Snowy Morning/For Emily

The snow falling this morning reminds me of you
Tree limbs so crisp and the world is new

I sit at my window, watching the street
To reminisce and envision the next time we meet

My heart knows I likely won’t see you again
So my imagination must fill that void in

Are you building a snowman, or tunneling deep
To a whole different world where wild wolves sleep?

Are you sipping hot cocoa and playing a game
Of witches and fairies and dragons to tame?

Are you running through snowdrifts, wild and free
Knowing all of the good things you’ll be?

I sit at my window, not crying, not really
Recalling the serious times and the silly

Thinking back to our jokes, our games, and our smiles
The frustration and anger every once in a while

When you love someone, see, each memory sticks
So you carry them always in your bag of tricks

And when I start to miss you, I’ll think of those days
We acted like sloths creeping down the hallways

The students and teachers all looked so confused
When we said, “We’re just slothing around, how ‘bout you?”

I wish you goodbye as snow creates a fresh place
And hope wherever you are, you’re smiling and safe

What’s that smell?

Poverty doesn’t just look like
an empty kitchen, smell like dust and stale air.
This kind of poor smells alarming,
like something is very sick
It looks more shameful

And the children know it. They say,
“Miss, what’s that smell?” and look
towards one of their classmates
And I have to say, “Don’t you worry,
we’re taking care of it, now
get back to your writing.”

And in their eyes, I see
no gratitude, just a quiet grief

The Gamble of DNA

Thumbing through an album of my childhood,
I am caught by the urge to cradle a child
in my arms, wild-haired and scarlet-cheeked.

I want not my former self, but an output of my DNA;
a genetic product of the traits I wish to express:
the subdued artistic sensibility,
neat gleaming rows of teeth,
a curious athletic vigor, intelligence.

I list the qualities I would do away with:
dark unending moods, panicking on plane rides,
the tendency towards alcoholism,
nocturnal jaw-grinding, and skin cancer.

Did too my parents ponder which features I might
inherit or escape, as embryo me swelled and matured?
No, for I was a surprise, a niggling itch,
and then a heart-stopping realization.

Each bleached photo of my youth reminds me
a child is a lottery ticket, a gamble
revealed over the years
as their silvery surface is slowly scratched away.

Comfort

I say, Can you use the word comfort in a sentence?
She is leaning into me, shoulder pressing,
bright blonde hair sweeping into my lap
She thinks hard, crafting the perfect image

I comfort with my dog
she says simply

And all their freckles and sweet little hands
And their big wide dreams and pale faces
noses and cheeks cherry red from the winter air
Bring hot tears to my eyes in a tender rush

She continues to ponder
I go to sleep and wake up
and I still comfort with my dog

Child

I spy anger in the sharp of her eyes
and the flash of tongue over teeth.
She sinks, thumbs plastic cusp of cup
and growls a deep theatric moan.

I know her mind’s still wild. Her child brain
hides black desires and fragile dreams
from our adult eyes. We pry.

She says she wants to be a vet. She wants
to rescue horses, save pets from fevers
and wrap wailing puppies in blankets.

She doesn’t yet know chemistry labs,
love rolled up in sex, the sting of
the first swallow with your so-called friends.
Of Mom’s secret shelves and Dad of the past.

Now she has the trouble of finding
a bus buddy. Of spelling C-L-O-S-E
and writing a’s, circle first.

She’s angry and it pulls at me-
the urge to grab her straw blonde head
and kiss the silky dirty hair in disarray.
She’s angry and for that I love her.

Closed Doors (Pantoum I)

Mama shut the bedroom door;
I could not ask her why.
Papa’s knees fell to the floor.
Sister began to cry.

I could not ask her why
the rocking chair was shattered.
Sister began to cry,
she said it didn’t matter.

The rocking chair was shattered:
I asked what have I done?
She said it didn’t matter,
since I’m their only son.

I asked what have I done?
Papa’s knees fell to the floor.
Since I’m their only son,
Mama shut the bedroom door.

Keep Your Hope

My small spirits:
the animals, the young children
who do not yet know the word oppression.

Sweet innocence, utter curiosity,
brave and trusting hearts.
Those sunny faces and bright eyes
don’t yet know depression.

They don’t need to know.
Please God, don’t show them.

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Believe in all the good things,
the magic that turns leaves red and gold
and morphs clouds into dragons.

Watch the sky for rain; laugh hard
when someone sneezes.
You can find delight in anything.

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Keep your dreams close, little ones.

Hold onto joy and travel through this world
slowly, and with those open eyes
that give me such hope.

My Guinea Pigs

I love having pets. Even though at times I can feel tied down by them, my little piggies give me invaluable joy and company on a day-to-day basis.
I love when they start squealing upon hearing my footsteps coming up the stairs to my room (though, admittedly, they are only thinking of food).

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Baby Poppyseed.

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Matilda and Poppy as young ‘uns.

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Pigs, present day (ish). They adore their comfy fleece bedding.

I spend a lot of time alone, or at least intentionally not interacting with people. This is due both to my introverted nature (normal, for me) and to my tendency to isolate myself (unhealthy). But something about spending time with animals is so unlike spending time with other humans. I don’t feel awkward, insecure, or forced when I’m trying to make a connection with them. It feels easy, comforting, and natural.

And for some reason, I also have similar feelings when I interact with young children. Perhaps it’s because they haven’t quite picked up on social cues, norms, and they don’t have reservations about certain things. I can be silly around them, and there’s no judgement or eye-rolling. They don’t tell me I’m not cool. I listen to them, and they listen to me (usually). Young children are mean only in the sense that they speak honestly, are self-interested, and don’t have the same sense of what’s inappropriate as older people.

 It’s taken me a while to learn these things about myself. Now I know that I feel more complete when I spend time with animals and kids.
Next step: How to incorporate this into my career and/or “adult” life…

When Grandparents Die

You don’t think much about phone calls
until it’s your mom’s voice relaying
something about a heart attack and
that awful phrase “make it through the night”
and a one-way flight to faraway elsewhere.

You don’t think much about hospitals
until your grandma is lying in one
bloated, face inflated from the IV
flooding her full of salt. Hold hands,
play hangman and pray she remembers words.

You don’t think much about cancer
until it is extracted with a scalpel
from your dad’s neck, ’til your family owns it
and cancer causes grandpa to lose his speech,
scaring you as a child as he hacks blood.

Now you think constantly about family,
of picture books and pencil sets, vacation,
hugs and lozenges and lightning bugs,
libraries, letters, turtle figurines, a pin
collection, catnaps, apples and cobbler,
of tears and memories and summer strolls.

On Looking Back

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When I feel my blood slowing

and my lungs sinking toward my spine,

I will not indulge in quiet panic

nor will I bargain for another sunrise.

 

No, I will recall a temperate August day

with my first love, moving bare through

the calmest lake, our clothes held high

above our heads like flags in a parade.

 

I will remember the games that children play.

My sister peeling coins of seeds

from a waxy shell, instilling the greatest meaning

in a soft trail of sap found

on a wild cherry’s scratchy bark.

 

I will picture México and la playa,

my parents hooked arm through arm

before a technicolor sky, awaiting

rooftop meteors to catch light as I

try to capture the cosmos on film.

 

I will think back to a thousand white mountain

powder days, catching air in waves on skis

or dodging trees on trails that lead to

silent empty bowls of snow.

 

When I feel my vision dim down and

my limbs turn light, I will not resist my final breath.

I’ll be awash in the glow of happier times-

the beauty of knowing I did exist.

 

 

Photo is one I took of Blanca Lake this summer.