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.

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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.

Happy December

Important saints bless Chile with three-day weekends and I grace my students with the revelation of Hanukkah, a forty-eight year old Spaniard hadn’t heard of it, so I guess Franco realized what the inquisition started. Here I am Jewish, super Jewish, extranjera extraña, rara, there are nine other Jews in Santiago and I saw the first one (kippa, payot, and all) as he glided through a body scanner into the bank. Here I am more Jewish than in Virginia, my parents came to my elementary school to pantomime shamash etiquette and play dreidel with chocolate coins, and my classmates directed me to my future address in hell, with greater specificity each year. I tell my students that my family is hybrid, non-religious Jewish and Protestant, Hanukkah and Christmas, an increasingly normal oddity in my country, I teach starters “both,” ambos. We practice the “th” sound by putting our tongues between our teeth. I don’t teach them “neither,” neither bat mitzvah nor baptism, neither Christian nor Jewish enough, Jewish through my father so not really a Jew at all.

The Sticks

Night settles in with gauze to hide the stars and the moon slides out
as I light the bedroom window to be seen from the road.
It’s easy to wander out in the fields. The herd should drift back
by morning but the rebuilt fence ought to hold either way. Or else
I’ll be picking up chunks and bent headlights from between dashed lines.