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[insert date here]

May 25, 2020

May 5, 2020

July 6, 2016

Once you have seen evil, you cannot look away.
This will divide us
Into those who have watched
And those who have not.
Those of us who have seen
Have spent the day shedding tears of uncontrollable grief,
While those who have not seen
Have spent the day assuring themselves that there was a reason.
Those of us who have seen know better.
We know that there is no explanation
For this unspeakable violence in the world in which we live.
If officers cannot be trusted to behave
Even knowing that there is almost always a camera
Then how can I be trusted to behave when I know peace never comes?
This will divide us
Not into black and white
But rather
Those who understand that the law cannot be upheld in the current state
And those who continue to adhere to it.

-L

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About Betrayal

Betrayal is a strong word
to assign to someone’s guilt
for not giving you what you need
and not knowing what you need
when you didn’t ask for it.

Everything is relative
and pain is personal
and we all walk alone –
isn’t that what they say?
That we can’t expect others
to know how to care for us;
that we have to learn how to
give ourselves what we need?

Betrayal is a strong word,
but how else to describe
my body not giving me what I need?

When your body betrays you
it’s easy to enter the dark
where words like betrayal
don’t seem so harsh
and can be used to describe friends
who can’t give you what you need
like your body can’t give you what you need
when you don’t even know what you need
because you can’t ask for it
because you never asked for this.

Sorry should be a light word
an easy word
but it carries weight just like betrayal
and they seem to contradict each other
and never go hand-in-hand.

Is it even possible for a body
to say sorry
to itself?

-L

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on jealousy

grind me into the ground
make my shadow fit into
a smaller box

living on the polar edges of
envy and intrigue is
exhausting

i see snow fall,
sun light,
swing the axe,
hit the wood,
watch it splinter into
four pieces, equal

i notice the bag you
drag behind you,
filled with limbs and
hair and tongues

i am dried up,
i am at odds with
these bones

but inside, you are a skeleton,
these bones have made you

if i love you
(i do love you)

i can recognize
your foundation

admire the color and texture
it has given you

hear your song, your truth

and choose to hold you

and choose to sing my song
back to you

-A

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layers of filth

this poem is
not about hands

not about how
you hold them

it is about pain
and suffering and
about layers of filth

imagine, for a moment,
a river that
never meets the sea

it dries up
in the desert where
fish skeletons line
its floor

i have walked this river,
i know its path

i have been this river
i have been this river

i know he is using and i
know he is sick and
when i look at him,
i see my father and
for me, that is enough

it is enough to see a person
it is enough to be a river
that dries up

here, at the headwaters,
where we find ourselves
with plenty,

do we dare look downstream?
do we dare acknowledge the
skeletons?

my nieces and nephews are
there, somewhere

they are asking us why
we walked the dried up river bed
without crying enough tears
to fill it back up
for them?

-A

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a lesson in the garden on acceptance

what is a whole person
is it someone who did not
collapse under the weight of
brittle hair and
powdered donuts for dinner

maybe a whole person never
saw their mother run her nails
down her face by the water
fountain at the mall on a
scheduled visitation

subtle and not-so-subtle cues
tell you to to search for yourself
and complete yourself so you
can be whole and big and only then
can another person love you
so hard

but a whole person, (whoever that is)
does not have a cavern
inside them
room to fill with (sometimes) light
(sometimes) darkness
(sometimes) water
(sometimes) soil

in the garden, before the frost
i harvested butternut squash,
tomatillos, sun gold tomatoes,
painted desert corn

the squash – still green
the tomatillos – still space in the husks
the tomatoes – still unripe
the corn – still unfilled kernels

i am telling you that
i took these, in my hands
unfinished as they were

and i ate them.
and they sustained me.

-A

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a carrot in hand

when you returned from
cuba, i picked you up
from the airport in denver,
at midnight – so dark,
winter stars shone and
i brought you a carrot

a month apart, so early
into our relationship –
i remember sitting by
the baggage corral,
knees tucked to my chest,
trying to keep from shaking

i don’t own you, no
nor do you own me

but we are pulled
to one another by
magnetism of skin
and bones

i always want to know,
look for clues,
ask everyone
how
does
it
work

when i returned from
a wedding in ohio,
you picked me up from
the airport in denver,
midday, sun bright and
sky blue

i saw you as i exited the terminal,
a smile on your face and
a carrot in your hand

this must be
how it works

-A

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body hair

when i was young, i had a pet rabbit
named brownie

i played with him for hours
in the summer, in the backyard
in the hot and humid sun

i remember delighting in the feeling of
the breeze cooling me down,
tickling the blond hair
on my legs

on vacation in san francisco,
i am eleven years old.

my mom has left her razor in the
shower and i take it in my hand,
for the first time and
glide it across my legs,
watch in awe as clumps of my hair
flow down the drain

i don’t stop there
i shave my arms,
my stomach,
reach around to shave my back

i know now, my body hair is something
to be removed

i am in high school, seventeen
nervous around boys

with my boyfriend, one night
i go further than
i ever had before

in the coming weeks, he and i
split up, and he says to me,
to my face

“go shave your dry-ass vagina”

my friend kara, in college, is italian
with beautiful dark, curly hair

she is growing out her armpit hair
her leg hair
her chest hair

and in this small college town,
i notice so many women doing
the same thing

it has always been frustrating to
shave and have to do it again
a few days later

have razor burn between my legs

so, i stop buying razors and decide
to grow out my body hair, too

i hide it for a while,
don’t wear tank-tops in
certain situations
pin my arms to my sides
in public

i am not ready for
their reactions

i am not ready for
what they might say

everyone has something to say
about a woman with hair under her arms

my sister: “i just don’t like body hair in general.
not even my husband’s beard.”

a coworker: “can you lift your arms up? i
thought i saw hair there and i just want to
get a better look.”

a boy i dated: “you’re so 60’s, baby.”

a friend: “doesn’t it bother you when
it’s all sweaty?”

a friend: “if you could just trim it for my wedding,
that would be great.”

someone online: “gross!”

can i tell you about the prairie?
the grasslands that hold
the soil intact?
that absorb moisture,
create abundance?

the soil within the grasslands is
rich, lush, fertile

it does not ask for your judgment,
only cycles through itself
the way it was
created to

i am a woman
i have hair under my arms
between my legs,
and down them

my body is my temple
my dwelling place

for me to take care of
make choices about
to make peace with

last year, on a solo bike ride beneath
the organ mountains,

i stop to watch the breeze
ripple through the black gama grass
like waves

i, too, feel it
on my legs
and under my arms

a part of the grass
a part of the breeze,
no end between us,

just as i am.

-A

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to emerge freer

a river is just snow that has melted
yet naked, we slowly walk in

i am timid, running back to shore
as the cold pierces my legs

yet you remain, sinking slowly
until you are kneeling patiently
in the numbing water

after a few times of running in
and back out,
i finally submerse my whole body
under the water

it takes my breath away

i know what baptism is
was raised catholic
(drilled into my brain)

but what beauty
to take my body, next to yours
into the freezing river

and to emerge
colder, lighter

what beauty to emerge freer

-A

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untitled

i pull my unwashed hair back
each morning
grow out my body hair
welcome the scent of my
own sweat
have a thick coat of dirt under my nails
constantly

i study the soil
the roots within
the worms beneath

across the valley, i see
dust swirling in the
spring wind

drive through mud
spattering my windshield

the soil is not a barrier
grime is not a shield
i am not glass,
will not shatter when i
fall off my bike
fall on the rock

i carry bruises
study them like a map
learn from their bumps,
colors, textures, memories

i have considered the dirt on my hands
at the end of the day, running down the drain
with water and soap

but for what?;
it always returns

-A

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light and the absence of it

what if you gathered the seeds that you need?
with instinct?

can instinct be trusted?

the sun wakes me up each morning,
greets my eyelids with shadows
(my window blinds, the tree branches
swaying outside, light and the absence of it)

my instinct is to
question everything –
to lay down in darkness,
allow it to pass until
the light wakes me up again

why am i asleep
when you hold me?

have i gathered the seeds that i need
to sustain myself?

will storms pass, will they come back again?

all that i ever see is
light and the absence of it

-A

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cycles

i am the earth
because i grow
from my own
decay

today, i trace the lines of my teeth
feel the gaps
with my tongue

and the salt i tasted
on your body yesterday
still lingers

is there a place i am going
where i can sit still?

am i everything i’ve
gathered until this point?
(dead cholla stalks, stained hair-ties,
dusty Appalachian books, flaky orach seeds)

the answer is no
i am only skin
only tissue
only the cycle of
life feeding on decay

-A

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How Our Garden Grows

Yellow pansies for me,
multi-color for you,
then six more
for that price!

Dianthus because it blooms later
and we hope for butterflies
and I like the sound of “fire star”.

Columbine because it is large
and unruly and blue.

And a fourth whose name we forget.
Also blue.

You agree to a second store
because we still need the birdhouse –
The cats would love it.

A smile. A dream.

Later, hands in the earth.
Adding cool, dark, pillowy soil
to the dried dirt and rocks.
Leaving some of the weeds
because if they make it to the top,
they deserve it.

My hands know exactly what to do:
how much pressure to apply,
how to be gentle yet firm,
how to dig and mound and shape
from years of practice with my mother.

This is your first time,
but instinctively
you know, too.

Another smile.

Twilight, cats at the window.
No birds yet.
Waiting for our garden to grow.

-LIMG_0502

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to my Opa, the hog farmer

in the barn, late at night
we walk across frozen manure
to find three piglets, squealing
and one, cold and stiff and dead

we watch expectantly as
mamacita’s body ripples with the waves
of labor, her moans indistinguishable from
those of a human mother giving birth

the next morning, we find
three more piglets, feet away from
mamacita, crushed or frozen
dead nonetheless

i don’t cry, only think about
the tiny hooves i can see
how they formed in the womb,
entered the world only
to crumble

i think to myself
maybe a heat lamp would help
but a thought from somewhere deep
within me asks

“how will a piglet find their mother
to nurse if there is warmth
all around them?”

the business of eating meat is
looking death in the eyes
standing ankle-deep in its shit
carrying stiff corpses to the compost pile

if you can’t, and if you wouldn’t,
why do you partake?

the next day, I happen to wear my Opa’s
wool hat, feeling deserving

I have been where he was.

-A

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Enough Now

You ask
why I seem so much older
and I wonder
why that matters…

Is it not enough
to sometimes feel the sunlight
falling through the pattern of the window
to broken patches on the floor
alone?

To let that warmth
rest on your face
unquestioned?
Noticed, but not called out?

It can be enough
to just listen
to the space around you.

To just feel
the bodies moving –
hugging, touching, being;
To just observe
the connections
and the moments and interactions.

Questions
and curiosity
are both true things

But so is
resting
and accepting
the energy present here and now.

I think that there is a time
for speaking
and saying
and adding;

But sometimes it is the time
for appreciating
and observing.

Not everything requires a reason.

…The answer is
not older,
or wiser,
but more:
at ease.

-L

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let us be

how many ways are there
to love someone?

we keep finding new ones,
you and i

the papersack lunch you send with me
on my way out the door

sitting in your mom’s floor, 3 am, reunited
naked with a guitar, singing

your hand resting easily on my thigh under
the table at dinner

floating silently in the hot springs
as the feathery snow falls all around us

reading spanish before bed,
dictionary in hand

meditating next to one another in the mornings,
hearing each other breathe,
centering in on the junipers and
the empty space in my mind

holding me this way
holding you that

i tell myself now, that
when i feel panic
i will allow myself to see you
to see me

and to let us be.

-A

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walls

i want to build up four walls
to keep you out

and yet
i want to build walls
that we can live in
together

i don’t know where
i am going and i can’t tell
if you are going there, too
(i want you to)
(but will you?)

there are reminders
nearly everywhere
for me to take up space
and breathe

i see my shadow as i run
along the rio and
the notches in my spine
remind me of the ridgeline
of the sangre de cristos
turning pink in the
evening sun

i have never felt so close to another

how do i say
how do i tell you
with each breath that sinks into
my lungs
that you make sunlight brighter
my nights warmer
my laughter fuller

and that i want to leave so
i won’t be left

-A

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morning reflections while drinking tea with milk

Gratitude for plasticity. For the dynamic nature of existence.

I sit here, in color. In warmth. In sound. How do I reconcile my access to comfort, to beauty? Does it cost someone else something?

I am so grateful for song, melody. My own song and the songs of others. How truly awe-inspiring to hear birds sing. Insects chirp. Wind howl through frozen branches.

I am so grateful for creativity. For the collective consciousness and creativity of life. Seeds carry themselves across the breeze. Attach themselves to my sleeves.

For the blood that drips from my cavern, reminding me to pay attention. To dip into myself like a well, a spring, that provides me the strength to rise, to sacrifice, to be still.

For taste, for connection.
For hair, for grasslands, the prairie.
For lessons in trees, in roofs, in dirt, in age.

I sit on my knees. I kiss the ground. The ground kisses my forehead.
I see myself. I see everyone, everything.

I will treat you better.

-A

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pain, the teacher

i look with wonder
at myself,
first

when i left him,
i asked my pain
what she might teach me

it was me,
falling on the rock,
bleeding ankle,
laughing to the sun

it was me,
plucking my guitar strings,
teary eyes,
singing to the quiet

it was me,
tending to the garden,
sweaty brow,
giving thanks to the dark soil

it was me,
picking up,
carrying through,
owning up and
accepting the weight

it was me,
trudging up the snowy hill,
surprising my own self
with my movement
with my stillness

i tell you now that
i have not forgotten my pain

but i have arrived on the other side
where i can carry her lessons
with me;

that my hands are never empty,
that my heart heals when i sing my song,

that i am worth
all of the wonder
i can give myself

-A

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light like feathers

I love you, he says
and I hear him,
and I don’t wish it were any different

The next morning,
when his truck won’t start,
we walk up the hill and
push each other into the snow,
light like feathers
laughing
floating

Today, I try to fight back tears
feel the weight of frustration that
I can’t accept
don’t accept
the love that people offer me
the love that he offers me

I wrote in October that
I want to think of a relationship as
a small, moving piece in the whole of my story,
not the focal point

I want to accept that love is not a promise,
but an acknowledgement
of who we are to each other
right now

How do I allow myself (not force myself)
to feel through the static
of past trauma
without giving it the power
to define who I am and
how my relationships are
today?

-A

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Affirmation

I lay with eyes closed
back on the cool floor
in a dark room
listening to soft breathing around me
and the instructor
who tells us
to imagine we are near the ocean
sinking into the sand
letting thoughts come and go
and my mind wanders
to how my mother
always sees her mother
in her dreams
and then to how
my Afghan friend
says her aunts are visited by their mother
in their dreams
but her grandmother does not visit her
and my grandmother only visits me
sometimes
except for always
because I am her
in many ways
in how I carry myself through the city
to how I dream of flying
and how I can never make up my mind
welcome your thoughts but let them go
it’s okay for the mind to wander
but bring it back
here I am
back on the mat
with eyes closed
in a dark room
just breathing now
instead of thinking too much
about whether I am on the right path

-L

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a new beginning

how to explain the
feeling of you
next to me?

i felt it easily, that first
night when i told you about
tarantula hawks and
my first climbing lead fall

i remember leaving and
knowing that
you felt it, too.

we’re sitting by the fire
on a chilly december evening,
longing to know one another,
drinking each other in.

“would it be insane if i
kissed you?” you ask in a shy way.

i think about all the ways
my heart was broken
only a few months before

think about the words i said to him,
picture them as shards of glass,
envision them in reverse, not
piercing him, not causing him to bleed
flying back into my mouth where they will
stay and never hurt him.

on this morning, i wake in your bed
and still, though it is dark outside,
a morning glow beams on the horizon
where the snowy san juans are dimly outlined

i feel close to you, feel pulled to you
(we are pulled to each other)

i leave with a loaf of bread in hand,
a tender kiss goodbye
and the promise (no, not promise)
the possibility of
a new beginning

-A

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“woman”

it is not a title i earned
was given
but am

i do not claim it
as anything
but armor
anymore

try to tell me
that i can’t be
pretty and rough
all at once

or that i should have to explain
the knife in my pocket,
the hair under my arms,
the polish on my nails

because in my own
version of myself
i encompass each
line of my own topography

ranging from river to
mesa and
back again

when you ask of me
my heart on a platter,
i will offer you my tongue,
instead

-A

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you and I

I am tattered but let me explain

only broken in cracks, not pieces

not glued;
re-attached

I will wear my socks
to my knees
and I will beg for your skin
(but only because that
is what I want and how I
want it)

I have cried out for more
asking the same questions
over and again

now, I’m not asking,
I am demanding

we will get what we want
from each other,
you and I

-A

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The Fight About Tupperware

The fight about Tupperware wasn’t really about Tupperware
but rather, how I ran through every prayer I know
and stopped at three.

It was about guilt – about wanting to be there
and not being there,
about only remembering three prayers
and being too busy to call.

The fight about Tupperware wasn’t really about Tupperware
but rather, how I shoved clean laundry on the floor
to go to bed.

It was about exhaustion – about wanting to fall asleep
and not being able to,
about my teardrops landing on the cat
as rain on fur.

The fight about Tupperware wasn’t really about Tupperware
but rather, how I ran through every prayer I know
and stopped at three,
my teardrops landing on the cat
as rain on fur,
while she was scared and alone on a hospital bed
and I wasn’t there.

The fight about Tupperware was really about pain.

-L

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when he watches you walk away

i remember writing you an e-mail
letters
crying in your arms
crying alone on the floor

feeling the weight of all
we were about to lose

clawing at glass
begging for time, patience
your love
another chance

looking for answers in
your tears, words
silence
choices

but you let me go

there is pain in my whole body
and i have decided to allow it
to serve its time and purpose

then, i will be able to let it go –
that is where my power lies

in letting it go

-A

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untitled

I think about how I have not written anything lately.

But then I think about how there have been so many monarchs lately.
It is like they all decided to migrate home at once,
at the same time that the leaves are slowly falling,
and that the whole world is burning,
and that I constantly find myself at a loss for words.

-L

 

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endings/beginnings

i wonder if he’s considered my heart
shattering
when he walks away each time

i wonder if he’s considered my voice
wavering
when i tell him goodbye, goodbye, this is for the best, goodbye

i know i gave him my heart, but does he remember my heart?
does he remember the curve of my spine, hips
the warmth of my skin
as he holds another?

does he remember the love we shared?
the whispers, the tears, the morning tea
and laughter in between bed sheets?
it’s gone now, it has disappeared
but it lingers, for me, in memory

does he remember?
has he considered?

did it exist? did i matter?
if he doesn’t?

is there an end to
remembering?

and if there is

if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it
does it make a sound?

if my relationship ends and there is no one left to remember it,
did it happen? was it important?

where can i go to ease my pain?
not in memory
not in ending

perhaps, in embracing
beginnings

-A

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on leaving

for some reason, i start with the refrigerator magnets
the polaroid of us from when you visited
the first place i ever felt myself

we woke up that cold november morning, embracing
to stay warm and we marveled at how
i had never slept a full night in
someone’s arms before

the boxes i am trying to fill are
broken down and i try to tape them
and i wish you were here to help

and last night, your tears fell onto
my pillow as i told you our time together
is growing shorter

i want to believe that love lost still matters
that all we shared over the past few years
doesn’t just disappear
when i walk out the door

when i do step, i see
sunlight and mountains
and all the colors of springtime that
bloom

and even though you are no longer
by my side, i feel you and know

i will never forget you

-A

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gold meeting green

i focus on green, on
gold meeting green
shimmering and dancing in
evening light

illuminating a new wealth
of energy that is
born within me

i will harness it
i will feed it

in the mornings, i pull weeds
taking great care to pull
at the root because
i want something to grow there
that will nourish me.

-A

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follow currents

hollow bones
follow currents
invisible as the breath
that fills my lungs

I remember watching the river with you
that summer
learning how to read the current
the flow, the seams, the ripples, the patterns
a language not spoken, but observed

lately, I learn new words
(a virga is a streak
of rain across the sky
that dissipates before ever
touching the ground)

try to name my grief
try to name my guilt
try to name them over and over but they

flow from somewhere else,
not mouth or brain

sit inside spaces
unspoken

and I remember, always, the river
as I look towards the sky
and breathe in
as I dig into the dirt
and observe

currents are wind and water
light and earth
leading and guiding
so that I may follow

-A

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Bound

My cousin asked my other cousin to come bury her dead horse
and I can’t get the image out of my mind
of him standing over the giant chocolate steed,
head bowed,
praying.

In our part of Ohio the soil is a sponge in the rain –
dark, porous and alive;
while in the dry, hot summer it is a powder –
light brown and airborne.

Little cousins kick up dust in the diamond;
bigger cousins rush home with dinner after work;
the large orange sun sets over the hills around the Valley;
and they all see each other on Sunday at church.

I don’t pray on Sundays at mass
but I do think about the way the wet earth feels
planting flowers on a sticky summer Sunday night.
Such images keep me bound.

-L

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wisdom, hard won

i have laid in bed at night
tossing and turning
feeling the absence of your body
next to mine
feeling the absence of your hand
holding mine

cool mornings remind me of the distance
that has crept between us
from a time when, even though
it was summer in the chihuahuan desert,
you would hold me each night and each morning
like a treasure

i have remembered your tears
tried to transform their moisture
into answers to all my questions
about where we went wrong

because even though i packed my bags
and left,
you closed the door behind me

lately, instead, i choose to remember
that my hands hold themselves,
this pen, a garden rake, handlebars
just fine

that i have the tools within me
to cultivate sorrow, loss, and grief into
wisdom, hard won

-A

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Relationship Status

at night the mountains look like the backs of furry animals:
alive, under so many stars;
and in the day the world is blinding and white,
but still we make our way through the snow.

we are covering quite a bit of ground together in this short time –
but why wait?

in a few days I’ll be gone to Africa
and anyway,
why shouldn’t you see the Amish buggies that drive down the lane?
and know that I spent my childhood in a brick house that smelled of boiled Brussels sprouts?

what I mean is,
why stick to someone else’s timeline
when we know exactly the ending we want?

-L

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Waning Crescent

The morning after the wind storm
we have to stop the car for wild turkeys
who decide to turn back to the hill they just descended
before flying over us as we pass on
to the state park where fallen trees litter the trails
and we can hear creaking as the forest settles
into its new position.

Like those trees tilted and leaning on each other,
I am still settling
into what it means now
to walk through life with another person.

-L

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i love the way you

hold me
cry at movies
cut sweet potatoes small
help me with my bike
weed the garden, watch it grow
listen to friday night radio
teach me knots
smile nervously in big situations
laugh easily with others
dive head first into something new
listen to me ask big questions
(listen to me complain)
hold my face gently when you kiss me
let me paint your toenails
ask me to edit your writing
motivate me to be present
drive the long drives
have never won a game against me
bring home sweet treats
have a hat for every occasion
appreciate sunsets, appreciate rain
know me, love me, support me

thanks

-A.S.

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before the temperature reaches triple digits

as i meander through
the side streets on my bike
this morning,

i am forced to face this place
i have reluctantly called home

i notice easily all the blooms along
brightly painted garage walls and
from sidewalk cracks,
oleander and desert willow
sunflower and nopal

the viejitos sit outside under the
shade of a fruit tree, tending to their
shrines of the Virgin Mary

caged up, boxed up little casitas,
exposed adobe bricks melting into
the earth

harsh sunlight warms me as i
peddle down mesquite,
tornillo,
manzanita

i recognize this place, know
which way is north to colorado
and south to the border
where the rio winds through
the orchards and even
how to climb to the highest peak
of the organs

one year here, and though as
reluctantly i have called it home,
i can feel the chihuahuan desert sand
settling in my heart

-A

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Solitude

I want to learn how to sit in solitude, again.
I want to re-learn how to be alone.
How to lie comfortably in silence,
surrounded by my emotions,
uninterrupted in my thoughts.

I want to learn how to stand in solitude, again.
I want to re-learn how not to be lonely.
How to rise confidently in seclusion,
grounded in my surroundings,
unintimidated by the day ahead.

I know what it is to be lonely.
But I also know that loneliness is not alone.
And I want to be alone, again.
Or rather, I want to re-know what it is to be alone,
but not lonely.

I want to not miss you so badly when you are gone.

-L

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The Quiet

the quiet
is made of yellow wildflowers
in long green grass
amidst sun-scorched tan patches

the quiet
is also made of blue sky
with puffy white clouds
and birds flying in pairs

the quiet
is that place where
grief settles

it visits on the drive through the valley
then comes to stay on the bus through the mountains
and remains through bluegrass music on the radio
patiently

it is heavy
so that movements are slower
as if made in water
with care so that nothing cracks or tears open

the quiet
is where sadness lives
when the burial is over
and where we will dwell for some time now

-L

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May 4, 2018

Eye-watering spicy curry
at the hole-in-the-wall Thai joint

Later, crying in the rain
on the way to buy ice cream

Idiosyncrasies –
images that do not fit together

Because how can I still laugh
at how my shirt is now splattered with coconut sauce
when I just cried in the entrance to dinner
as my mother called to tell me the news?

Maybe in the same way
that I can immediately want to sit down and watch Casablanca
even as I feel an overwhelming sadness
and know that the worst of the grief is not yet upon us.

And maybe also in the way
that I know I do not believe in conscious life after death
even as I run through every prayer I can remember
in the hope that she is somewhere I will eventually visit.

-L

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an ode to our almost-romance

why i still think of you, i can’t quite tell

but that summer, i rode my bike each morning
before the world had woken up
to that little house by the
wood-fired pizza place

we built that house, or rather, you did
while i learned to drill a few screws,
use tin snips,
and drink yerba mate from an old
mason jar

on the lake, in your canoe and
along the path, you point out
all the plants,
crush leaves
in your hands and bring them to
my nose
“spicebush,” you tell me, smiling
so i can see the little gap between
your two front teeth

and there, right off the lake
on the branch of the giant sycamore,
we built that swing with scrap
lumber from the house and you
tried to put your arm around me

i think the swing is still there

do you remember what the difference is
between a yam and a sweet potato?
over pizza, we discussed and to this day,
at the grocery store, when the clerk asks me
“is this a yam or a sweet potato?”

i think of you

-A

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quietude

for how long have you mistaken being
quiet for being
small?

on the path last week, near sundown
i carried my binoculars
and aimed them towards the treetops
down by the arroyo

i didn’t recognize any songs,
but heard them, nonetheless

i watched the desert cardinal
ahead of me off the path,
perched on the cholla,
pyrrhuloxia

heard the quail scurrying
through the dead leaves
and shrubs,
glimpses of the feathers on their
heads

when i listen
when i look

when i am quiet

i expand and i stretch
and i am filled

i am not small for being
quiet

besides, the size of
joy
cannot be measured

-A

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Springtime in the City

weather like silk
just a light fabric
blanketing the skin

even the traffic horns
are a symphony
and the man selling papers
looks new and alive to me

evening stars shining
despite the stoplights

I sleep with the window open
because it seems we only get
two nights a year like this
and here is one

-LIMG_1557

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Sketch: First Full Attempt at Self Portrait

I see her there beside him in the parking lot,
studying the stars,
trying to make him proud.

I want to tell her
that one day she will find the Little Dipper
from the window of a plane flying over the Sahara.

But I know she can only feel her feet on one continent for now,
so I just hope she knows she can be enough tonight
loving the stars without knowing Perseus from Orion.

IMG_1525 (1)-L

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lonely girl, desert journey

am i only a
reflection?

the hues and
textures of
those i love
woven into
the lines on my
palms?

when i am so
far away from
the rolling hills
and rocky peaks,

do i still exist?

i cut open the thick,
stale air around me
and can finally
breathe in the light,
again

this happens, i
am reminded of
myself with
no context,
no crutches,
just spine and
bare bones

i am green,
dusty, soft,
rocky, sharp,
ragged, muddy,
and hazy

i am tethered
to belonging,
only this time,
to my self

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-A

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dirt trails

i do not know
what it would be like
to hold you

but if i were somewhere
else, i would grow there,
ache there

the scent of freshly harvested chamomile
this morning reminds me that
we carve out our own path
towards healing

pluck it tenderly with our
fingertips
steep it in our
insides
allow it to float
through our bloodstream,
our inner river

healing is every day,
ritual adjustment

i feel sand in my shoes,
cinnamon in my scalp

i smell the chamomile,
drying on the countertop

i see the dirt trail
across the floor, and
i find myself
longing to
lay in it

-A

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On Loss

Lay’s potato chips dipped in fizzing
Coca-Cola is the very best
After-dinner snack, but I have not
Indulged in that since the days when we

Would sit at the kitchen table, six-
O’clock news in the background (we eat
Early) and gossip about the town,
Cigarette smoke hanging in the air.

And even when the din of that big
Oxygen machine replaced the sound
Of the news we still kept on sitting
At the kitchen table like normal.

I will never understand death, but
I am starting to see that we miss
People more as time goes on and we
Realize which questions we should have asked.

-L

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At Kigali Genocide Memorial

The busy chatter of birds
enters with the morning light –
sun already bright and blinding
heat already sticky and stifling
through the open door
filtered through the stained glass window
down the stairs for reflection
into the room where I stand.

I have never seen human skulls before,
but what strikes me the most
[in this silence]
is that when bodies are just bones
it is impossible to separate
between Hutu and Tutsi.

-L

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a letter to you, and her, and me

sister, all the water, blood and juices
oozing from you body are
freely becoming one.

and in a sea so fiercely curious,
you stand at the shore –
the culmination of all the whispers
and limbs and bones that brought
you into being.

imagine for a second, sister, that
you are not just a body.
you are a collection of synapses
and bacteria, a walking planet.

and inside, did you know, sister, that you are
layers of all the things? like
sandstone and mudstone, layered and
eroded, layered and
eroded,
pieces of fossils are your very
make-up.

these tools, this dust that sits within you.

don’t you know you’ve always had
everything you needed?

-A

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Mid-Ohio Valley Roots

He says he loves me but he knows nothing about me.

I have rolling foothills for my insides
alive at simple things
like neighbors playing bluegrass
and warm sun on my face.
The hair he likes to tuck behind my ear
should blow freely in wind
like my grandmother’s white sheets
as they dried on the line.
My ears seek the somber song of wind chimes
as a breeze passes through
echoing in the valley
on a long afternoon.
A hooting owl to him would mean nothing
like how it reminds me
of the field where I would play
under relatives’ eyes.

I have climbed trees with a journal in tow
scraped my knees on the climb
just to sketch a cicada
as it shed its old skin.
The hands he holds so tightly in his own
have known the slime and slip
of toads pulled straight from the creek
in sport with my brother.
My eyes search for the bright constellations
out my window at night
when we would sneak out and hear
barges in the distance.
A woodpecker in rhythm is nothing
to him like on the hikes
led by my fearless father
before time for supper.

I have passed gardens with my grandfather
watched him pick tomatoes
juicy red straight from the vine
eaten whole like apples.
The feet he calls light and made for dancing
stepped barefoot in wet grass
over mossy arrowheads
and Hopewells long buried.
My limbs beg to find a porch swing to rest
on a lazy morning
mind steadied by the quiet
and constantly rocking.
The smell of green walnuts means nothing
to him like my parents
talking with each other
on the porch at twilight.

How can he love me without understanding my past?

-L

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adoption

memory, 3. i am in the room, the one with the games and toys and
the glass windows
so they can see and document
the interaction

my mother’s blond curls are covered by a pink bucket hat
“i like your hat,” i tell her
so she takes it off her head, and hands it to me
to keep.

memory, 9. i am in my room, the one i shared with my sister
and now it’s mine and i hide a box
underneath my bed

it contains old letters, cds marked
“the jimi hendrix experience” and
“pink floyd dark side of the moon”,
a music box, and an
old pink bucket hat

memory, 18. i am in the room, the one he’s been
living in, battling the cancer, my mother is
here too and she is crying.

i came from my factory job, second shift
i put on his
shoes and jacket for him, then take them off
as he requests

such an odd feeling, to be somewhere
but feel so
far away

memory, 23. i am on the other side of the room, the
one with games and toys and
the glass windows
so i can see and document
the interaction

little boy, blond curls crying on the floor
his mother failed another drug test
this week but
she brought him a new
coloring book

memory, 26. i am in the room, the one i go
to every week to talk

when she asks me to draw
what it looks like, what it feels like
i choose the color pink,
think a moment, and draw
roots

-A