birth like petals of a magnolia, folding
back, folding back, folding back
or, the Old Norse way,
to bear, to sustain.
Is it not something to bear?
As she has us?
My mother tells me the wind is in me, she sees it in my shifting eyes, wagging tongue, she wishes I’d be more like the slow cooked soup, the earth.
i walk backwards
letting it fold back
and hold me
Your mind’s eye,
on my strawberry jam insides
an avid search for
there are answers
in the running water
eyes bugling forth, pervasive with sight,
the lack between the mind
is where id like to lie,
ink bearing forth words,
tempering the two
like the Air delivering
seeds to earth
To my mother, whose heart beats in my chest always
and keeps my hand from killing the spider
My father, his thoughts a half a glimpse ahead of mine
and always-covered in leaves of the season
My baby sister, for giving my responsibility a shelf, my first secrets a cellar, and a fire to toss my weariness in
Elizabeth, who taught me how to watch a movie and laugh hard enough to turn invisible
Allison, who showed me the limitless possibility for understanding
Colleen, who made me question the quiet and my own compliance
Devon, for the pure supple wit and good disguises
Tiana, who taught me to recognize an adventure, that resiliency is a choice, and how to erase the word
My 11th grade French teacher who told me: all books are tiny vampires waiting to suck you in
M’s voice in his apartment moving at the same pace with the same clarity, as the light
The neighbor who screams: SOMEONE IS TRYING TO KILL ME
every day at 8:00 am
The exercise in kindergarten: write your name five times with a pencil, on a paper lined like the road
The texture of paint in my hands
The sensation of dreaming awake
Others and my curiosities and their always-fruitful ends
Tula’s tiny furry belly
The shy subtly of eggs
The bitter taste of rose petals, their texture like thin fine flesh
and every star and
The illusitory space between them, as well as,
the actual space between them
To every elegant soul walked past
And precious hands on precious bodies that will fade into earth and come out new again one day
The soul’s of our soul’s
And every ancestor I have who is now a blade of grass
The ink on this page
That all matter has never not been here, down to the tips of our eyelashes, a collage of preused materials
That all blood is borrowed
Today we set out for the rainforest, El Yunque, to camp. Waking is difficult. We were separated the night before. I remember the evening in a haze as I look at the darks of my eyelids, sunlight staggering in. It was spent drunkenly cycling through San Juan, bar-hopping with a boy we befriended and with whom I had spent the more precious violet colored hours of the morning. I realize that we still need to return a bicycle, which I ride back to the hostel after a quick breakfast of coconut juice and toast. T is passed out naked on the bunk; I wake her with the back of my hand on her forehead, “Water?” First things first. We make coffee and begin to pack, say farewell to our host Francisco who has been vitally helpful and has given us an amulet with a carving of woman giving birth. We take the train to Fajardo, our umbrellas haphazardly sticking from our backpacks and our arms crowded with plastic bags of snacks, pocket full of wrappers from eating them. Once in Fajardo we find the Publico center. From here things become blurry, the fatigue of severe hangover and lack of food, water, or rest set in and all I know is that we are in a van going at least 90 on the highway being driven by a man who speaks very little English, about as much Spanish as we speak, and who is extremely reluctant to take us to the rainforest because we need to go to the south side in a small area known as Naguabo. The drive lasts for roughly an hour and a half, before we enter the forest. Naguabo is really more like mountainous countryside than rainforest. People are few but the community is tight; they refer to each other’s houses as landmarks. As the van winds further into the green hills the amount of people becomes less and less. Packs of wild dogs lay sleeping in the road and bark as the horn blows them to the side of the street. We drive high into the mountains, the road curving, always a wall of green flesh on one side. From the window there are children playing in the foliage. They appear as a shadow, disappear, their eyes in one spot, their feet another, and as we round a curve a boy jumps out from the mountain, the driver speaks to him, evidently we have arrived.
Another figure emerges from the mountain as well, at first I think another boy but after some uncertainty I realize that the companion is a girl. He speaks to us in perfect English but she hangs behind him silent, calm and clever. Her voice, or the scraps I hear of it, is deep, velvety; as androgynous as her appearance. The boy brings us to the house, which is huge, three stories and a wrap around porch surrounded by waves of earth, and furrows of trees and bamboo. We walk along a twisting path that leads us past his horse and to a peak that overlooks the valley we’ve just driven through. Exhausted, we drop our packs and breathe. We left San Juan around 11pm and arrived as the sun began to set on Nagaubo. We were hungry. From the entrance to the driveway you can see a ridge that with the coming of night is dotted with lights, one of which is clearly a bar. We walk over, counting stray cats, which only appear in pairs and dodging June bugs as they float by lazily on the thick air. A group of kids our age or a little older gather outside the place along with a few very elderly people smoking cigarettes. As we walk through the door all of their heads follow us, and as we enter the bar and walk to the other end every head in there follows us too.
As a woman, being looked at is almost unavoidable, but being seen is impossible. But this experience wasn’t just that, it was the alienating kind of stare, to say that we were from the outside, othered and therefore not only peculiar but also rare entertainment. We sat; we’ll just have one beer and leave. As we begin to drink the men start to circle us. They are mostly over fifty, at least the ones that approach, I’m unsure if I should give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re being friendly. This is what I usually do because it is generally easier to play dumb than to get your way. I study my beer bottle every time my new friend Feliz starts to sigh and salsa. If we did tell Feliz off and his ever-expanding group of friends what would happen? Well we’d probably endure being slandered in Spanish across the room, followed out into the night once we decided to leave, I’m not sure, it would be something ugly that I frankly don’t want to deal with while still hung over unfed and drinking again. Whenever men this age try to pick me up I always ask questions about their children. Or nieces, or younger sisters etc. It’s not very direct but at least its something. Feliz keeps trying to ensnare me in conversation, for which he has four topics: he loves America, my hair, my skin, and to dance. I am weary with disappointment. Here I am on the opposite side of the country, in the rainforest, and still I cannot drink at a bar in peace. I scan the room through my beer bottle, Feliz tickling my ear with his beard as he speaks into it. In the corner I notice the girl. She is sitting against the wall, her knees up, her feet in sneakers, her long dark hair in a ponytail a beer in her hand and she sips it while her topaz eyes see mine. The girl from the forest, she can’t be more than 12. She stands takes a cue and joins in a game of pool. I turn away and measure the amount of liquid left in T and I’s beer bottles, half an hour more? Maybe less? I have the feeling that this girl is watching me, pitying me, because here she is apparently alone, unbothered, engaged in a game of pool, and immune to situation’s like my present one. I look back and she’s now salsaing with an older woman, laughing at another couple dancing, deep in thought at another game of pool, getting her next beer, looking at me. We finish our beers and leave the bar; a stray dog follows us back to the house but leaves off when we pass a pair of stray cats sitting on a fence.
The next day we begin by gathering fruit off the ground, avocados, star fruit, something that tastes like pumpkin cheesecake. We slice them open on a table on the wrap around porch and watch a lizard watch us as we chew. Then we set out to hike. Neither of us are very experienced so this doesn’t result in much, we walk up the road, find a waterfall, decide its too dangerous to climb. On the way back to the campsite we pass the boy and girl on their bikes. They see us and wave; each of them holds a yellow ball in their hand. T asks, “What’s that?” The boy tells us they’re a fruit, do we want them? All we have to do is break them open with a stick. The girl hands me hers and I thank her awkwardly. I don’t want to be the receiver I want to be the giver. I try to put it back in her hands but she makes me take it. I break it open later when we’ve moved camp to a nearby beach. It smells like flowers and acid and when I break the thick apple like skin and pull it back there are several little seeds studding the pulp like eggs.
I think of my mother her small hands neatly peeling an apple, clean jeans, tenderness, a heart on the inside that I try over and over again every year moving to try to recreate, find again. Where is she? In the crusts of bread? Among the stability of eggs, milk, bread constant totems in the fridge. What makes a home? When I think of mine and when I want it most badly it is my mind in a hot bath, enveloping encasing, like a womb. All the way home I feel the heat emanating, calling me. Just down the street, just around the corner. I open the gate and see the steam in the hall. Push the lock back with my key and my pores, heart, skin, opens, softens, frees itself. My mind imagines itself soaking in the deep tub, the water pure and clean nothing extra and so hot it pulls everything off me that shouldn’t be there, that isn’t a part of me.
My eyes are opened
they are opened again
& they open
again & again
open a million times over & I can see
by new I mean: As beautiful as it was
the first time I saw it
blue, fish eye
like a record rolls
heads bob on
the current, black beads
as the air yellows
the rain falls
hot and hard
like a lover
you are so lovely in your beastness.
Stripped and naked on the back seat.
Ive been trying to grow harder.
Harder like my skin
Harder like trying to
But, it can be difficult
to clip small lies out of
yourself, wash them clean
with peroxide and if
theres a scar, its there to
Beautiful? My mother?
I had never thought her
This way before.
The definitive image
Was more perfect.
I sometimes confused her
W/ the Virgin Mary.
Because her hair was long
Like the veil
That both were confusing
Not the glitter of steel or the sparks in certain sidewalks down certain streets.
But the sparks on your teeth,
In your blood
Slicks of glitter on an adolescent
In the sticky crystallizations of all
The glittering of milk just
poured from fresh glass
The slithering shine on the
Fur worn yesterday
Not the glitz of polished pots,
Not the spark in a silver plated
All that glitters is not granite
I stand in the kitchen and prepare myself
I open the fridge
reach over a plate of pieced up chicken
for the folded carton of milk.
I stand in the kitchen,
grey socks stiff loafers, blue frosted cookie, fingers tinted by nicotine,
shoulders curved by intoxication.
I consider methods
for conducting research on the internet.
the lips of you
your eyes in the wind
you aremade of a web,
i am madeof a web,
and a THOUSAND silver threads hold us
so we could,
You pull the covers over our heads in the morning,
“Now we’re in England.”
Its moments like these that make life sweet and precious, even if I don’t like you that much, and won’t send you emails, add you on facebook, or care if you’re leaving the country indefinitely. I just want this. This moment that is small and beautiful.
Like when you come into the room with your morning tea and a can of PBR. Set them on the desk like its nothing and let me smoke a cigarette in your bed with your head on my lap, tapping ash into an empty cookie tin. And you talk about how cool Humphrey Bogart is and how one time your friend cut together a line of MDMA, cocaine, speed, and meth and said,
“Come on then, its good for the heart.”
In bed you sing me Irish folktales, nationalistic ballads written by Pete Dohertry, tell me sailors stories about the sea and look at me like you think you know me but you don’t know anything at all. You never ask, and assume that since I never say anything there isn’t anything to say. But I know you. I know that you think you hate your mother, that your brother is a child prodigy, that you have kidney problems, and stole an ounce of cocaine from a dealer once. You are an emotional and self deprecating drunk and when you smoke you cling to things you want because the footholes of your subconscious are loose. Unfortunately for the moment this is me which makes my psyche run in the other direction. I only want to be in places where no one really needs me, which you don’t understand. You tell me you really like me, I put my tongue in your mouth. Please shut up. You’ll scare me away.