coterie

(The Mindy Project says

that psycho people can make friends. That I

can make friends that stick. I will run up stairs

to find them. Gamble for it. Dance in the dark.)

The girl who did my nails had bright blonde bangs

and we talked about “down the shore”. Maybe

I am actually from somewhere. Maybe I have a tribe.

My Delaware valley accent is back. Outside smells

like the Easter baskets Nana Wagar gave us that one year.

I’m under the gun again, but with so much home stored up here

I can get back on that motorcycle and cruise over these buttery roads.

Someday he will sing “Sha-la-la-la-in love with a Jersey girl!” and I

will be that girl. We will stack rocks at the Cape May sunset.

The band will play again. I will get splinters on the boardwalk,

hell, maybe even a spray tan. No one would judge me for it.

My wanderlust has been beaten, frozen out of my heart.

I just want to sleep till noon and wake up somewhere

safe. I want to give my kids

this sandy soil, as it pours through my manicured fingernails

and (no one called me “weird”.) they will pluck tulips

and yell,”tractor!” The old folks church will smile

and take them out to breakfast. (as they loved me.)

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dear anna X

what are you like?

I am too close to see,

your fluid mosaic washes over my memory

 I cannot distinguish between failing and strength

you are so beautiful. All of you is beautiful.

Still delightfully marvelous as in childhood, red-blue

rich in yellow

only growing more lovely with time

I remember you in crayon, water, and glass

my rage always the Frog

to your wise, calm Toad.

Panic & Attack in America

a girl screamed like an animal and I woke

only a screen and ten feet of air

separating me from their fight

the Jersey Shore turned ugly at 2 a.m.

I cowered against the pale wall, swaddled in dark sheets

the only light from the porch flourescent across the way

flickering punches and profanity flew thick

she kept screaming, begging on her knees for them to stop

pulling on their clothing, now torn and bloody

my heartbeat in my eyes, resounding with

dull thuds of knuckles on flesh

scrambling for each other’s pain, falling down the stairs

their faces broken and twisted, they were not human anymore, I shook

and they tossed a tanned shirtless [someone] over the third floor balcony

she shrieked and was cut off, thrown into the wall – “shut up”

my windpipe closed just in time for the cops to show up

they pounded up the stairs yelling, guns waved around

she was crying softly now, I retched into the sink

mascara running down her face as they barked questions at her

I choked on

a horror in me awake, that visited

every night, the fear

that feels like dying

and nothing will be or is

beautiful;the demon animal in their faces

that triggers a break  in me, of mind and body

I am eaten and fall

wanted

everything is full of ghosts.

they are dead on replay, they rise

out of a song lyric

a water bottle

friendly shoulders

some chairs at night.

one specter awakens and calls up all the others,

their bones rattle as they write

words with their fingers and tongues

 times when you wouldn’t be forgotten outside in the cold

quiet art galleries

being asked to dinner

really white sheets and A team

you’d have people to sit with at the show

though these are all good things

they sting as all broken promises do. So I commune with these spirits,

tired of avoiding these commonplace terrors,

wait for those to come forth that calm the others

the peaceful, quieter, subtle loves

the stories that did not end in heart-wrenching shame

they come close and silence the ghosts which say

life will never be any better than failure.

last night I toss and turn

did you know I dreamed of you

that the dead could speak to me,

beautiful icy-grey, they were afraid

so I dragged my sister from hell’s purgatory

with extension cords wrapped about her wrists

it took all our strength, we could have been trapped there too

she was free but still dead

her head lolled to the side in my hands

and I couldn’t even find her shadow.

I wandered our old neighborhood, you know,

found the looming house, all new

and searched for the old in it,

I wandered from room to staircase

and the wooden panels grew fuzzy, blurred in my eyes

I began to suspect I was asleep but pressed forward in the black

feeling nothing but the creak beneath my feet

hearing nothing but the desperate whispers of the dead,

their skirts spread like my mother’s wedding dress on the lawn

new friends

perusing, I found that last piece:

dusty charcoal circles, slightly smudged

by your fingers, your artwork

forgotten on a shelf. I lifted it,

my wrists shivering, the pale white

lines and seven simple shapes.

I could hear the squeak of the charcoal sticks

on paper, the squeak of your voice in it. That

memory, dead in my head, has grown silent.

It will not speak, so I will

set your art aflame

on the cold asphalt and dry leaves

where it curls up and dies glowing.

– not alone, someone else

stomps out the flames. And then we roll away into the night.

coffee out with maria

why is it that when I see you I cry immediately,

like someone punched in a cash register button in my heart

and the drawer slides open, pouring out vulnerabilities

 – you, oblivious, too young to understand –

I want to ask you how you got this way,

why your eyes are unfocused behind your cute little glasses. that would be rude

but the way you’re eating ice cream with your hands is rude too

so your mother leads your limping hand away,

to wash you clean, the way my mother did.

your parents maybe wonder why

this stranger is watching their child and slowly overflowing with tears?

(she misses her brother.)

in the face of all this dreary snow.

IMG_1886

About a year ago, I was on vacation with family – out in the plains of Kidepo, the best place for going safari that I have ever been. On the first morning of our trip, we rose early to go out on an early game drive, since dawn is the best time to see wildlife.

Being two metres from a  pack of full-grown lions is a wonderful way to start any morning.

moving forwards

A new family has moved to the town in which my family first lived when we moved to Uganda, the beautiful town of Mbale.

The mother of this family has some lovely photographs that make me completely nostalgic every time I look at them.

They are coming to grips with the enormity of the culture gap:

different clothing

crazy workshops, in which you must sit for hours waiting for the car to be fixed

learning to exist in a place where being white is being a racial minority

learning to appreciate the ragged beauty that is everywhere

traveling, seeing all the fantastically beautiful natural landscapes

adjusting the schedule when the power goes out

experiencing the unpredictable road conditions

and learning to understand the often times crazy culture of the beautiful people.

(they’re even taking care of the old cat)

(all photo credits go to D. Tuininga)