america spat on me last weekend
my seventh-grade classmate slapped me with the back of her hand, inked in slurs
and i stood there and let the words become an iron brand on my cheek.
she spits into my food: “sorry to ruin your lunch—wouldn’t want to ruin the taste of dog.”
the words on my face burn hot. i don’t move to rub them away.
i bet your parents came to america to work in a california nail salon. i bet they probably cleaned my grandaddy’s toes.
actually, my mom arrived in ellis island, and she waved at lady liberty, and i bet she didn’t know that lady liberty’s a filthy snake and a liar
i bet your parents are proud that this great country even allowed them in
yeah, i bet they are. i bet it’s everything my dad imagined when he starved, drifting in the pacific and i bet he really liked being called a yellow gangster and i bet he felt real welcome when he wasn’t allowed in some restaurants and i bet it was way better than his family’s life being threatened by some men in red uniforms back home.
i wore a face mask in public last weekend and a man told me to bring the chinese disease back to where i came from. i wondered if i forgot to wash off “alien” from my forehead that morning
he spat on me, so i used his spit to rub his slurs off my cheek
he ended up breaking my nose, and i heard the noise of my bones snapping, and it sounded like: “chink, chink.”
well, i mean, america spits on people like me and
america spits on people who don’t really behave all that right
and america kinda spits on everything that makes it scared but
i think you know that. i hope you know that.
but it’s just, selfishly, all i can think about is me, and that
america spat on me last weekend. and i don’t really think i liked it all that much.
forget if it hurts to remember
I want to go back to those days, the days when we ran down the street in our underwear and sorry could fix anything.
My favorite memory at the movie theater happened when I was still in elementary school; I had gone out with my childhood friends - a band of brothers, four out of six back then - to see some PG rated film popular that summer. Per custom, we all wore big, bulky jackets despite the heat in order to better hide our contraband candy and soda bottles to sneak past the attendants.
What I did not know was that the second youngest of the brothers (maybe six at the time? the rest of us varied between seven and nine) had decided to smuggle his own popcorn...and had decided the original bag of kernels fit better in his pocket than the final popped product.
His older brothers, of course, had watched him pack without saying a word or even questioning exactly how he intended to pop the kernels once he got them inside. As we walked towards our screen in the megaplex, the eldest brother very carefully tripped the poor lad. As he fell his bag of kernels burst open, spilling un-popped pieces of smuggled popcorn everywhere.
The attendant quickly came over and caught us all red handed, sending us back out to our parent's car to discard our illegal booty including the remaining handfuls of kernels left in the bag. The mother of my friends simply shook her head; with that many sons she'd seen it all at this point.
At least the elder brothers lost their loot too after betraying their own.
I learned a valuable lesson that day.
If you go to the drive-in they don't care if you smuggle snacks in your car - or unticketed bodies in your trunk.
The Duke and Duchess
The Great Dining Room radiates with the warmth of the candle’s light
Each plate and fork and knife and spoon placed in perfection.
Such blinding beauty that even the ghosts could not take back the night,
And there sit the Duke and Duchess in argumentation.
The Duchess yells before the meal is even served
The Duke refuses to listen, only rising in frustration.
No matter how many points she made, he sat there, seemingly unnerved.
The time came when the Duke threw the plate, immediately feeling condemnation.
Her body collapsed to the floor, blood seeping into the red carpet.
He hid her away by the time the first servant came out.
No one got a chance to see her broken carcass.
Days pass. He walks outside. The people hear and then they doubt
They drag him out into the street
And he is killed there, his body just meat.
He looks up from his food and then says yes.
All she wanted was some food for the peasants.
You ever notice how...
You ever notice how people ask "how are you" but don't wait for a response?
Thicker Than Mud
I have a condition known as siblings. I started developing them at age seven. They're incurable, so I still have them.
There are three of them in total, but you know which one is the problem child - the middle one. You'd think with the three of them being only a year apart there might be less of a variance, but nah. It's him. He's the only one who grew up blond too, so we could tell.
When he was born my mom had to have a C-section because he'd managed to twist the umbilical order around his neck twice, with two knots in it - one of which was a square knot. The doctors were impressed. The rest of us sensed a bad omen.
When he was two years old he figured out how to climb bunk beds. Good bye, bunk bed.
When he was five years old he used to flirt with teenage girls at the library, mistaking their fawning over his adorable dimpled cheeks as actual interest (true story). He's the first of us to provide our mother grandkids. Not that we had a pool going; we knew he would be. Took the pressure off the rest of us at least.
The relationship between siblings can vary depending on the number of years between them. We're at eight, so unlike my other siblings - who sadly all popped out within a year of each other - I held a position of power over my little brother. At least for the first few years when I could lift him upside by his ankles until he behaved.
Thus I earned a bit of respect as the eldest, and my little bro would tag along after me like a puppy following a bulldog in an old Warner Brothers cartoon. Annoying, but endearing at times.
My family likes to hike in nature, so one Sunday we decided to go despite having heavy rains the week before. We piled up in the van, hyper tykes in the middle, grouchy/reluctant teenage me in the back. Standard roll out procedure.
When we got to the trail it hadn't exactly flooded, the dirt paths had just turned to mush. We had our boots on so not an issue. Following our folks we trudged through the mud like a caravan of ducklings with rain slickers on. Except for me. I was cool; I didn't need a rain slicker, I avoided mud like a sane person.
Not so of course for middle boy, who within five minutes had managed to stomp in every single blessed mud puddle he had found. His coat and pants coated in sludge, our mother simply shrugged and announced there were towels and fresh clothes in the van. Again, standard roll out procedure. He proceeded to hit the rest of the puddles all the way along the trail. Adorable, sure.
At one point he literally flopped onto his butt and made a mud angel, shrieking in delight as his arms swished about in the muck. Completely covered at this point, our poor mother's resolve started to falter. She gingerly pulled him up and set him aside on the path to try some damage control.
As I walked past my brother tried to hug me, all the better to share his new natural skin treatment. I pulled away, with a loud "tsk" as I pushed ahead on the trail. It was then that I uttered the fatal words:
"I am sooooo not related to you."
...and then I proceeded to slip, fall, and slide down the entire mud-covered hillside on my ass.
At the bottom I sat dazed for a moment. Our mother, after determining that I hadn't hurt myself, tried to stifle her laughter as she carefully navigated her way down.
My little brother - who might have felt slightly hurt a second ago at my harsh criticism - positively beamed with pride.
Rushing down the hill, he was the first to lean over me.
Biiiiiig grin. "So, does this mean we're related?"
I gave up.
He got to hug me.
When we got back to the parking lot the two of us waited obediently outside the van while our poor mother tried to mitigate our muddy mess. She hadn't actually brought extra clothes for the presumed mature teenager, and since I hadn't bothered to wear a jacket my clothes were completely soaked and caked in muck. I stripped what I could and wrapped a towel around myself while my little brother continued to grin at me in solidarity. Our other two siblings - now the good children - just shook their heads at us from inside the windows.
Maybe the middle child isn't the only problem one. Maybe they just bring the problem child out in all of us.
You Never Fail
"You never fail," he remarked
"I fail all the time," I chuckled.
"Not in my world," he whispered.
My biology teacher used to boast how he was a biologist, not a teacher.
This basically meant he didn't have a teaching certificate/degree, just a biology degree which he chose to grace our little brains with each week.
If you took his advanced Anatomy class in junior year, your main project would be disecting a frog. Nobody wanted to disect a frog, so only the students who really wanted to continue in the sciences ever took that class. However the shared lab room would still reek of formaldehyde every day.
Our biology teacher had a soft spot for wolves. His classroom had several posters, many advertising non profit organizations and conservation societies that focused on keeping wild wolves and their territories alive. Given he was a large, bushy-bearded fellow many kids chalked this up to some macho, "lone wolf" mentality that many people romanticize. However one day, some poor dumb teenager made the mistake of saying that out loud.
"Wolves aren't 'lone' anything," he quickly corrected them. "They hunt in packs. That's how they survive. If a wolf loses its pack, it's often a death sentence for them."
"So they just gang up on their prey like bullies?" Let it never be said that idiocy keeps quiet.
"What, you feel bad for their prey?" The planned lecture died now. The tangent was taken.
"Have you ever been kicked by a deer? Anyone?" Our teacher glared us down from behind grey whiskers.
"Deer kicks are lethal. If a deer kicks you, and hits the right spot, it will not only break your limbs it can crack your skull or cause internal damages you won't heal from. Male deer antlers can also cause major damage." He proceeded to go on a tirade about the mechanics of powerful leg muscles in herbivores, pointing out how they achieved optimal survival by evolving as strong defense tanks.
"Now, imagine the only way you can live is to eat one of those. Take it out, without dying. And imagine you're smaller - nowhere near the same size or height. And while this deer can eat lots of easy to reach foliage and get its calorie requirements for the day, your wolf gut might be running on say half a tank or less - and if you don't succeed, you die. Does that sound like the bully now? Wolves don't take out whole herds of deer. They have to cooperate to take out one at a time." He shook his head again. "Humans are the only ones who hunt more than they need to survive."
"Don't push your human characteristics on natural animals. They've evolved to fill a set niche, and that niche isn't always the easiest one to fill."
I don't remember the actual lesson for that day, but this one stuck with me for the rest of my life.
My reflection stares back, judgmental eyes roving.
I poke, pinch, prod.
You could use some definition. Toned muscles look good on a woman.
You need to eat more, you look anorexic.
I reach for an apple only to find it has gone soft and shriveled. Cookies beckon from the cupboard.
You should get more sun. You look pale, pasty, sick.
You can’t be in the sun with that complexion. Cover up before you burn.
I slather chemicals onto my skin. Avoid streaks and patchiness. No one can know this isn’t natural.
Your hair is so frizzy, it looks much better straight.
You better not be using heat on those curls, you’ll ruin them.
I pull my hair back, strands breaking.
The voices are thunderous. They drown me; squishing, squashing, squeezing. Shrinking me until I am small.
Please don’t notice me.
When I step out on the stage, my body moves in such ways.
Sensuous, tantalizing, desirable.
My feet are light as I flow, the jazzy notes washing over me.
Curly tendrils caress my cheeks.
Skin luminous in the spotlight.
Curves shimmying gloriously.
Emerging from those dark depths, I am no longer small.
I am tremendous.
The band leads up to the final crescendo and I unclasp the last lock, springing free from my cage.
The roar of the crowd is deafening.
And the voices are silent.