ma/gramma/me

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I look at my mom and see the imprint of my
grandmother tattooed on her brain. I hear

them speak to me in concert, the
same voice I use to rabble rouse. I reject

what parts of them do not fit my body, it being
just as lanky, knobby-kneed, flat-chested

in each generation. I don’t want
sometimes to be so regal, hold my head so high,

be so graceful, be so in control
of what we are. I reject this, try too hard

sometimes to be my father, a man of
the people, a grain of salty earth, clinging

to his name, though people know me
best by the one I share with my grandmother.

Looking in the mirror, I realize that I too
am tattooed, regal, and there is indeed a shred

of grace, lace and ribbons that I’ll never
quite be able to leave behind.

My mother sent me a Mother’s Day card,
it’s the sort of thing she does, and it said,

“I smile because you are my daughter. I laugh
because there is nothing you can do about it.”

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Ode to Cowboys and Combat

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You can look at a table full of empty
beer mugs full ashtrays dirty dishes
and used napkins
say that either we have a lazy waiter
or that it was a really good fuckin’ party.
I guess I’d be a used or dirty too
except I don’t wait around
to be cleaned up.
I still like cowboy boots and phone calls
at 4:30am that ask
where are you
do you want to come over
do you want me to come there
and I like that I can’t grow out of
black combat boots and a broken heart
just yet and I like that there’s still boys
that read my bravada as an invitation
and not a threat.
You can die a New York death in Berlin,
and that’s how I know I belong here
and not there.

To sum up.

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The important thing is that I made it outta there
relatively unscathed when a bike riding the wrong
way down Clinton Street carrying someone’s
pizza swerved to miss me and the girl
in the heavy coat causing the gypsy cab to first swing wide
skimming the Nova who’d suddenly decided to park
but then gypsy gunned it to make the light and slammed on
the brakes when he saw girl heavy coat my eyes’ fire
in his headlights. The Latin men on the corner
watched to see who would go down first. Me.
I lay down in the crosswalk and cried.

I want to take back everything I ever said and replace
it with words that don’t mean. That picture of my dad
and me shoulda been the picture I took of a flooded
subway station last summer, when you were just a creek
whittling your way into the canyon of me. Not
the one, certainly not the only, more like passing
sideshows in life’s circus of where there’s never
a main attraction. Now, if I were her, I’d boot
your ringmaster-ass out the door so fast,
you’d wonder who loved you more
or if anyone ever did.

I’m not her, I’m not you, I’m the trapeze girl
swimming air in a blues-spangled costume. You don’t know
me naked: the light was never shed. A candle is
not enough to see poems stripteased and my
flipped hips blurred are not my preferred likeness.
So you can take your Jersey-lined circus
and get the fuck outta Dodge,
because I quit this job and wash distraction
in an unflooded avenue — Manhattan Island.