Be an Architect

February 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

We would much rather you be an architect,
building a tiled roof over our heads,
with solar panels.
That is creation. That is making
something out of a useless plot of land,
because the vegetables never grew there,
the fruit trees never rose tall enough—
just weeds and wildflowers.

A building permit would validate
your accomplishment. This structure
is real; this structure is three storeys tall.
This structure affects the direction of the wind
as it blows across the empty plains.

They will thank you for the lush party
on the deck, overlooking the industrial valley.

So if you really have to be one of those creative types,
be an architect—
a title, a career, maybe even a car,
and when you die,
your dust
collecting in the corners
of your houses
better by far
than useless words on a page—
just weeds and wildflowers.

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Improvisations

February 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Last night I dreamt
we turned mannequins into real people
by making love to them
and sunlight burned
a hole on the back of your neck
but you didn’t really mind,
because if a song plays in the middle of an empty forest,
would it really matter if it was
jazz or country or electro-dance-punk-pop?
The world has no patience for stupid questions.

Self-esteem is a fragile thing,
yet we continue to make bouquets out of flowers
and mountains of molehills. You say to me,
always mountains—

but the problem with science
is that no one understands
how a scrap of wood can be an embrace
in the right light,
and how a pair of marbles
are as good as real eyes
when no one really bothers
to look
anymore

Plastic Flowers*

February 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Since you never ask,
what I would like, for a change
is to just lie on our backs,
and watch the flowers grow.
But don’t you just love to talk
about how you really have to go?
Maybe in silence,
we would have had a chance.

But you tell me about your day
looking into someone else’s eyes on a screen,
and your laugh lives in an acronym
that has never rolled in the grass
or made a pass at a pretty girl
in a silly summer dream.

In this room it is cold,
smells like lemon, artificial,
the way cabs do when they’re old,
but if now was then
and you knew how to listen
and touch my face when
the light made it glisten,
maybe we’d have had a chance.

You don’t have to explain,
just please refrain from calling me
pet names and that word love–
it pours from my heart to yours
like wireless fidelity in the middle
of a busy business city.

If you held my hand,
you would’ve seen
my fingers bloom like flowers
into a forest more beautiful
than the future.
But across the ocean
tall buildings wait for you,
bright lights blink and flash for you,
the top of the world caves for you.
I hear over there, rooms smell like real lemons,
and the fruits are like golden suns
that hang from leafless trees.

I wish we could just watch the flowers grow.

Maybe in a time warp we’d have had a chance.
Maybe in a horse-drawn cart we’d have had a chance.
Maybe without electricity, or light, we’d have had a chance.
Maybe in the limited vicinity of disability,
or in helpless blindness,
or the tightness of poverty,
we’d have had a chance.

You never settle, you tell me,
as you scour the grocery shelves
for the biggest, freshest watermelon-
greener pastures, first world adventures-
pinker lips, through Freudian slips.
Don’t worry, you say,
with technology today,
it’ll be like I never even left.
But there’s nothing like seeing
the reflection of the sky
in someone else’s eyes,
or the way they try not to cry
when you meet an old man
just waiting to die,
and how the little hairs on an arm stand
when you brush gently against them.

The advent of technology you say,
the future,
the world.
Your dream is a draft
that will snatch you from me.
Maybe in war, we’d have had a chance.
Maybe in peace, we’d have had a chance.

Maybe before aviation, we’d have had a chance.
But we’ve always loved airports
and the vastness of runways,
so you make me take you to the gate
when I wish we could just stay
in this tired old lobby,
smelling fake lemon Glade
sipping cheap coffee,
watching the plastic flowers grow.

*Spoken

Engagement

February 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

Like chipping my tooth
on a tiny black stone
in sticky white rice.

A Pornographic Matter

February 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

The day she stumbled upon her Uncle’s porn,
she had developed a fetish for ugly things.

Polaroid photograph of the dark backs of someone’s knees,
one strand of dead hair,
an old velvet skirt–
all in a shoebox under her bed.

Her mother had found the box one afternoon,
on one of her frantic cleaning sprees.
“What’s this?” she asked, holding up
the skirt, not taking note of the hair.

The child turned red and said
she had been meaning to throw it out.

Her mother handed her the box,
eyes on the next cobweb on the ceiling.
“My, how dirty,” the woman said,
as her daughter went downstairs to have
her way in the bathroom– with the photo,
and the hair, and the skirt.

When she was finished, she stuffed them behind
a loose brick, and looked at herself in the mirror.
Such beauty had become unbearable,
since the moment of the flashing teeth
and the swollen brown teat,
wrinkled, heavy, and tired,
like a hot air balloon
that would never leave the ground.

Smells

February 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

What I never told her was, as the day of the move drew closer, I began to smell the parts of my house I had simply used to absorb. I became privy to the smells strangers took home from my clothes when we bumped into each other at the supermarket or squeezed inside the train.

The fried fish, the moth balls, the dusty abaca mat outside the front door. I smelled the wet leaves, the excess of corn products in the garbage, even the color green.

And when the day finally came, as I lay in my new bed staring at unpacked boxes, I smelled the street I grew up in, and the floods that washed them clean.

The smell of death on the last page of a good novel, the black coiling edges of a letter in a fire, yesterday’s paper.

I knew it was going to end when I began to smell the green apple in her hair. I never knew her breath smelled like a slice of cold watermelon on a hot April day, or that her feet had a sharp, sweet scent, like a basket of overripe strawberries.

I knew it was going to end the moment I smelled her brown eyes and tiny ears. And the almond in her skin, and the acetone on her nails, like all the other things they sing about in lonely love songs on 6:45 p.m. Sunday radio.

I knew it was going to end when I smelled her on the sheets, and on the walls were her handprints, that smelled like buy-one-take-one PCX peppermint hand soap.

One night a man in the hotel lobby stopped us to say she smelled like the color red, and that I should be careful. And because it was going to end, I could smell it too. I corrected him.

It wasn’t like playing with fire; more like warming your hands by a toasty orange glow.

But it was only when I smelled my bedroom– my mom’s budget fabric softener, the cat’s flea powder, the aquarium’s dirty water–in the middle of a desert in dry Arizona, that I knew I wasn’t home.

And so it was only when I smelled her on my sweater, the blue knit one she had borrowed years before, that I knew she was finally gone.

Where Am I?

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