Category Archives: literature

This is Thirty

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This life isn’t 
a group of the ladies
in ridiculous stilettos 
on a pointless Tuesday
sipping Cosmopolitans 
while sharing the latest
philosophy about the hottest
one-night-stand-of-the-week,
holding the glass above
their head-held-high
because this is some kind
of fully-formed thirty,
this imaginary adulthood
they told us about in order
to soften the blow. 
 
…No. 
 
This is the girl who lost 
her debit card the same day
she realized she left her umbrella
at home, forever figuring out
the answer to what and why
in her favorite worn boots,
now until…whatever. 
This is
her friends
when they share the latest hook-up
life lesson with the sexual outcast
as she sips a beer, and takes 
notes about life and the curve balls
from those still finding pennies
between the couch cushions
with her because
wake up, this is the actual thirty. 
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Me Vs. Me

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Just when it looks like

I’m making progress,

 I fumble

an hour and             start to         sp  lit

                                                   (just like that)

and the other                                half

turns pretty                                      ugly

very fast.

Then it’s me vs.                          me

all weekend.

I want to sleep

away a bad day

or distract myself

when the solitude’s

quiet gets too loud      but first,

                                                                 I must listen

                                                                 to voices tear

                                                                 the skin on my face

                                                                 to shreds;

                                                                 I need to be reminded

                                                                 of who I am

                                                                 despite promotions.

This is when it’s time

For medication–anything

I can reach for

and after,

                                                                   it’s okay

                                                                   to be numb

                                                                  to the voice

                                                                  in the room.

Well, it’s morning

and I thought it over.

I’m not as bad

as the voices are

convincing.

                                                 But this won’t last

                                                for long.

Stigma

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On my fathers side,
They ignored the elephant
On the living room couch
And called it toughness.
 
This was how they turned
Whisky
Percocet
Wife and kids
Into therapy. 
 
This was how my cousin
Turned a belt into a noose
In his closet.
 
This was how they called 
my aunt the “bitter black woman” 
stereotype and how they saw
her charge to  dim
A room.
 
And this is how the walls in the living
Room finally started
                      To cave in
from the extra weight
as they sat around and gossiped
about their self-aware sister. 
At least no Prozac among them.
I guess this was toughness.

Black Candles

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*Based on a true story, told by my mother

 

Rumor has it, the story

went like this…

 

back in the ’60s, baby Isaac

had just turned three,

waving the classified section

of a discarded newspaper

like a flag, but giggling

way too close to the heater.

 

That’s all it takes

to turn ordinary days into tragedy.

Heater met paper;

paper, overheated, touched his shirt;

shirt mindlessly took in the flames

that liked his flesh, and everything

happened faster than his mother

could cry.

 

Mamma was a teen

and can still remember

the novenas, the nurses exiting his room

with more wrinkles around the eyes.

It seemed to last forever until

doctors finally called him, the tiny body

covered in third degree burns, a miracle.

He even learned

to laugh again as family allowed

him to forget the trauma

until curiosity asked about

the wrinkled scars years later.

 

Little rumors and snapshots

from that phase still creep into

family stories. Like the way

my grandmother answered

the door as soon she spotted,

from the window,

a frantic mother carrying a smoldering

bundle down the road towards her.

Like the way everyone seemed

to grab rosaries at once

to quietly wait with a priest

who looked for the signal to perform

the final ritual (Sigh of relief

as he left for good).

 

Or–remember, rumors spread like fire–

how everyone whispered whenever

Mamma’s aunt left the room, wondering if it was

true: if a cousin really did find black candles

in the aunt’s dresser drawer that same morning,

if Isaac was still an accident, and no excuse

for why he got in the way of an intended target.

 

(But who was supposed to get the Devil’s luck?

 Decades never found the truth).

Storyteller

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From my poetry collection, “All the Words in Between”

 

I’m molding into a storyteller with age,

but not without listening to how my mother

watched the world shift and write chapters.

She was working in an office for Bell South,

praying after the Challenger incident;

home, hearing what they found

under Gacy’s house; raising

me while I was too young to know what

was happening in Waco

or Oklahoma

or other places that took over the 90’s.

 

 

 

She can,

I can’t remember many events without

iPhones and constant coverage to flood us

with the new panic before we could digest the last.

Emotions seemed much more innocent,

too raw before millennial buzz gave us

numb stares, attention deficits.

It was life like the way her father, a farmer dressed

in rough hands and a stoic mouth, told her

the gravity of Kennedy with tears.

 

 

But generations after the last seem to start

all over again. Decades later, I was in school

in September, alerted by stern voices

and breaking news on every channel.

 

 

Like her,

I was young–“what’s a terrorist attack?”

and other questions.

Like her,

I wasn’t pushed into a new era

until I found her clutching Kleenex

in the living room.

Like her,

I’m a wide-eyed witness, doomed to

pass around vivid images when wisdom sets.

After Listening to What Florence’s Water Gave Her.

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The realization blurring

 reality’s face, saying nothing

 

had to make sense tomorrow,

was found on your face

 

after holiday loneliness

woke us up to each other

 

 in the room next to

dying commotion.

 

You walked out, down the hallway,

took my hand with you;

 

I followed you to a bed

made with regrets. Your

 

hand pushed between

my knees, desperately waiting

 

in that shipwreck called desire.

Parallel to final dive,

 

couples walked

down a path lined with

 

oaks covered by twinkling

bulbs; they pressed lip to lip,

 

 long enough for the camera to flash.

There was a night

 

for the lonely like us, meeting

separately in couches

 

in the dark, or staring at the last

grains of beer at the bottom

 

of a glass at the bar; members

spoke as if running

 

out of time as the numb began.

Families said the last

good-bye, woke up again

at the door. So did I, but there

 

was the drowning too,

for the both of us in the spaces between

 

where other loners never touched.

Everyone does at some point; so

 

I learned after the final

wave and collapse into

 

sleep. We resurrect

eventually, so don’t worry

 

or care for once, for we were

still breathing. Anyway, night

 

needed to happen

before I can become tomorrow.