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If you’re going through hell, keep going.

October 25, 2015

I spend a lot of my time wondering, whose life is this? It feels like a dream, a strange dream, where nothing is recognizable and no one is familiar, not even myself. I keep thinking I should call you, tell you how my life is going. When I see something beautiful, my instinct is to share it with you. I wake up in the morning and it takes me a few minutes to remember that you’re gone. I remind myself every few moments that you are gone. I thought it would get easier, but it’s just getting harder.

I woke up this morning and remembered where I was a year ago. How different everything was a year ago.

I have trouble conveying my feelings and thoughts to other people. No one understands. No one gets it. I am in a strange place, literally and figuratively. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I moved to a new state, I started grad school, I’m living with a partner, and my dad is dead.

I am making a life, and I’m trying to build a career and a family, and my dad is dead. I spend most of my time listening to people talk about academic subjects, books I know they don’t understand or care about and I just keep thinking mydadisdeadmydadisdeadmydadisdead over and over again. As people are talking to me I zone out and can’t stop thinking about how tiny and insignificant everything feels in the face of that.

I enjoy teaching. More than I thought I would. I like the kids, I like hearing them draw connections between the material and their lives. I want them to think this stuff is relevant to them in some way.

I live in a strange place, a tiny bubble of privilege and false progressiveness and every single day I’m here I can’t help but think how weird it is. I am supposed to be enamored with the natural beauty here, and it is beautiful, breathtakingly so, but it feels like this is a strange interruption to my “real life”, and to the real work I want to do. Sometimes it’s hard to make the connection between this place and what I’m doing here, and what I set out to do.

I just want my dad back. I want my home back. Home as in a person, not a place.

I didn’t expect to live with my boyfriend, but we’re doing it. We wake up happy to be next to each other, we hold hands and we smile, we eat breakfast, we go to the grocery store, we fight about the laundry, we turn towards each other, we feel safe together in this strange place.

This is a great opportunity, and I remind myself often, how lucky I am, how privileged I am to be here. I tell my kids that all the time. We get to learn, we get to read, we get to be in a space that is about education. So many people don’t get to do that, so we owe it to ourselves and the world to really appreciate that, and be present for that, and to do something meaningful with that.

I cook a lot. I write messages to myself on my bathroom mirror, Siempre Pa’lante greeted me for a month. Now, one of my dad’s sayings, Do your best.

Do your best. It’s all you can do. Whose life is this? It’s mine.

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I do not know where the earth went.

June 11, 2015

“Crying dehydrates you”,
she told me.
And I didn’t believe it.

People ask me how I’m doing and it feels like a lie. The question is a lie, a perfunctory part of the social contract. I am supposed to say, “I’m hanging in there, thanks for asking.” When what I want to say is,

“I do not know where the earth went.”

It slipped away from under my feet when I wasn’t looking
And now I don’t know who I am. I don’t feel like myself.
My point-counterpoint is gone.
I don’t know where he went.

It seems important to me to know, to try to know, to have an idea. I want to ask him, where are you? Where have you gone? All I have left is your body, and that’s not you, and it’s in pieces, it’s been burned, your bones have been smashed, what I have left is fragments. What I have left is just a body. People say, “I’m sorry.” People say, “He was so young.”

People say a lot of things and they all sound like the wrong thing to me. Everything sounds like the wrong thing. There’s nothing that can fix this. I used to believe I’d felt a hole inside of me before, but I had no idea.

Grief is awful. It is an awful, awful thing that comes in waves. It hits, it carries you away, it drags you under, it lets you come up, it lets you bob on the surface, and then it pulls you down again. Some days I am okay. Some days I yell at strangers and break down into heaving sobs on the street. I keep asking myself, when will I feel like me again? When will I go back to normal? When will I be okay? When will I stop being this person, who cries in public, who shows weakness, who needs others? When will I stop being this person who has forgotten how to dress, how to function, how to be? I am a closed fist and your death has made me a broken hand, open, in pain, waiting to be grasped.

you can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone

December 27, 2014

Remember that view from the BQE that stills your heart every time, a city laid out before you that someday, maybe, could be yours. Remember that morning you left, four years ago, spent the night driving around with boys you grew up with, remember the glint of sunlight off steel and glass.

Remember days and nights of good company, full bellies. “Too much fun”. The feeling of re-entering your own body after a long absence. A summer and fall of wild despair, a winter of reclamation.

Remember that boy, the sad one. Which sad one? Too many to name, with trouble on their brows, melancholia and ink weighing their bodies down.

Let them go. Touch upon each one with love in your thoughts, clutch, release.

A world full and ripe for the taking. A people to rescue. A new year to fill with lovers, with words.

You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d—you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction, before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you;
What beckonings of love you receive, you shall only answer with passionate kisses of parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach’d hands toward you

I am not a poet, I am a teller of stories.

August 15, 2014

I want to tell you my secrets

(As sure a sign of love as any)

Call you up and tell you:

“This is what I never told you. Please, protect me from my past. Protect me from that room, that powder, that stench of death. Protect me from those eyes, that touch that makes me flinch. Protect me.”

 

The eye makes a mystery of the kiss.”

Running lips over ragged skin, teeth scraping down. Hands balled into fists. I have forgotten the smell of your collarbone, the feel of the meat, meet between your neck and shoulder.

____

Eyes that don’t see, heart that doesn’t feel. Tripping over the words, this common expression in my father’s mother’s mothertongue, thinking ‘it’s a lie, it’s a lie’, because you are in and out of my thoughts, constantly, a body bobbing on the waves of my subconscious.

The light offered to a blind feeling.”

The light offered to a blind feeling, that is, love meeting love, the years of the future spilling out before us, the birth of children, the rescue of a people, the learned inflection of bodies meeting after absence.

 

How could I forget? Even with generosity?

Let us forget with generosity those who cannot love us

July 9, 2014

When someone breaks up with you, it’s the worst. When they don’t give you a reason, or one you can understand, it’s even worse.

When people hurt you, your immediate response is to walk away. So you do that. But it’s not without its consequences.

You miss him more than you can stand most days. Cutting someone out of your life used to be a point of pride. You’re good at it, you feel pride in being able to reject the people who’ve hurt you, it awakens a cold, cruel part of you. Usually. In this case, you just feel sad that someone you thought was so important isn’t a part of your life anymore.

It doesn’t help that this comes on the heels of something even worse:

Your dad has cirrhosis. His liver and his kidneys are both failing. His body is shutting down. He’s been in and out of the hospital for the last year. Some people know, some don’t. Your coworkers have been kind when you’ve come in pale from lack of sleep, lack of food, from hours spent in the emergency room, again (and again and again..). There’s been talk of hospice care, and what life-saving measures he would and wouldn’t prefer.

You were used to the white walls, the sense of losing time, the smells of the hospital even before all this. The last few weeks he’s been better, he’s been home, in good spirits, and comforting you, strangely enough, when you burst into tears in the middle of a conversation. “I wasn’t in love”, you say. And he replies, “It doesn’t matter, when you love someone, when you spend time with someone, even if you’re not in love, you get attached. It hurts when it’s over. I know, I’ve been there. Tough motherfucker that I am, I’ve been there.”

And he tells you about Milly, again, that girl he shacked up with in Spanish Harlem when he was 19, the one who left him because he loved dope more than he loved her. He’s got a lot of stories, and you’re desperate to get them all down before he leaves you. That’s what you do in life, you hear stories, you listen to people, you record the past. It feels like a sacred duty, a responsibility to document your people, whose voices are so often erased, whose triumphs are relegated to the margins of history while their tragedies remain up front, centered. This, your present calling, the thing that gives a semblance of structure and meaning to your life, this one thing, and you’ve failed to do it for him yet. You tried to, and you were both overcome with feeling.

It’s not easy bringing the past into the light.

So you spend days bursting into tears, alternating between feeling sorry for yourself that you’re 28, you live with your parents, and you don’t know what to do with your life, and feeling angry at the universe for having no sense of justice, no sense of what’s right, what’s fair. It’s trying to take your dad from you, your dad with all his fuck ups, all the ways he’s failed you and your family, all his tecato stories, all his love, all his advice, all those times he corrected your terrible Spanish a little too emphatically…while it lets others live, walk, stay. You begin to think even with everything he’s done and all the people he’s hurt, that it’s not fair, it doesn’t balance out, the scales are fucked. This isn’t right. When you’re not feeling this confusing and intense swirl of emotions, you’re busy grieving the loss of a relationship that wouldn’t have lasted anyway, probably. You’re not sure if you thought this was the one, but it could have been. You think back to the trip you took, and how happy you were, how happy you thought you were. What did I do?, you ask yourself. But there’s no such thing as closure, and you’ll never know what someone else was thinking or feeling while you were sinking into that feeling, that safe and secure feeling of someone loves me.

So you begin again. You tell your friends, your sister, your parents that you’re not doing well, so you throw yourself into trying to. You see your friends, paint your toenails, take walks in the sun. You make plans to move, look at apartments, pitch stories to magazines, look for ways to be the best version of yourself you can be. Because you realize, you like yourself, you love yourself, and you deserve a world that’s fair, that’s just, that’s beautiful and right. And even though you won’t get that, not exactly, you can have something.

You look for the light. You believe in poetry, in words, in all the ways they’ve saved you, you remember Neruda and learn to forget with generosity all those who could not love you…

“Now that I’m dead I know everything”

June 17, 2014
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Praise be to the poets, believers in alms, the laying on of hands,
the healing touch of lips on skin
and hot sweats that signal the breaking of fevers

Praise be to the poets
trading in words and secrets,
treading water by your side to bring
the news,
dredging those depths for ghosts,
writing those sorrows on the body, any exposed part

Praise be to the man who carried my words in his pocket,
6,000 miles away,
bringing them back stained with blood and sweat (not his; his)
the grit of dirt, (dirt of a land under siege) and the desert

Praise be to the strangers, reaching out
(across)
through the years to take your hand
offer respite
something cool to drink

Praise be to the sheer weight of human grief
wearing you down
to your truest self.

Praise be to the raconteurs,
the troubadours,
conjurers of the Word
enumerating your kindness
and weakness
confusing one for the other

Praise be to the sleepers,
ridged fingers,
ink staining the chest.
The ones who tell you, sadly,
this will be for your pages

 

 

 

 

There are no words to explain/Why there are 2,666 women/Lying dead in a desert

April 27, 2014

 

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I hardly ever write anymore. Usually just fragments, sometimes in my notebook, sometimes in word or google docs. I never take the time to craft something, or finish anything I’m working on. Crystal’s birthday was this Friday, and she invited a bunch of us Olivetree Alumni to join her at Coffeed, a coffee shop (with wine and beer!) in LIC for an open mic. It was great to be around so many of my friends, and to recreate the open mics we used to have once a semester back in college.

I started writing this on the street, thinking about how Crystal and I both like Roberto Bolaño’s work, and how haunting it can be. I’ve been thinking about literature a lot lately, and especially with the news of Garcia Marquez’s passing, I am reminded of how much literature can mean to a people who’ve had their lives written out of history. This is why I studied postcolonial literature in college. I wanted to try to understand what writing the self, and writing in response and resistance to empire, means.

I went to a panel the other day as part of the Brooklyn Zine Fest. Nia King and Daniela Capistrano were there. I asked a question about the zine as ‘object’. With the explosion of blogging sites, and social media, what does the zine mean? Why does it persist? It must have to do with it as a physical object. I posted the above photos because they’re physical objects tied to this poem I started writing, and that I’ll hopefully edit and polish up. There are quotes and allusions in here, consider credit given where it’s due.

I wanted to read a poem about
Ernesto Cardenal y yo
Or
Roberto Bolaño y tu
But there are no words to explain
Why there are 2,666 women
Lying dead in a desert
No words to explain
1,956 miles of border, barbed wire and walls
A raised scar between nations,
Brothers
Open only to exchange
Cash
Pesos
And pounds of flesh

There are no words to explain those
Starving
En los dos lados de la frontera
When Dalton nos dijo,
La poesia es como el pan, de todos!

The words are woven into the walls
Robbed of breath, style and substance
Dancing up and down
Haunting the last man to read them
In a room in Macondo
Awakening to an eternal return,
The inevitability of all things

Those are where the words are
Creeping through jungles
Outrunning trains filled with bananas
Bananas and the dead
Bodies filled to bursting
Piled high
They are silently watching

Pacing, hungrily
Como una puma
In the barrens of Quitratue
Waiting for us to
Sober up

I wanted to read you a poem
About love
Life
The beautiful things
Flowers, children, tables heaped
With color and gold

I wanted to gift you with words
Palabras como amor, belleza, vida, esperanza
But those other words,
Muerte, odio, fealdad, desesperacion, pobreza
Are lying in wait for us
Obscuring tenderness
Sinking their claws into literature
Giving purpose
To poets

When he kisses me, he tastes pomegranate.

April 2, 2014

I imagine he’s like a bulldog I would sic on my enemies, trained to kill and willing. “Please, my love, please”

Ten years you’ll spend avoiding each other. Saying too much, then nothing at all. But he’s always there in the background, ready to tear you down, ready to try to get at your soft spots and take as many swipes as possible with his claws. You tell him he’s mean and he ignores you.

This is his function in your life. He comes and he goes, but he’s loyal in a way that none of your actual lovers have been. If you needed him, he’d be there. At least, that’s what you tell yourself. He has a knack for being unreachable.

 

******************************************************

 

I love him unequivocally
his sad, slurring voice
all these years later
and every time
I
turn that song on
I hear him
singing

 

*******************************************************************

I imagine my poetry in his pocket, folded, covered in dust and sand. I imagine his eyes on my words, even now. I like to think he carries them with him still, they’re better company than I am, me as person, versus my words as object. I do not know how to look into his eyes and see anything but the wall he’s erected between us.

 

“Send me what you want” [prompt]

February 15, 2014

Every year Kim puts out a call for prompts for love poems for Valentine’s day. Every year, I steal her idea. Here’s Kim’s prompt and what I wrote.

 

Kim’s prompt: “send me what you want”

 

Send me anything you want
Your cat’s fur, the one that passed away
Old love post-its
The kind he’d leave for you
On the door, the bed frame
On your bathroom mirror

Send me your father’s hopes,
Your mother’s dreams
The ones you fear you’ll never live up to

Send me the pennies
You pick out of your change
The ones you waste no wishes on anymore

Send me those old slippers,
The ones you never wear
The last gift your grandmother gave you
The ones you keep, even though they don’t fit

Send me what you want
A reminder of those days when you would
Call that diner by my apartment
Order me coffee, and juice
Food for those days I couldn’t get out of bed
Afraid to comb my hair
And go to work

Send me something,
Some news
Let me know how you’re doing

I am tired of wondering,
Of being afraid to ask
Send me a letter
Your words
To calm this aching sadness
To close the gap of
These few years between us

 

amorous, but out of reach

August 18, 2013

I’m mad for you. I am mad for your words, your fingertips, your sad inclinations and tendency to withdraw.

42 years since that cigarette, that stoop, that light. “I saw a beautiful girl one day…and now here you all are.”

This is the way the world works. Life is long, life is hard.

I’m waiting for her now, her tiny hands growing, clasping and unclasping, someone new to love.

Now that you’re here again, I remember a string of moments I thought I’d forgotten. Your voice on the phone, thick with alcohol and sadness. Singing. Slurring.

“He’s all our broken boys come home.”

“I just want to get away.”

__

“Writers are always selling somebody out”

It’s true.

And here I am, telling the world your secrets. Your weaknesses. Looking for a point of entry where there is none. None except memories, the past, people who don’t exist anymore. And that’s not playing fair, I know.

A distraction too distracting, and not what I meant to ask the universe for.