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Painlove

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The past spring, my fourteen-year-old cousin died huffing keyboard duster. Her sister found her in bed, nostrils taped shut. I picture it, the rooms of her house nightsodden. Her young legs gathered like cream. Note-to-self marked on one arm. Cream growing slack. My cousin was not a substance abuser. Clear away what you first imagined: she did not sneak out of her bedroom window... Read More

Origin Stories

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He built a greenhouse: clear walls, cathedral ceiling. He smoked pipes and talked peppers, red peppers. He looked at my mother in yellow polyester shorts, her pink skin hot and long below them, covered in aloe. One day, some kids stole the pampas grass. My mother chased them down the street. Pregnant, out of breath, she saw the Scott & White, the hospital on the far hill. She... Read More

Ode to My Grandmother’s Missing Arm

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O Beautiful, Empty Placeholder in faded photographs regal you balance long cigarettes between your fingers like Greta Garbo but you were not there to lift my mother’s veil from her eyes or tie her children’s shoes. When Cancer called to you in the dark, you rose, saying Here I am, send me. When her heart could not pump through the breast, the lump, the tumor, you took it all upon... Read More

Eve’s Side

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Come sit beside me and I’ll tell you how it really began   How God said the tree was good and meant it was good How Adam was born a big man-baby the first days breast-feeding from God’s mango tit juice dripping down his chin down his neck   past his toes into earth Come to my side I will plait your hair   tell you how God pulled me from her splaying side birthed me breaching... Read More

The Canonization of Emmett Till

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You led a life of heroic virtue never renouncing the covenant of your skin even under torture or water. In Mississippi, apart from the natural order, they filled you with gashes and holes— you wore a Pentateuch of wounds. Tears across the country cleft valleys, melted rocks that were to last for ages. You will be remembered as a national saint; thousands visit your coffin enshrined... Read More

Rodin, Despair

Rodin's Despair

The unfinished: it’s one of Rodin’s gifts. But once we’ve taught ourselves to see his work, there’s no difference between the whole body and parts of it: hands, head, feet, the torso— no difference between rough-hewn surfaces and others where we find ourselves in sheer glass finishes, equal in beauty. Encircled by the rotunda’s windows, where light from Palo Alto disappears,... Read More

Tax Season

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1. I found besides a large account book, which, when opened hopefully, turned out to my infinite consternation to be filled with verses–page after page of rhymed doggerel of a jovial and improper character, written in the minutest hand I ever did see. —Joseph Conrad   “We’re buying gold for cash,” he says one night, from the crowded stage at Sharkey’s. Several... Read More

silent wealth

silent wealth

I wrote my love an electronic letter you are the loneliness which I have felt so deeply letters on a moonwhite screen where are the leaves on the wind and he replied it seems that I am always in your company electronic spark flowing along the hemline ash of now’s miscellany o flimsy system o electric prayer o cross o tree o golden Sanskrit curve of the body o symbol might we be... Read More

Like a Day I Never Knew

Like A Day I Never Knew Photo

Sunday, an old hat, strong perfume drifting           like incense over the altar and pews. Stop this ritual. Take back           its Latin chant. I say the rosary. I cover my head. I put coins in the collection           plate when... Read More

Pamoja House

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Ten years ago I was stopped on a sidewalk in a neighborhood I scarcely knew, blocked by a muscular, unshaven man who wanted to know where us white kids came from. “How y’all end up on Worden Street?” He looked maybe fifty and sounded more curious than threatening. We were standing halfway between the corner laundromat and the house I’d recently begun renting with seven college... Read More