Monday, April 16, 2012

Poem 8/30: Your Are Not Five or Fifteen

To be a dog, or a grown up. Or to be
a penguin. Aiden, who is now five,
has this power. To dive in to 
an imagining so real, he becomes
the thing. He is angry at his mother
when he is forced to wear underpants.
Penguins don't wear underpants, Mama.
I told you, I am a penguin today.
He is your nephew, your heart, your moon.
And you are not five or fifteen. You are
not even twenty five, not by miles.
Now, you must dive in. 
To be forty one.
To be a woman, brown woman in
this land uncertain about its new skin.
Brown woman in this world 
the old man is unprepared to see.
What is the power that you hold 
in this new brown world?
Is it your sex? Is it your skin?  
Imagine a Sunday at its best. All
sunshine and blossoms. Imagine
all voices raised, all sights on high. 
Now imagine the pulsing. Your heart. 
Your heart.

7/30: Mama Warned You About Days Like This

You have grown weary of the words,
always the words. So many words, always
talking, always talking. Your mama warned
you about days like this, days when your 
quick with and piercing words would crush.
Only, she never told you they would crush
your own self. Your own heart. Your weary,
wordy heart. You have said enough. Too much.
You were weak. Over here, they call it 
vulnerable. Your heart calls it weak, your
heart knows you went too far. You
showed them where they can hurt you,
you let them in. You told them. Silly
girl, you said here, right here, come 
and touch me right here.  And now 
there is no phone, the internet is down, 
they are are nowhere to be found and 
all you have left is a sorry ditch 
you cannot talk your way out of.

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 6 Poem: How Things Work (6/30)

My father liked to point out
the mechanics of things.
On planes, we would always sit 
near the wings so we could watch
as the pilot maneuvered the
flaps, opening wide to create 
resistance the shutting them tight
for a smooth glide. In airports as
planes landed, we looked out
for the landing gear - those wheels
the pilot released just as the plane 
touched down.  When I was 
learning how to drive, he showed
me the car engine, made me see
how it moved as he hit the gas or 
shifted gears. He  made me 
change a tire, taught
me how to check the oil. 
The heart is an engine and a man is 
an engine and a father is an 
engine. My father showed me 
the mechanics of love. Most nights
till I was twelve, he would tuck
me and my sister in bed,
brush our hair out of our eyes,
kiss us on our foreheads.
I learned what tenderness 
looked like on the face of man
when my father kissed me
goodnight. And later, much 
later, my father taught me
forgiveness. When I broke his
heart, with my angst and my 
words. When he broke my
heart with his struggles
and failings. The heart,
the eyes, the tender eyes,
the forehead kisses. My father
taught me the mechanics of
love. He took me under the hood
so I would know. So I could see.

April 5 Poem: When I Am French (5/30)

Sometimes I imagine I am French.
I picture myself in an a pied-a-tere
overlooking le jardin, sipping cafe au lait.
My voice lowers an octave, suddenly
sophisticated, spoken from luscious lips
that pucker and pout. I have a mole
on my face, a beautiful imperfection
somewhere close to my left eye. 
My brows, always perfect, arch with
more conviction and my deep brown
eyes will be equal parts sadness and sass.
I am always gliding, when I am French 
I gain grace and gait. Accordion 
music trails wherever I go.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April 4 Poem: The Dance of the Left-Right Sway (4/30)

And each city is a flash,
each citizen a speck
on this train ride between
townships. Strangers sharing
this car, this air, this free wifi,
this conductor, this suspension
between to and from. Behind,
conversations of apparent
importance, spoken on a 
Blackberry with urgency.
"Family emergency... No,
there will be no way to reach
me at the hospital... Yes,
I promise to be on email 
as much as I can..." then
a long silence, not even a sigh.
Across me, a watermelon 
coat outshone by a smile, 
it must be love, a new love
she cannot contain.
She stares out the window,
as if to make a wish and 
then, she is suddenly sad..
Beside me, a logbook,
an iPad, a calendar and
a calculator. It is tax season
in the East Coast and he
is both King and drone,
he leaves his armaments
only once and returns with
his third coffee. 

And the speed of the 
journey is swaddled in
the softest sunlight,
camouflaged by the
left-right sway. And the man 
with the clicker is always
the boss. And the suit
who steps out to take
a call means business,
so does the pearl-wearing
hair flipper he is here with.
The conservative in the
seat next to me reads about
the missionary position, and
the hipster across from him 
is bored. And the argyle 
sweater in the middle is
pensive and the watermelon
coat is smiling again.
And each city is still 
a flash, and each citizen
is less of a speck in the 
sway and the rock from 
New York to Boston today. 

April 3 Poem: When the Body is Angry (3/30)

In my case, it is the belly.
Always. As if my every hope
and fear is held there. As if 
my every nerve winds around
there. It will not be ignored,
cannot be ignored. But sometimes
it is the shoulder. As if all that
I bear leans there. As if all my
struggles wrestle there. 

In my case, it is also the fist,
the lashing tongue, the 
uncontrollable stomp. 
Once it was deeper inside, the
anger. In this case, it was
vindictive. It was plotting.
It was punishing. It required
surgeons and treatments,
It was scarring, irreversible.

When the body is angry, you listen. 
You must listen. Listen 
for the tiny creaks, listen 
for the whispered moans, listen 
for the happy humming, listen
for the fracture, listen
for the break, listen
for the fissure, listen
for the rebellion. Listen
when the clots form. Listen
when the cells conspire. Listen.
When the body is angry, listen.
You must listen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 2 Poem: There Never Was Window (2/30)

Sweep all the rooms once
twice, thrice to be sure.
Take out the trash, 
make sure every inch 
is spotless. Shut off 
every light, turn the key.
Never look back.
Your truths and your lies
are in boxes and bags again.
How many boxes and bags
have carried you from way to
way, from bed to bed, from 
movement to movement.
Your face is a stone, 
and your feet are the ocean. 
There is no sand, there are no
cards, there is no house. There is
no more house. There never was 
a house. A door. A window. 
You were  never a Sequoia.
You could never work with straw.
The wind always came, then the rain.
Always the rain.
Always the rain.
Always the rain.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1 Poem: Manang Adang (1/30)

Illuminada was always old,
her soft raisin hands
running through my hair
every morning before school,
gingerly and forcefully holding
together my innocence
and endless questions
in a perfect braid
so taught, my head
would ache till recess.

We called her "Manang Adang,"
this woman who took care of me
and my sister, Veronica. She made
our meals, did our hair, mended
our clothes, poured milk
into glasses in the mornings
and evenings. She was
our first lesson that you can
grow your love for another,
so big she becomes family.

Later, she was
also our first lesson in
betrayal and heartbreak.
First the golden spoons
my grandfather squirreled
through the war, concealed
from the Japanese and
corralled against
the bombs. Then, it
was a gold bracelet my
great grandmother
had made especially
for the arrival of her first
great grand daughter.
There, all there hiding
among her things,
the wrinkled handkerchief,
the betel nut, the rosary
she prayed every single day.

* "Manang" is a Filipino term of endermeant and respect for someone older, an older sister or someone you feel sisterly respect for.

April Means Poems Poems Poems!

And here we go again, April is National Poetry Month and poets everywhere will be writing thirty poems in thirty days. Watch this space and follow me on this journey!