in a time of superstorms

fog diptych

one: 
from our gathering around the outdoor tables
we see it sifting into the trees
thick and rolling through the eucalyptus tops
what is that!?
alborz asks
it’s fog
we say
(and then there is the mad bee
swarming our pizza
weaving in and out of our limbs
such a tiny thing
to raise such a ruckus
followed by a raven swooping down from the roof
and when i say raven i mean
you should see the size of that beak
the hunch of its shoulders)
if samhain isn’t two days away
i don’t know what is
spirits tendriling everywhere

two:
fog so thick
my bike light a solid beam reaching out in front of me
eyelashes and cheeks
wet with accumulation
and when i roll over the valley
i am biking
through clouds

_______

while the east coast sits in power-outtage darkness
and cuba and haiti are counting their dead
we cross our fingers
we send wishes of buoyancy, light, healing and hope
we think about hospitals and the number of steps that must be surmounted
we send messages eastward saying
we are with you

_______

what does it mean
to be alive in a time
when the word storm
no longer cuts it
yes, what does it mean
to be alive in a time
of superstorms

_______

i am still attempting to articulate
what to tell people
when they congratulate me
for looking so much younger than i am
which feels something akin
to being congratulated
for looking skinny-ish

star slicing

the man at the hummus stand says
oh! but you look like you’re turning 25!!!
when i tell him about the number 37
waiting to greet me on tuesday
i have become so used to hearing this
i say i know, i know
it is not really our words talking to each other though
it is the light in our eyes
i get the feeling
he’s also been called younger than his age often
and i think about it
for most of the walk home
what allows me this glow
the privelege
the unnammed phenomenon
of being able to be a child
during childhood
which is part of what kate named in me
and how clearly she could see it
like a star slicing through sky
her vision shaped by a childhood home infused with violence
_______

how sounds ricochet
through this almost-empty house

_______

things i will miss:
the sound of bells
attached to the ice-cream cart handlebar
pushed past our house
towards balboa park

_______

are you seeing this moon
her text says
around pink/blue sky time
and as a matter of fact
i was seeing that moon
but stepped back out
for another look

percussing

wherein bartleby and i
become skilled
at directing a 20-foot uhaul truck
while kaya locates us in the mirrors
_______

we made so many friends today!!!
i yell in the cab on our way home
in the middle seat between k and b
shortly after our somebody i used to know sing-along
hurtling towards sunset
and it is because
we have become good at
waving at people
while we get in their way
and there is a kind of joy in this
that i can’t name
but it is something like being in a parade
and something like being a band on tour
and something like moving across the country with a lover you don’t know well enough to be moving across the country with but you do anyway because it just feels right
no, it feels better than right, it feels alive
_______

the miramar landfill (aka: the dump)
looks like any other checkpoint
with gates that close at 4
and booths lining each lane in
and the best part
is when the woman in the booth tells kaya
there’s no way we’ll make it back before 4
because we have to drive back out and leave the 5 gallon buckets of paint
on the other side of the gate
because kaya doesn’t take no for an answer
but rather as something to push against
so we drop me off
to babysit the buckets
on a gas station sidewalk
while k and b sail in
at 3:59
and the woman
who so doubtfully and resolutly told us
there’s no way we’d make it back
came to our defense
with the gate-man
and posed with kaya for a photo
because i told k and b
i’d babysit the buckets
as long as they promised to take photos
_______

217
this is for you
for showing up
on a busy day
between the thrift store and a wedding
this is for you
and how we hold on
with garden dirt on our skin
and the things i planted ripped from earth in our hands

_______

a day of extraordinary moving
we carried everything
so hard
our biceps looked different when we flexed them at night
from when we flexed them in the morning
we bore scratches on our calves
our forearms
we bloomed bruises on our thighs
our shoulders
we stayed up too late
and went to bed exhausted
our bones like clappers
percussing against our strike-point skin

orange coveralls

lia arrives
like a ray of light
steps into the bathroom to get into orange coveralls
steps back out
and assesses the situation
box stacks and
furniture
we could get this in two loads
no problem
she says
and then
in bare feet
seems to carry everything
on the tip of a finger
like a basketball player with a spinning ball
i wouldn’t say fairygodmother
because that sounds too matronly
but i might say something like
queen of capability

_______

wait, that still exists!?
i ask
when she talks about going in to vote on the sixth
i thought it had all just been turned into paper/mail-in ballots
(gradeschool memory
of dad coming home a little bit late
in beige trench and rain boots
[floppy rubber zipped over dress shoes]
from a patriotic detour to the  high school cafeteria
(red terra cotta-ish tiled floors)
where the machines lined the south wall
rubbing his always cold hands together
as we sit for dinner in the early onset of dark)

from russia with love

today i tell my students
it’s kindof a toss-up about having a stand-in on tuesday, my birthday
(which means i get to play hooky)
because i like them
(so why wouldn’t i want to spend the day with them?)
and i honestly do like them
especially this week
when on tues
i woke up hating everything
(which is unusual for me but it makes sense
following a weekend of fever and
all the sleep i never caught up on)
i hated the loud voices in the kitchen before 8am
i hated all the cars on the road on my bike ride to the shuttle
i hated the wind against me
i hated crossing paths with another human before i was fully awake
i hated walking to room 206
but we (my students and i) spend the next hour laughing
and each one brings me light

today i asked them to guess how old i was turning
25 was their youngest guess
and 89 their oldest

_______

a hurricane with my mom’s name
took 20 people as it tore through
haiti
cuba
and jamaica
delivering strong winds and fallen trees
while fukushima’s fish are still contaminated
and greece gets investment from russia with love

room 355, literature building, wednesdays, 1-3:50

i want to take the pressure off
and up the ante at the same time
for your writing

dr. childs says
glass tea mug on the table in front of him
paradox can be productive
_______
flow charts is now the official language
the university speaks in
he says
and follows up with this statistic:
6.5% of university funding
(pays professors, TAs, work-study positions)
comes from the state
i want to keep lament front and center
he says
_______

and then a photo of legs clothed in convict stripes
boots chained together at the ankle
from 1996
in arizona
this is not a performance art piece
these are women prisoners
lined up from estrella jail outside pheonix

orchestrated by
joe arpaio (the self-titled toughest sheriff in america)
this
the same sheriff
that set up a tent city as an extension of the maricopa county jail
and used the words concentration camp to describe it
when the temperature in pheonix hit 118° F
the temperature inside tent city measured 145 °F
where the fans near the inmates beds weren’t working
and their shoes melted from the heat
to which arpaio responded
it’s 120 degrees in irag and the soldiers
living in tents have to wear full body armor
and they didn’t commit any crimes
so shut your mouths
while overlooking the fact that the majority of the inmates
within tent city have not been convicted
they are merely awaiting a trial


news of bruises

they’re all robots
wayne says
so they all have to be fabulous
that’s key: being fabulous

_______

i know it’s true that if you sit in the same spot long enough
a leaf is bound to fall on you
(if there are trees around)
but this
is uncanny

_______

corinne’s g-chat
(when i _______ will you get me this bed made of pure gold as a _______?)
has me laughing
in the middle of a meeting

_______

lia and i trade news of bruises
rising from saturday’s armoire antics
_______

and in today’s photos:
clashes in beirut – security forces fire tear gas
south korean military line up riotcop style in state of alert
smashed windows at a libyan television station
police firing tear gas in kosovo
i have been watching these bbc day in pictures posts for a while now
and never have i seen so many
about political protest/conflict
in one post
which makes me wonder
if it is sprouting/ blooming/tendriling
more densely than usual
or an editorial slant
_______

there was also this:
a shooting at a beauty spa in brookfield wisconsin which is a 10 minute drive from the house i grew up in

_______

william’s 24th birthday
and because it is a dinner party
just down the hall
i throw on the sequin dress
and heels
_______

wherever you go/whoever you are with
you bring light
i say
and my wish for you is that your light
grows brighter

and then we pass the apple crisp
_______

and then
the recurring jokes arrive and re arrive
including
being endorsed by how-to-tie-a-tie dot com
and potluck booty (better than a buffet)

_______

at the shuttle stop
the orange street light
brings out the shine in joe’s eyes
as we talk about heart/break/up

it is like having sensory cutoff
he says
after so many months/years of
seeing/hearing/understanding the world
through someone else
and suddenly
no longer having access
to that vision
those sounds

it’s a shame
i say
how the media (bad movies, radio pop, etc)
cheapen and flatten it
when really
it is grief
down through all our layers and back up again
and how from that grief
we are able to connect deeper
to the details, the wonder of life/the world
in a way
that nothing else can get us close to
a kind of non-discriminatory ripping open

whose idea was it
anyway
i joke
this whole breakup concept
which has me thinking about how i remember someone once saying
that knees
are just a bad design

and even though i am not in the midst of a breakup
all it takes is mentioning
in order to find my own grief
so near the surface
like an echo
or chain
or the collection of water circles that grow out from each other from a fish-jump or rock-toss
one ripping-open a reference to every ripping open
including the one
where i wrote lists
of all the things that had to be buried
(things that no longer live
when collaborators are no longer in collaboration)
because they could not thrive in this body

precision

how i can tell
the exact point
when the fever breaks
is like how i could tell
when all of a sudden the light outside changed
that day of the solar eclipse

you might argue that a book cannot ache

in the dream
there was a move to a suburban-styled house
in a smallish midwestern city (big town)
there was nothing about boxes or objects or furniture
just wood paneling and secret rooms and shag carpets and fake-shuttered windows
and crossover: old housemates moving out but not quite gone
but it was a passing on
of a collective
so they told me their favoritest places in town
and i went for a walk
through the cool air
to a pond
there were certainly geese overhead
even though i don’t remember seeing them

_______

when a note to the anne michaels poem says this:
Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelstam, and Anna Akhmatova – three of Russia’s best-known modern poets – suffered profoundly during the Stalinist regime. In order that their words not be lost to censorship, enforced exile, and imprisonment, friends and family often memorized complete poems. In Madelstam’s case, teh poems were preserved in his wife Nadezhda’s memory and survived even while the poet himself perished in a labour camp.
there is no doubt
you will be in tears
curled on the tinycouch
under the fort of your shipbed
her book aching in your hands
(and you might argue
that a book cannot ache
but i think that is only a sure sign
that there are certain books
you have not yet held)

language is how ghosts enter the world
she writes
and this:
when there are no places left for us,
we’ll still talk in order to make things true:
not only the years before we were born, not only the names of our dead,
but also this life.
the simple feel of an apple in the hand.
and also this:
whole cities were razed with a word.
Petersburg vanished into Leningrad
this too:
even in its own confusion,
in its upheavals and depressions,
the earth has room in its heart.
carefully, part by part, it replaces us.
gently, so bones may embrace a little longer,
mud replaces marrow.
and here:
a writer buried his testimony
in the garden, black typein black soil,
trusting that someday the earth would speak.
All those years of war and uncertaintly after,
no one knew the power of his incantation,
calling quietly from its dark envelope.
from his notebook grew orchids and weeds.
and this:
we spend hours by the river, telling everything.
so that when we are gone, even our spirits
weighed down with stones,

the river will remember.

orangesicle blast

is there a word for this
how the cloud cover is like a too-small fitted sheet
the way it doesn’t reach far enough to tuck itself into the horizon
so when we are headed south
the sun breaks out underneath
orangesicle blast
before slipping into ocean
_______

at first
i think we are crossing at some second entrance
i’ve never been to
but it becomes apparent
that it is the new border crossing
and there is this sense of
how could they do this
without asking me?
which is hilarious and weird
because why would they ask me
when i’ve only been 5 or 6 times
in two years
and others
cross
every day

when liz and i talk about it later
why the new silver mexico sign hanging above
the claustrophobia-inducing indoor passageway
leading to a confined bridgeway
on the wrong side of the highway
feels like such a loss
or an insult
i say
now it feels like walking into united states’s mexico
like it’s the united states up there in that silver sign saying
welcome to mexico
and it’s the united states
that sucked out any glee whatsoever
that used to feel like
being set free
or getting away with something
when slipping over to the mexico side
and there was something about
how it felt like (the old entrance)
had been that way forever
and when i’d slip through those huge turnstile gates
i’d think about all the people
who have touched those metal bars
to push their way through
all the life
stored in the layers of white paint
sucked into the steel
there was an open-airness
an ease
a wonder
that has now been replaced
with a drywall corridor
a constricted walkway

_______

what gabriel says:
i sleep two hours at night
then wake at midnight
to cross the border
then sleep four hours
at my work site

what gabriel also says:
my english not good, but i learn
and
we teach each other
su ingles es muy bueno
i say
pero mi espanol
no esta bien
pero quiero aprender mas

and when i gesture towards to the food i say
eat, eat!
to which he says
he only likes to eat one meal a day
and sometimes cookies with warm milk in the evening

what i can’t really tell you
is the sweetness
in his roundcheeked face
it is the kind
that there is no words for
in any language

_______

217 and i
rambling towards the checkpoint
our arms around each others shoulders
the feeling is not like being in a photo
but like being in a moment
which is what photos attempt  (and sometimes succeed) to capture
_______

where are you headed
the guard asks
home
i say
which is instinct
and feels like truth
but i am still the same person who insisted on tour this summer
when people asked where i was from
that i am currently based in san diego