Sunday, March 05, 2006

Changing Sheets

I change my sheets to say goodbye.
Ungracefully, I untuck the corners;
I yank the elastic up from under the mattress.
Lazily, I pull at the side opposite me.

There is blood on the sheets, and a coffee stain.
Lint from your black hoody, black cat hairs,
my hairs. It’s been awhile.

I unravel a set of soft white cotton sheets,
fresh from the laundry, warm. I wave
the top sheet over the bottom. It floats,
suspended on a sigh.

I pull from a corner to coax the wrinkles
out of my bed. But, not carefully enough.
It tears; soft linen sliced.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The wind outside tears down trees: A Nor'easter in late May. My body's been cold for days. I wonder why I moved to the Northeast in the first place. I fret daily over the weather; I've become my grandfather, my mother. Unlike them I don't listen to the doppler report on AM radio or flip though the weather channel during every commercial. No, I am of another generation: I hit refresh on obsessively (as if that will make the forecast change). I do it out of hope.

I hope and I hope and I hope.

I hope for warm sunny days in the spring; for heavy thunderstorms on hot summer afternoons; for fallen crisp colored leaves in the fall; for diamonds sparkling on the dark brown tree limbs in winter.

I hope for revolution; for a world where we can all realize ourselves as complete human beings; for a society based on need and desire, rather than the selfish greed of profit. But at least with this, despite the almost certain impossibility of something of the sort occurring in this county in my lifetime, at least there's something I can do about it: organize, organize, organize.

There's nothing I can do about the weather, and I'm running out of hope.

Monday, May 09, 2005

my history in books (abridged)

Courtesey of nedfox

1 Total number of books in your house:
234, broken down as follows - 1/3 social science (political theory, history, communist propaganda, etc.); 1/3 fiction; 1/6 poetry; 1/6 miscellaneous (cookbooks, travel guides, Our Bodies Ourselves, 501 Spanish verbs, sex books, how-to books--including, how to fish, grow house plants, cure things with herbs and vitamins-- etc.).

There's other stuff like biographies and plays that I forgot to account for, but you get the idea.

2 The last book you bought was:
I bought three books at the same time in preparation for a vacation by the beach with my parents*: 1) Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende; 2) Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe; 3) Wrenched of the Earth, Franz Fanon.

*Please note that a vacation at the beach with my parents isn't my choice vacation, in fact, I haven't done such a thing since I was in high school. Don't get me wrong, my parents are absolutely wonderful and great drinking buddies, but I prefer and usually end up wandering around Latin America in a "chicken bus" or canoeing/hiking through the backwoods up North. Yet, circumstances led me to the beach.

3 The last book you finished was:
Things Fall Apart by Achebe. I recommend it. That said, I read Anthills of the Savannah years ago, and I have to say, I liked it better. Perhaps it's just that it has a modern political (anti-imperialist) undercurrent , which I'm partial too. Though, while Things Fall Apart is set during an earlier historical moment (beginning at the moment before the English imperial forces penetrated Ghana; ending as the Christian tentacles inject villages with a social plague), it certainly has an embryonic anti-colonial flare.

In 2005, I've also read (in no particular order):
Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende
A Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers
Kissing in Manhattan, David Schickler
Me Talk Pretty Some Day, David Sedaris
The Laments, George Hagen
and most of McSweeney’s no. 14.

Books that have been staring at me from my bed-side table for ages:
Satanic Verses, Salmon Rushdie ( I made it 1/4th of the way through on a plane flight, then didn't pick it back up until several weeks later when I was left utterly confused. I've tried multiple times since, but am slowly coming to the conclusion that it is not a good read-for-a-half-hour-before-bed book, but rather needs extensive coffee shop/under a tree time, which I don't have at the moment. Maybe I should return it to the book shelf until my next substantial urban--I don't think it's a good read-in-the-woods book--vacation).
Autobiography of Mother Jones
The CIO's Left-Led Unions, ed. Steve Rosswurm

4 Five books you often read or that mean a lot to you:
Soooo many... There are many categories of meant a lot.

There's those books that have greatly shaped my political development. I would include these as a start:
The Marx-Engels Reader (I know it's lame to list a collection as meaningful book, but otherwise, I'd have to list ten or so individual texts and that's not that interesting, either).
The Prison Notebooks, Antonio Gramsci
Condition of Postmodernity, David Harvey
Classes, Erik Olin Wright

Those that have changed my understanding of what literature is, and what an author is able to accomplish:
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce

Those that have inspired me as a poet/communist (note, the small "c"):
Canto General, Pablo Neruda

Those that I happened to read at the exact moment that I needed them, and were thus transformed into catalysts for deep personal change:
The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing (read in 2001)
Damian, Hermann Hesse (read somewhere around 1996 )

Then, there are those that are just all around fantastic books. There's lots of those, too many to name (e.g.: Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison; 100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marques).

5 Who you're going to pass this along to and why:
I'm going to have to get back to you on that one.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Revolving Doors

I’ve always hated revolving doors: in airports, subway stations, malls, office buildings—whether empty or crowded—their glass panes stare me down; they threaten or at the very least, dare me.

In an empty building, I can bravely accept their challenge; I can be victorious. I slow my city hustle pace to a stand still, stare intently through their smudge panes, take a deep breath, and push as hard as I can to get through as quickly as possible. To date, I have avoided entrapment (knock on wood).

However, in a crowded building, the challenge is much greater; the risk is not entrapment, but amputation. In spite of the increased risk, there is no time for strategy or to gather my courage; I cannot simply stop abruptly, in the middle of foot traffic, to wait until the doors are clear of naïve shoppers, travelers and men in suits, so that I, alone, can face off with the revolving doors. To do so would be sure suicide.

No. Instead, I have to quickly slip between the doors, moving at exactly the right speed, quickly estimating the force necessary to coordinate with my fellow travelers so that we can keep the doors revolving smoothly, and thus avoid bodily injury.

On a groggy morning, this is a very dangerous endeavor: any little misstep, any minor slip on a wet tile, any falter in my internal metronome could mean sure death. It’s a miracle, really, that I have survived twenty-six (26) years of my life unharmed by a revolving door. On an average day, I pass through ten (10): from the Back Bay train station, cutting through Copley Plaza and then the Prudential Center, I easily hit five (5) one way. It’s incredible that I still have all four of my limbs and all ten of my digits in tact.

Now, I don’t watch the local nightly news, nor do I read the who-was-murdered-where section of the local paper, so I can’t be sure, but I seems from my removed perspective that there a surprisingly low number of fatalities result from revolving doors.

Yet, a minimal amount of research indicates that revolving doors are indeed a safety hazard, and that electronic revolving doors are worse. Between 1991 and 1992 there were forty (40) revolving door accidents in Los Angeles, twenty-two (22) involved the elderly and infirm, one quarter of whom were using walking aids, most of the remainder involved young children (

In June of 1994, a mechanical error led one pane of a revolving door to jam and the following pane to swing forward, slamming into the body of a woman and pinning her between the two glass panels (

As recently as March 17th, 2005 a 6 year old boy was murdered by an electronic revolving door in Japan. The prosecutors indicted three “professionals” for negligence (, but we all know that it was not human error that led to this tragic event, but the inherent malady of revolving doors.

Thus, my concerns are vindicated. Maybe after the Revolution, or perhaps after I retired from organizing workers and fighting capitalism, I’ll lead a charge against revolving doors. In the mean time, I suppose I will have to continue traveling through these ominous portholes; I will continue to knock on wood, take deep breaths and search for four-leaf clovers. I will not, however, put up with metaphorical revolving doors in my personal life. That’s where I draw the line.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


Snow sparkling on the ground under the street light; shins hidden in snow drifts; heavy wind made visible by dense white flurries. Frightened (my mom always told me not to go out in below-zero temperatures; not to traipse around when the wind is roaring at more 20 mph), I venture out: face covered, feet booted, fingers mittened.

Unlike in my hometown in the southern Midwest—where the world stops at the sight of sticking snow; stops when the wind-chill drops below zero (the children will freeze, after all); where slippers go on, chili stews in its pot, fire dances warmth through the house; where sedentary muscles melt into house arrest, beer and videos entertain—in urban Boston, people venture out. They brave the elements; use their quadriceps to lift heavy boots, one step at a time, out of the snow.

At some point in the maturation process, one needs to re-evaluate childhood lessons. Most of this happens as a classic coming of age story during adolescence, e.g.: “Stand By Me,” "Catcher in the Rye". Yet some remnants remain through early adulthood, most based in a deeply ingrained fear: don’t dive off high cliffs into rivers; don’t leave the toaster plugged in; don’t venture out in a blizzard.

While my mom is usually right (especially when it comes to relationships and homemade medical remedies—like flat Coke for a stomach ache, including that which accompanies a hangover), her nurturing, overly-protective, biological instincts have left me with various unnecessary fears. Untangling the unnecessary and absurd from the rational can take years, decades really.

Last night, I dared to untangle. While debating whether to leave my apartment, cross the Charles into Cambridge for a dinner party or to lie snuggled on my couch, watching movies, it occurred to me that I have canoed against 30 mph winds. If I could canoe under such conditions for hours, days, in fact, I could probably walk. It was an epiphany. I bundled up in layers, putting on the same rain pants that keep me dry while canoeing, and headed out.

What I learned on this cross-city adventure was that maneuvering through blizzard-like conditions is a bit different than canoeing. When paddling, you want the bow of the canoe to cut into the wake at about a 75 degree angle. Essentially, slicing the wind head-on; slicing the waves. A 45 degree angle would mean guaranteed tipping; 90 degrees, a stand-still. This ideal angle still grates on your shoulders, on your biceps; you still feel lactic acid crawling under your skin. Yet it is significantly easier, and at least you move forward, at least you progress.

Walking, however, is extremely unpleasant at 75 degrees. In fact, it’s unpleasant at all angles; the wind, sharp and cold, slices you. Thus, one can only pray (and since I’m an atheist, this only gets you so far) for a tailwind.

I enjoyed my adventure, though. The air was chaotic, almost violent, yet quiet and prestine. The ground was mysterious, yet soft and as shinny as a sequenced dress.

I smiled, surprised.

Monday, January 17, 2005


There is something compelling about pruning plants. I discovered this a couple of years ago when I moved into an apartment that had a dying plant abandoned on the porch. It looked dead: it had four semi-alive brown, drooping leaves, a tangled mess of dead ones and vines so parched and brittle that they snapped at my touch.

But I was hopeful. I gave it a bit of water and slowly, carefully, picked the dead leaves off of the maybe-alive vines; snapped the brittle vines away from the maybe-alive ones. It took time to peel back the snarl, but as I created space in the pot, I discovered under the tangled mess a couple of struggling green babies curled, out of fear, into the fetal position. I opened the world for them: unwrapped the umbilical cord from around their necks; offered security; showed them the sky.

But the most satisfying part of pruning is not clearing space; it's snapping the dead leaves off of their vine, opening a pore from which a new bud can emerge. It simply amazes me that by burying the dead, you create life.

My plant is beautiful now, explosive really. Its leaves are the size of my hands; they have crayon green edges with spring green veins; they spill out of their 14" pot.

I find pruning to be so satisfying that once I stopped dead, in the middle of making out with someone, to prune my favorite house plant. It couldn't wait; it demanded my attention.

So, for those of you seeking hope, I recommend that you prune your plants regularly.

A Cactus in Spring

One hand down between
my legs, the other upturned
on my sheet: I am dry inside,

and think of cactus. But it,
split open, leaks honey. I am

already split, my flesh: a brittle
red petal, clinging onto
unsweetened skin.


My mom called today to tell me that there were no more avocados in Texas. The rain hadn’t come for months and months, and Papa’s garden was brown instead of red. She cried as she told me that we could no longer have Cita’s guacamole, that the tomatoes and onions were gone, too.

I remember one hot day when the humidity made the air thick with a sticky film. It was saturated and you knew the rain would come soon to flood the streets so that we could drive along and spray the car clean. Mom made me leave the cool house for the beach, an hour away in the pickup without air.

We went and it was hot. We came back and I was salty and sticky and my clothes clung to my skin. Papa came out of the house, his eyebrows taut like his weathered hands. He stood in his garden next to the cucumbers and the chain-linked fence and grabbed my hand. He looked up at the sky. It was time for the rain again.


The moon hung from the sky tonight. Upside down. Someone must have tipped it over like a glass of red wine. It wasn’t stained though. Not the way wine stains clothes and carpets and books. I felt guilty when I stained those books. I would guess that my face turned as red as the wine. But I couldn’t say so. I laughed instead.

I did not knock over the moon. I did not knock over the moon. I did not knock over the moon. I did knock over the wine and I am sorry.

M-I-Crooked Letter-Crooked Letter

1 Mississippi,
2 Mississippi,
3 Mississippi—
my turn to drink

the water that flows
out of the rusty spout,
brown, like the color
of mud telling a story
between the winding
ridges of land, sweeping
the sides clean and smooth.

The rocking between floods
and droughts exposes
a jungle of roots to the sun,
drowning them in light, then
hiding them in them same water
that counts time passing
as land goes by.

Lost Subtleties

These days gulps are taken,
large bites of rich and saturated
food; round and full
like breasts, curved to fall
onto the palate, precisely; heavy
and dense like sweat,

expected. The slight caress
of a sip of Jasmine is almost
lost, is almost anonymous, is
almost like the touch of a stranger’s
finger on a bare elbow.


My black half-slip clung to my thighs
holding my legs together
against the weight of the water.

I wanted to catch them, swim freely
after them, or with them. But not stay
still. I was supposed to stay still.
Not try. Stay still.

I kicked hard inside my slip
but went under
instead of forward. My pulse hurried
I stayed still.

A Thousand Paper Cranes

Children fold paper
inside out, showing
adults how to crease
angles into life.

They align diagonals
with diagonals, matching
the leftover scraps
of a long, cold weekend:

newspapers, brown paper bags,
yesterday's homework wait
for a miracle,
for lines to form

a neck arching towards the sun,
mouth puckered
to taste the colors of bent rays
falling through time

until dust shatters
as the bomb explodes,
dropping pieces of gray ash
to annihilate:

what was there now
isn’t, is nothing
but white space
strung together by a small girl.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


Home. House. Kitchen. Room. Growing up. Home?

I come home, but can't find the kitchen. The kitchen is missing: the white metal cabinets that don't quite close; the tupperware drawer filled with containers that have no lids; the cereal cabinet full of entirely too many different types of cereal, most of which will become stale before they are eaten; the square oak table, heavy—it too is missing; the stainless steal cabinets—“Hey, did you know that the family that lived in this house before the family before us owned a restaurant??” “No, but when I was 12, we let the sink water fill up and flood the stainless steal cabinet. That’s why the cabinets have a high ledge anyway, right?”

I used to sit on top of the cabinet, by the stove. I used to eat junk food out of that same corner; splatter chocolate chip pancake batter all over the floor beneath it; watch Perry Mason on the tiny, fuzzy TV, commanded by a cheap fork, from across the room. I used to cry while baking brownies with my mother; laugh while I scooped out avocados with my grandmother; hit my brother in the chest while I tried (always unsuccessfully) to steal the last cookie; drive my father absolutely nuts by not putting the lid back onto the margarine container.

I come home. Where’s the kitchen? Where are the stains, the spots, the crooked cabinets? Where’d that goddamn fuzzy TV go? And the cereal? What am I supposed to eat for breakfast? I can’t find the forks, the knifes, the plates, the canned foods.

Granite, hickory and hard wood floors replace childhood.

And what the hell happened to my room?

My childhood room had exposed brick, painted a shiny lavender until I grew up, turned 13 and toned it down. The now cream-colored windowsills are stained forever with crayon daisies. There are prescription label warnings forever littering the full-length mirror: take with food; take as directed by physician; do not stray from the path. Bumper stickers scraps remain steadily glued to the windows; portraits of the Beatles stuck above the doorway; a million tiny thumbtack holes littering the walls: leftovers.

Now a cross hangs from sateen off-white bricks. Yes, a cross (as in Jesus). And, what’s worse? Computers, calculators, calendars, clock radios; file cabinets, fax machines, phone lines; sterile desk lamps. All immediately crush the ghost of adolencsent attempts of self-realization.

I can still see a candle wax stain on the bookshelf. I remember hours of angsty survival. And now? I see my old typewriter, relegated to the corner, and want to cry.

Home. There's nothing quite like it.