99.5% won’t be able to do it

They showed me the distance from my stand to my soul. I asked, Would I miss very much? The equivalent of the pain index.

It’s your soul, child. You’ve been distant for too long. Would it be so wrong to come back?

I grow attached. It’s been too long here, here where I am no longer fixing breakfast for your families but waiting for them to turn out the light. Each star dims, I count the ones that lead the way toward a familiar bridge, a bridge I’d almost forgotten.

My soul, I’m coming home soon.

dream, Oct. 1, 2017

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Le Pichet

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Photo by Peter Miranda on Unsplash

His world is meat and potatoes, hold the beans

I held his coagulated blood in the palm of my hand one fretful night between the cancer and the next colonoscopy. The red liver tissue jiggled like Jell-O.

I am here, always, waiting for you, cafe au lait beside my notes and my rusty pen. I know the difference.

You will smell my hair before sliding into the seat, pulling mine closer, an embarrassing display — one I have hungered for, given my American diet. You always sip thoughtfully, tearing dainty bites of one croissant, lightly scorched at the edges, fingering my arm. Every morning, the same petit déjeuner while I run to catch up.

I miss this world, a world away. And, neither of us are French. We gypsy in and out of focus when the cause suits us.

I wonder where you are this very moment, stuck in line at the nearest McDonald’s, because she says so, stuck in a book, while the children gather around the manufactured extra-large stuffed crust.

We celebrated a birthday, my love. I thought of you when the sommelier passed by, on to another table, while watching these familiar strangers gorge on flesh, adulterated Yukon Golds.

lentils, parsnips, little plates of octopus, this crepe I turn away for hamburger until the day I bury this life beneath ten thousand

Your kisses taste of wild strawberries.

Body Shots

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Photo by Juskteez Vu on Unsplash

I saw a shooting star over the Ala Wai Canal. It was dusk, or dark, I forget which.

Before I made my wish, before I turned to point out my fallen star, another one splashed into the murky, bacteria-laden water, then another until — with a start — I realized those weren’t stars but people, then mottled meteors made up of people, flotsam, and the detonated debris of 1940s atomic bombs.

Today, those stars are gone. But I still crane my neck to look up at as much of Hawaii’s blue sky as I can, vaguely remembering the gray cast over Fourth & Pike before the world disappeared in the vastness of your five-minute phone call, pretending to be someone I love.

The last ride

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Today I dreamed of that Twilight Zone Funhouse, open 24 hours in this mall they’re forever renovating — floor by floor. I took the elevator between 5 and 3, took a number, listened to the spiel from a friendly operator with the paper hat — the kind carnies wore selling hot dogs and cotton candy. This one’s only 30 minutes. That one’s a bit longer, featuring an old Italian actress, Gina Lollobrigida seems about right.

I went with the 30-minute carnival replica, a thrill ride involving a special snack and one helluva twist, took my small bowl and my ticket.

“Small? Most people vomit up 10 pounds when they find out.”

Ten pounds? Vomit?!

What kind of fucking ride was this?

At this point, the carnie pushed an image into my head in an instant: people shoving handfuls of a new confection. Until they felt pieces of tissue on their tongues, mouths tasting of copper.

Another carnie rushed by, muttering, “There are too many preservatives in this confection!”

I hesitated.

“I’ll take the medium,” I said, finally, before one more carnie walked by, lugging a slice of pizza the length of a basketball player.

“Wait, what’s that?”

The elevator opened for me.

 

Note

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The sound of Bobby playing hoops would become my favorite sound in the whole wide world. Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

The sound of death is the percussive snap of my shoes on branches — the leaves bleeding paper soldiers, the perilous drip of a faucet left to dry, my throat catching as I try to hold onto him.

He mattered to me.

He was a kind of home I will never reach. In the vast echoes of this prism universe, their potluck laughter, the time they waste over barbarian customs, their acts of random kindness… none of it touches me.

I interview his classmates, the students he taught in Sunday School, his youngest brother, Jimmy. Impossible hypotheticals for some signs of life, from before.

My loneliness, oh my god the loneliness sits like an anchor in this terrible sea, keeping me from his sun against my skin.

Under the streetlamp of my youth, at the junction of Juniper and Ironwood, I forced myself to memorize every detail. The moment would become a memorial.

Now, memory and dream fuse until I can no longer tell which came first. Maybe I made him up.

A moth flutters against my bulletproof, double-paned window, and drives out into the night, as if to say goodbye.

I don’t want him. I just want him alive.

 

Apple Cider Donuts

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Photo by Vicky Gu on Unsplash

6:23 a.m.

They were like these, see. But a mound of them left for sale, these, these, brittle, hard, cold fishwives, they reminded me of the day after my son tore his MCL — and the village fled. She thought I would abscond, I always found that word just as harsh but pure, with this useless $5 ticket. I forgot, my simple crime, following the crowd into the lion’s den, my age and my careless mental collateral, falling at the same time.

Three of them angry with me on sight, because they saw my need and assumed I would take without asking, like the little fat-faced, slit I am, this gookchinkjapchingchong street urchin of my shoplifting youth (a green girl’s handbag is all). But I had the money, a pile of ones and fives in Japanese, Australian, and Middle Eastern currency from the man who sought to poach what was left of my life.

His name was David. I think, he loved the idea of me once, Carol superimposed over Harmony, but really a castrated Indian girl. An ass suspiciously wiped clean of hair, gay in the parts he hid.

I could taste those apple cider donuts. Three, at least, maybe four. Fistfuls of fall. Only, I couldn’t find two dollars, just this paper with gookchinkjapchingchong on the front and his thirsty face, showing me his own white picket fence in a desert sea: “Your son would love the wild frontier between Perth and Brisbane.”

We had two daughters, in his dreams.

I am left with nothing. Mother’s whore.

barcelona

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

We didn’t think of Spain until the cooking show. Then, Elton John’s song came back to me, as if in a dream. I thought of you gently placing three sugar cubes in my saucer before a sudden gust of wind took several pages of our book into the epilogue before the acknowledgements and the references.

Who are you, really? A stranger made up of favorite songs, a few childhood memories with father, the cabin in the woods I think I misplaced from an old movie somewhere between my first boyfriend and our last good-bye (when he turned anorexia into a revenge fantasy). Attachments that I will never know.

I stitch my love into a blanket — in my underwear on a friend’s Barcalounger, pretending I am out under the stars with my bad knees and my handful of wishes. You will miss me when I’m gone, caressing the holes in my favorite stitches, wishing you’d said more.

As the people in the neutral-colored suits trot out the tired eulogies (“I can’t say anything bad about him, he was a saint”) in another terror-driven hit parade, I watch lone gunmen eviscerate their carefully constructed fiction by chasing cheap thrills across state lines.

So long.

Portal

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She seemed so much younger. “That’s not— ”

“Yes, you. If you choose.”

The open console and the prismed, surround picture windows barely registered. But then I was always the kind to focus only on the task at hand while the rest of the world danced — at times, my downfall. That battle really could’ve been avoided if I’d only stayed longer…

“She’s too … pretty. I’m uncomfortable with reconciling such externals with what I’ve endured. I mean, I’ve split men open like pigs on a spit.”

The panels split into a living storyboard. The music rose with every page-turning evolution, a combination of jazz and pop, what I would chase in the next life — an ever-elusive lover bent on self-fulfillment over reciprocal annihilation.

“You decide.”

“I don’t deserve this one. I can’t.”

“Because you’ve killed?”

“Savagely.”

They leave me alone.

The last panel opened up with a view of sun, sky, and water — the Holy Trinity — her living testament in this dreamscape. I saw the pretty girl with a suitor, beloved, forever after, and their sweet, precocious son. The sea washed over their bare feet. A dog barked in the distance. I could almost feel the warm waves over the center of my heart.

But I’ve taken more than any soul could bear.

“I’m sorry. I can’t. Give me the worst one.” My final answer.

(Dream, July 21, 2017)

Scarf

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Joseph Barrientos

there are clouds here from before when I drove for miles to see you play

only it was Vancouver, this south side of elongated ultra-modern apartment buildings swaying from the occasional quake after-hours, after the billing and the time stamp, the rudimentary Starbucks run, this young, lithe Asian woman of about 20 with her nondescript friend

an entire world awaits

I drive as if I’m stretched from the back passenger seat, vertigo and your cabin in the last resort on my mind

you always receive me somewhere in the middle of friend and, something more

I remember monkey lights strung from end to end of this great outdoor vantage point underneath a prism of diamond rings, waiting for you to rustle up the courage after soundcheck, and meeting me at the Irish pub style bar for Shirley Temples and wedge fries — the Colcannon is better than most

you love me here, as if I am split into these non-categorizable personalities

I could bask in your refracted spotlight forever

the Chai you recommended at Li-Mui’s warms me across the Bay, when I think of our outdoor jazz festival

I think of us often, as my clumsy fingers find the right colors to stitch in waves to wrap around your neck, your chest…

like my hair woven into the upturn of your face those times we sat watching for star-crossed lovers to appear underneath the Big Dipper

you still breathe me in on a summer morning, the winter light of dawn, alone on a rain-soaked walk in the woods, I know you do

holding my breath underneath the colonoscopy waves, I will forget and I will remember you in cobalt, black, and flashes of light

(the dreams recurred in 2008, 2012, and 2014)

Moments of Now

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Samuel Zeller

Today, a man I thought I knew talked of reuniting with his Savior, and the purgatory between then and now. His well-worn groove sent me into the pits of hell while he pounded feebly at the gates of heaven, his old man without the Mud Bay mutt.

Another man I remember driving Golden Gate bridges for, flooded me with delight — for a moment, we are young, around the corner and back again in our Rainbow colors. Does he remember the night I met him halfway between the outdoor festival, oh the monkey lights!, and the pub maze inside? So much time, so much music.

The times I shunned your shallow make-up, now consume me. Where is my beauty? my childhood? my long-lost one true love? These toothless, Grimm fairy tales my mother threw away?

I watch my body fall apart while the handsome man in the tall black suit quotes Scripture, never once taking his eyes away from the chem trails. My translucent hands are an empty gesture, as he beats himself with his own quiver — diluted in her Delilah silk.

I’m dying why can’t you look at me? Look at me! Please, just one kind word.

“I am not afraid of death, for then I shall be with my Lord and Savior once more.”

Her flood, his blood from stone. I am the fallen woman on the last mile, he is the repentant disciple who scorned her graceless care the many moments of now reaching for the hem of His dangling robe.