an alternative poem

How to take the next steps? We knew it would be bad. We didn’t want to jinx ourselves but we started the process of bracing for the fall that at least some parts of us thought would never come. But it did.

There’s precedence, but those were the bad old days. We were supposed to have realized that, on paper anyway, nevermind the impoverished brown bodies still caught in the crossfire of ingrained white supremacy. But there is.

Now we read dystopia like we’re listening to breakup ballads in the dark, and we try and resist while we process. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Life as it was before is still going on, for most of us. Except for those who can’t come back now. Except for those who already lived on this knife’s edge.

Did our parents survive worse?

That’s yet to be seen.

The worst is yet to come.

But he can’t fire all of us.

a poem about love, not a love poem

I never thought
I’d want the love I have.

Maybe I didn’t think
it existed, warm
and calm and ever-present.

Maybe it was never
modeled for me
when I was little,
and I was expecting
love to mean
sacrifice and shouting
with only a few moments
of joy to even it out.

And it isn’t fair
to say I never knew
love at all before.
They weren’t ready,
or I wasn’t.
But it was there,
in the gazebo at
Van Vorst Park
and the love poem
I corrected.
It was present
on the rocks at
Central Park.
And it was certainly
there for two and
a half years,
but neither of us
knew what to do
with it
and instead
we did our damndest
to foster hatred
mistaking it for passion.
Mostly me.

I didn’t expect
the love I probably
didn’t deserve
to literally
walk into my life,
ten years my senior
and hopelessly entrenched
in another relationship.
And when it did
present itself,
neither of us
thought it would last.

It was a novelty
to both of us,
love that didn’t
make us feel
trapped or lacking
(that was always
our problem,
not theirs,
but it was a problem).
Love that grew
over years,
love that
didn’t diminish
in close quarters
and hard times.

Love that didn’t
go away, even when
it would have made
everything easier.

Sometimes it’s a dying
houseplant, needing just
a little care to revive.
Sometimes it’s
an apple tree in full fruit,
fragrant and nourishing.
And sometimes
it isn’t anything
other than two people
trying to do
right by each other.

bubble

how can you live underneath
Lady Liberty’s shadow
and not understand
what she means?

how can you be so
willfully ignorant and hateful
when you have every opportunity
to pull your brain
up by its bootstraps
and listen to the people
all around you?

I hate to burst
your bubble
but America,
built on the backs
of slaves and those
who died before
they could become slaves,
is trying to grow
past its troubled roots,
and it has a lot
of work to do
before it can be worthy
of all the praise
heaped onto it
by those who fought
inch by inch
to carve their lives here.

somehow I don’t think
it’s us, living
in a tangled, beautiful
mess of so many
languages
faces
cultures
people
who are isolated
from reality.

one third passion, two thirds pride

My boss thought
I looked down on my job
because I was honest:
it’s very useful
and specific
but it’s not
the kind of job
that you can own.

Of course, she
did have one point:
I have the ghosts
of my parents
whispering over my shoulder.
What’s a girl like me
doing in physical labor?
Overeducated, both of them,
laying their expectations
on my tiny shoulders.
I had college
planned by kindergarten.

Maybe I do
think I could do better.

But she doesn’t hear
me defend it to the death.

“What’s a skinny
thing like you
doing pushing
my fat ass?”

“They should have
a man doing this.”

Never mind that
I run circles
around some
of the men
who have my title,
never mind the
muscle I’ve fought
to pack onto my arms.

It’s honest work,
I always say.
It’s cheaper
than a gym membership.

Who says you
can’t be smart
and strong?
Why should my mind
disqualify me
from hard manual work?

Some of my
best poems have come
fresh after work,
my legs tired
but mind racing.

And I think
my parents would
be proud;
my dad was, anyway,
but he was
an easier mark.

The real secret
is that I’ve found
meaning in every
job I’ve ever had.
I’d go mad if I couldn’t.

delusions of grandeur

it looks so easy.
all of it.
dancing, singing,
writing a poem a day.
living, and living well.
there’s very little
I haven’t been able
to conquer
if given enough
time and willpower.

but maybe it’s mania.
it’s in my blood
after all,
like witchcraft
and a penchant for
poetry and activism.

it’s a lot to
live up to,
my parents’ expectations
and my own.
is it self-preservation
that makes me pursue
everything that catches
my fancy
or is it mental illness
clouding my notions
of possible, of practicable,
of real?

maybe I’ll never know,
but
I’ll die trying.