You have to be on the lookout for history. If you’re not paying attention, history passes you by, hides in the crevices of a room or stays stuffed in the walls of your house like a petrified mouse. I almost missed mine. Found it in a wooden box in the top drawer of my abuelita’s dresser. Stacks of it in plain sight. She wasn’t trying to hide it. I wasn’t trying to find it either.
I never paid much attention to the ink marks on abuelita’s hands, except to notice they were there. I didn’t grow up asking many questions—a lesson I learned pretty quickly. But now I know she was writing letters. Long letters on thin airmail paper, short letters scratched out on notebooks, a line or two here and there on a brown paper bag, a menu, or a napkin. You’d be surprised what you can write a letter on. While I rocked out from Rafi to Kriss Kross, she wrote letters to Mexico. Eight tracks to mixed-tapes to CDs? Letters. I begged for fishbraids and ribbons in my hair, pleaded for a pink Skip-It and Slip and Slide, made her pay twenty dollars for a New Kids on the Block tee-shirt when my mom refused. I wanted to prove I knew the latest jams only to find out New Kids’d gone out of style when Joey was rumored to be a fag. Then came the time of dial up and AOL chat room conversations, the private chat requests and “you’ve got mail” messages, exciting every time. And all this time, she wrote letters. Some she sent. Sometimes someone wrote her back.
I was a child, then a teen. Children miss things. So do teens. Or sometimes we’re never let into the conversation. You may wonder, if you never knew what you were missing, how could you miss it? The answer is simple. You feel it. Think about it. How many questions could you ask about your personal history? Right there, embedded in every question is the very thing you’re missing.
No Proper Burial; Internalized Oppression
We stand close to Bay's edge. Boulder tips jut out from frigid waves, violent currents
could toss bodies with ease, saltwater dissolving tissue paper.
A large Victorian on Alcatraz Island is home, fancy white walls and pink trim. The swim home is inevitable. I don't know how to swim anymore than I know the young
native man standing next to me. He slips
jeans to ankles, drops button down shirt, reveals bare chest and legs,
silk red boxers and sports socks. Instead of a wetsuit
he pulls on a brown plastic skirt, smears black face paint on high cheekbones,
secures a plastic headdress with synthetic red,
yellow, and blue feathers, moccasins from the 99 cent store, and a twelve foot spear.
The spear is real.
He thrusts the metal leaf through his heart, ’til shaft stands upright, his lifeless
body dangles above our heads, a piece of meat on a twelve foot skewer,
flesh suddenly small against sky.
Rachel, my sister, carries him toward water. He flaps like a flag on rusted post.
We cant carry him with us like this,
I protest. We withdraw the spear from chest, carry his full weight as we step into ocean.
A wave, like a great knuckle, crashes, muddies his eyes, ears, lips, uncontrollable submersion, a watery entombment; our rival.
1. Brown body
and bone. finally a place
outside push and pull;
giving up and gaining
consciousness or absence
fate or coincidence.
a magenta orchid.
future, past, now, perpetual full bloom.
let everything else go straight to the heart.
he was his mother's only daughter.
he washed his hands before using the bathroom,
smelled of amber and cedar and expectation,
the lookout for signs. his, to go.
i learned love is a stubborn organ.
mine, sometimes chooses
practicality over passion,
a tight cluster of marigold, pink daisy, purple pansy.
still has a bone yearning,
lips redder than allowed,
a fundamental animalness.
a nesting doll’s
hands removed from wrists, roses cut at center,
torso separate from legs.
one thigh is a caged tulip blooming,
the other split
one offers decadent chocolates,
strawberries ripe for questioning mouths,
a white tea pot with red flowers,
teacups ready for two.
the other holds red and pink
leather boots and an androgynous woman,
gifts for “dada” or “daddy”, “dad” or “pops.”
at 30, i'm uncertain i made the transition from “daddy” to “dad.”
boots and androgynous woman don't care.
they tell all the secrets then ask the questions.
for Linda P.
Departure leaves little room for interviews.
I can assess the clues:
a garden view and green beans, onion
roots and mud caked garden sheers on a red bench.
In your mind music and women,
kayakers mid-stroke, the oar,
connects muscle, the oar
plunges ocean, propels
closer to destination;
a glass milk bottle brimming white pills.
Why the pills?
Was it the truck in your stomach
or the grassy foot of a bridge reaching toward San Francisco?