Three Poems









are you here?


are you here? 

can you talk about the curvature of the plants that grow 

from the cracks in the pavement you walk upon, 

furtively, eagerly, like the local children 

who unravel sealed leaves containing first memories – 

or have they fallen from attention, only existing on the periphery? 


do you know the number of walls in your home by heart 

without your tiptoeing through its halls 

eyes wide, somehow not knowing where the walls’ edges were 

and where the opening to the world was – 

or must you look up, chin cocked, wondering what secrets you missed? 


could you muse about how the soil kissed by your feet 

was fought over in a vicious war over things 

that two men both wanted to wield 

the gift of a sensitive trade, a most dangerous handshake – 

or have the soles of your feet only trod, and never felt? 



could you tell me which direction you face when you are asleep at night

 is it north, towards the flitting green lights 

or is it a delicate equilibrium between south-west and 

something else, a detail only a native could grasp – 

or do you fumble, unable to retrieve knowledge never considered? 


if you answered no to any of my queries, ask yourself: are you here? 



Confessions of a Cloud-watcher 


A cloud I saw last Tuesday 

moved like the smoke from your cigar. 

It was insistent on rolling upwards, 

sullying only blank space at both ends. 


I watched a few smile the way you did, 

tears bubbling silently on the inside 

until they boiled over in secret 

and showed up on your skin instead, in dark spots. 


There was one that strode as if shackled 

to the sky. I think its invisible ankles 

must’ve been rubbed raw 

from trying to untie your noose, winning only in rope burns. 


Every day I go to the field down by the fence 

I spread out a blanket 

I watch the rolling clouds 

And I hope to see you again. 




Black Hair 


Every once in a while 

a little girl clenches her chubby fingers 

shaking her small fist with the strength of a thousand women 

defiant that her hair is a shade lighter than it actually is. 

She is beginning to stake things on it, first ceding a dollar, then the rice 

her mother prepared for her, and sets of chopsticks then sit parallel in silence listening for the first word that the little girl 

is proud of her black hair 

and thinks her skin is sunny 

like saffron diffusing in the hot tea sipped by the farmers who grew rice 

like it was pearls. 

But she is now willing to bet her life on the fact that her hair is brown. 

She caresses it only when it is in the sun, diluting the blinding black that was gifted to her 

but never opened, because she saw that the world liked lighter hair, 

hair grown from different soils, 

hair that was not black. 


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