tap tap tapatap tap

when they taught “keyboarding” in school–which made me believe

we’d be learning accompaniment for rock bands, how to use synth

but was in reality a lot less cool–they said keep your fingers

together on the home row.  the little bumps under

f and j keep your index digits in place like

white lines on a parking lot

like the slots on toasters

and if you really need to you can stretch

all the way to lonely q or shift your way

to a question mark.  but don’t ever leave

your home row.

Well, I’ve been a long way from home

seen places where the keyboard arranged its

letters and punctuation according to a different

typographical calculus, where all my a’s turned

to exotic q’s and apostrophes into ù’s

I’ve met folks whose fingers read different kinds of bumps into

lines of poetry

This keyboard isn’t my home, just where words slide

easily into one another

combine and we rely on them together

read between the lines

between the regular taps of fingers

this isn’t music, really

it’s believing without seeing

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“Wisdom isn’t cheap, and we pay for it with pain.”

The tree knows it has grown

from a seedling to a green-crowned giant, the queen

of the forest because its

view is higher, its

roots dig deeper

bark a little thicker with every passing year

.

Well I’ve finished my last growth spurt

years ago

stuck at five four till aging bones

can’t resist the embrace of gravity anymore, shrink

Every time I’ve found what becomes home, seems like

I have to uproot again

start over in new soil–even the water tastes different here, the air

.

Except for the birthday cards I gather

keep safe like last year’s tax returns, and except

for the calendars I acquire

nothing records my change, no bark

no rings growing wider each year

no rings showing how many years of marriage

I’m not quite my mother’s daughter, or so she fears

.

Growth doesn’t show its pencilled marks

creeping up the side of the doorway anymore, doesn’t mean

buying a bigger size of shoes with extra

toe room; it might mean a scar

still healing from that night, means remembering

to call Nana on her birthday

to buy eggs at the store on the way

home from work, means waiting

for the bus and accepting the mundane

teeth clenched at night and in the morning, headache

change doesn’t come without stretching

there’s always some growing pain

don’t wanna be

a good girl anymore

don’t wanna

wake up early for work, put on nice slacks clean

button down shirt–as andro as I dare

to dress at this job where I

already have to explain words

like ‘transgender’

to co-workers.  I’m

tired of being the spokesperson

the acceptable,

approachable kind of gay

the girl next door

the one who can pass just under

your straight-line radar

Some days I wanna be the one you

wonder about on the train

Is she…? A…?

Or just a hipster? I can’t tell

which

I can’t tell sometimes whether

I wanna be a downright bitch or just

an outlaw

want to yank words like ‘sorry’ and ‘thanks’

right out of my vocabulary like weeds

from the ground

retune my socialized vocal cords to

sound tougher

sling ‘cunt’ and ‘fucker’

casual as throwing seeds

to the ground

whatever it takes

I just don’t want to be the same

as them

(more…)

Dear Chicago,

I love the afternoon light glinting off your teeth

grinning down the length of your lanky streets

and winking.  Or I love the Sears tower

ugly as an electric plug but dauntless, daring

to poke the sky in the belly

’til she laughs thunder

all the way to her toes.  I love

the summer haze over your lake, blurring the

line between sky and water

a faulty mirror to show us only your best Side

distorting the cracks and potholes

I love the sunsets

even though I know they burn brighter from

slowly accumulating death

from the  smokestacks breathing coal over the places

where you keep your poor, your immigrants.

I eat breakfast today of elotes or leftover dosai

before rushing along to work on a

silver zipper down your sprawling spine, alone

with thirty other people and the skyline at my elbow.

I love snow on the boulevards, thick and white

a motherly blanket you wrap around me before

warming it to slush–for now though

you’re making up

for the litter and the boarded buildings

you’re promising to do better, next time

For now I believe you, I

forgive you Chicago

and your gleaming glass smile

your sunsets, your chlorine water

I forgive you

with this postcard, a letter from a lover

who hasn’t left you yet.

Sincerely,

We can’t all be superheroes

We can’t all be dancers

Some of us got to keep the world

spinning on our shoulders

axis cross our backs like crosses

(find your own burden cause this one’s mine)

Some of us got two left feet

and thumbs black as the spaces

between stars, thumbs stuck out to catch

a ride since we can’t fly (I lost my cape years ago)

Don’t bother to wonder why

it’s just the way the world spins.

We can’t all win the lottery

We can’t all sing our dreams to life

Some of us got songs locked in voiceboxes we

lost the keys to years ago

(when the bank took the house)

Some of us got a long way to go, still bent

double under the sun

burning like pyres

We can’t all be firefighters, can’t

be pirates or pilots or

no one would know how to dance

Nobody would sing

or fix our broken backs

Nobody would have houses or keys

and the world would stop spinning

and half the earth would freeze

shatter (crack)

with frostbite

and nobody would be free.

The last time I was there

I threw flat rocks as hard as I could, and a

bracelet flew off my wrist

lost forever to the Gulf.  Pink-tinted birds

dipped beaks into water lining

the sandy shoulders of the two-lane parish road.

Metallic grey mushrooms broke the line

of the horizon, spouting occasional

bright spores of flame.  The sun-warmed sand

caught the impression of my toes while currents left

their own prints: a tidemark of distant places

/shells in colors I’d never seen before

/except in oil sheens on pavement

/a cast-off shoe

/plastic toys

/a rusted bottle-cap.

Down there at the end of civilization, a bridge

vaulted the highest point for miles

above flat marsh

and shacks on stilts wore weather-bleached

boards reading “Shrimp” and “Fishing Tours”, the only

signs of human existence–except

for those dark blots breaking the horizon, and the trash

that washed ashore.

I.

When we first moved in, five-and-three-quarters-year-old me

ran up the stairs eager as lightning, thought

white walls and a bay window

meant mansion, thought a yard big and green as a jungle

and ceilings tall enough for bunkbeds

meant heaven.  Not like the last house

half-swallowed by snowy hill and

slanted eaves low enough to bruise my sister’s head. No,

I was impressed.  Didn’t know

then about cockroaches

termites in the woodwork, neighbors whose

beliefs staked signs in our yard

like hostile dandelions or

schools where integration was

a brief-lived memory.

(more…)