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Thursday, September 25, 2008


Culled from depths I held
long forgotten, thorns appear to
insinuate themselves,
questioning my sense of self
until that schoolgirl hurt
endured, not overcome, returns.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Island / Isla


Had I ever thought of the words island and us, there would have been beaches and streams, lush woods and tiny, hidden coves, a bungalow in a climate that was never harsh. We would have picked fruit from the trees, and prepared roasts over a fire in the sand. We would have worn light clothing that parted with a breath of air, and we would have gone barefoot, always. Caresses would have been gently plentiful, words would have been softly spoken and decisions would never have been agonized over on this island of ours.

As it is for all lovers, our island existed in that part of our house we called home, in the forever unnecessary words left unsaid, in the proximity in time if not always in space, of your arm, your hand, your cheek.

This island we made, the island of us that you’ve left me on, is a hard place to be. My bare feet have become calloused and bruised, my clothes are drafty. I’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit, and the fire we tended so gleefully has gone out. What was once our closely-guarded intimacy has become my crowded, noisy isolation, and the sprawling conversation that coaxed us through lazy hikes up and down easy, familiar hillsides has ended. That soft word us has become an island, our island, the Island of Us over which I am sole custodian.


Si alguna vez hubiese pensado en las palabras isla y nosotros, habría habido playas y arroyos, bosques exuberantes y calas recónditas, un bungalow en un clima nunca desapacible. Habríamos cogido la fruta de los árboles, habríamos preparado asados en un fuego hecho en la arena. Habríamos llevado ropa tan ligera que se hubiese separado con un soplo de aire, y habríamos ido descalzos, siempre. Las caricias habrían sido dulcemente copiosas, las palabras suavemente pronunciadas y no se habría tomado jamás con angustia ninguna decisión en esta isla nuestra.

Al igual que para todos los amantes, nuestra isla existía en aquel rincón de nuestra casa que llamábamos hogar, en las eternamente innecesarias palabras no dichas, en la proximidad en el tiempo cuando no en el espacio de tu brazo, tu mano, tu mejilla.

Esta isla que hicimos, la isla de nosotros en que me has dejado, es un lugar inhóspito. Mis pies descalzos se han llenado de callos y de morados; pasan corrientes frías por mi ropa. He recogido toda la fruta de las ramas bajas y el fuego que atendimos tan alegremente se ha apagado. Lo que antes fuera nuestra intimidad celosamente guardada se ha convertido en mi bullicioso aislamiento, y la extendida conversación que nos guiaba con una pereza familiar colina arriba y abajo se ha terminado. Esa suave palabra nosotros se ha convertido en isla, nuestra isla, la Isla de Nosotros de la que soy heredera universal.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


There is no tabula rasa.
Even in the womb you hear voices that as a newborn you later recognize. The voices acquire faces, forms and gestures to become Mom, Dad and Uncle Joe. There might even be a great-grandmother who hangs around just long enough to bounce you on her wrinkled knee before turning into an old photograph in a stuffy frame at Uncle Joe’s house. Old-lady babysitters (Mom won’t trust teenagers until you’re almost one yourself), coffee-sipping, tongue-wagging Mrs. Rogal and the only other neighborhood child, 3 year-old, blond Kevin enter your world. Even though you don’t remember Kevin, who moved away before you yourself were three, you retain a penchant for straight blond hair.
For a while people, like words and new foods, are thrust at you at ever increasing speed. Montessori school gives you the view of the harbor over a wide expanse of grass and the chestnut-bee-hived Italian teacher, Mrs. Bertucci, singing My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean. Grade schools, summer camps and churches provide an ever-increasing litany of names and faces, voices and gestures. Girlfriends, best friends, boyfriends, roommates, neighbors, partners, husbands, yoga monitors, group therapy leaders, creative writing class teachers and all their integrants and add-ons occupy corners of your ever-more-crowded world and yet somehow, 39 years later, all you remember of 5th grade is a girl named Ginny Burns who was your friend that year but she wasn’t even the friend who shared that first cigarette butt you found on the side of the road at the entrance to the trail through the woods that took you to the big rock you used for telling secrets and, from then on, smoking. Sometimes you confuse the names of your college boyfriend with the name of your ex-husband (they both begin with G…), yet you always have the name Ginny Burns (also a G-name) right there, ready for a use you haven’t found in thirty-nine entire years, with all their days and weeks and months and quarters.
Now more people seem to be leaving than arriving, and yet those who left don’t leave the corners you gave them, even if you don’t have the proper homing equipment to pull them up at will. You can hear Grampy’s voice clear as a bell, but what he’s saying is “Ya dummy!”, and although you can’t put your Grammy’s voice to any of her phrases, you easily access the slim gold link watch she gave you for your 18th birthday and that you lost when some stranger bumped your left wrist while you were walking home after work with the sun in your eyes along Bravo Murillo in Madrid in the fall of 1983.
If there were a tabula rasa, you could extract all those names you don’t need -Ginny Burns just lost forever- and you could sift through it all so that instead of seeing Pep’s eyes half-closed and rolled back in his head with little slits of white peeping out from his coma, you could see the way he looked at you and smiled after he bent to kiss you in the middle of Plaça Catalunya and said "de esto tendremos que conversar", and you could bring up and hold the way his bearded cheek felt under the palm of your right hand, and forever erase the silky softness of the hairs along his right arm, the skin of which you just couldn’t bring yourself to touch as it cooled and you waited.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Memories don’t get parking tickets
and they don’t play music you hate after a long day at work.

Memories don’t leave the toilet seat up
and they don’t snore.

Memories don’t make you walk all the way home after the late show
rather than hail a cab.

Memories make saints and martyrs
but not great disciplinarians.

Memories don’t give in and buy the playstation you refused, but neither do they haul anyone up short saying “don’t talk to your mother that way!”

Memories don’t know when to pour you a glass of wine
and they don’t weather your bad moods with grace.

Memories make great angels and heroes
but really sucky lovers.

Memories can’t hold you close.

Memories can’t fill in the blanks.
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