Sunday, June 18, 2017

Honor

The birth of our sons is a holy day.
It should be set aside, remembered, and observed as such.
For, on that day, we communed with God.
We glimpsed our power and our purpose, and broke to become whole.

I casted my soul into water on the day you were born,
And was reincarnated in a new form
The one I had always understood least, antagonized most,
And loved best.

You are the gorge I willed into being when I was a river,
Heaving and expanding with unbridled possibility.
My choices and my fears are etched upon you like veins on marble,
Marking the depth of my pain, the audacity of my dreams.

You are my hope of promises kept.
It is my blood that flushes your cheeks.
It is my milk that hardens your bones.
May you surpass me in the reach of your perseverance, the tenacity of your faith.
And when you fall, may you rise again.

Foreign Exchange

The coordinates of our affair are clustered in a three mile radius from this very point.
Stolen kisses on elevators, during short trips between offices
An exchange of confidential memos with tracked changes
Rendered invisible on command.
No one saw when you pushed me against skyscrapers in crowded streets
And buried my protests between your lips.
I felt Barcelona in the contrast of our skin tones.
The way your esteem rose with every passerby, while mine sank.
We turned public spaces into hiding places, as if the sound of a fountain,
As if the bitter autumn wind could blanket us, like night, a wall, a bed.
Aggravated by the casual come ons of other hungry men, you said "tell them you are mine"
And I would have, if it had not been a lie.
We spoke of belonging the way we spoke of leaving, like we needed more.
More than this love, than this yearning. More than this moment in time.
We merged into each other urgently, deliberately, the way one walks off a plane and into customs
With all our essentials on our backs.
But the wait. Oh, the wait.
I'll remember that instant when I stood at the border hopeful but exhausted, turned over my passport, and searched your eyes nervously for permission to cross it.
Maybe it was my hesitation and not yours, that made me turn back and keep walking.
But somehow, I couldn't cross it, wouldn't. Never did.
Everything we shared perished, left no traces.
It was the contract we adhered to, yet never signed.
You slept through the storms that kept me awake, in a home I would never set foot in,
Embracing a woman I'd never replace.


Friday, December 30, 2016

In Auspicious Times

Tonight is new year’s eve
And I’ve been counting down since I met you
Since you kissed me in the elevator
And breathed new life to me
And said you had a girlfriend that you would never leave

When they ask how I will live without you, I say “easily”
You were a gift from God
A mirage to get me through the desert
But my soul is no longer dry
My spirit no longer broken

Yesterday, when I awoke
My face was streaked with tears
I must have dreamed that you were real
That you could actually stay
But you chose not to

When you said you loved me
I did not say it back
I was too busy trying to memorize the weight of your arm around my waist
The rhythm of your heart against my ear
For the next time I need an amulet

I peeled myself from your embrace
Gently, but deliberately
The way you pull a bandaid from a child’s skinned knee
And I smiled
Because it happened
Because it’s over
Because I no longer have to bear the weight of your betrayal
Or the risk of your seed

My pendeja card expires
This new year’s eve.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Delinquo

I have loved you
With the promise of sunrise
And the patience of spring
And it has not been enough
It has not been enough

Monday, November 14, 2016

In spite of orders not to ask, and not to tell

Thank you for your service
And by service I mean Sacrifice
And by sacrifice I mean Innocence
Thank you for sacrificing your innocence
For believing in something more than yourself, more than your hopes, more than your dreams
Thank you for believing in something so blindly, so completely
That you were willing to give your own life should it be asked 
If only for a piece of blue cloth with a bunch of stars on it
Thank you for believing, for falling in love
For proving that you -a young black man- are capable of love
When the world insists you are only capable of violence and poverty and depravity
Thank you for falling.. in love

When you fell they tell me your eyes were open and your fists were clenched
Courageously grasping the cold metal of a trigger
That weapon you thought would sound and make you whole actually tore you apart
You died a hero among strangers but you died a hero
Never mind that you came back a ghost 
A ghost with a cardboard sign sitting on a street corner saying
"I gave you liberty, can you give me a dime"
"I spared your life, can you spare some change"
"I saved your country, can I have warm place to lay my head tonight"

You came back a ghost but you came back
And the gasp of a bottle freshly opened is the only memory you have of your comrades' laughter, 
The ones who faded forever into foreign dust
The dull flame of a cigarette butt is the only memory you have of the headlights on that rescue van 
That dragged you home, that brought you back, 
Those lights you now wish you could crush and extinguish on the cold concrete you sleep on
Thank you for forgetting the rest, for forfeiting your peace of mind, a piece of your mind, 
So that civilians might chase money freely, oblivious to the indiscriminate carnage that is war, 
As we avert our gaze and walk briskly, our heels spraying sewage on the painstakingly written message 
You put on cardboard

Monday, October 17, 2016

VERITY

I finally filed for child support, for the first time after 2.5 years. And it is already a decision that haunts me.

I do not know how the State will look upon you, upon us, and I am loathe to invite its gaze. Equal parenting is the exception rather than the norm; it’s quite possible that a court accustomed to imposing bare minimums will lock you into a habit of mediocrity and award you a rubber stamp of approval for the next sixteen years, while smiling quizzically upon my “standards.” Alternatively, when presented with your excuses lacking evidence, your participation devoid of commitment, your core conviction that you are a casualty victimized by a woman’s choice to NOT have an abortion, it’s also quite possible that the court will decide “you gon’ learn today.”

Whether you will regard the process with the same flippancy as you regard my demands remains to be seen.  Though I have proven to be optimistic, understanding, and yielding in light of your endless procrastination, and your insistence that your contribution be measured not according to our child’s needs, but according to how much you choose to earn (or report earning) in a month; a court has more effective tools than anger and indignation at its disposal.

I feel guilty. When I think of you losing your driver’s license, your passport, and your pride, because you refuse to assume responsibility, I feel compelled to protect you from yourself. I don’t want you to be saddled in debt; I’ve spent so much time and effort trying to clear you of it. I don’t want you to be exposed as a less than ideal dad or partner; I’ve deliberately tried to impress upon people the exact opposite. I don’t want to be reduced to a dreaded “single mom;” I’ve tried so hard to convince myself that although we’re not “traditional,” we are still a “family.” I’ve even held on to our periodic arguments about child support like they are relics of our past romantic relationship.

But then I remember. Not once have you had the same compassion towards me, or even towards our son. While I am anxious you are unaffected by the prospect of what he is going to eat today. You are unperturbed by the likelihood that the check made payable to his daycare will bounce. You are unconcerned that he may have to grow up in a community characterized by violence, poverty, and lack of opportunity because the cost of living increases every day, while my income remains stagnant. You insist on pursuing your dreams and working on your projects, as if fatherhood is not one of them. And you boldly admit that it is not.

I don’t want your money. Perhaps, if we lived in another time, another place, I could do it all myself. But this is the U$A. And over the past 2.5 years I have become all too intimately acquainted with the unreasonable cost of quality childcare, the constraints American employment places on parenting, and its magnified impact on single parent households, including my own. While I hope things will eventually change, I know that any change will come too late for us. So, this is the choice I am left with. It is a choice that brings more uncertainty than peace of mind, a choice that places all of us (including our son) on a hot seat of judgment and probably contempt. But it is a choice that has to be made because we are bound not by love, but by responsibility.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

GOOD AND BAD

There is something really beautiful about dating a single dad. Like the way he understood when I couldn’t find alone time to schedule our first date, and suggested a play date instead. We drove separately and met in the line outside of “Imagination Playground” with our kiddos, making sure to acknowledge them and to learn their names. We stole glances at each other’s bodies, as we watched them run and play. And he offered to carry my diaper bag as we left.


We stood beside the model trains with our children in our arms, pointing out the mini skyscrapers that decorated the mini landscape. When I said I had to leave because it was almost my son’s naptime, he didn’t complain or ask me to stay. He gave me a kiss on the cheek, my son a high five, and his daughter gave me a hug. It was the best first date. I did not have to hide the fact that I am a single mom, and I did not have to feel ashamed.


The next time we saw each other, he agreed to meet me in the short break between work and daycare pickup, at a bar that I chose not for its popularity, but for its location just a few blocks away from my loft. We only had time for a couple of beers before I had to run to pickup my son. Again, he did not lament the short time we had spent together and expressed only appreciation. Many days passed before we saw each other again, due to our work and parenting schedules, but we kept in touch.


Our third date, finally, was more traditional. We planned to have dinner then check out a street fest. I was surprised that the first thing he did when we got out of the car was take my hand in his. I could not remember the last time I had held hands with someone as I walked, and I was instantly afraid. But he was so comfortable and self assured that I eased into the moment and started to enjoy it. When we ran into his coworkers, I thought he would regret it, but he did not let go.


That night, my son was staying with my parents, his daughter was staying with her mom, and the minutes we spent together filled up and rounded out into hours. We ended up going to a cabaret, and he moved the table that separated us to sit next to me. I was more focused on the weight of his arm around my shoulder and his hand against my hip, than anything that happened on stage. Afterwards, he thanked me, and leaned in for our first kiss.


We were both exhausted when he drove me home. But I don’t have free nights very often, so I asked him to come up “for a few minutes” and he did. He made a home in my bed and redeemed my body, erasing stretch marks with every kiss, and exhaustion with every embrace. And I felt like I deserved it.


When we awoke, we reached for our phones intuitively, to check on our children, and we said goodbye. I felt vibrant and joyful, and as he left to pick up his daughter, I thought of her mom. How she knows every muscle, every curve, and every expression of his desire; how she probably shudders at the thought of his embrace after the drama of all their disputes; how she probably feels more sympathy than disgust for the women who have crossed his path since her; how she feels the way I feel about my ex. Like me, she’s made it through hell with her heart and soul barely intact. And I want to express my solidarity with her despite having found redemption in the embrace of the man who betrayed her. But I can’t.