Monday, April 24, 2017

Landmarks, Timestamps

It is said that
And I trust that
By the shit we traipsed through
This is how the path was made

you in your Airwalks, I in my Chuck Taylors
when both used to cost $25 per pair
or I in my sandals, you in your bare feet
when we were taking our Jesus phase quite seriously
before you settled on some comfortable work boots
and I in something I felt I could be taken seriously 
at my various graduate school internships

So we pave the way by going it
you with the built-in compass in your limbic system
I with the built-in clock in mine

With whatever we’re equipped
We track through the same mud
Generally keeping each other laughing for most of the journey
But intermittently despairing
I to ask you which landmarks we’ve already passed
You to confirm the accuracy of the timestamps we placed upon them

It’s been told to me that we may expect the trails to be treacherous
that we won’t always get the benefit of a star chart
and we may not even think it’s all that practical to have a timepiece
but that we may each expect a navigator
if we but make the space
and we may throw in a timekeeper
if we have that luxury
You and I got both
You to mock me for my fascination with a tattered road atlas, compulsively highlighting the routes already taken
I to chide you for still not wearing a watch 

I count on it
Like my subconscious automatically counts the seconds
That the missteps 
That the switchbacks yielded
Every gash from every tumble
Every mesquite thorn or sea urchin spine dug out
Every shot of the mezcal thrown back to treat said mesquite thorn puncture
Brought with it the needed context
-Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit-*
                    *(which is super Latiny for what I'm trying to get across here)

In our delirious states
You to point southward the placement of the sun
I to interpret the when of the where its shadow does fall

Now then it could be
to say the least
Once we arrive at the destination
Received by our respective familiars seeing your boots caked
While an even distribution of the crusting covers me up to my torso

Which is what happens
every time
I get despondent, nigh catatonic
And it becomes necessary for you to pull me along

Because I know better than to selflessly tell you
“Oh, just go on without me”
How exactly then would I keep from getting lost?
How exactly then would you arrive on time?

It hasn’t failed us yet

immediacy - part 2

So we processed how awesome that was
what trappings and fixings were our preferred treatment for the nachos
(and we can both agree: Colby Jack—so much)

then I felt I should ask him 
about some…
This boy
who understands facts and figures
as a second language
finds it helpful to break down all of his concerns—
academic stress, middle school social dynamics, how much sibling annoys him, and
parents’ impending separation
into pieces of a pie, and respective percentages to be rated in each week’s session

Academic concerns this week?
He explained clearly that he’d take the math portion of the state standardized testing
with its reliable 1:1 ratio of solution to problem
any day, any year
over the open-ended requirements of the writing tests
(You and Me, kid)

Middle School Social stuff?
Meh. Made a new friend this week.

Absolutely obnoxious.

Leaving only…

I do the math really quick
“That’s about sixty-something percent left, my friend”
Am I doing the math right?
I ask him
His eye contact had broken off when we started on the pie
and transfixed to the safety of nothing in front of him
His face wears all of the assuredness of a deer caught in a bath of ball stadium lighting
the look with which I’ve been familiar since my first job in foster care

I wear, for dramatic effect
my best gritted teeth
my best clenched jaw
and the rest of my face to match
I ask questions
just how okay does it feel to break down over this?

I just wish they’d feel comfortable enough to say
as softly and matter of fact as they can
“Well, asshole, it doesn’t”

(And when did I ever? 
I get it)

I ask the feeling words—
“I don’t know” is all he can manage
I have to assume that I ask another forgettable, inane, space filler
“I don’t know” is all he can manage

“How about I back off for tonight?”
I ask softly
I seem to have hit on the safe phrase to break him from that trance

You know
It’s okay
To make up your own short-answer question to a writing test
And to speak about how much you want nachos
And why
Because if it seems like
some people can’t agree on anything else
They certainly seem to love you enough to agree that you deserve
some goddamned nachos every once in a while

“Colby Jack, right?”
Smile and enthusiastic nod
(He actually tried to suggest American at one point, so I had a very quick talk with him because his socialization is important to me)
“Black beans or refried?”
Pssh, black
“Beef or chicken?”
Leaning toward chicken tonight
Fair enough
He hesitates
“There may be some heartburn at first. They made me cry the first couple of times, but now I really REALLY need them. Give it a shot?”

He nods

immediacy - part 1


My current favorite 6th grader was brought to see me this evening.
I wouldn’t say he likes to talk
Shy one this one
Usually I don’t make the choice to join them on the couch
But for hearing him 
when his small 12 year-old face and voice register such uncertainty

There are responses to my standard interview openers about anxiety:
“Knowing that you’re going to be happy again”
and again, “that you’ll be safe”
that I may or may not have gotten had he been having to shout them at me
across the standard space

I keyed in quickly
that he is a baseball trivia genius in his own right
And I gave it my best:
“Who threw his 7th no-hitter in Nineteen Nine—“
“Nolan Ryan” he interrupted
with the nonchalant authority only a soft-spoken prepubescent can throw out
Impressed that I even tried
but more than that amused at how plainly stunned I was
Yet with a sudden brass that sincerely communicated:
‘That all ya’ got?’
Indeed it was
And that only because 

He showed to the next
diligently inquiring if I’d studied up
I hadn’t
But he showed me his summer bucket list anyway
because I’d said “I wanna see this list”
He took me through every single item and its importance

This evening
he took mild satisfaction that he’d crossed another off the list
Yes, he’d been to the Melting Pot
had all the desserts

And I
not hungry even a moment before
was struck with unmistakable pangs & specific hankering
as he spoke of his poly-glycemic, glutenated adventure 
or just right before?
Hard to say
But I felt it important to relay my sudden state
and of course he agreed in his meek, but enthusiastic way
that he was too

With only a hunch
I played naive (or thought I was but maybe wasn’t really) and asked earnestly:
“Dude, are you craving nachos too…?”

His eyes widened slightly, face lit, 
head nodded with subdued but unmistakable intensity in the affirmative

‘Get the fuck out,’ I almost said fully out loud (the first two words probably nonetheless audible)

Thursday, April 20, 2017


You’re as quick as they come
and pretty much always have been
I think I can remember back to the summer that you truly honed it
You went from being the morbidly anxious little girl
shocked and scandalized by every little one of our references to sex
(do you recall hiding behind the office door that one time? Because you totally did.)
To the young woman
that owned everyone of us

And I recall our resident prophet’s forecast
That the youngest and shyest of us
Should one day transform into a singularity
In the presence of which we would all melt
When we weren’t melting
We were being scorched to ash
And if I wasn’t being scorched to ash
I wept with the pride of getting to be in your orbit

Now don’t think that I would ever see you in any other way
No matter how filled out
No matter how
what others might describe as
worn down
by the expectations of your sorority
that otherwise stirred within you open rebellion
For all of the loathsome glare we gave you at your sister’s wedding reception
when you left our lunch table, panicked, to join in the mandated celebratory circle
Whatever the fuck that was

Never think that I ever
felt that you caved
I did not
I knew you to be acting in accord
with the dictates
of love
for your sister
for your mom
for her mom
All of which need to matter
All of whom did as well by you as they knew how
All of which needs to mean something
As well as they knew how, with what they themselves were given
And I cannot deem otherwise
it means something
Don’t think I don’t get that
It’s not easy but
My mother raised me to get that
I suspect you will raise your son to do the same