She is Calling
Our mammas shape-shift into Mother Earth and she will hold us.
Mortal mammas preach concern of covering and concealing and revealing only what
someone’s god allows because you can’t go out neckee in times like these.
Mamma, what if naked is the only way to be:
shed skin to bear vulnerability.
L’habit ne fait pas le moine;
There is so much more to bare skin
than animal magnetism.
It is a being freed from the constraints
of a damned society,
embracing true humanity. But insecurity causes heart spaces to hang low with the weight of a stone cloak like
a bumblebee drifting petal to petal.
He who pays dues through false compassion does not reap Earth’s rewards. Those who rise high in pride will reach up and feel dirt on their fingertips. The methods above call open the expansion of a limited mind. But sweet tasting tears, the aroma of empathy, and monumental voices
will erode the stone sitting in our chests. Rachel Carson and those who have fallen only to rise ring their voices across
the Seven Wonders and into our ears. Their voices carry for generations, floating along the river of time.
Do not fear for I hear you; Belle hears the ringing and hopes to echo it too.
Please, teach me how to be the woman I shiver to be.
I call to the Universe and she answers:
Morning blushed as wind and our
voices spread her clouds apart,
begging me to open myself up
as the sky does.
The rebel bodies of Spirits who’ve shed
their shells whisper only to keep us
awake: do not give in to sleep with the
earth in need of a revolution.
What does revolution taste like?
There’s perfumed blood in our mouths,
and we cannot identify the host.
We can only hope to open our sorrowful mouths to the sky’s mourning
and wash the blood by humanity’s tears.
Nature reaches up to take my hand,
I grasp at her soft sunlight now falling
Tomorrow’s morning will hold
this same breath, my humanity will decide on a better
intent. One that glorifies the earth we
inhabit. Allow me to strip into an essence
of being that transcends beyond my shell.
But in the morning I cover myself with my own dark clouds parading as protection,
and in that act of choosing
comfort over vulnerability,
stagnancy over change,
safety above morality,
the sky wept for me.
Joan’s Unconscious Body
The boy presents a glass and his concern up to her beaten face, offering “Sorry,” and “Here, take this.” Faltering as he tilts the bottle up to her lips. A vague placement of its stench reveals itself when she lets her eyes fall closed again, taking the weight of her head down with them. There is no singular, isolated pain, but the inescapable thick smell of someone’s blood and mildew. She feels as if she’s screaming, struggling with the simplicity of speech. With no self resistance to restrain her, she begs, a long exhale of sobbing, “No, no.”
A sentiment Joan has repeated before. When her lover’s body lay vacant of anything that made her alive. April had wanted to live, experiment and experience, yet she was unable to tell Joan how she needed time to be absent from herself. She wasn’t close enough in time to keep April from suffocating on vomit as she lay unconscious seven months ago. Joan places the stench.
“It’ll help the pain.” He says, eyeing Joan’s swollen one.
He’s marveled by the changes a singular face can take. From a simple restlessness, turned to dozing, as she waited for her flight to be called when too much time had passed, to now, unable to justify her surroundings, almost incapable of keeping her shaved head upright, or her mouth anything besides ajar. She really was beautiful. He gave some light to the thought of meeting her, there at the airport, as if she had intended to see him instead of the plane to carry her back to the states. He entertained the idea of being there to ramble about their pasts and passions and a life they could share. Instead, it was her name she shared. Her plans to leave Mexico and try life again somewhere new, you know? She was headed on the first plane out of here once the airport got its shit together, but when have they ever, she had laughed. They had connected over a pointless shared appreciation for time alone and pleasure in people watching, although that last part he had lied about enjoying. Except when it came to her. But she had trusted him well enough, he thought. Enough to rush to put down her nearly finished water and say she can’t stand the thought of peeing on the plane and to please watch her stuff with the utmost care, gracing him with another laugh. He had hoped maybe the people standing or choosing to lay in unnatural ways across their plastic covered seats would have thought they were friends; friends who were comfortable enough to fill their friend’s bottles for them. He wished he didn’t have to walk over to that fountain, letting the water run without destination as he searched his pockets. Regretted slipping whatever it was Alvin gave him into the aluminum bottle, almost losing the dissolvable drug to the drain. Now isn’t any different than the others, he’d repeat on his way back to the chairs and later in the car and later still as she was captive, while he rushed with hurried hands to sit it upright, back in her seat again. When she got back she’d recall the unclean bathroom despite the misleading artificial floral scent, returning to finish the tap in her bottle. It hadn’t taken long for her head to fall. Her brows had pursed, he managed to see the confusion in her naked, vulnerable eyes. He still hopes there wasn’t any hurt there. He had lay his head against the stubble of her crown, letting the hands of time tick by to give those waiting on their partners and the mothers with too many children time to filter out and board, pretending for some moments that maybe they had always been this way. Until Alvin had made his way over, greeting him and an unconscious Joan as if they had both been waiting on him the entire time, only for her to fall victim to harmless rest. “Niña tonta.” Silly girl. Alvin’s breath had been heavy with amusement, performing to the tanned stranger sitting a societally respectable few chairs away, who sent an upturned lip paired with an uncaring nod his way. A silly girl who should be lifted and placed into their car to be taken safely home.
Once out of the airport, they had been surrounded by the heat of engines and nauseating fuel. The car door had bounced back after Gabriel slammed it. Left ajar, recoiling against the resistance it found when it met Joan’s ankle, caught halfway in and out of the vehicle. Gabriel jerked his body around to find she hadn’t reacted at all. He had to reach back again to make it click closed once her leg was shoved inside. As his hand felt up the flesh of her leg, he had found it difficult to retract his calloused hand from the soft hair of her calf. “Sure is something. You did good this time. A bit old for you though, don’t you think.” Alvin had slapped Gabriel’s back while they both stared, crouched inside the van, overlooking Joan’s crumpled body as she lay against the folded down back seats. Gabriel had been the first to look away.
“Get in the front and start driving.” Gabriel had felt the pistol in Alvin’s jeans press against his leg as he slid a thick hand up to grip Gabriel’s reddened shoulder, causing the exposed flesh to burn with discomfort and him with shame. Alvin’s eyes would not leave her unconscious body. Hungry, unblinking eyes.
“I thought you should probably-,”
“For Christ’s sake, solo maneja, idiota, just fucking drive!” Gabriel retreated into the front seat from the inside and started the ignition, fingers trembling even with his grip around the wheel. Alvin’s cruel amusement lumped in the stagnant air along with the alcohol and spoiled beef. “Jesus, thank you, mi amigo bueno.” Laughter accompanied by a fly unzipped. “And I thought you were about to ruin the good mood.” Gabriel’s palms, slick with sweat, had slipped against the wheel’s searing face. Every few street posts when he would come to a mild halt, he would force his eyes to dart from the ALTO signs up to the interior rear view mirror, to their overlapped bodies and the now discarded gun. When her body had twitched and begun to struggle against Alvin’s bulky body he’d bang her head up against the car’s interior. His hand covering the entire left side of her face as he attempted to block her nose, pouring the cheap vodka down her throat. Eliciting little response as an open, sometimes closed, sloppy fist met her face. Her barely present, alcohol poisoned body unable to reject his haphazard thrusts.
“Please,” he pushes again, “For the pain.” The sour liquid burns the open sore on her bottom lip as he persists. She retches over them both. A fight or flight reaction, in which she has neither option. A reflux reflex to the memory in the back of her subconscious comparing the taste of convenient store vodka to her love’s cold, heavy body. A clot of noes, god please noes, tore through her lungs that day, and those same protests carry over to her present body, gurgled pleads stuck at the base of her throat, unintelligible to anyone besides herself and within her memory of April. His forehead furrowed with confusion and compassion as he worked to steady her, while attempting to comfort himself. “No no, it’s okay, my sweet Joan, I, I’m trying to-, see here, look-” He caught the sound of Alvin’s graveled vibrato coming his way before he could finish his unsure reassurances, shouting Gabriel’s name with the same impact as his fist. “Gabriel. Mierda, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Pulling him up by the back of his shirt, Gabriel stammers through excuses with question marks stapled at the end of random sets of words. A silent prayer to dios at least one of them were convincing. With his last verbal attempt to redeem his actions, and Alvin’s anger already built, Alvin shoved at Gabriel shoulders, sending him to the cemented ground with a final fist directed at his face. With the smack of Gabriel’s body against the floor, Joan’s own pain exited through her throat, mimicking the moaning of an animal sure of its death. Fresh blood erupting from her face as her cries tear the scabbing flesh, although she isn’t the one experiencing Alvin’s hands on temperament anymore.
Gabriel’s fearful she’ll never fully wake up again. The smallest of shallow breaths, occasional whimpering or incoherent mumbling being the only indicator of life left in her swollen body. “Move her. Lay her there on the floor.”
“What, no,” unable to get his muddled words to cooperate in his dried mouth, dragging the blood collecting under his nose and the water from his eyes across his cheek. “Al, we can’t do this. Please, she, she can’t take anything else. She’s barely breathing-”
“Fine, I’ll do it my goddamn self. Move.” He pulled her by her ankles, granting a snap from her bruised one. Alvin grasped at whatever he could get his weathered hands around to heave her weighted body forward, her bare head dragging against the unfinished wall, and with a splintering crack, she fell against the concrete flooring. Through the slits of Joan’s puffy, inflamed eyes, she could just imagine April’s face coming to view under the harsh light illuminating from the naked, low hanging bulb. April’s features beginning to focus more and more the longer her eyes could just remain shut.
“This is a mess.” Joan hears the words somewhere distant, but god, it must be her late darling love.
Saliva flies from Alvin’s mouth with every emphasis as he snaps the words, “A big fucking mess,” continuing to swear at Gabriel with words he can’t quite make out in their rapidity. Gabriel hears the clacking of Alvin’s pistol shifting in his weighted jeans but, deciding if he refuses to think of it, maybe it won’t be there at all. Out of fear and maybe some helpless hopefulness.
“I’m so sorry, dear.”
you useless shit.” Alvin spat.
“I didn’t mean to, no I didn’t want, please I- I’ve missed you.” The words choke in the back of Joan’s throat like every endearment and question she wished she could have voiced on their last hours. Spanish insults flew from various directions but Joan couldn’t find April’s mouth amidst her fog. She couldn’t get her words to resonate on April’s ears, no matter how hard she felt her throat burn. A burning resulting from its use or the forced use of alcohol and her stomach acid.
Joan’s restricted protests struggle to make it up to her lips, though any sound being a flicker of hope to Gabriel’s conscience, it feels like a sentencing if Alvin decides she’s alive enough to use again.
The walls holding Joan’s mind and April’s face are crumbling; crashing and deteriorating with every vibration. “What am I supposed to do?” Joan didn’t say that. Did she? Why is April answering as if she isn’t aware it couldn’t have been Joan. A man. No, a boy? But April seems to know what to say. The outline of her face blurs as she materializes closer. Joan strains to feel the warmth of the ugly light hanging above her face. The obsessive amount of burning vodka breeds this feverish trembling all around her, inside and encompassing her, making it hard to breathe. It’s so hard to breathe. April’s words are not English, though Joan knows them. A sense of envelopment, as if they make more sense than anything. “End it.”
The gun is shoved into Gabriel’s torso, bringing the metal to strike his heaving chest. “Now, end this now. Just do it, terminarlo, goddamnit come on!” One’s pause develops into the other’s disapproving grunt; a swift grab at one’s chest. A shot. A protest. A chance taken. Another shot.
And in an impulse, she fell with her partner again. Falling into their forever, to never have to experience another moment of loneliness. A falling that could have lasted an eternity -
Realistically dropping in seconds. Her muscles ceasing their contractions. Ceasing those minor human pulses that often go unnoticed; unappreciated. The boy, Gabriel, he glances down at the gun now vacant of two bullets. Barrel hot like the bile rising up his throat. Blinking hard, breathing harder, hands shaking as they reach out in desperation or prayer. He rejects the gun, abandoning it to lay against the cement. He finds the corner of the basement farthest away from her bleeding brain and Alvin’s open chest. He ignores the sounds of fighting breath coming from the body until it’s drowned out by Gabriel’s heaving. Getting his own vomit on his shirt now, still soaked in vodka that Joan had sworn she’d never taste again.
Tasting the flesh of your savior,
his blood thicker than the catholic’s wine,
it covers my throat and stains my
teeth with the mark of salvation.
His sacrifice makes it hard to breathe.
I choke on my sins and tears and
the prayers I’m called to send
and yet his body is supposed to save me.
Is it true your god accepts all repentance-
We’re asked to surrender our lives
to a being you say lives even after it dies,
but what if I don’t want to live an eternity
in the heaven where the old man,
muttering words of desire to be once again young and twenty
to an eleven year old,
who grazed and gripped and pushed against
not just my own concealed skin, will be?
Because he loved your god, you know.
He told me he already prayed for the father’s
and then proceeded to ask for my forgiveness. See god showed him mercy and I’m not above
the almighty, so surely my
forgiveness should commence.
It seemed his definition of forgive was
synonymous with silence.
Those words were whispered only once,
superiority disguised as an apology.
Quiet, hot breaths in my ear so his wife
who left him years ago through death
and my mother didn’t hear.
Is it true your god accepts all repentance-
I wonder if his wife smiled from heaven as
small girls were maimed.
Does your god forgive a
child’s gentle slaughter,
our very own savior’s daughter,
and did your lord welcome him to
eternal life with the arms of a
loving, all knowing, gracious father?
Is it true, god, he meant his repentance-
Forgive me for wishing all those nights
for a damning afterlife-long sentence
but more importantly, can I forgive myself
for choosing to cry when he finally
decided to die-
Is it true god accepts all-
Her lungs scream
but not from use.
She’s falling, not down
her body’s desire
to defy its
instead by the
decline of her
Just give me one more morning.
I don’t want to be alone.
I can’t bear my fear of the night.
for a bit of sun
She finds a small stream of
behind her once
pigmented eyes and
Held tightly, she is
made free of her hope
It’s without the
warmth she thought
Instead it’s a slick
and wintry burning
of neglect in her
chest and an
Her death took its time
with its answers
and with taking
her life but she grasped its
whispers when she finally
“There is no ultimate test.
Let me cradle your neck
as you forevermore cease to hear
I am nothing to fear.”
He lowered himself down onto the honeycomb tiles. Maybe he lit a cigarette, maybe it was just that cold. I’ve become so weak, why- why is it all I can do is just watch him fall? I don’t have to talk. He doesn’t mind only hearing himself even if he’s just answering his own thoughts.
“I’m tired. I’m,”
I can’t tell if his eyes are glossy with hurt or because of the winter wind coming in through the open window. Is he shaking his thoughts away? “So goddamned tired.” No, I see now, he’s shaking his tears. He lets out an unstable breath; I can see it. Smoke or breath or despair billows from between his lips. His fingers are trembling. Then again, there is ice on the windowsill. “And it just, it won’t stop. It never fucking stops and I feel like I can’t even stand up without needing to sleep again.” It’s as if his eyes are constantly shifting. Never satisfied with where they fall.
“I wish it would all just go away, you know.” I’ve never understood why people laugh when they’re in pain. “Can you make it go away?” There’s less humor in the way he finishes his question. He looks up and I see his eyes, but he doesn’t see mine. They don’t quite reach. His eyes shift down, back to the crack on the wall that someone attempted to plaster over and over. It’s failing. He’s failing and I’ve failed and we’re all in this cycle of hopelessness. I see him take a drag. It wavers more than the last, and ash falls. I cross to close the window so the winter wind doesn’t make him cry anymore, but after it’s closed he’s still sobbing. He grabs my wrist hurriedly-
“Please.” His eyes shine a bright, sorrowful green. “Help me.” No, desperate. Bright, shiny, desperate green. I sit beside him on the cold tiles. Almost slick. Surely they burn. “Can you help me?” But not burn more than the tip of his cigarette or the burning of his lungs or the tears stinging his eyes. It can’t possibly burn more than the sear of the death he’s after. How can I help him? Doesn’t he see I’m tired too?
I no longer want to be alone
I have found myself walking away from so much this year. I have left behind hands that held mine a little too tightly. I’ve cried over the body of someone I never got to know. My father's lungs have been deteriorating for almost a year now and the possibility of losing him is still one I refuse to face. I openly turned away from the eyes of people who cared because I couldn’t be bothered to ease the helplessness they felt towards a mass crushing my father’s heart. I haven’t hugged my mother since my father’s diagnoses. I can’t bare the thought of collapsing into her arms and admitting I’m not strong enough. In that scenario the greatest weakness I could have ever imagined was needing someone. I wanted to be better. Stronger. Is it fucked up to believe isolation is some kind of ultimate strength? I craved the touch of someone whose eyes used to hurt for me whenever we were in the same room. We said all the right things at all the wrong times. I gave him the space I thought he needed while I was left wanting something he couldn’t give. He’d pull me back when it was convenient, and I didn't mind. He made me believe there might be something worth holding on to. He told me- well, I guess it doesn’t matter what he said. I could say any number of things; that doesn’t make them true. He’s the one person I hadn’t tried to push away, but he was already gone. I remember the start of this year. I was optimistic. Hopeful. Excited even. I hadn’t known what I was wishing for; but I was wishing wholeheartedly and unregrettably. I wouldn’t say that it got me anywhere. Well, it got me crying uncontrollably on a yellowed linoleum floor, wishing again. Just this time a little more aggressively. I isolated myself. I gave myself distractions and excuses to ignore my pain and the pain I saw in the eyes of others. I was selfish. I knew it, too. I could feel the distance growing between myself and from my surroundings. I made a choice to limit the amount of hurt I experienced and, in those months, it felt so good to feel nothing.
It felt so right to be alone.
he watched her in her deepest sleep;
for a moment he could swear he almost saw her breathe.
1993: sitting at his step mother's house where she kissed him on the mouth and he almost touched her blouse.
1996: he kissed her neck and she cradled his head as she wrapped her legs around his waist and he laid her on her bed.
20 weeks: the house slept as her cancer repulsed and they sat together as her shoulders convulsed.
16 weeks: he remembered the dress she wore when her hair fell out in fistfuls to the floor and her mom said she was adorning; she burned that dress the next morning.
8 weeks early: he clutched her hand and held her too close and she slipped away as her bones turned to shadows.
for a moment he could swear he almost saw her breathe.