poems

 

“Compressed Borders” or “Social Anxiety” or “Evolution in Small Spaces”

1

I thought, 

it’s a wonder 

how quickly those eyes 

can render your borders translucent

under certain light

Your ecosystem of 25 years, 

disorder and triumph, 

dimpled peaks and valleyed base

made opaque

by a scan and then avert–

a calculated refocus 

relocation to a smoother landscape. 

And suddenly, you’re an outline, 

minimized and blurred, 

watching the world in parallel, 

wondering how, 

in all your fullness, 

you made it to this place

of such scarcity of self. 

 

2

I wonder,

who has endowed power like this 

to those eyes?

Discretion to reduce and delete, 

a narrowing of borders, 

a thinning of your regions 

richest with your stories, 

your poems, your trauma, 

your heritage, your language–

 

3

I wonder

how they can 

fly over you 

in the first place. 

 

4

They would marvel

at how easily you reconquer yourself. 

You have built 

the abundance in your round edges, 

withstanding monsoons of those eyes, 

watching their tides 

deface and dismantle, 

and you–

breathing back in your dimensions, 

watch their shock, 

watch them shrivel

in your periphery. 

 

5

You are

a textured map 

of tumultuous, terrifying terrain, 

your overs and unders

speckled with ingrown gems 

worthy of exploration, excavation–

and when those parts of you 

catch the light, 

your brilliance blinds the eyes

of simple men

who can’t bear to stare at you straight. 

Your body in stillness

halts the moon’s rotations, 

and in motion

brings chaos to quiet tides, 

tsunami to streams, 

redirects the waves 

with the sway of your hips, 

back and forth until 

your body creates a whirlwind–

you are a force of nature

and a thing of wonder

and if you find that eyes 

can’t focus on you straight, 

it’s not for lack of intrigue 

but ability, 

in leagues behind and below–

they find themselves sightless, 

praying to be carried

by the chaos you bring. 

 

6

In certain light, 

your iridescence 

plays tricks on the eyes. 

Thunderclouds at dusk 

prank their patrons, 

they grey: just the right shade of evening, 

their rumble: a chuckle

before their heavy-handed pour. 

Cobblestone Mornings

I can breathe in pebbles 

and breathe out powder, 

fine dust ground from inner churning, 

excavating, grating ruminations—

I’ve done it all my life. 

Wake before sunrise with granite under my tongue, 

still under covers, 

I feel its course coat, 

how these years have shaped you

taste its metals, 

how your bitterness works with you, 

appreciate, in my morning meditation, 

how you began fluid, 

you metamorphic thing, 

and let your roundness, firmness

come to be

over years, underground

Still before sunrise, 

a stretch in my diamond bones, 

an inhale raising my chest,

I think how lucky I am to live with this gift—

this shattering diaphragm, a body like earthquakes, 

what I can build, what I can break, 

how I can sing with a mouth full of powder. 

Lines of Communication

Between us, 

words drill their tummies with a needle 

and crochet themselves 

over the threads that connect 

our morning breath. 

 

Shallow words, 

but ours.

Our concave sounds, 

bellybuttons bounce on our sleepy string, 

beads reading

happy morning 

and good Monday 

and I dreamt my leg 

traced your inner thigh in your sleep, 

that I imagined your naked limbs 

were tree branches, barren now 

in winter, bristling splinters, 

but come springtime, 

will bear emerald buds 

and drip drip in sap—

you may make me sneeze 

but if I hold you tight now 

I might somehow fill me with you, 

so my insides don’t fight against

the pine cones that are a part of you. 

 

Our hi, hellos

and blessed day

weigh down the taut twine connecting us, 

careen in the breeze

or ceiling fan, 

straining our thin thread, 

the tightrope 

on which our good mornings teeter

can you hear it whine under our breathing? 

 

If our threads snap, 

and these words we’ve made

downpour to our kitchen tile

like the monsoon our weatherman promised, 

will you still graze my hip with your mouth 

and murmur good night when the evening comes? 

Sound Sleep”

They ask: In what language do you dream? 

In poetry, propped up with proper punctuation;

pointed and poised, periods and pauses 

in their perfect places?

Do you build moon castles 

with well-fashioned brick fabrications, 

cinder blocks stacked between slabs of sleepy cement, 

stone peaks place kisses on a star-grazed night sky, 

do you see in star gazes? 

Do you sway under speckled freckles, 

golden flecks, sun-fire confetti 

in an astronomic, catatonic

sweaty spaghetti monster sex dream 

cinder block celebration, 

with proper punctuation? 

Poet, do you dream while standing, building, 

or do you build on your back

staring at your ceiling 

or up at the stars, 

your mind its own muse? 

What a crazy place you live.  

25

The art of tracking breaths

before a year’s clock strikes:

boxed inhales and exhales, even oxygenation, 

in one—

fresh out of studies, a future grows hips

two—

early twenties, a crisp December sunrise

three—

a kindling candle, a new job in Manhattan 

four—

a nest at a turning corner, retrospect, almost

recycled hiccups, cough,

halt, hold, 

out one—

double years in stagnation

two—

yellow wallpaper edges fraying

three—

an expired welcome, a chilled wick

four—

a life in quarters, changeless. 

 

This art, practiced in a coat closet, 

vintage furs, memories in leather,

study from inherited time, 

embroidered wheezing from an origin world 

where we can handle this tapestry unmasked, 

unafraid 

of two years lost, 

disposed of with our gloves, 

and twenty-five turns

when twenty-three was the last

innovation that was ours. 

 

This art, embalmed, 

with what we remember of our years: 

an early twenty, December sunrise, 

a bedroom-bound Manhattan job, 

a smoking wick, gust from a turning corner, 

tape to fraying wallpaper, 

a new calendar to cover the scratches. 

You Shaded Me, a Month Ago

My favorite tree

dyed itself amber overnight

where it found its overtone, 

from muddy roots or sooty sky, 

I couldn’t know

Its covert shift, so unforeseen,

morphing in the span between 

my early rest to groggy rise, 

its yellow struck me paralyzed, 

its vibrancy sunkissed my eyes

 

like it sponged daylight into its hand—

pressed its thumb into morning 

and let the coming, cooling hours 

coat its fingerprint.

It nicked the tail of summer

with its longest branch

to catch its golden blood 

thick and heavy across its leaves—

summer will heal while it hibernates, 

I will echo its memory, meanwhile

 

its base still brunette, 

its pyrite canopy glistens

against the bulk of it, 

across the overcast of fall. 

I am a ghost

and my favorite tree is a shadow

of a season in passing, 

its curls gripping to the last warm day, 

a call and retreat,

the dye strips its fullness—

its thinning hair, daylight in deplete reserve. 

My Grandmother’s Prayer

In the tunnel of my lifeline 

סבתא שלי חיה, היא נושמת 1 

her humming echoes, 

היא ממלאת את דמי בשיר 2,

she drapes her prayers inside me 

כמו חופה של ברכתה

like fresh linen clipped to a clothing line

מושעה, מתנודדת בנשיפת אלוהים, 4

She swaddles me in her mother’s fabric

המצעים שנתנו פעם לאמא שלי מנוחה 5

Yemenite threads braided by generations

מתרופפים בתוכי, מדגדגים את קו ההצלה שלי, 6

adorn my veins with my ancestral colors, 

ואני חי עם כל מחרוזת בשושלת שלי. 7

 

8 שלח לי שקט טוב מוגן, יונה לוחשת לי

and I echo her poem, (9) השיר שלה, in music, (10) בשתיקה

 

 

1 My grandmother lives, breathes,

2 she fills my blood with song,

3  like a canopy of her blessing

4 suspended, swaying in God’s exhale.

5 The bed sheets that once gave my mother rest

6 fray inside me, tickle my lifeline,

7 and I am alive with every string of my lineage.

8 Give me a good, well-protected silence, Yona whispers for me

9 her song,

10 in silence.

On Houses

I

sit

cross-

legged with

Kahlil Gibran’s 

poems sprawled

open-faced on my 

lap, a prophet gazing

skyward like there’s a 

sermon inscribed on my 

bedroom ceiling, like there’s a

prayer to be read above us both, 

scrolls unroll beside a broken fan,

blessed tiles or holy ghosts, there’s a

message to bathe in, slick like oil, drenched

and light aflame; pray with a prophet 

and his doctrine glazes your lips

with a sacrosanct sweetness

melancholy minor raised up

to a canopy of spiderwebs

and chipping paint, see

the coming of the ship,

sing on love, on laws,

on joy and sorrow,

on marriage, on

freedom, on

children, 

on 

time.

How Long Have I Been Doing This?

How long have I been doing this? 

Counted on my fingertips, 

no second lost, not one dismissed.

They’re stored in some covert abyss

and can’t be missed, 

they can’t resist,

they coexist  

with zip-tied wrists 

and balled-up fists,

these moments on my fingertips–

today is on the waiting list, 

today’s a clear-cut plagiarist–

when yesterday fell short, shortlisted,

today insists it preexisted,

now yesterdays are knotted, twisted, 

zip-tied wristed, balled-up-fisted, 

abyssed, dismissed, blue fingertips, 

about today, they reminisce 

and ask each other, in a hiss, 

how long have I been doing this? 

The Elements

we made of marble our hips chiseled with amber morsels fossil resin translucent embossing our hues and metal fragments curve across our marmoreal build we made of honey cake and brown sugar clumped in an artisan bowl hand-baked claywork the uneven borders the painted face beautiful luscious like amber molasses a grove of marble walls a chest of pastries and syrup and an artist’s craft a baker’s mine we made of mowed grass and morning dew honeysuckle sweet like maple syrup to grazing things our glisten rich like artistry golden glints handpainted we are covered in sweet pollen we are grooved by earth’s metals we curve towards each other towards the sun resting to midday a slab of baltic amber illuminating our make