80’s family portrait

a 6 foot tall young man squints at the camera.
wispy brown hair frames his sun burnt face
and his thick moustache, as coarse a broom,
sits upon his lips. he wears a white polo shirt
and baggy blue jeans. sandals with socks.
his gut hangs over his belt. he is my father.

beside him is my mother. she is brown like almonds
and has puffy hair like lucille ball. she is a petite woman,
and her smile overwhelms her face. burgundy lipstick
shines her lips. she wears an oversized sweatshirt
with an enamoured taz and his wife–mrs. taz playfully
responds in bold, yellow letters–oh, you devil!

they are fearless. confident about tomorrow.
the world is moving and they are the only ones
standing still. they are young and in love.


he’s one of the shorter kids in class
who waddles over to jenna to snatch her blocks,
races to emmett to drive his toy-car and hisses at timmy
when he mutters, hello. angel, whose smile blooms
like white chrysanthemums during spring mornings.
he giggles, and i notice the lights in his eyes dancing
as the ripple of his laughter makes me laugh, too.
angel, whose momma died a year ago.

the teachers say he hasn’t been the same since. he refuses
to use his words when wanting his spiderman shoes tied
or when craving sweetened mandarin oranges. angel, whose
favorite song is please and thank you.
if you didn’t know him, you’d think
he’s unfamiliar with these words.

like angel, his daddy hasn’t been the same either.
when angel bites him, he bites back harder and when
angel screams, he screams louder. angel, who always wears
a red shirt and oversized jeans. angel, whose boogers dry
to a green crust on his nostrils and
whose fingernails are rimmed with dirt. angel,
who during nap time dances in circles,
like a lighted carousel.

waiting for papa

stay put, papa said.
he hugs me
beneath the smoke colored sky
and wetly kisses my forehead.

okay, papa, okay.
i’ll wait here.

as he runs with the men wearing
dirty, khaki uniforms
i sit under a wooden table
holding my knees,
careful to not let anyone step on me.

everyone is running in different directions
yelling the names of their children
and looking for god.
i hope the flares hit the dirt
and not them.

i want to close my eyes
like momma told me to do when i’m scared
but it’s hard not to look
at the flies picking at a dead dog
and my neighbor laying next to me
whose eyes haven’t blinked.
he is a nice man,
i remember he gave me caramel candies.

the skies now buzz with flies
it’s hard to see anything
with all the lights out.

i hear mommas wailing
and papas sobbing.
i peak my head out
and the roads look empty.

i see the sun rising behind the little houses
lighting the faces of
people who slept on the street.
some of them hug the earth
others have their arms open
towards the clouds.

everything is still.

papa still hasn’t come back.
he must have gone to the store to buy those cigarettes
the ones momma doesn’t like.
he’d be proud. i’m such a good listener
i even slept under the wooden table
like he said.

the sun reaches the center of the sky
and no one wakes up.

i will forgive you for leaving me here
only if you bring me some
caramel candies.

i know papa doesn’t like it
when i cry.
but i can’t stop crying.
he still hasn’t come back.