Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Hallows from Iowa with Love

A nun in shorts and a man's beard,
the devil in a short skirt
a knight, a scarecrow, a minion,
a banana, a watermelon, a mermaid
a barbie, a football fan, a cub fan
a man walking with crossed feet,
a woman stumbling with her weight
a woman trying to figure out what wears her most: her costume
or her confidence,
a city buzzing with life, ghosts, pumpkins and a replay of theme songs
to say goodbye to fall,
to all the hallows,

Happy Halloween!

Dear Iowa City

Dear Iowa City,
thank you for restoring my faith

I had believed in a weight larger than me
that introduces me, before my name,
lost it, like all good athletes
to other endeavors but this is a story for other times

a tear drops in the Iowa is carried to Chicago,
aboard the Mississippi, down toward lake Michigan
the places we meet take meetings further with us
to stay is a verb conjugated with memory, these days

dear Iowa city, home of hawks
I haven't seen one up close, but I am sure
bravery is kept at heart. Iowa city home of black
and yellow, two colors that contrast in me

one for mourning and the other for sickness
home for my body within the last ten weeks
a long time is short, outlived by minutes,
lived, longed for, imagined

this city, students and poems, poems and other stories
maybe I should learn to listen more
speak less, observe, men in jackets
women in short skirts

use more complex adjectives
for the city, its fire red sky, the faces
of friends on the street-corners
like a reality, never left

dear Iowa city, here I have fought
for one final time, against all the demons
the ones in colorful suits and the ones with red skin
I walked out of the fire with an ember in my hand

dear Iowa city, you have taught me closely
how I can still be with others without losing
my own skin, for that and for the faith
I will always be thankful.

Till we meet again,
bones in my poems, poems in my bones.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Teaching children

Teaching a child how to put pencil to paper
is like telling a row of ants
not to attack the sugar bowl that fell from the shelves

how easy do little bodies pick up what we have long discarded
in accidents


within one week, art sits in my lap
an idea forms itself inside of my chest

this is unexpected, to arrive somewhere
new and expect nothing but a traveling of emotions

in motion, like camels,
devoid of their weights

this is unexpected, to depart somewhere
familiar, with nothing but a traveling of past emotions

in motion, like stars,
whooshing past you devoid of energy

this is the ends of fates, not sealed
not boxed, just lined up clearly

this is really unexpected:

the tears, tearing, tears

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pull over

put away your pink sweaters
it is too young to keep colors on your chest

it is time to dig out the colors that negate this fountain 
of youth and glory, the greys, the blues, the blacks

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Freedom is too big

These days I think about freedom, what it means
to haunt a space, to take another, to let out a gasp
without worrying about how long it will take
for it to be retrieved from you

get back onto the wagon of running
for the name of more space, isn't that freedom-
a space, indented out of daily lives, out of a place
not belonging or asking for anything begged differently

in other coins, on laps, in long intermittent train rides
where one street becomes the next one in the line of motion
is freedom a room of one's own perfume
a scent that greets you when you open the door?

isn't it, like a lot of concepts,
the single point between seeing and becoming?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Your 'style'

Boots up to the knee
books up on the back, leather jackets
little make-up, a smile with the ocean
in its corners.

this is your style, appreciated
his hand flicks your hair in agreement
it will be alright, you let him

he says I like your style,
you nod, say better now
before it changes, this style goes
out of date, but my voice stays.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A knock on the door

Remember me, probably not today
it is too condense, the present moment
for us to consider what stays, who lives
in us before parting. but this is the truth,

I have knocked on your door and you answered
mistaking me for someone else
you smiled and I knew it would be a good day
friend, this is what remains long after we leave.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Pumpkin carving

rounder, rugged with edges
this is a gift for leaving
a pumpkin to carve into shapes
for a Halloween we never celebrated before today.

Sunday in Iowa City

Diner's full, overflowing with families
homeless beggars still sit in the same corner
recycling people's pennies, if given once
a soft sun blows on the autumn leaves on the ground
the streets are empty, what more, does a city need
than its own people to make its own benches
not feel the lonesomeness of travelers
who are orphaned by distance.

How to successfully say farewell

With ink first, because that's always easy
smudge, leave open to dry

with food, salad, preferably chopped up greenery
it is healthier, takes less time to digest

with cake, sugar keeps you awake
wakefulness allows you to see

with photographs, inanimate renditions
of a life frozen, in passing

with drinks, clanking of glass
upon glass promotes better wishes that open up like late night flowers

with a hug at the door,
extends a hopeful waiting for meetings that are going to be cut short
by flashes, only tiny morsels you will take away with you in time.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What have you seen?

with travel comes a tradition
of an unfolding tale

of bravery, a fin here
a conquering of a night's street

thugs stealing your hat in the winter
frail nylon socks of frail women in nylon wigs

the color of an ocean between dusk
and dawn, how it doesn't emit sunshine

I have seen those,
seen my plaid face blush in a mirror

sight is not always about what we note
in others, it is also about how we look

Maybe it is easier to ask
what have you not seen
for me to properly answer you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Io and the passage

 Io, ever light-footed
hoof on hoof, confused for feet

swerves past narrow passages
finds another god, to receive 
the same sentence we  have when 
we match the stars for luck:

that things mend, like skin 
cover over old scars, new money 
in our pockets, travel to destinations
unknown to reintroduce our faces to us
in glistening mirrors

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Timing, is everything, I have often heard
you say. How we pick out a rose,
how we pray, how we stop praying
we chose, the best time for exits

don't we?

Monday, October 17, 2016

First love

"it's not about who touches you
it is about what you reach to touch back "

read the rest here

Sunday, October 16, 2016


This is how we will go about it then
I sleep while you ward off the devils from my doorstep

this is how we went about it,
I brush off my pillows and you clinically call it insomnia

so what if I cannot sleep for a few nights?
maybe rest doesn't always have to arrive from closing our eyes

maybe I think too much when I misspell my lines
maybe this is about hima, 

not him, not a him, not you and my first name
maybe this is about hima, protection

that I can sleep with my door open
without you standing on the doorstep.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fifteen days

Fifteen days is what I have on my hands
not enough

before I kiss the marble atop the river, make senseless incantations
to three friends in leather jackets
a dancing night were I saw nothing but fog rise and fall
on a dance-floor
a flare of all the walks I took under green trees that turn rancid yellow
a space that contained my body, a room I called home
because home can shrink and become just four walls

when I arrived, my body rejected this room
rejected thoughts of me lying on a stranger's bed
calling it my own
rejected the hugs I received from a woman who is
older. bolder, as clear as crystal

senseless these poems,
this idle life, quiet like nothing can reach you
this desire to be like a creek
contain water, bugs, bodies
this is what you do not have to fight for, easy

fifteen days I go back
to where I fit like a glove, to where the mountains meet
the clouds, that meet God, that is
humans. I travel in reverse, heart first
then suitcase, memories, a joy
where I wake up by roosters calling
prying at the importance of morning

fifteen days and I walk back, with a head held high
to the fast-track days, mornings that fall into nights
tell my pillow  and my bed that I enjoy thier comfort
I am not ready

Friday, October 14, 2016

is it too soon?

Is it too soon, to write a letter
that dates a goodbye and push it in the mail
like you are leaving tomorrow

while you have just arrived?
run a few kilometers down a sunny road
you will get what I mean

even this wind is ecstatic to the fact
that you are here, full
head and body, altogether in one place

I told you walking is a secret,
march the same path over and over
you return to yourself

like a child long lost to his mother
returning is an art
tied to a shoelace, its sister, leaving

do you need to have spelled out
your name in red ink, maybe these dark hues
can help you see better

that long queues will keep moving
forward because this is the only direction
in traffic that's long jammed on a highway

is it too soon, this attachment
a pulling at our skin to go
while all we need to do is stand still?

hear me whisper to you today:
do not stay, do not go, figure this mystery out
all by yourself, while I finish up this coffee.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why so much loss?

Then they ask you not to talk
about losing while you are sitting in a cemetery
pointing out the number of names you do not recognize
praying for those you do

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On the road to recovery

This is like addiction
the act of pressing ink to the page and creation of a new universe
you always need a sponsor on the road 
to recovery

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Change, help, change

You cannot change a stone
into bread, nor wine into water
there are limitations to what you can do
but that doesn't mean shriveling like a child will help

for even those who want to help change
cannot be helped unless they help themselves.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Five days in Seattle

Seattle is a West Coast City, the Emerald city, city of rain and fog, city of siren and song, city of land and water. Please bring a jacket, a camera, snacks and an umbrella. 

    *Day one*
He peers into my photograph 
with an eye loupe
 round black with a magnifier
looks up and down, scans my face,

he looks for a thing I cannot pinpoint
but I know my face is full: acne, moles
a nose I disapprove of, falsely placed teeth
a head split open and sewed back together, once

I smile, when he peers into a collection of papers
this time for dates that define me
birth, landmark, hometown,
things I overlook generally because they are just mine

half-dazed I pull my roller-bag
with each step forward the back of his head
turns smaller and smaller
to loop, is to round un loup, 

with a dropped (e), is French for wolf
a prey, a prayer, palpable those old tales

I glance back one more time
 this time I smile, it is for my own self

*Day two* 

I don't know about space wars
I can barely keep up with the ones
ravaging earth with images left
in memory and in numbers

but I do know that fur space balls
can be malicious and that seven hundred guitars
can play one tune if you really
give each one a chance at stringing to their own melody

and I know that songs stop being about those
who write them and start becoming an anthem
to love, to a cast-away friend, to trial
mostly to error

and I do know that a friend is willing
to let you lean on his shoulder long enough until
you can walk alone
with your shoulders straightened out

I know there are questions between books in a shop
gulping of earl-grey and closing of eyes
questions that drag questions
about words, about the direction of wired tramways and buses

that are purple on the outside and gleaming silver on the inside
there was a new old friend with conversations about blessing
how finding a person can be a gift, like language
like humor, like a wave that breaks on the bay of the ocean

a few minutes before sundown

*Day three* 

The wind blows long and icy over the Puget Sound 
on the deck the click of my boots compete with  seagulls,
with hope in finding an old whale-fin 
that has lost its way and by chance ended up near the ferry-boats

there's a sensation unmatched for water, when for a minute
you turn to the foam that fills its surface
an instant of nothing, transfixed: 
no land in sigh, no need for moving 

yet float forward, because that's the only direction 
no whale song, no joy in looking at half-lapped
sleeping waves, not awake nor pleasuring 
for travelers who are too fond of land 

skyscrapers behind, I am tossed between wave 
and sky. This is the magic of water: it reflects 
a sky so blue is only as vast 
as the water that's right bellow 

soon, there will be land
a leaf that's fallen and crested red with envy 
brown with old age, this rage
to reserve is an act of preservation 

a live keeping of tree among goose
among deer that flee by sight of other humans 
this is emerald then,
balance in color

no one waits for  you when your steps are smaller 
to walk in the woods, you have to stop searching for foxes 

it rains when I am on deck again 
I tap my chest three times like confessing a bagful of sins I haven't made
nor thought of making yet
then I damn the minute other waters went inside of me 

never evaporating 

*Day Four* 

this little Rachel piggy went to the market, 
that little piggy decided to stay home by the ocean, 
this little piggy thought that oysters are better than Chinese
that little piggy had nothing to eat 

this little piggy went...
Oh! I miss home. 

*Day Five* 

How do we count our steps back,
do we stop moving altogether?
my feet find way in the midst of other runners
 motion breeds motion and the ocean breeds

smaller intersections of water
where the running ends there's an alley of grit
surrounded by long wooden logs
where the sea-lions and seal stretch for sun and sleep

where the children throw rocks of marble
atop the water, where the sirens will secretly
use desolate land to comb their hair and practice
shorter songs to the art of seduction

where I kneel and touch the breaking wave
too cold this surface that's been broken, spoken
sung so low, so slow like a woman who is waiting
for a long labor to begin

it has been five days, sleeping and waking to the wave
looking out for whale, looking around for information
for a fang, a fish, a siren
an explanation, a calmness, a vigor
a Beattles song, a hot cup of coffee, an old friend
an explanation, a calmness, a vigor

I bent over to touch the first wave, cold again
for five days
I wait by the ocean side for something,
it gives me nothing back.

Photograph mine, taken with a Canon Sx610

Sunday, October 9, 2016

She considers telling him

I could tell he did not fit into a checkbox
the same way he could tell I couldn't place either
our names betray us, our features
turn to bite our necks

but he was graceful in asking about the soil
that made me, not my mother's rib
or my father's tired eyes
it was land,

this attachment to city names
in smaller cities with bigger communities and less eyes
to directly look into your window without permission
I had allowed him the lookout

he had brown eyes
the kind of brown that tells a story
of a land not his own, in a land where he lives
tied to those who look and talk like him and me

where is home, we constantly ask
from privilege and badly conceived metaphors
answer with half-hearted phrases
a completion of previous understatements

he had thick black hair but soft hands
the same hands that let my blood freeze
instead of boil over: all we need is tiny reminders
here and there of people spread away from us

like wind-blown seeds
because the sounds in one person's throat
change with the formation of phrases
to understand, to make more

there's a story for every dance
there's a resemblance of those who left
making me unable to accept
what I know I have lost for sure.

My grandmother and the wristwatch

My grandmother refused to wear a wristwatch
she said that only God kept track of time in our lives 
marking these with a rising sun here and a wave pulled 
by the moon there, at its own pace

my grandmother refused to wear a wristwatch
yet often gave me ones on various occasions
because she believed we are not keepers of time 
but holders of pointers to make possible the days 

my grandmother refused to wear a wristwatch but gave me 
a few for the markers of my own time: 
childhood birthdays, a mixture of leather and barbie plastic 
teenage high school graduation a tint of silver for better years 

end of college, gold to wrap around the antique wrinkles I developed 
carrying textbooks that hid into the 'shouldn't' 
the art of hiding is easy to manage 
like disapproving glances that turn into a head-nod 

like choosing to talk in a tongue older women did not 
approve of because they didn't understand
that the skids in this language and that 
make me more aware of the pitfalls of the lies 

lifted between two cups of coffee:
one for goodbye and one for welcoming 
but this is not a story or a space for these thoughts 
it is a lesson in secrets of wristwatches

how we give undeserving people gifts that make 
them more deserving, just to keep time 
my grandmother refused to wear a wristwatch
but made sure I wore mine to know exactly when I was due 
to pay her a visit.   

Saturday, October 8, 2016


I had a dream
I fell in yours, suddenly and was paralyzed by the fall
not able to wake up or even walk

I realize that dreams do not mean more than we clothe them, yet

she asked me,
said: I want someone to explain to me
what I have seen from within myself

sometimes we fail to understand our own selves

Joseph was smart and brave
seven cows eating seven wheat sticks
seven times seven, the perfect number

this is perfection: seeing beyond what we imagine when we sleep

he didn't need to say
that he stopped dreaming
when I started walking in and out of his arms

these are the ends of the beginnings: we run from what grounds us

earth shook but there was no quake
no major changes in the direction of the sun
just a few humans asking for empathy

knock once, knock twice at times sound takes too long to travel

like these dreams fished
with a hole in my nets
the more open it is,the easier the catch

but not everything that is open remains good
some goods fester and rot, somehow with overexposure
this is exactly why I have been falling in your dreams
like a rotten apple that needs interpretation to the art of belonging elsewhere.

Short-lived, this meeting

The meeting of homelands in rugged salons
where your face, your name, my features
become the common talk is always
short-lived, shorter than a passing cloud
that greets to move on to other lands,
how sad, have we ultimately become?

Orca viewing

On the ship's deck
they asked me to look close, but far ahead
I couldn't keep my eyes open for long
soon the waves were cold but the wind was icy
off the navel of the ocean

Nobility by the wave

There's nothing noble about it,
 the fact that I can afford to sit on an ocean front and write to you
 by the ocean side.

 there's nothing noble about how the waves lap and retract
they trail behind a light,
a tremor, a promise

 to begin again tomorrow.
There's nothing noble about disasters
 or storms yet we lend them our energy, borrow from
them the wind that keeps whirling around all of us.

This is how you teach a class

There are eyes that will look up to find your face
ears that keep trying to hear you speak
even when you do not pay attention, for a few seconds.

Variations on the word ill

There are so many ways to say 
you have no energy left in your body 
not enough to open your eyes or brave a smile 

yes, brave, a little action 
demands a lot of previous reactions 
that lead to it's acquisition: a light to a lamp 

a recognition of better days 
when it is sunny but you do not 
bother to look for the side on which the sun came 

to the world, light brings better light 
or that is the theory, 
isn't it true, darling?

there are so many ways to say 
your body rejects you 
like an ocean that has spewed up a fish 

that hasn't died yet
unable to accept it back 
to hold it, leave it, or pretend it was never there 

to begin with. You know you have seen 
the ways were wrong happens 
while you try your best, angle your hands 

to catch all the weariness in you 
without being too physical, 
without considerations of being 

mentally present in every single moment 
the way you hate a mispronunciation 
of your very name 

wronged once by your own
wronged twice by those who should be able to use 
it interchangeably like water 

to run the usual course
there are so many ways to say 
this body, like everything else, fights you 
but you manage to somehow remain standing still.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

They all fall

These all fall:

my hair, no longer thick drains away
my mother says this is called the eggplant season
when vegetation turns the color purple
that this is the season of shedding

the summer that said goodbye
before I could hold it in my arms
the hairs, the leaves for a better
budding. the lovers who left
the beloved who stayed
the times I count what falls and what stays hanging.