Recently Published Poems
Published in Yours Truly, Spring 2010
You slide up the railroad ties
to the vegetable garden
like land-born leaches to suck
the life from the bush beans,
red leaf lettuce, baby carrots.
I creep outside with a flashlight
to remove you from a slow
salted death from my father’s
slug bait, follow your silvery
mucus trails, those lustrous
streaks painting the garden bed.
I pick you up with maple leaves,
clumps of grass clippings, place
you under the deck, away
from the garden, sprinkle
raspberries near you as a gift
for this sudden relocation,
this interference. I did not know
you’d become bigger,
stronger, and multiply
from these sweet meals,
that I’d run out of raspberries,
that my father would set more bait,
or that you’d summon your friends,
their swelled bodies hungry
for the surge of succulent red juice.
DISCOVERING THE HUMAN
I am ten, watching my father
prick his finger with a lancet.
The blood on the tip of a white
testing strip forms a crown, a bubble,
and balances there like a jewel
developing slowly like a Polaroid,
the red turning dark as rust. I stare
to find the picture in it, wonder what face
might emerge from the stain, the secret
message meant only for me, but he wipes
it clean and a light hue of blue appears.
I witness magic—his blood
turns the color of sky—and then
I feel it: this has nothing to do with me.
My father is human, fragile even, the blood
coursing through him a spectrum of blue.
Her tumor had grown to the size
of a knuckle, the size of her head,
a sore orb bulging out her side.
She crawled to me awkwardly, wobbling,
searching for the familiar shadows and hollows
of my body. She burrowed into my clothes,
rubbed her blond fur against my warm skin,
her wet nose snug against the nape of my neck
hidden under my hair. I just couldn’t do it,
so my boyfriend paid for it, put it on his credit card:
$15 for euthanasia. I filled out the vet form:
Name: Lloyd Animal: rat
Sex: female Age: 2
I signed and dated it, giving the vet permission
to inject her with poison, handed over the little shoe
box, the one with air holes poked through the lid,
and in fifteen minutes they returned her warm,
but still body to us. She rested in the fold
of a paper towel, her scaly tail coiled slightly,
her whiskers clear like fishing line,
her tumor facing up, protruding like an eye.
Deep in the pit of my throat
they cling to the larynx like barnacles—
the Unsaid, trapped in their hard-shelled
bodies, bearing the tracheal wind.
Inside each jagged frame lives
no, stop, I don’t want to,
clusters of clever comebacks unuttered,
droves of I don’t agree with you
and throngs of this is what I think.
I hold the little ones inside like hostages,
but tonight when I hear them chattering,
conspiring to lead their fantastic escape,
I feel a build-up of grief for the lives
I haven’t let them lead—what ears
are waiting to receive their messages?
I crouch down on the bedroom floor
nauseous, and feel them uproot,
extracting like teeth from a crowded jaw,
and I purge the Unsaid in a scream,
releasing in one heaved breath
what I have wanted to say all my life.
My friend, a mother of two, tells her daughter
the proper way to sit when wearing a skirt—
knees together, underwear out of view—
and scolds her when she sits cross-legged
or has the urge for somersaults. Her daughter
corrects quickly, her face fierce, as if studying
for a test, as if her life depends on getting it right.
I suppose this is inevitable, this process of boy turning
girl, and yet I think about myself as a child in Hawaii
sitting under a Plumeria tree with my brothers,
bare-chested, collecting sweet fallen flowers,
stringing them into leis using dental floss
and paperclips, creating necklaces and crowns,
our browned chests facing one another
like three boys around a camp fire, adorning
each other with our flora jewelry,
and then standing along the sea wall for a picture
against the glistening blue of the Pacific.