His face is sandpaper, his hands a safe-house. he passes by and I fight the urge to put pen to paper then and there. Even if I did, his face shifts this way or the other, avoiding me, my gaze, unable to be captured by something so worldly as a ballpoint. He is a poem, his hands the second stanza- not the kind you’d hold so much as the kind you want on your shoulder, holding you back from harm and pushing you toward opportunity. He is a poem.
Another day passes outside the window of a plane
I cross dusk with 170 strangers who hold each other’s hands or thighs when the clouds quiver.
And I can’t stop thinking about your fingers running through my hair
or the way your eyes knocked into me that July.
You made me feel like feeling itself was cracking from my chest
and hurtling across the universe,
becoming every iron, nitrogen, oxygen, n’ sulfur soul that lost the sunset to the sunrise
in thoughts of “I want you”
Because your lips burn cosmic explosions into my skin:
a creation story.
Now, heads drape over the mountains
like the twinkle lights you hung out on the patio for Christmas–
You tried to play Claire de Lune on your harmonica
and remember that you loved me.
But you left 8 months later
on a Tuesday.
The pool lights stained your words teal
and smeared my eyeliner into a glimmering sort of heavy.
You said “late summer’s nostalgic,”
noticed the fireflies had all gone,
and I could hear crickets whimper to the sun,
And I never wanted another falling moon or set of sandpaper hands to hang onto.
You said I felt frail
like a dandelion you were keeping
from the wind.
And then you just let go.
That night, I woke up laughing,
as 1,000 tiny suns sprouted from my lips,
already dreaming of drifting.
Crossing through purple skies
like telephone wires
rushing to the seaside.
Paris stole my lipstick.
smeared it across cheeks
and hostel sheets and wine glasses, Merlot,
turned my teeth violet and my heart
a violent sort
of love you,
maddened by the beauty of it all.
Like I could chase train tracks
into the self I wanted
into Budapest, or Berlin.
A decrepit sort of art,
like you could tear
my heart into dusty fallen parts
and I’d just become more,
and faces and feet would flood through me, paint
bucket lists on my thighs and think of freedom.
I was never meant to be kept from the wind.
We spend a lot of time in our short lives thinking about the long term. What’s going to happen to me in ten years? Fifteen? Thirty, even? In severe cases, we let this presumptuous worries diversely affect our everyday actions and choices. This principle has a number of glaring flaws, but the main one to focus on is that the future hasn’t happened yet. You are writing your own novel; you are the only one with a pen. In other words, it is fully within your capabilities to control most of what happens in your life. However, we fail to understand that not all of it can be controlled. People get in car accidents. People get deathly ill. People are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Why, then, should you let these worries take hold of how you express yourself if we don’t have absolute control? Sometimes, doing something wrong allows a person to grow, to become stronger, possibly even teach others the right way. The right way, which everyone hungrily seeks, cannot be found without failure. Take a left when you think you’re supposed to take a right, eat raw cookie dough, or even, if you’re feeling really adventurous, stay out an hour later! Fight the norm with all you’ve got, because succumbing to the proper choice makes for a dull, uninspired life. Need I remind you, you only get one of those. I think it’s in your best interest to make it count.
She didn’t move mountains–
Over and over again I gasped.
Maybe he was in my lungs
And that’s why I had such a hard time breathing,
But he wasn’t there-
I know because I’ve always had bad lungs.
Perhaps that’s the reason I haven’t caught him,
My lungs gave out
When he took his leave.
Which I’m okay with-
You can’t run very far without a spine.
I am not the only one uncomfortable here
but I am one of few.
Jose says that there’s more here,
more than enough rainwater to go around.
If you work hard, you live well.
The way things used to be at home.
Clara and Carlos agree,
Mama just offers a rubbery smile.
Papa’s eyebrows furrow
I wear a smile that mirrors Mama’s at school,
where American children speak English
I tell them about Castro and the beach and being almost wealthy.
Is it the same as a joke?
I have not eaten plantains since the trip.
Sometimes tears roll down my cheeks at the thought.
We are so close, and so far, all into one,
but my friends are still a world away.
Mami used to grow plantains,
and I feel like I won’t remember the taste of sunshine.
The surf here is saltier,
the beach has less sun.
But I still spend all of my time mingling with the waves.
If I stare long enough, I can see my island.
The waves have the power to carry us to another shore,
the way they carried us here.
I want to love it here, the way the others do.
Papi says it’s harder to find things in plain sight.
America is a land paved with opportunity.
I will find it.
I’m going to teach you a lesson. I’ll lay out each step, provide an outline, but you have to do the rest. You have to act. This is how to live life. This is how to survive.
First, I want you to wake up. Open your eyes and take a waking breath. Welcome this day. The past may flood back into your mind, but keep your focus on today.
Next, get out of bed. This is a bit harder. Moving takes motivation and determination, even though, it seems so simple on the outside. Sometimes it may feel like there is a weight on your chest, pinning you down, holding you back. You have to find the energy to fight back somehow.
If you made it to this step, feel proud. You kicked off your day when many others couldn’t even find the will to get out of bed. Now, go to your nearest mirror or somewhere you can see yourself. Once you’re there, look at your reflection and smile. Smile because you’re alive and that’s your most important job, your purest purpose, and you’ve done a great job so far.
So far, you’re moving and smiling. You’re doing great. You should eat something now or at least provide yourself with a beverage. Part of life involves taking care of yourself. It isn’t too hard, but I find some people fight themselves on the topic of it. They refuse to. They group it with bad acts. Remember, food keeps you alive. You’ve come so far already; why stop now?
Now, you have two options: rest or work. You get to choose, but keep that smile on your face. Whichever you do, make sure you do it right. With a smile. If you’re not going to put that effort into it then don’t do it at all.
Once the day comes to a close, I want you to sleep. Put everything aside and just lay down. Block everything else out. I know it can be tough shutting away your worries and thoughts, but you have to muffle them somehow. Your body and mind both need sleep, so try not to deprive them of it for petty things. I hope you’re still smiling. Now, repeat this tomorrow.
So, maybe this sounds like “faking it,” but I think this layout is efficient. You’re valuable, and you’re just constantly reminding yourself of that. Always keep moving. Always keep fighting. Never feel like today should be your last day. So, remember, do it right with a smile or don’t do it at all.
This concludes Lesson 1.