this is a gesture, a curiosity

the small bag of almond cookies
bobbe shares that her neighbor made
for chinese new year
this is a gesture, a curiousity jan says
about inoculating the burlap bags
with mushroom spawn and setting them out
on the soil near where the effluent
flows out of the wastewater treatment plant
you’re probably drinking viagra amy recalls
a presentation on watersheds/water sources
and how there is no way to completely remove
traces of pharmaceuticals 
the fruiting body they call the actual mushrooms
while talking about bioremediation
and how this is a dangerous part because
it is the part that holds/carries the heavy metals
patch of sun so warm and wind-protected
i sit on the brick walk paging
through lucy lippard’s undermining
before the cold shadows of treelimbs

land on me
i hear amazon sold out of “1984” – the book
says israel f. haros lopz

we’re in a really
beautiful place right now
he says with the choke of tears in his throat

and the image of the five of keys
comes to me
(the one where the forest has been destroyed
by a fire that swept through
but how some seeds
need this fire
to burst them out of their cones
to land in the earth
and grow)

israel later tells a story of
students at the school he works at
handing other students trump pamphlets
that read get ready to go home
and so he responded
by making space on fridays
a space for students to feel safe in

and later , in response to another question he says
if you’re asking ‘why’s that happening?’ 
then go ahead and ask ‘where’s the money?
where’s the money at and where is it going?’
which is partially about the immigration detention system
and partially about prison
and partially about all the people in power
especially right now
robert stands up to ask
an important question
of the panel given this current moment
and all that’s unfolding
what are your next steps 

and then there’s tara trudell
who types each word four times,
once for each direction,
saying this is what i’ve been training for
my whole life, i hoped i’d never have to
but here we are, i think i’m going
to start making soap boxes

and later she says
my love for humanity is deeper
than anything i know
which is the guide
the phrase
i’ve been seeking to help direct
my own motions/moves/makings

among all this 
for the first time in 41 years
it occurs to me that janina (grandma)
is one of my heroes
even though she never bounced back
even though i could never get in close enough
to know who she was
even though she lied and was manipulative
and abusive to my mom and her siblings
even though she would go off on people without warning
(which, way later, was finally guessed at to be bipolar)
even though she didn’t keep track like i assume
most other grandmothers do
(having not lived in portland for years
and i have to remind her that i’m not there anymore)
even though she was such a shred of a remnant of herself
that she didn’t have much to give/share with others
even though she was judgemental and would say
racist things at times
this woman, perhaps part of the undercommons,
who found ways to survive
trauma after trauma
even if she wasn’t a bright beacon
of dazzling resilience
is still
a hero
are ya’ll open to off-roading i ask
before leading jan, jessica and amy
through the secret back way
and through the path
that dips down into the backporch landscaping
and back up again
for melanie we say
(for the immigration attorney
who has been innundated with
help-seeking messages from friends/acquaintences etc.
asking for answers/assistance in the midst of the
rapidly shifting immigration law landscape.
for melanie we say,
unfolding the clue boardgame board
and placing its pieces while shuffling the cards
amy showing me how to
eat a sopapilla (rip off a piece of
sweet warm doughy bread and drench
in honey)
but i’ve done this before
in this very city
which gets me to wondering
if there’s a word for this thing
that somehow makes me think of 
synesthesia but it’s not like synesthesia at all
but it’s something like
rather than thinking/seeing in colors
it’s thinking/seeing in all the layers of history-
existing in all layers of time at once
which means a sopapilla is not just
a sopapilla
but an instant-transporting
to a golden afternoon after
20some hours on the train and how a certain we
walked the river, our arms wrapped around
each other’s waists
and how little room we took up afterwords
in that huge booth because of how close we sat as
we drizzled the honey out of its squeeze bottle
onto the steaming fresh sopapillas brought to us
in a mesh basket
all of which is similar to 
how the river is not just a river
but the clear cold body
whose edge we perched at when you said
i think i’m rising into
and it was the only time
i ever saw you scared

which means a chair is not just a chair
a tree is not just a tree and a quilt
is not just a quilt
and a particular bridge is
a monument to a particular letting go and a prince song
is the anthem of fingers meet skin for the first time
in dolores park and a pair of boots
is a sequel to this story

there must be a name for the way a certain street,
a particular smell,
a color of a truck
are woven
with a million stories

how a spoon is never just a tiny spoon
but code for saying
i love you

something about the contentment
of returning to room two 
for slumber (and the writing that comes before slumber)
under the lime green blanket
over the lemon yellow sheets
radiant heat rising
xmas-light lit
the simplicity
the quiet
at the end of another 
provoking/healing day


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