snakebite

if i knew what hardened your hands to stone
i’d suck it right of out you. a breathless attempt
at your salvation.

you stiffen–the flowerbeds on your chest decompose
underneath the kisses i try to plant. i panic.

i am trying to remember remedies
i never learned.

the quiet

your absence echoes confusion and clarity
in my head. our love felt so real that
i didn’t notice its fragility; petty arguments
crumbled compassion and
mistrust clouded understanding.

the echo deepens until i envision the cosmos,
where dead stars whisper riddles that are
the secrets of life. the echo throbs and
i meditate over our past, hoping to decipher
a riddle on love, a riddle on our truth.

the riddle melts into the strings of constellations
and weaves itself into the empty fabric of
our night sky. in its emptiness,
i almost forgot to remember–
i am free.

guilt

you have appeared to me in many forms.
today you hide in winter-themed covered packages
and exhale murkiness when i untie holiday ribbon–
you follow me like flies on horse shit. old friend,
your shadow often backpacks alongside mine
whispering my wrongs, reminding me of what
i could not do, what i cannot do–and you bask
in my frustrations, insisting that i can still be
redeemed, i can still fix things, i can still be loved.
like a spell that catholics murmur in the hour of their death,
i ask you to leave me be–
now and forever.

morning conversations

every morning, at the small square table
covered with a cream tablecloth that almost
grazes the floor, there is a disagreement.
sometimes it is about thrift stores, memories,
the taste of cinnamon, gun control–
but today, it is about tortillas.

did you know that some people put peanut butter in their tortillas?
my sister says, as she stares at the white woman on tv
eating a chicken wrap.

oh, yeah. i nod. i have a coworker who does that.
some people don’t even heat them up.

she frowns, and shakes her head.
ew. peanut butter and raw tortillas? weeeeird.

my brother leans back on his chair and replies,
maybe you’re the weird one.

what? i’ve been eating tortillas my whole life.

actually, my brother says, crossing his arms,
maybe that’s how they eat their tortillas, and
you were the one eating it wrong this whole time.
even my mom.

my sister rolls her eyes.
but it was my tortilla before it was theirs.

only $12

in the thick of expensive cigar smoke,
i noticed your clarks and wondered–
maybe i’d be better at math
if everyday calculations were less troubling.

$12 in my jean pocket
(because jeans go with everything)
and i rummage through goodwill sales
where cute black tennis shoes are only $7.99
(i wish i had a pair)
and beautiful blouses for my new job are $10.99
(because unfortunately, dress to impress)
shit, a shirt or the shoes?

i leave goodwill with the shoes and blouses in memory–
i’m running low on soap and tampons are more expensive
than they should be.

$12 in my ripped bag
(i just haven’t had the money to replace it)
while at target i remember that i should get a pillow
(i’ve learned to sleep without one, but still)
and i see the most beautiful choker:
coral, white, and silver crystals hang like
chandeliers, a serene luxury–12.99.

i leave target with only self-reflection–
i have slept without a pillow for over a month now,
and i need to pay my coworker back.

the cigar smoke couldn’t mask your class.
and when you whispered that you scored a
great deal–chocolate for only $12!
i couldn’t help but wonder who’s better at math.

one

we can only respect our cultures
when they respect our women.
the rugged path they paved with womens’ bones
is lit by orbs that hold dreams they forced us to forget–
dreams in which limits only came from our fears
and not systemic cages and structural, inevitable dead ends
where men stand in the dark like vampires who use glamour
to feign trust and to illustrate humanity’s tenderness.
forced to walk barefoot on this path, the stones sting
like cigarette burns and pierce like
coerced body art at a tattoo parlor; right before
her tattoo session she screams that
she refuses to go down this aisle with that pale man
she’s run away from in her dreams
because in her dreams she awoke to a man’s
fate tattooed on her collarbone. she chants that
she is no one’s keeper, she is no one’s anything
but her own.

fool’s gold

the delivery of glazed promises
in somber pink, clear-top boxes
confirmed your devotion to
relieving all those years
of hunger pains that
i thought you could heal.

the colorful assortments of sweets
you’ve given me lately
form itchy, red love mounds
on my skin and ease those
cravings for tenderness.

self-proclaimed nourishment
beats deprivation–
a self-coerced affirmation.