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.

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Cotillion Failure

The sand remains in my pockets weeks after I collected that pink quartz, grains wedge under my nails, shards burrowing as if they could find an ocean in there. Cleaning it all out, I find a packet in my purse from last week’s half-price sushi, soy sauce dark as ink. It’ll live in the drawer with the others until I change apartments. You can’t catch fireflies or pick blackberries in white gloves so I taught my dog to bury my pair in the backyard. I learned to curse, read upside down, sew enough to patch and hide the stains on all my shirts. I can roll a condom but lack the patience and polite smile of a young lady, my eyebrows give me away. My mom’s attention to counted cross stitch wasn’t passed down by chromosome, I laugh like her but louder. My hips lead when I dance, my eyes closed and drowning. I never managed to finish a Jane Austen novel, but I pay attention to the fleur-de-lis wallpaper pattern, thrill to see someone waiting on a stump, dress still wet from the lake, coming home to mother.

Less Sensitive Eye

This golden hour, I recognize the man on the alley porch from three jobs ago, wonder how long he’s lived there. His laughter bursts from his lips like sparrows fleeing trees, my lips so red a girl once asked after my gloss, I blushed, stuttered no defense, she cackled until I moved away. I wear tank tops, embrace the day’s last breeze then undress before windows, hope someone watches. My shoulders square in the frame. I scratch the scab fading beneath my chin’s stubble, trace the blotch yellowing my pec, dip to the purple bars of my ribs and the crescent fading black into pubic hair. Knees a little skinned but palms less raw. Last week’s bike wreck coated my mouth acidic iron. Above then below, bird or bat dropping fish from the sky—flattened by a sports car. That ocean smell, salt rot seeping until scales dragged through my nostrils. Didn’t see the pothole, flipped over handlebar and wheel, lifted clear, slow reflux in flight. My hands fanning on blacktop as if smoothing a sheet. Petal clatter. Bile kissed my tongue as I lay there. Breath. Late night and alone with the pothole, its bottom eggplant purple.