A is for: A day late

Yesterday was the 24 Hour Project, and I was lucky enough to have my friend Raivenne join me! I’ll put my pics together to share later this week. Suffice it to say that I am exhausted today, beat to the last thread of my socks. And my knee has so many unprintable things to say about me right now. Taking on that challenge was fun, though, and the pain will pass. But, because I was so wrung out yesterday, so other things fell by the wayside. Hence my “A day late” title.

It’s April 2nd, and that means I’m a day into National Poetry Month … and nary a poem written. I thought I might manage one yesterday while I was out and about for the 24 Hour Project, but that proved too much for my super-tired self, so I let it go. And now here I am, trying to catch up on day 2 … not just with my 30/30, but with the A-to-Z challenge as well.

Because I need more writing challenges in my life.

I haven’t made any decisions about a form for this month. Today I have a Zeno that I started on the bus yesterday. Around 5am, Raivenne and I went to my office — we needed to charge our phones, sit in warmth, and use the facilities. The security guard on duty when we arrived, had some beautiful yarn in front of her, and — although she’d given us quite the fish eye when we first walked into the building (it was 5am, after all) — the moment we started exclaiming over her pretty work, we had a very different conversation! After Rai and I parted for the morning, I was on the bus and this poem started trying to be something in my already-sleepy brain.

(A Zeno has a syllable pattern of 8/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1 and a rhyme scheme of a/b/c/d/e/f/d/g/h/d.)


She is stitching for her mother.
Unspooling yarn,
her hands
through soft colors,
twist and
braiding beauty
and love.

She was sweet, the security guard, told us that she used to make cards for her mother with artwork and pretty designs, and that she hadn’t made anything in a while and so decided to make her a scarf. And the yarn was some really fun, slubby, multi-colored business that her mom is sure to love.

And, because today on Robert Lee Brewer’s page the prompt is to write a “not today” poem and that fits with how I’m feeling after my 24 Hours, I’ve scribbled up a little tanka for my second poem:

Not Today

Sunday plans cast off —
laundry, errands, all the things.
I am not moving,
not thinking, not doing, not.
Focused inward, refueling.

And I’m all caught up with my poems!


Looking Ahead

I’ve made plans to help with an adult literacy survey in Jamaica this fall.  I’m feeling surprisingly ambivalent about it.  I want to go, of course.  It’s Jamaica, after all.  And it’s adult education.  And did I mention the Jamaica part?  But there are snags … work, school, my bank account … and AC.

I haven’t told him that I’m going to be in town.  I will tell him, I just haven’t yet.  I keep thinking I can write his script, figure out what this surely-awkward meeting will be like before I get there.  I know I can’t.  As an actual separate being from me, he gets to write his own lines.  But even if I didn’t know that, our strange phone conversations alone would be the proof.  He is never who I think he’s going to be when he calls.  Which is fair, I guess, as I am clearly not who he thinks I’m going to be, either.

I’ve been telling myself for months and months that this curious limbo we’re coasting in is fine, that everything will come clear the next time I’m in Jamaica.  And now that ‘next time’ is looming large on the horizon.  And maybe I’m not exactly ready to have ‘everything come clear’ just yet?

his voice in my ear
lazy, slurry, patois-fine
what I am missing
wants me near but likes me far
that frail tether holds my heart

Love and Fishes

We were a small class last night: Yenny, Muy Chen, Miao, Dariusz and Wilson.  Jason came, but disappeared at break — a too-often problem with him.

We’ve been working on Octavio Paz’s “My Life with the Wave.”¹  I’ve always loved this story.  I first read it forever ago when I was teaching high school, discovered it at the same time as Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.”²

 I always see something new when I read this story, and I love trying to talk about it with students, listening to them try to dismiss it, try to make it make sense, drag themselves (sometimes kicking and screaming) into beautifully incandescent light bulb moments about the wave, about how the story might just work after all.

And last night was better than usual.  They reached a few conclusions — really sophisticated conclusions — that none of my classes has ever reached on their own before.

This is, of course, a thing I love.  Utterly.  And even more because it’s my night class, the kids, the reject ones who supposedly can’t handle this kind of work, the ones who many schools would encourage to drop out.  Take that, impatient system with your inflexibility and unwillingness to see how delightful and eager and smart these kids are.

his life with the wave
sunlight and laughter, conch and fish
until jealousy
how do you embrace a wave
how do you reach her blue heart


¹  Do you know this story?  If not, you can read it here.

²  Another amazing and mind-altering story that is so wonderful to use with students … especially when so many of them are devoutly religious (and you can read it here.

90 Millas

light lavender clouds
washing across pale-dusk blue
on my slow way home
Yemaya’s song in my ears
tonight I feel like Stacie

Walking down Court Street, a new pedicure, Gloria Estefan’s song “90 Millas” on my iPod, new dance videos in my bag.  It’s a good night.

It was also a conscious decision.  I’m tired of being fussy and sad, angry and suffocated.  So I left work with a plan — make myself feel better.  This song is one of the ones that always does the trick.  I put it on ‘repeat’ and all is well.

Over the weekend I wrote another Yemaya tanka:

dreaming of Brazil
dreams of Yemaya, mother
not holding my breath
not wanting to wish too hard
but wanting this like water


I wish I’d found the music video for this song.  I’ve always liked Gloria Estefan, always thought she was cute and fun.  Never had any idea how amazing she was until I heard her in Spanish.  Her album, 90 Millas, was the sound track to my Mexico trip last summer.  I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Heridas de Amor: A Friend in Need

Valerie walked into my class after break Wednesday night with her right hand in a cast (yes: AGAIN¹), wearing the same clothes she’d worn on Tuesday, telling me her mother had kicked her out of the house after beating her badly enough to send her to the hospital for the night.  “So yeah,” she said.  “I’m homeless as of now.”

She had a few options, but not the ones she should have.  Her father wouldn’t take her.  Her aunt wouldn’t take her.  Her brother’s apartment isn’t safe or healthy for her.  Her sister doesn’t have room for her.  And it didn’t seem to occur to her that she could maybe ask Desirée, her current best girlfriend.  There was a time she’d have gone to Reina’s house, but that friendship has faded.

So there was Jeovany.  She didn’t want to ask him, didn’t want to have to depend on him that way, didn’t want to spend time with his mother.  But it was eight o’clock at night, and the only other option was the shelter system, which would mean a trek up to the Emergency Assistance Unit in the Bronx, a horrible experience in the day time, but at least in the day time you have the chance of being given a shelter placement for the night.  Arriving at night usually means spending the night, right there in the EAU.  She didn’t want to go there, and talked about sleeping on the street.

Can I say how forcefully my heart stretched out to her, how much I wanted to say the words … “Come home with me.”  But those would have been the wrong words for so very many reasons.  I know that.  I know it, but my heart didn’t want to accept it.  I resisted the pull, swallowed the offer to bring her home. In the end she made the decision to go with Jeovany.   She made a plan to come early to the Center the next day, to work with Damian and Jasmine to get a placement in the teen women’s shelter the Center runs.  She’ll still have to go through the EAU to get placed there, but she won’t have to spend the night wide awake in the Bronx in order to do it.

I’m glad she has Jeovany to turn to, glad she knew that asking to stay with him was the best of all the options in that moment, glad Jeovany is ready to step up and be ‘friend’ as well as ‘boyfriend.’

she is in my heart
this daughter, sister, alone
she is in the wind
where is her safe place tonight
her safe place now or ever


¹  Just to be sure, I ask what she’s done.

“You know what I did,” she says, waving her cast in my face.  “Same as last time.”  Which means she punched a wall to avoid punching her mother.

“Didn’t we talk about wall-punching?” I ask.  “About hand-breaking, too.”

“Well, it’s almost a year since the last one.”

“That’s true.”

“Hey, that’s progress,” we both say together.

And it is progress.  A year ago, she broke her left hand and — as soon as the cast came off — her right hand.  So one hand in a year instead two in two months really is progress.