Monday, August 22, 2005

family and other lovers


A friend is showing me his art.

"It’s very ghost-like," I say.

"You guys can’t tell if it’s a bus with wheels or two houses," he asks. It’s actually a Ghost Bus. The one ghosts travel on.

"What do you learn on the bus?" I had more questions. He was slow in answering.

The president of my old company personally asks me back to work. Just a couple days a week. She recognizes there was some flub in the legality of the original hire. I find it hard to say no to her.

Bubble gum wars.

My performance for the Folklife Center goes from 7 am – 12:30. It’s 6:30 by the time we leave the house. It takes us too long to find the car. We all left the house at the same time, but Mom’s there already. I give up on getting there. My boyfriend and I call a friend to tell him of the performance anyway—he’d requested us to.


I’m in the military with my mother and little brother. We’re part of a suppressed insurgent group living in the mountains. Mother and I are catching up when I ask her where my brother has gone off to.

"Oh, he left earlier." Too bad I missed him—I had an extra ammunition cartridge for his gun. I give it to Mom, she said she could use it. We’re in fatigues carrying big guns.

We have to change transport on a back road. Somehow, I miss the boarding call and am left behind. My own fault, I’m sure. I run into a group of a half-dozen senior-ranking officers cleaning up after the encampment. I’m embarrassed but I tell them my story.

Dad and I are lovers. We sneak kisses where we can and plan our trysts for when the house is empty. He has to drop off Mom at a friend’s house. I suggest that no one will be home when he returns. Let’s try it again then.

But by then, there are at least two other bodies around us. He tries to sneak me a kiss. He is more reckless. I am the reserved one.

There is a big party on the palazzo steps. So many people I have not seen in such a long time. Almost everyone is wearing white.

Dad is speaking in Spanish to one of my childhood friends, who’s grown into quite a handsome man. All night I’ve meant to spend some time with him, as it really has been years. But I’m busy greeting folks, and seeing them off. Before I know it, my friend has to leave—his radio show starts in 38 minutes. Maybe he’ll come back afterwards. His new book comes out soon.

Out on the green, an Olympics-style event is just getting over. I can see the heads of the participants as they climb the stairs. The party is abuzz with talk of the sport. I make mental notes of all this—to write about it later. Dad sidles up next to me and challenges me to construct the lead sentence of my piece on the spot. It must be very well written—he has professional standards. I try, but am overwhelmed with pressure.

The proximity of his body. His face almost pressed to mine. The bustling, sweaty bodies surrounding us… he loses himself and his lips fall towards mine. I pull away. I’m not sure how many people saw our almost-kiss.

I walk a fellow partygoer down the steps and see my old friend leaving again. I turn around so as to escort him out. Someone’s growing plants on my porch. I wonder where the other plant is. It’s called mother-something-or-other.

As I weave through the crowd, I can hear guys commenting on how I turn so many heads. They speak in both English and Spanish.

My cousin is introducing herself to a circle of parents.

"I’m his mother," she says, pointing to her son, sitting in a chair outside the group. He’s a well-known kid, popular and talented.

Inside, there are teachers looking for the students they are to tutor. I tell at least one of them that their student has already left the party. In a brief moment alone, I think about how having sex with my Dad (wanting it, even) is considered weird, strange, and sick. Perhaps I should go seek help. But I feel perfectly healthy.


A song my new lover sings about me:

Hey little girl
You’re the little girl with
No fear
You make people
Scared of you
You make me wanna
Run away, run away

My mother’s sold her house in Florida and has moved to Middlebury, VT.

"What could you grow up there," my cousin sneers. She’s very critical and rude.

Later, my mother is giving directions to a Laotian guy I’ve had a crush on. They know each other from Socialist Party meetings.

"Did you hear what she said," my mother asked him. "Also what she said about your wife’s boat?" Ex-wife.


My mom is pulled aside at airport security. I don’t realize it fast enough to stop what happens. The women at security clasp her long black hair like a rope and with one sharp swoop, cut off her hair.

"Did you cut my hair," my mother asks surprised.

"Did you cut her hair," I ask. Too late. There are about three of them standing there speechless.

"But you didn’t have permission," my mother says. I wonder if we’ll make it in time for her 2:30 flight. The security women look up at the clock and let us pass.

That’s when we find out that my brother used my mother’s plane ticket to fly himself to Florida. He’s long gone. He’d left a note that says he’s not planning on coming back. I slump into one of the chairs in the lounge and cry, dismayed. There’s nothing we can do, what’s the point?

My mother and I sit on the rocks of a riverbank, pondering all that has happened. A man approaches us, asks to join us there. I think he likes me. He was burning incense to honor a woman he used to date named Kim. He went on and on talking about it—some big deal in his life. He asked to hang out with us. I suggested to Mother that he could probably help her on the farm. He’s a middle-aged white guy. Long wavy brown hair. Kind of ordinary.

I end up having a threesome with him and another man. It is our first time together. Blood spurted from between my legs onto the wall behind him. It happens this way with every new lover. My girlhood friend is upset when she finds this out. She works for Planned Parenthood and does AIDS/HIV prevention. She makes some analogy about risk in her lecture to me.

She walks me up Main Street to a safe place. I am still naked. Blood has caked the insides of my thighs.


A display of Arts & Crafts-style computer-generated art with captions instead of titles for each piece.

An old monk singing for us a very blues-y chant about his hard-life wanderings. I am on a date with a poet I admire. "I think about it all the time" was the song’s refrain.

My mother has seen me for who I really am. She no longer treats me as her child.

I’ve walked through a dark, glittering, spinning portal into my present world.

Story sharing / life swapping.

There is so much more that I can’t remember….


My cousins are gathered around, eating the post-offering meal. Our mothers have joined us.

"I wonder why we still did it," one of my cousins says. "You know, when someone cries, you laugh—that’s customary." I notice the man she’s talking about didn’t laugh.

Our mothers are simultaneously engaged in conversation. "But I didn’t carry the rice up there," my mother says. She’s using her most polite, reverent speech.

My cousin continues talking about what happened to her older sister. The guy she hooked up with last night slapped her. She’d said it hurt.

"When she said it hurt worse than when my mom hit her—"

"Oh, come on," I interjected. "Do we have to talk about this right now?" Her sister is in our circle, quietly eating.

Mom was talking about the negative karmic merit associated with carrying the rice to the offering place. I’d overheard some of the conversation, but she had likewise been advised to shut up. I was the one who performed the necessary task, not Mother. I had been sitting right next to her.

The sister made to say it was okay to go on talking about it, when the lover reached over and hit ME!.

We had all paired up and at one point I was part of a threesome with her and that man. I remember the slap. My guy was a round man with shaved head. A Filipino guy who spoke in French to me. My boyfriend was in and out of the picture.

I’m carrying on the tradition of a reading-discussion time at school. My old friend is no longer there. To my surprise, almost everyone shows up. I am speaking in hushed tones with someone about our work. Others in the room are becoming agitated until finally someone approaches me about it.

"It’s not meant to be a study hall here, jeez!" I go back to talking. People start leaving because they’re pissed off. There is a teacher who secretly watches all this.

I find the game BS by Parker Brothers.

I’m at a bubble-blowing party with Mom, and some of her friends. It seems like everyone is there. There is a Christmas-tree-like centerpiece. Bubbles cascade up and fall down all around us.

A father of a young girl is asking us for advice, since we’re her new friends. His daughter is only 15 or so and living with a much older guy. We suggest to let her live her life. That she move out of her father’s place.
The man nods. He is glad his daughter has made these new friends, who are being so sensible and giving good advice. I notice it’s gotten dark outside.

"Look at all the stars," I say, pointing out the window. "It looks like the night was blowing its own bubbles." The party is ending. People are leaving. Finally! I get to use some of the fancier wands that others are leaving behind. Most of the soap is all used up. I chat with one of my mother’s friends. We’re talking about one of the dorms on campus. If you lose your keys, they fall into the boiler room. You have to call the Maintenance guys to schedule an appointment to go pick up your keys. I’m living in that building again.

A bunch of us who live downtown are building a new clubhouse. The baker has opened up a new nightspot, where the Maitre D’ calls you Le Ginger, or Le Donna, whatever your name is.


We are newlyweds. His family was urging him to go sailboating with them. I wanted to go home. We already had an argument going. My in-laws were annoying and persistent. He’d spent all day with them anyway.

"I’m not going anywhere with you again!!!" he yells to them as he walks off. He’s been lecturing me and is sorry. We hold one another a long time. Having made up, we stroll down the road to our car. Another car pulls up next to us. The window rolls down. The driver leans over the seat to us.

"Hey, got another match?"

"No." We innocently shake our heads.

"Too bad, ‘cuz one of us is getting hurt—in your guitar room," he says. Dad! My husband checks the time on his watch. The digital display reads EGBUNN. We run to the house, which is engulfed in flames and smoke. Dad is unconscious on the floor of the guitar room, his instrument strapped to his chest.

I’m spilling hot water into the stove while cooking a very complicated dinner. The couple I’m having over for dinner has already perfected this dish. Someone offers me a solution.

"Can I just ask one thing," I say. "Do you love me, that’s what I want to know." No answer. I lift up the top of the stove to find and clean the mess. I have trouble cleaning the burners. Why did she have to want such a complicated dinner, I ask myself, when she really likes something simple in the first place? (this is the end of some other story.)

A man I knew a long time ago is manning a booth at a sidewalk sale, giving away sunglasses. We say hi to each other as I pass by. He sneaks up and walks behind me. I am muttering to myself… "…whose pants are those?" He hears this and in striding past me, says that I’m embarrassing. We stop for a moment. I ask him outright, but don’t recall his answer. He’s flirting with me.


Homecoming? Telling the future some guy with cards—Wonder Woman…Shoot, I’ve forgotten.


My girlhood friend and I are on vacation at some sleazy guy’s motel. She needs to leave at 6 a.m.—well before I have to. I suggest she pay her bill before going. She’ll be able to sneak off easier.

"Bill? Pay my bill?" Ooh. She’s angry.

"I mean," I say calmly, "your portion of the bill. We always split the bill. Just pay your portion." She seems much calmer at this suggestion.

I’m attending a show in a classroom. I’ve been trying to attend this annual event for the past two years, but have missed it every time until tonight. One of the performers is a son of a man I’ve admired from afar. I’ve sprawled across a few folding chairs to get comfortable.

The students have been studying Laos, so their songs feature three different Laotian instruments. The son demonstrates on a bagpipe-like kaen. A string hangs from the end of it, which I reach out and catch hold of without thought, kind of like a cat would. I give it back, once I become aware of myself. After the performance, the parents of the children were introduced and that man stands up when his name is called. He went by Bill Miller.

I’m carrying a small clay pot overflowing with water in which swim four cute, pudgy goldfish. Two of them are orange. One is white with spots.

They are all very small and keep trying to get out of the pot, which seems too small. My boyfriend instructs me to keep them in the pot. I pour a little of the water out to minimize the overflow, but I’d let too much water out. I refill it with riverwater.


We have lots of kittens in our country home. We live in a prefab on a dirt road cut into a mountain, where a development is sprouting and trees are being cut. During the local Old Home Days celebration, I mistakenly leave the door open, and one of my newer kittens dashes through the door. We never see her again. Her name was Allegra.

I’m in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, visiting a shop that used to exist in my hometown, but has since moved. I tell the owners how much I missed their store. I hadn’t been able to find the perfumes they sold anywhere else. And so now am very happy to be able to buy them again.


My ex-boyfriend is buying pot from a guy in the schoolyard while we are all waiting for lunch period. I ask him not to do this, but they don’t heed me, and end up getting caught. This is the beginning of some summer program. I am bored waiting for dinner, which I’ve spoiled already by snacking.

In the hall, I notice a button on the wall and press it to see what it does. The swim instructor’s voice booms over the PA system a pre-recorded pep talk about the benefits of swimming, "If you want to learn to swim…" A few of us walk over to look at the folks swimming in the pool.

One wall is glass, which shows the swimmers under the water, as well as at poolside. It’s like a human fish tank. There are all shapes and sizes and ages of people there. It’s crowded. I’ve been in this program before. I know the rules of this place.

I’m walking down Main Street, on my way to dinner, but must turn into my apartment first—it’s too cold out. I need a sweater. I turn the corner by the bank and see a black stretch van parked along the street. It belongs to the family of the rich kid at school. The diners in the restaurant across the street are staring, jaws agape. They want gossip. Who are they? What are they doing in this dinky little town?

As I start to pass, I notice the sliding door is open. The rich kid and his mom are inside. She’s trying to get him to stop being such a baby.

"Go out and have some fun," she says. I get close enough to peek my head in.

"Hi Pete," I say and move on. I tried to keep it light and breezy. His mom turns to him as if to say, see, that wasn’t so bad… They end up walking behind me—Pete and his older brother. I overhear someone expounding on the trials of getting evicted from one’s home. Couldn’t he, the brother, forgive them their debts? They’re trying so hard. It’s my ex-boyfriend’s brother pleading. I recognize his voice. His cries are in vain—even I know this—Pete’s brother may own the apartment building we live in, but he probably has nothing to do with it’s business. Their father is the one still handling that. I notice some beautifully intricate ironwork on the railings and posts we’ve been passing on Main Street.

There are several notes posted to the door of my apartment, and a pile of stuff nearby. "Came by at 3 a.m. to do dishes but you weren’t home [signed] 10 p.m." read a note from my upstairs neighbor. Another note is from that ex-boyfriend. Upon entering the kitchen, I notice how empty the room is, and it takes me a while to see that there’s furniture missing, among other things. This is all my ex’s work! He must have come in and taken a few things. I look back at the pile by the door, and see that he’s been sifting through it to determine what belongs to him and what’s mine. It’s a bit out of character for him to be doing all this without my involvement, but what can you do?

An older fellow I’m friendly with is getting on really well with an old girlhood friend of mine. He talks her into meeting up with him for a walk later, which she is happy to oblige. He is sitting al fresco with a mature East Indian man when she arrives. But the moment she approaches their table, a 16-year-old Indian boy sidles up to her and insists they walk together. The man she came to see waves her off, as if to say, take your time, I’ll be here when you’re done talking. The boy takes my old girlfriend on a stroll under the streetlamps. She obliges only to be polite but becomes increasingly irate. His conversation is not sophisticated enough, and the man she really wants to see is just sitting there chatting like nothing is wrong.

I join them at the table and come to understand that this Indian man has many sons who are looking for wives, one of whom is trying his best to seduce my girlfriend. Both of these men knew this and set up this little walk for the boy. My woman friend comes back furious. But the older fellow shrugs, what could he do? The boy wanted what he wanted. She feels betrayed.

I bought a framed piece of art. It’s rather large and I’m trying to enter a cafeteria with it in tow. At the same time, another woman is trying to enter with her large parcels. I try to back away to let her pass first, but she insists on my advancing. It’s a tight squeeze and the glass of the frame cracks. I am dismayed. But the Chinese woman I bought it from (who’d been watching the whole scene) told me that it was actually plexiglass and that it would only be $10-$20 to replace it.

The woman who’d let me pass comes in, stands in line to order food, leaves her luggage there, and walks off to the salad bar. She returns with her plate filled and finds her luggage exactly as she left it.

"How come no one’s gone through my bags?" she shouts, enraged. I am surprised that she’s angry that there hasn’t been a crime committed against her.

I keep wondering if I’m too late for the breakfast buffet. Even though I’m not sure, I dig in because the food is still available.

My cousins are visiting and we are all converging at my place. Others get together to celebrate, too. Old childhood friends of mine. All Laotians. At some point, we decide to go to TJ Buckley’s, the fanciest restaurant in town.

"We have a table for six or eight," I said to the hostess. She winces.

"Actually, we’re not taking any more," she said. "The professors are here. Sorry."

In the center of the room is a large table where some Marlboro College professors are already enjoying their drinks. An end-of-semester treat for them. We get to sit down, but we get shitty service. We ended up leaving early to go to my place, hang out, and eat popcorn and ice cream.

I’ve given my cousin the key to my apartment, and told her the quirk about the lock.

"Why don’t you just hide the key," she asks.

"It’s too dangerous," I say. "The front door is always unlocked. No security."

"You’re probably right." We party like it’s the last time any of us will see each other for a long time. We’re popping corn in the laundry hamper by the power of the space heater. Friends are stopping by but never stay long.. We are all trying to make connections. I introduce an older man as coming from Massachusetts—

"Pennsylvania," he corrects me. A woman introduced herself to me as "see kheo", which means the color green. We are speaking a mix of Laotian and English. We’re having a good time.

Monday, August 01, 2005

school of love


My boyfriend is bending into the Whetstone Brook, trying to retrieve something he lost in there. It is a wide and fast brook. I see that he’s lost his grasp of land and falls in. I watch from my safe vantage point on shore as one of the largest alligators in the brook scoops him into his jaws as casually as if it had just nabbed a trout from the water. I am afraid for myself but need to at least attempt to save him. I’m sure he’s dead anyway. I get as close as I dare and reach out to tug on the foot of my now lifeless lover. The alligator, in response, sinks his teeth down further into his body. I hear the watery squish of him and back off.

The reptile carries him into the basement of the building edging the brook. It is the basement cafeteria of a Wendy’s-type restaurant. When I finally make it in there, the diners have left. It is empty except for the cleaning man. I daydream about not knowing what to do.

I do know what to do—which is to say, tell someone. I wind up at my girl friend’s apartment. We shoot the shit for a while and I am so comfortable there I almost forget the news. Finally I blurt it out.

“He’s dead!” She gives me a serious look, as if she’s realizing the reason I’m here is to unburden myself.

“Is this really what is bothering you? Not something else?”

“Yes.” We are standing in her kitchen. Her other guests, those that knew him, start crying as I describe what I saw.

“Are you sure he’s dead?”

“Pretty sure,” I say.

A long time later, I have pretty much forgotten the incident and am sitting on the grass with my boyfriend, watching an outdoor show. Suddenly I remember.

“Hey! How come you’re here,” I ask. “I though you were dead! I told everybody!” I half-hear his explanation, I am so shocked. Also I am a little embarrassed that I hadn’t thought him clever enough to escape from death on his own.

He asks me not to tell anyone he’s alive. He has it all planned out: everyone can still think he’s dead while we sail off together in the boat I’ve acquired (legally) and make a living trafficking passengers (illegally). We must stick to this plan.

Disjointed things: trying on my underwear for all to see; a tall glass tower downtown, in place of the oil company, where you can ride up and look down on all the people; too many people squished together; charging the bank stall; a Vietnamese woman I just met.

I know where and how to look. A school teacher is in the stairwell when I come across her. She’s tiptoeing, as if trying to catch something unawares.

“What are you doing,” I ask in a whisper.

“Trying to catch a phoenix,” she replies.

That’s when I see Fawkes. The bird had been hiding. I walk up to her. Her feathers have all been plucked off and I see that she looks thin and distressed. It takes her a moment to recognize me. She asks me something, indicating that it’s been a long time.

“Just a little older that’s all,” I say, as if to say nothing has changed. She points to the teats on her belly that she can no longer nurse from. She is in utter grief.

“I know, I know,” I say. “We’ll have time. There’s so much more time.” I hold her and rock her. We are both crying together. We have both lost our children.

I had wound up in the school because I was running away from a “lover” (whom I’d never even slept with). We were on a date, at a party with plenty of other people who knew us to be friendly. My guy was getting very cuddly with me and I told him to stop it.

“Why,” he asked.

“Because I’m afraid my boyfriend will show up here.” He could be researching the party, or might even arrive with some friends of his.

“Boyfriend??” The guy yelled, infuriated. “Boyfriend!” He got furious in such a short amount of time. He was uncontrollable and took after me. I ran, back the way we came, through the field, past the marsh. Past blonde boys who’d been so friendly to me on the way in, but who couldn’t see that anything is wrong in my exit. I was pissed at those dullards. One guy even wanted to make sure it was the right turn to get to the party.

“I was right wasn’t I,” he shouted after me. I’ve slowed down by this point. I’ve entered a school and the halls are empty. I saw a couple of female teachers lurking around the stairs. That’s how I knew they’re looking for a phoenix.

I was truly afraid that guy was going to hurt me. He was a very large man, heavy. Fat, actually, almost like Jared, the Subway guy before the weight loss. Under his shirt, his belly hung over his belt.

He actually started off as a different lover, at a party I hosted. It was winding down, my guests were leaving. We were renewing our romantic interest in each other. He was now a tile maker. Tomorrow he was going to be showcasing his wares at a big home textile show.

“Who buys your stuff,” I asked.

“Mostly they’re from other countries,” he said. “Argentina, Bolivia, and Germany.” (I think.)

“I missed you,” he said. His face was still youthful and yearning.

“I missed you,” I replied. What we meant was that we missed pressing our bodies and lips together. It had been at least a decade since we’d last been together. We assumed we would have so much time together, and so were saving sex for later. Even the kiss was being saved. My plants needed watering. I tried to steer the conversation away from emotions towards getting to know more about each other. Besides, there were still a few stragglers.

He was also a teacher or staff person at the special summer session I was attending. We were split into groups, each headed by two team leaders. He was in my group. The staff needed to take photos of all team leaders so they could be printed on their paychecks.


A bunch of us are carpooling for a long trip. After not being able to find another group of people to ride with, I settle for riding with my employer, who is a typically eager chaperone. I’m also with my ex-boyfriend’s relatives.

I’m celebrating a belated Mother’s Day in a cramped, dark comic book store in Florida. I don’t know anyone there. My brother arrives, with a couple of his “friends”. I invited along an ex-boyfriend, who loves my brother’s cat. The party had been delayed because of rain, and was held back where I used to work a couple of times—a car dealership. I find it difficult to make conversation.

In the between times, I’d go to a yard sale with my brother and some friends. They are displaying some of my belongings to sell while I am rummaging through the free pile. They rest and I wander off only to come back to the empty field where the picnic had been. I poke around. The grass was wet and the air misty. I approach a brown, ramshackle barn that looks like it is being used for storage. My bike might be in there.

It is roomy inside and the sun spills in rhomboids onto the dusty floor. Nothing moves except my breath. An acquaintance appears at the door, notices me poking around.

“What are you doing here,” he asks. He is wearing work clothes—jeans and t-shirt.

“I’m looking for my bike,” I answer.

“No luck?” I shake my head. We both know it isn’t going to be here.

I find a dirt road along the field and walk it until I come to a friend’s farm. He is working a ways off, but sees my approach. We shout greetings to each other. He is cutting flower bouquets to sell.

One of the friends I’d left resting at the yard sale appears from inside a building and walks down a path away from me. She is wearing wedding white and meandering as if in her own world.

“Erica!” I call to her. “Erica!” Her head is bent to her thoughts. The farmer’s voice soon joins mine. She turns around.

“Do you know what happened to my stuff,” I ask her. She waves her hand and jerks her head to motion for me to follow her. Her niece joins us and we walk the grassy path together.

In time, we find the edge of a dirt road where it forks off. Across from us is another grassy swell. Cars stop here at this intersection then speed off, kicking up swirls of dirt. We watch as a car slows to the intersection, then makes a sharp turn onto the field of high grass across from us. We run behind as the car plows down the grass enough for us to speed through. It was the reason we stood waiting for it. We arrive at what I realize is the comic book store.

I am again away on something like holiday. There is a large buffet party in a hotel conference room. I keep coming back for more, and end up the last person still eating.

Although I know a lot of the people here, I’m not socializing much. There is a rather attractive young man who I see and make small talk with in the buffet line. His name is Jake.

A young woman I used to go to high school with sticks her head in the door to find someone.

“Is anyone here from group one or two,” she asks. I think I belong to one of them, but have a hard time remembering which. But I notice someone else had volunteered to help her out. He left with her. I remember I was in group one.

Jake and I are still running into one another at the buffet line. Apparently, we’re the only ones either of us want to talk to. Then I see a couple of dear friends across the way and I invite him to meet them with me.

We walk past the open door that leads into the hall. Out of my peripheral, I notice the woman who needed help is leaning forward grasping the carved finial of the wooden staircase banister. The hall is dark, but light is falling from an upstairs window. She is still dressed in business attire, but her panties are down to her ankles. She’s moaning quietly. Behind her kneels the man who volunteered, his fist in slow, intentional strokes beneath her skirt. He’s a poet I’ve greatly admired, but never would have considered for a desperate sexual favor. They both seem to be enjoying it very much. I am glad I didn’t volunteer to help her.

We greet and make plans with my friends, one of whom looks past my shoulder and sees the same hallway scene I just passed. She winces and chokes on her food. Realizing this, and wanting to shield her from it, I hurry to cover her ears, but am too late. I whisper nothings to her like, forget it, it’s okay, it’s nothing…. She runs off, completely disturbed by what she’d just witnessed.

In cleaning up the plates, I find the note my friend left behind for me. In it, she apologizes for dashing off, but she was in such shock. The handwriting is disjointed and mish-mashed, not her usual fluid style at all. How could he, she bemoaned. Our poet. He’s such a sweet guy…

I take the note with me to read more fully as Jake and I find our way outside. We are lazily walking towards “home”. Night has fallen, though a sliver of light behind the mountains is slow to leave. We pass a soccer field where men are practicing. It is summer and the evening is pregnant with undeclared, unknown things. Our footsteps are wet on the asphalt.

My friend’s note is still in my hand, and I try to read the rest of it by the slim light of the lampposts we pass under.

“I can understand her needing to get some pie,” my friend wrote. “But not him—not that he couldn’t want any, but did he have to with her? She’s not a heartbreaker.” I put the note away, slightly amused at her desperation to understand. Jake had been silent while I read.

“Funny,” we both say at the same time.


“Sorry. I—uh,”

“I—no, you go first,” he says. There is a gladness I hadn’t noticed before about him.

“Well,” I say, embarrassed. “It’s funny how fairly easy it is to stay in touch with people given that I don’t have a phone.” I realize this isn’t really funny.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah. People leave notes for me all the time,” I say, holding up my friend’s note as illustration. “And I leave notes for them. It just goes back and forth.”

“Hmmm.” He has no other response. It did sound a bit like boasting.

“What were you going to say?”

“Just that the birds were singing,” he says.

We’ve passed by the barn I had wandered into, looking for my bicycle. Up ahead is a car, parked on the side of the road. As we approach, we notice a woman inside, throwing clothes out of the passenger side, onto the road. It is my car. They are his clothes. She is his ex-girlfriend. A diamond ring tumbles onto the pile.

“That’s my diamond that I lent you,” he says, surprised to see it.

“Yeah, well. It’s just a diamond,” she sneers. It appears to me that she’d rather dispose of it than return it to him. “It didn’t cost you your life, did it?” She pauses to take stock of him. He is shirtless, really fit.

“Isn’t that the H-shaped styling I showed you,” she asks. She’s talking about the way he wears his jeans.

“Yeah,” he says to be rid of her. She is getting more and more frustrated. I am moving to take control of the car.

“What about me, Jake,” she shouts, “do I pass?” He shakes his head. “Do I pass??”

“No, you don’t pass.” He has been trying to control his anger, but loses it. “I want a fight,” he says. “Where can I get a fight?” He turns to me.

“Do I pass,” I ask him quietly.

“Yes.” He gets in the driver’s seat. I straddle the space between the seats, even though I have to drive. A disco beat surrounds us and Prince is singing about black and white. We speed into a starry wilderness we can’t see.

The following is a draft written after experiencing the dream described above. Haibun is a Japanese form incorporating prose poetry and haiku.


We took off to forget the insides of things—slow intentional fists squashing hope with every salacious thrust—bowls with gaping mouths smacked in Peruvian colors—chokes of bean-tomato salad—leaning leathery barns slit open in the surgery of rummaging through lost and forgotten reminders of our youths. I would have sold them if I could. You pulled me away from white walls—into watery night—stars like ice cubes brewing in desire too hot to last for long. Funny, I said. Funny, you echoed, shifting reasons. Distressed clamoring of my friend’s hand. You called it song. Our footfalls amplified so birds scissor the wind with their beaks. We’ve walked from Beautiful Strangers into Awkward Something More. Jake. Even my car, which squats hirsute, a fallen boulder in the margin, emanates loveliness. Even that tessellated ball yearns for punishment from cleat-footed men in pursuit. Even that girl dumping your clothes to the street is chocolate and pomegranate. Her head is lit like the room I’ve already forgotten, where we filled our plates yet never ate. Jake. She has tasted the organs and innards of you. Jake. Fabric clots like blood on the street—heap of arm chutes and leg hollows. Her mirthless laugh. Jake. Take back that ring you gave—it clatters like a coin to the tar.

A diamond within coal isn’t grand
Unless the eyeless star
Accepts the universe of a hand


Someone is teaching us a language. I am catching up. My cousin and one of my best girl friends are visiting. My friend has a younger sister with the same name. I introduce the both of them to Prageeta Sharma (who goes by something else). They start talking in some East Indian language. Everyone is staying at my place. Another girl friend is going to be sleeping in the same bed with me. The others all together on another bed.

JFK published his autobiographies in two volumes, making it easier to serialize and market them. One is called “Summer on the Island With Jody”, the other is “Year in the Life”. They include stories about life on Martha’s Vineyard and his term as President.

A woman who’s said that I “see too much” has been almost drowned, but is kept alive enough to still torture for information. Somewhere an official asks for a person to find the performance of any school in any other country he wants to. The person wags his finger.

“I’ll get my son only when I want my son,” he says. [or did he say “gun”?] We watch a slide show.

An older man reveals to me how much he’s loved me, despite my not wanting him. We’d lived and worked together for a long time.

Later, I forget and I end up half-naked in front of him. He confronts me.

“How much longer will I continue to torture me?” he asks. “Don’t you know what I must be going through?” He is torn by respect, desire, and integrity.

“I’m sorry,” I say very sincerely. I’d forgotten. “I can change if that’ll make you more comfortable,” I offer. Honestly in my mind, I’d changed how I felt about him after all our time together. I hadn’t ever told him this: I’d grown slightly attached to him.

Two of my young female friends are locked out. I come across them and take them home to my place. Later, they’re supposed to go home, but at least one of them is still in the fry.

The old man is a detective with a much younger, more attractive partner. I was sent into a high-security building to stealthily retrieve something after our job both in and outside the building was complete. It ended up being just keys. Everyone had to go through the metal detectors, like at an airport. Some folks got frisked.

The moment I emerge from the crowd, he sidles up to me and slides his arm around my waist in relief. This is how we hug one another. I do the same. It is a moment of understanding. Both of us were glad I got through okay. Next, we have to try to mix in with the rest of the world walking along the sidewalk, so as to not bring notice to ourselves.

“We need to walk through here separately,” I whisper to him. We break. Even in our growing understanding, we must be discreet. His young partner has still not been told of this attachment. He is witnessing it for the first time.


Two of my best girl friends come to visit at school, where the students have to make their own music festival.

The Westminster West Historical Society can no longer afford to publish their own histories—and who reads this stuff anymore? There is a somber sort of social to discuss this. The matronly women are wearing pink outfits, like they were attending a ladies’ tea party. Everyone here loves my book. My elementary school psychologist attempts conversation with me twice, telling me how much she enjoyed it.

“An Historical Society event is really not the best place to be presenting the book to the public,” she says, apologetically. I hadn’t solicited to anyone to promote the book for me, but she seems to need to apologize that she couldn’t do it for me. “They’d all be associating it with Death,” she continues.

“It doesn’t matter,” I say. I have to be a gracious celebrity today. Every other historical society who publishes their histories gets the costs written into their town budgets.


I have vegetable gardens side by side with a girl friend’s garden in the Philippines. All the big fruiting plants belong to her. I’d gone to visit Mom & Dad’s garden. An elderly Pakistani man is also visiting them. My boyfriend or my brother is to give me a tour of it before dinnertime. While watering the garden, I trample on some of Mom’s small seedlings. We start to dig up part of the garden.

“One of the elderly guys inside found some ground nuts here,” my brother explains to me. “So we started digging and grinding them up.”

“What do they look like,” I ask as we dig. He shrugs. “Peanuts?”

“I dunno,” he says.

I’m attending a reunion at a bar. There are a couple of guys from high school that I didn’t know well. They were always tall and lanky in school. It’s a whites party. There are only a couple of people who wear dark dinner jackets. I realize this while sitting in the room being thankful that I had an all-white outfit on, due to my all-white summer wardrobe. The party is wrapping up and I guess I had been trying to get someone to write a story about it—a couple of those guys tease me about it on the way out.

I’m in an English or history classroom with a male professor. I continue to sit towards the back of the classroom everyday. I appreciate the class like none of the others do.


A Peanuts comic strip story. The panels show Chuck eliciting Marcie’s advice about how to break it to Peppermint Patty that he’s actually made a date with another girl—one that he likes!