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.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


it is the study of being
at the summit, of knowing
from a distance the real
truth of things. it is

the way a teacher's hands
don't grip a podium. instead
they trace a line down
lecture notes, or drum

idly songs no student
has ever heard. it is
the spankings parents wish
they didn't have to give,

this hurts me more
than it hurts you. it is
the way we forget what
we were the very second

we become something else.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

for those who wonder why the red man is

"...[communism] makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic." -Karl Marx, The German Ideology.

so long since the scare, now, and still
when my fiancé praises Marx
my parents think he is a madman.

Marx, they say, and shake
their bourgeois heads. to think
a man so smart could go

the way of weakness,
turn his back on Adam Smith,
and dance his way to poverty

and death beneath a dictator
and the hammer and sickle.
all he wants, I say to them,

is to live many lives at once
and still have enough in his pocket
to buy breakfast at a small cafe.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Of silverware, you are the pacifist,
never stabbing, never slicing,

content in fact to simply scoop.
Your curves, unashamed,

slip silently between the lips
of all who pick you up, and yet

you are never called a whore;
one repentant cycle through

the dishwasher,and you are pure
again, and ready for the hiding

place, the drawer full of brothers,
sisters, ornate and shiny-slick.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


the body knows the way up
the side, but I do not. there
is fear, the groping search

for granite holds, little ledges
I can't see, the feel of my slick
shoes slipping, pebble rain

descending on the two holding
my harness steady. there
is panic and remorse. but

the body knows this
is coming; it dissolves
fear with long shots

of adrenaline that turns
burning muscles into
steel. this alchemy,

the last push, a deep
breath, and the summit
of it all, the view above

the trees, and the safe
slow drop, descent to earth,
back among friends and firm dirt.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Beyond the wire hanger curtain of her closetful of clothes, beyond stacks of old and out-of-season shoes, beyond a hidden stash of letters from two boyfriends ago, beyond that imperfect blend of order and dissonance she felt the slick cool of white house paint with the palm of her hand. She pushed and pushed and wondered if it might, someday, give way, not to the next room, but to the inevitable reality that seemed to sleep between the walls of that house: she was beautiful, obedient, well-kempt, and the oldest unmarried woman in three counties.
Later, they would find her there, legs splayed awkwardly to reveal control-top hose in ivory nude, eyes pushed back into shadow by painkillers, hair more disheveled than anyone had ever seen in, beneath not one but a hundred or more small, greasy handprints, gray impressions of varying intensity that seemed only to beg to be let out.

Monday, February 5, 2007


Let x equal the number of gold
dashes on the highway between me
and your Humboldt dormitory,
between my Complete Works
of Shakespeare and your Periodic Table,
between art and science. Divide
by eighty-seven miles per hour,
the fastest my little black truck can fly
before disintegrating into a shameless mass
of carburetor and fender and slick
upholstery. Add three hours
for the necessary adieu to boyfriend
and roommate, for calling in sick, for washing
the dishes and feeding the cat. Raise that
to the power of your audible tears,
the cracking phone line, my sisterly pain
when you say you have no one
to talk to and then choke on the very truth
of it. The solution, the time until you
can be crying on my shoulder,
the inevitable y, is always less
than the number of minutes before you
no longer need me. Thus, we know that despite
the times you pulled my hair and called
me fat and wished you were an only
child, I love you, quod erat demonstrandum.