Posts for June 28, 2019


Foreign Exchange

At 17,  I was an exchange student to India 
the only foreigner in that small town
my white skin odd enough
to be touched randomly by children
and strangers 

I wore pants, had short hair and a flat chest. 
They thought I was a boy and called me
Johnny instead of Jenny.
I bought loud glass bangles
to wear on both arms 
so they would know 
I was a girl

Young, female and traveling alone,
i needed a cover. 
I put vermillion red powder
down the part in my hair
and rings on my toes
pretending to be married.

How could I know then 
that I would get sent back to the USA
9 months later
when the Exchange program found out
that I got married in a Hindu ceremony.

My family didn’t know I got married
when they picked me up at the airport.
I wore a cotton sari, smoked bidis,
and spoke with a funny accent.
On the way home
I sat in the middle of the front seat 
between my parents
my three younger siblings 
in the back. 
I slipped off my sandal,
and showed them the rings
on my toes.  


The Gig Economy 4

I’m sitting in orientation for another call center,
this one contracted to one of the Big Five
banks. We sit in part of a transformed
mall, an old Sears. All signs have been re-
drywalled, carpeted-over, and replaced
so that the mall is both mall
and kidney clinic and call center.
though the logo of the Big Five bank
is painted on many of the new walls, I
will not be employed by the bank. I will be
contracted. Liability.
                                        In training, 
21 of us sit, our backs to 21 computers. For hours,
at a time, we walk to one main computer
with an instructor and complete parts
of an orientation. In between each
round, the trainer passes us
sheets of paper and reads each line. Every
two hours, we are allowed
to leave the room.
                                   We answer customers’
concerns with a wiki. Eventually, he says,
the angry will call the Big Five bank,
and may be upset at their 40
minutes of wait time. Our customers
are just regular customers, he tells us.
Most have less than a thousand
in their accounts. A majority. 80%.
                                    Their preferred customers
have foundations, legacy plans, bank accounts
with balances over $20,000. These folk make interest,
preferred phone calls that go to preferred bankers,
not call-center workers like me.


People You Meet While Waiting in Line at the DMV

I’ve already done paid,
They have my money,
And I have to be
At work at 6.  

Have you lived in Frankfort
All your life?
I came here after my
Husband got out
Of the service.  

No, you can only have
A license in one
State at a time.
Sorry about that.    

Don’t go to Cuba for the food. 
The only food is in Havana.
If you want to eat Cuban food
Go to Miami.     

Oh, he has to take
His permit test.
They stop giving the test
At 3 but at least we can
Do the paperwork.  

I got off work and was stuck
In the traffic from that
Overturned semi
For three hours.
I haven’t slept yet.  

And none of the houses
In Cuba are in good condition
Because as soon as someone
Fixes up their house
The government takes it.  

I need to take
The written test.
My license is expired.
By two years.
I never noticed.  

They only give people
Food tickets for 18 days
To last for 30.
They have to buy them
On the black market.
That’s illegal.
That’s how the
Government gets them.  

Could we try using
That machine?
You think my documents
Are what’s causing the glitch?
You see me and you think,

Did you study for your test?
-I tried to.
You tried to?
-I tried to read the book.
Well, that counts.
-I just skimmed the parts  
About motorcycles.  
I don’t drive a motorcycle.  

You have the option to leave.
-But my license is expired,  
And I have to go to  
Work at 6.  

I’ve been there several times
On a religious visa.
They watch you
To make sure
You don’t disparage
The government.  

Look at the blue dot.
Make a neutral face.
Don’t smile or frown. 
We’ll retake it.  

I’m ready to tell you
My opinion
On this process.    



time now has turned things

overdue. all things will end
the sky breaks this time.



Our sofa was pushed
And I love how
our small room feels
B I G G E R,
sooooooo open.
We’re flying to Mexico
in a few days
and I hope I can
push myself back
momentarily feeling
a fenced life
《E  X  P  A  N  D 》
across a vast sea.


If I Had To Guess

You had a name before:
To me it sounds like rent on time,
bellies full and belts loose,
babies rocked to sleep at night,
green lights and windows down,
Kingdom Come and holy ground.

In the heat of chicago summer
I dream you’d smell ladylike-lavender, cardamom, cornbread, sharp sweat and sweet tea,
new songs and old dreams,
lifestyles new to me.

Your face sings songs I couldn’t write,
laugh lines under skylights,
sunset on the skyline.
Proverbs and parables,
paradise is state of mind
mindfulness is new to me
think of all the things that couldn’t be and top the list with you and me.


skinny dipping

sometimes i feel like i’m drowning
in anxiety
and tears flood my face
and i can’t breath
i need to swim in the creek
so i jump in


five ways of looking at thirty


thirty blackbirds
found seventeen worms;
four flight,
eight pits of quick sand
and one found a knife


splash, sun beams
and thirty pringles
sit in stacks 
of summer
next to her


to think it interesting
to live when crooks resign,
the worst of thirty wishes
to live
in interesting times


neither sun nor earth
with thirty bends


five days early
from scheduled freedom;
I’ve always been impatient
but overshadowed
by thirty clouds


Of Love and Memory

With a line borrowed from Jack Spicer

When you start remembering
what’s forward and what’s back,
above water or below, bobbing
wildly or drowning, dear, you may
comprehend whether you’re simply
that otter adrift in the poem
or the poet lost
in the labyrinth and left
to your own heroic devices,
as if there’s a difference, as if
it may matter. They’re both something
supernatural, balanced on the edge
of the world, beyond anything superficial
upon the well-blessed waves, out past
the riptide, free from sun-ripened seaweed.
Tread water, love, or continue to float
like a dead man enlightened. Begin swimming
toward shore, or head further out – the choice remains
yours to make or refute, if you remember.



In constant motion,
Newton’s law 
doesn’t apply,
for there is no telling
when it will all