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.
pharmaceuticals are bullshit.
have you heard of the lemon tree?
he whispers, and reads my skeptic expression
as a preacher’s invitation:
man-made drugs don’t heal us, sister,
but our family does. the trees, the earth,
the lemon tree, have been here for
thousands of years–and it’s free.
there are no excuses, drinking lemon water
will change your life. have you heard of the
i tell him i know all about lemons–
the other day i got lucky,
7 lemons for 3.99.
the self-proclaimed jesus of the lemon trees
shakes his head. he says, you don’t have
to pay to live in abundance sister.
he glances around the room and mumbles,
i’m looking for a priestess, and you can’t carry the word.
in a cotton dress he swears he dyed with berries,
he floats around the room, searching for the
undiscovered priestess of the lemon tree.
goodwill, used bookstores, american apparel,
independent shops covered in arabian fabrics,
the scent of mellow, brooding coffee shops tangled
with vietnamese pho and ice-cream crepes
invite disheveled young adults to try-on
different identities. the young blonde with a
purple lip-stain wears white dirty bunny ears and smudges
silver eyeshadow in the church parking lot,
a broken toothed man sits cross legged on the sidewalk and
tells everyone who’ll lean in and listen:
let me give you a reading with these stones i brought
from egypt, free reading, tip what you please,
you may not remember karma but karma will
remember you. baby-faced teens wearing blue
velvet dresses and chunky combat boots smoke
cigarettes alone, staring absentmindedly
at the intersection before them. habitual gray clouds
carry inks that seep into the skins of residents
who live the lives of outcasts, a lifestyle they swear
they didn’t choose. like goods in a consignment shop,
they are stand-alone treasures, hoping someone
would find their distinctiveness.
you’ve spend weeknights in the company of white noise,
the only lighting that illuminates your half-open eyes and
flushed cheeks, saliva dripping from your mouth and
soaking your shirt. beer cans sprawled on the wooden floor
without your noticing.
the family broken by malt liquor and the crushing
of fragmented dreams haunt the bare walls
we once called home. the ghosts of our
faith in you don’t let you sleep because
you’re afraid to ask forgiveness.
shortly after grandma left, too.
initially you spoke of your momma in memory, that’s what
twenty years of bad blood does, i guess–
and life with her seemed like a brother’s grimm
fairy tale. momma was vile, momma was the evil queen
you banished from the kingdom you rescued.
when she actually passed away, may she rest in peace
i think it was then you realized the value of
i feel like little black birds are pecking at my insides,
cawing about my reluctance to speak to you
stirring an overflow of guilt and sorrow and anger
and helplessness–a heartless bitch* i am.
i learned from the best.
now you know who.
she floats just beneath the ocean’s waves
her brown hair spread like a scallop seashell.
her gaze, fixed on the profile of a white sun
that disturbed the surrounding blue-green waters
with flecks of white light, surrendered
to a warmth that blanketed her face.
unaware of what lies above,
she lifts her hand and breaks the ocean
feels the sun’s kiss–an eruption of heat
that envelops her hand.
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.