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.

watercolors

i used your wet kisses
a pile of worn love notes
and the motley wavelengths of euphoria
to paint our forever,
a forever ignited by
our tangled energies that could
awaken the dawn at midnight.

in the kaleidoscopic chaos of it all,
the inconspicuous slipping of your energy
had fully dissipated at the first
breath of daybreak
and the double stitching of our fates
had been snipped.

i used the remnants of our tomorrow
memories of blurred passion
and fragments of you, of us
to paint our forever–
a watercolor.

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.

a love pattern

my momma, a petite, quiet woman
who hates cooking but loves sewing,
loves my papa, who hates reading but loves singing,
very, very much. on chilly nights, they’d curl up together
on our new pleather sofa to watch Jeopardy!,
and yell out their goofy, incorrect answers.

once, momma was late for Jeopardy!. she came home two hours late
with a brown, plastic grocery bag. i went to pick up some veggies,
momma said. papa snatched the bag away.
she bit her lip, and said: i also went to Ricky’s to get the—

momma never got to say what was in the bag;
papa slapped her left cheek, shoved her against the wall,
and whispered something into her tiny ears.
she crumbled to the floor and sobbed, while holding
her reddened cheek. later that night, she told me
not to worry; papa loves her, and papa loves me too.
i believe you, momma. i do.

last year, i met a boy. the first time the warmth of his hands
enveloped mine, i knew we were meant to be. he gave me
chocolate roses and white teddy bears
when it wasn’t valentine’s day. he even carried my books
and kissed my forehead. Cosmo quizzes said
he’s a keeper.

after a night of lovemaking, i fell asleep to the sound
of his beating heart. he woke me up, and we kissed again.
when his fingers played with my panties,
i said: i’m tired, and i need to go home. he ignored me.
again, i said: no, leave me alone, i want to go home.
when i shouted, he smacked me;
when i struggled, he punched me.
i cried. he whispered, i’m sorry, i just love you too much.

that’s when i realized that i loved him too much, too.

inevitable tensions

the landlady and i don’t speak to each other.

she’s a plump, pale woman who always wears chunky, black sunglasses, even when the skies are cloudy. her hair is dyed with blonde highlights that accentuate her light brown hair, which is usually wrapped in a messy bun. the wrinkles oaround her mouth make her look like she’s frowning although her other facial features are inexpressive; i know this because that frown doesn’t leave her lips while she smokes. when she smokes, which is quite often, she sits under the white umbrella that is stuck in the middle of her round patio table. she puts her feet on a nearby chair while sitting on another, often staring at her two-story house or scrolling through her smart phone. i see her do this everyday. every other day, i’ve heard her blast old hip hop and r&b songs like 112’s “Peaches and Cream” and Sisqo’s “Thong Song”.

one evening, i was on Facebook. i saw that my older half sister had commented, “That’s not funny, that’s my dad :(” on the landlady’s status. her and i share the same father, so, out of curiosity, i clicked on her comment so that i would also see the post.

now, i had always disliked the landlady. when i was a tween, i heard her making jokes to her girlfriends about my father’s alcoholism, my mother’s inability to speak english well, and our financial struggles that my father had confided in her. it was a typical friday night for her and her friends, sipping vodka with limes, gossiping, howling with laughter. they all sat by the round patio table, under the white umbrella, toasting to their friendship.

i saw her post and my heartbeat sped so rapidly i felt my chest rise up, clogging my throat, clamming up my hands, tightening my mouth and deeply furrowing my eyebrows. on my computer screen was a picture of my drunken father and his large beer belly, without his shirt on, bending over, his reddish face oblivious to the camera. Underneath the picture, she had written a cruel joke, my father being the punchline. No one had commented on the photo yet, except my older half sister, who had commented a few hours ago.

the overwhelming mix of emotions fueled the long Facebook message i wrote to the landlady who was in her late 40s. even if she doesn’t like my family very much, it doesn’t allow her to publicly shame any of us, to mock us, to use us for her entertainment and the public’s. my message was a big Fuck You, except without those exact words because i wanted her to understand the reasons why what she did was wrong.

an hour later, Facebook indicated that she had read my message. she did not reply. she did, however, take down the post.

she has not acknowledged me since then. when i saw her after the incident, i waved. i waved, and still wave because, she is the landlady. i see her everyday, and i didn’t want too much tension between us—but i did figure that there might be some no matter what.

she did nothing but stare back behind those sunglasses, her frown more pronounced than ever. sometimes i still wave, and she still doesn’t.