streaking with smokey bear

streaking, Smokey Bear tells me one day,

his hands stretching out into the span of the night sky,

as if he’s mapping out constellations,

is like a wildfire:

you see it, you scream stop.

Peeping Toms – they run across large spans of fields,

spread commotion like the burning inferno of a thousand trees,

police car sirens that wail like the thousands of birds

that try to flee when they see the first flame that licks the ground.

or, you could say that the birds are like

humans.

humans that are scared to death of the flying colors of skin

inappropriate skin, he says, his eye widening.

very, very inappropriate skin.

you see, there is skin that is called looking at

but there is skin that is called

peeping at.

do you know why streaking is called streaking?

i actually don’t know. but this is what i think:

i think streaking is streaking because it’s like flicking vibrant colors of paint on a canvas.

vibrant — that’s not the right word.

inappropriate colors.

but again.

it’s a type of art.

streaking, Smokey Bear tells me one day.

is as bright as fluorescent as a wildfire:

it’s great when it’s small. 

funny.

amusing.

but think of it this way:

if there are as many people naked as there are

trees burning,

you would see it and scream stop.

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jupiter // king of gods

HE LOSES HIS MOTHER at eight.

Not because he loses her to a disease, or because she is on the wrong side of the road at the wrong time. He loses her because she loses him first. He loses her because she packed her bags that rainy night, and left. Left for the man who was waiting outside the car for her, a too-bright yellow umbrella opened to shield her from the storm. He loses his mother, loses himself because she leaves him to the custody of his father; never telling him that while he clung onto her leg, tugging on her anklet crying, a divorce was being finalized.

And then, he loses her because she loses herself to cancer.

Sometimes, he wonders. Wonders if his dad hadn’t always been so absent, with work, as he used to say, if she would still be around. Would she have? Would he have ever not taken her for granted? People say that nobody ever misses what’s around, but these days, he gets a feeling that maybe he had already been missing her while she was alive.

When he was eight, he found motherly love embarrassing. The small notes that she left him in the paper bag lunches, or how she would always shout at him to apply sunscreen at the door, as he put on his cleats in preparation for a soccer game. How she would always be ready with a first aid kit in her hand because she would know he was a reckless kid. He was all-limbs and pigtail-pulling and not-crying, too ready to grow up.

Did he ever even tell her that he loved her? Did he?

He can’t seem to remember.

He thinks about all of this, as he sees the blue and red lights flashing erratically outside, much like the increased pace of his heart. He tries to stay calm, but he cannot for the life of him, remember the last time his father was sober. He cannot remember the last time his mother was alive.

He holds a towel one of the paramedics handed to him to his head, applying pressure to the gash on his forehead. Superficial injuries, one of the people in orange tells him. Your cuts are superficial; they’ll heal as fast as you got them.

He can’t seem to agree that they are as superficial as they seem, as he watches his dad get pushed into a car with handcuffs around his wrists. A part of him is relieved — a sadistic part of him. After all, what good did that bastard ever do to him? To Mila?

But another part feels empty. Empty because he was so young when his mother left him that all he was holding onto was his dad. Because in some twisted way, his dad was the only person he felt like was carrying a part of his mother.

He was never a great father. But after his mother died, he never recovered.

“Hey,” a woman says, walking towards him. “Hey, are you alright?”

As soon as she puts a hand on his shoulder, a sharp pain rings through his body, and he flinches away. The stinging on his forehead seems like nothing compared to the monstrous mountain of nerves that are singing from his shoulder to his fingertips. He looks away from the sad doe eyes that does nothing to chill the cold in his chest.

“Hey, hey,” she repeats in a soothing voice, like he’s eight again. She puts a calming hand atop his. “Hey, I’m not going to hurt you. Your dad is going to be locked up behind bars now, okay?” He realizes that she is acting the way she would treat any small kid whose dad got arrested for beating him up. She’s from Social Services or Child Protective Services or whatever would take him away from his older sister —

He feels like he’s eight again, writhing away from his mom as she tries to feed him vegetables for lunch, as he says, “Where’s my sister? Where’s Mila?”

He no longer feels sixteen, as the woman sits down next to him, and puts a soothing hand on his arm. He feels a fit of frightened sobs rising up his throat, but he pushes them down. He feels so small and so vulnerable, and he realizes, I am still eight years old. He is still that eight year old that watched his mother get in that car and he is still that poor eight year old kid who was did-you-know-his-mom-died?.

“Sweetie, I’m going to have to ask you to tell me your name — ”

“You can’t take me away. My sister… my sister’s twenty three. She’s a law student. She knows what to do.” He feels hysterical as his vision goes from blue to red to blue to red to blue to red —

“We have to take you to the hospital for you to get stitched up first.”

And when she removes her hand from his, he finds himself clutching onto it, trying to suppress the shudder that wracks through him because it’s too soon; too familiar. She gives his hand a reassuring squeeze: she’s done this for hundreds of terrified kids stumbling away from ground zero.

And for the first time, he lets himself feel like he’s eight again.

In a hushed whisper, he breathes out, “I’m scared.”

 

▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

 

WHEN HE REACHES THE hospital, he’s sat down on a bed in the emergency room. Doctors hustle by, some fretting over him. He hears words like sutures and hematoma and dislocated shoulder. It’s raining outside. And it’s not the calm, drizzle kind of rain. It’s the kind of rain that would hurt if it were to be bombarded on someone’s skin. He doesn’t remember it raining when he was being rushed onto a stretcher. But maybe it was, because his hair is wet and so is his shirt.

He hears someone say we’re going to pop your shoulder back into place.

His cut no longer hurts, and he likes to think that it’s because he’s gotten somewhat used to pain. Something he’s gotten somewhat immune to. The way he sees it: pain is a form of constant in life. And something would always hurt within — it’s a mere matter of whether one can acknowledge it or not.

He had come to terms with pain earlier than he can remember.

Because he coats it with denial. He doesn’t let him feel the pain. Until they start cracking, and he can hear the words over, and over again, Mom’s dead, Sebastian, Mom’s gone, Sebastian, Mom was not okay for a while; had not been, Sebastian, Mom’s dead, Sebastian, Sebastian, Sebastian —

He squeezes his eyes shut as his shoulder feels like it has ignited into live flames. Like everything is shattering in slow motion, in slow motion, slow, slow; time stops. It stops, and he stops. Breathing stops. The whole world stops and everything stops and it’s all horrible and it’s like a hundred foot concrete wall just crashing down on him after pushing against him for sixteen years and just make it stop please make it stop

As much as he hate himself for thinking of this, he wonders if this is how his mother’s life fell to pieces. A boy that she was so terribly in love with, so horrifyingly much that she gave her all to him, and he turned her to stone under his Medusa gaze. Crushed her to dust particles. Not even stardust. Not even back to what she was made from. To ugly fragments, of fragments, of rubble. Monsters hide the biting snakes under their scalp, he realizes. They attack you when you’re the least suspicious and most susceptive and then after, they put the snakes back under along with the taste of your blood.

He doesn’t know why he is not falling to pieces, because he’s fucking shattering inside.

funerals for the living

i.

the celestial canvas above is a contrast against Mom’s

inky dress.

it darkens as her tears drop on the

collarbones/chest:

i imagine the sorrow dripping into her

heart:

right ventricle/atria/left lung where she will breathe out her

sorrow

as it dissipates into thin air

my fingertips reach out for her but she is on the ground, smoothening over the soil as she sobs

and sobs and sobs and –

“she’s not coming back.”

Dad is a stark contrast against the color of Mom’s long dress that

bleeds into the ground, lifelessly.

His white shirt is crinkled like the wrinkles that show when he frowns.

“she’s not coming back,”

voice a firm constant against Mom’s wavering figure.

“she’s not coming back.”

 

ii.

two years ago, on Dad’s forty-fifth birthday, he called for me.

eyes closed,

lips tightly pressed,

hands splayed:

a perfect image of death.

“when i’m gone, take care of Mom.”

 

iii.

“what happens if i die first?”

 

iv.

it was red

in the black of the night.

the sparks a constellation against the sky.

 

Dodge Poetry Festival

SESSION I: Billy Collins and Ricky deLaurentiis

This session set a great foundation of what to expect at the poetry festival. It was exciting to see the sheer number of people attending this festival with me; the sheer number of people who had a love for creative writing as much as me. It gave me a sense of unity. Ricky deLaurentiis’ poetry was very slam-esque, which was great for me, as I love slam poetry. He was unafraid to use vulgar words, which made his poetry all the more raw and honest.

Additionally, Billy Collins was everything I could have expected. He was funny, gave great advice, and read all of his poems flawlessly. His Landyard poem was wonderful and funny and touching, and I loved every second of it.

 

SESSION II: From Homer to Hip Hop

This was my least favorite session. However, I loved parts of the session. The backstories. The wonderfully weird rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. I also got to take a selfie with one of the poets, which was truly honoring!

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SESSION III: Warrior Poets

This was amazing. I loved it so much. Although I have no family members who were/are enlisted in the army, this session made something deep within me resonate. Their honesty while sharing their struggles was truly a heartwarming and humbling experience. Their passionate speaking told us that we had a voice, and we should never lose it. Stay woke.’

SESSION IV: Open Reading

Actually terrifying. I have stage fright, so doing this took more courage than ever. However, once I was done, I was so happy that I had. Sharing and listening to other people’s poems was the highlight of the trip!

Austin Bunn

Austin Bunn has a great way of showing, not telling. His storytelling style leaves a mystery. Although it is told in third person, it is third person limited, so we get to experience only what Graham is experiencing. The shock of seeing the baby there instead of drugs was shocking, and I read on because I was dying to find out how Marlena and Emma would react. The ending was a full circle, repetition ending which was a good way to finish it.

Jonterri Gadson

Dodge Poetry says:

 Jonterri Gadson previously served as the Herbert W. Martin Post-Graduate Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Dayton and has also received scholarships and fellowships from Cave Canem, Bread Loaf, and the University of Virginia where she received her MFA in Creative Writing. She is a graduate of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. She writes for an all-female comedic panel show and her comedy writing earned her selection to the 2016 NBC Late Night Writer’s Workshop.  She currently serves as Assistant Professor of Creative Writing/English at Bloomfield College in New Jersey.

 

The Rumpus says that her chapbook, Pepper Girl “is full of direct addresses: prayers, appeals, confessions, epistles, and marching orders. Balancing pathos and wit, they give voice to the narrator’s vulnerability.”

description: a hospital bed becomes a symbol of stability and flexibility while the narrrator’s child is in a hospital psychiatric ward:

Virginia Baptist
Holy bed, twin & tiny, teach me
how to be firm with his body,
but to yield for his spirit,
give me something to carry home
long after morning when he’s risen,
once you’ve sprung back & forgotten
his shape, his weight,
how much to give to hold him. “

 

trigger

HER HANDS STILL ON THE TRIGGER.

She tries not to tremble because it’s a sign of weakness. She knows that he can see her, even through all the smoke coming in through the window that’s been left ajar. She tries not to tremble because she’s held guns before. She’s too familiar, too acquainted with the feeling of human skin slicing beneath her knife, or the feeling of warm blood spraying over her after she pulls the trigger on the black metal weapon she holds.

But today is different.

He stares at her, and even in the dimly lit room, she can see his electric blue eyes looking directly into her own, a cruel smirk playing on his lips.

She loved him once, you see.

But it seems like the feeling was never reciprocated.

I dare you to do it, his electric blue eyes tell her. I dare you to kill me.

She tries to tune his entire existence out, but fuck — 

— she’s suddenly feeling rather breathless. She’s never felt breathless before. Like, not the good sort of breathless, but the kind where it feels like all the oxygen has been dragged out of your lungs, and you’re breathing but you’re only breathing in the carbon dioxide you’ve exhaled a second before —

— she’s poisoning herself.

She knows her entire team is waiting for her outside, for her to get the hell out of the warehouse before the bomb planted in the corner of the room explodes. But she can’t. She’s never had trouble killing anyone because she knows that they’re meant to be killed. Maybe making a decision about someone’s life: whether they should be killed or not killed was never her strong suit. But her superiors do that for her. So she follows, because that’s her job.

Her job right now is to kill him.

And she would do it with ease. She still should be doing it with ease.

His smirk widens into a grin, and he cocks his head to the right a little bit. It’s almost as if he’s mocking her; as if he’s challenging her; as if he doesn’t believe she is capable of killing someone.

At this moment, she knows that it’s either pull the trigger or everyone dies, and she wonders for the first time if Hell exists. Her lips curl up with faint mirth at that thought.

Of course she’s going to hell.

And probably, the deepest level at that. She vaguely remembers learning about Dante’s Inferno a few years back in high school while chewing on a pencil in boredom. She doesn’t remember exactly what level out of the nine? ten?, but she’s pretty certain that she’s going to the worst level. It’s probably a level that people don’t know about, like a never ending abyss of some sort.

Pull the trigger, she tells herself, and braces her hand on the gun for impact. Her mind suddenly clicks at the moment, and she can finally see in black and white. Crystal cut clarity. She can remember that feeling, the feeling of betrayal, of anger. She can remember the terrifying sound of screaming, and blood pooling onto the marble floor. She can remember him staring at her with a blank stare; a hollowed out heart and a malicious grin.

He lunges for her at this moment, but she’s faster. In one fluid motion, her combat boot hits him directly in the jaw. In one fluid motion, she has him by the hair, the cold metal against his temple.

He doesn’t struggle, but instead, he smiles with blood stained teeth.

“Not so romantic now, is it?”

She tries not to look at him because he is her harmatia. She knows that he is her Achilles’ heel, and he will always be. She knows that somewhere, deep inside, the remains of a girl that once was still remains. A girl that hopelessly, stupidly, recklessly loved him.

She’s scared to know if she still loves him.

So she forces her knees to stay strong; for her head to stay with the vision of clarity. She forces herself to float amidst the shipwreck, but she forgets that she is the shipwreck.

When she looks into his eyes, She remembers all things beautiful — his voice that flowed like warm honey, blackberries, a thousand roses, the soft knit scarf against her neck. She remembers ephemeral kisses, sweet candy, and a love so intense it left her breathless.

But all she remembers now is how breathless she felt when she saw the crimson blood splattering on the marble floor; blood that she is related to. All she remembers is the blank stare he held and the bloodstained smile he had as he told her, It’s over, baby. It’s all over.

She is an assassin; he is merely a target.

She pulls the trigger.