The year I ran away,
I was only eight.
I had never witnessed
winter arriving with rage,
hurling ice like curses.
The burden of our immigrant
poverty slowed my limbs
like a cross or collection of sins
and I could not adjust
to the wingless ways of this country.
Penniless, I took everything
I thought I owned one morning
and fled with a bible,
used clothes from the Salvation Army,
my mother’s white shoes
which were half a size small,
worn into tissue-paper
and too many books.
The weight of all those thoughts
scraped black trails
in the pages of new-fallen snow
I was going to be a writer.
Even then, I knew
I had a weak memory.
I was afraid of forgetting the world
in the fog of its own winter mornings,
of losing the rain in the sea.
I sought the irretrievable.
Mother, I wanted to go back
to mangoes and palm trees,
the passionate conversation
of night crickets, humming
threat of malaria, orange vendors
and rivers that housed the sun.
But these are the very edges
of the country we left.
More tightly than land,
I have held the uninhabited
world between continents,
where immense clouds like white whales
drift past our airplane window.
It was in the sky that I realized
the entire world is an ocean;
we are forever adrift.
From that time, I have lost
the things I did not pen
or put in poems –
plastic combs, quarter-machine rings
bits of seashell,
entire cities float away-
Even my name
I have lost
our first year in America
From that time,
all I have remaining
is a faint memory
of a dim street
it is not possible to remember
It is empty of walls and windows
sound or signs, lonely;
confused in its origination,
and erased in the falling snow.
I know I set out upon it,
that I cried as I walked
and was afraid
because I had nowhere to go.
I felt as you must have felt
leaving everything for everything.
Spent my birthday in a waiting room
six hours deplumed except thin sheath of scrub
sands me down to nub Oh god but how I’m failing
down. Flayed to the bone, I’m bone bare nerve and stone
Nurse pokes behind the screen
“Saturday, you jam like flies.” Inside, my bee chums
swarm the surgeon praying for snipsnip
to free us. Thirty green girls jostling for our tangled names
listing on our plastic seats pinkblue, jampacked
holding closed our sickness clothes
Now swapping how we hid how much we had
to pee or spit or scratch or faint
at work to fake like big-dicked men.
This floozy next to me wafts thick
She’s something wrong I wonder if the prick was drunk,
how she’s too young and shift my seat before
the knocked-up sharp-nose heave-hos empty out my throat.
Picketing outside you won’t hear
how I was raped when I was five they spooned
red pepper into my eyes. Barefoot in the pots
I took up screaming. Or you’ve been here
once yourself It’s not so bad
They puppet your legs tell you slide down
your easy ass. Further please, the very edge.
They don dead fingers, snap-on-a-clamp;
command you relax your cunt or count
down. (The nurse moves rough: a metered stunt.)
I understand there’s hundreds more
to come. I lid my eyes. I’d hate to point
my anger at you, bitch.
A black man comes in wielding sleep.
He’s pissed at me and stays icelipped
(I slipped?) He tourniquets my arm
ties on a rubber tight, fair shears it off
jabs in a draught of night like that!
no proses and I’m died
Lightbulb: O Look
the extend of my arm
O swim this wave
the leaving room
two forms sit slumped
OH DO NOT RISE
and turn me off
I love thee sight of mites and dust
crevices I cannot touch o
let me glove this dark
One month past
I haven’t ceased the bleed
I’m cut, the blood flows thin
I don’t believe in God
I’m shut I don’t forget to wake
at four amen, pine in the dark
for nothing, no reason at all.
If not but I loved food
how I’d stop eating
sculpt my belly concave,
many meals wheeled by but I’d
shake my head, No thanks.
The way I’d say it though
no one would know
but that their fare wasn’t
food enough. They’d fear
to offer me their cakes
and Salisbury steaks
obese with grease
fresh from the frying pan.
Oh to shrink
my waist into the Guiness book
shrink my eyes and look for nothing
need no one- completely
The news today is of cuts-
taxes and troops
the liberation of Iraq from Iraq
Putin’s polonium and the Taliban.
Ever genocide in Darfur, ever maurading
Janjaweed; cops and coons and bullets.
What news, what news.
My brother rings to tell me
what new monstrous thing Dad did.
Sister I didn’t cry the time
I spent in jail on Dad’s advice
the beatings bloody, blows
we watched mom take-
these things did not cut.
But this morning, he took my car
keys away and I simply cried.
Paper is thin.
Knife blades are thin.
Ice can be thin.
I can be thin
or cut within
Cut out my heart
Cut off my ears
Cut out my eyes
Cut off my hands, please
cut it out!
No one will cry
No one will care
care for the holes
cry for the cold
cold as a grave
grave as a song
a hungry song
a hammered song
a beaten song
a bastard song
a so long, song
to sing along
or diet- you’ve got to
try it- just be
It is morning at the Yamasaki place-
9200 Fritz Rd. Maple City, Michigan
blue-green planet Earth.
Yesterday I had a crying jag
in a restaurant close to here
we walked in to white-only eyes-
narrowed macula that split
peas, subtracting me from my skin
which is black.
In that preponderance of prison searchlights
I was caught and dissolved, denied
as I have been so many times this year
the year of the bald-faced wasps
(a phrase from a conversation with Susan Yamasaki
concerning the diminishing diversity of insect
life in this town).
But the crying began much earlier in the day
and before I was born even
it collected in Bronze-age soup bowls
wilted the Mesozoic salads.
It beat the roofs of the first slave pens
as steadily as rain, washing away the ground in rivulets
peeling back the ochre sand of ochre sand dunes
revealing the earth of our planet Earth
which is also black.
I am not the first to barter passage in tears,
many have won freedom thus
clutching for a length of rope
a tree, a hand, any stick stuck deep enough
to under-stand; harbor a fugitive.
For all things share the same breath
as Chief Seattle said and I too know
the racist will not weather this monsoon.
Tears pelt him naked just the same
leave him shipwrecked once-amoeba on a slippery shore
to which he clings, undressed of gentility
gasping for fair, mourning the wronged
howling for no one, no one for miles- there is nobody
that will ever decipher
the crying of a newborn babe.
Find me an orchestra of elephant tusk horns
bulrongs and drums
I must have
instruments of hair and string
for last night I had a vision of a two-
winged symphony O let us
sing our longing to the heavens
and grieving, they will bear us to forever
where our clothes are not so dull We
will be made of purple
flowers there it is always
spring There there are no kings.
How much longer must we ring
this blue bubble of unbroken bitter-
leaf soup drinking
where pain is measured
in depths of laughter but laughter
regret of salt?
I will build a house that swims
a fish to net the world-
a place to warble duets
when the big rains come.