loud as the sun,
inpatient for any kind of trouble
as long as it’s alongside
at the Carnival’s Krewe du Vieux
Just when it looks like
I’m making progress,
an hour and start to sp lit
(just like that)
and the other half
turns pretty ugly
Then it’s me vs. me
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
I need to be reminded
of who I am
This is when it’s time
I can reach for
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
But this won’t last
*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
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).
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 other places that took over the 90’s.
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.
I was young–“what’s a terrorist attack?”
and other questions.
I wasn’t pushed into a new era
until I found her clutching Kleenex
in the living room.
I’m a wide-eyed witness, doomed to
pass around vivid images when wisdom sets.
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
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,
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.