November 2008

somewhere there is a path home

errant in this maze of one-way streets

and rivers

where ships were burned to charcoal

turn the clocks back

dark early

and sleep now

forget your past, city

we were all free here and one day

flew from our chains

no songbirds left, it is too cold

branches crackle frozen and burn

smoke into our eyes

we were lost

crowd on the waterfront swallowed up

my limbs, shaking now in their cuffs

you sold

what you could find

souls or threads, the binding connected us

now you want me to return

can’t find my way

night comes early without oil lamps

to guide weary feet

burn our tracks behind

black sails

at least Theseus had a spool of silver

to lead him back from the labyrinth


I just spent possibly my favorite Thanksgiving holidays ever, with my housemates and friends rather than with my beloved but admittedly crazy extended family. Here’s one of the best recipes we ate, courtesy of my sister. It’s called Kentucky Derby Pie, and is traditionally made around the first Saturday in May when the Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill Downs (another time for family gatherings). It can be easily made vegan with egg replacer and veggie margarine.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TB of cocoa (optional. But I looove the chocolate.)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted in microwave and cooled
1 cup pecans, chopped. (Or you can buy whole shelled pecans, put them in a plastic bags, and whack them with a rolling pin until broken up. It’s a great way to get out displaced aggression.)
1 cup chocolate chips (or more. Hell, why not?)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TB (1 shot) of Jim Beam bourbon
pie shell

Combine in order given. You can add some extra chips in the bottom to form a chocolate base. Mix everything together, then spread in pie shell. Before baking, I like to create designs like spirals or wagon wheels with whole pecans on the surface of the pie. Bake for 30 to 35 min at 350, and test with a toothpick. Toothpick should come out clean. Brush top of pie lightly with bourbon, let cool before serving. Enjoy with whipped cream or ice cream–or plain!

though she and I are young, we’ve never exactly

acted our age.  raised with an older sister or by a mother

like a sister, we’ve each taken on roles too big

to fit our frames before.  but this is the first time for the two of us

and excited as kids on Halloween, she and I are ready

to pick

what we want the next years

to resemble; as if we could see

the glowing promise beyond cheap curtains

of voting booths and stages.  trust makes better

lovers of us both, and we

talk about the future

like we’ve got all the time in the world in our hands

ignore the sky growing dark a little earlier each day, girl

it’s hard not to be optimistic when

someone’s loving you

and she could make me almost believe in a country that

exists beyond borders

where skins can mix and match, where she and I

can kiss on a street corner and nobody raise

an eyebrow or a ruckus

where a Southern-raised Baptist and the daughter of a lapsed Catholic both

can defend the right to choose without

losing high school friendships.

when she can endure evacuations and return

again to a city of cracked foundations

hope clinging like vines to gutted houses, how can I

claim it’s not safe to put trust

in tomorrow and whatever it brings?

I don’t know where I will be a year from now, under what skies

but this is a delicate thing grown up

far beyond its short time

I cradle it in my fingers, keep the flame burning

through darkness til tomorrow comes.

I really hope he wins.  I don’t know if there’s anyone who can stitch this fractured patchwork of a country back together, but if there is, it’s probably him.  Comes from the middle of the west, not the heartland but at least the lungs or liver, son of an immigrant and a single mother, multiracial, educated–Obama’s story sounds like the kind you’d hear on NPR during “This American Life”.  He talks to inspire, and that’s something I think we’re lacking these days.  I’m not sure I buy everything he promises–after living in two states with incarcerated former leaders, I don’t hold much faith in what politicians say–and I wish he’d stand up more for what’s right and worry less about what’s going to be popular.    But when every opinion poll seems to shift with a stiff breeze and the color of a necktie at a debate appears to be crucially correlated with voters’ perceptions, I guess I understand why he’s trying to play it safe.

Still, I really hope it doesn’t backfire.  I don’t know anymore what “the average American” wants, because living in a blue-state, blue-collar bastion and a city where “minorities” outnumber the silent majority, my views are probably more than a little skewed. I’d like to believe I live in a country where longtime Democrats like my grandmother won’t vote against Obama just because he’s black.  I’d like to believe most people possess enough awareness and a long enough attention span to remember what happened after 9/11,  after Enron, after Abu Ghraib, after the last election, after Katrina…But I’m not sure that these wishes are realistic, or just idealistic.

I remember what it was like last time.  Too young to vote, I helped register other students at my school and then burned with frustration as state after state fell to Bush.  The electoral map showed a continent divided, narrow bookends of blue bracketing a stubbornly red expanse, and nobody really talked about recounts anymore.  I wondered whether it would change, especially when scandals started popping up left and right and when Katrina and Jena laid bare the terrible results of centuries-old racism and poverty.  I wondered whether I’d be proud of my country again without reservation.  If Obama wins on Tuesday, I think I will be.  Because if folks across America, black and white, young and old, actually vote for him, that’s the real sign of hope: not that Obama himself is some Superman or messiah who can transform everything, but that we as a nation are willing to change.  We can lead ourselves to a better place if we can overcome our differences, or at least I hope so.

Please vote, but don’t stop at voting–there’s so much more to do outside the curtain of that booth.

forecast calls for mittens

riding my bike under glowering skies

two states away they’re predicting five inches

of snow and it’s not even

November yet

she complains about cold and

I say I’m sorry for laughing, but then

that’s just the effect she tends to

have on me

warm me up with a single look

a line in a text message–this is modernity, after all,

romance in the age of global warming

and distance surmounted by frozen trails from jets

satellites circulating

to snap pictures of clouds

smoky cities

and her

with me on a park bench–zoom in

close enough to see

the grin I’m wearing from teeth to feverish fingertips

pulse beating at the base of her neck

this close

wind can’t find its way between us

even as winter hurries to arrive