poem

Peel back your skin

Peel
back
your skin.


There’s a
mask
underneath – don’t you
feel it?


Doesn’t it
itch?
It’s made of bone
and not yours. Haven’t
you felt
your body
fight it?


Peel back
your skin
for me – and we
will paint
your features back,
again.

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poem

Words my own

I want words my own.
I want them mine,
olive-tinted pearls
of lime and plum.

I want to pierce through
the mucus drops
with an bone awl
salvaged from
my splintered thumb.

I will treasure them
when strung on a strand
of my hair, conscientiously
plucked from a strange pillow
and I will wear these
words around my neck,
where they can be clutched
in times of muffled confusion.

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poem

Retrospective Premonition

– Read this, – she says.
– I thought of you immediately, –
she says by way of explanation
for the magazine she’s placed in my face.
So I obediently murmur through the first
few paragraphs as she continues,
– Burma,it’s horrible, just tragic! –
And I nod, yes, yes it’s (unspeakable,
intangibly tracing patterns a tattoo
outlined repetitively; just twitching;
a lizard tail still moving; a beaten dog)
–Yes! – she interrupts,
– That’s it, that’s what they say, exactly!
Just less poetically than you put it, and –
(the place I had visited, the people I had met,
they had been past pain)

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personal essay poem

Tell me my story

Tell me a
story, they
say (ask plead)
and I am stuck
(trapped stilled
muted) because my
glass (jar urn) is filled
to the brim and should I
open my mouth to sing (cry
laugh lecture babble) I do not know
what else would slip out. It is not hope
that I have locked away and my name is not
Arachne nor am I married but my loom (tongue ink
keyboard) unravels itself faster than I weave, faster
(slower) than I think and I am buying time for conjunctions
or, failing that, waiting for a blade sharp enough to find the edges
I cannot see. I have torn the thread in my teeth, pulled out the seams,
and I have placed a pirate’s patch
over my good eye as I climb in the dark, gripping each step with my toes,
unable to look backwards for fear I’ll never go home again.
I have amalgamated your folklore to my memory.
My metaphors are but dreams, for I write poems in place of dancing,
draft tears to memos, and to the chorus (peanut gallery) only is my rage
exposed. And none of this remains (escapes flees transcends coagulates).
I write that which I do not (remember guess) know and don’t know
what I say nor have said and Sing to me, Muse, sing to me of
the girl I might have been (to be) for I do not know my skin
these days nor even my edges (limits endoskeletal) and I
do not know when my voice and yours diverge
(two roads in a caged bird) and I write about
writing as if conjuring a prophecy and
wonder what happened to the meta
(physical).

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poem

Said the men of Babel

Syllables
have drifted loose from
words – which lacked the
weight to hold them
in, having themselves seceded
from the hierarchy
of syntax (forsaking
the patriarchy of phrases).

They float
to my ears and my brain
reassembles them
to my Mother Tongue – nearly,
a dialect close enough for
incomprehension.

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poem

Tell Tale

My guilt is
reflected
in the to-do lists I can no longer
bear
to face. They laughed at my pain so I
lost
them, citing the plausibility of accident.
But they continued to
multiply
in my mind and to gain a little
peace
I took to scrawling
in the margins, on the walls,
across my palms and down my hands.

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poem

Translation, America

Pregnant Pilgrims
should
beware of Big Brother
who watches
the videos, voyeuristically.
A curled
buckled
law
preliminary to prolong the punishment as
antiterrorists are accosted to account
for
the deprived depraved dead
that
delayed deadlines.

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poem

Slumming

I’ve heard God’s in the sock drawer.
Not that I was looking for him,
Not that I found him myself,
Of course –

– I’m not sure I have any matching socks,
Much less a drawer to keep them in.
And now that I think about it,
That might explain a lot.

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poem

The Pictures I Didn’t Take

Not the muddy paths pretending to be streets,
nor the ever-present entourage of children
that hung on to my hands and waist and
clung to my arms and hips.

It missed that one wooden cart at the crossroads
with dagaa, sardine-like fish, piled four feet high,
that guided me home to the Mkinis each day,
and it neglected the toddling boy who fled
in terror at my pale skin, sobbing to his mother?s skirts.

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