when the war ended

It’s a sad story,
the drowning man
in a cloud of fists

the first thing in morning
woken thinking of yesterday
and swinging wide like a boxer

finds the finish when he
splays on the mat, hair
absurd and wet for

just a fight in his memories
of fire and rush
of the way the sun

shocked when he woke seeking
like missiles seek below waters
a mid-night butterfly to take,


way of shore: soft
sand and dawn,
the cellar

where Geppetto carves a heart/
and how still is absence
of war. stillness

pulsing like a star grown
old or the shock of gardenias
in a scorching heat,

not a violin struck with flint
or the way a man can wail,

through city streets across
smelly kitchens and
mothballs clung to old coats

dark roads and alleys
in living of dying-
the flower unfolds

its self.

I think the man
questions if he can
swim in dark waters

and how will he meet
the sun, swinging
with those

wildcat fists? how
he could, like a shock
of gardenias, breathe

life of so-called dying;
make a home with
an artist in the cellar

where he is waiting
on the shore.

~how to grace

I have lived surrendered in hope
tied loose like the truth
in my mouth is loose

or a startled face is composed
loosely as a cloud sifts
the light of the day/

it was Mary’s sorrow upon
the backs of ladybugs; that
is a story people told

to explain the mar
of black. to become

painting poppies on dark
space of nowhere and
nobody, just

the brightest poppy with black
stamen sunk as beautiful
things are sunk in feeling

composed of all colors. How
delight is only found in
in the middle of a

crashing wave-

to live between the surety
and the unknown unfolding


Become a mouth-breaking
exclamation, a sigh sorting
memories into the box
of photographs

the turn
of a projector or
maybe a suspicion
of beauty

in others, like a freckle
tucked away beneath

how suffering so often
is a lone subject/ a
whale song caught

in caves of ice
or upon the lips of sleepy bears
filling with weary resolve

threatening avalanches:
do not disturb.

To draw lines and swallow
lyrics like whiskey is hot,
the finger bones

grasping in resolve
with burning.

a dark night of the soul

There are too many
versions of self lost from
many iterations/ I seeping
in tender aggression
over it/ I, containing
all echoes


and thinks in-between
such things where associations
flow without influence: I wonder
if the truth is there same
like a stem makes a leaf
makes a tree

in infinitum

‘the way of the way:’ waves
rising out of words we say
and up into another
like dust from an old coat
rises the still air in
the light

like galaxies,

because I need not define:
to wake and see a familiar
stranger constructed
from this seed (seed of
a stem or seed
of a leaf)

still rooting

maybe tangled
like The Beatles
Revolution 9 where love
was not enough, Lennon
planted everywhere
in pursuit of order

(like a theory of chaos)

because my words are fractals,
and people are words
becoming recursive- appearing
infinitely complex, but
if you follow each statement
back there was only a person

‘simply,’ in the beginning-

and my love will find me in
the rainforest again where
mountains meet the sea/
sometimes I fear a great wave
will come like I dreamed when
young and frightened or

he will find me driving completely
unrooted and free with only my heart
like a beacon- I am in Astoria or
Sedona, back to the hot trails of
youth chasing spiderwebs
in the sunshine

to hold tight/ even the insubstantial

and every thing an animal
can perceive=waves
bouncing from one onto another:
is wanting definition. Sometimes I will
antidote the need to define
with inattention/

until the echo goes on-

because people rooted
in sand: their roots don’t
tap the same way so
they grow them flying buttresses
scaffolding tender things
or like ivy choking

the heart(‘)s

like those grown in shade
of tall trees with small and
hanging pink flowers balloons
concerned with whether they are more
pink than red or more red
than is tender in


and how silly,
(when I was a little girl
laying on the cool concrete
watching the night for lightning
that arced like a spider’s web
thinking it evidence

of god)

a state of wonder
a wave forming outside of
else, only echoes its self
is outside of definition
like a balloon
maybe lost/ maybe

let go

looks like a dot
from so far away-
maybe I watch with
required wonder
maybe it can still reach

into the sun.

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.