The Haitian

I can’t understand
most of his
jumbled words –
between his
French-Caribbean accent
and unavoidable mental illness,
his sentences all mush together.
But they are still lovely.

At first, I admire
his words –
like freshly born animals,
they are wobbly when they walk,
still slick with afterbirth,
eyes still closed.
Each time I ask a question
with a simple answer,
he has a monologue prepared
to go along with
his demographic information.

He pulls faded pictures of children,
who are now fully grown,
out of an old leather briefcase
and tells me where
all three of them live:
New York, Chicago, Houston.

Eventually,
I’m exhausted
by his relentless storytelling.
I interrupt his run-on sentences
with the questions
of my case work.
Where did you stay last night?
Do you have a history of substance abuse?
How much income are you receiving monthly?

With each question,
I see him return
to himself,
as though he were
previously unaware
of his own voice,
just a moment ago
echoing off the concrete walls.

Sin

On an evening drive,
a vague moving shadow
appears in the street ahead.
I slow my speed
and recognize the shape
of a frantic, injured doe,
likely clipped by an indifferent passing car.
Her head waves around in panic,
her thick neck hinging wildly from side to side.
Another night driver
speeds toward her.

I stop in the road,
covering my gaping mouth with one hand,
bracing for impact.
But he sees her in time
and reveals himself to be
a neighborhood security guard,
turning on his green flashing lights,
neutralizing the threat.

As I drive past the scene,
I look to my left
and see her lying in the road,
resigned in the headlights.
Her head is tucked beneath her hind legs,
the road streaked with her blood.
Sickness wells up in my chest,
and I imagine holding her head in my lap
as the life leaves her body
so that she knows she was cared for.

Special Announcement: Lifevest Issue 2

My dear friends from seminary started a beautiful literary magazine called Lifevest.  I was honored to be included in the first issue, and am even more honored to be included in the second issue!  There are so many talented writers and artists in these collections, and I highly recommend giving it a read.  Check it out, subscribe, and submit your own work!

Here’s a sneak peak of my piece included in the collection:

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Doxology

On Sunday morning,
the dusty organ tune
gradually modulates
from the offering hymn,
accompaniment of sacrifice,
as dry hands place freshly sealed envelopes
into cold gold plates lined with velvet,
to the doxology,
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
We all stand and the pews creak with our shifting weight
to acknowledge the holiness of our gifts.
As I harmonize the Amen, Plagal cadence,
the organist’s skillful transformation
of D flat to G major
whispers
that I, too, can
modulate from
anything
to praise.

why did you stay?

why did you stay?

He grabbed
my waist
and told me
he liked my lip ring,
and then kissed it.

I said,
“no, please,
just come lay with me.”
I wore a white comforter,
and we held hands
on the couch
at 6:30
on a Sunday morning.

A train when by
the window
and he ordered me
around the bedroom
in a way that
I mistook for
romance.

He left
granola out on the table
for me,
and honey.
“You’ve overcome
so much,”
he said.

He held
me in his lap
and I touched
his sweaty neck
while he exhaled
and told me his secrets.

He told me
my writing
reminded him of
a certain British philosopher.

I misunderstood,
“I know we
should
let this go, but I
still
want to kiss
you.”

I saw a
pink hair tie
on his nightstand
but
excused it for
a rubberband.

The man before him
told me that I couldn’t
wear tight pants
or make up
because other men
would look at me,
so this kind of violence
seemed more romantic.

I am used to
lies,
and his, at least, came with
honey on his hands when
he held me down,
sticky sweetness on his lips when
he said,

“No wonder this is so hard for you.”

New York

“I came here to see it…”
they say she is a city full of
all those good things
opportunity
success
adventure
love

bright lights
mean I can learn to
be bright again too

“…with new eyes…”
like reading your same favorite book
the same time again each year
and realizing how different you are
each time you encounter it
I am a new creature now
in a way I wasn’t
last time I saw her
this time I need this wildness
my body craves her streets
her crowded subways
her tall towers packed together
her old and new juxtaposed

“…and feel it.”
she taught me that I can still do this
that my tenacity is still intact
that I can move beyond merely enduring
that I can get drunk on wine
with my parents and take a
late night walk through the West Village
that I can write my phone number
on a napkin and slide it across
the bar to a British man
that I can take a cab through
the city alone and confidently
get where I’m going

“It’s up to you, New York.”
she was the climax
of a summer of adventures
to remember where my core is
among all this debris
because New York knows
what it’s like to try to
find yourself again
among debris
and rise from it in the most
poetic and heart wrenching of ways