A POEM A DAY

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: words

8/30: POEM BEGINNING WITH A LINE MY MOTHER WROTE WHEN SHE WAS FOURTEEN ON THE BACK OF HER HIGH SCHOOL PICTURE IN 1979

Please help me
understand
the things
I need to know

I am not always
who I should be

How do you know
what you know?

How do you know
when to keep going?

How do you
name your pain?

How do you
word the secrets
you keep?

I am in the middle of a story
I do not remember telling

Please help me
understand

Nobody tells you the truth
unless it’s easy

I don’t know how to say what I think
without sinking into the ground
like a seed out of a season

In my head, all the heroes are dead
But I want to re-write the ending

I keep holding on to every little thing
that has happened to me it still feels like
it is happening to me

Please help me
I wrote a list of questions with no
answer and all I want
is your voice
to be a whispering map in the madness

6/30: YOUR HAND ON A COUNTRY ROAD IN A LIGHTNING SHOW

On the darkest country road, I touch your hand in the dark
to remind my wandering mind
of what it feels like to be held while lightning
surrounds the sky the same way my arms do
around you when we sleep together and my breathing
slows down the same way storm clouds move in the sky
Something inside of me is forming
The sky’s bright siren is a warning signal
And where we are going, I have nothing left to fear
It is April and all the flowers laugh in the distance
as my car speeds past rolling hills of bluebonnets
I’m reaching through every reason I have to stay
And your hand anchors me to the Earth like a law
I will always follow. I only know
it took years to see
the possibility of not being alone

Whenever the clouds swallow the lightning,
I know you are my waiting horizon
I know you are the light that stays
I know you are the hand that reaches back

On the darkest country road, I interrogate the fate of my heart
Is this the place we start anew?

I look over to you in awe as lightning circles your face
Songs fill the space between us, music rolls in the clouds

And we listen
as the car carries us forward
together

5/30: ODE TO THE OLDEST I’VE EVER BEEN

I left the bar after one drink to roast squash and sweet potatoes. On the drive home, I talk to my girlfriend on the phone and hold the story of her day in my head. My bed is proud to announce I’m sleeping through the night. The calendar on my phone reminds me to look ahead. Oh the beauty of a budget. Student loans make me feel less alone. Meeting deadlines make me feel alive. Oh, to organize my socks and not find a single one missing. The joy of being together. Oh, electricity of cancelled plans. Right now, I am building a sanctuary of borrowed time. My plans for the future include fresh bread and compassion. Every day another lesson. Every day another guess. Every day another mess. Another year passes, and the mirror holds who I am with who I was. Tracing the lines on my face I arrive at different places. Oh, how the love I have to give covers the ground like pollen. If anger ever enters my bloodstream, I catch and release like a trapped bee. Calling my mother, I ask about my brothers. I watch from afar. The joy of being together. Oh, to be a witness to my own troubles. Life unravels and I turn my heart into a shovel. If I have a question, I ask it. If I know the truth, I tell it. I don’t know when all my pants will fit again. I’m learning the principle of infinite consequences. I was told a poem is a seed. So I praise what is still growing.

4/30: JESSI OPENS HER MOUTH

Jessi opens her mouth and language becomes a kite she is learning to fly
Language is in the wind and she holds a string in the sky
but all her words are untethered, sound orbits meaning
while meaning meanders along without a voice to
call out its name. She is still learning to speak, and I am still learning
to listen.

It is impossible to translate a sound with no name
But every day, her mouth is a chorus,
full of refrains
stains
growing tooth-pains.

Jessi opens her mouth all the time and when she does,
She speaks the language of refried beans
She speaks the same language a tortilla does
A voice hand-made by the recipe in our blood
She Speaks the same language as caldo
A calming flood of flavor that holds our hearts in its hands
Jessi belongs to a legacy of language only she can claim

The women in my family all have voices that command,
voices that understand, voices that float in the sky, water
the soil, light the fire, and carry the prayer, voices that exist
to say I am here, I am here, I am here.

Jessi opens her mouth and all the birds draw near
Every flower in my grandmother’s green house sneaks out
and the garden shouts out a song only Jessi can sing
My brother, Jessi’s father, watches his baby girl sleep
in silence. Her body rises like a slow tide, waiting
to crash against the shore of any world brave enough
to silence her.

1/30: SO SOME VULTURES HOLD A WAKE IN THE SKY OF MY MIND BUT I DO NOT GET EATEN ALIVE (THIS TIME)

“I wish I could tell you this story without being in it.”
– Michael Rosen, from Gaslighting in Several Parts

In the spirit of honesty, I think I’m finally ready to talk about it. Driving down I-10, the Texas sun writes the constitution of the sky. In my mind, another sky awaits my fate. On the side of the road, the colorless carnival or carcasses steal the bluebonnet joy of Spring as if grief ever had a season where it did not bloom. The song I’m singing is not exactly a prayer. In the air, a Committee of Vultures rise bright above the montage of Oak trees. As for me, I’m trying to raise my voice in this dungeon where I am. I spy a reason for living where death is a sanctuary. Death is a kettle. Death is the horizon above our eyes, where vultures circle the dead like a black Ferris Wheel alight in the sky. Whoever killed the monsters in my head left the meat on my memories. I’m waiting for the Committee to decide my fate. I’m curious if, each time I revisit the past, a vulture takes flight? My friend Michael reminds me there are stories I wish I could tell without being part of them. That I can’t just drown the past in a lavender bath. When the vultures of my mind finally swoop down to the ground, their bodies are furious and free. I’m not so sure I can say the same for myself. What I’m trying to say is, I’ve never buried the memories that kept me suffering and alive. What I’m trying to say is, there are vultures in the sky of my mind. Aren’t my memories a carcass by another name? I have a million stories where I am not the hero nor worth saving. Trauma tells but does not teach. Please don’t tell the vultures I’m here—all alone in my head, rotten and writhing—like I’m waiting for some bird in the sky to eat the idea of me like an elegy waits on the other side of my wake. Every day, I hold a wake for who I was and who I could have been. When the boy inside me lost his innocence, it was a life sentence. Sometimes I thank God I am not him. Why must I be a witness to my horrible history? The Bluebonnets come alive every Spring because it is a ritual. When someone dies, the family displays the body like a shadow everyone can all touch. A goodbye ritual. A wake. Have you ever seen group of vultures feed on a carcass together? A goodbye ritual. A wake. Ever confuse mythology for biology? It is a mistake to think every god-forsaken trauma entrenched memory is something we cannot help but inherit. What I mean is, driving down I-10 and seeing the vultures patrol the sky, I realized it is a blessing to know there is another creature who only survives on suffering alone. But in the spirit of honesty, I only have time for joy. Spring brings so many things back to life, I can’t help but smile at the power of wildflowers. I’m too sensitive not to smile at the sunshine. Even if there are shadows in the sky, I still choose to try. In the spirit of honesty, this song I’m singing is a prayer. I say, raise your voice in this dungeon where I am and a laugh blooms on cue from the woman I love. And I cannot allow myself to be destroyed.

28/30: I REMEMBER

I never ran faster
than when running home from the bus stop,
my unstoppable brown legs
reaching for the ground like rain dropping,
the cascade of my my bent knees and flat feet
led me down the street and like the mouth of a river—
you can trace my tongue and find every beginning.

In elementary school, when we lived close enough to
take the bus from school to home, I remember very well
waiting in line, my tiny body melting in the heat like
the ice cream cone I would hopefully eat if I caught
the ice cream truck in my neighborhood with just
enough change in my pocket. The rarity of money never
sparing me from what I want.

I remember standing there, unafraid of the ride home,
because I always had a book to read.
Yes, I was the kid who read books on the bus
following the aftermath of another school day
where rule after rule, my bus mates and I were told what to do,
and now, it was my choice.

In the in-between, from now and then,
from home and here, I would unzip my backpack
like a present I am gifting myself,
and would search for the earmarked page
I bent merely hours earlier so I wouldn’t forget where I’ve been.

On the bus, nothing is louder than the ruckus of adolescence
pouring out from children, their smoldering throats,
loud as a forest fire carrying smoke and me quiet as ash.
I mean, we’re talking mostly madness, and all of it,
the chaos, the voices, the bus driver’s directions misdirected
like a broken compass. I knew where I was going.
There, back row, window seat, sunlight so I can see.
I sat, hands fit perfectly beneath the body of work I have just opened.

In my head, it was so quiet, I would step into myself
like an empty room, door unlocked with plenty of space
to hear myself think. How lovely it felt,
to turn on one voice in my head then turn off the rest?

I think then, I could have never imagined the quiet
without the chaos of sound crashing into me, my small body
with my bowl cut hair, as I sat next to the window,
where the best sunlight could be seen, where the darkness
would find me reading a book aloud, my proud mouth
alight with sound, round as the sun and the moon, round
as the whole world, and I didn’t know if anyone ever heard
me unfold a story on my lips, the sentences I kept repeating
until I knew what each word meant. I know the echoes
we create do not always say our name. But,
language meant so much to me, that when I read my books
on the bus, I did not worry about what was next,
could think less of the empty house I was running to
once off the bus, where I would eventually arrive by myself,
searching through the stacked shelves of my head,
shifting words in and out of my then growing mouth.
Yes, I am still a river running on like sentences too long to finish.
Yes, all my brothers are still elsewhere and out there
Yes, I am all alone with voices I cannot help but call my own.
No, I refuse to to give in to helplessness.
Yes, I wish this was a sustainable system of living.
Nowadays, the chaos is less cryptic.
But the story still isn’t finished.

25/30: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

A word is a soundless bird with no wings
escaping
the tree of your throat, back into the forest’ soundscape,
a pummeled plumage merging
into the natural traffic of the air, invisibly
weaving,
sound into thought. Feathered letters
teaching
Yours truly how to flock symbols into sentences,
acapella fella
Banging his lips like cymbals, & like most instruments,
ignoring the tremble that follows. Listen,
Even a wind chime swoons gentle, until
a crooning feast reaching.
I am learning your favorite sounds
never actually touch the skin,
only whisper against it,
almost a missed kiss,
a bird landing on your chest the same way
words absorb breath.

Listen.

When a word is a soundless bird,
your voice begins to float next to your body,
Sound leaves the ground, letters spin ‘round,
your mouth like a carousel of consequence,
each time you speak, a soundless bird leaves,
shaking the branches
Stuck in the tree of your throat.

I’m learning the root of what I have to say
stayed inside for so long,
it forgot how to sing.
This is me remembering
tracing the root of my pain,

Listen for
the little linguistic caress,
little kiss of my breath.

Didn’t you notice
the bird on your chest?

19/30: THIS IS A POEM

This is a poem about the heart.

Alight
Aflutter

This is a poem about the lover.

Tender
Together

This poem about the mouth.

Effervescent
Exit

This is a poem about laughter

Grasping
Glory

This is a poem about the truth.

Unconditional
Unforgotten

This is a poem about the poet.

Searching
Surreptitious

This is a poem about forgiveness.

Cautious
Calamitous

This is a poem about anger.

Work-brittle
Workable.

This is a poem about failure

Required
Rejectamenta

This is a poem about sex.

Hello
Honesty

This is a poem about debt.

Silently
Swallowing

This is a poem about death.

Vulnerable
Violent

This is a poem about loss.

Quickly
Quivering

This is a poem about brutality.

Institutional
Indifference

This is a poem about solitude.

Mysteriously
Mine

This is a poem about belief.

Yelling
Yearn

This is a poem about touch.

Narrating
Nearness

This is a poem about doubt.

Persistently
Present

This is a poem about strength.

Baffling
Benevolence

This is a poem about listening.

Orgasmic
Osculation

This is a poem about joy.

Furthering
Formidability

This is a poem about commitment.

Joined
Joy

This is a poem about accountability.

Divest
Dejection

This is a poem about loneliness.

La Luz
Longing

This is a poem about patience.

Zodiac
Zinging