Portrait of a Kitchen

Rather, it’s about the void she left
behind– no dirty dishes in the sink,
no hand to move the plates out
from the coffins of the cabinets.
Used to be hot soup was what
we wanted to come home to
when we wanted to come
home, but the chicken rots
in the fridge and even its
memory chokes on
cold forever air

 

(originally published in Poetry Pacific, Fall 2018)

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Mud

or is it clay or is it ghosts I remember
muddy footprints you walking in from
rain white plate of cookies in sweat-palms
mud on floor you said sweet, sweet, sweet,
sweet children all those black nights the salty
wind knocking its way in through shut
windows the dead flowers in vases
received sunlight their daily bread
give us ours the ramshackle trinity of unclean
dishes filthy hands and the sticky fridge door
which wouldn’t open not for you
and certainly not for us

 

(originally published in Califragile, Fall 2017)

Olive Garden

On the way home from my first Passover
with your family we stop at an Olive Garden

in flyover country, where the waitress tells us
Happy Easter and, when you tell her we forgot

but still want angel hair, she jokes her last
table mistook pesto for alfredo. Sometimes

people confuse one god for another but never
their own, and food is ours– Jesus rising

with the dough of endless breadsticks
descending like ten plates of plagues, first-born

bastards in baskets we need no hunt to find
lest our mouths become black holes absorbing

absurd sanctities of tradition. Separately,
the Garden was where our families would gather

on intermittent nights to write our own Haggadahs
or speak sins of rock stars or mysteries

of faith. Afikomans for truth, perhaps, but instead
of matzo an endless bowl of a salad of words

in which we always beg for more
forgiveness without really wanting that.

And the waitress, before engaging the simplest rotor,
asks us to say when to end airstrikes of parmesan

and it does not matter when we do.

 

(originally published in After the Pause, Summer 2018)

Taboo

the gorge is endless & insatiable
there is a river, then many mouths
& there is your mother
in the next room cooking soup
& there is a mother
on screen bent over stovetop
with stepson rocking back
& forth into hunger
& now spoons clank
on plate before dinner
& your privacy settings–
a closed door
& now your father
home from work
& now the stepfather
makes his daughter behave
& your sister
walks in off the bus
& now the step-sister
removes the mushroom of her skirt
taking her brother by the name
of their familiar
revelation
which is all relative
to the mold of a home
all mildew & dust
spiderweb & tangle
& turn of doorknob
to walk years
through thin hallways
of broken light
fixtures & coughs
to sit in the dining room
all together & eat
years of steaming
garlic, basil, tomato,
salt

 

(originally published in The Cerurove, Fall 2017)

Half

to cut immigration
is to cut me half

-Filipino I am already
halved quartered diced you take

a knife to my mother she keeps
a knife at her neck we both are

American in the blade of the word
I used to pretend to be more

my more-accepted half
to have to choose

is to have nothing

 

(originally published in Serving House Journal, Fall 2017)

Mid-December

The alley is paved with old bricks
blackened by rain. I used to want

conformity, that tidal hope gripping
your gut. You must have a family soon.

Everywhere babies are sprouting
but garden sprinklers are off because winter

is near, crackled dirt longing for storm–
how long since the rough of gale and rain?

Seasons, in these frigid airs. And my seedling
heart stopped growing soon after its first beat.

 

(originally published in The Coachella Review, Winter 2017)

Meditation on Muscle Memory

If I had musical talent
I wouldn’t write poems.

Guitar-grown fingernails.
Nimble strings.

There’s no need
to lie. I couldn’t bring myself to try

when my parents thought
it’d be a good idea for me
to take piano lessons.

I had Game Boy eyes
and the Final Fantasy theme on repeat.

My dad had already explained
the difference between basin wrench

and torque. Wasted an afternoon
taping leaking pipes.

Like many of his time
he knew plumbing, mechanics,
home improvement

then brought me into rooms with broken
machines. My mind was Mickey Mouse
spelling words and song,

not the kind to vivisect
a bird to learn the function.

All I knew were not even stories yet
and still my hands
sing few callouses.

 

(originally published in Pirene’s Fountain, Spring 2018)