portraitures and erasures

it ends my sleep to want my story about
my skin melting in the sun that day of
summer and a doctor who tells me i am dying,
that thing i hide under my nails like dirt
scratched from summer skin.
 
so i pick up a pencil and begin to erase myself.
 
erasure is sometimes editing.
immigration is always editing.
 
*
 
my father with the heart that chokes
him in his sleep, in his shorter and shorter
walks around concrete and glass sculptures,
around mother who keeps leaning one
way then the other at the precipice of fall
 
as he yells promises at her to keep her alive.
 
in this journey that began with his misstep
across waters and languages and his
hands on my face teaching me to long
 
how did he mean to rewrite me—
 
*
 
what will i say to the sky and the soil
neither foreign or home when they are
all gone leaving me to hold our name up
alone when i am neither tree nor
 
fire.
 
*
 
in the mirror i look for my head that
has begun to shake, the weight of how
much i am afraid, how it makes me look
like mother when i was a boy—seeing
it for the first time in her, demanding
 
she make it stop—
 
*
 
this fear of sleep has kept me up for years
did you know? because in dreams there is always
a point when your mother dies while
you are traveling through space searching
for your lost child and other such
 
possibilities.
 
*
 
i spent the day moving my body, guided
by a stranger’s voice and somewhere
on the floor my bones recognized pain
told me that in this too / (that is my body)
 
there are borders to cross
there are borders not meant to cross
 
*
 
interstitial—it’s a new word i learned
something about the space between
things, but it is obvious like my body that
wants to break, that space is the thing not
the between, the mass that cannot be occupied
 
a space between spaces that tell me
 
i am a child of none
 
*
 
i capture my hand grasping at the sky outside
the window of another plane in mid-flight.
 
it was orange. it wasn’t anything.
 
and the hand belonged to no one.
 
there was only the reaching. 

Related Poems

Written Deer

Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
                            —Wisława Szymborska

My handwriting is all over these woods.
No, my handwriting is these woods,

each tree a half-print, half-cursive scrawl,
each loop a limb. My house is somewhere
here, & I have scribbled myself inside it.

What is home but a book we write, then
read again & again, each time dog-earing

different pages. In the morning I wake
in time to pencil the sun high. How
fragile it is, the world—I almost wrote

the word but caught myself. Either one
could be erased. In these written woods,

branches smudge around me whenever
I take a deep breath. Still, written fawns
lie in the written sunlight that dapples

their backs. What is home but a passage
I’m writing & underlining every time I read it.