A sneeze is inherently comical;
Nature’s practical joke.

Grandpa Matthias, my tri-sneeze ancestor.

I, like my
Grandfather before me
always sneeze in threes.

Loud, full-bodied things.
Sometimes my feet leave the ground.

Once, while in service to a beloved nun,
I sneezed only twice, held up my index finger and said
Let’s see if I’ve got anything for the Holy Spirit!
Her laugh fills my memories still.

A dear atheist friend would have nothing to do
With superstition or tradition only for tradition sake.
I’d issue the bless you response following the call of her sneeze—
A historic prayer for skipped heartbeats and the near-death sneeze experience—
She would not abide with a customary thank you, and met such nonsense with silence.
We renegotiated a more fitting ceremony.
She sneezes.
I reply, don’t die.
Everyone has a happy time of it.

Comfort Food

A day can go sideways.
Been on the task for a while,
And nothing is moving right,
The parts aren’t coming together right
And maybe today is just a day
In a long succession of days.

Though it doesn’t make everything better,
A sandwich
turkey, provolone, and guacamole
that she made—
despite not caring much for sandwiches—
eaten, wearing the day’s dust,
with only clean hands

the world gets bumped
a little more plumb.

Leaf and Limb

And so it is said that
the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Some trees are fickle,
no good in a pot,
or on the back of a truck ready for transplant.
Why on earth anyone would think
that liberty might be factory farmable

rather than a breeze-borne seed
in search of a receptive patch
to grow in or die in,

is beyond
of art
or horticulture.

Put up a wall
and watch a seedpod show you
exactly how small your plan,
and your dragging feet
and coal-raking cruelty
did nothing
but till the soil bare and open

With the sanguine stain
of ripe fruit on fingertips, as if painted:
Still Life of Black Man/Black Woman With Bullet Holes
The berry seed lands in your open dirt.

A citizen is the heartwood of patriotism.
Not the warriors.
Nor the foreman.

Black and brown citizens been refreshing the tree for some time now.

The tree still has a thirst.



*Author’s note: I recognize the hollowness of Thomas Jefferson’s words as a slave owners carrying on about liberty. I hope that applying those words in service to addressing systemic racism and oppression adds credence to the words, not the speaker.

** Author’s other note: Because of the times that we live in, it seems necessary to say that I do not advocate for or condone violence. I believe in nonviolence. This is a work of poetry and the intent is poetic. The call for blood is a call for the tyrants and oppressors of our times to be held accountable to those whom harm has come through them. It must also be said, that history makes a case that those who are refused justice will eventually demand it with ever increasing force until they have it. The earlier justice is paid, the lighter the accrued interest.

***It is the taste of one which demands the taste of the other. Feed your trees with things less bitter.

****May the suffering in the world be lessened.

Liberation: the Effects of Parallax

All the horrors that one pulling breath may know in this life.
Such cataclysm. Such destruction. Such callous disregard.
A fair future is fairly uncertain.

As blind arcade of pillars
                                  of stratified civilization
                 collapse of their own weight
a brilliant-burning,
best-of-life glory unfolds in the days we see.

The arc of woman
is waxing
towards a fullness
like this planet has never seen.

Pull a breath.
Watch the horrors roll out with low tide.
Touch the scars in the wet sand.


To The Other Side of Suffering

History’s heroines and heroes
all took their turn at suffering.

The bitter, dangerous magic.
Too little, death obscura.
Too much… so many ways for too much to kill a person.

But for those who persevere the gauntlets,
The other side knows.
A person who knows can do a great many things.

I Love You In Markers

There are a number of objects that have traveled with me most of my life. I still have Tim & Tam, my two stuffed bunnies; my yellow baby blanket that I used to nicker on—a made up word for rubbing the silky edge against the nape above my lips—and the rainbow afghan that my maternal grandmother—my mimi—made for me. She’d made one for each of her eleven children, and one for each of the many grandchildren she had. There are a few others, as well, from times more near, and of other eras of my life between then and now. The meditation bell given to me by Sister Renee Richie, who had the same exact religious name as her brother, who was also a religious brother in another order. The kayak paddle that I commissioned, made of black walnut, made only with hand tools, by an anthropology teacher who considers his alter ego to be Captain Jack Sparrow. A petoskey stone that Dave gave me from one of his adventures, same as he has relics of my adventures. A leather hacky sack, given to me by a friend. It was her father’s. She gave it to me after his funeral.

Upon a wall in every home I’ve ever had, has been a picture. The frame—the newest element—was a gift from a lover who knew how to preserve what is important to me better than I did. I hadn’t notice the picture disappear, but when it reemerged one Christmas morning, the familiar image was majestically encased in a dark hardwood frame, nice glass, and brown paper on the back. It’s one of the most loving gifts I’ve ever received.

Behind the glass, is an eighteen by twenty-six, hand-colored-with-markers, Doodle Art poster, like an enormous page out of an elaborately detailed coloring book. The image framed by a web of jungle bamboo, are tropical trees and mandalas of flora with lions, snakes, monkeys, chimps, gazelles,ostriches, butterflies, toucans, and tigers.

My father must have burned through a ton of packs of markers working on it. After the divorce. I don’t know which state he lived in then. Maybe it was Florida. Perhaps California. But at some desk or at some table in a kitchen I’ve never been in, he put in a hell of a lot of time to send a labor of love to me, his son, who grew up out of his view.

Sub-Tidal Reveals

There’s a complementary truth laden in every question.
An oyster remains closed
until the knife
brandished with patience
exploits the weak point
and traces the zipper
revealing the flesh
and ocean brine.

Swallow me.

Raw and whole.

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