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

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

At Great Falls Park

The two turkey vultures
held our fascination
for a bit

in a morbid,
can’t-look-away
kind of way;

but we all watched the crane
silently glide through the water
for what could have been an hour:

the satisfying crunch
as it bit down into a crayfish
or do you say crawdad?

the satisfying echo
of the ice chunk
hitting the frozen canal

the satisfying kiss
at the pub after
in front of my friends and yours.

-L

my mother always interprets my dreams

what i like about myself is that,
once i am awake,
i will look you in the eye

last night, i dreamt of a jaguar
laying in my bed —
a mother and her cub
i startled them,
they left, and
i lost them

in this way, i carry my skin
as though i wish it were armor

at work, i hide my underarm hair
as a secret
i smile when i register that
that’s what you need

and when i get home late at night,
after mopping the floors,
i can’t sleep

last week, riding the sierra vista rail
i had to stop so i could listen to the
wind brush through the lovegrass

from where i stood, the wind
carried the sounds of
coyotes howling from the west

and tonight, on my walk back to my car,
i notice a fox crossing my path
ahead of me, looking for a bush
or shrub to
hide behind

now i think about looking him in the eye,
disrespecting me, “excuse me?”

i think about looking him in the eye,
disrespecting me, “i will explain”

i think about looking him in the eye,
disrespecting me
disrespecting me
disrespecting me

the jaguar, an animal,
and instincts,
my mother tells me –

something about
following them

-A

A Playlist of the Music that Boys Play in Cars

1. Suedehead by Morrissey

at midnight I am awake on the carpet
watching the ceiling fan spin round and round
while I listen to his mixtape
in the bedroom at my parents’ house

Morrissey is strange and new
but again, so is he
a year older than me
teaching me what couples do

but Morrissey makes me uneasy
like it makes me uneasy to
kiss him in the back of the movie theatre
when I really do just want to watch the film

2. Mr. Brightside by The Killers

nothing about this feels exciting or right
riding shotgun with him to the movies
with my favorite band’s songs playing
since he somehow knows that I like them

I am so much older now
this seems like what to do
towards the end of high school
to prepare for future dates

but just yesterday in Spanish class
after I tried to turn away
he would not stop touching me under the desk
watching my face for my panicked reaction

3. Gypsy by Fleetwood Mac

at noon we are riding through our college town
running errands I hate to do alone
while I put on my favorite song
and we both enjoy singing along

Stevie Nicks is familiar
her voice cozy, like him
a year younger than me
teaching me how to be friends

my favorite song makes me feel light now
like it makes me feel happy to
have someone who shows how much he cares for me
with no hidden motives or expectations

4. She Smiles For Pictures by Big Trouble

there is a sadness I cannot tap into
riding shotgun with him in his old car
with his favorite band’s songs playing
since he wants me to enjoy them, too

I am so much older now
this feels like what to do
when you love in college
and want it to last so long

but the next time we sleep together
after letting more go unsaid
I will realize trust makes a relationship
feeling our friendship break from what we won’t share

5. Tricky to Love by White Lies

this is not a song I would normally like
but I decide to listen just the same
because I want to know his interests
after I have just shared some of mine

I have never felt so sure
that this is how it goes,
it should be this easy,
that when you know, you just know

by the time we reach my apartment
we have decided our next date
and as he gently asks if he can kiss me
I can see that it was always worth the wait

-L

On Shadows

when the moon goes away
during the daytime
we are still aware of the darkness
on the other side of the planet

and when the fire burns bright
during the winter
we are still aware of the deep chill
just outside the circle of warmth;

so am I aware of the madness
that lies in wait beneath my surface
settling like a dense fog in my mind
visible only by glancing to the side

and so too am I aware of the line
that thinly separates my quaint life
from the spiral of insanity
known to stalk and follow and creep up on me.

-L