Dear Poet

I’ve met people here
Who adore Neruda,

Mr. I like you when you are quiet
or perhaps more precisely
Mr. You please me when you keep quiet.

When they tell me this,
My jaw tightens
With the meeting of teeth,
My knees creak,
My wrists are pricked by
Needles and nails,
I respect these people less.

Forgive me.
I am judgmental in my tastes
For both poetry and humans,

Being a poet doesn’t mean loving a rapist
Who writes about sentimental twilight.


Inexact Similarity

after “Semejanza Inexacta,” intstallation art by Francisco Peró

Their legs apart or snug as one,
Shoulders angular in fat,
Fishing line a barely catching thing.

The sun into the underground
Cuts their edges, etches each form
As they twist slowly in the AC.

The borders cross their bodies
The streets of their arms

Ruta Cinco in yellow
I-95 in red
Autobahn blue
National Trunk Highway in black

All catching the morning glare,
Reflecting museum-goers’ mutters.

July Sunday at Silver Hill Baptist Church

My knees gather sweat
and aggravate
my unbalmed heat rash,
creeks trickle down
my calves, ardent hands
stitching crooked seams.
The window units broke
again so I’ll be scrubbing yellow
from my sleeve’s insides.

I lean away,
let the moisture dry
without staining
an egg in my best shirt,
salted polyester musk heavies,
women fan their faces
with a flutter of hymn pamphlets.

John 14:6: I am
the way and the truth
and the life.
No one comes
to the Father
except through me.

Itching nylons slide deeper
to my patent leather toes.
I uncross my ankles, tilt.
Momma wills daggers
into my periphery.

Flat back against the pew.
Momma checks me every minute
without moving her head,
Better girls never cough during prayer
and never let their skirts ride up.

We leave with a blessing.
We sigh Amen.
We stand.

I pluck my skirt from my thighs,
unglue my shirt,
our low heels tap down the aisle.

I get an earful of razor whispers
before we even finish crossing
the blonde grass
brittle as a twice-bleached wig.

Passing Time

A poet’s been spending hours online just scrolling Facebook,
hiding from her novels and half empty notebooks,
inflating a bouncy house cathedral puff huff puff
with stained glass windows of neon plastic wrap

and cotton candy stones that never dreamt of rose quartz.
She lets the battery die. The ferns guzzle water on her windowsill
opposite the neighbor’s box heavy with geraniums,
craning stems like giraffes with tongues wrapping around acacia.

A boy dribbles his soccer ball on the patio, shuffling across tiles,
erasing the scuffs of shifted furniture. He fakes out defenders
and shoots bap baff bap into the marked wall, lifting his arms
and calling goooool over chanting fans and his mother’s radio.

She smiles and shakes her head, a mist of Clorox finer
than perfume to cover parquet wax molding oranges,
she’s been scrubbing potatoes for dinner, rocks in a stream losing
their pits and muddy divots, her apron absorbing the sink’s splash.

First Grade Science

We put lima beans in ziplocs with wet paper towels,
misted them each afternoon until roots crept from the bottoms
and sprouts emerged like dancers drawing themselves on stage.

Like a good scientist, I have been replicating for twenty years
in pots and plastic bottles and marmalade jars
until my apartment is a madwoman’s forrest.
Peach pits crack open and avocados dissolve in the dirt
and tomato seeds extend spider legs
and I grin every time like a six year old.

Jiggle the Handle

that outlet doesn’t work,
don’t bother, use another

but only charge
one thing at a time

or you’ll blow the fuse,
the fridge and the washer

can’t be on together,
it’s an old building but

you’ve got two bedrooms
with this mattress here,

don’t open that window
or it won’t close again

and the oven doesn’t
work if it’s windy.

Horticulture Lessons

Mom dug and I nearly helped. Plastic trowel
in my seven year hands not turning much soil. Planting
was my magic step. The possibilities in wax paper packets
I ripped open and removed two seeds at a time.
Don’t crowd them but don’t let them get lonely.
Neat rows of squatting to poke holes drop seeds
and pat firm again again again to fill the raised box
claiming half the backyard. City concrete edged
the rental of those early years together.

There, before the new father
before we retreated my middle grade to the suburbs,
corner bars and neighbors’ eyes stayed open ‘til two am
but the daffodils out front never slept. Forsythia early,
iris late, tulips the whole time.

That first year Mom forgot
to mark the rows. Our thrill at the survival of each kind
a surprise until they reached teen age. I cheered their growth.
My affection without question or condition for the tangy earth
of early leaves as tomato stems grew hair and tight buds spread.
Pepper florets blushed as sunflowers out-stretched me
and the leaky hose hissed like a garter snake the cat didn’t care for.

One day Mom turned a leaf to expose
lemon-lime specks coursing the veins, dancing irregular
jigs around chewed holes and brown spots. Aphids.
I lifted my hand to squash them. Raise their blood a penance
for destroying even one leaf on my darling. But she held
my wrist. No. And we spent the afternoon catching ladybugs.