we guide the form, in naming

I could not be solid
being hard in thinking instead
far in seeing past
the stories I was told

were the way things were,
and holding this truth
felt dangerous at times.

I could not be solid,
yet more an amorphous
shape shifting with every
change in the wind

like a ghost I thought at first
like the chaos before the fiery
center of a new star that

is warm whether the sun shines
somewhere near or is one day gone,
I realized eventually.

But, it’s just truth, and I really
have wanted to hide in my room
many times or to walk into a forest
and be gone awhile, and instead

of getting angry, I tried wrapping
myself in petals and song
like Billy or Leonard sinking into
my heart and forming or

opened the window and let the wind
gather in my mouth until
I could laugh

and maybe it was good to learn this/

where what is real and natural and beautiful
is dangerous to people too damaged
and still in hiding, maybe

for the rest of their lives because
they are still afraid-

and children who cannot tell
because they must protect others first
to survive, feel it like a scream
they wouldn’t dare and

the feelings in that hypocrisy-
when you should cry
if it is time and rage if it is

because to not, makes
better understandable why
someone cannot love.

But, children learn to live
with a feeling they cannot speak
the name of except, I am sad
or crawling into bed one night terrified
of dying when the house is

so quiet and so safe,

it will take work to learn to speak;
and yes, I am serious inside
and thoughtful or maybe

I became this way and was someone
before, but I only know what I was
by what I survived then like

a starfish only looks up
from the ocean floor.

And now, I sometimes need to
stand in the cold somewhere vast
and empty or sit in the sun
as it almost burns midsummer

wanting to stay just there
looking and feeling for something
like a clock knows it was made
to tell the time and will

suddenly stop moving/ hands
pointing at whatever, maybe
it is one in the morning when no one
is looking and thinking, ‘that

is a clock’- how it notices
in this moment the shape of the moon
in its own inspiration and says,
I am not ‘a clock/’

becomes what can be believed
somehow and with little guidance
except stories and what we have
known of love and the songs we hear-

people like stars orbit an unseen force

and call the name and
tell the story of each
named thing like

this is my heart in
every name given.


I believe in the soft, distracted smile
turning my way and the girl who
draws vines on her white Keds
in permanent marker.
I believe in stately trees and turning
pages beneath their boughs
with searching hands.
The adept hand signing, “hello”
when there are no words to be heard
or knitting colorful yarns on
telephone poles. I believe
in gardenias that bloom between
the alley and the sun, the sounds
of Cohen from someone’s kitchen.
I believe god
is held in the mouths
of philosophers and children:
that beliefs are dangerous without
love and art is an act of goodwill.
I believe in ethics and the
responsibility of leadership but even more
in the resiliency of the human spirit
like a ghostly pounding heart
as we sleep.
I believe in the spaces between:
in pauses and think-backs and could be’s,
especially in “perhaps” and
I believe in the dog’s paw
that smells like sugar cookies
now that we are family.
I believe we should be careful
of words like, “inconvenience.”
I believe in the storytellers and song-
makers and especially in grandmothers
watching mothers turn the page.
I believe in simplicity of
needs: the hand that must be
held and the mouth that
must be fed. And, the
needs that go untended,
the boy clutching his teddy
as he dreams.
I believe in the untenable
breadth of the universe
and the starlit dust
inbetween it all. I believe
‘god’ is in the trees
and the wave tumbling
towards the shore and
the eyes of strangers.

many worlds

All the reasons the heart couldn’t form,

a humble stem/kitsch in your mother’s attic:
there’s a hundred hours left

still,and the sun won’t really set
just sway into someone
                  a world away, 

looks like you, looks like I,
holds a star like space holds/


Even how love, was the baby frog I kept
in my pencil case to bring 
along to school,

‘little buddy,’ because the softness
of empathy is there before words
get in the way

but only realized when we talk about it.

It’s likely not many notice
the beauty of someone young
holding their space fully/

or how         outside of god
we hold the words of many gods
we have loved in our memory:

I still will sing
at the end of the world
walk into storms the same way

a ghost can only be ghostly.

Eat the cake! I really think it is fine
and to love peculiar things
like tiny frogs and funny-nosed sloths:
because love informs when chaos
gentle at the gate is hot
and all-too-ready.

the crash

Truth is to forget underwater
how the waves crash
beneath the seam

how the waves crash
truth in seconds
how under

the shower I crash
how in dreams I
collide with colossus

and tragedy and conquer/
uninhibited, un-able to
drive seed to

stem. Truth: I forget
to crash beneath
and end up above

the waves in holy
love thinking this
is who I become now

like summers I swam
between mangroves and hot
sea surging, that perfect

storm on the horizon – I love
so deeply in truth
underwater in the crash
of waves/ how the seam

defines if we will live or die/

the crash beneath
stormy skies
and showers:

and how wide
is the breadth of
a wilderness

that came before the place
we can not reside.

fear of abandonment

I tried to remember back then
when she left for a new world
calling me a woman-child
we like two tongues
tied in our two-headedness

when she saw violence in little girls
having no universe except
a naked root in the sun
and too many endings

like her father’s plinth of madness;
my mother sat upon his thorned heart
and any crack, she shone me
in the dark like starlight, and I,
like a hound kept at it
not knowing
any hunger but hers-

the scant memory of shore lines
the margin of estrangement
forever hanging in the air,

how I give and give
what she could not take.

~Inspired from Aracelis Girmay, The Black Maria, First Estrangement


(According to NASA, as it flies, a plane is in the center of four forces. Lift (upward force) and thrust (forward push, provided by a propeller) get a plane into the air. Gravity and drag (air resistance, which is friction) try to pull the plane down and slow its speed. A plane must be built so that lift and thrust are stronger than the pull of gravity and drag by just the right amount).

Safety feels like freedom to some little girls. Closet-time playtime: I’ve got Pacman on my Gameboy, wearing dad’s NY city marathon shirt, listening to Losing My Religion on my Discman. I crave the solidity of being closed in, sitting in my closet, happy as a cub in a tree hollow. I’m five years old, I’m nine years old, I’m fourteen years old, people talk about nuclear bombs in post-Cold War tension and I lay in bed awake thinking I hear their jolly whistle coming down/

loud world: mom’s yelling before the sun’s up; she’s moving from room to room like Pacman looking for the cherries: she’s going to make all those monsters, ghosts. She’s always losing stuff. Dyes her hair blonde and can’t find me when I’m sitting in the backseat of our car. Hyperventilating, needs a Xanax, and covers my mouth in the grocery store line, because the man in front of us coughs, stage whispers, “he might have AIDS-” I ask Mickey Mouse if I’m sick and need to go to the doctor, little girl imaginary friends, develop

a phobia of flying on March 22, 1992: “Ice on wings causes USAir Fokker 28 to crash into Flushing Bay, killing 27 people.” I was coming in for landing looking down at the strip of runway jutting out into the water when I saw some thing that didn’t belong. Looked like one of those smiling dolphins bobbing above the water for fish at the aquarium. And, then there was the live news coverage as we walked down the concourse, 27 people killed. I feel my life stacked like a deck of cards, think of the baby that had been sitting a few seats in front of me. Think of babies in the mouths of dolphins. I’m 9 years old, closed in

four lines wide and two lines high- that’s all there is to a closet. Could run a finger up the length of outer space and find the edge. I can imagine eternity here, and it feels like safety; or how in the many-worlds theory, no matter what you’ve chosen that day, somewhere you are living the perfect life. Little girl locks of brown hair curling down my cheeks don’t remind me that mom doesn’t like people like dad here. That grandpa told mom’s sister she looked like a black girl, would have to sit at the back of the movie theater when she was little. I don’t feel it yet, singing with daddy Doris Day’s, Que Sera Sera at the top of our lungs on sunny, Saturday mornings-

(The shape of an airplane is important in overcoming drag. For example, the nose of a plane is rounded so it can push through the air more easily. The front edge of each wing is rounded too. An airplane built like a railroad boxcar just wouldn’t fly very well.) I have

my mother’s propensity for panic. The first time back on a plane after USAir Fokker 28 is not so bad, but gradually and then suddenly I am overcome by the grip of fear in my chest every time I step onto one of these airborne sea creatures, a full-blown phobia by the time I’m eighteen. I take to the road on family holidays driving three days straight. Binge on cheesecake brownies and a Xanax when it can’t be avoided, convinced I’m at the end of my days. I am,

25 years old when my dad dies from esophageal cancer. Talks about being like his favorite superhero, Spiderman, when he hears the sounds of a fire truck. Checks in with me, “do I have to go save them?” again and again. Ammonia from his failing liver is flooding the brain. Tells me I am love. Looks at me, free from the gnawing pain for once and eyes lit from within, “You are love,” he whispers and won’t look away. Just keeps telling me, like he’s proclaiming me queen of something, “You are Love.” When I wasn’t

in the closet, I hid between the pages of a book. I open the door and leave that drab, suburban house in Orlando, Florida. Walk away from everything. I walk for hours sometimes, book tucked beneath my elbow, usually about elves or other universes. Or, I carry my dad’s old SLR camera and take a photo of my doll sitting on some industrial structure on the side of the road. Cold metal burning in the Florida sun. Put her in the dirt and take another photograph. Thrust and push, I am turning fifteen years old. Graduating from my closet, writing poetry on napkins in the car: she can’t hear me, she won’t see me. But, one day I’m going to grow up and be a pilot like dad.

I’m flying to the funeral alone, the fear trying to claw its way up through the heavy weight of grief. Loud world: sucking noise of air pressurizing, bouncing of wheels on the tarmac, the aching in my eyes from the reflection of sun on white clouds. The grief knifing my throat for a way out, scratching like a rabid cat. My father loved nothing in this world more

than he loved to fly, and rising like Maya said always starts out harder than ashes floating all gracefully into the air. No, more like those baby birds bouncing down cliffsides as they learn to fly. That’s how it was for me anyway. And, dad has wonder lighting the gold in his hazel eyes until my anger at his leaving turns into anger at this fear. I look at the curve of the wing of the plane directing gravity to get below. And, in the span of minutes, those clouds are beautiful instead of terrifying: my throat is aching for gravity to get beneath this plane and lift it higher and higher above everything until there is only the unobstructed line between here and where I want to go. Exhilaration, and

it is a seed. (A plane flies through the air by continually pushing and pulling the surrounding air downward). It seems like some children have to start first in a closet. Seems like children have to overcome all that drag and gravity, wait for the day they have enough experience in themselves to pilot their own plane. Waiting in their little ecosystem, a small miracle in itself, until that day they wake up flying. A closet, the dead-end streets of our youth, the way we use music and art and love like the curve of a plane’s wing to lift us above it all. Closed spaces and every places: there is so much freedom in here/

At the end he looked like a Buddha, big belly, and I think, of course he does, this man loved the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and maintained The Little Prince was a story to live by. You are responsible for that which you tame, he tells me. I think of how he loves my mother. I think of how he was responsible for me. We both tamed by him. I think of squishing ants in our driveway back in Miami when I’m six years old: television screen distant from reality and there is his face suddenly, open and concerned replacing the static of ignorance, and I know I’ve done something unkind. That sensitivity unfolds like the petals of night-blooming cactuses. He instructs me on empathy, carefully and slowly: he has consulted with several books and probably chatted with his priest beforehand. I am enchanted by this (the shape

of an airplane is important in overcoming drag).

Memory Still

I need photographs of you to remember
the way you smiled at me
moments that cannot be re-
drawn with crayons
or pounded into the present
with frustrated shrieks.

I have a string.
It is a thread of grey
long and trailing behind over
the horizon; I am walking
on a highway back

where has that place gone?

If I follow the thread back,
will I find you there?
Or, are memories scaled in shades
of black and white
fluttering like a bird’s heart?

I don’t really need the photographs
to remember; it is that I
wish to flesh out memory until
you are standing before me

a reflection of who I am
and so spectacularly,
who you are

and tip-toe up to kiss you
gently, breathing life
into your eyes that
was gone

to see you smile.