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.

lost

alki beach is crowded today. shirtless men
are softened by the sun as they
play volleyball and
children race to the edge of the ocean,
squealing as puget sound waters
lick their toes. at the beach’s center, however,
there is a stillness.
a woman faces the shore, her long black hair and
red paisley-print pants ruffled by
the impassioned breeze,
her black crop top exposing a finely wrinkled stomach.
a baby is on her hip, pointing and giggling at seagulls
as she smokes the cigarette that was gifted by
kind strangers.
she stands, immobilized in time.

remember me

Amá always said she saw spirits.
they were everywhere–even en el rancho,
in between the cacti and rivers that coiled
around mi abuelo’s bright orange home. even in
los estados unidos, en el este de los ángeles
as light and fleeting as memory. los espíritus
are everywhere, the past creeping up like
ivy on a barbed wire fence, begging for
immortality.

the penguin man

his flip-flops squeak as he waddles down the hall. before he reaches the end of the hall, where our floor’s shared bathrooms are, he peers at the staircase and watches me trudge up the steps.
“hiya!” he exclaims. he pauses at the top of the steps. i smile politely.
“how are you?” he asks. i haven’t seen him since i moved into the apartment building, which was five months ago. i respond with a generic, “i’m good. how are you doing?” he ignores my question. instead he replies, “you work, right?”
i nod.
“what is it that you do, exactly? the landlord told me you were a counselor.”
i am shocked by his abruptness. i vaguely tell him that i’m not a counselor–i’m actually an americorps volunteer.
i ask him, “how about you, what is it that you do?” i am still a little stunned by his forwardness.
“have a good night!” he answers, and waddles over to the restrooms.
*
i need to be the one doing the questioning.

sleepless

when i first came here, the people seemed to have been drugged by the clouds in the sky. their eyes were heavy with weariness and their faces were pale and wrinkly, almost like rice paper.

i watched them from a distance and assured myself that my solar powered, cheerful attitude was a fixed trait of mine. it would endure the absence of sunshine, the crisp air of rain, and the yearning of family and friends who were miles away.

five months ago, my eyes would have drank the ‘harsh’ sunlight the same way that shorelines drink ocean water. five months have passed, and my eyes have begun to cringe at seattle’s filtered sunlight. 

i now too, look like rice paper. my sandy skin has hardened to a white clay that i’m not sure i can mold anymore. five months ago, i shaped sandcastles that resembled the palace i called ‘julie’. it could be anything i wanted it to be: a sea turtle, a mayan pyramid, a quetzal, an angel wing, a siberian tiger.

five months later, the sandcastle is only a pile of wet sand.