jueves, 26 de febrero de 2009

Juego # 8: What if

For Evelyn who yearns for lighter moods

What if?

What if you could just disappear
at whim?
People would be talking to you,
looking at you, and then...
Poof ! Like David Copperfield
you’d disappear,
and they'd be left wondering.

What if, you could become bigger
or smaller, at whim?
People would be standing there
looking down at you and then...
Poof! Like Mount Rushmore
you'd be
looming over them and
they'd be left wondering.

What if you could start all over again,
at whim?
or start in media res
just how you imagined it would be
and they'd be wondering.
Where did you come from and why?
And you’d be there
Mona Lisa rising in your countenance.

What if? What if?



¿Y si mis miradas no se posaran en tu rostro? ¿Revolotearían como negras mariposas ciegas, tropezando hasta caer?
¿Y si mis abrazos jamás rodearan tu cuerpo? ¿Se enredarían en un círculo vacío imposible de romper?
¿Y si mis besos nunca llegan a tus labios? ¿Me hincharían de deseo la piel?
¿Y si mis palabras inflamadas no pudieran ya encender tus oídos? ¿Morirían mudas ya de una vez?



Going Blind

what if a hand could pull magic from the air to make a dream a kiss to graze along the thigh, crook of an arm, blued underbelly of a sigh? what if the same could grip and knead and grope, anemone reaching for some thing new, salty, woolly and born under the fingertips, in the whorling grooves of skin. what if it could climb the long trellis of a throat, thumb the nervous box of a windpipe, make it tremble, stiffen, stream out thin reeds of whine, make it devil, then angel, till it pantomimes the electric endings of no and yes, yes, and, and, an, an answer, no question, no brea---, pulse, but storm, but strum. and whoosh. ah.


lunes, 16 de febrero de 2009

Juego # 7 A hospital bed

Seems like more and more these days, I find myself visiting hospitals and funerals. A sure sign of age...I guess. Or is it that death hovers constantly over us and it is only in middle age that we finally listen to its heralds clamoring for attention?

In a hospital bed (para Yan)

Dreaming of looking out a different window, he inhales the pungent smell of the alcohol drenched swabs tossed carelessly into the waste bin, so that some remain scattered on the floor oblivious to the potential hazards. The once immaculate threads tinged with crimson specks serve as a constant reminder of the cold, indifferent master, whose plastic grip chains him to this bed. The snakelike tube connected to his veins exacts the gentle, probing fluid that promises relief.

He wonders about the end.

Is this what I had bargained for? Is this the picture she will carry of our last days? A helpless body strapped to a bed while the warmth of the sun teases its way through a cobwebbed hospital window...?


Mother was a believer. And everybody knows you can't keep a believer back. Nights, she'd prowl hospital wards, skulk into rooms, peek around doors. I am sure she wanted to believe no one saw her, with her dusty Birkenstocks and cordoroy skirt, her thick grey braid tied at the nape of her neck with pink flailing ribbon. What do they know? she once told me, those days when she still made some sense. "Everybody needs a little blessin' every once in a whi-i-ile."

You should know that Mother wasn't from the South; she was Southern Californian, raised on The Grateful Dead, sushi and soy. Somehow, after Dad left, sometime in the early 80s, she adopted a long drawl, as if she'd grown up on plantations and mint julep, as if it were part of the job description. Witch. Healer. Curandera, one of the nurses called her, lips breathing the word over coffee. Long ago, the nurses gave in, ignoring Mother as she tiptoed squeaky white floors with her hippie shoes and sports socks, her hands clutching a fat arsenal of herbs, her pockets full of camphor squares. I befriended the sympathetic nurses, usually late shift RNs, the ones who were single or whose kids were old enough to stay at home. I rolled my eyes at Mother's antics, explained that she was uncontrollable, complained about my life and all the disappointment and loss. They listened, cooed, felt moved to let her play "healer" at the home. See, she was their lost candy striper. My mother knew when people needed food, when they were cold, when the sheets needed changing. So what if she dripped rose oil on their foreheads, sprinkled daisy petals in their hair? No harm, they said at first.

All that changed after Mother almost burned the place down while burnishing the end of a sage stick.The nappy end of the brush lit on a prison-green nursing home curtain, the kind that never gets drawn to let in the sun. In a lickety-split the smudge turned torch and lit up the curtain candy-orange. She watched it blaze, calling a kiss from "Jezuuuzzz." They didn't let Mother back in. Even after weeks of my prodding, then begging. After the drastic weight loss, the pulling out of hair. She'd taken to scratching at herself, deep gouges. And the tears and the night screams.

But that was then. Now I caress her hair, I know when she needs rest, when to eat. She lets me string rue around her bed, nods when I place camphor squares at her ears to keep back the noisy spirits. Now the nurses speak of me in whispers, they way they did her, when she was touched, danced around hospital beds, doused mattresses with Florida water. Hers is not the only room that carries her yarrow and smells like Cresso, but it's more woman than devil or angel. Dancing around her room, my thick socked feet moving towards the hall, I realize you just can't keep a believer back.


Sólo cuando ha terminado la hora de visitas y cesa el parloteo de parientes y enfermeras, llega la paz. En el oscuro silencio de olor a desinfectante y gotereo de suero, hace su obra de caridad. Abraza con sus manos de tela los cuerpos dolientes, mientras consuela con el sueño sus quejidos febriles. La cama.


jueves, 5 de febrero de 2009

Juego # 6 Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

At first he noticed she started getting thinner. Then he could almost swear she was getting shorter. Whenever he tried to broach the subject, she’d brush him off with a smile and a condescending look on her face. Afraid that his fancy might have gotten the better of him, he tried to ignore her continued dwindling away. In two months time, he was sure he could detect almost filmy dust clouds hover over and around her whenever she walked by. He had even acquired what seemed to be an allergy to her closeness. Once when she walked by, he tried to stifle the impending sneeze that gathered round his nose, but ended up sneezing all over her. She looked startled.

“Gesundheit,” she said. “I think you need to see a doctor. I’ve noticed you are constantly sneezing and you have a runny nose.”

By then, she must have been three feet tall. Why doesn’t anyone else notice? he thought.

“Have you noticed that you’re always sweeping?” he asked her defiantly.
“Yeah, there seems to be a lot of dust gathering around lately. Do you think it’s that African dust people talk about?

I think it’s you he wanted to scream. But then he felt as if a hand, a large powerful one was taking him by the throat. He started gasping. She hurried towards him. He shook his hands. He wanted her to get away. He knew she was causing his allergy. But her tiny diminishing body kept trying to help him. He plead in his mind for her to get away from him. She was frantic. “What can I do?” she twittererd while flapping her arms about in desperation.

Finally, he saw her run towards the phone.

He died from an allergic reaction to dust mites, the doctor concluded. She, in turn, bought a powerful vacuum cleaner, and kept dusting herself away.

Elsa Luciano



Lying in bed, Mara regrets the dusty living room, the detriorating bathroom ceiling, the crumbling kitchen tile. Each room speaks to her, beckoning like children that need. The broom, once as loved as her husband, now stands, its bristles receding. Friends, family, strangers gather around her, at first ginger as if the bed were an urn, keeping her at bay. Some drift at the door, their awe noisy. Most wear masks, knowing enough about the dangers of her atmospheric dust. But they touch her anyway; because they can't help themselves, they touch, hands leaving ridged imprints. No matter; she is wane and all phantom bone. She has given too much. How much of her will remain? She is everything, but nothing: shroud, dander, snowflake, she carries only a memory of skin.

A priest imagines her kiss and fine particles of the thought linger, furtive, unsure, on his lips, taste salt, regret, ammonia. Now. what. The words slip out of her ebbing teeth, and people, just people, lean in, thinking the long slope of letter and sigh is meant for them.


My late husband Paul used to flick his cigarette, spreading its ashes all around the house. “Use an ashtray, honey,” I asked him time and again. “It’s just some harmless dust, dear,” he would mumble with a smiley puff of smoke. The next thing you knew he was flickering his cigarette once more.

Last week he died from lung cancer. During his final days he demanded to be cremated. Now that I found out how to open the urn, I might as well spread his ashes around the backyard. I bet our cacti and our dogs won’t object. After all, its just some harmless dust.


Dust to dust

I promised I would never get rid of his ashes. That when the time came I would make sure they were carefully mixed in with my own.

But life had other plans for me, so one night I quietly disposed of his remains as I emptied the dust from my new, powerful silent Hoover…

haven’t gotten a complaint yet.