The green lake

Remember a path into the woods
the one that cut through
Highway 137. The one with all
the horses, and the horse trough,
empty of water. But the horses
greet you. Remember the trees
that extend over the pathway,
reaching for each other from both
the path’s sides. Remember

their branches
are shy at the canopy,
but entwine deep underground
beneath the pathway.
Their roots are one,
sprouting two trees aboveground.
All the way across the path,
all those trees outsplayed
with generous covers
of tiny leaves,
with red, needlelike starburst flowers —
they’re actually one.

Remember the path into the woods.
To one side, a volcano.
An unscalable, vertical wall,
tangled with vine and a curtain
of ivy. Remember the black
angle by which it leaned, ever so
slightly, away from the path.
Remember our trek
deep into the woods,
around the imposing volcano.
Remember the path ends abruptly

into a clearing.
That leads to a road,
that leads back to town.
Remember our burrowing
into the earth,
into any open space,
searching for shade
from opinions’ storm.

Follow the trees
that continue to turn,
reaching across the sky,
giants hiding the volcano’s rim,
and sliding into a lake. Remember

a lake mirror, with palm blades
and lily pads gliding along the edge.
A lake mirror, with duck weed
and autumn fronds floating.
A lake mirror, with a waiting swing,
and a broken platform. No boats
docked at port. Or moored
to shore. The lake, so still,
reflecting the volcano’s far rim,
covered by imposing monkeypod, ohia,
acacia. Remember the jagged skyline,
crowns patternless,
disguising density,
defying despondency —
a distant, proud oppression. Remember

a luscious stillness,
carrying orchid and ginger.
A sweetness imperceptible
carrying coqui and firefly.
A viridescent whisper
from unbound misty depths:
“I lead to the sea.
Come sleep with me.”

Remember as we watched from afar
an awakening goddess
burning the forest. Upturning
the green lake mixed with red earth,
she created a landmark
with scarlet obsidian,
and with malong golden
attacked the sea.
Sky embers glowed for weeks.
The horses bolted.
The paths, obliterated.

Remember me now picking through the paths,
tracking our turns,
scaling the heights.
Remember me holding the child,
showing her the leaves,
picking out a blossom.
Remember the paths,
greeting the horses,
under the eaves,
beyond overstories, pointing
to swings seized by time.
A heist, trapped by a
fractured harbor. There, I’ll be waiting.

Kites

Twenty-three stories up,
the window saw the
sunny weather below,
broke off from its sills,
and untethered,
sprouted wings,
like the luna moth
it imprisoned last summer,
kept alive long enough
to copy green wings,
feathered antennae,
flew into the plains,
flat into forever.

Feet planted on earth,
I stood watching
crystal panes taking flight —
Window, window, riding
the winds, carry forth
every tap on your glass
from pointing out landmarks,
every scratch from a chair
carelessly set aside next to you,
every condensed breath
from every person
who wants out,
or just a closer look
on the streets below.

xxx

Zero hour

Who’s most affable?
Who’s most supportive?
Who’s most harmful?
Who’s most productive?

What choice do I have?
What choice is given me?
What choice is realistic?
What choice is gutsy?

When is a good time?
When is your least power?
When is lunchtime?
When is zero hour?

Where is the road?
Where is the quicksand?
Where is the clearing?
Where is the stand?

Should I try the cell phone?
Should I try the house phone?
Should I try the iPad?
Should I try again the cell phone?

Why drop the project?
Why crush the ambition?
Why abandon hope?
Why shred the intention?

Which staircase is highest?
Which staircase is safest?
Which staircase is gaudiest?
Which staircase is steepest?

How does peanut butter melt?
How are earthquakes mostly felt?
How are secrets kept up the sleeve?
How will the winter ever leave?

rigor samsa

rigor samsa: n. a kind of psychological exoskeleton that can protect you from pain and contain your anxieties, but always ends up cracking under pressure or hollowed out by time—and will keep growing back again and again, until you develop a more sophisticated emotional structure, held up by a strong and flexible spine, built less like a fortress than a cluster of treehouses.

diagnosis: rubatosis,
critical stage.
terminal in ten years.
i would get my affairs
in order, starting with
clearing a path
to your heartbeat.
what can you make out
of years of ignoring it.
start a recording: take
a container, or gather
some pages and start
listing. fill the container
with things you’d like
to keep. box them up
to give away. pass on
the list to your heirs. any
travel, now is the time.

soon, you’ll reach kenopsia:
empty places you’ve never
been before suddenly
fill with memories: the
bottoms of stairwells
with floating balloons.
silent swimming pools
shimmer with chlorine
splashes. lengthy road trips
will trigger kuebiko, so
just take it easy.

i can write you a prescription
to help slow progression,
but a side effect is gnossienne.
ask a family member
to speak about the
balloons and swimming pools.
ask if the balloons were
gold and white, kept in a braid,
or rainbow, bent in an arch.

the end stages
are a bit rewarding,
but arduous to endure:
rigor samsa. we don’t know
what that will look like yet,
but all the signs point
to your exoskeleton
growing gnarly, twisted,
knotted permanently,
but so strong
that no comment
can sway you. in fact,
it’s useful in the end.
it lights up the body’s
aqueous humorous ability,
which then
leads to balance.

there’s no cure,
and progression
is imminent.
how are you.
i’ll give you a moment.

We’re off to see the store manager

Original Parody
Oooooh
We’re off to see the wizard
The wonderful wizard of Oz
We hear he is a whiz of a Wiz
If ever a Wiz there was.

If ever, oh ever, a Wiz there was
The wizard of Oz is one because
Because, because, because, because, because
Because of the wonderful things he does.

We’re off to see the wizard
The wonderful wizard of Oz!

Oooooh
We’re off to see the manager,
the wonderful store manager,
We hear she’s a wonder of a manager
If ever a wonder of a manager there was.

If ever, oh ever, a refund there was,
the shift manager is one because,
because, because, the clerk was rude, because
because of the wonderful store managing she does.

We’re off to see the store manager,
the wonderful store manager!

On the occasion

On the eve of your 27th year,
you visit to remind me
the rose I normally place
at your picture had fallen
to the floor, between
the bookcases, behind
the couch, near the extension
chords. One the eve

of your 27th year, you sent
high winds to nudge
the west windows and remind
me of how the frames used to
bang with every flow,
loud enough to awake me
wondering if the tree
grew high enough to tap
the glass. On the eve

of your 27th year, I’m
reminded of the day
after your surgery, resting,
you were angry but
helpless to stop them
giving you prayers
and the Host. You were
unable to refuse the last rites,
or as traditionalists called it,
extreme unction. They came,

asking if I should allow you
to be prayed for,
and I was 18
and watching you
all by myself,
because the others
picked up my others
from school
for a visit with you. So I said,

sure, I guess. So they started,
and we both thought it was just
praying, but then they tried to
offer you the Host, and then
the most unusual sound
came from your lips instead —
a wordless growl,
a clear refusal,
but they can’t now
take back the consecrated Host,
they had made It touch your lips.
You growled
three more times, and I wasn’t
sure how to help. I am trying

so hard right now to remember
what happened next. Could you
have swallowed the Host out of
frustration, just to make them
go away, because I sure can’t
picture you spitting it out. The

only time I saw you spit anything
back out was your coffee,
still too hot, and black, when in
fact I know you like your coffee
creamed and sugared. Too scared
to laugh, but too curious to flee,
I just sat there, and
you smiled, and
prepped it properly,
dunked into it
a sweet breakfast roll
for us to share.
Now that’s a good day.

Today,
I’m just trying to remember
in what would have been
your 79th year.
Another very good day.
Today is so very different
from how Lola said
your first day on earth went.

She said you were born
under a banana tree
while running from war.
I’m just trying to remember.
She said food was scarce,
but she was expectant, and
she couldn’t expect invaders
to make allowances
for her. Imagine

navigating banana fronds
and newborn cries.
Imagine the physical toll
of hiding and running again
immediately after labor and birth.

Imagine the terror
of newborns turned target practice,
when they said they tossed
fledglings into the air,
then speared them
with bayonets.
With your granddaughter,
I would surface
my extraordinary apoplectic,
send them all
to bayonet nirvana. You

and grandmother’s tenacity.
I face my days spunky.
My days are plucky and filled
with your good days.
Happy birthday.

Empátheianggolin

Pangolins have clever defence mechanisms. When threatened they curl up into a tight ball – the name pangolin is derived from the Malay word pengguling, meaning “one who rolls up” – the hard scales covering their bodies overlap to create an “armour”. Like skunks, pangolins can spray a noxious fluid from glands near their anuses to keep predators at bay.

Empathies
have clever defence mechanisms.

When imperiled,
Empathies
curl up into a tight ball –

Empathies
derived from the Gremalaeyk word 

 empátheianggolin,

meaning
“one who rolls up
to suffer within” –

the hard scales
covering their bodies
overlap to create an armor.

Careful with empathies —
they can spray a noxious fluid

from glands
near their bottoms
to keep predators at bay.

Abandoned green house

how you stand—like a building for a time condemned,
then deemed historic. Yes. You
will be saved.

— “Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm” by Carl Phillips

Once in Michigan stood a house in a cornfield.
Wandered to it, found it filled with hay from the field.

Found a horseshoe at the doorstep, leftover
from a stable forgotten in the former battlefield.

Inside, beams like matchsticks quaked with memory.
They greeted me. I studied its panels in the backfield.

The walls naturally red, painted a ghastly green.
Wondered what benefit concealing a structure so far afield.

From my right shoulder, a tap — “The bus is leaving!”
Picked up a souvenir — the horseshoe from the hayfield.

Super spectacular mixed-tape

I.

Super spectacular mixed tape caught off the radio songs.
I figured out my dad’s Marantz stereo. Bought a pack of
magnetic strip cassette tapes. Waited diligently for my

favorite hits. Learned the station’s track rotation schedule.
Memorized lyrics, instrumentals, bridges, refrains, choice words.
Tuned out product ads, election jingles, DJ styles, news casts,

perfected radio-silence-HIT RECORD-target-practice,
got lost in committing countdowns, hits, ballads, anthems, top tens
onto sides A and B. Journaled dozens of grooves onto tape,

flitting archives of youth passing weekend afternoons, pop tunes
marked Sunday drives, each ranked showtune unfurled ribbons of light,
color in my room. Once filled, never to hear the tapes again,

except once, to check recording quality. If I catch a
perky DJ syllable, I cringe, then shrug — I have homework,
piano, baking, biking, and I listen to last weekend’s mixed

tape, loud with my classwork, make talent shows in the kitchen,
empanadas amused, then dinner. Then bedtime, No More
Radio, dad says. I unplug my mind’s mixed tape, tune in to

traffic, talk, teacups put away, the streetlight, my sister’s
mahogany tree. The neighborhood cloaked for the night, someone’s
hurried boots trampling sidewalk, a late motorcycle, silence.

II.

Anthems of my life, flew 25 hours west. Failed test on mom’s
car radio. Oh, the tapes survived the migration flight,
but not… the migration flight. Those same songs became fireworks

in the bright sunlight, invisible, ineffective. Pebbles
they fell, on concrete sidewalks carpeted with spring leaf buds,
and my mixed tape of songs crooned to an empty new beginning.

I realized, homeland pop tunes float here, but can’t root — the ground
is slick with ice, or muffled by snow. I will hear, but my ear’s
no longer on the ground, it had burrowed deep in my mind,

in search of mahogany sidewalks, my boots crunching snowfall,
my piano, tuneless; my biking, gone. No more mixed tape, nothing
to replace if worn out. Somehow, my heartstrings stayed plugged in.

III.

Technology and study, praise be. Most of my learning
distracted, but supported — my music needs to be challenged:
Where is home. When is home. Anybody home. I repeat

the countdowns of my childhood on concrete carpets, pleased they still
belt them out, in outdoor stadiums under laser lights.
And I can trample waist-high snowdrifts to sparkly ribbons

even in bright sunlight, use the beats to challenge the snow,
make empanadas, deliver by bike, teach some piano,
conquer the silence, make my sister’s mahogany tree grow.

The sun finds a hole

The sun finds a hole.
The hole is in the sky.
The sky is over the lake.
The lake begins to fall.
The fall arrives sooner.
The sooner comes the chill.
The chill turns to winter.
The winter then lingers.
The lingering freezes the ground.
The ground makes ice.
The ice kills thrips.
Dead thrips turn to soil.
The soil grows ash trees.
The trees suddenly die.
The snags are chopped up.
The forest thins.
The people can’t hike.
The people buy more plastic.
The plastic comes from elsewhere.
Elsewhere is a bug.
That eats up the trees.
That turn into snags.
That the sun then burns.
That widens the hole.
The hole in the sky.