The Namesake

23 August 2013 § Leave a comment

My mother named me Samantha because her doctor said I was due on the Feast of Saint Samuel the Prophet. As a result I’ve always felt hungry, and just a little bit late. Assurances were sent: first, know that this new creature was not initially on the roster; second, we will not call her anything ethnic, anything the neighbours can’t pronounce. She will be named after the one who straddled two eras–the prophet, you understand, not the one from Bewitched who engages in witchcraft and shirks domestic labour.

Onomastics is just what it claims to be, I guess. As a child I used to wrinkle my nose a lot, despite being inappropriately fond of Venn Diagrams. These days, I’m not as certain to be overlapped. I still feel like I’m arriving just a little bit late.

שְׁמוּאֵל (Shemu’el) means “the name of G-d” or “G-d has heard”. Samantha can mean “the listener”. You know, I once read a story called The Nine Billion Names of G-d, but tell me: does He even hear the sublime networking possibilities of living on the cusp, equidistant from every boundary? Can He straddle at least two worlds (or three) with Lucifer heckling him from a nearby pie chart?

Born Francisco, my father moved to Britain and changed his name to Earl. It took me fifteen years to discover that. My mother said she told me long ago, but I wasn’t listening. What more can I tell you? I am highly sympathetic to the stories held by inanimate objects and I am trying to be better at listening. For some, I’ll always be a little too late. I remember that for my Confirmation, I tried on the name Ursula, the patron saint of orphans (and bears, I thought), but my father forbade me to wear it. I changed it to Amelia, the patron saint of bruises. Now I get wounded a lot, what with all the listening.

A Crush in the Cruelest Month

28 April 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s not easy coming back from the dead
each year to lilac’s febrile pull, a wild
push of styptic plum & dogwood’s blood-plashed
petals—a press to mull: blemish, passion;
the language shoves, our shoulders put to: door,
cellar door, cellar door—can you hear it?
The most beautiful sounds mysterious
fidelity to our ears, we linger:
in linguals, to dentals, what gutturals
tunnel this radix of time & place: that radish
or wool, turniped but heaving the blue, roots
singing their long, twisted song the way it goes

Ode to 89

21 April 2013 § Leave a comment

five years old, i was pooping
on the grown-up toilet
when i saw a raft spider creeping
across the white tiles.
it was orange, the size of a comb.

it didn’t warrant a scream. i asked it,
“Hello?” and to this day
i’ve never told anyone
what it said, because
it was so simple. she was running
from something. slowly, though.

i almost called out for my father
fairly certain he would have
killed it, if it needed killing.
but my feet were not even
on the tiles. they were up
in the air. i was small, not

small as a comb, but maybe
as a giant’s toothpick. i had lost
four teeth already. i was moving
to another world called Jamaica.
i could almost reach
the coconuts on the tree.

she was orange, and lovely,
in a bright, scary way, with more
eyes than she knew what to do with.
i said again “Hello?” and it said
something like “Don’t touch me.
I’m poison.” it blew me a kiss, like all
beautiful things. so i let it go
behind the radiator, and i finished

by the time i grew up
i had killed my share of things.
mostly fat flies, a good batch
of mosquitoes, and once i watched
my girlfriend catch a mouse

to throw him away in a dumpster
in a closed bag. for that, i’m still afraid
of the dark. when a stranger says
“Hello?” and motions for me to roll
down my window i don’t,
and then i do, because i am still five,
but also fifteen, and twenty-eight,

which means by now i know
i have a poison in me somewhere, so
i roll down my window, and the stranger
asks for directions. i can smell
the alcohol on his breath, it is 9 AM
and i’m not lost, i’m in my car,
i’m here on planet earth.

the stranger wants to know
what i think, is memorising what i say
though my words are thin,
and last night i cried without end
about the same old things.

i do not want to see poison
in every woman, hair
wrought from wool, or silk, mouth plump
with sleep, forehead smooth
as a desert. even though her hands
could make a small life hurt.

i have monologued to several
sleeping women. i have woken up
late and run out the door to a place
i did not want to be. i’ve thrown up
on a big boat whose sole purpose
was to turn men into boys. i’ve poured
coffee into cups, one after the other,

for people whose names i did not
carry. i’ve been psychic about
the wrong things. i can reach
the coconuts. a weight sleeps across my chest
like a cat, but made of winter’s
hardest months. this may warrant a scream

for my father. i am rarely at peace,
my voice curdles in my throat, too sweet,
when i pass strangers.

now that i am bigger, i am small as a comb.
i fit in the pocket of a green afternoon.

a god i am uncertain of keeps running me
through her hair.

Cradle Symmetry

1 April 2013 § 2 Comments

Today I remembered that when I was born a baby, I was born alone.
I mimicked Frank O’Hara and in the most pressing emergency
decided to get out of there. I, too,
“chose a piece of shawl and my dirtiest suntans”.
I looked up at sister, father, and nurse
As unwombed oxygen brushed my coal-coloured hair.
Doctor, mother, and a sweet epidural buzz
Clung to my cartilage like smoke.
I had no one to talk to, really, except a thumb.
Past my twelfth hour, I turned to my fellow babies in a row,
But they were so angry about everything. Like I would be, later.
I asked one, whose heart beat through her head,
What time she’d arrived, did she agree it was too warm in here,
Was she excited to be alive, etc. She howled at the lamps.
She was hard to get to know. Like I would be, later.
I asked another, who flickered yellow, if he missed home.
Did he miss the hose meals, the Billie Holiday,
The living out your potential in a bath,
Is that why he couldn’t quit barking?
I was getting delirious.
I had no other neighbours, save plastic chirping boxes,
So I balanced carefully on the edge of my incubator
And pled to the apeish faces behind the wall of glass.
The more I reasoned, the fewer listened. I turned back to my thumb.
Achy and shrivelled, it tucked itself into my hand.
I laid back down and tried to sing to myself.
And that’s when I, too, couldn’t stop crying.
It was just like it would be, later.

once more for the construct (ii)

15 November 2012 § Leave a comment

they said i’d never know the word depravity
until i left you; so for the second time today,

i have left you for words. to be fair,
i’ve mispronounced my whole self into these knots.

one never wants her dreams to inhabit the linear world,
but since the ending is near, i cannot help but think it.

this one is for being. corrugated, listless wreaths and
flighty synapses still refuse to speak on the matter.

have we really always been
so permanent as that?


19 October 2012 § Leave a comment

The eyes are falling off
One by one,
And then all at once into nothing,
The evil maybe isn’t eyeing me as much?
Up and down,
As though I were a gross and violent creature.

The pomegranate is imperfect;
Some seeds rotted
Some seeds shiny and whole, but sour
Still, the ritual is homelike.
Cut gentle grooves,
Invite rough quarters with my thumbs,
Broken, like childhood, into chunks.

The child is grown.
Atop a bicycle larger than one I would ride,
Or so whispers my oft distorted recollection.
His hair is locked;
I wonder if he remembers me,
Or how to say my name.

(The aching’s here:
This queerness, this only-loving-other-people’s-children
This poorness, this aloneness
This curious desire for selfsame blood and love)

The keys, too big for my palm,
Stickers & colors,
Different locks on various doors of many rooms
Of much storage for the things of life:
The beer,
The boxes,
The money,
The mail.
The ice cream.

The warrior-body’s here.
Shielding, internalizing,
Shifting, disorganizing,
Growing into authentic dignity.
Less threatening,
Disbelieving that trust is worth it,
That faith is possible,
Or safe.
Trying it anyway.