a night of untravelled
I can’t get rid of that –
the purse with the angel emblem
from a store that no longer exists.
My sister gave me this.
And I can’t toss the old cameras either,
like the K1000 my father gave me.
It taught me how to see
The clothes should be easier to shed,
but what about the nurse’s cape
my mother wore in the Korean war?
Though it hangs collecting dust
with whom could I entrust?
Please tell me what to do
with old collected things.
Please tell me how to part
with the things that crowd
my closet and my heart.
My anger now is not to be feared:
it’s a smoldering remnant of the past
that upon a flare-up turns quickly to ash.
And I see how once I was like a child
who enjoyed playing with fire,
lighting match after match,
until my fingers got burned.
But I didn’t see it that way at the time.
Back then I felt like an avenging angel
soaring high above the mediocrity and stupidity
of the world, laying it all to waste with
one sweep of my flaming wings.
I’m earthbound now. My wings are clipped.
And all that righteous indignation is gone.
Burned out, I guess. For any anger you see in me
is a holdover from the past, from a time
when I craved, hungered, lusted, and strove.
From a time when I cared.
The parrots appear one day – seven of them –
squawking excitedly, flying in staggered
formation just above the treetops.
Quite a commotion they make,
as if passing bits of gossip from one to another
round-robin – or rather, round-parrot style.
When they finally settle into a tree,
each selecting a different branch so that their
emerald green, yellow, and red feathered bodies
decorate the sparse limbs like just so many
Christmas ornaments, they continue their
raucous conversation begun far away
and long before appearing in this parking lot
leading to the job I’d love to quit.
And their banter, so full of joy and intrigue,
to continue as they soon burst from the tree
and fly away, sounds to these human ears
like the cacophony of freedom.
Ramona of the golden skin sits at the reception desk and pouts. She is dressed as beautifully as ever in a black pencil skirt, an immaculate white blouse billowing slightly at her tiny waist, and a well-tailored maroon jacket, but what the visitors at this defense firm think tank don’t know is that this outfit is the one outfit that survived the tumultuous night before. Last night, her ex-boyfriend had made a statement, a grand statement at that. She came home from work, opened her closet and instead of the orderly outfits hanging neatly on the L-shaped rack in color-coordinated order were strips and strips of hacked-up shredded cloth. At first she was taken aback – a step behind from what she was seeing, then she caught up with the moment and sank to the ground, giving herself fully to the confluence of all that had been and would never be again.
In the reception area, two men are waiting. One is elderly, flipping through an old issue of an aviation magazine he found on a side table. The other man appears to be in his mid-thirties and wears wire-frame glasses. When he first came in, he seemed friendlier than the first, even offered his hand for her to shake, which she did gently. Now, he glances over at her every so often and smiles. Ramona knows the florescent lighting in the small square-shaped room is not her best, but she sees in his smile that it hasn’t detracted from the underlying glow that emanates from her skin. People have said, so many times, that it is this glow that defines her, sets her apart from others. It is a glow that only mixed-race people possess, and she is grateful for that, at least. It was this glow that had gotten her the job in the first place, she was convinced, since she had no experience to think of. She was just out of high school, but the lady interviewing her had said she liked her look. And she had always dressed well, and that was one of the requirements of the job – to look good.
So now as she stares at her computer screen, pretending to study the appointment schedule for the day, she is really thinking about her clothes – or lack thereof. She has no money to buy more and none of her friends can lend her any. They aren’t her slim size.
The door to her right opens and it is Manuel, the human resources assistant, who is entering the waiting room. “Stephen Jones?,” he says to the younger man, who immediately rises from the leather sofa. “Yes,” he says, coming forward, shaking the other’s hand. Before they disappear behind the door, Stephen looks over at Ramona and nods to her, which she returns automatically. What position, she wonders now, is he applying for? He doesn’t look like a scientist. He doesn’t look like a programmer either. It dawns on her that he might be a historian. For some reason, they need some of those at the company so that they can study past wars and predict future ones, given a set of circumstances. But beyond this, she doesn’t dwell on the matter. She is still too preoccupied with what to wear tomorrow, what to wear the next day and the next, and what the future in general holds for her.
The elderly man looks up from his magazine. As she meets his gaze, he smiles, his faded blue eyes strained and unfriendly, and she guesses that he is a scientist or perhaps merely an accountant. He says, “Miss, I don’t mean to speak out of place, but has anyone ever told you what a wonderful complexion you have? You practically radiate.”
Old images from long ago held at arm’s length –
there was something comforting about those images,
In 5th grade on rainy days in Los Angeles
when we weren’t allowed to go
outside and have a proper recess,
out came the board games and puzzles
from the moldy closet and out came as well,
as if from the past, those strange cardboard pictures
with their viewing device.
The pictures were yellowed and blurry
to the naked eye and even confusing, but when
placed at the far end of the plank-like device
and viewed through the tiny binoculars
at the other end, a world of beauty
suddenly engulfed you.
Forested mountains and rippling lakes,
trains winding down tracks, speeding out of frame,
farm workers and haystacks from horizon to foreground –
these and other scenes snapped into view
and in each the visual planes were layered one upon
the other to create a 3-D effect.
Such a vivid memory I have hunkered down
at a desk in a far corner taking in image after image,
getting lost in someone else’s frozen memories.
While outside the skies darkened and rain pounded,
sluicing through our forsaken playground,
I was submerged in a bright distant world,
where everything was decided, unmoving,
put in place as if by an angelic being
telling me this is how your world is meant
to be seen if you take the time to really see.
Everything is fully dimensional, every view
can embrace you and not let go.
Now, when I look back on those days
in Mr. Rich’s 5th grade class, when the rain
came down and we remained inside, as if marooned,
I cherish the memory of those magical lenses,
and of my youthful clarity, that made the world
so comforting to behold and so perfect.
when your house burns down
what do you do?
do you sweep up the ashes
and bid them adieu?
do you cry to the heavens
and say, why me?
or do you take a deep breath
and a cup of tea?
i choose to do the latter
and here’s the reason why:
i love looking up
at a roof made of sky
I hear you loud and clear, Bernie.
Yours is not a well-fought campaign
as the self-congratulatory so-called victor
asserts nor was it ever a futile dream
as the press and the pundits would have us believe.
Yours is a movement, ragged and unruly
as all movements must be, and those who think otherwise,
who are enamored with the possibility
of a female president of the not-so-free world,
are complacent fools who refuse
to hear the thunderous cries of not
just one generation – but of many generations –
reaching forward and backward in time
amid an ever-gathering storm.