Bride plays in the background as you curl up on your huge ass sofa, trying to make yourself as small as possible. Your sleepy body sinks into faded maroon couch cushions like quicksand and you never felt like you belonged anywhere more. You open your nine year old eyes just the narrowest sliver, and through your eyelashes, you see your mom turning off the blue television screen. You shut your eyes again so she won’t see that you’re actually awake. She walks over to you places her hand on your back and makes deliberate circular motions while humming. She stops humming and whispers softly as a prayer, “Baby, you gotta go to sleep in your own bed.” You pretend not to hear and concentrate on lying completely still. Make like you’re dead. If she thinks you’re really asleep, maybe she’ll carry you to bed. Or let you sleep on the couch. Either option would be preferred to the long laborious walk down the hall to your bedroom. It was only twenty feet or so but it might as well have been a forty year pilgrimage through an old testament desert. Sure enough a moment later, you feel your mom’s skinny but strong arms slide beneath your knees and your shoulders and lift you up human sacrifice style. You’re four foot ten in your stocking feet and your mom is barely five feet on tip toes and you definitely weigh the same by now, but judging by the steady sure way she picks you up without so much as a quiver, you might as well be a featherdown pillow. She carries you down the carpeted hallway, walking sideways so as not to hit your head on the wall. The humming resumes. She places you down in your bed that is the perfect size for you and tucks you in with the nimble skill and precision of a hospital nurse. When she’s finished, she kneels down, clasps her tired hands together, and starts murmuring the Lord’s prayer. “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.” You stop pretending to be asleep and start genuinely drifting off. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” You stretch your legs out and your feet touch the footboard at the end of your bed. Soon you will outgrow this bed. Shortly after that, this room. “Give us this day our daily bread.” This will be one of the last times your mother is able to carry you to bed. Both of you realize this. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This will be one of the last times you pray together. Neither of you realize this. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Her voice gets softer as you start fading off into sleep. “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Forever and ever.” You will miss this love when it is no longer within reach. Right now it is all you know. “Amen.”
We spend a year and a half
We excuse the odd behavior
of our offspring:
We know that their fragile nature
angers the coach
and other parents.
We know that they distrust all
In the evening we read them stories
of pagan girls
and Christian healers
whose prayers turn
One minute was giving birth to another
as the leaf’s green was giving birth to more green.
I know where the thought of it comes from.
I found its fountainhead.
Springing is the water.
Neither rocks, nor soil, nor earth are stopping it.
It is welling.
was now literature.
Lush meadow, mauve mountain.