Native

Across the sand
Bare feet
deep breath
dive in

calm, clear, teal
farther and farther
lungs scream
tiny schools

mermaid hair
soft sand
reflections
waves

tepid Atlantic
wraps around skin
hearts aglow
loyal sunshine

foggy brain
molecules cling
his presence lingers
dive deep

Like A Hero

Have you ever wanted to punch someone? Not in that – the person talking too loudly on their cell phone next to you in an otherwise quiet, slow moving-line deserves a quick back hand to the mouth – kind of way. I mean, for reasons that are clearly written in the code of human decency, someone is asking to get knocked around. A guy, for example, has pushed his way into a group of girls, and you actually feel it would be a disservice to the world and all of the humanity resting upon it if this person is allowed to say even one more syllable.

By now, your hand is twitching and while you’ve been keeping it still with a glass of bourbon, it’s down to just rocks and they’re giving away your frustration. Your girlfriend gives you a sideways glance and you’re pretty certain she’s surprised that you’ve let this Heineken-fueled tool stay on his feet for as long as you have. He has been asked politely to leave by two of the girls in the group, and the poor dear with his unwanted arm draped over her shoulder has become a slouched shadow. The third attempt is about to get loud. So, you put the glass down.

“Do me a favor, guy,” I say, and yeah I probably have my hand in his face by then, just so he knows his last chance had passed. “Listen to the ladies, and walk the fuck away.”

Next thing I know, I’m outside looking in. The room is no longer a space occupied by people, it is the being. Drinks float out of their glasses and into the air at a rate that appears to defy the natural laws of gravitation pull. Everyone jumps up at once but none of that is any concern to me because this puffed up short-guy actually chest pumped me and now all I want, with a raw, aching desire, is to be sure that my fist meets his face with the proper torque and accuracy.

The manager’s voice is somewhere in the background shouting orders at waiters who take light-years to appear and when they do, they act with no more strength than that of children. A table is knocked over and wood cracks and splits. The fluidity of the room moves people around like waves crashing.

I can hear my name coming from someone very, very far away. The only thought I process is that someone is holding my right hand back and if I want to swing on this guy it’s going to be a left cross. But in order to do that, I’d have to release the grip that I have on his neck, which is the only solid thing left in the room at that exact time. I finally shake my hand free and land a punch, right around the time the five waiters seem to restrain the flailing fool.

I walk away. I go through a door and down some stairs and find myself at another bar. My hand isn’t twitching anymore, which I only really notice because of the throbbing emitting from it. I move my jaw from side to side and discern I didn’t take any hits. I clench and unclench my fist and determine that the torque, velocity and force were all accurate. My left hand still has a lingering feeling of holding on to something far too tightly.

I ask for a glass of water. My girlfriend is walking towards me trying to suppress a smile, something that she is lousy at. I am certain that if I had a similar disposition, the talk of the bar upstairs wouldn’t be about the douchebag who was asking for it, but the maniac who was just plain giddy to hit someone. I keep that thought, and all the rest, to myself. And for a while, I’m their hero.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Rewritten, Explicit.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, the ground floor of an old house
Had been converted into a piano bar, filled by many a louse.
Music and banter wound its way up the spiral staircase,
Melodies curled around a lady giving a sailor good chase.

Somewhere down some lane children slept in their beds
Visions of iPhone 6’s danced in their sweet heads
The avenue that divided the old house and the shore
Punctuated the season with lit palm trees and whores.

Headlights bound down A1A, his father’s Tesla he’d borrowed
High school sweethearts high on speed and dreams of the morrow
To the stars her eyes lifted through the open moon roof
It was then she saw a sled guided by many a hoof.

Slapping her beau frantically, she finally found her words,
“I saw Santa! That was Santa!” She said face towards
The sky, searching for more of what she had seen.
“That’s cute, Babe,” he said, and patted her knee.

“But,” she began, and knew it was useless.
I must’ve been seeing things, she resolved, quite hopeless
Back inside, the sailor was back at the bar
His date sipped champagne, flirting all the more.

The piano player banged out his version of Jingle Bell Rock,
A couple with more gumption than talent sang amuck.
No one heard the clatter that came from above,
Each patron was numbed by booze, lust or love.

They missed the sound of a sleigh landing with a crash.
Just one disbeliever had seen the flash
Too easily swayed was she from the magic,
“Can you believe it,” Santa huffed to his boys, “it’s just tragic.”

“Kids used to make it more difficult for us to fly about,”
“No one believes anymore, the stress is giving me the gout.”
At the piano the carolers had moved on to shots of whiskey,
Their song choices had slid from Christmas-themed to Bowie.

A third shot for his efforts sat atop the black polished grand.
As they counted down the Space Oddity, Santa’s bottom did land
On the floor of the chimney, soot splattered and rose
Landing softly on a couple necking, dotting her panty hose.

He brushed himself off and surveyed the room
More naughty than nice he suspected, still he pulled
Two presents from his sack, for the blokes behind the bar.
He couldn’t blame them for the rest, it was their house, after all

And while he happened to be in such an establishment,
He couldn’t resist the idea of just one little nip.
“Can you hear me, Major Tom” consumed the air;
Santa put back the shot that had been waiting there.

“Delicious,” he announced, his belly jiggling before him,
“George Dickel, good taste, maybe they are nice the lot of ‘em.”
With that he was off, more houses to tend to.
The singing finally ended, which brought their attention to

The empty glass sitting pretty right where they’d left it.
“Who took the third shot?!” lead carol singer called, indignant,
That someone would touch what was rightfully another’s
Unbeknownst to the lot, it’d been the ultimate gift-giver’s

Fair hand who had taken that nip of their bourbon
Santa took his seat, the reindeer launched the sleigh into mornin’.
Back in the Tesla’s she beamed, as she heard clear as day light,
“Merry Christmas to all, And to all a good night!”

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At Last

Sam walked down the long green entryway to her grandmother’s door gazing at the new orchids blooming in the courtyard. Her eyes wandered up into the mango tree and she wondered when the fruit would start to weigh heavy on the branches. The year before they had come in April, unseasonably early, almost two months before they should have. Global warming, Sam thought. The flavor of fresh off the tree mangos danced in her head teasing her tongue. She regretted skipping dinner the night before.

When she reached the front door Sam took a moment to straighten out her shirt and smooth down her dirty hair. She could smell that her grandmother had a fresh coat of paint put on the house since she had been there the week before and remembered hearing something about how old Rose’s handyman was getting.

A woman’s voice drifted smoothly through the afternoon heat when Sam opened the door, “At laaaast, my lo-o-o-ove has come along.” Sam smiled at the sound of her old friend Etta James.

Sam looked toward her grandfather’s office. It was empty. Hi, Grandpa, she thought, her eyes lingering on his study, I miss you. He had always played jazz while he worked. Colonel Sommerset had retired from the military years before, but never actually stopped working a day in his life. Everyone in Sam’s family had their addictions, at least his was profitable.

Sam had spent endless hours of her childhood lying on the yellow shag carpet in front of his desk, sifting through his records, playing them as she pleased. The variations of melodies that the trumpet hummed, the soul searching trills of the saxophone, the attention that keeping time with the symbols had required.

The Colonel would look up from his work and Sam would drop whatever else held her attention to stare up at him, fascinated by everything that he was.

“Where’d you get those eyes, Child?” her Grandpa asked.

“I don’t know,” Sam beamed.

“Come give your Grandpa some sugar,” he said and she was up in his lap in an instant. “There’s something about those eyes, Little Girl,” he said balancing her on his knee.

In a family of southern women with light hair and light eyes Sam’s dark features shone brighter than an orchid in the Everglades. Sam could say exactly what was on her mind with those eyes, without ever opening her mouth. The Colonel told her once that before Sam could speak, her eyes did the talking.

They had truly enjoyed the comfort of each other’s company, and hearing the trumpet softly blow reminded Sam of all the questions she had longed to ask about a time that she had missed, but hadn’t, for fear of disturbing her grandfather’s work. She scratched her stomach and it was like the ugly, old carpet, along with the questions she’d never asked, somehow still itched.

Sam wandered into the kitchen and saw Rose poised over the stove stirring a big pot and moving her shoulders to the melody of the saxophone. The smell of her grandma’s vegetable soup hit Sam’s nostrils and saliva gathered on the sides of her tongue.

The music was so loud that Rose hadn’t heard her granddaughter come in. Watching her, and knowing that she was all alone in that big, old house, hurt Sam’s heart. She knew how much her Grandma must miss him. Sam closed her eyes and Etta sang her into the fantasy of a memory.

She saw her grandparents dancing in an old jazz club. The women’s bright dresses were full. Their skirts swished back and forth, a variety of colors and flowers dancing together to the music. The men wore uniforms and smoked Lucky Strikes.

The tall, curvy woman standing at the old fashioned microphone had on bright red lipstick to match the flowers on her otherwise white dress. The spotlight touched her and her skin was like cocoa with thick cream. Her voice was nothing but soul. She was beautiful.

The song ended and the dance partners drifted off the floor. The smoke swirled around itself the way Van Gogh painted the sky.

“There she is,” Rose gushed. Sam opened her eyes out of the smoky night club and saw her Grandma’s pretty eyes twinkling at her. The music had been lowered to a comfortable volume.

“Hi,” Sam wrapped her arms around Rose. “There is no one softer in the world to hug, Grandma.”

“Hello there, Sunshine,” Rose said holding Sam at arms length, “Look at you in black on a Sunday afternoon,” she tisked.

Katherine Rose Tempelton Sommerset only wore black on two occasions: to a funeral or to a black tie affair, and she would wear navy or white to either if she could get away with it.

Sam smiled humbly knowing that Rose had commented on the black clothes she wore because it would have been unkind to comment on the black circles under her eyes. I have to remember to leave some concealer at Jake’s, Sam thought.

“Oh, Samantha!” Rose exclaimed seeing the lilies Sam had placed on the table. She walked to them and stuck her face right into the arrangement and took a deep breath. “How sweet!” she exclaimed and turned to Sam with a smile like cherry preserves. “Honey, they are beautiful. What did I ever do to deserve such a wonderful grandbaby?” She came back for more hugs and kisses.

“Sorry, I’m so late,” Sam said and they sat down at the kitchen table, “Chrissie kidnapped me last night for girl’s night.”

“Oh, you know I don’t mind. I’ve just been bouncing around all morning getting things done here and there.” With this she was up and off to the refrigerator. “I have juice, tea, lemonade, milk, and water,” she paused, “Is it too early to share a beer?”

“Yes,” Sam barked, “I’ll have punch. Please.”

“So, tell me about Chrissie. What’s she up to these days?” Rose asked taking out glass pitchers of orange juice and iced tea. “What was that man’s name that she was seeing?” She placed the pitcher of lemonade on the counter then turned to Sam and put her hand on her hip. “Karma?” she wondered aloud, “Clover? Something like that, right?”

“Dharma,” Sam said laughing, knowing her intentions. “And I liked him, but they broke up.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Rose said. She winked at her granddaughter pleased that Sam had laughed at her joke and then turned back to the punch. Having been married to a republican for more than fifty years; Rose could hardly help making fun of hippies, even if her own daughter had married one.

“Yeah and she dated a jackass after that.”

“Well, that isn’t very nice.”

“Neither was he.”

“Is she still with him?”

“No.”

“Good,” Rose said firmly. Aside from her joking she was a smart woman who had a heart big enough to defend the basic human rights of any person.

Sam watched her grandma mix the juice, lemonade and iced tea. No matter how many times she had sat right there and watched her grandma make her punch Sam still had never been able to get the portions right when she made it herself.

“What would I do without you, Grandma?” Sam wondered aloud.

Rose turned sharply and looked right at Sam. “You would get along just fine.”

“Maybe,” Sam smiled. Rose set the punch down in front of her, “but no one can make your punch.”

“You know who can?” Rose asked as she returned to the stove to stir the soup.

“Who?”

“Your daddy.”

“No.”

“It took him a long time, but I think he’s the only one who likes it more than you do.” Rose poured herself a cup of coffee, and sat back down. “So, where did you girls go last night?”

“Monty’s,” Sam said, “I’m still recovering.”

“Well, you just need a bowl of grandma’s vegetable soup!” Rose was up again in an instant gathering bowls, spoons, napkins, stirring the soup, and fishing for crackers. Sam was exhausted just watching her. “Did Annabelle go?”

“No.”

“Is she still sick?” Rose asked in that grandmotherly way that feigned ignorance.

“She’s not sick, Grandma,” Sam searched for words, “she’s….gone.”

“Oh, honey.”

“For some reason she has it in her head that we’re suddenly all out to get her and Chrissie refuses to talk about it like it’s just going to go away. Dee is the only one who Annabelle will even communicate with, but all she tells her are these angry delusions that she has formed. It’s like the Annabelle that we know and love is gone.”

“It sounds like she needs some time to herself.”

“No,” Sam said sharply, “Sorry, but I don’t think that is the case. Mental illness usually manifests in people in their early twenties. I’m afraid leaving her alone is exactly the wrong thing to do, but I’m the only one who seems to feel that way.”

“What do her parents think?”

“Nothing, at all. They’re in denial. They didn’t even meet my eyes when I went to talk to them. They think I’ve turned against their daughter, but I have no reason to! Just like she has no reason to have turned against me,” Sam’s voice trailed off.

“There’s not much you can do to change some peoples minds. You know, I was at the club the other day and this ignorant man…” Rose started on but Sam couldn’t listen.

It infuriated her the casual way people spoke about a person that she loved so much. Sam knew Annabelle inside and out, and knew that this wasn’t her friend. A switch had been flipped inside Annabelle’s head and Sam wanted to flip it back but no one would help her find it. Everyone seemed uncomfortable even looking.

She looked down into her papaya colored punch wishing it were a crystal ball. She wanted to see when she would get her friend back. Or when people would start admitting there was a bigger problem at play, at last.

The First Snow

The first night that the snow fell he had a bag of cocaine in his pocket. It hadn’t snowed in Rome in twenty years. It was beautiful, and it was a party.
We had gone from the restaurant, and their endless supply of house red wine, to the house, and their endless supply of blow. Friends, brothers, and a sister-in-law, laughing, yelling, drinking, watching, whispering, smiling, sniffing, celebrating.
“You know,” said his brother, “I’ve never seen him kiss a girl in front of any of us.”
I just looked at him.
I knew affection was held right next to intimacy, and that they were both reserved for when we were alone. I liked it. It made it like our little secret that no one could see, how we fit into one another without any other.
But I hadn’t known that he had always been that way. Or that those few minutes before when he’d kissed me so deeply that it pulled me inside out I wasn’t the only one who had been left speechless.
He had been mine for months, by his definition, and he’d been mine for years, by my intuition. He had never been one for communication, but that night he seemed to be the only one talking.
“I never met anyone like you,” he said and I scanned the room. Through swirls of smoke I saw other conversations, laughter unconscious of his tone. My reserve mirrored his, even if he’d abandoned it for the night.
“Let’s go outside,” I said taking his hand and pulling him towards the door.
The silence was almost as shocking as the cold. The warmth of the fire and festivities vanished into a vacuum of white.
“You have a really big heart,” he said into the stillness.
“It’s yours,” I promised, placing my hands on each side of his face. His green eyes were glistening and fighting to reveal feeling.
“You are too good for me,” he said. I shook my head. “You are perfect,” he whispered and tears rolled through my fingertips. The snow kept falling around us.

A Hitchhikers Guide to Finding A Greyhound

Do you remember when Jay-Z and Beyonce got married?
I do.
I was standing in a gas station somewhere on the border of Montana and Idaho waiting for a shift change to be carried out. On a Greyhound bus, I’d just learned, each passenger must disembark before the drivers change places at a different location. I had boarded the bus four hours previously in Bozeman, Montana at 3:15am and while I’d rather not have parted with my seat and my pillow, I held my tongue and walked sleepily into the freezing cold morning. Had it been a less ungodly hour, I might have protested, or at least had the wherewithal to grab my purse.
Instead, I walked into the gas station groggy and shivering. It was heated and like a dog curling up in front of the fire, I settled in to the magazine rack. This was 2008, long before Bey ran the world, when Jay was still the power of the couple by my estimation and before they named their child a color. People magazine had printed a story about their very private penthouse nuptials. “From the White Orchids (70,000!) to the Famous Guests and the Crazy-Expensive Cigars, Inside the Power Couple’s Ultra-Private New York City Wedding” read the by-line.
Seventy thousand orchids, I thought, I better see what that looks like. And, obviously, I hoped to see a picture of the dress.
I didn’t get to see pictures of either. I shut the magazine a little disappointed, but also kind of happy that they’d actually pulled off a celebrity wedding that the paparazzi hadn’t infiltrated.
Good for them, I thought, placing it back on the shelf.

“Weren’t you on that bus?” the meth addict cashier said to me. I looked through my red eyes at her brown teeth trying to process the tense she was using.
“What?” I asked, mentally preparing myself for some kind of atrocity.

Continue reading A Hitchhikers Guide to Finding A Greyhound

A Second Chance

Jamal slammed his car door shut. He looked down through the tinted window at the resume sitting on the seat and shook his head. He kicked his tire and regretted it as he walked heavily up the stairs to his apartment, the pounding in his head now matched by the throbbing in his toe.

He stopped at the front door to compose himself. Tomorrow will be better, he thought, still the bitterness lingered. He put the key into the lock and tried once again to shake the resentment that had followed him out of the interview and all the way home.
“Hi daddy!” Dee ran to meet him at the door. The four-year-old ball of joy threw herself into his arms.
“Hi sugar!” he said scooping her up and kissing his little girl all the way into the kitchen. “Hi baby.” He set Dee down and wrapped his arms around his wife. She smiled warmly.
“Did you have a good day?” Cassie asked leaning into him. She had one hand flat on his lapel, the other on the stove, both of her eyes right on his, their daughter danced at their feet.
“Yeah,” he said breezily, his eyes communicating that he didn’t get the job, hers saying she was sorry. He sat down at the kitchen table and Dee climbed onto his knee. “So how was your day?” he asked, smiling into his daughters eyes.
“I unna get a baby,” she said proudly.
“You’re going to get a what?”
“I unna get a baby!” she said loudly. She jumped off his knee and ran back into her room to play with her dolls.
“That girl she adores at school, Sandra, her mom is pregnant. They’re all excited about the new baby.” She leaned on the doorframe of the small kitchen watching him. He took off his tie.
“I was so qualified,” he started. He unbuttoned his top two buttons, then rested his hands on his knees and let his head fall. “Cassie, the guy looked at me like I was a day laborer,” he said meeting her eyes.

Continue reading A Second Chance

Acquitted, Evicted, Conflicted.

 

“Go,” Chris insisted to an audience that couldn’t hear him. His right hand fumbled blindly around the deep center console of his 1989 Bronco. It hit upon its target and he slipped a Marlboro Mild between his lips, pressed the old knob of the cigarette lighter in, and met the eyes of the woman in the car next to him briefly before she looked away. Chris shook his head. The woman’s eyes had glazed over like she didn’t know what she was doing in this world. In Alaska she would have smiled.

The knob popped out and with a familiar fluidity he touched the fiery orange coil to the tip of his cigarette, inhaled, removed the poisonous stick with his left hand and exhaled. He put the car lighter back in its place. The smoke was stagnant in the afternoon heat. It hung around him like the cars amassed in the Miami rush hour traffic.
Continue reading Acquitted, Evicted, Conflicted.

Let’s Get Something Straight

The term “feminist.”

It does not mean I don’t want a boy or girl to open doors for me.
Please hold my hand.
And walk me home.

It does not mean I won’t do the dishes
and the laundry
and vacuum.
And feed us.
Every week.

Which is why
You should too, occasionally
or always.

It does not mean that I won’t shave my arm pits
or wax my hairy bits.
It does mean that I’d like you to earn the privilege to comment
on such things.

Which brings me to:
Put a ring on it.
or
In feminist terms:
Communicate your intentions.

Tell her:
What you want.
How long you want it for.
and
What your expectations are.

Then,
and this is important,
Listen while she tells you her intentions
And her expectations.

Here is the big one:

If I stand
in a teeny bikini
with every inch
of my god given beauty
on display.
I shall not fear
that any person
will lay a finger on me.

Keep your laws to yourself, too.

This temple
That I reside in
is Mine.

Divinely and unequivocally.

Lastly,
Respect me.

Not as a man
Not as woman
As a person.

And a writer.
A creative thinker, activist, and problem solver.
A mother, a daughter, a lover.

A woman
Above and below
and in between
all of those lines.
Not boxed in by them.
And never,
Ever,
Abused by them.

*These, of course, are only my personal opinions and I don’t claim to speak for all people.

My Mother is Not in a Cult

Ali and Heather walked home from cheerleading practice with an aura of sulkiness about them. The trees were just beginning to set fire above the suburban road, but the two fourteen year old girls were so chocked full of self-doubt that they couldn’t see the autumn delight. The yellow and orange leaves mingling with the green in the pleasant afternoon went unnoticed because lately, things had not been going Ali’s way.
When school first started in the fall it didn’t seem to matter that she was the new kid. Despite her original fears, freshman year had started alright. Ali had been chosen for the JV cheerleading squad, she had made some nice friends, and a boy even shared his sandwich with her at lunch. In girl world, things could not have been better. Then one day, out of the periwinkle sky, a shadowy cloud rolled in and settled itself just above Ali’s pretty, red-head. Continue reading My Mother is Not in a Cult