Thank You For The Sundays

Something they don’t tell you is that there’s a magic garden

in every courtyard in Philadelphia.

Gardens made of glass, and tears, and gunfight.

 

And through it all, as the sun sets,

roses creep out of window-barred pots and slither to the streets –

every atom in the city chasing that faint ocean air.

 

The city of symmetry, city of two rivers – entre fontaines,

je t’aime from here to there and back again,

the Atlantic rolls between us.

 

In the meantime, I’m eating up spoonfuls of Sundays

I’m all too willing to give.

 

And in this time I’ve hidden myself in every corner of the city,

every bustle in the suburbs, here I am,

sarcastically.

 

Found in yarn stores in South Philly,

fingers running through the strands

despite the weight of cheesesteak in my hand.

 

Resting the holy hollow of my body in a Temple cot in summer;

ring around my toe and vision hazed

in vodka-sparkled saturation.

 

On my knees in a bathroom or two in West Philadelphia

setting tiles in the floor of a soon-to-be home

so a single mother can breath a little easier for a little while.

 

And out here on the Main Line,

wrapped in white sheets, a pen in my mouth,

listening to that goddamned bell toll,

 

Waiting for the gift of Sunday exploration

in the holy city of gardens and love.

I AM NOT THE PERSON

Sitting listless in a twin bed writing;

the smell of carnal acts a day away still alive on the sheets

and the sound of our breathing in my head,

I got to thinking.

 

I am not the person I was when we exchanged hellos.

I’ve cut my hair and cured my skin since then.

I’ve been healing,

a healing where I’m learning not to pick at

peeling, mending skin.

 

You’ve changed as well in ways unknown to me;

existing an island away, living only though the ripples of the

three floating dots at the bottom of my screen

I’m coming,

I’m coming,

I’ll be right with you.

 

Thank you for sharing.

Thank you for hearing.

Thank you for helping me grow.

 

My heart is bigger because of you

and I am not the kind of person to let that go untold.

Thank you for choosing me, thank you for holding me.

Thank you, however briefly,  for the person I am to you.

 

 

A Song Of My People, Should They Accept Me

Mirror, mirror, shiver me timers,

three shots of rum and it’s not any clearer

to the people I’ll run in to later tonight,

to the pictures I’ll be taking under darkened lights,

that I was not built for beauty.

 

I was built for walking.

 

I come from a people who haven’t forgotten the roots left behind

when they were pulled like weeds, culled like beasts,

and corralled onto the path to their future.

 

I was built in their honor,

built in the image of the tears they trailed in their wake,

the tears that blossomed into the white rose: Neakita.

 

I was built to let them stand again, out of red earth from Oklahoma,

the people who crawled from a hole in the ground and into the flaming sun,

and flourished under it.

They do not deserve these scars.

 

Twenty-two hundred miles of death-dotted trails,

carrying only blankets reeking of disease, $50 to spend, and a loaded gun,

it’s no wonder there’s a grave every step of the way.

There still is today.

 

So, Lax Bro, I wasn’t built to be pretty.

And Lacrosse? More like Stick Ball, war’s little brother,

not played but fought across the plains.

Do not test me.

And don’t you dare desecrate the sport my people created

with your poor excuse for a personality.

I’ll cut any blanket you give to me in two.

 

I was built in their honor,

not to be pretty:

The gap between my teeth closed with seven years of dental work,

almond sliver eyes, cheekbones high and strong,

overlapping digits on my fingers and toes:

A, Chahta sia.

Yes, I am Choctaw.

I am of Chickasaw too, and

I was built to uncover this part of my culture.

 

So let me remember.

Lean on me while we walk together.

Katimma ho hotupa?

Tell me: where does it hurt?

 

 

Happiness Is Spelled With Leaves Of Gold

The children are happy behind the fence, you know.

This is all you’ve ever been told.

You see them run past, sometimes;

your face pressed to the wooden slats,

eyelid peeled back inside the crack —

sight reaching out to meet their running forms.

 

They will always know peace, you know.

While war has always torn your ground apart,

their side will never run dry of fleshy fruit

or the ripened ribs of those creatures they farm.

 

Knowing this, you look around your side.

 

There are no children playing here;

they sit listless in the dust, ground down by the countless

sticks and stones thrown over the fence in playful ignorance of whom they’ll hit.

If they hit you they’ll ruin you, you know.

This is all you’ve ever been told.

 

And still you watch:

the splinters in your cheeks of years and years of breathless watching

though the crack have made you bitter — the wooden shards have hardened you,

yet still you watch, wide-eyed in disbelief and longing.

 

Happiness has gone extinct on this side,

and happiness is spelled with leaves of gold on theirs.

 

Everything they stole from you was branded

with the gilded promise of a wish:

for bluer skies and cleaner air and food to eat.

 

And yet — and yet!

You hear the children cry.

 

The grass is always green for them and all you have is dust,

and still they whimper at their feast.

 

The children are happy on the other side, and so

they will never see your sallow eyes shrivel in this heat.

 

Their happiness is built on never seeing how they’ve come to rest their heads

on these stolen leaves of luscious gold.

 

That —

that

is how they di(n)e in peace.

To Write Poetry Is To Be Distracted      

 

         Let us set the scene,

his shallow voice announces;

 

hands inching though conductor’s motions,

humid air seeping through the gaps between his knuckles,

he tries to our catch our fluttering minds like a child catching fireflies.

 

The stump on which he stands may as well be fifteen years away—

time is of no concern to us

on this late spring day;

 

we have come to write,

to be distracted in the sun by the

              stuff of poets.

 

We are the people who find beauty

in a grain of rice lying on a mottled grey table;

it is the color of a long-awaited peace.

Its muted glow gives rise to thoughts of a

sun-drenched undersea scene.

And the magnitude of the lightly rugged tabletop

speaks to the human condition of infinity.

Naïvely, by attrition.

But aren’t we beautiful?

 

               Let us set the scene,

his shallow voice repeats;

 

and we still don’t catch the words,

his intonations drowned out

by the sounds of our surroundings.

 

How can we listen to the product of poetry,

faced with the lushness around us?

 

This,

         we know,

our writing shows,

         this

         is the stuff of poetry.

FEAR

Mothers watch with weary, wary, tired eyes

from doorways and corners on every continent of this godforsaken world.

 

Stepping on cracks did, in fact, break their backs

but they bite their withered tongues and train their skin to shield the pain.

 

They watch their children

and the men they’ve become,

 

and they see girls weathering their withering tongues:

training them to speak in rhymes and riddles

and to speak no ill,

 

and they see girls growing thick their skins

ridding them of the ghosts of hairy hands

and men hunting them for the thrill.

 

The daughters get buried alive

in guilt and unheard rage and the weight of blood-ripped skin.

 

This pain wears and wars their tired eyes,

and as mothers of unwanted kin they cloak their eyes in shadow,

backs breaking from within.

The Cliché of Chaos

The concept of if is monumental;

it shows humans as beings of potential —going wrong, going right,

spilling our decisions over others like drinks in a bar past midnight.

All these things happen only by chance

and there are two ways to read that fact:

either God is Dead and Life is Shit

— or —

anything means everything;

from the faintest static in the radio

to the way you two first kissed.

Every atom ever aligned has done so by chance,

every idea spawned in your mind is built on thoughts in the past.

Never shake off the ancestors clinging to your back.

You are webbed into history for all of eternity;

let your if echo out in the night.

You are you by every situation life has put you though:

meeting (her)

seeing (that)

expecting (more)

Fill in the blanks; we’ve all lived a little bit.

We’ve managed to make the best things accidentally:

the Chocolate Chip Cookie

a weak reusable adhesive

a cluster of cells bearing life

So remember we are only strings of coincidental meetings.

From atom to atom,

or Adam to atom,

or Adam to Adam and Eve.

If you listen closely

happenstance and circumstance

are what your heart keeps beating.

So listen closely.

Maybe this was some kind of cliché

that had never been taxonomized before

Read into the coincidences and notice the norm;

every moment deserves its own museum,

so curate your own collection.

Every 4 am awake’s a monumental accident.

We are series of cells addicted to cell phones,

beings afflicted by fatal mutations

caused by one twist of a gene.

And stories can twist by the turn of a word:

Did he die?

Or didn’t he?

We are the accretion of countless decisions;

a game of chance never brought to completion,

coins wheeling and glinting for as long as there’s air.

Our tales are told by idiots, full of sound and fury,

signifying everything but nothing.

If human beings are made of potential,

chaos unfolding is what brings us light.