what a pretty word.

it sings of sapphire wings
dried between the pages
of a fairy tale,

like two pieces of tin foil
enclaving a love note,
like two tiny hands
clasping a firefly

so tightly
their owner feared
her fingers would break.

i hope one day to
make something,
be it a poem, a love,
a dance, a blanket,
a hug, or a baby

worthy of the beauty
in “filament.”

Look, she said.

October 27, 2009

Look, she said, pointing. The tree is blistering.
And it was, its knots and boughs and barks
Melting like stretched silly putty over a candle
After dinner, held there by a four-year-old’s
Sticking fingers.

Pop-pop! the noise it was making. She said
See the night behind it. It is glistering.
And it was, the stars exploding yellow-orange
Into blackened-blue, swirling primary paints
Mixed by six-year-old fingers from red-blue-yellow
To buckish brown.

It sinks in peerless green she said,
It was and adding sparks of light to grass,
Shrunken down, the tree diminished into
Sea, with only echoes of a murmur murmuring,
A seaside tolling, ringing.

I hate not knowing if someone’s awkward. If you know someone’s awkward, or if you know they’re not, that’s one thing. Because then if you have an uncomfortable exchange of “hello”‘s or a strange sort of passing by and trying to decide whether to make eye contact and/or smile moment, you know exactly what it means. If they’re awkward—it means nothing: that’s probably how all future interaction with that person will be, unless you end up breaking their shell of awkward and connecting with the kind soul underneath. Which is great! So that’s fine. If they’re not awkward—it means that either you yourself are awkward (which is acceptable or not, depending on how that makes you feel), or this non-awkward person just doesn’t like you all that much. Or both. Perhaps they don’t like you because you are awkward, which they cannot understand because they are not, as we have established, awkward. This also is acceptable or not, depending on who you are. But it is nevertheless understandable. Likable or not, you know what the exchange means. But if you have no idea if this person is awkward or not, and then you have an extremely awkward exchange: there are so many variables! How will you possibly know how to react to that? How to internalize the happening, how to learn from it in the future? You have no idea how to digest what just happened! I suppose you could ask the person with which you exchanged such discomfort. This further inquiry could establish the level of awkwardness in the other person. But it may be at the expense of confirmation of your own awkwardness (which you may or may not be able to handle). In addition, in dissecting the awkward exchange, you may not be prepared for what you discover. If you discover that they are awkward, well then the exchange itself will be, indeed, painfully awkward. If you discover that they are not, well then you will feel painfully stupid for taking up this confident, non-awkward person’s time. Who would never wonder about such a convoluted topic as this anyway.

There is a woman

September 11, 2009

in Starbucks that could be me if I was maybe forty-five years older than myself.

She wears navy blue Birkenstocks (reinforced with age supports), white cropped pants with blue daisies, a navy shirt whose collar is tied into a slightly imperfect bow, and a lacy white sort of sweater clearly worn for style over function. The whole blue-and-white ensemble, it should be noted, could be said to be color-coordinating, but to call it matching would be a stretch. She has an off-white tote bag tossed on the chair next to her; it looks like it has a purple sunflower on it.

It clashes horrible with her outfit.

She has on her table a Starbucks coffee cup, seemingly empty, and a bag that presumably at one point had a Starbucks baked good in it. Both lie untouched, and seem to remain on the table only for the purpose of reminding the Starbucks employees that she has proof of her right to sit there.

She is still there because she is reading. And she means business. Her glasses (on one of those beaded chains, rainbow-colored) are on, her pocket electronic dictionary is ready. Her bookmark helps her follow the line she is reading. Her hair is no-nonsense–to not permit loose wisps cloud her vision–but cute, like an aged pixie. Her glasses magnify her eyes, bright and darting with electric curiosity. She wears large earrings, big and probably expensive white thick loops with gold edging. But she probably wears them every day of her life–she doesn’t look like she takes large spending lightly. She’s thin with a pudgy tummy. I think she might have felt me watching her because she gets up, disposes of her trash, places her tools in her tote and leaves.

Which, I know, is exactly what I would have done had I sensed me watching me.

Sometime in August

September 11, 2009

I eat Indian food in Whole Foods at Columbus Circle; samosa and curry and nan and fancy rices and sauces. With my knife and fork and out of a cardboard container, I consume the first true meal I have elected to eat since being home (in New York. Is New York my home now?) A young man sits down at the crowded bar across from me, to my right. He sets down a bowl of similar food. Bowl, not container. He sits for a moment in silence.

I realize he must be praying.

Then he eats with his hands. Gracefully, delicately. His motions indicate that this is the dignity with which his body deserves to be fed. I too deserve this dignity. I do.

I do not know his ethnicity. Something like Middle Eastern, not quite Indian–maybe with some Caucasian mixed in. I feel comfortable calling him attractive. Wherever he’s from, I can tell–this food, to him, feels like home. He may be completely by himself right now, solitary in the loneliest city in the world, in a crowded grocery store with two dozen checkout counters and a million other foods yelling at him to eat them, but here, now, over his bowl that is being breathed upon by tourists (American and Asian and European alike)… he is at home.

in the molten gold of tropical sun
stitches like quilted metal cast
shadows of contrast on my
arms and legs.

things are real here,
more touchable
than in my world of abstraction,
buying eggs before they hatch open,
eating plants whose roots are still unwrought
and sinking into uncarved canopy beds.
the trees are lead;
and me
just a puff of air.

It drizzles into morning,
And little bursts of light
Trickle into my lenses
As coffee drips through
My tongue and throat.

Hot going down is best,
Heat means speed.
Speed of brightness to mind,
Of jingle to step,
Of soft flutterings of heart
Reminding me yes, I’m alive.

So sweet to be awake;
Is this addiction so bad?

Dear Lila,

August 19, 2009

Dear Lila,

I wrote you nine days ago now.
It astounds and deeply hurts me that you haven’t replied.

Unrequitedly Yours,

P.S. The licorice plant will wilt if you don’t water it twice a day.


Dear Lila,

Please return the wedding band.
My wife exists regardless of its location.

This Must End,


Dear Lila,

Thank you for the heartfelt ring. Are you suggesting…?
But if so, why will you still not speak to me?!

Please, Dear,

Mirrors and Faces.

August 19, 2009

Have you ever looked at your image in the mirror or in a photo and thought, “Is that really me? That’s what I look like?” I’m not talking about self-image issues or thinking whether one looks good or bad— just a sudden realization that, whenever you talk to somebody, that is the image that they are looking at. Sort of strange, if you think about it, because it also thrusts the realization upon you that every conversation you have is experienced entirely differently by the person with whom you’re having that conversation. You could even say their experience is the opposite, the antithesis of your experience. Weird, when the same exact words are said and heard, the same exact events and actions are occurring within said conversation.

Whenever I am near a mirror while I am talking to someone else, I catch myself utterly transfixed by my own appearance, not for vain reasons (well at least, not mainly), but for the simple fascination of “That’s what I look like?” “My face looks like that when I make that face??” It’s one thing to make a facial expression where the sensation of the contortion of your facial muscles feels like it accurately represents the turmoil, joy, anger or melancholy as you relate an anecdote to someone; it’s quite another thing to see it. I seem to find that the visual representation almost never matches what I imagine my face would look like while making any given face. It’s like when you only see a person in three photos or so, thinking you know what they look like… and then meeting them in person for the first time. It’s amazing how often the stagnant photos do so poor a job of showing you how that person will actually look, with all their accompanying mannerisms, postures, and subtleties.


August 18, 2009

The couple on the bench was so old that movement was a struggle. So they did not move. They had been together so long that each of their faces had melted into two identical versions of the same, empty page. Each page pointed straight ahead, side by side, still. Lucky, then, that they knew the depths of each others’ eyes so well by this point that they had no need to look at each other anymore. Luckier still that so many words had already passed between them that they had no more need to exchange them; their lips like clay seemed quite incapable of forming them. Her starched and pressed blouse and his pants of a similar fashion formed part of the clay statue they created, and not a singled op of sweat beaded their brow. It was a hot and humid day, and indeed the only thing stranger than their apparently placated emotional state was their presence on the bench at all. One really had to wonder how they had gotten themselves there.