poet-tongue

Cambodia swallowed him like a pill
washed with water saturated in salt.
he mixed with sticky Khmer noodles,
Amok and curried vegetables hot as equator sun –
some days it is hard to keep him down.

a jungle-country, he teaches children english
(his poet tongue surely curling like smoke)
dropping seed like fruit trees until survival
seeps from his pregnant woman’s breasts.

knees bent beneath palm wine, claims
alcohol beneath his skin makes the heat bearable.
will the child have veins already split
from sun or pills, can breast milk feed
a family of three?

 

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Not yet —

Her voice cuts late summer wind over the ankle-tall waves.
The air smells like lake-water.
A familiar rottenness and small things
not yet dead.

This is a show for people in love: heat fattened geese
skim their bellies, the woman plays with a loose wrist,
gray skinned couples dance hip-to-hip.

I read my Sylvia Plath novel until it is too dark to read.
Keep my collarbones bare for the stained sky,
picturing the singer tracing them with a broken string.

She shrieks a familiar line
missing sentiment and note.

I imagine Otis Redding rising
water-logged skin splitting like fresh fig,
cracking the surface of lake Monona.

 

 

 

Afternoon in the Mountains

Yesterday I took the afternoon and went up to the mountains with one of my best friends that I have been close with for a long time. We don’t get to see each other often, so having a whole day together was really wonderful.

We drove up into the mountains in search of a river that was fairly accessible, and didn’t require too much work to find a good area to climb on river rocks and wade around a bit. After some initial exploration to find somewhere without any people around, we found a lovely little spot to spend the afternoon.

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This was one of the highlights of the afternoon – we found a hellbender salamander! These are the biggest Salamanders that live down here – over a foot long! This guy just crawled up right next to us while we were hanging out on a rock. I picked him up and he was the squirmiest, gooshiest thing I have ever felt. That is the face of pure joy.

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I swear mandolins sound better in the mountains.

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Ways to See

there are ways to see him that do not involve his hands.
the soft bones in his wrists, the invitation of his veins.
The sharp points of his grin, the way continual
expansion feels inevitable, but the vaults in his cheeks
pick up the slack.
The cusps of the toes he rises to, catching
the note he’s aiming for between his teeth,
falling back on the haunches of the breeze.
There are ways to hear him without imagining him naked,
but not many.
The tension of skin over bone or a flesh painted skeleton
with dried heaps of acrylics in eye sockets.
The space that connects his thighs and pelvis
where I imagine my nose would fit well.
I am again imagining him naked.
There are ways to feel his body without the use of my hands.
when i kick him beneath the conference room table
i can feel his bareness.
when i lick his condensed sweat off the walls
of the hallway, i am reminded of
unsweetened coffee and melting plastic.

Roots

i am sitting in the driver’s seat of the car when she tells me she can no longer understand the language she was born into.

her eyes still bear the weight of their heavy lids, cheekbones still too found and high for her palm-flattened nose, but neither bring the Kanji into focus.

I ask how long it took to learn English, how long it took her to spoon out every piece of her heritage, sucking out the marrow one forgotten character at a time, how long it took her to start signing things Kay instead of Kiyoko.

20 years ago I stole her name – bloody and silent in sickness, I was given the name Kiyoko. An homage to a woman who had left the name to fill her footprints to America like rainwater. An homage to a woman who’s drivers license and birthday cards were both written in English. An homage to a woman who cloaked her name in a veil of assimilation, living quietly beneath her skin.

2 years ago she took back her name- spooning it into the throats of those who still called her Kay. That is when I know that even if she cannot remember the meaning of the kanji she squints over, America has not swallowed her. That even the most thorough baptism cannot scrub a woman clean of the waves of cane, snakes the size of a man’s thigh, the peak of her island with the ocean visible in every direction.

Museum

you were taught to love with your arms
by your sides.
very few acts of affection can be performed
without the hands.
Think of love-making: two bodies,
snakelike.
Nothing good can be made like this
But that does not stop the body from making.

If there is a chid, you will first see the ways
in which it is lacking through the holes in yourself.
If will grow into the failures you have provided,
as children grow into all hand-me-downs.
The gaps in it will form this way. The same
as cloth tears when pulled too tight.

If there is no child, you will try again.
Love-making:
Arms by your sides, hands clasped
behind your back, as if inspecting something behind glass.

Home Again

After a month of traveling, I am back in Knoxville, Tennessee. I got home the day before yesterday – I meant to write sooner, but it has been challenging to think of what to say, and I still don’t really have anything concrete yet. That, and the last couple days have been kind of busy. Yesterday was my birthday (I’m not a teenager anymore!) which was celebrated with an afternoon in the pool, dinner downtown, finished off with carrot cake. It was a nice way to ring in the next year of life.

Getting home after a month of traveling has really allowed me to appreciate all of the things that are available to me most of the time: daily showers, good refrigeration, hugs whenever I need them. It was a long time to be mostly alone. It was a long time to be out of any sort of routine. It was a lot of granola bars, a lot of meeting new people, and a lot of days spent with a sore back from nights in the car. There were a significant number of downsides related to living like that, but I think overall it was positive. I feel different. More self confident. More aware. Readier for whatever is next.

Which, immediately, means heading out with my brother tomorrow morning to Rothbury, Michigan for Electric Forest. I’ll hopefully have a more comprehensive write-up about my trip at some point. But for now, it’s on to the next adventure!