Imaginary Photo Album or, When We Die, Our Polaroids Speak to Our Living Descendants

To Keep
the memories nimble, place your fingers inside the mouth of her hair.
The history there is one motion, told and retold by millions of bodies 
over hundreds of years. Sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, 
lover, friend, partner, braid me. Keep the tales of what we cannot forget here.


To Float
think of silted braided rivers. Now extricate the rivulets. Use your tongue.
Can you discern salt from iron or shell from shale? This is what it is like
to make a world with words. 


To Re-grow
a tongue, pull it from beneath silt at the bottom of the sea. 
If it is knotted, frayed, tangled, you can take up my voice. Look for my
feathers in dust, find my matted feathers in the surf. There, make
a nest for me. Gather shells and driftwood. Dig a small bowl
in the sand. Let the patterns arrange themselves into a beautiful thing.
Ask me to come, and you will find me on the horizon, glittering.


To Claim
you we claimed ourselves. We touched the surfaces of mirrors
with no reflections. Hic sunt leones. Here there are lions. Here are waves.
Imagine us a tide of lions crashing on sandy shores, returning for what is ours.


To Unfold
into a receptacle for holding joy, entrust your tender heart to another.
Look. We are more than our scars. We hold the memory of trauma
in our roots. And still, here is a moment of pure joy. See how our chests
shake the air with a trust manifested from generations of resilience? 
Reach for each other. Embrace. Grow flowers with your lungs.

Related Poems

Ancestors Are Calling

Sometimes the ancestors call





                                                                            tongue to mouth
                                                                            an auburn molt of daguerreotypes stained

Sometimes the ancestors call





                                                                            an earwig gracefully arranged
                                                                            a pebble between pincers caught
                                                                            is the scene’s composition

Sometimes the ancestors call


                                                                           shovel heeled curt wedge of earth,
                                                                           a convent of daisies assaulted
                                                                           a lunar moth poised at dung end
                                                                           oak leaf suddenly caught at mid-fall




Sometimes the ancestors call

                                                                           dark sip sickle scythe curve
                                                                           a wagon’s tracks from coffins weighed
                                                                           Wind to forecast their arrival
                                                                           Wind to dictate the shuffle
                                                                           and strut of steps
                                                                           to the rust of gates.


Sometimes the ancestors call




                                                                  Not in the great cinema graphic arias
                                                                  Of gun firing bandits at a locomotive’s gray smoke
                                                                  But in rage of gray starlings
                                                                  Circling over head 







Not in the paranoia of walks down bug house corridors
Nor to bed pans brimmed do they call.
Not in the paranormal cadences
                                                                        of cathedral spiked with sepulcher and crucifix


I could be anything
other than what I propose here
                                                                                 I could be song
                                                                                                        I could be dance
                                                                                                                            I could be slab of sky



How many generations still left to measure?
At what cost this cadence?
At what price the grave’s granite thumb?


Instructions on Not Giving Up

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

ars pasifika

when the tide

of silence


say “ocean”

then with the paddle

of your tongue


the letters to form