Coda-Switch

O, viejas de negro!

How you line the front pews

at Catholic masses

like pushers sitting on street curbs,

rolling rosary beads—

like pills of black-tar heroin—

between jonesing fingers,

craving your next fixes of salvation,

visiones de Dios.

Such beastly things

behind those lifeless veils of pitch!

Those guttural mumbles

under respiraciones y lenguas,

drunk with righteousness,

acrid and rank

with the smell of death

and the sour of Communal wine.

Spells of atonement, maybe?

Curses of chastity?

Oraciones por mi?

Oh, I think not! (Creo que no!)

Why shouldn’t our ecstasies—

in all their corporal glory—compare?

Aren’t Heaven’s truths just as easily scried

amongst kaleidoscopes

of gas-streaked street puddles…

…the glorious freckles of smooth, bare backs and shoulders…

the shapes left behind in dampened sheets the morning after?

O, divine geomancies!

How I love

(need)

our alchemy—the transmutations

of magnificent bodies of light

and living streams that shimmer hot and wet,

setting skin and lips

(nuestra piel y labios)

aflame.

All that is good is gold,

but nothing gold can stay*

for even the most treasured of God’s sparrows

fall from flight,

silently screaming,

impaling

upon the holy stabs of His Electric Crown of Thorns.

So, let’s dwell on patches of fragrant grasses

and sip (not sin) from our gardens’ springs

O, sacred elixir!

partaking of flesh and blood—

our Eucharist—

devouring, ‘til all is gone,

shining, brillante,

against shadows of cold piety

cast by dark, ringless Brides of the Lord,

before the hues of the day bleed away

into pale shades that

powder and crumble to dust

under the gravity of God’s thumb

(love).

Amen.


*Line taken from Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (1923).

Cajeta (Gimme Some Sweet!)

“Gimme some sweet!”

we scream

blessed by your MAD words

BAD words

GLAD words

SAD

letting them scorch palates

y quemar nuestros labios

like Holy Wafers

in the Devil’s mouth.

Give us a taste

of life

your loco—

salty and caramel-kissed—

with every candy-flip of the page

forming crystalizations

of lithium-pink

opiate rock (candy)

on dripping tips of lenguas

(so ready)

that hunger for the taste

of sweet poets’ milk

melting rains of cajeta

upon wanting chins and souls

under hot breaths of your WICKED verse.

“Gimme some sweet!”

gritamos

longing for a fix—

ecstatic

spasmatic

orgasms—

of your word-sugar

(tus palabras dulces)

their velvet, fatal stabs

to the heart

(mi corazón)

and the backs of throats

(releasing bad blood and MAD words)

like glistening Astro Pops

sharpened and honed

by the spit and rolling tongues

of PrOphETS—

their anointing mouths

and bleeding pens

working their brujería—

confectionate necromancies—

upon lifeless eardrums

y animas

that languished bitterly

in reductive states

of silent subtraction.

C’mon…Gimme some sweet!

(Some candied teats to suckle)

Gimme some sweet!

(Sticky trickles of sanctified honey-nectar)

Gimme some sweet!

(El fuego…la alma en mi sangre)

Gimme some sweet!

(Good, proper skull-fucks that inject your Truths)

Gimme some sweet!

(A case of “the sugars” that never felt so good)

Ándale! Dame tu dulce

y no me dejaís aquí estropeado!

(Don’t leave me here CRASHING)

Burn

Life is slow

here in a border town

where lazy palms

scantly twitch in dead breezes—

dry and pollen-choked.

Everywhere.

Nowhere.

Cattle,

brown against my hand

and an expanse of cloudless blue,

meander aimlessly,

chewing cud

that never quite hits the spot.

Their eyes, like minds—

blank—

close to things made new

by the blessing of the sun,

cast downward

upon cracks and clods of grey clay

underfoot,

where a fire burns beneath the ground.

Life is slow

here in a border town,

where—in-kind—

like a shadow

I wait for a shift,

the balm of a breeze

to kiss the delicate yellow from the retama

and pave my road.

Everywhere.

Nowhere.

Noon rages overhead

(Devil’s at the crossroads)

as flames whip and lick the sky,

beckoning

just beyond the watery promise

of the horizon.

So, I close my eyes

here in this border town—

everywhere,

nowhere—

seeing white and the blood

that courses through my veins,

dig my toes into the ground, and slowly

burn.

Little Deaths

We implode—

explode—

in raptures

of liquid light

that set the skin

to sizzle on the spit

like slow-cooked meat,

pulled apart

in greedy clutches,

peeling

skin from skin,

limb from limb,

sinew from bone

until all is gone,

fallen away

in shreds

and trickles.

Tongues prodding,

hungrily,

for the taste of coppery bliss

of chewed lips,

these beautiful bodies—

diminished

heartbeats and exhales

of viscera and vasculature

with eyelids, aflutter—

fade

into black, into white—

dick-teasing,

mind-fucking

strobes of abstract consciousness.

Hand-in-hand,

together,

we die

little deaths,

again…

again…

and again—

every morning, a resurrection.

AI! AI! AI! (A Tartarus for Youth)

I.

AI! AI! AI!

Sated with stolen life,

emerged from mother’s Night,

there is longing to be free

from the warmth of darkened humours–

to be crowned by The Light of Artificial Gods.

Our worlds quake and rip,

tossing us upon gory shores

beyond fertile crests,

illuminated by a cold Sun.

Messengers sweep down in clouds of winged oblivion

to wet lips with Lethe’s waters

upon cruel fingertips.

“Shhhh.”

II.

AI! AI! AI!

Blinded,

light brings pain

in rushes of movement and sound

that sting the flesh.

Icy

with invasions

of steel and sterile prodding,

souls rouse to profess philosophies

in cries and screams

that crack the air,

unheard

like the falling of leaves upon the ground

from distant trees

III.

AI! AI! AI!

Swaddled bodies,

searched in vain for the safety of familiarity,

tell much, tell little

like symbols in scrying mirrors.

Their fictions, written with sweat and tears,

anointing

foreheads, eyes, and lips

with benedictions of shameful regret.

As if it were better to have the heads of babes

dashed and bloodied

upon the Rock,

than to suffer Spartan destinies, impaired.

Left only to linger—a world apart—

in bloodless mediocrity.

IV.

AI! AI! AI!

What are these ragged paths

to be stumbled upon

under tender foot,

with stones that cut

and scratching thorns from the briar

that temper flesh,

supple and pink,

making hard what was once soft to the touch.

Fed by an earth

that feasts on cuts,

bodies devolve to walk upright—and alone

upon roads, paved with the hands and backs

of brethren.

Knuckles crunching beneath soles like so much gravel.

V.

AI! AI! AI!

O, the passion of attainment,

upon which the masses engorge,

aimless in its metal

and promises

of faceless adulations

and the settling of laurelled wreathes

upon heads of cartilage!

How empty, these violent strikes against the Self,

incessant and passionless,

carving out pounds of flesh,

victory for victory,

‘til nothing remains–

all for narratives

that are not their own.

VI.

AI! AI! AI!

How thirsty are these–

the razor-tongued buds of spring.

Driven

to the drinking of others’ tears

for satisfaction of sanguine thirsts.

To revel

in the tearing

of white petals

from tender stems

with poisoned fingertips,

delighting in themselves,

as if masters of ceremonies

at blood-lettings

and vivisections.

VII.

AI! AI! AI!

The sooth of touch’s fidelity

has melted away–

soured–

like cream in the sun.

Replaced,

the quality of distance

makes, explicit, one’s worth,

across arid plains

of air and silence.

Fallen away, the allures and charms

of communion,

only to make room

for the play of shadows

on Plato’s walls.

VIII.

AI! AI! AI!

There is a science,

oppressive

and cold,

behind the collisions of heavenly bodies of light (in love)—

clashing

explosions of atoms

over chasms—

the spaces in between—

that define and separate.

Souls, burning brightly,

cannot coexist

in their starry majesties

without a surrendering of fire.

My Ares takes your Aphrodite.

IX,

AI! AI! AI!

Upon paths paved with gold,

under the azure

of a fanning sky,

herds

are driven in blithe procession

to the precipice.

Cast into the maw

of their society.

Without the iron shielding of wings,

they perish,

masticated,

like everyman’s meat,

leaving them shades

that stain the wintry air.

X.

I, I, I,

will crawl to the grave,

worn

and weary,

upon the Earth I have salted

with tears,

violent and hot–

but harmonious–

in Time’s own poetry,

where I will find

the Peace and Solace of Rest,

drinking from a forgetful cup,

enshrouded

by the arms of my brother—

The Undergloom.

Life In/Verse

thoughts flow through the air

like drifts of grey ash from a burning tower,

scorching across white sheets

like cigarette burns.

to some, words sound foreign and strange—

no rhyme or reason—

but not to those who listen

in tongues.

for sooth

of my Muse’s vanity,

compulsion rules.

mad scribblings abound.

i disturb the peace of blank pages

with the moving pictures of my silent film,

fettering time

before it dissolves like sugar in the rain. 75_1nails_book

Nothing Lasts

Stars fall

against the murk

of the night sky,

a rain of fireflies,

dying in mid-flight,

hurtling,

heralding,

upon gentle heads blow,

cruel truths.

Nothing lasts. Nothing lasts.

Listen to the harmony,

that inaudible peal

(Ong)

that sets heavenly bodies to spin,

amidst everchanging kaleidoscopes

of the Void’s sacred geometries,

pulling,

tugging at Fate,

with the waxing

and waning

of single points of light.

Nothing lasts.  Nothing lasts.

We,

the kings and queens

of planets and moons,

tread upon paths

of celestial dust

wishing, searching

to join hands in communion

with the witnesses

to our ignorant freefall into The Bottomless.

Nothing lasts.  Nothing lasts.

The Spaces In Between

How clever I think I am,

pulling words from the air

like rabbits from top hats

to set them ablaze,

across pages

and ravage their pristine virginity.

I bleed.

I sweat.

I shed tears upon reams

so you can feel what I can

no longer.

Here I am

ground down to the gristle,

my passions splayed out–

spread-eagle–

for all to see,

to get…or not.

So, what is this thunder

that tears through my chest

and rattles the brain,

still?

The steely determination of memory—

its greedy clutch—

keeps my cup half-full

with unpotable waters.

Emotions—

all but chemicals—

a drop too much,

a drop too little—

rage and fade along with the dying of the day.

Recollections,

the moving pictures

of my silent film,

continue to linger

like birthdays

and the need to breathe,

hungry for hints of light

that pour in from doors left ajar,

for recognition

by the lonely eyes

of morning and evening skies.

The gravity of my verse is diminished

by blood-letting shades

that haunt the spaces in between

ecstatic bodies of black ink.

But for the raging

of my muse’s vanity

these scribblings bring solace

and succor to my soul,

as I suckle at the raw teats

of my poetry,

Longing

for an empty cup.

Blue Sky through Bare Branches

I look, upwards, at blue sky through bare branches,

the dewy wet of cool, green grass on my back,

clinging,

sinking,

pulling me further away from this place.

I long for the stillness of being

found only in the shedding of this meat that plants me here.

Oh, to touch those spaces in-between.

To graze my lips upon that azure skin.

O, opiate kiss,

Like a stone, skipping across limpid pools.

let me caress that face with my lips and sink into your oblivion.

Your everything!

But I am bound,

here,

by bare branches,

between me and a beckoning sky.

Biting my lip to taste blood,

I long to smear red what God has painted blue.


 

When Blood Wants Blood

     There is nothing like the smell of Santeria. It is a distinct smell that jolts me into my body the second I find myself enveloped in it: one that suggests cleanliness—in every respect—but with a little magic mixed in. Not easily reproduced, you won’t find it anywhere but homes or other places, such as my botanica—a Santeria supply store—where regular orisha worship happens. It is the intoxicating blend of lavender-scented Fabuloso All-Purpose Cleaner, stale cigar smoke (used for various offerings to our dead and these African gods), burning candle wax, and subtle, earthy hints of animal sacrifice from the past, offered for the sake of continued prosperity, spiritual protection, and other vital blessings from the divine. You won’t find it anywhere else. No, it is not common fare, much like the smell of ozone immediately after a lightning strike: it is a right time, right place kind of thing. But why wax nostalgic (besides the fact that my own home hasn’t smelled like that for a long time)? It will be Dia de Los Muertos tomorrow and there is much work to do. 

     My boveda or spiritual ancestor shrine has gone neglected for months now, squatting in my cramped dining room, cold and lifeless like the spirits it was erected to appease. A thick layer of dust has powdered the picture frames of my dearly departed, making their rectangular glasses dulled and cloudy. I look at the faces of my maternal and paternal grandparents and find that details that were once fine have phased into each other, as if viewed through a thin curtain of gauze: I can’t clearly see them and they—likely—can hardly see me. That is how it feels, anyway. The white tablecloth on top of the table is dingy, looking yellowed and stained from months of occasional sprinklings of agua de florida cologne and errant flakes of cigar ash. The water glasses (nine of them to be exact—one large brandy snifter and four pairs of others in decreasing sizes) seem almost opaque, now, with their contents having long evaporated, leaving behind striated bands of hard mineral and chlorine, plus the occasional dead fly, who’s selfless sacrifice was likely not met with much appreciation by my dead Aunt Minne or PopoEstringel, my mother’s father. Various religious statues call for immediate attention with frozen countenances that glare, annoyed that my Swiffer hasn’t seen the light of day for some weeks, now. Then there is the funky, asymmetrical glass jar on the back right-corner that I use to collect their change. The dead love money (especially mine). This fact has always suggested to me that hunger—in all shapes and forms—lingers, even after the final curtain closes. Makes sense, if you think about it. We gorge ourselves on life, cleave to it when we feel it slip away, and then after we die we

     The statues—mostly Catholic saints—each have their own specific meaning and purpose on my boveda. St. Lazarus provides protection from illness. St. Teresa keeps death at bay. St. Michael and The Sacred Heart of Jesus, which are significantly larger than the other figures, are prominent, flanking either side of the spiritual table, drawing in—and out—energies of protection and—at the same time—mercy; the two things I find myself increasingly in need of these days. At the back of the table, there is a repurposed hutch from an old secretary desk with eight cubbies of varying sizes, where nine silver, metallic ceramic skulls reside that represent my dead, who have passed on (the number nine is the number of the dead in Santeria). They usually shine, quite brightly, in the warm, yellow glow of the dining room’s hanging light fixture, but they look tarnished, as of late, save the eye sockets, which seem to plead for attention, glistening, as if wet with tears. A large resin crucifix rests in the half-full, murky water-glass (the largest one) that rests in the center of the altar. It sounds sacrilegious, but it isn’t, as placing it so calls upon heavenly power to help control the spirits that are attracted (or attached) to the shrine, allowing positive ones to do what they need to do for my well-being, while keeping the negative ones tightly on a leash. Some smaller, but equally as important, fetishes also haunt the altar space, representing spirit guides of mine: African warriors and wise women, a golden bust of an Egyptian sarcophagus, a Native American boy playing a drum, and four steel Hands of Fatima that recently made their way into the mix after a rather nasty spirit settled into my house last year—for a month or so—and created all kinds of chaos and havoc, tormenting me with nightmares—not to mention a ton of bad luck—and my dogs with physical attacks, ultimately resulting in one of them, Argyle, being inexplicably and permanently crippled (but that is another story). Various accents, which I have collected over the years, also add to the ache (power) of the boveda; a multi-colored beaded offering bowl, strands of similarly patterned Czech glass beads, a brass censer atop a wooden base for incenses, a pentacle and athame (from my Wicca days), a deck of Rider-Waite tarot cards in a green velvet pouch with a silver dollar kept inside, and a giant rosary—more appropriate to hang on a wall, actually—made of large wooden beads, dyed red and rose-scented. Looking at all of it in its diminished grandeur, I am reminded of how much I have asked my egun (ancestors) for over the years and can’t help but feel a little ashamed of my non-committal, reactive (not proactive) attitude in terms of their veneration, as well as their regular care and feeding.   

     This year’s Dia will be different. It has to be. It’s going to take more than a refreshed boveda and fresh flowers to fix what is going wrong in my life right now; a bowl of fruit and some seven-day candles just won’t cut it. Business at the botanica is slow, money is tight—beyond tight—and all my plans seem to fall apart before they can even get started. The nightmares have come back—a couple of times, anyway—and the dogs grow more and more anxious every day, ready to jump out of their skins at the slightest startle, such as the scratching and scuffling from the large cardboard box that’s tucked away in the garage. My madrina, an old Cuban woman well into her 70s that brought me into the religion and orisha priesthood, told me last night that we all have a spiritual army at our disposal that desperately wants to help us in times of need; meaning our ancestors. She said, with enough faith, one could command legions of them to do one’s bidding, using as little as a few puffs of cigar smoke and a glass of water. While a powerful statement, that isn’t how things roll for me. Her prescription for what ails me was far from that simple. “This year, your muertos need to eat and eat well! They need strength to help you and you need a lot of it. When they are happy, you will be happy. When they are not, you won’t,” she advised, searching my eyes for an anticipated twinge of panic, and they didn’t fail her. I knew—right then and there—what she meant, making my stomach feel as if it had dropped straight down into my Jockey underwear. That feeling may have very well dissuaded me from going through with tonight’s festivities if things were so dire at present. Eyebale is a messy business, regardless of how smooth one is with their knife (blood sacrifice always is, which is why I have always had such a distaste for it. Thank God I only do birds). Regardless of that fact, my egun eat tonight at midnight. I give thanks to my egun tonight at midnight. I—hopefully—change things around tonight at midnight. What else can you do when blood wants blood?                     


Originally published at Digging in the Dirt.

Windows

     About two and a half months ago, I was abruptly told via voicemail that my mother was going to have emergency brain surgery. Wednesday night’s social work class—the first one of the semester—had just wrapped-up and after the last of my students exited the building, I headed to my office to grab my satchel, lock-up, and head home.  Per usual, I checked my phone and saw my favorite niece Lauren had called.  “Tio,” she said, “I don’t know if you know this but grandma is having brain surgery in the morning.  Has a couple of blood clots.  Call mom. OK?  I miss you.  Bye, tio.”  

     I chuckled—a bit—at the irony of the situation, as I had ended the class with an exercise that a colleague suggested I try that involved exploring personally held attitudes about specific stages of human development, ranging from birth to old age.  I had students stand against the whiteboard in front of the classroom and share their thoughts, thinking this would be a nice way bond as a cohort.  Things went along smoothly for about five minutes, until all the crying started.  They cried about their childhoodsfathers that left thembullyings in high schooldivorces, and empty nests.  I wanted to strangle Cynthia, my colleague.  One of my older students (probably in her 50s) got up next.  She started to share but then completely broke down.  We were all stunned into death-like silence.  Apart from her crying, it was so quiet in there that you could have heard a blotter of acid being dropped back in the 1960s.  Eventually, she composed herselfapologized, and informed the class that she had just lost her mother a few days prior; her announcement did little to shatter the awkwardness in the room. She talked about how difficult it was to have the tables turned on her and have to watch the people that took care of her all her life deteriorate, requiring her to take care of them, now.  Embarrassed, she wiped her eyes and promptly sat down, surrounded by her very empathetic peers.  As I watched, I remembered the picture of my mother and that I have on my refrigerator door that I see every morning when I grab some rice milk for my cereal: she is on a hideous 1970s couch with perfect hair and makeup with me—shirtless in pajama bottoms, holding a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  We both looked happy.  Overcome with guilt, I threw myself upon the pyre and decided to suffer along with everyone else.  Plus, I knew they would remember this night, during instructor evaluation time.  I took a deep breath, dove right in, and did well until I got to old age, but got through it, somehow.  

     “Class dismissed.” 

     The hospital my mother was in was about an hour away from campus.  It was already after 9:30 PM and I was tired from a long, monotonous day of grading papers and advising students for the upcoming Spring semester; moreover, the evening’s hysterics didn’t help. It’s hard enough holding a space for three hours, lecturing non-stop and engaging students, but when you have twelve grown people crumbling apart before your very eyes it becomes damn near impossible.  I was exhausted. Reinforcements were necessary: I needed caffeine and many, many cigarettes. 

     I stopped by a convenience store on my way to Edinburg to get supplies.  I parked the car and turned off the ignition, preparing to get out when the reality of the situation hit me like a flu: my 85-year-old mother was having brain surgery and there was a very real chance she may not make it.  This wasn’t like one of her falls, which I had already gotten accustomed to by that point, or one of her patented melt-downs that left her husband and anyone within calling distance flustered and unsure of what to do to calm her.  She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for two or three years, already, and it seemed to be advancing at an exponential rate, especially this past year. She lost her words more than not.  Her short-term memory was unpredictable at best. There were even times when she would attempt to speak but couldn’t; she would just sit there with a look of frustration on her face—still, as a statue—then let out a, “Damn!” and then focus on whatever happened to be on TV at the time, as if nothing had happened.  Things hadn’t been easy and didn’t seem to be letting up any. No, this was very different. 

     I made it to the hospital in record time, hauling-ass at around 85 miles per hour after procuring my fixes.  After driving around parking lots for about fifteen minutes, I finally was able to find a spot and made my way to the Neuro ICU. When I got to her room, I saw frail frame curled up in her hospital-bed, disheveled and confused, surrounded by a concerto of blinking lights and rhythmic beeps that came from the various monitors she was connected to by tubes and multi-colored wires.  Her gown—a yellow so ugly she would have left against medical advice if she were more lucid—was off one shoulder, exposing more skin than I was comfortable with (though her sitter, a squat, older lady of about 60, didn’t seem to be phased in the slightest).  I looked over at the woman—I believe her name was Thelma–who had been there ten hours, already, due to my mother having tried to get out of bed multiple times that day.  “Son,” I quickly blurted in her general direction, attempting to get formalities out of the wayMy mother kept trying to pull her gown from her legs, unaware of how scantily clad she already was.  I pulled it back over her knees and grabbed her hands to try and calm her along with a serenade of rhythmic shooshing. 

     “I thought you said you didn’t have a son, Alda,” the sitter said. 

     Foggy, my mother answered, annoyed, “I don’t.”  She looked at me blankly.  “I have Lisa, my daughter.  I have Katie, her daughter”  She started at her gown, again.  “NoI don’t have a son.” 

     had prepared myself for pretty much anything on the drive up to the hospital, but it still stung. “Wishful thinking, old woman,” I said, looking into her eyes, smiling and rubbing the top  

top of her crepe-papery hand.  

     She laughed, apparently remembering some things about us.  After scanning my face more, a light turned on. My baby! Anthony!  Where were you? I’ve been waiting! 

     “Teaching, mom. It’s Wednesday.  I just found out about this an hour ago.”  I squeezed her hands, noticing how pale she was.  I didn’t remember her skin being so white.  “You OK?”  My eyes began to sting and water. 

     Seeing the tears start to well up in my eyes, she said, “You love me” with a pitying look upon her face.  “No…you don’t love me.  You like me, but you don’t love me.” She turned her head away, perhaps distracted by a fly or a moving figure on the TV screen—maybe one of those crazy hallucinations she has from time to time. 

     “Well, not right now I don’t.”  Again, she laughed. “I love you, mom…I do,” I assured, using the tank-top under my maroon dress shirt, as a tissue, to mop up a burgeoning flood of tears and snot.  In an attempt to cut through the pall in the room, tried to lighten things up by telling her about the picture on my refrigerator that I had looked at that morning—not really knowing what else to say—but it didn’t seem to register. 

     The next hour or so was spent keeping her calmkeeping her covered, dodging heart-breaking pleas to take her home.  To make things worse, she would, intermittently, talk in word salad: random words strung together in nonsensical sentences.  For a stretch that seemed to go on forever, she talked nonstop and said absolutely nothing. Other times she would snap out it and speak only Spanish, talking to her father, who had died thirty-five years prior, repeating over and over, again, “Ayudamepapi! Ayudame!  (Help me, Daddy! Help me!).” I just stood there, crying, wishing he would and feeling bad that I didn’t feel bad about thinking it. 

     At some point, her lucidity seemed to return some, so I took advantage of the moment and asked if she was scared about going into surgery in the morning, but she was oblivious to all that business.  “They’re doing a procedure, mom.  In and out.  Easy.”  I smiled, hopinwhat might be the last conversation I had with her wouldn’t be a lie.   

     “Not with my hair looking like this, I’m not!”  (If you knew my mother, you would know this was a really good sign).  

     “It looks fine, I laughed, but as soon as things started to look more optimistic, the pleading and agitation returnedAll I could do was stand there with tears, staining my cheeks, and think about everything that could possibly go wrong in the next few hours. When she finally calmed down, she turned to me and looked at me with a suspicious look I hadn’t seen since my early 20s. 

     “What do you want?” she demanded. 

     “Cocaine,” I said.  She didn’t laugh, but—honestly—it didn’t necessarily sound like a bad idea at the time. 

     “No, you want something.  What is it?” She turned away from me with a stare that peeled off my skin like duct-tape, leaving me feel—for a moment—utterly raw. I thought about my phone and how much I hated it. 

     Midnight had come and gone, and she showed no signs of tiring.  I was physically and mentally spent.  I thought about her. The surgery.  The “what ifs.”  I fought back tears—when I could–holding her hands the whole time, never letting go.  Then, suddenly, her restlessness subsided, as quickly as it came. She turned to me, again, and just looked at me.  That frustrated look I knew so well had resurfaced. She wanted to talk but couldn’t.  Our eyes locked and in that moment, I saw her, the mother on the couch with perfect hair and make-up, and—through all my artifice and bullshit—she saw me, shirtless little boy in pajama bottoms, holding a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and for a few seconds we were both happy, again.

# # #


From Indelible Fingerprints [Alien Buddha Press]; originally published by Down in the Dirt.