City of Death

I live in a city of death.

I know this because I’m forced to sidestep mangled, scorched bodies peppered down the walk every day when I bring in the mail, or when I lug in the groceries. Our block is a necropolis of hundreds. Roasted alive on their incomplete journeys to a better life. Or perhaps crushed to death by giants, and then burned like a funeral pyre.

I have to wonder at the death rate in this city, why no one else seems to be bothered much by it. Loud men on TV would say we have much bigger problems than to worry about spineless immigrants burned trying to get from one piece of land to another. This is our land, they’d say. Serves them right, they’d say.

Once in a while someone comes along with a broom to sweep the bodies away, and dig a big hole to hide the evidence. I think this could be me one day. I could be the one brushing away the sins of neglect, helping society forget what it’s allowed. But more than that I could easily end up a heap in the road, a travelling casualty, burned and torn. No one would lower the flag for me.

Maybe it’s a curse of exposure; we can’t mourn as much death as we see. So we have a value system in place. And I, on my errands and afternoon walks, can’t do anything to change it.

We don’t have the time for worms. In a city of death, their bodies are not our problem.

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Boiling

Your head has been boiling
for some time now-
is it time to taste the plague
you’ve cooked up?

No-
the bones that you trust
sing a song of tomorrow,
tomorrow,
unending,
to die with the light-

your everlasting shipwreck
all over again

until time intervenes for you,
forgives the stones
you could not move.

 

The Creature (2015)

The creature born with scaly skin and large eyes said, “I must be a lizard,” and spent her days as lizards do.

All her greens and browns gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her colors, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no lizard after all.

She wandered in search of the place where she really belonged.

She came upon a flock of flamingos who said, “Just look at your pretty pink feathers, new friend!” and she marveled with joy that all this time she’d been a flamingo underneath.

All her oranges and pinks gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her feathers, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no flamingo after all.

She wandered in search of the place where she really belonged.

She came upon a herd of zebra who said, “Just look at your wide, crazy stripes, new friend!” and she marveled with joy that all this time she’d been a zebra underneath.

All her blacks and her whites gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her stripes, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no zebra after all.

She wandered in search of the place where she really belonged.

She came upon a swarm of butterflies who said, “Just look at your gorgeous soft wings, new friend!” and she marveled with joy that all this time she’d been a butterfly underneath.

All her blues and her yellows gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her wings, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no butterfly after all.

And she trembled and whispered to her butterfly friends, “I’m not sure what I am anymore.”

The butterflies cried, “Well of course you’re one of us! But if you’re really not sure, ask the Owl.”

She flew to the top of the tallest tree to the hole where the great Owl lived. “Excuse me? I’ve heard you can help me find out who I am.”

The great Owl replied, “You’re an owl, of course! Just look at your tufts of grey fuzz, new friend!”

But the creature grew hot and exclaimed, “But I’m NOT an owl! I came here to ask for your help because I don’t know what I could be.”

“What you could be? Don’t you know all the things you were?” asked the Owl incredulously. “For in order to know what kind of thing you are, you must remember the things you’ve been.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t think I understand,” said the creature. “I’ve been many things. I’ve been a lizard, a flamingo, a zebra, a butterfly, and now an owl, but I don’t know which one was me.”

“Then my dear, perhaps you’re a chameleon. That’s not such a bad thing to be. Chameleons can blend in wherever they choose, and be whoever they wish.”

“A chameleon?” asked the creature, excited. “But are there others just like me?”

And the Owl replied, “No one’s just like you. But there are other chameleons- you’ve met a few.” He whistled through the trees and they came into view- two lizards, a flamingo, a zebra, and three butterflies. “We’re all chameleons, too!”

“Sometimes,” said the Owl, “you get to choose what you’ll be, but deep down you’ll always be you.”

And the creature was happy because then she knew- the best thing she could be was herself, no matter what she looked like.

Sonnet (2014)

‘Tis told to me that I must heed the rule
of older poets blessed with larger pens-
to cherish all the forms I learned in school
and practice sight through imitation’s lens.
But I in my foolhardiness do balk
at being led to water I’ve not found;
at being steered to join an ardent flock
whose homage to their elders does resound
like thousand year-old hymns, always the same,
rife replicas of patterns proven true.
As worn-out wood cannot support a flame,
so sonnets and their like breed nothing new.
Except to boast a new flow’r on my bonnet
I see no reason to write a sonnet.

Experiments (2014)

I am training for something bigger.

Some string has dropped down just in front of me and I’m pulling away at it like mad.

I’m shaving ice, I’m trimming fat, I’m packing bags.

I’m picking scabs and I can feel my mind talking to itself, teaching itself, as my gunny nerves get ready.

Time is standing still these days, in this era of preparation.

My organs are working on a secret.

I have grown quiet and withdrawn, not as punishment but as a gift, being the way I must.

I speak to almost no one.

Everything I choose is wholly right and I have no interest in other people’s doings anymore-

all is bound to my experiments, my constant remolding and pushing.

 

On Friendship (2013)

You don’t make friends- you find them. I’ve only ever had a few in my life, but when I found them I knew immediately. There’s a sort of intimacy, a comfort which is felt like a blanket around two strangers who automatically fall in step- they can speak without fear and find joy in discovering all the ways that humans can understand one another. It ends up feeling as if you’ve already known the person for a very long time.

It’s a rare and wonderful thing to find a friend- someone whose intellect, maturity, and decency you can trust. Someone who gets you in all the best ways. Once you find them, there’s no going back: their company becomes indispensable to your own happiness as the more experiences you share, the more you are bonded together. And gradually, their happiness becomes indispensable to yours, like an extension of your own well-being. Protecting their heart becomes your responsibility, because it’s part of your heart now, too.

But like all good things humans are ever blessed enough to blindly stumble upon, we don’t know how to keep a friendship once we’ve got it. We grow complacent and expect that it always will thrive, maybe because we didn’t do anything to earn it in the first place. We underestimate how much we’d suffer if we lost it, because we just don’t think it could happen. But perhaps worst of all, we get selfish.

Humans have an odd tendency towards ownership- we see something we like and, instead of appreciating it for its beauty, we like to slap stickers on things and say “Mine.” This tendency is extended to our friends: we want to be best friends, we want to know that you like us the most, we want your word that you’ll always be there, we want labels, we want assurance. The funny thing is, the best part about friendship is the sublime level of trust that can be achieved, but there’s no chance for that when you’re holding on too tight. I have been guilty of this far too many times not to know the devastating consequences of squeezing the life out of someone you care about.

Miraculously, true friendships seem to have a tremendous bounce-back rate.

A Message from a Furious Teacher

This country is out of its damn mind if the only solution we can come up with to gun violence in schools is “arm the teachers.”

I became a teacher for a reason: to educate. To nurture. To inspire. To take care of your kids, and yes, jump in front of a bullet if I have to. But I shouldn’t have to.

I did not choose to become a cop or a soldier or a security guard. I am not a fighter. I am not a killer. I don’t want that on my hands.

You cling to your right to own guns but you have NO RIGHT to require me to take up arms that I don’t believe in.

I already have given up any chance at wealth to teach your kids. I have given up my free time and half my sanity. I come home exhausted every day, sometimes sobbing over somebody’s kid being abused or neglected or trapped in poverty or bullied because even though I know I’m doing the best I can, I can’t protect your kid from everything.

But now you want me to wield a gun? You want me to put aside my personal beliefs and have that responsibility forced on me too?

You want to ask that of me so I can keep YOUR kids safe?

I’m not the one failing your kids. YOU ARE. If you believe more guns are the solution to school shootings, go buy a gun and keep your kids home. Teach them your damn self. YOU be the one ready to stand in front of a bullet and stop demanding other people do it.

Many teachers already HAVE done it. Teachers lay dead right now from defending your kids. Has that stopped anything? If I kill an active shooter, does that do anything to prevent the next one? You think school shooters will be dissuaded by the chance that they will be killed? They’re suicidal. THEY DON’T CARE.

So don’t expect me to lay down my life for your kids when all you’re gonna say when I’m dead is “she should’ve had a gun.”

No, YOU should’ve done more to make sure YOUR kids weren’t at risk and asked yourself why OUR government doesn’t give a shit enough to do anything, and is content to let TEACHERS continue taking the bullets.