Archive for the ‘Vol. 8: Creative Writing’ Category

Letter to My Middle School Self

 

Remember your mother laughing

at the bitter leaf hugged

between slices of ham and cheese

in your sandwich. Thirteen, yet

you can’t tell

lettuce apart from cabbage.

When bleached-blonde tips and

a Mountain Dew T-shirt fill

your chest with helium

until the only air you breathe

is him, she will try to convince you

that you are too young to fall in love.

Trust me, she’ll say, you’ll

understand when you’re older

as she pulls from the pocket of your

polka-dotted backpack the

Valentine’s Day themed

box of heart-shaped chocolates.

But six years from now,

you will be standing

in the produce section

between piles of leafy green

and still not know the difference.


 

 

Pretty Girl

 

She sits at the edge of the tub.

Glacial waterfall cascades down her legs, numbing

delicate flesh to pink razor blade. She tames the

cactus needles creeping beneath her skin,

satisfied only at the feel of silk.

 

She runs a comb through the wet tangles in her hair.

Bottle after bottle, she sprays each six inches from her scalp.

Orange to condition, red to cure split-ends, green to protect

from the desert heat of hair dryer and straightener.

Her mother warns, “You’ll be bald by thirty-two.”

 

She dips a brush in powdered shades of sun-kissed

and paints a porcelain face over adolescent blemishes.

Fills in dark brown in the empty spaces of brow, humming

under her breath the familiar chant of cosmetics:

Lip-plumping, volumizing, age-defying, flawless.

Glued-on mascara lashes, merlot-stained lip,

pink and purple palette add the final touches.

All dolled up–not too much but just enough.

She unhinges the straps of her little black dress.

Tucks herself into the revealing thin fabric and

flattens out the creases around the circumference

of her hips. Origami is an art form she learned to perfect,

folding away the parts of herself that she wishes

to keep from the rest of the world.

 

She looks back at her polished reflection.

Painted face, hollow limbs. Sturdy plastic mannequin.

 

Pretty girl, there she is.

 

hans-boodt-1006031_960_720

 

Talk to Me

 

The conversation begins with the parting of lips.

Your hips, unstifled by tongue against teeth,

interrogate the space between my thighs.

I feel your desperate questions,

roll in like tides, but by now

I’ve forgotten how to speak.

Drowning in a symphony of your

breath heavy on the back of my neck,

I am lost inside your ocean.

Mouths gaping, toes curling,

the weight of our bodies

pushing and pulling.

Bone against bone, still

clawing for intimacy.

I am drowning.

My fingernails dig anchors along

the ridges of your spine,

leaving behind crimson love letters

across the wet fabric of your skin.

From the depths of lung

come final gasps of release,

ironing out the wrinkled inflections

imprisoned in the back of our throats.

Together we beg

sound into syllables,

syllables into words,

words into sentences spelling out

that this is more than just fucking–

 

It is the echo of a universal language.

 

 

Written for Dr. David N. Odhiambo’s ENG 313: Intro to Creative Writing

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Black Ink

 

The black ink sticks to the canvas.

Slow swipes across the plane,

bleeding down the cracks,

splatters the ground

The art dries on the wall.

 

The black ink leaves a trail.

Hand gestures become strokes,

Strokes become letters,

Letters become words,

Words reflect the story

The story dries in the paper.

 

The black ink escapes the mind –

The black ink transforms the artist.

 

black

 

Life of a Tree

 

I’ve known this tree

since I could walk.

He grew up behind

my grandparents’ house.

He stood straight

and tall to the sky

He shelters me

His body is broad

Wrap my arms half way around

His skin felt smooth,

but rugged like a pumice stone.

He gave us oranges for years

Now, I see the top of his head

Don’t squeeze tightly

His skin flakes off

His branches are twisted

His has no leaves to shade me with

He has no fruit to give

But there he leans.

 

 

Written for Tiare Picard’s ENG 273: Introduction to Literature: Creative Writing

The Exchange

The day had just started for Emilio Perez, but work had a way of wearing him thin, and he had been wrestling a hangover since he had dropped his wife and son off at her sister’s house in the country. He was hot and uncomfortable, and he knew that even though breaks weren’t permitted on the clock, most of the guys wandered off for a cigarette every so often. Therefore, he figured that going back to his truck for a few swigs of the Black Velvet he had stashed in his glove compartment wouldn’t hurt anyone. After all, he had a lot on his mind. Julie had mouthed off to him again last night, and if his son hadn’t come at him with that frying pan like a bat out of hell he wouldn’t have had to thump him in the chest so hard. It seemed to Emilio that they always had it out for him. Why couldn’t they just let a man relax after a long day at work? And why was his boy such a little bitch? It’s not like I haven’t taught him everything I know. He knows how to take a punch, now he just needs to figure out how to dish them out, he reasoned as he thumbed the controls on the cockpit panel.

Sensing that it was the right moment, he put his CAT dozer in park, saluted his foreman, turned off the engine, and began to hoist himself down when he felt his shirt cuff snag on the gearshift. Shit, he thought. All at once, the dozer lurched into reverse and knocked him off of the machine. He landed with a faint thud on the hard soil, but just as he raised his right arm to straighten his hard hat, he felt a small tug on his wrist. His shirt was pinned under the caterpillar track, and the next wheel in the tank tread inched toward his forearm. His eyes darted from the tank tread to his arm as he let out a small gasp, and time seemed to slow as he felt it press on his arm. At first it was only the slight pull of skin stretching as dough does under a rolling pin, but a moment later the searing pain of flesh pressing into crumbling bones sent flashes of agony through his body. He screamed as the pain surged through his nerves, but all that could be heard was the faint tink tink of metal gently scraping metal, and the dull crunch crunch of bones being ground into dirt.

#

Thick, wet air hung around the country house like a distant uncle. It was muggy and overcast, but there was very little chance of rain even though heavy white clouds blanketed the blue. Nadina knew this because they weren’t thick enough for rain when they were white; it was only when they were grey that she would have to stay inside. Her mother had told her earlier that morning to go out and play with her brothers and sisters, and although the plastic pool that they had inflated in their backyard seemed a welcome relief from the heat, there was something going on inside that washed her with a sweet, nervous feeling that she couldn’t ignore.
When she was sure that she couldn’t be seen, Nadina folded herself under the large, unvarnished wooden table that her father had built before he left. She looked out past the hems of the white tablecloth and noticed her two aunts, Aunt Georgette and Aunt Georgina, gathered in the parlor of her mother’s brightly-lit country house. Aunt Georgette and Aunt Georgina were twins, but Aunt Georgette was as thin as Aunt Georgina was fat: Nadina often wondered how they ended up that way when they both came from the same place at the same time. Nadina supposed they were there to gossip about the slew of men that had wronged them over the years as they did every weekend, but today was different. It was strikingly hot, but instead of complaining about the humidity levels and how Nay needed to bite the bullet and get an air conditioner already, they seemed to be scurrying about with a mysterious sense of purpose. Nadina watched as they took oddly-shaped wooden bowls and vases out from hidden cabinets and placed them carefully throughout the room, and for the first time she noticed that the chairs in the parlor had been moved and stacked up in a corner. For a moment Nadina wondered if someone had died because despite the heat, her aunts and her mother were dressed in heavy white cotton skirts and thick white blouses. All-white clothing was typically reserved for funerals, but death was not common in her family and she would have been the first to know if someone had indeed passed. Still, she thought, it was a strange sight—her aunts hurrying about, dancing to salsa music at high noon in their funeral clothes. Beneath the table, she wished that she too could wear her swishy, white funeral skirt with the petticoats and her silk button-up blouse. Before long, she found herself carefully inspecting Aunt Georgina’s thick, honey-colored paddles of fat that jiggled from her arms as she unfolded a large white sheet and draped it over her mother’s crumbly leather sofa. In the next room over, she could hear her mother’s collares gently tapping against her chest, the long necklaces of colored glass beads quietly clinking together as she moved in an unpredictable cadence through the room.

Careful to remain unnoticed, Nadina gazed at her mother’s canastillero, her altar, as if in a trance. The altar loomed over the dining room like an Egyptian tomb: its shelves were filled from corner to corner with small glass treasures from across the world, each one a different color and shape and texture and placed next to others of the same color to honor the orishas, the saints. The result was a massive three-tiered shelf sectioned into swaths of vibrant hues and textures: amber glass and peacock feathers for Oshun, the Saint of rivers, lakes, and love; deep cobalt blue vases for Yemonja, the Mother of the sea; and an all-white corner adorned with soft china and silver coins for Obatala, the Saint of purity and consciousness. Near the bottom sat Elegua, the trickster warrior bathed in red and black. When she was sure her mother was sufficiently busy in the next room, Nadina crept out from under the table and stood at eye-level with the very top of the altar. She let her eyes take in the rough glass of the soft-pink glass geckos and the rusted thimbles that had collected a thin layer of dust since Nadina had seen them last. She breathed in the bittersweet scent of incense ash and burnt candlewax and raised her hand to pinch off some of the soft, oily residue.

“Don’t go near my Saints!” Nadina’s mother called to her from down the hall. Nadina turned and saw her mother walking toward her swiftly with her candle box in one arm and a grill lighter in the other. Nadina knew her mother had come to feed the saints, so she scrambled back under the table in order to get a glimpse from afar. Her mother approached the altar and gently set down her box of candles, but instead of taking them out and lighting them, she stood with her eyes closed and whispered softly and slowly to the altar as if to cleanse it of Nadina’s presence. After a minute or two, she turned around and began to walk toward the parlor, but she stopped short in front of the dining room table.

“You’d better get out from under there like I told you,” Nadina’s mother’s voice was hard and soft at the same time, like butterscotch candy that had been left in the sun.

“But I just wanted to—,” Nadina searched for a reason to be inside, but she couldn’t think of one in time. She climbed out from under the table, straightened her shirt, and looked up into her mother’s pupil-less eyes.

“They got the pool set up out there. You got your bathing suit on already. Get going ‘fore they get grass all in the water.”
Nadina turned around and headed for the big screen door that led to the carport, but she was nearly knocked over by a woman coming in at the same time she was going out. Nadina was caught off guard by the strong, unfamiliar scent of citrus and what smelled like expensive shampoo. She looked up at the heavily clothed figure and saw that is was her Aunt Julie. Aunt Julie lived in the city and only ever came to the country house on special occasions. She had coffee-colored skin and the same dark eyes as the rest of her aunts, but something told Nadina to look away quickly when she saw them. Aunt Julie gave Nadina a weak smile as she walked past into the living room, but Nadina knew that crooked smile. Her mother gave the same smile when she had been up late crying.

Aunt Julie’s son, Andreo, was coming in the door when Nadina’s mother said, “We’re gonna be in here talking for a while Andreo, but they got a pool set up out back if you want to swim. One of the boys’ll get you some shorts. Nadina, take him out back and show him around.”

“Hi,” Nadina’s voice was softer than she had anticipated.

Andreo raised his right hand in a military-like wave and dropped it as he looked down at Nadina’s faded acid-washed shorts and the giant pink t-shirt she had tied at the waist with an obscene yellow hairband. Nadina felt a pang of shame as she looked at his crisp, black jeans and his wrinkle-free white button-down shirt. She knew immediately that his clothes were new and hadn’t been washed yet because they still hung from his thin shoulders awkwardly, as though they had not yet molded to his shape. Suddenly, she felt an involuntary twinge of anger as she noticed that he had not removed his shoes before entering the kitchen. It was bad luck, she thought, bad luck and disrespectful. She looked at her mother, who didn’t say anything. Instead, her mother looked at Andreo and nodded in the direction of the front door.

Nadina led him out into the sun, but as they walked through the cramped foyer, she heard her mother’s hushed voice as she talked to her sisters. “You bring a comb with you?” she asked. “Even a shirt will do, don’t worry. We just gettin’ everything set up now. We think Oggun will be the one…” Her mother’s voice trailed off as Nadina sneaked in one last glance through the dining room and saw her mother lug a large cardboard box out from under her sewing table.

Once they were outside, Nadina and Andreo wished they had stayed inside. The clouds had opened up to reveal a searing sun that bore down on them like a drill, and Nadina could tell that Andreo and was not used to the heat. His brow furled under the brightness, and he pulled his shirt at the shoulders to unpeel it from his skin. She’d been told that his family had air conditioning in their apartment, which seemed to be true because Andreo’s dark, buzz-cut curls were already salted with drops of sweat. As they made their way across the yard, Nadina let her mind wander to what her mother had said about Oggun. What could that angry warrior saint have to do with anything? Of all the saints, he was probably her least favorite. The stories all said that he was a hot-headed metal worker with tools that he used to kill people. But she knew that he was also the most powerful in terms of brute strength, and she knew that his protection against the evils of others was something to be revered.

When she got to end of the front yard, she looked back to see Andreo trudging slowly through the over grown grass with hard, deliberate steps. She could tell that he was not accustomed to walking through grass. He should have taken his shoes off, Nadina thought, feeling as though she was superior for having known this. She watched him over her shoulder for a moment only as he sucked in air harshly through his lips. He then stopped short and unbuttoned the top of his shirt before angrily ripping the entire thing off over his head. When he began walking again, Nadina noticed the massive purple bruise in the middle of his chest. She couldn’t see the whole thing as some of it was obscured by his wife-beater tank top, but through the sweat-drenched cotton she could make out that it extended down and around both of his ribs like a fruit punch stain under his skin.

“What happened to your chest?” Nadina asked. “Looks pretty bad. One time my brother threw a firetruck at my little brother and he got this huge bruise on his forehead. It got green after a while and looked pretty gross, but—,”

“It’s nothing.” Andreo pulled his balled-up overshirt from one of his back pockets and began putting it back on.

“Where’d you get it, though?” Nadina tried to get another glance before he covered it up completely. “Did you fall on a rock or something?”

“No. Stop asking about it already. Jeez, I just …”

“You what?” Nadina said, the weight of her curiosity getting the better of her.

“Nothing! My dad was teaching me some boxing moves and his hand slipped. It happens all the time. Now quit asking about it already, Jesus.” Andreo began buttoning his shirt until the bruise couldn’t be seen. Even when he was sure it was covered, he hunched his shoulders inward as if to shield himself from the intensity of Nadina’s gaze. They walked toward the backyard in silence, Nadina looking back every so often to make sure that Andreo was still close behind. All that could be heard was the soft snapping of twigs and leaves underfoot.

“This is stupid,” Andreo muttered under his breath.
“What?” Nadina’s voice was peppered with more anger than she had intended.

“This sucks,” he said, with a hard emphasis on the last word. “It’s hot as hell, my shoes are getting dirty, and your mom won’t let us go inside to play Nintendo. That’s if you even have Nintendo.”

All at once, Nadina felt her face get hot as she said sharply, “We do have Nintendo, but they’re getting ready for something and we just can’t go in right now. There’s stuff to do out here anyway.”

“Like what, play in a kiddie pool with little kids? Besides, that pool’s leaking. It’s not like a real pool, like at my house.” Andreo bent down to retie his shoe as Nadina tried to think of something to say, but shame robbed her of her voice. When Andreo stood back up, Nadina tried to look as though what he said hadn’t bothered her.

“Well I don’t really want to go swi…”
“Can we just go inside?”Andreo angrily slapped the back of his neck.

Nadina waited to answer. She knew that going back inside was out of the question. Once her mother had told them to go outside and play, there was no going back in until sunset. Her mind wandered back to the white sheets and the cardboard box. “It seems like they’re doing something important in there,” she said.

“Well at my house my mom doesn’t force us to stay outside,” Andreo retorted. Nadina felt some searing words on the tip of her tongue, but she swallowed them bitterly instead.

In a final act of protest, Andreo began to walk away from the house toward the pavement that lined the cul de sac. Nadina could tell he was heading toward the overgrown hibiscus bush to sit in the shade.

“Hey, hey, wait.” Nadina ran toward him. “There’s a window in the back. The curtain’s kind of short and we can probably see into the living room. They could be having a ceremony.” Sweat dripped down her temples as she caught up to him, her hot breath leaving her body in sudden bursts. As she bent over to catch her breath, she thought about what she said and felt the budding excitement build in her veins. She had always wanted to watch a ceremony, but besides house blessings and head cleansings, she had never seen a real one.

“Like a Santeria thing?” Andreo stopped walking and turned around. “My dad said that’s all black magic. My mom wouldn’t do that stuff.”

“Well, I heard that they can actually make things happen,” she replied. “Like I don’t know if you could win the lottery with it or anything, but they say that they can make weird things happen.”

“Well if you can’t win the lottery, what’s the point?” Andreo laughed. “But I guess we could check it out if they are doing something cool in there. There’s nothing better to do in this neighborhood anyway.”

Nadina motioned for him to follow her to the other side of the house.

The outside wall of the Eastern side of the country house was a lighter shade of brick red, and the paint had cracked and peeled having been assaulted by the rising sun for years. Nadina and Andreo immediately felt the cool relief of the shade as they disappeared into the shadowy brush. The red dust from decades-old dirt had formed a thick ring around the bottoms of Andreo’s pristine sneakers, and his jeans had become saturated with beggar-lice seeds by the time they reached the window.

“Okay, here it is.” Nadina crouched down until her eyes were parallel with the small strip of visibility through the curtain and the window frame.

“You can’t really see,” Andreo crouched next to Nadina and peered inside the darkened living room. Nadina’s mother had hung black sheets up over the windows, and her aunts had lit dozens of candles throughout the parlor and lined them up around the perimeter of the room. Some were small white floating candles, others were red and thin, and still others were white and thick and nestled in tall glass bottles on the floor. The light from the candles washed the room in a soft orange glow, and if Nadina hadn’t known any better, she would have assumed the sun had already set had she been inside.

Since she had gone outside, Nadina saw that Aunt Georgette and Aunt Georgina had tied strips of white fabric around their heads, and they had draped even more white sheets over the furniture. They were still bustling around, only slower now, and more deliberately. It seemed to Nadina that they were just finishing up whatever it was they had been doing because everyone seemed calmer, but she knew that candles had that effect on people sometimes.

“What’s my mom doing?” Andreo said to himself as he watched the figures move about in the shadowy candlelight. Aunt Julie was sitting on a chair in the middle of the room, her hair wrapped in the same fabric as the others. Nadina’s mother was standing above Aunt Julie, and saying something to her that Nadina and Andreo couldn’t quite hear. She was holding a large brown bowl of what appeared to be water with flower petals inside, and she was repeatedly dipping one of her hands in the water only to splash Aunt Julie on the head with it as she chanted something that Nadina couldn’t quite make out. Besides squinting a little when the water got near her eyes, Aunt Julie sat on the chair as still as a rock, staring intently at the shadows on the wall, her pupils large and dark with orange flecks of firelight swimming in them.

Outside, Andreo backed away from the window suddenly and closed his eyes tightly as the returning sunlight burned his pupils. He felt dizzy, as if he had gotten up too quickly, and bent over and cupped his knees with his palms.

“What is your mom doing to my mom?” Andreo asked Nadina. His breathing was uneven and heavy, and his shirt clung to his bones like wet paper.

“I don’t kn …”

Andreo cut her off in panic. “Your mom is crazy! She’s crazy!”

“Would you shut up?” Nadina said. “They’re gonna hear you!” She pulled him by his shirt and he fell to his knees and peered into the room again, his breathing fast and hard. Nadina’s mother had since placed pieces of raw coconut in Aunt’s Julie’s hands, and was looking up at the ceiling with her eyes closed. As if on cue, Aunt Georgina and Aunt Georgette, who had been sitting quietly in the shadows, stood up and left the room. They then returned a few moments later, each carrying an armful of various objects across the parlor. Aunt Georgette balanced a platter of cooked yams and a small plate of cigars on one hand and held a bottle of clear alcohol in the other. Aunt Georgina, laboring in the shadows, brought in the cardboard box, which looked much heavier than Nadina thought it would.

Her mother glanced around her and nodded to Aunt Georgina and Georgette, and, as though they had done this many times, they placed the objects uniformly around Nadina’s mother and Aunt Julie. Nadina’s mother then cleared her throat and began speaking again, this time in English and in a much lower pitch than before.“If there are any orishas here with us now, we honor your presence, and we ask that you accept our offerings. We humbly ask for your guidance; your love; your unending wisdom. We come to you with our sister, Julia Amaya Perez. Her husband, Emilio Bibiano Perez has inflicted a great evil upon her and her son, Andreo Vicent Perez, and we graciously ask that you remove this burden from her supple shoulders.” She then took the pieces of coconut from Aunt Julie’s palms. “Will this offering of fresh flowers and fruit fill your belly?” She threw the coconut at Aunt Julie’s feet, and shook her head. “Will this offering of yams and honey fill your belly?” Again, she threw the coconut, and shook her head. “Will this offering of cigars and rum fill your belly?” She threw the coconut again, and shook her head a third time. “Will this rooster fill your belly?” She threw the coconut a fourth time, and then nodded her head and the corners of her mouth turned up. All of a sudden, Aunt Julie, who had been silent and still the entire time, leaned far back into her chair, and her chest jumped up, as though an electrical current had run through her body. Then without warning, she snarled a loud, low grunt, and her body jerked up and out of the chair until she stood upright. Andreo noticed from his perch outside the window that she looked like a man: she looked like his father when he had been drinking.

Aunt Julie’s body, which before had been in peaceful repose only a few moments earlier, was now teeming with energy. Her shoulders rose and fell, and her eyes darted around the room wildly, as though she were looking for something. When she saw the plate of cigars, she lunged clumsily for them and took one between her fingers, swiped it through one of the candle’s flames, and brought it to her lips swiftly, as though she had done so every day of her life. Andreo’s eyes grew large as he watched her inhale long and deep, her eyes tightly closed with pleasure. When Aunt Julie opened her eyes, Nadina noticed that the whites had all but disappeared and smoke started to run out of her nose like an upturned waterfall. Then a loud hissing sound filled the air as Aunt Julie tipped her head back. All of a sudden, a booming laugh left her small body along with an enormous plume of black smoke. It was a like metal scraping asphalt, and it frightened Nadina as she and Andreo looked on. Nadina’s mother, who was only mere inches from Aunt Julie, coughed through a gentle smile, and moved back slightly. She looked at her sisters and said, “Oggun is here. And he is hungry.”

“Bring me the tools,” Nadina’s mother said.

One aunt disappeared from the room and brought back a small metal cup full of miniature metallurgy tools: a primitive axe, an anvil. Nadina knew these were Oggun’s tools, but Andreo’s breathing quickened and his thin body began to shake.

“What are they going to do to her?” Andreo shouted. “What are they doing to do! Mom!”

Nadina grabbed his head with her left arm and covered his mouth with her hand. She noticed his breath was hot and wet against the dry skin of her palm.
“Keep quiet!” she said. “They’re not going to hurt her! My mom is not a killer! Didn’t you hear, they’re trying to help her!” Andreo’s breathing slowed and the fear that had settled in his eyes began to fade. Nadina took her hand away from his mouth and rested it on his trembling shoulder. “My mom would never do anything to hurt anyone, okay? She helps people.”

Inside, Aunt Julie’s cigar smoke had filled the room, and Nadina and Andreo could barely see beyond a blur of orange and black. Through the thick smoke, Nadina’s mother signaled to one of her sisters to bring her the cardboard box and Nadina could just barely see her mother open the top flaps of the box. She plunged her arms into the bottom and stiffened her arms as if struggling to grab hold of something. When her arms emerged, attached to her hands by the feet was a large rooster, its black plumage shining with oil in the candlelight. Upon seeing the rooster, Aunt Julie slumped back in her chair and tilted her head as far back as it would go. Then, Nadina’s mother reached into the metal cup where Oggun’s metal tools sat and pulled out a hunting knife. The blade was long and sharp. Then Aunt Georgina grabbed the rooster by the feet as Nadina’s mother moved her left hand up the rooster’s body until it tenderly cupped its small head. Then, with her other hand, she raised the knife to the rooster’s neck, and plunged it in smoothly with one quick motion. The blood came in small drops at first, and then as she removed the knife, a stream of blackened red erupted from the rooster’s wet feathers and spilled out onto Aunt Julie’s face. As it ran down her neck and onto her shoulders, she laughed the loud tinny laugh until she could barely breathe. After a few moments that seemed like an eternity to Nadina and Adreo, the rooster’s body went limp, and the last of Aunt Julie’s laughter left her body.

#

cock

 

Mama Can You Clean My Ears
Mama, I’d say, if you were awake,
Mama can you clean my ears?
Get me the bobby pin and the toilet paper,
You’d say, and you’d rake the insides of my ears
Under the white heat of the lamp with no shade
And it felt like a finger full of cool butter
And a rare green apple on a school night.

Mama, I’d say, if you were awake,
Mama can I sleep on the bed in your room?
I swear sometimes I still feel like swimming
In your cigarettes and CK One
And I can still feel the cockroaches creeping
Across my back in the middle of the night.

Mama, I’d say, if you were awake,
Mama can I watch Mildred Pierce with you?
Sometimes when I remember real hard,
I can still see Joan Crawford shining in your eyes
Even when they were closed and you’d
Sunk back in to your opiate cocoon
Deep in the cushions of your regret.

Mama, I’d say, if you were awake,
Mama can you close the curtains?
The kids don’t see because the kids don’t know
That you haven’t fallen asleep sitting up;
You are just bowing to the Gods in the television;
Their Hollywood voices soothing your messy mind.
But they can’t clean the cat piss from the laundry
Or the grease from last night’s dinner from your pans.

And mama, I’d say, even if you were sleeping,
I’d still say Mama, I bathed the twins
And I swept the kitchen floor and the baseboards, too
And Mama, it’s okay
If you spilled your iced-tea again; I know you don’t have any
Feeling in your hands sometimes.
It’s okay, we can do this for years,
But mama, maybe tomorrow
Tomorrow
Can you clean my ears?

 

 

AJ and Me
The brilliant tangerine sky had fallen into
The deepest grey of the earth that day
But you watched it with me anyway
In the wet crumbly sand.

Together we drank in the bubbling ocean before us
And we swallowed together the salt and the bitterness
And the injustice
Of having our first drink before our throats were ready.

We sat there, we two
While the others stayed inside where it was still warm
And thick and sticky still. Tortuous,
We thought, and our small hearts reasoned
That there was more safety near this treacherous sea
Than in there where you could still feel it,
In there where he was still all around us.

I stole a glance at you
To see if I could see you feeling the sea come up
As it was coming up inside me
And to my pleasure I could see it seeping from your
Own dark pools
Onto the hot stones of your cheeks.
I looked away then to escape the burning glare of my reflection
For the shards of that glass had not been smoothed
By a tumble in the great Pacific yet.

Then I drew my bony knees into my body
And shivered while the ocean blew her whipping salty breath
On my body,
Our bodies there,
Like two black trash bags
Dumped on the shore, together.

Then, as though a tiny spark had been lit inside of us,
We looked out ahead to the still line of the horizon,
To the wet, black absolution beyond the aqueous graveyard
Stretched before us.

And then as moments passed in unison
With the tender curving of the waves at our feet
The clouds smiled a gentle grin
Of electric orange beyond the sea.

 

Written for Dr. David N. Odhiambo’s ENG 313: Introduction to Creative Writing 

eyeIt was a week ago, I went to get my eye looked at. I stared up at the ceiling of the doctor’s office. It’s too much to look at her, to meet her gaze without my eyes traveling lower. If she had noticed from the paltry few feet between us that my eyes drifted down from the lock of blonde hair behind her ear to the nape of her neck, I’d lose this game. She called my attention back. I locked eyes with her. She spoke, “Mr. Bolosan?”

“Yeah doc?”

“Well, the spot on your eye appears to be a melanoma. It’s small still, but it’s why your right eye is blurry.”

“Like a cancer?”

“Essentially yes. Just to be sure, I’m going to refer you to a specialist and run some tests. It’ll take a little while, but we’ll call you.”

My eyes made the trip down the lapel of her pristine doctor’s coat to the first few open buttons of her lavender blouse. The tops of her freckled breasts parted her shirt and coat just enough for me to see the hint of a tan line. Lucky tan line, it gets to linger there as long as her skin will let it. I stood up, raising my eyes to meet hers, and extended my hand. “Thanks doc. Am I good to go?”

“Not quite yet,” she replied. “I’m going to send in the nurse to draw some blood, then you can go.”

“Gotcha.”

She shook my hand and flashed me a soft courteous smile before leaving the room. I wondered if she noticed me admiring her chest. Maybe she let it slide in light of my condition. I guess it doesn’t matter now. The nurse came and drew my blood while I attempted to keep my eyes away from the v of her scrubs. I didn’t want to lose again. The nurse had trouble finding my veins, and called me a tough stick. I left with some extra holes in my arms. Funny, I didn’t feel very tough waiting for the bus.

#

I’m lying on an old lumpy mattress, no box spring or frame, and on gray blue covers stained by sweat from my naked body. I like to be close to the ground. You can’t fall out of bed if you’re already on the ground. Never mind that beneath my second floor apartment lives a Samoan family, or that beneath them is a drainage system where the cockroaches live. Music echoes in from their radio through the grimy jalousies of my bedroom. This is ground control to Major Tom; you’ve really made the grade. The man at the radio has good taste; he knows what’s worth blaring on a Monday morning. Here I am, an overweight 29 year old, balding on top, waking up to Space Oddity.

            My phone is buzzing on the floor. Prone, I reach out over the edge of my bed and get it. There’s a picture from my ex, her pale curves wrapped in black lacy panties. Her curves I could trace from memory; the cream in those curves I remember stirring. I text her back: “Good morning to you too.”

Baiting, she’s baiting me I can tell. She won’t text me back for another day or so. I haven’t given her what she wanted. What did she want? Does she know my hand instinctively slid down to my crotch? I’ll never tell her. She’s hungry for my poetry, my show don’t tell.

The waking blurriness in my eyes gives way to a different kind of lack of focus, a soft gasp as a little bit of life leaves me. A wisp, a breath, rises from my open mouth the way spirits leave corpses, and I make a mess. It’s warm, sticky, not so easily wiped away on a used work uniform near my bed. After cleaning up, I stare at her picture a moment longer. I close my left eye and leave my right open. Her image becomes hazy; her body melts into the screen, the screen into the ceiling.

I can’t shake the feeling of something lost, of something I can’t get back. An orgasm is a short reprieve from this feeling. The tension in my belly, the sensation that rolls in waves along my quivering body. It’s enough to fight the sinking for another day. Will I still dream if I can’t see? Will her body or anybody else’s fill the void without the clarity of both eyes?

#

I’m naked under my towel as I leave my room. The cats are waiting outside my door, harbingers of everything outside my sanctum. They want their food; the masters demand to eat. Pluto, the white and black cat, eyes me up and down.

“Go ahead and judge if you want, your clothes are attached to you,” I say to her.

She meows a shrill reply.

“You damn right I’ll do as I please,” I respond back.

Thea, the black cat, doesn’t judge. She doesn’t care who you are. If you have the food, you have her attention. I pour some dried tidbits in their bowl, and rub Pluto behind the ears. She won’t start eating until you do. The towel slips from around my waist leaving me exposed in the kitchen. The cats only look up at me for the briefest moment before continuing to eat, a cursory glance as if to say, move along fat boy, no one wants to see that.

I take my time in the shower. My favorite place to think. Will the world be different if I can see only out of one eye? There are places I’ve always wanted to go, things not yet experienced. It’s just an eye right? I mean, I’ll still be able to see. Then I feel it, a voice nagging in the back of the random shower thoughts. Will everything still look the same? The next few minutes I stand there under a cold shower, my hands pressing firmly on the lime crusted tile, my feet rooted in place.

I finish my shower and put on my uniform. As I get ready to leave, I notice my room mates are still sleeping. The cats, their breakfast devoured, are now curled up on the bed with them. Nathan stirs, his hand sliding beneath the waistband of his boxers. His legs make a curious butterfly fluttering in between staying erect and flapping with the weight of sleep. Marcus is trying to spoon him, but Nathan is keeping him at bay with his wings. Marcus and Nathan, the butterfly and the spoon, they are my odd couple on the queen sized bed. I close my left eye and peer through my right. They’re a wash of blues and browns, like staring at a mosaic too closely. Will my vision always be like this, or will one side suddenly just black out?

            As I walk out the door I hear the first riff of Run to the Hills. Iron Maiden never sounded so reassuring. I should listen, but my course is set. I should run, shouldn’t I? Instead, I walk down the stairs and across a side street to the main road. My bus will be here soon. Run to the hills. Run for your lives.

It isn’t here yet. Instead, I face the scrutiny of a dark shirtless man with red eyes. He’s licking his lips the way dad did when he’d come home in the middle of the night and lock himself in his room. This man probably has no room to lock himself in. He inhales deep and holds his breath for a second. He wants something. Did dad hold his breath too when he called our mother and beg her to let us visit?

“Ey boy, I can bum one stoge?” he asks.

“Shoots, uncle,” I reply.

Boy. That’s what dad calls me. Boy. I reach into my pocket for my smokes, and pull one out of the box along with my lighter. The man sighs softly at my extended hand, and reaches out slowly. My step-dad likes to play the hand slap game. Red hands and laughter, he was unbeatable. My hand is palm up with the cigarette and lighter in it; this man’s hand is in striking distance. I wonder who’d lose this game.

He sits back on the bus bench with his lit cigarette, and his gouty toes wiggle on bare feet. His toenails are as cracked and yellow as his smile. I wonder if his addictions extend past a cigarette. Addiction, what am I addicted to? The menthol smoke, the plume he exhales, coalesces around him. He is otherworldly, a djinn that smells of days of unwashed sweat and stale smoke. Happiness always looks like a lit cigarette. Countless cigarettes have met these lips, yet they never made me smile like him.

“Ey tanks ah boy,” he says. “I was jonesing bad.”

“No problem uncle, I’m jonesing too,” I reply. “I’m always jonesing.”

“Ain’t dat da trut, but das how you make sumting of yo’ self.”

The bus is here forty minutes late. I give the old man another cigarette and get on board. As it pulls away, I see him get up and walk away. I put my hand over my left eye and watch as his outline bleeds into the background like a tar stain on one of Monet’s paintings. He’s another pigment in the gray from an overcast sky, a brown spot in the moving portrait of the bus windows. My phone buzzes in my pocket. It’s a text message from my ex with a reply: “It is isn’t it?”

The bus is mostly empty save for some of the same people I see every bus trip around this time. We’re all late together at least. I make my way to the warm rear corner of the bus, my favorite place to people watch. The man in the back glares at me as I sit. Oh how I love it when they glare to show you the pecking order of the bus. I wait until his eyes make contact with mine just so I can smile. He quickly looks away and shifts in his seat. Here it comes, he’s going to do it. He fakes a cough and clears his throat. I knew it. The remainder of his bus ride he’ll stare out the window away from me. If he looks my way, he’ll see me smiling. Please look my way, I plead with him silently.

The bus passes by miles of fields, crops owned by some corporate entity, and worked by people much older than me. I can see them in my mind, dark wrinkled skin and eyes sharper than their age. They’re hunched over somewhere in those fields, pulling the weeds and breaking the earth. In the distance, concrete pillars jut out of the ground like a line of crosses. I can count them, the pillars for a railway, and number them for each of the things that’ll go wrong in my day. I lose interest somewhere around ten before the man next to me stirs.

“Dey spendin’ all dat money on dat buggah, and fo what?” he says, turning to me. “Da bus come mo’ late. Watchu tink boy? She wort it?”

#

I wish I could say I was a horny teenager when we first started dating. Instead I was already twenty, and she was a seventeen year old nymph. I met her just before graduating high school, and then again because our circle of friends was the same. It was chance that we spent the night in my friend’s bedroom. She lay on the bed, and I lay on the floor. I spent that night stealing kisses on her dangling hand. I knew she was awake, uncertain if I’d climb into the bed with her. Instead we passed the night that way, me pressing every ounce of my being into those kisses, and her feigning sleep, but never pulling her hand away. The years spent together found me seeking solace in her hips and thighs. As our relationship dragged on we lost the innocence of that first night.

#

“I hope she is,” I say. “I heard they already over budget.”

“Das right ah?” he replies.

Curious, his eyes look the same as he talks to me, glaring as if to pierce the black nylon cotton blend of my uniform. Maybe that’s just the way he looks. Maybe he didn’t know if he could talk to me. He chuckles as I point at the pillars. “Dose fuckahs are wasting our money,” I reply.

He gets up at the next stop and before getting off flashes me a shaka. I return his hand sign, smiling from my seat. His eyes are still glaring, but my smile is well met with his own. He’s getting off in front of a monstrous cheapy-mart that services the west side of Oahu. As we pull away, I notice he’s wearing the khaki pants and navy blue shirt that mark him the way my uniform wears me. It’s his uniform, his battledress. No, it’s his sacrificial garb. He’s about to be swallowed by that cheapy monstrosity, only to be spit back out eight and a half hours later on to the concrete. I press my left eye shut. It’s too late. He’s already been swallowed by the automatic sliding glass mouth of the beast.

I get off of the bus further down, and make the short walk to my own store, a lit cigarette pressed between my lips. I’ll need that little bit of nicotine before my store can swallow me. Sometimes I wish the store could choke on me, and spew me out from its dusty tacky gullet. I’d stare up at the sky from the concrete and laugh.

Today though, I’m going to let Supplyhut eat me. I’m going to let it digest another part of me and not struggle in its throat. My manager pulls me into her office as I walk in for the ceremonial talking to. She’s short, maybe about 5 feet. Her long hair, bleached and highlighted dangles just past the curve of her hips. I explain about the bus and promise to do better. In the back of my head I think it might not matter any way. Its been about a week, I should be getting a phone call soon. I start my shift at the register and settle down for a regular day. I can hear the sound of rain start to patter on the window. I turn around and watch the agitated sky start to crack. The store will probably stay empty while it rains. I close my left eye slowly and watch the rain blend the blurry figures of cars and people into the drab watercolors of the parking lot.

#

It’s the middle of my shift; my eye is aching and a wave of customers thought it would be the perfect time to buy office supplies. The rain has become a downpour. Thunder booms softly in the distance, but does little to dim the cacophony of voices from the soaked people loitering around the aisles. The lady at my register smiles as I ring her up. I make eye contact the way I was taught. She seems a little too eager to follow my gaze, to see if my eyes will find something of her interesting. Slowly in the voice I honed from years of working in retail, I ask her if there’s anything else she needs.

“Well yes. I had called earlier to see if you had the pack of water in stock,” she asks looking away from my still wearing her grin. “You know, the one on sale for two dollars?”

“I apologize mam, but we’ve sold out for the day.”

The corners of her neon pink lips dribble down from their smile while the skin around her the bridge of her nose and brow crinkle into an orange tanned pinch. Her clumsily mascaraed eyes stare into mine as she cocks her head with a small jerk making her platinum bleached ponytail bob.

“Excuse me?” her voice rises. “I called less than a few minutes ago. You mean to tell me in the short time since I called, someone bought all the water?”

“Ma’am, since you’ve called we’ve had other people come in. Some of them are still walking around with the water in their baskets.”

“Do you have any more?”

“I’ll radio someone to check, but I’m sure this was our last pallet,” I reply as I motion to the empty pallet not too far from us.

She leans back in her spot crossing her arms over her chest. I have no problem keeping my eyes on hers, she doesn’t have anything I’d want to see. I press the button on the microphone of my earpiece and call out, “Can anyone check if we still have the sale water?”

No response. I call one more time. My ear piece buzzes and a coworker whispers, “Everyone is busy, we’re watching this guy in the laptop aisle. Try look.”

“Well?” she hisses.

I stare past her, looking at the man perusing our computers. I recognize him. He comes in a lot, and every time he leaves some bit of merchandise goes missing leaving a discarded security device behind. The lady snaps her fingers in front of my face.

“Hello? I’m talking to you,” she says dragging out the syllables of each word. “Don’t ignore me.”

“I’m sorry ma’am, we have a situation. I don’t have anyone who can look, but if you wait a few moments I’ll be happy to get someone.”

My phone starts to buzz in my pocket. I’ll answer it later. It’s probably me ex again.

“I don’t think so,” she shrieks. “I’ve spent thousands of dollars at this store. Stop lying to me.”

“I’m not lying ma’am.” I soften my voice to a whisper. “There’s a suspicious man in the store.”

My phone is still buzzing in my pocket. It hasn’t stopped since it’s started. Someone is calling me.

“I don’t care!” she crows.

I place my hand on my phone; I need to answer it. There’s no one else. They’re all watching the man in laptops. I stand there with a line of customers watching as the lady shrieks her complaints.

“I want to speak to your manager, you have been very rude.”

I look past her to see the hands of the man in the laptop aisle, one hand bracing the screen, the other reaching behind for the security egg.

“I’ve had it with this place,” she growls. “Every time I come here it’s the same shit.”

I turn back to her cocking my head and jerking my chin the same way she did.

“Excuse me ma’am, but please shut the fuck up.”

I feel the butterflies explode from in my chest as I leave her, the register. I dash the few feet to the door, to the glass maw that swallows me every day. I can hear her crying, but she’s no longer in my line of sight. The alarm blares; the man in the laptop aisle cut the cord on the egg. My eyes are on him.

He rushes at me lowering his shoulders as he charges. He licks his lips and grits his teeth, glaring at me from his red eyes. The phone is still buzzing, it won’t stop. My earpiece crackles, everyone shouting, trying to talk at the same time. Static and bits of garbled noise hurt my ears. I hold my breath, wanting him to stop. He waits for me to move. I stand, the way my step-dad taught me to, shoulders squared. I shove the man back with both hands. He flinches, but throws a punch hitting me in the left eye. I fall, my breath caught in my throat. My head bounces once on the welcome mat in the vestibule.

I try to open my left eye, but it hurts too much. I turn my head to look at the lady through my right eye. I can make out her outline sitting on the ground. It looks like her hands are covering her face. Her legs are open so her knees point forward and the inside of her ankles rest on the ground. She’s sitting the way my ex used to. I turn away and pull my phone out of my pocket. I can’t read what it says or see the buttons. My hand drops to my side, my phone with it.

The customers are starting to hover over me. I hear my coworkers talking to me, asking if I’m alright. Someone’s called an ambulance. My boss kneels near my head.

“Did he get the laptop?” I ask.

“No, he didn’t,” she replies. “He’s gone.”

I turn off my radio and take out my ear piece. From the breast of my uniform I pull off my name tag and hand it all to her.

“Hey boss? I quit.”

#

 

Written for Dr. David N. Odhiambo’s ENG 313: Introduction to Creative Writing

 

 

Poison, Passion, and Puppets

 

Your didgeridoo like laughter poisons the air

Seeps through my skin cells

Tiptoes within my veins

Leaches on my organs

Slowly suffocates my heart

Smothers my defenses and contaminates my every thought

Now I am infected and you are the bacteria

I am weak as a newborn against the influence you hold

Your crinkled eyes have the power to turn me to stone

Your molasses smile stops my breath

Your feline touches scorch my skin and ruddy my cheeks

Your glacier voice splinters in my ears and makes my bones shiver

Stop all your manipulations I never wanted to be anyone’s puppet

Don’t stare too long into my eyes

Or I’ll be set adrift in a reverie of robin eggs

Never surprise me with a smile

Or I’ll ponder over your fangs that tear at my logic

Please don’t lean on and prod my bubble

Or it will burst and I’ll be left with phantom touches and embers beneath my skin

I am a marionette made of flesh

You are the marionettist

Blindly pulling my strings up and down side to side

My heart in hand

Don’t squeeze too hard or tangle the cords

As this dark room blinds you I hope no light bulbs flicker

I wish only for an ephemeral intermission

From your heedless routine

To reel my strings back in

 

wooden-mannequin

 

 

Buoyant Stones

 

A heart doesn’t break

There is no fracture down the middle

There is only a weightless stone where a beating organ once lived

My heartbreak is not as fast as lightning or as loud as thunder

Its violence is not so obvious

It’s not a flash flood warning that sweeps me away

It’s not as sudden as an avalanche or as slow a burn as lava

It’s a silent and slow tsunami

My coffee grounds confirm my suspicions

I know the natural disaster is coming

I should be running for a path to the sky

Where I would be untouchable and watch as the water skulks closer

I don’t race for the sky

I amble toward the shore

Not a drop of dread trickles through my mind

I sit and lounge on the golden pillows that smell of salt

My heart calm and steady like the palm trees

The water kisses my feet but gets more daring as the tidal wave draws closer

Slithering up my body like a serpent ready to sink its fangs into my aorta

The glacier water seeps past my skin cells

Creeps through my veins and anesthetizes me inside and out

The ocean with its bottomless stomach swallows me whole

A hollow stone floats to the choppy surface

 

 

Written for Dr. David N. Odhiambo’s ENG 313: Intro to Creative Writing

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting on the front stoop, brushing her shiny golden corn silk hair. Her soft vanilla milkshake colored body in a thin, eggshell white flowered dress, a pink two pocket, three button, down cardigan, and a pair of light blue baby doll bloomers. She is squeezed snuggly between my thighs. The hard plastic head resting on the tops of my thighs; holding her in place. I ever so gently brush the top layer of her hair; careful not to muss up a single strand.

Today is my birthday. I’m the first kid on my block to get the new cabbage patch doll. It just came out and I got one. Darn it. I pull ever so gently the brush, slightly tangled in a piece of her gleaming blond hair. Don’t mess it up, I think. I am so proud. I hear Pudge. “Want to touch her?” I turn and say to my sister, as she watches enviously from behind the front screen door. I hold Mary Madison in the air. The light from the sun reflecting, enhancing the brilliance of her newness. My sister stares with her reddened eyes. I turn back to my doll, cradling her in my arms. Where is everyone, I think. Anticipating my status as most popular; for Christmas is three months away.

 

Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, Rudy and Loverra? I wish. I never miss an episode of the Cosby show. Every Monday, Loverra, Denisha, Tahisha, Racondo and mom. The whole family, except dad, congregated in front of the tv. Dad is always at work. I like most of the black people I know, even some of my white friends want to be a member of the Cosby family. I’m sitting on the floor in front of mom, she’s braiding my hair.

The right side of my head throbbing from the super tight cornrows that cross my scalp in neat lines from left to right. Owww, I think as she yanks at my tangled locks, scraping the comb across my scalp, sectioning out hair for the next plait. My arm still smarting from when she swatted me with the rat tail comb for pulling my head away, as she wrestled with a knot. Water dripping down my hairline, behind my ears and down my neck. Hair like mine has to be wet in order to gain any control over it. I don’t have good hair like my sisters. It is her fault, nobody told her to marry a Jamaican. I scooch my bum from side to side. My butt is sore from sitting so long. I’ve been sitting for what seems like hours in the same spot; trying to not fidget. My mom is irritated too at the fact it is taking so long. I can tell because she is more course with the comb then when we started. I hear the full-mouthed voices of my sisters getting closer. My older sister comes and sits on my right and Pudge plunks herself down on my the left. My older sister always smells like Frosted Flakes. Not in a good way. My mom nudges my little sisters with her foot. “Can’t you be more graceful, you clumsy cow.” “Quite the shows starting.” Doot, doot, doot, do…..that familiar tune.

 

“Dumb ass!” My brother yammers from his spot on the front steps. I pace back and forth in the walkway. Ohh, I gotta go, go, go. I have to pee. I can’t think about anything else. I have to pee so bad. I can feel it. I know I can’t hold it much longer. My eyes are blurry with tears. I have to pee so bad. I’m going to explode. My sister forgot her key for the umpteenth time this week. She is a dumb ass, I think. She thinks she’s so cool in her fake gold door knocker earring and pink and white high top L’A Gear. I can’t hold it, please stop. God, help me. We have to wait for my mom to get home from work. I sit down. Legs bouncing up and down. I wiggle and clench my thighs. Biting my bottom lip. Please God help me. I have to pee. I have to pee. “Go pee in the bushes”, my sister says in a bitchy voice. But warns me to not let the bitter old golden girls next door see. Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia, told on my brother last week for shooting bb’s with Larry from up on the roof. We live in a “nice” neighborhood and I’m too embarrassed.   I haven’t yet perfected the art of peeing in a semi-squat without having a trail of pee run down my legs so I have to hold it. “Stop it!” “Stop it!” He propels the red translucent skinned berries from our front bushes at me. “Take your Ghetto ass back across the track!” The berries burst open as they hit my arm and cheek. Their slimey, gooey insides stick to my face. “Im telling Mom!” “I’m telling dad, and he’s gonna whoop your ass again!” He rushes over. He sits on me. “Ahhhhh!” “ Ahhhhh!” “Stop!” “Stop!” “Please. I’m sorry. I’m sorry!” He tickles me. He presses me down. I buckle and jerk my body. The warmness between my leg spreads. Tears run down my face. Crying uncontrollably; I choke on my tears. “Shut up”, my sister says to me as she watches passively from the side railing; her earring swaying back and forth. I think how much I hate her, my brother, and my whole stupid family. I sit with wet pants and intermittent crying for two hours.

I plop myself down on the couch. My stomach growls. I’m still hungry, my fat brother ate most of the Salisbury steak again. He left only two patties and the mushy white rice for my sisters and I to share. He eats everything. I get angry thinking how my moms says she will not buy any more Captain Crunch cereal because he keeps eating a whole box for breakfast. Why are we punished for his FATNESS. Click, click, click MTV. Everyone’s asleep. I finally get the tv to myself. This sounds cool. I never heard a song like this before. O.k. He’s in a morgue, interesting. Fat corpse on a gurney, interesting. Bluesy guitar riff. Harmonica. Camera pans to other dead white people. And Ohh, it opens its eyes.

“She grew up in an Indiana town

Had a good-lookin’ mama who never was around

But she grew up tall and she grew up right

With them Indiana boys on them Indiana nights”

Hey, thats Jessica Rabbit, she’s dead. I sit up, turn the volume up a bit and reposition myself on the couch. This is a change from the usual R&B music I’m suppose to like. They don’t make videos like this on BET. The mortician takes the beautiful dead woman home. This music video is more like a film. I love the dreary effect of the sound and cinematography together. I’m enjoying myself. “You are so white.” I turn around to see my mom’s new boyfriend staring at the tv. I suddenly don’t like him. I thought he was nice. He gave me a bag of pork rinds the other day. I wish I had some of their salty, break your teeth goodness now. He turns and leaves the room.   I am sad. I am angry. I hate him. I hate my life. It’s so boring. I’m so bored with watching tv all day. I know i’m adopted. I don’t look like anyone else in my family, maybe my dad, but whatever. I try to resettle myself and finish watching the video. But Larry’s 4 words are enough to bring up all my insecurities and ruin what was suppose to be a pleasant evening. Niagara Falls is so dumb and the people are so dumb. “Why don’t you talk like this Loverra? Why don’t you dress like that Loverra?” Gosh, I had to hear this crap at school and now even in my own home. Why did he have to yuk my yum. I was enjoying myself. I can’t wait til I graduate high school and move to NY. My mom and dad moved us to a nice middle class neighborhood. So my older brother and sister are more “black” than my little sister and I. But even my little sister likes R&B music. My brother is headed for a criminal future which we all know. Im sure deep down even he knows. And my trampy older sister, whom has made it impossible for me to have a social life because my dad is afraid I will get pregnant and be a hootchie like her. So I spend way too much time alone in my room or at the library.

He has dressed her in a victorian style dress and is holding her limp body up as they dance inside a circle of lit red candles. The video is just another reminder of the things I will get to taste and see when I move out of here. Beautiful landscape scene of a creepy old house and the dark blue sky illuminated by a glowing moon. He carries her out to his parked car. It is morning and they are at the beach. He carries her limp body into the ocean. Seagulls swirling around the open blue sky above. A perfect California day is what it reminds me of. He lets her go and she sinks beneath the water. He turns and walks away. She opens her eyes.

 

Ooh, ooh I can’t believe I got it. I’ve been looking for this book forever. After I finished reading “On the Road”, which Jack supposedly wrote in a weeklong Speed binge. It led me on a search to read every book by this beatnik. And today I find it on a random walking trip down in the village. In a box, under a table mixed with other, brown paged, badly used books.   I can’t believe it only cost me $0.25. Thank you universe. Thank you universe. There is a God who wants me to succeed. I’m going to be famous too one day. The cover is off white, browning and creased and bringing the book up to my nose a little funky. I don’t care, it’s $0.25. Why aren’t all books this great. Why wasn’t I born in the 50’s. Dharma Bums in big red letters and Jack Kerouac sharing equal cover billing in blue. I pay the man. Cross the street to a bodega. I buy an everything bagel and a cup of coffee; cream two sugar.   Heading over to the park, to sit on a bench and read my destiny. This is my life in New York city.

doc-marten

Friday night Goth and Industrial music the flyer says. And so I came with my new Goth friend Nia. No matter what the subject of conversation, it always ends on the topic of Morrissey with her. I met her a week ago in my dorm’s hallway. She smells of a a sweet, pungent spiciness. PATCHOULI. It is such a strong scent. You always notice her smell when she walks in a room, before her tiny hunchback frame. She is always dressed in black.

I’m dressed all in black. Excited and apprehensive. It’s 11 o’clock at night and I’m outside. No mom and dad. Thick black eyeliner circling my eye and carefully drawn swirls extended to my temples. Fishnet stockings. My new black shiny Dr Martens. I hope I don’t look too much like a poser. I don’t want to be clocked as a weekend Goth, but a hard core Greenwich street kid. I rip open one of my fishnet holes, and scuff the tops of my new boots on the curb. Now I look the part.

A tight shiny mid thigh length dress, that fanned out at the bottom. A neat row of safety pins, pinned in a line down the front. A spiky black choker that Nia let me borrow. I look great. I feel great. QUEEN OF THE DAMNED. I can hear the pounding bass as we round the corner from the subway to the club.

The music is so loud. I can feel my heart beating and the vibration of the bass. I can see people checking me out as I squeeze my way through the crowd. It smells of cigarettes, and B O. The music is fast and hard. Light beams moving back and forth over the crowd. Nia grabs my hand and pulls me over to a empty spot next to a wall. “What do you want to drink?” I shrug my shoulders and she walks away, I lose her in the crowd. There is so much to take in. Pale faces. Skinny bodies. A beautiful corseted girl. “Want to dance?’’ I follow Nia onto the dance floor. I’m not scared. I know I can dance. The music morphs into a slower, creamier, less harsh sound. This is it. Hips following the beat. I sway my arms up in the air gesticulating my fingers. Lost in it all. I dance non stop until the lights come on. Sweaty, proud, fully alive.

 

Zen mind, beginner’s mind. That shit don’t work when you’re in a jam. “Gracias Senor.” I stare at the heart shaped sweat stain on the back of his frayed American flag tshirt as he walks away. A gray and brown scraggly cat saunters by. Three drunk Mexicans sit at a table in the back corner; prattling in Spanish. They’re probably talking about me, I think; just another dumb tourist. Hmmn. I sit back and take a swig. The cold carbonated bitter, gold liquid stings my parched throat as it flows down. This is not the spring break vacation I had in mind. I feel like I’m melting, it’s so damn hot. The air is so thick and heavy, almost hard to breath. I wish I had ordered a sweet Fresca. I rub my eyes; itchy and watery from the wind constantly blowing dirt in them.

A funky sweat soaked paisley green polyester shirt stuck to my sticky grimy, unwashed skin. I don’t know what to do. Just sitting here; alone; totally in the moment. My legs are tired. I feel I can’t walk another step. My back sore from carrying my loaded army green duffle bag. It lays shiftlessly on its side on the red clay dusty ground. Regret and tears welling up in my eyes. The shame of being robbed. Was it my fault Amy ran off? Stuck in Cuernavaca with no bus fare home. I lick the salt crumbs off my lips, reaching for another tortilla chip. Waiting as I muster up the courage to call my dad.

How did I end up here?   Beige. Chestnut. Burgundy. Sandlot brown. Wood grain brown. Dusty pebble brown. Brown. Brown Brown. Square green bushes. White trimmed windows and doors. Perfect breeze, chilling the sweat beads on my face. “Good morning”, as I maneuver my stroller to the side. A squat asian woman power walks by. Arf, arf arf. Damn pomeranian.

 

Written for Andrew Burgess’s ENG 200: Composition II

 When Was it Good protest-155927_960_720

“America can be great again”

“Men used to be men and women used to be women”

“Everyone is always stuck on their phones”

“The world is so violent now”

“Nobody is neighborly”

 

We were neighborly when our neighbors looked like us.

Xenophobia tends to breed a tight knit community.

It’s easy to be nice to people who think, act, and talk like you.

Closed off in your tiny world deceives you, your suburb is not America.

 

Violence is down,

needless, exploitative reporting,

Demagogues and scapegoats,

Fear mongering and finger pointing

is up.

 

Compare the arrogance of a Selfie to that of a Self Portrait.

Tweets and posts that have brought previously hidden injustices to light.

Just because it’s new doesn’t make it bad.

 

Men being men, beating Women being women.

Assaults being brushed off by police, the women were just hysterical.

Marriages held together by obligation and willful ignorance.

Boys and girls being shoved and squished to fit into a factory form box,

no matter how much of their true selves gets shaved away.

 

Make it great for whom?

The countries we bombed and democracies we toppled?

The women who weren’t allowed to vote or choose?

The minorities who were placed aside and pushed down?

Homosexuals or transgender people who were either the butt of the joke or receiving the brunt of the beatings?

America was never great, but maybe it could be.

 

 

Written for Dr. David N. Odhiambo’s ENG 313: Intro to Creative Writing