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.



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?”


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)


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

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.

Last Day

I’ve been trying to say goodbye since this whole thing started.

My collection of rocks. Snippets of borrowed conversations in really bad, obfuscating poetry. Instagram pictures of banquets and nights on my walk. Gen’s birthday cake I made from scratch.

My dreams and my reality are fusing into one protracted memory. Which one, is the bigger question that I know now will never be answered.

I will never grow up to be a big deal, or beloved. I will never be an important person who changes lives. I will never see Spain, or your children.

I will never know love. Real love, as you wrestle in your sheets, drowning in loneliness.

Borrowed snippets on the way to someone else’s gig.

“You sound like you’re dying.”

I’m afraid to go to sleep. Every night, I stay up even though I’m dog-tired, waiting until the light, until it’s safe. Maybe it’s my way of dealing with the inevitability of tomorrow, where time flies and nothing stands still.

Later and later, over stupid shit: cleaning the bathroom, fixing a blog entry that no one will read, one more row of stitches on a scarf no one will want, one more You Tube video about chem trails, ultra-frequencies, and CERN, anything and everything to distract me from the cancer to come.

I’m Hurting You


“You and I are dangerous, we want too much and life ain’t that way… no more illusion of the love we made… ” —Gloria Estefan, “Cuts Both Ways”

prayer, like a calling

I have called out to you in the middle of the night in the middle of a(nother) deadline in the middle of a Gloria Estefan YouTube run. Your hands never shake when they are nestled in mine, in my stupid schoolgirl dreams, my pancake king, steel-cut hero, dancer to an endless ’70s track list she cooked up in between her secret romantic conquests disguised as business deals, and those heart-shaped sugar cookies the size of her face.

Dance boy dance.

When I lie, I shake too, the 5.8 of a rare Montana earthquake. There’s no time to wait for you in that phantom gym before your gig and our children’s graduations. My demons are death and pain, forgetfulness and the lonely walks outside my borrowed home in the woods. You are alone, but I am on pins and needles, terrified of his inevitable fall, where I am left with nothing but his amps and his guns.

Then, would you want me?

You still have time. But I gave up a long time ago.


Wichita Lineman

Three steps behind her, weighed down with kids you never wanted, were afraid of wanting, I watched you flaunt your perfect godly marriage for years before the Fall.

I watched her grind you down into a fine powder drug dealers could smoke, her impossible angelic beauty blinding, devouring, daring me to tell. But you didn’t believe the freak show with the messed-up face, because I followed too, head bowed, hands behind my back and rotting from the inside out.

We were doomed before we hit grade school, chasing ghosts, burning for second chances, burning every bridge for the wrong ones, the strongest ones in the room filling up our empty, dirty, souls. How they sucked the life out of us, how much it felt like love.

But in my dreams, you come to me, begging, looking away, reaching out in a sudden gesture to hold my hand in the front seat of your borrowed SUV — to press my translucent flesh to your lips. Glen Campbell sings “Wichita Lineman” on the radio. It is always time to go.

There is no room for mercy, or regret. And yet, I wish I wanted more, I wish I could save you from the debris she left behind.