It’s Going to Be Alright, Mother
A woman is seated at a table with a man and a child. She feels out of place. She feels like she would rather be anywhere other than where she is, playing a role she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know how she fits into any of it.
The man is charming, the child well-mannered. They make her uncomfortable. She is wary. She waits for her role to become clear. They will tell her who she is, soon. She hopes, as well, to find out who they are, and what the three of them are to each other. Because she doesn’t remember.
The child is darker than the man, whose skin color matches hers. The child’s hair has the appearance of a soft black cloud. She is mildly put off by it, although she isn’t sure why.
The child has something to give you, says the man.
The woman turns to the child, expectant, and receives the rolled up piece of paper held out to her. She smooths it open on the table and stares at it, unsure.
It’s a plane, the man offers when she’s been quiet for too long.
Thank you, she says to the child, and manages a smile that makes her skin feel like tissue paper, soft and crinkly and likely to tear if stretched too much. She doesn’t say that she doesn’t like planes. She’s sure they should know this. She expands her smile to give it authenticity.
The child’s smile is shy, the man’s indulgent.
The woman feels hot, suddenly. Hot like she’s outdoors on a blistering day. Hot like she’s burning from the inside out. And yet, not a bead of sweat dots her skin. She looks at the man and the child. Their skin is dry, and they seem fine.
Isn’t it a little hot in here? She wonders out loud.
No, no. The sun doesn’t shine in here, the man says, smiling at her as though she has told a joke that only the two of them know the punchline to.
Her skin tightens. She can’t see it but she can feel it, and it feels like stretching, except in reverse.
My skin is shrinking, she whispers, more to herself than anyone else.
If the man and the child heard her, they make no indication of it. She stares at her hand, the one holding the fork she’d forgotten about. She stares at the fork as though seeing it for the first time, before remembering that she’d meant to use it to eat the meal in front of her, which she had also forgotten about.
Your food will get cold, says the man, his voice gently chiding.
She looks from him to the child. Is this alright then? she asks, not talking about the food.
The food is wonderful. But you seem anxious. Are you alright?
I’m fine, she snaps. Instantly contrite, she softens. I’m feeling a little tired.
He nods in understanding. It’s to be expected.
She wants to ask him what he means but she is distracted by the child tugging on her sleeve. She cuts up the food on the child’s offered plate into small cubes and hands it back. There you go.
She watches the child eat. As she does so, a thought occurs to her. Am I your mother? she asks, picking up her fork without thinking and stabbing at her meal.
The child’s head turns left then right in the manner signifying the negative, with cheeks stuffed with food.
The man laughs. No, he says, you’re mine. He takes her hand, the one not holding the fork, in both of his, and it is then she notices, for the first time, that her skin is soft and papery. That she is clearly old. This fills her with sadness.
Are you alright? The man’s frown is concerned, his tone sincere.
I’ve become old, she says mournfully.
Yes, the man agrees sadly.
The woman nods, resigning herself to her current state. She addresses the child again: Where is your mother?
Wordlessly, the child reaches over and taps a finger on the drawing of the airplane by the woman’s hand. She thinks, When did that get there?
On the plane? she asks the child. Is she on her way?
She’s dead, says the child, speaking for the first time.
I’m sorry, says the woman, her skin tightening.
It was a long time ago, says the man. He brightens. Perhaps you’ll see each other soon.
I’m not sure. But any minute now.
The woman is despairing. I don’t understand anything.
That’s alright. I suppose I ought to tell you now, since there’s not much time left. The man’s gaze is soft and full of gentleness. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
She doesn’t know what she’s going to ask until she asks it. Is the child yours?
Yes. My child, and your grandchild.
So dark. Nothing like you or me.
The man’s smile never falters. No, nothing like either of us, not in that way. But very much a part of us. We are, after all, family.
If you say so.
Is that all you want to ask me?
You’ll tell me everything I need to know anyway.
The man leans close, gently prying the fork from her other hand and clasping it, so that he’s holding both her hands.
Everything you need to know, he repeats. Will you listen? Once and for all?
In that case, here it is: You were wrong about a lot of things. And I forgive you.
The woman waits for him to say something more, but that appears to be all.
Is that it?
Yes. It’s everything you need to know. You can let go now.
He grips her hands firmly when she starts to pull them away. No, not like that. You know.
She doesn’t fully understand yet, but she’s begun to realize that she’s losing something precious. Her skin feels impossibly tight, but when she glances at it, it appears fine. She’s worried she’s disappearing, that she’ll fold in on herself until she’s nothings. That she’ll fold out of existence.
I’m burning up, she whispers, inside.
But it’s over, isn’t it?
The man, her son, nods sadly.
She glances down at their entwined hands, then at her grandchild, so silent. Her family. The first tear drops onto the back of her hand, followed closely by another.
Her son folds her in an embrace, which she returns. It’s going to be alright, he soothes. It’s going to be okay. When he pulls back his face is wet with tears.
He turns to the child. Say goodbye to your grandmother.
Goodbye, grandma, says the child.
Give her a kiss.
The woman presents her cheek to her grandchild, who gives it a soft peck. Thank you, she says to the child. Then, because it feels like the right thing to do, she says, I’m sorry.
It’s alright. I love you, says her son.
At this, her skin loosens, and she is no longer hot inside. Whatever needed to be done is done. It is then she notices the only doorway in the room, leading to a corridor. Her way out. She stands up slowly, uncertainly, trying to see what lies at the end of the corridor. She can’t.
Panicking slightly, she asks her son: Where am I going?
Hopefully somewhere good.
The woman squares her shoulders and nods. Alright then. Goodbye, she says to her family.
Goodbye, reply her son and grandchild.
She walks through the doorway and down the corridor, which has no doors lining it, and whose end doesn’t seem any closer or farther than when she went into it, even after walking for quite a while. The only way she knows she’s making progress is that each time she turns to look back at her son and grandchild, they appear smaller.
At last she reaches the end, where there’s an open door. She pauses with her hand on the handle and takes one last look at her son and grandchild, both of whom are now no more than specks in the distance. Then, bracing herself, she turns back to the door, pushes the handle, and steps beyond it into eternity.
My grandfather once told me our lives are like a dot, a dash, and a dot. ".__." typed or written to paper it looks kinda funny, but the meaning is much more somber. The first dot represents our birth, the dash represents our lives, the final period being the end of the line; death. My grandfather is nearing the final dot, that dumb dot that will take him away from us; steal him from his loving family that so desperately wishes his anecdotes, stories, toe popping, and tickle attacks would never end. But for some reason that dot doesn't care, it takes and it takes and it takes, with no regard to anyone or anything. This gluttonous dot doesn't care that those nearing his lair can feel it in their bones, that their loved ones can see the strain his pull exerts on their souls.
america spat on me last weekend
my seventh-grade classmate slapped me with the back of her hand, inked in slurs
and i stood there and let the words become an iron brand on my cheek.
she spits into my food: “sorry to ruin your lunch—wouldn’t want to ruin the taste of dog.”
the words on my face burn hot. i don’t move to rub them away.
i bet your parents came to america to work in a california nail salon. i bet they probably cleaned my grandaddy’s toes.
actually, my mom arrived in ellis island, and she waved at lady liberty, and i bet she didn’t know that lady liberty’s a filthy snake and a liar
i bet your parents are proud that this great country even allowed them in
yeah, i bet they are. i bet it’s everything my dad imagined when he starved, drifting in the pacific and i bet he really liked being called a yellow gangster and i bet he felt real welcome when he wasn’t allowed in some restaurants and i bet it was way better than his family’s life being threatened by some men in red uniforms back home.
i wore a face mask in public last weekend and a man told me to bring the chinese disease back to where i came from. i wondered if i forgot to wash off “alien” from my forehead that morning
he spat on me, so i used his spit to rub his slurs off my cheek
he ended up breaking my nose, and i heard the noise of my bones snapping, and it sounded like: “chink, chink.”
well, i mean, america spits on people like me and
america spits on people who don’t really behave all that right
and america kinda spits on everything that makes it scared but
i think you know that. i hope you know that.
but it’s just, selfishly, all i can think about is me, and that
america spat on me last weekend. and i don’t really think i liked it all that much.
The Scars We Bare
When the Day
in Evening’s gown
with starlight sequins,
counts ’20 down,
The Milky Way,
Eve’s spiral sash,
each aster spoke
the ember tales
dons her mask:
in disguise —
she, witness to
an empty page;
turn yesterday —
a (f)errous age
They said back at the beginning, either you come out of this knowing how to make a sourdough starter or you develop a drinking problem.
Ariana doesn’t particularly care for bread, or the solitude and desperation that might lead you to make it.
Instead, she finds herself in January 2021, making eggs for dinner. This happens to be the only skill she picked up during quarantine, and when paired with tortillas, happens to complement tequila quite nicely. The tortillas, she doesn’t remind herself, are not bread or homemade.
Ariana tries to crack an egg onto the edge of the pan but instead misses, and egg lands all over the top of the stove.
She laughs and it brings her roommate into the kitchen. Her laugh is not a happy laugh; it is bitter and tasteless, and she wonders if she’s crazy. She wonders if the last ten months have led her to insanity, or a lesser, sadder version of it. She wonders if any of this has occurred to her roommate, the only living soul to have seen her during this time of total seclusion, this slow descent leading to a stovetop mishap and graceless sarcasm.
“Are you okay?”
“Am I… okay?”
Ariana makes a hand gesture, the one where you make quotation marks with your fingers.
She doesn’t remember much after that, but she does remember the touch of her roommate as he tucked her in. Touch she hasn’t felt in months. Touch she doesn’t know how to respond to. What a feeling, to know it still exists.
“It will get easier.”
She still doesn’t know how to make that sourdough starter, but there’s still time.
I comb with needles of words
I float out with the breath of morning
I sit up high on Empire State Building
High heel pointed
Like a dagger
Freeing the wind as its tail is sunk
In mudgrass and I run,
Shoes disappearing as the
This is before trees fall upon pages
And mute the birds
But the ground was never rooted
And the sky could
Die with liveliness
Rats with wings
Come back to consciousness
The young flower girl at her wedding
Burning with your coin cough
Water calling in the sirens as you blacked out
Bagboys murdered birds enough
For old trees to growl about
Seek out fragrant ashtrays
Cast fake blood on the snow
Pack poor women betrayed
By the letter O into jars of the bungalow
Dying bodies left in the rain haunt you to surrender
Yourself to start over
Antlers of war
Like fashion models
For brief camera clicks
Fighting for attention
Fighting for success
Skin leaving to bare
Blood rolling out for their
Call it quits will you
Peace love & happiness
Just start talking
Bow out humbly
As long as the gazes of people
And the snaps of cameras continue
Posing is still a running business