My Chicago be grid-mapped
Superman up high spot train car lines
Like speeding bullet through cityscape
Ahhh, What a sweet escape
Fall asleep on one side blue/red
Wake up black/white
Always knew red line split city black/white
Never took issue with this until nightfall
Better be on your side by nightfall
But nevermind that
When you are a poet and a bird hits the window at your grandma’s house you feel like you need to say something about it/you need to mean something about it/you need to know something about it. What I know is what I saw: the feather drifting down in a serene spiral after what I heard: the bang against the glass and the shriek from my sister’s mouth. My dad and grandma went over to the window and watched the life drift out of the struggling bird. After my dad and the caregiver returned from the backyard with a lifeless plastic bag, my grandma said, shouldn’t we say a prayer for it or something? I said we could say the mourner’s Kaddish but I don’t remember the words. She doesn’t remember a lot of things, but she remembers my name, lets it ring into the hall in surprise when we enter the house. There is no grand metaphor about the bird or my grandmother or life and death. What I know is just what I saw. It died and there was nothing we could do.
I got so used to a closet without a light
That now the landlord’s fixed it
I have forgotten it is there, still digging around for my underwear in the dark.
Every time I remember and pull the chain
it’s like god creating the world again,
and it is good.
You likened our relationship
to a math problem. You say
we are solving it. It’s been a long time
since calculus, since I folded numbers
into boats and eased them into a stream
and watched them come back. In Paris
there is a fountain where they do this,
send off their toy vessels, wobbly fish in a
tiny harbor. I want that afternoon back,
my father and I in the half-hot Europe sun
watching the young boys crowd around
and beckon their earless boats.
Everybody left with what they’d brought.
i believe in the matriarch of things. i believe in overdressing. i believe in moisturizing. i believe in red eyeshadow, cute underwear, and leftovers. i believe in the sun. catch me praying to the refrigerator. catch me making hymns out of the windows. i know the goddess of beds personally; we lay together and collect all our suenos; catch us dozing off in the blankets to the soft hum of the pillows. and she believes in overdressing, too. catch us dancing with heels and hoodies. bachata, cumbia, anything by rihanna and the shameful harmony of saying no. i believe in my abuelita. gorditas. picaditas. brujas. freshly painted nails. same hands in the fire. hips orchestrating the circle. the laugh that fills an entire the room, no corners empty of a smile. i believe in the kitchen. abuelita made it sacred. i believe checkered tile floors lead me the way home. i believe in home. yellow bricked. brown skinned. a hug that almost bruises and eyes that don’t look away. i believe in nicknames. mamita, chulita, pinche cabronita. i believe in la verdad, the way my mom tells it. the way my abuelita doesn’t want to but will say it anyway through clenched teeth and bruised voices. i believe in my bed. the goddess and i made it sacred. that’s where all my dreams and prayers have slept and stayed. i believe mis mujeres have taught me everything i need to know. my tias gave me hoops, my abuelita the sun and prayers, my prima chisme; my mom gave me all of her secrets, her how-to’s, her shortcuts, her echale ganas kisses, her knuckles unbloodied. i believe it takes more to kill us. i believe we are angels, wings of gold and broken heels, won’t catch us tripping on the way to heaven, we just fly.
✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
My grandmother died when i was four. in a hospital while we all slept in her room, all of us children. My mother and her sisters had been gone for a few nights, time seemed infinite. I didn’t know what was happening. She’s dead. It told me as it stood by a plant, Laughed at me, at her.
my mother tried to clothe me, the next day. i remember refusing the teal sweatpants she wanted to put underneath my dress when she told me that grandma was gone.
Si, mami. ya se. I tried to tell her that something at night had already told me. I just don’t remember what language I used
after her death one night, so dark I couldn’t hear the birds. the graveyard where she was buried a few blocks away. dogs barking. remembering the stories we told of a man who walked the streets with a chain. i walked through the house, parts of the house open to the moon where it could follow me
I climbed, the steps at night. My feet threatening to get stuck in the metal stairs. My mother said that my grandmother had become a star. i found a way to say goodbye.
✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
Trapped monarchs die inside
Before they become dust
It is cruel to see a monarch in
A cage, winged flesh ripped
In the name of nationalism
In keeping the wings white
What a cruel vision
To see fluttering dreams
Have you ever held a child’s
Told them, no
Stripping them of humanity?
Gerald Langston is half-sleep on the brown couch when his dad, Omari Langston, walks through the back door. Gerald is not the type of tired where he wants to go to sleep, but the type of tired where he does not feel like doing anything. A Whole Foods paper bag near filled to the brim with tissues stands at his side as he slowly sits up. It’s noon on Friday. Dad works at noon on Fridays. A quizzical look settles on Gerald’s face as his dad sets his briefcase on the kitchen table and comes to sit down on the couch next to Gerald.
Audrey tells me about the birds,
and her dead mother.
The strands of the two stories
tangle like her curly Filipina hair.
She thinks the nested robins are listening.
Losing the family home
to a long list of liars:
real estate brokers, mortgage bankers, and lawyers
in grey sharkskin shoes