Monday, June 11, 2007


This morning, I dream of swimming
through the bowl of red jello
you made this week, my arms and legs

pushing through the thick goop
with no more struggle than the spoon
you wielded that night, as I sliced onions

over the sink and you told me nothing
of your jury duty, of your days
spent in endless testimony,

the way it drains you to say
the word convict, the way
it's just as bad as scott free,

and as I rinse red globs of it
from my memories, I wonder
if tonight we'll remember

at last to eat the strawberry
cool of it, with a dollop of cream,
over a crossword puzzle, before

you take me to bed, both of us
ripe with the summer heat
and hungry still for each other.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I am tired of being a white woman.

I am tired of being a white woman,
and having to apologize
for the English I learned
to write in big looping letters
on rough brown paper, for fluency
as natural as dancing,
for semicolons, conjugations,
and the dizzying vocabulary
I needed for the SAT.

I am tired of being a white woman,
and having to tell the story
of my great-grandfather
arriving at Ellis Island,
shipped straight from Terceira,
where Baptista troubles
no tongues, not like this valley,
where everyone wants to know
if I'm from Oaxaca or Quintana Roo.

I am tired of being a white woman,
and having to mark boxes
that lie, that want to paint
my olive arms and dark eyes
a transparent, raceless nothing,
that mark me oppressor, fiend,
so that admissions committees
can write me off as someone
who cannot bring diversity.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Gosh, Josh (after Ryan Adams)

As a girl, I've never had use for chivalry.
I'm as stubborn as frozen molasses
and maybe as plucky.
I can afford my own dinners;
in that way I am really lucky,
but gosh, Josh, i love when you open doors.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Lint collects in the cavern at the center
of my abdomen, brown and blue, the colors
of recently-worn shirts. I think maybe
if I dialed my belly button instead

of my cell phone, my mother and I could never
lose signal in bad weather. That pulsing lifeline,
removed by doctors who know no better
than nature what kinds of scars we need,

used to hold the two of us so close
that she could feel my every kick, my liquid
sighs; now, all that remains of those days
of swelling life is this umbilicus,

this dark innie that marks the quadrants
of my adult body and is the grave
of that one cord, that vital string
through which we shared our blood.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Elegy for Yellow Soap

Unlike the grandparents whose memory your stringent smell
calls up, when the last of you has been rinsed from my limbs
and down the drain, I can buy another bar; I can unwrap

a fresh, new promise. I can keep you in my life forever,
except that your bright aroma is the same old one
on my skin even as I cover it with Givenchy perfume

and Victoria's Secret lotion, and how can I be the same
when I no longer bathe with all my cousins at once, our slick
bodies filed in the tub, my baby sister closest to the drain?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Plans Well Made

The night I got a haircut, I called you
because we weren't dating. You picked
me up at my apartment, complimented
all the layers, and opened the car door

like you'd been planning it for months.
We sat in a booth, slurped hot soup,
and plotted to steal a colorful stand-up
bass for no real reason. I wanted

to marry you for your deep, all-teeth
smile, for the laugh that shook the tabletop,
and for the way you shuffled up the steps
to my apartment even though you had

no intention of coming in. I unlocked
the door, turned, and smiled. The evening
held its breathe, and then you said goodnight,
and turned, and left, our next-day movie

plans well made. I went to sleep thinking
of you, the gentleman, the man with many
jokes, the man who talked long hours
on at my doorstep waiting for a kiss.

Thanks to Pauline for her wonderful line. :0)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Letter from a Demoiselle, 1907

We are the women of the night,
we who stand, unashamed as Eve
before the Fall of naked bodies,
staring deep into those who watch.
We stretch angular and proud
bodies to distract from hard and dark
eyes. Ours is the oldest profession,
but we are the youngest and best,
the lovely little ladies of Avignon,
Spain's daughters gone to seed,
the ones who will not obey,
the ones without another way.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Pablo Picasso, 1907

Author's Note:
It was my good fortune to visit this painting at NYC's MoMA last week, and I've been haunted by the sheer size of it ever since. This poem doesn't begin to do it justice.