You are on page 1of 55

QUIET LIGHTNING IS

:
a literary nonprofit with a handful of ongoing projects,
including a monthly, submission-based reading series
featuring all forms of writing without introductions or
author banter—of which sparkle + blink is a verbatim
transcript. Since December 2009 we’ve presented 1,100
readings by 700 authors in 100 shows and 80 books,
selected by 50 people through a blind selection process
and performed in 70 venues, appearing so far in bars,
art galleries...a hotel, and a cave.
The shows are also filmed and loaded online—in text
and video—and rebroadcast on public access television.
There are only two rules to submit:
1. you have to commit to the date to submit
2. you only get up to 8 minutes

quietlightning.org/submission-details

SUBSCRIBE
quietlightning.org/subscribe
info + updates + video of every reading

sparkle + blink 80
© 2016 Quiet Lightning
cover © Jon Garaizar
jongaraizar.com
A different version of Leora Fridman’s “Go Easy On Him” was
published in Pacific Standard
“Return Flight” by Linda Michele-Cassidy first appeared
in the museum of americana
book design by j. brandon loberg
set in Absara
Promotional rights only.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form
without permission from individual authors.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the
internet or any other means without the permission of the
author(s) is illegal.
Your support is crucial and appreciated.

quietlightning.org
su bmit @ qui e tl i g h tn i n g . o r g

CONTENTS
curated by

Josey Rose Duncan + Jonathan Carroll
featured artists

Jon Garaizar | jongaraizar.com
ROHAN DACOSTA

Nigga to the Moon

1

LINDA MICHEL-CASSIDY

Return Flight

3

CASSANDRA DALLETT

The Moon Lives in the Fat
of My Stomach
Directions for Elections

5
7

ALEXANDER PETERSON Territory

11

MELINDA NOACK Ghosts

13

AKINYELE SADIQ

Third Ward Blues

15

TUPELO HASSMAN

The Week After

17

KEITH GABOURY Workweek

25

LEORA FRIDMAN

Go Easy on Him

27

GLENN INGERSOLL

Today’s Witches

35

AURELIA LORCA

Father’s Day

37

ET
QU I

G IS SPONSOR
LIGHTNIN
ED B
Y

QUIET LIGHTNING
A 501(c)3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet
Lightning is to foster a community based on literary
expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL
produces a monthly, submission-based reading series on
the first Monday of every month, of which these books
(sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts.
Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the QL board is currently:
Evan Karp
executive director
Chris Cole
managing director
Josey Rose Duncan
public relations
Lisa Church outreach
Meghan Thornton treasurer
Kelsey Schimmelman
secretary
Laura Cerón Melo
art director
Christine No
production
If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in
helping—on any level—please send us a line:
e v an @ qui et light nin g . o rg

- SET 1 -

RR

RRRRRRRRRRR

N I G G A TO THE M O O N
Give a nigga a moon pie
Tell him that the moon died
Show him a couple slick moves
How to hoola hoop into
Hallelujah what he been through
How to run, how to stick and move
How to chop his dreams in two
Share them with a sista dark as pitch plum
Pour all the pride in the fruit
And when this world make him wanna holler
Teach a nigga how to sing through a fixed noose
How to still laugh, reminisce too
How to illmatic through a chipped tooth
One day you’ll make it to the moon
But for now the homies wanna slide thru
Askin’ what the vibe to get into
But you tweakin’ hard at the drive thru
You said five when you meant two

1

LL

L
LL

LLLLL

LLLLLL

LL

R ETURN FLIG HT

LL

L

When I land at my airport, finally, finally, finally, after
weather cancellations that were actually about underfilled flights, I watch the passengers from away to see
if they have yet found their magic. Their hopefulness
rips me apart.
I don’t have on cowboy boots or a western hat, although
there’s probably one in my truck. I don’t wear feathers
in my hair. I correctly pronounce the native ts’, my
tongue pressing against my front teeth—but it’s just
a party trick. I’ve been called “vaguely ethnic” to my
face. Aren’t we all? I don’t have a dreamcatcher tattoo
and neither should you.
My airport suffers wind shears that can flip a car. “It’s
like the frontier,” says a man in the line where you wait
and whisper prayers for your luggage. The baggage
always turns up, though sometimes coated in ice.
We know each other by our cadence. The pauses that
visitors think are about us being dim or drunk are
actually filled with thought. We have all the time in
the world to choose our words. We take our mañana
seriously—we’ll get to it when we feel like it. “One
3

dollar per day,” says the airport-parking attendant,
adding, “Welcome home.” She says that to everyone,
but still, it makes me weak.

4

C

CC
CC

CCCCCCCCCC

CC

IN THETHE MOON LIVES ACH
FAT OF MY STOM
I think about her all day long
inside me the eggs still come
sad fallopian hands wave no more
so many obstacles
fifteen years between us
would be nothing
if babies held easily to aging uteri
if we both hadn’t suffered so much loss
baby the one true thing I could give you
the one damned thing I cannot
I wonder if you truly understand
how I saved myself over and over again
filling my cells with blame
grabbed, spit on, rocks thrown at me on the street
by men
hands under my skirt,
fists to my teeth
just for saying
please don’t touch me
I blamed only myself
my whorish leather boots, cat suits,
the types of men,
bad neighborhoods,
5

it was my fault when I hid fat lips
head down sunglasses disguising the purple of bruise
what I wanted was simple
I didn’t know it existed
had never seen man as friend
never been treated as a friend
male friends I usually fucked first
to get it out of the way
there were a lot of casualties I swept up
and carried with me
a heart of scar tissue
like the surface of the Moon.

6

C

CC
CC

CCCCCCCCCC

CC

D I R E C TI O N S
F O R E L E C TI O N S

Don’t watch the news:
All channels Agent Orange and his followers
faces the color of matchsticks waiting to ignite
the furor, the fury, der fuhrer, white fervor.
Don’t Tweet, Tumble, or My Face:
anger seeps into you,
in your nightmares men with faces of flame
rip your hair from the root,
tell you it’s your own fault.
Be careful in small towns:
stay near the edges of the country, like in
supermarkets
there are healthier things, with the exceptions of
Florida,
the Carolinas, and Arizona, be weary of Oregon
it may not be
an accidental whiteopia.
Do not tamper with Trumpers:
They will thump you,
on the school bus you learned not to argue with
stupid,
7

logic never does prevail. School yard bullies taunt you
Go back to your mama
if she is dead, that is where they want you.
Don’t get up from old man sucker punch:
They will arrest you, as your melanin has insulted his
red fist,
his white rage. They will shout USA as if it doesn’t
belong to you
though your ancestors labored here longer than their
leader’s.
Later the news anchor will ask, what you did wrong.
Do not expect justice or to be hero:
You don’t own this reality show,
your assailant bailed out, patted on his back like the
good ole days
when those good ole boys killed Medgar in his
driveway,
mangled Emmett in their effort to dim the sunlight
of that boy’s smile
returned to us, only to be taken again, in the face of
Tamir.
Avoid history books:
black and white photos of Little Rock and
Montgomery
children spit on, pushed, and shoved. You already
know what it looks like
in color on CNN.

8

Don’t allude to history’s repetition
make comparisons to dictators and war criminals
even if we know Agent Orange keeps Mien New
Order
the Bible beside his bed
and having a black president has brought back the
redeemers
again their redemption gives birth to the Klan.

Cassandra Da lle t t

9

A

A
AA

AAAA

AAAAAA
A

AA

A

TERRITORY

My father calls to tell me his arm hurts but what he
wants me to hear is, he might have a heart attack.
Maybe today, possibly tomorrow. It’s the end of
January. His words follow in shallow breaths.
“Must have slept on it wrong,” he says.
I lean on my kitchen counter, listening. Soon his
breathing improves and the conversation goes back and
forth for an hour, stretching out across the distance of
years, encompassing my brother, my mother, terrorism,
the old co-op—how he’ll never leave, no matter what
the half-Italian, half-Jewish director of the board
says—and the merits of the 1986 Mets.
These phone calls come day or night, frequently in the
last few months. Sometimes it’s morning and I’ve just
woken up. Most of the time it’s evening and I imagine
my father, three hours ahead on the East Coast, sitting
at the dining table, smoking, a glass of bourbon at
his side. My mother would never have let this sort
of thing happen. She would have told him he was
getting senile, that calling his son at one o’clock in
the morning to talk about the past was crazy. Then
11

again, if she were around he wouldn’t call. But two
Januarys ago we drove out to the cemetery near JFK
airport and put her body into the ground and this is
what we’re left with. When he speaks, it’s in a new
tone of voice. Listen, he seems to say. This is important.
In the background, I can hear his screeching big-band
tapes of Count Basie and Jimmy Lunceford. I ask him
if the neighbors ever complain.
“It’s wonderful,” he says. “You hear that?”
“Hear what, Pop?”
“The band leader counting time on the record.”
I listen closer but can’t make out anything through
the blast of the horn section, across thousands of miles,
and tell him so.
“It’s there,” he says. “I promise you.”
With the familiar territory covered, he says his arm
is feeling better and we start negotiating goodbyes.
This process goes on so long that I get angry with him
because it’s late and I have to get up early for work. He
doesn’t remind me it’s much later where he is. When
we hang up, the silence in my apartment feels like a
living thing. But I tell myself it must be that way for
everyone, everywhere sometimes.

12

MM

MMMMMMMMMMM

G H O STS
I
The women should run out
of their things more often than they do.
Wear scarcity pretty like an old shawl
coming undone.
II.
The women iron their hair
electric straight and bake cakes
out of sandcastles and rusted crab bodies,
but they should do this less.
III.
The women are slowly realizing
that they are rotting (because of the gnats).
Those winged ghosts clucking about
the house, making habits of leftovers
and following the women room to room.
IV.
The women remove the fruit carcasses
13

and the opened food products,
but the gnats keep coming.
The women remove their shoes
and their perfumes,
but they keep coming.
Finally, they are naked.
Their hair long and overgrown, a blanket,
but now they are ghosts.

14

AAA

AAAAAAAAAAA

“PAT P
ARKER, PRESENTE!” (PT. 1 OF 3)

THIRD WARD BLUES

3rd Ward, 3rd World, where was your sister born?
3rd Ward, 3rd World, where was your sister born?
Deep in the heart of Texas, after the white folks was
gone.
Baton Rouge on the radio, the sound of Mexico, too.
Louisiana on the radio, the sound of Mexico, too.
Sam Hopkins be like Shangó, giving lightning to you.
3rd World Black girl, listening deep, to Sippie, sister
Spivey, the Wolf and T-Bone.
Sunnyside-Black-girl, listening deep, to Big Mama,
Blind Lemon, and Black Boy Shine.
Some of them…were much too much, but, you know
they ain’t lyin’.

Play is fun, but it’s not funny, after that first taste of
honey.
Love is fun, but we ain’t “funny”, just need a bit more
honey.
On the roof, where we found the truth, reeeeal
sunny!
15

Busted, shamed, and called out my name: game’s over.
Busted, shamed, looking for a new name: maybe
“Lover”?
If some Texans ain’t ready—shit!—why bother?
Gonna find me a real school! Later for these fools!
Maybe, build me my own school! I refuse to be a
fool.
Must be some place, some where, that’s cool instead
of cruel.

16

TT

(SOM

TTTTT

TTTTT

TT

TH E WEEK AFTER

E D AY S B U T M O S T LY N I G H T )
night one:

When you are in a conflict, settle yourself, feet on
the floor, eyes closed, deep breath. Imagine that you
and the person with whom you disagree will meet in a
room. You knock on the door and when you go in, you
ask, respectfully, what do they need that you aren’t
giving them? What don’t you know that you should
know? The woman who performed my wedding
ceremony taught me this. And it usually works. I find
my own unwillingness, I find surprises and solutions.
As the votes come in on Tuesday night, the second
Tuesday in November, I close my eyes and imagine
Donald Trump’s office. I take a deep breath and knock.
The door creaks inward but no one answers. The light
is off. His chair is spun to face the wall, its back toward
me. “Hello, hello,” I say, as I walk around it to face him.
But there is no one. On the seat, instead of a man, there
is a joystick. It is old-school, Atari-style, black rubber
and a yellow button. And I run from the room and the
game, the gamers, the game boys, the boy games, the
war games, the warmongers, the alt-right all-wrong
controlling that lever that is Trump. After panic
17

attacking, hyperventilating, teeth chattering, I finally
sleep and dream of my sons a few years from now, 8 or
9, 10 years old. They wear all black and lean against a
police barricade, their blonde hair has turned gray as
ash.

night the next:
My husband and I wear safety pins in our own house
where I’m the only woman, only potential victim of
oppression under the new regime. My husband is tall,
white, male, hetero, handsome, white, did I mention,
white? Our sons are like him, so far. We wear the pins
because we feel unsafe anyway even with each other
and their silver sharpness glints in the candlelight
burning in every room. Electricity is too bright, too
morning. We take aspirin for hangovers we don’t
have. There is no mourning without u. We proclaim
ourselves safe spaces, pin, but can’t connect, to each
other or ourselves. We’re parents first, aren’t we? We
talk about passports and flight. We’re fighters first,
really, and we talk about burning it down, building it
again. I count the number of four-year terms before
our oldest son can be conscripted: three and a half.
That’s how old he is now: three and a half. “Mommy?”
he interrupts us, “Daddy? Why is it so dark?” The boys
scream in their sleep and wake me from a dream of
breaking into a pharmacy, I’m stealing morning-after
pills, Mission Impossible-style, for the underground
18

reproductive-freedom railroad. I’m too old to have
more children, the pills are not for me. I steal because
I had a choice. I steal choices for others.

the nights blend into each other:
I live on black Twitter, mouth shut so this white girl
can learn to be an effective ally and the first lesson is
that my election-related shock is another symptom
of my privilege. Fucking duh. It shouldn’t have taken
24 hours to figure that out, it shouldn’t have taken
24 seconds. Next, the safety pins. Just another poke
to black Americans who aren’t facing a new kind of
oppression this week, in Trump’s America, than they
were last week and where the fuck was my safety pin
then? I put my safety pin back in the sewing kit and get
back to the real mending. I dream of walking forever
in protest. Kid Rock walks in front of me and I tap his
shoulder, ask him how his protest is going. He won’t
answer me but Myron What’s-His-Face, Trump’s head
of EPA-transitioning and Planet Earth-capsizing, zips
by us in toe shoes saying that he stopped drinking
coffee and is feeling great. I wish I hadn’t worn these
cowboy boots because there is a long way to go.

Tu p e lo H assman

19

it is all night:
I’m on the gender-diversity committee at my kids’
school and tonight is our first meeting. As I’m leaving
the house my husband holds me too long and I know
there’s another hit coming. “Leonard Cohen died,” he
says. When I walk into the meeting I bring Cohen’s
darkness in with me like a child dragging a toy. The
parents gathered use words like “long-range plans”
and emphasize the importance of “not disrupting the
curriculum.” One woman makes it a point to share she
would feel very uncomfortable being called “a they.” To
my credit, I do not choke them, I mean, her, to death,
when she says this. In the three years the committee is
forecasting as necessary to make the change to a truly
inclusive campus, my oldest will become six and if he’s
not a boy now and doesn’t feel like a boy by then, well.
The room looks at me like I’m crazy when I sputter
at the idea of disruption as the enemy, when I offer
an immediate challenge, “What if we ask the teachers
to just not say ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ for a week? Can we try
that?” We can’t try that. Not without more meetings,
something written up. A memo. I explain that this
is what I do in my classroom, that I ask students to
express their gender preferences to me, I don’t decide
for them. They ask me for the training material I was
given by my college so they can look it over. Training
material? A memo? My hands are fists in my sleeves.
But we can change the words, I say, the words are
hurting our children, I say, we have this power right
now, I say. I am disruptive enough to make it so we’ll
20

have a response from faculty about this idea at the
next meeting. In a month. The drive home is as heavy
as all of the poems Cohen wrote that he called songs.

night night:
It occurs to me that I might have, just a little, taken
some of my anger out on the parents at the genderdiversity committee meeting. It’s not their fault
Trump was elected or that my mother raised me on
action. It’s not their fault Leonard Cohen died or that
my father raised me on road trips singing his lyrics.
It’s not their fault I’ve never found the I in team or
the patience to wait for it. I can’t… team. I don’t know
how. I’ve never played a team sport, I hang by a thread
in a marriage others would cling to, I lurk in A.A.
where drunks accept that I hate them and they hate
me and we’re good. The only place, the only people, I
have ever wanted, are us. Right here. You and me. The
ones who know that words matter. All the words: wall
and ban and pig and dog and bad face and rapist and boy
and girl and he and she and him grabbing a pussy and her
getting locked up. Those words are walking around now,
lighting fires, shining red in people’s eyes, shaping our
children. What are we going to do about them?
And then I remember. The answer is in the question.
The words. Words are ours. Our friends, our tools.
Words are our team, party, and platform. They line up,
Tu p e lo H assman

21

work, demonstrate, for us. The words and I know what
to do, just like they do with you. We must gather them,
gather ourselves, here, right here between these pages,
and those pages, and the next pages, in the margins
and the center, in this room and outside, we must
shine them into swords, burn them into torches, fly
them into doves. This night is ours. Let’s light it up
with words.

22

- SET 2 -

KKK

KKKKKKKKKK

W O RKWEEK
On Monday, I slipped out of my skin
in the parking lot, leaving
my freckles rotting in the sun.
On Tuesday, I gave my liver
a vacation in the breakroom.
On Wednesday, I scooped out
my eyeballs, happy to display them
in a glass of ice tea
to my co-worker Sam.
On Thursday, I panfried
my testicles, serving two globes
during our spaghetti and meatballs
office party.
On Friday, I poked a pen
through my stomach lining
where I wrote a two-week declaration
of war to the VP of Cadaver Development.
25

On hands and knees, I stuffed
my guts under his door
before stumbling past
a slab of putrefied flesh.

26

LLL

LLLLLLLLLL

G O E A SY O N H I M
We don’t want to be a bitch.
My friend M, about a colleague on a committee she
has to serve on for the college where she teaches: I wish
I could tell him to stop talking over me, but I don’t want to
be a bitch.
My friend L, on the man who used to be her friend
but now badmouths her to colleagues because she
challenged his authority in a meeting: I don’t want to be
a bitch, but he’s so defensive.
My friend B, in the lunch line at an artist residency: I
don’t want to be a bitch, but that man rubs up against my
butt every single time we come in here. She says it in a
whisper, just to me, definitely not to the man himself.
Because I don’t want to be a bitch.
*
My Abuelita was masterful at the piano, they tell me—
she still plays beautifully despite her arthritis. She
can fly along the keys from memory, sonatas and
concertos in D and B flat pouring from her arms, her
27

wrists direct and poised, her eyes closed. Her perfectly
coifed waves of hair hover over her forehead in their
coating of hairspray.
When my Abuelita was young she was the concert
pianist for the Mexico City Symphony. She is full
of pride in the photos, confident with her straight
spine at the piano bench in her 1940s dresses with
their sweetheart necklines. When she first met my
grandfather he loved her playing, so accomplished and
refined. He came from a Jewish Ukrainian peasant
immigrant family and she from a family of refined
Polish city-dwellers, and at first her family didn’t
approve of the match. They said my grandfather was
too low-class for her, that his background wasn’t good
enough.
“Pero todo mundo lo adoraba,” she tells me in Spanish;
“He was so well loved, I knew he would be successful.”
I imagine them walking together in their good shoes,
arm in arm in Mexico City’s Zócalo. I imagine the
admiration on his face when she played.
Soon, though, he didn’t want her to play. They were
married in 1950 and started raising the first of their
four sons, and he didn’t think a good wife should
work outside the home or perform on stage. She
agreed, said ok. She stopped and never played in public
again, though she still keeps three pianos tuned in her
living room, took me twice to visit her dear friend the
harpsichord maker, plays for us in private even as her
28

fingers grow creaky and painful.
¿Por qué tuviste que parar, mami? My father asks her—why
did you have to stop? She demurs, changes the story. Pues,
era tan orgulloso, she says, he was so proud of supporting
us. I watch my Abuelita’s eyes dart to the corners of
the room lined with portraits of her husband and sons.
Era un hombre extraordinario, she tells me, he was such an
extraordinary man, his specialness lighting her eyes. My
grandfather has been gone more than 30 years, but my
Abuelita closes her eyes and smiles, reminds me how
lucky she was to raise her sons (ángeles, cada uno), how
handsome my Abuelo was in his suits. She wants to
remember only how easy their life was together, how
comfortable.
*
Today we still want to keep it comfortable, we still
don’t want to be a bitch.
I don’t want to be a bitch, but I feel so scared, N tells
me. A survivor of sexual assault, she can’t watch the
news or scan a newspaper these days without hearing
comments about women’s pussies.
Locker-room behavior? C shakes her head. I hope his wife
bitched him out for that.
And then again: at least she doesn’t sound like a bitch,
Le ora F ri dman

29

B reflects on Michelle Obama’s talking about Trump.
Because god forbid Michelle Obama should sound
angry about pussy-grabbing.
*
My maternal grandfather was known for his lewd
comments. One comment still looms large in my
family, the time when my mother’s side of the family
was gathered at a seafood restaurant we loved in West
Palm Beach. I was ten and sunburnt, and there were
lobsters on the walls and on the bibs neatly folded
above each plate. When the waitress arrived to take
our order, my grandfather looked up at her with a
sunken smile and inquired about the clam chowder, do
you like the soup, I mean, would you like it if I gave it to
you rectally?
I felt the shock spread hot across the table, my eyes
darting to my mother, panicked and looking down
into her purse, and then to my grandmother, the only
calm one at the table, regal next to my grandfather,
nodding slowly. She met my eyes.
“Honey,” she said, “Why don’t you put your bib on
for safety’s sake?” She winked at me gently with her
perfect pink lipstick smile. I was known to be a sloppy
child. My grandmother looked up at the waitress.
“We’d also like some bread, please, thank you, dear,” she
said, and the waitress took the hint to run.

30

My grandmother turned to me without losing a beat.
“How many laps did you do in the pool today?” she
asked. Meek, I put my bib on and told her twelve laps.
I was already chubby then, and it seemed the whole
family was keeping track of how much exercise I was
getting.
My grandfather smirked in silence himself and we
moved on, the slick table cloth bunching under my
elbows.
My grandmother always cleaned up after him then and
kept the conversation moving when things stalled out.
Even years later when my grandfather was long passed,
my grandmother insisted we must have misheard that
story. “Be nice, girls,” my grandmother would insist,
“He didn’t mean it that way.”
*
And just this past summer, convicted rapist and former
Stanford swimmer Brock Turner got off with just
three months in county jail for the brutal rape of an
unconscious woman after a campus party. Despite
widespread media coverage, nationwide outrage,
and a powerful open letter penned by the survivor
and published on Buzzfeed, Turner’s sentence was
extremely lenient, at best.
“Brock has a lot at stake so he’s having a really hard
time right now,” the victim was told. Implied: let’s help
Le ora F ri dman

31

the poor guy out. He’s the one who needs protection.
“Your life is not over, you have decades of years ahead
to rewrite your story,” writes the victim, “Do not talk
about the sad way your life was upturned because
alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to
take responsibility for your own conduct.”
And this, precisely, is what Turner never has to do. He
blamed the rape on alcohol and the “confusion” of
others. Things are so confusing for this poor guy, we hear,
let’s take it easy on him. And the story ends comfortably:
Turner was released in September after serving just
three months of his six month sentence.
*
My grandmother is gone now, but I feel her beside
me when I laugh at a man’s awkward joke so he won’t
feel bad. When people remark on my poise or how
gracefully I deal with creepy men, I feel her beside
me, her perfectly pressed skirts, her neat, manageable
heels. I laugh easily and move a conversation in a more
comfortable direction. I wince later, the things I allow
from the people I love that I would never accept from
strangers, the way I don’t ask for better. The way I
learned it from her.
My grandmother is gone now, but before she died
she asked me to help her clear out the liquor cabinet,
the dusty closet with my grandfather’s copper
32

commemorative pins, felted clipboard, assorted
cocktail glasses engraved with the names of men’s clubs
in Massachusetts. I giggle over a plaque recognizing
the triumphs of the 1965 Kiwanis Husband of the Year,
Best Father 1967 solemnly engraved in the silver. I show
it to my aunt and soon we are hysterically laughing,
spinning out, needing this laugh in the somber house
of my grandmother’s illness. My aunt rolls her eyes, oh
God, my ridiculous father, he was so absurd.
My grandmother looks over from her Ensure, her
padded chair, her achy everything and her belly full of
cancer. Her eyes are ringed red and tired.
Go easy on him, she says, her face stern. Even this weak,
this close to death, it’s essential to her that we make
nice for him. Girls, she says, take it easy.

Le ora F ri dman

33

GG

GGGG

GGGGGGG

GG

TODAY’S WITCHES
Do witches burn the way they used to?
When passions got God’s goat, and love’s fire
curled that heavenly lip with infinite disgust,
was that when witches burned most fiercely?
And was it for Him, was it for Him only that they
burned?
In those days witches knew to swim—or float, at
least—
when everyone else straight to the slimy bottom
sank, righteous bubbles rising from the mouth and
nostrils
until there was no more godly air within.
Yet with every body tested, the pond kept cool.
Today’s witches don’t burn as they used to
tied to a post in the town square.
God would accept a soul fire had stripped
of sin, some said. By law we kill the witch,
the burning’s a favor. Some things a little water
dribbled on a forehead won’t wash off.
Time was you’d look to the sky and see a body—
spread arms ending in spread fingers,
35

robes flapping about the torso like flames—
and you’d think, “It’s an angel!”
Unless it was a woman, then, “Witch!”
In such a situation these days, what are your options?
Witches don’t burn the way they used to?
When it’s an offering they’ve put a match to,
a smudge of sage, the herb that clears the room
of angry spirits, then they light it up.
A Zippo in a dark alley. Charcoal under the grill.
Witches burn.
The casserole forgotten in the oven. That, too.

36

AAA

AAAAAAAAAA

FATHER’S DAY
On Father’s Day her father arrives in Half Moon Bay
from Monterey full of guasa—Andalusian smack-talk
which she had to go to Seville and hang out in the
flamenco community to finally understand that it was
exactly like the dozens—never intended as mean.
Her father looks at her and narrows his eyes.
“I better close the sun-roof to my car,” he says.
“Otherwise a bird might confuse your hair for its nest.”
He is shuffling his feet and complaining that he hasn’t
eaten and his sugar is low, but she knows he’s really
upset because he hasn’t had a cigarette.
His daughter has stopped calling him out on his
smoking. He quit smoking for a few years when his
twin got lung cancer. After her uncle died, her father
started drinking again. Mixing diabetes and alcohol
was more lethal than cigarettes. She leaves him alone
about his smoking. He’s 75 years old. His feet have poor
circulation from diabetes. She has accepted that her
father knows himself, knows what he’s doing.

37

He picks up the Invisible Immigrant book she has on
the coffee table.
“Hey, that’s my father. That’s Frances Sanchez. There’s
my mother,” he says, pointing at the photos. “They all
look like gangsters, never smiling in photos.”
She almost begins to remind him how she has been
telling him about the book for a year, and he always
said, “It was horrible times, don’t ask so many questions,
don’t talk about the past.”
But she stops herself and says, “Happy Father’s Day.”
Outside the sun hides behind a cloud, and all is bright
and cheerful. The neighbors’ green yards are perfect.
The tan and neutral colored houses are perfect.
“What color are you going to paint your house this
summer?” he asks.
“I was thinking of a periwinkle blue, so blue it’s almost
purple,” she says.
“Better not make it too purple, otherwise the white
people in the neighborhood will think you’re too
ethnic,” he says, smiling.
“Working in the public sector has made me white people,”
she has heard him say more than once, and not smiling.
She has even heard him say it about family members.
38

In particular her mother’s family.
As they drive down Main street she points out the
Portuguese Hall and she tells him how Half Moon Bay
has a large Portuguese community.
“Good. Then I can run one over. I hate Portuguese
people. They smell like cod fish.”
“Even Manuel?” she says, about their cousin.
“Especially Manuel,” he says, coughing back a laugh.
He tells her how Hillary Clinton is going to win the
Democratic nomination, the system is rigged, and
Bernie Sanders might have good ideas, but is a wasted
vote. He reminds her how Sarah Palin thought Africa
was a country. He rolls his eyes when she expresses
shock at learning how the Catholic church didn’t
support Cesar Chavez.
“That’s old news,” he says.
He tells her how Cruz Reynoso was his boss when
he was with the crla. That his friend Marty was in
the air force and played the cello, before becoming
president of mapa. That, no, they didn’t know any of
the artists in the Royal Chicano Airforce—that was
Sacramento. They were in Monterey County, and they
were musicians not artists.

Au re li a Lorca

39

He argues with her over parking, and debates whether
Trump is as evil as Ronald Reagan. Then he casually
says something about having to have an ultra sound
on his heart.
“When?” she asks, concerned.
“When I make the appointment,” he says, keeping his
head turned away.
More than once he calls her a coconut. He tells her that
their friends’ daughter is named chocolatina because
she’s so dark, and her father wants a horse saddle. He
asks the waitress if she speaks Spanish.
“Thank God,” he says, when she says yes.
He takes out his phone, and begins to ask Siri questions.
He doesn’t apologize for missing her mfa graduation
ceremony.
“Why would I want to go to a hippie graduation
ceremony?” is all he will say.
“Siri,” he says into his phone. “Is my daughter going to
drive me crazy today?”
He says he will take the Invisible Immigrants book.
When he was interviewed for the project which was
part of her mfa thesis, he said, “We were Andaluzes,
40

and it was…political. The Northerners, the Salamancans,
thought they were different, better. You know, because
of our cousins, the Moors. Even though we all worked
in the canneries, we all worked in the fields.”
When she was growing up, her father drank a lot and it
was always something with him. The night he told off
her orchestra director was one of her worst memories.
It was now her favorite.
Her father never came to her concerts. She had faint
memories of when she was a small child and he played
trombone in the Monterey County Symphony, until
he lost his teeth, and had to quit. He attended her
spring concert the year he was collecting instruments
for youth programs his friend was running in King
City and Greenfield.
Before the concert, he came backstage and asked to
speak to her director. At first she thought he was going
to say something about collecting instruments, but he
told her to stand back, he didn’t want her hearing what
he was going to say. She worried he was going to tell
her youth orchestra director that she was lazy and did
not practice and thus did not deserve the seat she had.
A few minutes later, her orchestra director came back
stage and pointed his finger into her face.
“If I ever see your dad again, I’m going to kick his
ass. I take Anthony to practice every day,” her youth
Au re li a Lorca

41

orchestra director told her about the one black student
in the violin section. “How dare your father imply that
I am racist.”
She gulped back tears, and mumbled words she never
should have said, “I’m sorry,” and left. She did not play
the concert. She never thought about what kind of
adult, what kind of six foot male adult, and youth arts
organizer would somehow think it was acceptable to
point his finger into the face of a five foot, fifteen year
old girl, and threaten that girl’s father with violence.
She was mortified. She assumed her father had been
drinking. She assumed her father had been the one
who was wrong. Her youth orchestra director had a
Master of Fine Arts and had studied in Vienna. All the
kids liked him. He was hip, he had messy blond and
grey hair, he wore corduroy pants in neutral colors,
and smoked a pipe.
She was so upset, she slept in her mother’s room, and
heard the conversation when her father called at 4am.
Her mother picked up the phone and paused before she
said hello. Looking back, she wondered if he cared about
that pause. Usually when it was him and her mother
was mildly pissed, she would answer the phone knowing
it’d be him and start in on whatever was bothering
her. When she was really pissed there was always
that pause and then a hello hyphenated by sarcasm.
He-llo. Oh her mother knew exactly how to say it.
42

“I’m not going to stand for bullshit,” he said, without
saying hello either. “I am going to call someone out if
I see bullshit.”
He wasn’t drunk at the concert, as they suspected, but
when he called at 4am, he was very drunk, shouting
and slurring his words.
He was yelling so loudly, her mother had to hold the
phone away from her ear. She could hear every word.
“she’s the only one with a hispanic last
name in that orchestra. and they have
the audacity to call themselves monterey
county youth orchestra? the only kids in
that orchestra from salinas are the white
kids. monterey county is bigger than just
pacific grove, monterey, and carmel.”
“Toxic you are toxic I’m putting you in a box and
labeling you bullshit,” her mother said before hanging
up the phone.
After her father leaves with the Invisible Immigrants
book, she thinks about how much she still does not
understand, or has been able to tell him. Her Spanish
is terrible, but she knows what he means when he says,
sin verguenza.

Au re li a Lorca

43

Subscribe q u i e t l i gh t n i n g . o rg

info + updates + video of every reading

Read quietlightning.org/sparkle-blink

every past show

Scene l i tseen . co m

calendar + reviews + interviews + purviews

Also by Quiet Lightning
quietlightning.org/books

The Sacred Text of Rosa
Who is Great
by marcus lund
illustrated by stella peach

by

Breast Milk
tupelo hassman

if you want to be one of them
playing in the streets…
by zack haber

- december 5, 2016 -

Related Interests