DEADLY SINS

Every day at 5:30
I turn on the television
and watch the evening news.
I am a glutton for punishment,
as I rub my eyes and mumble,
“What now?”

Will today be
a new tax policy
that will help “everyone”
(i.e. those making more than $1 mil. per year)?
Or perhaps I will see 18-month-old
babies being torn from their mothers
in attempts to escape gang violence and
be welcomed in “the land of the free”?
Or will today be another black teenager
shot dead in his own yard because he was
holding a cell phone in a threatening manner?
Surely I will see his royal highness
showing off an executive order,
freshly signed with a fat Sharpie marker,
and looking like the daily specials
at a restaurant, as he holds it up, proudly.

Some days,
it is all of these things.
Some days,
I realize how weary I am
of all the hashtags,
and I am not even on social media anymore.
But I have to stay aware and ready.
I must be resilient and angry.
There are more fights to be fought.
More bubbles to break.
What world will my daughter and her generation inherit,
if I give up now?

SEISMIC SHIFTS

I lived in the long shadows
of the Wasatch Mountains
the first 22 years of my life.
The fault lines always
bubbled below the surface
bounced somewhere beneath,
like a moth trapped under a glass.
On a spring day in middle school,
rumor ran rampant —
a major earthquake would happen
the next afternoon.
Predicted not by scientists,
but by conspiracy theorists.
Those who typically foresee
natural disasters and the end of the world.
“The Big One” never arrived.

When I moved to Nevada,
the first fissure felt
was my mistake-of-a-marriage —
dissolved and crumbled,
thin layers of heart’s crust
pulled away, delicate as snake skin.
I was several months pregnant
and awoke during the gray hours.
The pictures on my wall rattled,
ever so slightly,
and I peered out the window
to the eerily empty street
where only lights on the lampposts
indicated any signs of life.
My bed swayed
just enough to rock me back to sleep.

The next morning,
I figured it may have been a dream,
because no one in my family felt it.
But the news confirmed I was correct.
A fault in the California desert,
hundreds of miles away,
cracked and shifted
during the night.
No one was injured.
No one was deceased.
Broken jars of spaghetti sauce,
fallen from store shelves,
the only casualties.

And my baby girl
leapt in my womb,
elbowing her way to comfort,
lacking amniotic fluid,
fighting for her life.

SOMETIMES, OKAY, ALWAYS

Sometimes
you just can’t.
When the wound is too deep.
When the love is too strong.
When the bend becomes a break.

Then, other times,
you devour the whole beast.
Eat all flesh.
Tear apart sinew.
Suck marrow.
Save fat for later.

I drew a blank for six months,
while all the flags were drooping emblems
constantly at half-staff,
wilting among thoughts and prayers.
Even after warm bodies gone cold.
Headstones and ashes.

Always
you return and remember.
The time your fingers tickled the pages.
The time we laughed until we bled.
The time we sighed, chests heavy.
The time the world turned around again

and the thrum of life moved on.

NEVER AGAIN

The “whys” and the “hows”
were almost immediate.
Followed shortly thereafter,
were the smattering of “thoughts & prayers”
accompanied by hashtags
and politicians’ faux broken hearts.

This one was “the worst”,
but haven’t they all been?
Haven’t they all been
the worst for someone?
Someone’s mom,
Someone’s dad,
Someone’s spouse,
Someone’s child,
Someone’s sibling,
Someone’s best friend?

The makeshift memorial
stretches across the astroturf
winding like a trail of tears,
a road of sorrows.
Messages, coins, candles, roses;
gestures from those who knew them personally
and those who know them now,
because we let this happen again.

I bend slightly
to read each name
adhered to each white cross.
They are from various locations:
Southern California,
West Virginia,
Canada,
Idaho,
Las Vegas.
I reassure them silently that they won’t be forgotten,
but when I look at the paper,
less than a week later,
it seems some are already trying not to remember.

Is it too soon to talk about this?
Is it ever too soon to talk about
Someone’s mom,
Someone’s dad,
Someone’s spouse,
Someone’s child,
Someone’s sibling,
Someone’s best friend
and why they should still be living and breathing?
Is it too soon to talk about
this broken society
that has created an admiration for senseless violence
and has prioritized gun ownership over a love of human beings?

When should we talk about
Austin (’66),
Columbine (’99),
Virginia Tech (’07),
Aurora (’12),
Newtown (’12),
Charleston (’15),
Orlando (’16),
Las Vegas (’17)?
Should we wait until more than 60 innocents die at once?

We shouldn’t be talking,
We should be shouting!
And before the questions of “why” or “how” are raised,
we should be emphasizing, “Never, never again,”
and taking immediate action.
Vegas Memorial2.JPG

Photos taken: 10/6/2017

BEGGING FOR ANSWERS

I came of age in the era
of argyle socks
and plaid shirts
stolen from your father’s closet.

We stopped before school
to fill Super Big Gulp cups
with frothy Orange Bang!
which we kept in our lockers all day.

We didn’t realize
that MTV would soon cease
to be music television
and would peddle us “Jersey Shore”.

There was no comprehension
of intrawebs and internets,
and the smart phones
our children gobble up like Candy Crush.

I think about the pivotal moment
when he filled three pages of my yearbook
with a break-up message
that I didn’t fully comprehend until age 38.

I sometimes remember
the way he smelled like Play-Doh
and combed his hands
through my wet hair.

Then I wander to the artist
with the wire-framed glasses
who tasted like Budweiser
and smelled like paint thinner.

They tell us not to look back,
but they also say if you don’t examine the past
you’re doomed to repeat it.
So which is it, huh?

THE INNOCENCE OF BEING OBLIVIOUS

The summer the Idaho potato fields
lay spread out before us
and the world was ours for the taking,
we met the tall one in the mall parking lot.
There were no smart phones or Google maps.
We didn’t even have a paper map.
Talking Heads was on the radio
and it was the summer before our senior year.
I should have had sights set on the dark-headed boy,
with the slight lisp and sincere eyes.
Instead, my focus was
the broken-hearted, harder to crack veneer.
He’d been my mission since day one.
We spent inordinate amounts of time
in his basement that trip:
listening to music,
making each other laugh,
cuddling on his water bed.
We didn’t know where his parents were,
and we didn’t ask.
Even though it was innocuous,
it felt like we were pushing boundaries.
Doing something daring.

We went ice blocking down Simplot hill,
a vast swath of property in the midst of Boise
with a mansion perched atop.
A city conquered.
Security must have been lax,
because the more we slid down the hill
with our hair flying behind us,
and the more trees we climbed,
the freer we felt.
No sign of a reprimand.

The river flowed around us seamlessly.
Our inner-tubes bobbed along,
like Halloween party apples in a bucket.
But there was an unspoken surface tension,
that I mistook as the thrill of being on the river.
Your first kiss
should have been with someone better,
someone who didn’t claim to be “rebounding.”
Knowing the situation now,
the pictures speak volumes.
I often think about the innocence
of being oblivious
and frequently wish that was
a more recurrent state of mine.

THIRTIES IN THE REAR-VIEW

I.
In the mid-1980s,
my mom professed her
crush on George Michael.
Being quite young,
I was certain
my middle-aged, Mormon mother
was going to leave
the suburbs of Utah,
her three children and my dad,
move to England,
and set up house
with George Michael.
(In hindsight,
I suppose she would have
been in a relationship with Andrew Ridgeley
of Wham as well)?

II.
Knowing there are others
who feel this way,
think this way,
and want the crush of madness
to stop, is what wakes me up most mornings.
I don’t have news alerts turned on —
I don’t like being reminded
about what’s coming next.
Yet I read voraciously,
like it’s my job.
The words of reporters and authors
are my lifeline.
They say “the struggle is real”,
and many days, I know it has just begun.

III.
I am glad I didn’t turn 40 in 2016.
Last year was filled with death,
depression,
earth-shattering,
life-altering events.
Taking on another decade
would have overwhelmed instantly.
My heart felt stretched in January,
again in April,
and by November’s end,
my lungs headed for collapse.
Put a star on the wall for me.
I was one of the casualties
of the soon-to-be prophesied “American carnage”.
By February,
I rose up, bandaged,
a resurrected, bettered zombie
of my former self —
and this one isn’t putting up with any shit.
Forty is the new 1984.