You are on page 1of 91

Quiet Lightning is:

a literary nonprofit with a handful of ongoing projects,


including a bimonthly, 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 1,605
readings by 834 authors in 134 shows and 113 books,
selected by 66 curators and performed in 91 venues,
appearing everywhere from dive bars and art galleries
to state parks and national landmarks.

Full text and video of all shows can be found for free
online.

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

opportunities + community events


sparkle + blink 106
© 2020 Quiet Lightning

cover art © nkiruka oparah


nkirukaoparah.com

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
Elizeya Quate + Nazelah Jamison
featured artist
nkiruka oparah | nkirukaoparah.com

Leah Mueller Fifty Ways to Survive… 1


Diana Donovan Memory 5
Celestial Bodies 6
Elizabeth
Burch-Hudson waiting in line at 7am on 6th street...
9
Christopher dizon Covid Fairy Tales... 19
Karisma Rodriguez Suddenly My Father Exists 23
Halim Madi As home became metaphor 25
Paolo Bicchieri as minneapolis burns 31
Grey Rosado chalk 35
Rhea Dhanbhoora Nefertiti 37
Richelle Lee Slota In Quarantine 41
Jennifer Ng 43
Thirteen Reasons to Ride a Bike...
Nora Boxer Dear Capitalism 47
Steven Hill The Loan 53
Steven Gray Corona 57
Lilian Wang Swimming Lessons 61
D.S. Black In Memory Breaths Not Taken 65
Caroline Goodwin 399,112 Eleaegnus commutata... 69
425,044 Streptopus amplexifolius... 70
Noah Sanders If only it was 71
before&after 72
Kelly Gray The Blue Blood of a Bolete 73
Amy Smith Mercy 75
posture 76
Dawn Angelicca
Bacelona Opening 77
g is sponsor
et Lightnin ed b
Qu i 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 bimonthly, submission-based reading series on
the first Monday of every other 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
Meghan Thornton treasurer
Kelsey Schimmelman secretary
Christine No producer
Lisa Church curator liaison
Connie Zheng art director
Edmund Zagorin disruptor
Katie Tandy disruptor
Hadas Goshen disruptor
Sophia Passin disruptor

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


help us invest in a sustainable
e t hi c a l a r t s ecos ys t em

Support us on Patreon
patreon.com/quietlightning

t h a n k y o u t o o u r pat r o n s

yvonne campbell karen penley


sage curtis monica rocha
linette escobar jessie scrimager
chrissie karp jon siegel
miles karp
katie tandy
ronny kerr
charles kruger meghan thornton
jennifew lewis emily wolahan
shannon may edmund zagorin
sophia passin connie zheng
h Mueller
Lea

F i f t y Way s t o
Survive a Pandemic

Be cautious.
Turn your head away from others.
Cross the street when you see someone approaching.
Don’t breathe.
Don’t speak.
Your neighbor is your enemy.
Your family is contaminated.
Potlucks are illegal.
Dancing is illegal.
Movies, the library, bars, the city park, all illegal.
Buying seeds is illegal, but only in Michigan.
Huddle on your couch with your cellphone.
Only bad citizens go outside.
Bad citizens kill good citizens just by breathing.
You are a good citizen.
You must shame others for being bad citizens.
Tracking software is a godsend and will
only be used for the right reasons.

1
These rules are for your own safety.
Keep your distance.
I warn you, keep your distance.
How many times do I have to tell
you to keep your distance.
Call the cops and have that man taken away. He
stood three feet from me in line. I saw him,
officer. He wasn’t wearing a mask and he
coughed. Then he coughed again. Not on me,
but on his nasty arm. He should be in a cell.
Order everything you need from Amazon.
Then sterilize the packages with bleach
and leave them on your lawn to dry.
Someone just lost his job. Someone just waited in
line twelve hours at the food bank. Someone
just walked forty blocks to apply for food
stamps. Fortunately, none of them were you.
Check your temperature. Shake the thermometer.
Fucking thing is broken. Your temperature
couldn’t possibly be 94.2. Check it again.
Wash your hands so many times that they
feel like the underside of an old leather
purse. Apply lotion to the creases. When
that runs out, use facial cream.
Try to order new facial cream from
Amazon. Watch as the banner pops
up: “This is not an essential item.”
It’s okay if your skin is rough, your hair is
ragged, your toenails look like claws.

2 L e a h Mue lle r
Remember the sacrifices people made for
the soldiers during World War Two.
If you must speak to someone on the street, visualize
a 6-foot space in front of him, then mentally add
4 more feet for good measure. Keep it brief. Then
move as fast as you can in the opposite direction.
Brag to your friends on Facebook about your
toilet paper substitutes. Proudly proclaim
that you don’t mind using newspaper
and old towels. You’re no prima donna.
Not like some of those others.
Brag to your friends on Facebook that
you’re such an introvert you’ve been
prepping for this all your life.
Brag to your friends on Facebook about
your dinner. Include pictures.
Brag to your friends on Facebook about how
long it has been since you went outside.
Brag to your friends on Facebook about your
face mask ensemble. Include pictures.
Wear your face mask even while driving. You never
know when you might get into a car wreck
and have to breathe on someone afterward.
Better yet, don’t drive at all. Have everything
delivered by couriers. Let them assume the risk.
Don’t allow your postal carrier to hand you the
mail. Make sure you don’t touch it for 24 hours.
While you wait to open your mail, sit in one place
and stare at the wall. It’s for national security.

Le a h Mu e lle r 3
If your neighbor speaks to you from
his porch, pay no attention.
Spray your neighbor with a hose if he persists in
talking. Then run inside and lock your doors.
Spray Listerine on every surface until your
whole house smells like a wino’s mouth.
Listerine isn’t strong enough. Ask the grocery
clerk for some Everclear. Watch him smirk.
But wait—why are you in a store?
Keep your disgusting hands away from your mouth
and eyes. Avoid all sensitive orifices. It stands
to reason that masturbation is right out.
Hugging is dangerous.
Handshaking is filthy.
Kissing is filthy.
Sex is beyond filthy. Do not have sex, EVER.
Don’t even breathe on yourself. You
can’t take the risk.
Wash your doorknobs. Wash your faucet
handles. Wash your light sockets, Wash
your counters. Wash your hands. Wash your
hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.
If you ever get the urge to dance, make sure you’re
alone. You won’t feel much like dancing, anyway.

4 L e a h Mue lle r
na Donovan
Dia

Mem o ry

The Finnish have a word for drinking at home


alone in one’s underwear: Kalsarikänni

so why can’t we come up with a word


for the first time we felt loved

or for the way skin smells


after swimming in a lake?

How about a word for the sensation


you feel when an airplane takes flight

or the moment you’re about to do


something you know you’ll regret?

There should be a word for the dread


of visiting your mother in the nursing home

because she might not know you anymore


and where would you even begin—where?

5
CELESTIAL BODIES
It’s the summer of 1976 in Flagstaff, Arizona
and my father is in a feverish search for a comet

he scans the heavens through a long telescope


by the window in the garage—which he calls the
observatory

“I’m looking for that orange dust, Jess, that fiery tail”
he tells me, pressing his eye to the monstrous device

outside, my mother chases a buck out of the marigolds


half-shrieking—her hands swatting in front of her face

when I added the last glitter glue to my Bicentennial


poster earlier
she let out a mean laugh, said it looked like a Dolly
Parton outfit

and knocked over my giraffe piggy bank, breaking it


into pieces
which is a way of saying I understand the pull of
elsewhere

like Los Angeles, where I’m moving when I turn


sixteen
or a glowing ball of space objects a million miles away

6 Di an a Do n ovan
it’s not Dad being denied tenure at the university
or Mom pouring vodka into her coffee cup every day

it’s not our neighbor’s hand lingering on the small of


her back
when he brings his kids over for barbecue after church

and with all of these disappointments, who wouldn’t


long
to see celestial bodies smash to bits in explosions of
glory?

Di ana Donovan 7
et h Burch-Hu
z ab ds
o
li
waiting n
E i n l i n e at 7am o n
6th s eet
with treet to hopefully m are
s o m e o ne a b o ut O ba m a c

I am wearing a shirt
over the shirt
that I plan to wear at my next activity and I also
brought a sweatshirt to wear over it as I wait outside
in shorts and attempt to
take up as little space as possible
and am too consumed
by anxiety that I am being selfish, even racist,
in my concerns for self-preservation
as a young man with olive skin speaks—it seems—to
himself, looking around and rapping.

He has a story
that I wish to observe
but also he fills my empty stomach with anxiety
that he will smell out my fear
and my whiteness
and my femininity laid bare in these shorts.
9
I am a bit relieved
to see him attempt to engage in a fight with a
50-year-old man
who mad-dogged him
as he threw away the rest of the strawberry shortcake
he had left line to buy and consume.

Now he paces
—still near enough that my shaved leg hair stands on
edge,
so, I keep my hair in front of my face
as I read my book and underline words that I’m not
even reading,
the Spanish from the woman next to me
floating
in and out of my ears
like a lullaby
that is violently accented as the olive-skinned man’s
soliloquy continues.

I wonder if it is not his skin


and age
that I fear but rather
his boisterous nature
and youth
and masculinity

10 Eli z ab e t h B ur c h - Hu dson
and the fact that the way he speaks
—classified as less intellectual though not indicative
of anything
—for this energy is the energy that all strange men—
and some not so strange—
who have been bold about
grabbing me
or calling out to me
or running alongside me
have had.

The energy that tells me


I owe them my bare legs and long brown hair.
But it is not fair for me
to associate him
with these abhorrent memories
and men
but it is difficult for me
to unlearn the association and the instinctive
fear.

And just like that, two beautiful,


and likely also, empathetic and intellectual,
women
walk by

El i zabe t h Bu rch - Hu dson 11


in tight blue jeans and tucked in black shirts and
white sneakers
and walk into the building that we all wait outside of,
and just like that I witness
—in my mind—
confirmation
—as he objectifies them
and the objectification falters
and transitions back into his monologuing.

Something else the olive-skinned man says


repeatedly irks me
—he continues to call the line long
and complain about being here,
yet he is 8th in line.

And with that I know I still have much to unlearn.

And yet I get closer


and see he is wearing a Raiders hat
and has a Yves Saint Laurent tattoo
behind his left ear
as he comments on the size of a woman’s
forehead.

12 Eli z ab e t h B ur c h - Hu dson
As we drift in the door and go through security,
I avoid eye
contact with him
as he turns around and raises his arms—revealing his
stomach,
round, black and hairy.
I wonder,
while waiting in line directly behind him as my
anxiety grows,
if I have permission to create this commentary.

But he has made his presence so


public,
so offensive
(as in offense vs. defense)
as he acts out against
the yellow sign
that hangs over our line;
then waltzes in front of the man next up in line.

He says one thing that makes me smile,


“We got team spirit over here yous n*ggas weak”
(after saying he doesn’t speak Spanish and before
saying he needs to stop smoking weed)
as we all work

El i zabe t h Bu rch - Hu dson 13


to usher a woman in a green blazer
to the correct window
after she has incorrectly approached windows twice.

And yet of course as I sit down


—I had worried to distance myself from the olive-
skinned man—
a smiling
man
in a Henry IV 2018 Summer of Shakespeare hoodie
chooses to
stand next to where I sit
three rows back
while all other chairs are open,
looks at my tan long legs
and says something
about, either my muscles
or mosquitoes,
but I recognize his tone,
go back to my phone and
smile
as I have smiled one thousand times before
—and he says “I’m only trying to
make
you

14 Eli z ab e t h B ur c h - Hu dson
smile
miss
lady.”

Now I know he might not know any better—


but is that an excuse?
Now I know I might not have understood him, is
that an excuse?
I know that I have
the power
in the dynamic, my being white woman and he,
a black man
—but I feel the need to
make
myself
smaller
like when I see I’m about to walk past
a man on the street
and I’m “scantily clad”
in my typical small shorts-small shirt combination
and choose
to blow my nose
aggressively
as to appear less attractive
—because everyone knows

El i zabe t h Bu rch - Hu dson 15


a pretty female object
doesn’t have bodily fluids and discharge
save one that comes after sex.

All instigating personalities seem to have vacated the


premise
for now
so I finally
relax and wait
for my number to be called.
But relaxing turns quickly to
painful observation
as I watch a man in sweatpants plead,
on the verge of tears,
to be given an ID
so he can eat,
and I immediately fill with
guilt
for my privileges
and it doesn’t matter if I am man or
woman
but I have an ID
and I have food
that I chose not to eat this morning.
I am one of the lucky ones in my shorts with my bare
legs and my bare femininity.

16 Eli z ab e t h B ur c h - Hu dson
The lighting is too harsh in this room
for the individual burdens everyone is carrying—
they are too
visible and public
for such private matters.
I wish it was louder,
darker,
full of more distraction
so I wouldn’t be able to see and
hear each predicament each
tired, standing adult has to
live with and problem solve.
I hear those who use pleasantries and those who do
not.
Those who speak Spanish and those who do not.
Those who carry smaller children in their arms and
those that do not.
This lighting reveals that I am
one of the lucky ones
with my bare
legs and my bare
femininity.
This lighting tells me to smile.

El i zabe t h Bu rch - Hu dson 17


is topher diz
C hr o n
for Covid Fairy Tales
t h e bab y K aia
na me d Xa nd e r o r

Blessings
Little Xander: Prepare to tap hundreds of wrists
against your forehead. There will be many people
that you will encounter that are older than you, and
you will call these people auntie and uncle and kuya
and ateh. Before you can have any fun, you have to
show them respect. You’ll do this by taking their large
calloused hands, usually the right one, and you’ll tilt
it at angle and bang it against head the way a mafia
hitman is forced to kiss a godfather’s ring. No one will
tell you why, you’ll just have to do it, because that’s
what it means to be Filipino. Imagine Big Sean and
Drake’s voice when you’re doing it. Never miss a wrist,
and you might get a red envelope stuffed with cash.
Don’t forget to give me half.

19
Your Dad’s Lengua
Your father says a lot of things. “Naw sayin?” In an
endless loop of infinite refrains, the chorus of your life
will be narrated by his voice. He will tell you his mottos.
“You gotta build them up before you knock em’ down.”
He will give you advice. “You gotta sell the cookies if
you’re gonna wear the uniform.” He will taunt you
with a laugh and celebrate his victories, making sure
that you think he’s pulled an amazing card, but he’s
bluffing. “Naw sayin?” When he’s serious, he will let
you know by first offering this introduction: “aye, real
talk doe.” Throughout your life, he will quote movies
you have never seen and will force you to watch Rush
Hour 2 while reciting every line. “Naw sayin?” You’ll
only get to hear his Filipino accent when he plays Call
of Duty, as he unleashes profanity whether he wins or
loses. Your dad speaks a unique lengua that is fun but
difficult to decipher. When he says “nama-naw-sayin,”
just respond: “You still hella weak doe.”

20 c h r i s t oph e r d i zon
Uncles
There are the ones that are around more often. They
are family-friends, or chosen family. They don’t speak
Tagalog, but they’re good at mimicking accents and
they can shape their hands into carefully pinched
bites of steamed rice and salted fish just like your
grandmother. After that, there are only two left. One
will teach you how to be a man. You’ll value strength
and discipline and the drive to succeed. The other, a
perpetual loser, will defy those teachings and instruct
you to do the exact opposite. That’s where I come in.
I’ll teach you how to dream. Gang-Gang.

ch ri st op h e r di zon 21
is ma Rodrigu
K ar ez

Suddenly
My Father Exists

From allegory to avatar


You transformed one New Year’s Eve
I was texting long distance friends
And my brother a greeting
When Facebook said you “started following” me
I knew your name from my mother’s stories
I scanned your profile for further clues
It said you were a pilot
This I knew
From Mexico
Further verification of you
Forcing me to accept the shock of this truth
No direct message sent
No warning
Just you “following me”
And sharing my public photos on your wall
In a bizarre declaration of distant
21st century affection

23
Halim Madi
As ho
me became metaphor

Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, in a show about the


inconveniences of daily life, describes his experience
shopping at Ross dress for less. He says: “I walked into
Ross, I thought I walked into downtown Beirut.”

The expression on se croirait à Beyrouth in French


speaking countries and looks like Beirut in English
speaking ones moved into everyday language shortly
after the end of the Lebanese civil war. Considering
the visual inventory the world was served every time
Beirut was mentioned between 1975 and 1990, it’s
almost courteous the world waited until the mid-90s
to repurpose the capital’s name. The bomb cribbled
buildings, the blood stained rubble. The mother
walks into her 12-year-old boy’s bedroom in suburban
Toulouse and goes: “Eric, on se croirait à Beyrouth.”
The borrowing is justifiable.

We never knew however. No Lebanese mother walked


into her child’s room exclaiming “this looks like
Beirut.” We lived in Beirut—my room was pristine.
In the wake of the war, unbeknownst to us, our city
was becoming a metaphor. A chasm painting the
Lebanese as children shielded from adult truths,
growing up in a warped approximate reality. No
one told us our city had earned a reputation. We
assumed people knew Beirut had changed.
25
The first time I shared I had grown up in Beirut, I
had just moved to Paris to start college. 16 years had
passed. Yet conversation undertones assumed the war
was still roaring. No. The war ended in 1990. I was 2.
I barely remember. My parents hid in the basement.
Under the stairs. Neighbors grew closer. Things are
better now. Beirut is a lively city. We have some of
the best clubs. I grew up partying. It’s so fun at night.
Yes I drink alcohol. Yes I’m Christian. Well, I grew up
Christian. Yes Christians and Muslims live in different
areas. I wouldn’t say there are tensions today. The new
generation is toppling the old ways.

Beirut is not a war field anymore. The white-helmeted-


reporter who ducked in front of millions of Western
eyes, while a bomb fell on Achrafieh—Beirut’s chic
neighborhood—in the background, did a great job
incinerating whatever pride or dignity the Middle
East inspired prior to his footage.

Beirut might not be a war field anymore but in the


minds and tongues of a global generation it remains
the bombed capital of chaos. We were born in a
metaphor. Our reality an inconsequential conception.
A minority vote in a global poll. My Beirut buried in
the imaginary rubble the world covered us in.

26 H a l i m Ma d i
But Beirut was never only a war field.
In the rubble there is a Beirut laughing
at the jokes of my uncle
his Armenian friend
who grabs his dog by the jowls
places its face next to his
and asks “Johnny, who’s prettier
me or the dog?”
My uncle never shares his answer
he laughs and Beirut laughs too
she might not have understood the joke
she might not have heard all the words
but she feels Johnny’s cackling jaw
she reads the memory in the black of his eyes
Beirut is more than a war field
Near the debris, there is a subversive Beirut
whose every word and action
spells rebellion
In this incarnation
she is called Bassem Feghali
cross dressing, drag queening, high heeling
his way to mainstream Arab television
in 1996
calling it comedy
teaching a generation of gender benders
how to both wear and smuggle
their identity in broad daylight
Beirut may also be a war field
Under the crumbled building
near the collapsing staircase
there is a grieving Beirut
whose mourning is elongated
like the necks of the Kayan Lahwi women
only instead of brass coil rings

Ha li m Ma di 27
a long necklace of skulls
passed down by the mothers who raised her
The widow, herself a mother of two, shall not
remarry
and so widowing Beirut wears black
walks in procession
Look out the window at 4pm on any weekday
onto the crooked streets of the Muslim Basta
and the Christian Syoufi neighborhoods
you’ll see Beirut’s widows
a black leather bag on the left shoulder
one plastic grocery bag in the right hand
one because the kids aren’t visiting today
or tomorrow
She’s only cooking a meal for one
In the shadows of decimated buildings
there is a wild Beirut
dancing at 1 then heading
to the after party at 4
BO18
a coffin-shaped club that opens its lids
inviting out the ghosts of Palestinian refugees
bulldozed by Christian militias
on the ground it was built
a club meant to remember the killing
butchering, shoveling
of Arabs by Arabs
In the crevasses of the synth-pop beat
find a seat and listen
to the wailing of Beirut
the screams of every
Palestinian
Lebanese
Syrian

28 H a l i m Ma d i
Israeli
Mother
the arresting memory
of Karantina
Damour
Tal el zaatar
Sabra
Chatila
Beirut
Beirut
Beirut

Ha li m Ma di 29
Bicchie
olo ri
Pa
a s minnea
p o lis b u r n s

what does it mean to invoke your name

lord? our eyes are sundered. our ears are burning.


our fingers are thin paper flying
in the wind like lanterns in june, piñatas in april

what does it mean to see the kinfolk of grandpa gary


lying in the streets

god, his neck a resting place for a wasp, murder


hornet, knee.

he asked the younger men to quit busting guns,


to quit shaking their knees,
to come home.

is he home now lord? is george home with you?

as a boy i pictured heaven as storage units lined up on


cloudy streets,
where people could make their own heavens,
each one a cabin for my grandma, my father, my black
grandpa who held me
in his white beard, a cloud, when i was a boy, who
brought his blood to the red
cross, had the laborers of egypt taped to his

31
computer monitor that we found when we
excavated his home, when he died, when he went
to his storage unit in the after life

on that attached parchment it read

“most of the footprints on the sands of time were


made by work shoes”

the pyramids and the camels and the black men on


the dusty horizon

what does it mean to see the bodies of fellow


americans rotting in the pavement

lord? give us some place to put our tears.


if memory is nothing more than a sprig of lavender,
might we water the flowers with the salty wine?
might the bushes of purple
outside my mother’s blue paint-chipped house on
Water Street be brought to life
with the torrents of our sadnesses?

and god where should we stow the anger? the ways


we hate
those legions of white police officers who watch the
house of the killer,
not the grave of the killed?

as a young man i played NFL Street 2 and loved the


Minnesota Vikings
because the quarterback was named Dante Culpepper

32 Paol o B i c c h i e r i
and whose last name was a plant??
whose last name was a spicy and root-bound thing?
and when i went to Minneapolis in 2015 to finish
packing grandpa gary’s bags

for his trip to the sky i saw a sticker on the street that
read

“once there was a boy who became a star in his own


world”

but lord if we keep killing the boys and the men in


our neighborhoods because their skin is dark like
sultan’s gold then how can we write the stars into
ascended constellations?

as a sinner i spoke to a paleontologist who taught in


Minneapolis
and he told me one of the boys he taught grew to a
young man but
before he became a sinner a stolen gun ran amok in
his home, straying and slaying
him as he played Madden in his living room

dear god what does it mean to invoke your name?


i see the streets
streaked in blue and red, white and black, the
billowing flags of
red and green and gold dashing the state’s lakes in
hazy mirrors of vigilance and resistance

dear lord is george with you in a cloudy storage unit


of his own design?
dear god is grandpa gary donating blood like he used

Paolo Bi cch i e ri 33
to at the red
cross in one of those twin cities?
and lord what does it mean to invoke a name?
and god do i hope for to re-emerge from my home in
California to a street that is vacant of
murderers, streaked in blue and red and white,
to find paint-chipped houses splashed in

water and vacancy

34 Paol o B i c c h i e r i
y Rosado
Gre

chalk

you took
light gray purple
chalk
drew the dawn
into my eyes
poured molten honey yellow
gold
down my throat
reached into my stomach
retrieving a ruby
the size of a grapefruit
which you crushed
in the pale pink palm
of your hand
scattered the shatters
dusting me
deceased

35
e a Dhanbhoor
Rh a

N e f e r titi

I spent weeks looking for my sister the second time


she ran away, then the day I found her, I wished I
hadn’t. It was on a Friday after work, I’d been passing
by the church we used to go to with our mother who
wasn’t Catholic but liked the services, and the priest
waved me down, saying a woman who looked like my
sister had been bleeding over the pews. I’d made such
an effort to forget about her this time, what I really
wanted to do was leave her behind, kneeling there in
whatever vain appeal.

Back home she started lecturing me about God, who I


don’t believe in, and faith, which I no longer have and
I said holding on to all that mumbo-jumbo is what led
to her situation, and if she hadn’t been so scared of
being found out for a sinner, she wouldn’t have had
to have that back-alley disaster. I knew I’d gone too
far when she pressed herself deeper into my cushioned
armchair, spat at me, waved ten awful, moss-green
nails at me and said, “You’re a baby-killer not me, you,
with that awful job!” Now, I know I am a good nurse
and what I do is for a good cause, but I am also a good
sister, so I didn’t argue, simply fed her some soup
and let the blood from under her dress stain my
chair. I noticed she still wore the necklace we once
bought to stop her crying over our pregnant Mau,

37
Nefertiti. I hadn’t known then that it was not the cat
causing her tears.

I still couldn’t tell you if I loved or hated that cat, who


did such things as cough up hairballs to make me spend
my birthday with her at the vet. I often wondered:
Would things be better if the damn cat just died?

At my job they call me Margaret, after Margaret


Higgins Sanger. Here at the Sanger Foundation they
think this is a compliment, but I hate it because I
believe in choice, and while I don’t understand much
about it, I know enough not to believe in that eugenics
stuff, especially since my father, only a progressive
anything since he tolerated birth control, once said it
was a good idea.

It’s only because of all these new laws against


unmarried women that we still pretend to sell nothing
but advice and male contraceptives.

Hours before I found my sister again, a woman in a


Mau-printed shirt asked if she needed identification.
“I’ve forgotten all of mine,” she lied. At this clinic,
women never gave us their real names, so I often made
up my own — this one would be Nefertiti.

“Will the doctor be a woman?”

“No.”

We were taught to be quick, not comforting.

I remember her pout, the summer sweat beaded on

38 R h e a Dh an b h o o ra
bow-shaped lips so like my sister’s, I was thrown into
a teenage memory of her and that cat, both usually
summer-loving, suddenly scratching rounder bellies,
squirming in the sun, both dumb as doorknobs though
only one had been hit by lightning. The same day the
cat gave birth, my sister ran off for the first time, the
Sanger Foundation set up shop in the alley behind the
butcher and I snuck over to see if they were hiring.

This particular young woman was forced to wait; the


doctor I had been told to call Dr. K (not really a doctor),
took his time. Keith, Kevin, Kenneth… I wondered
what his real name was, this man who dipped cookies
in tea, tried to fish out soggy bits, then poured the
whole mess into the sink in the operating theatre.
Dr. K also did not wash his hands before probing
patients, but I learned not to question any of this. The
Foundation could not find other doctors willing to
risk their reputation, not even to help women avoid
the sort of back-alley solution my sister had found.

The same day, in a room hidden behind the


contraceptive counter, I waited for the misoprostol to
take effect as I helped another girl prepare for surgery.
Listening to her retch, imagining blood filling the
toilet, I recalled the weeks after my sister’s solution
had been botched, when, unwilling to seek medical
care and have her indiscretions discovered, she had
run off for the first time. I’d seen blood then too, but
only when I closed my eyes. When I found her that
first time I saw the blood again, this time with my eyes
open, this blood trailing under her skirt, as my sister
fought, frail, against emergency services. “Leave me
alone with my sin,” she had screamed. “Everything is

Rh e a Dh anbh oora 39
going to be okay,” I had lied.

Our father, like the real Margaret, did not believe in


abortion, no matter what the species, so it was no
surprise our cat who could not carry her second litter,
was now dead.

My mother always said, “No good woman needs birth


control,” but maybe my sister had.

My sister disappeared again after my mother died of


TB but before the cat died.

In the weeks before the priest waved me down, I had


rolled a young woman out of an operating theatre,
given her one heated blanket, charged for two, then
asked her to call us in two weeks with an update. If
she did not, I would erase all traces of her visit to the
clinic. I do not remember if she called, since in these
two weeks I found and again, in that East wing of the
hospital that no one ever comes back out of, lost, my
sister.

A month after my sister bled on my chairs, another


woman at the clinic gave me a false name. She called
me Margaret, though my name is Mari. I noticed her
nails were moss green like my sister’s, my sister who
would never know now that our cat was dead.

40 R h e a Dh an b h o o ra
elle Lee Slo
ch ta
Ri
I n Q u a r a n ti n e

Month One Month Two


my old heart Packed thought
sits atop Tough words
a ton of Infected words
shit it takes Airtight thought
heart and shit Free words
not to quit Trapped words
my old heart Butchered thought
river rock Tender words
the world flows Insane words
around not Hell thought
dead but rested Healed words
in waiting Muffled words
the hardest Stale thought
work there is Jammed together words
seeing all six-feet-apart words
I might know Wonderful thought
looking through Masked words
these eyes blue Hurt words
I am human Packed thought
so I’m told Kind words
am for now Neutered words
but am old Sick thought
creaking floors Murdered words
inside cold Whispered words

41
outside clear Lying thought
silent street Sung words
no city’s Growled words
endless beat Happy thought
can’t breathe yet Snarled words
afraid bent Silent Words
want to live Cunning thought
for art and Dead words
not depart Untouchable words
the real is Unthinkable thought
a blunt blunt Horror Words
instrument Ugly words
sorting things Forbidden thought
this is not Dry words
forever Dirty words
not for long Pent-up thought
but for sure Uncomfortable words
hanging on Tough words
Packed thought

42 R i c h e lle L e e Sl o ta
ifer Ng
Jenn

t o Ri
Thirteen Reas o ns
de a Bike and One to Stop

1. Because I would save $2.75, the cost of the bus


fare, and I would have to ask you for money
because my bank account is empty.

2. Because it took me five years to learn how to


ride a bike without falling and my dad patiently
waited out my crying until I wasn’t afraid
anymore.

3. Because you said that I am fat and I should


exercise, but I hate the gym with all the judgy
people with yoga pants and skinny tops, stuck
running inside a sweaty room.

4. Because there is a protected bike lane—well, at


least for 95% of my commute to work—and I love
going fast, feeling the morning chill lift my long
hair as I fly past cars and pedestrians.

5. Because I am a girl and you said that girls don’t


ride bikes so I ride a bike.

6. Because he patiently waited at the top of the


hill and when I finally arrived, he said that
he was so impressed that I never stopped and
despite being sweaty, I hugged him.
43
7. Because of the time that he and I rode a bike
through the rice paddies and when it began
raining, a Vietnamese grandmother waved us
inside and we stood huddled under the tiled
overhang until a rainbow touched the sky.

8. Because I would get to his place in fifteen


minutes up Steiner and Grove, rather than the
time it would take to weave through traffic by
Lyft or bus.

9. Because I was not hurt the last time that a car hit
me—only bruised knees and a mangled beloved
steel baby blue bike—and because it was about a
bike, I called him first instead of you.

10. Because when he and I rode past the white bikes,


decorated with faux flowers and marked with a
date in black paint, we smiled at each other with
relief that we’re alive.

11. Because I wore a polka dot helmet, which he


describes as “so very you” and he immediately
read aloud the “Ode to the Helmet”, that poem
by a cyclist who ran over a pedestrian.

12. Because it was his 30th birthday dinner that


night and I told him that I would be there early
since I could get there by bike in 15 minutes.

13. Because I wanted to get to work, argue with


the marketing team, banter with the engineers,
gossip with the office manager, and see him.

44 Jennifer Ng
14. Because at the moment that the white truck hit
me after I swerved from an unexpected opened
car door, I felt the worst pain that I had ever
experienced in my life and news spread rapidly
through Facebook, Twitter, and email while
media told everyone my wrong age and my
wrong job—but how everyone, even colleagues
and friends I hadn’t spoken to for years—said
that I was the kindest spirit that they had known
although I thought of myself as selfish and eve-
rything they knew about me is false and that you,
my fiancé, never knew about my darkest secrets
and the fact that I planned to stay overnight after
the birthday party and if it had rained that day, I
would have walked, just walked past that inter-
section, down the street, going south, then east,
south, east, heading straight into the building,
rounding a corner into a brightly lit room to sit at
my desk, where I would stare at the dying peace
lily plant you gave me on my first day of work
and wonder whether time could move any faster.

Je nni f e r Ng 45
Boxer
Nora

Dear Capitalism

You’re late. The noise to signal ratio


is out of control. You aren’t a bed of roses. You’re a
cyclone,
an anxiety mosaic, a disruption we can’t afford. You’re
an Amazon Prime truck shitting out pebbles that
crack the windshield of my car. A diaper made out
of other people to pad the bottoms of those who are
better at knowing how to exploit. That’s rich, you say.
Fuck you, I say. Everyone wants a bar of gold and a
pony.

Dear Capitalism,

You’re the worst natural disaster on the planet,


individually shrink-wrapped in dinosaur bones.
You’re the blindest eye in the business, a baby needing
constant coddling, a cancer garden, a radio frequency
that makes everyone go deaf. A wifi frequency that
jams up my intuition. I’m out of data so I’m calling
your friend Horatio Alger but he’s no longer picking
up the phone. I see you, sidling yourself in between
pre-existing businesses so you can eat a piece of the
pie. You think you’re an Instagram influencer in
hipster jeans, but everyone really knows you’re a
sweatshop fire.

47
Dear Capitalism,

You tell me you’re my security, but you’re an ass


implant, a 16.99% APR, an oil-slicked bird. You don’t
know how to play nice. You spout out bullshit about
thought leadership and then greenwash your mouth.
Your innovations are isolationist by design and yet
you hire writers to mouth off words like stories and
community while you twiddle your thumbs waiting
for your drone-delivered grilled cheese. Everything
is clickbait. Everyone is your ass-fucked 1099
contractor. Everyone is commuting 3 hours just to
stroke your face.

Dear Capitalism,

You bought the divine feminine for six easy


installments of $299, shat out a rhetoric that we
all get the life we deserve. Open to abundance,
you whispered in her ear, some kind of scripted
programming you used while hijacking her pussy.
You video-conferenced your way to a place where you
could video-conference others. You’re a Ponzi scheme,
a bad hallucination, a colonial land-rape built on lies.
Your goddamn head is in the sand.

Dear Capitalism,

Fuck you. Fuck your foreign financing of skyscrapers,


your back room PR deals. If we are a chessboard
you are always the king. If we are Buddhists you are
always the hungry ghost. If we are an American West
on fire you are always the fuel. If we are a border you
are fickle, revolving to open the door only to exploit.

48 N o ra B ox e r
I would tattoo the word HEAL on your foot but you
don’t ever touch the ground. I would kiss a necklace
made of communal intentions but your prayers lock
me out. I would enslave you myself, making you
prostrate before trees, rivers, eagles, and humanity,
but you shapeshift like polluted wind into your next
iteration. You beta-test yourself in liberal disguise.
You disrespect the future and the past; insist on being
the architecture of the present. You are nothing
in sheep’s clothing and nothing in wolf’s clothing.
You’re the world’s biggest fake.

Dear Capitalism,

I’m wasting perfectly good metaphors on you. You


give me a roof but you are not the roof. You aren’t
the stars so you shoot jizz-covered cars into space.
You take Marxist theorists and isolate them in ivory
towers or else you make them adjuncts and they sleep
in their cars. You’re widening your own gap without
realizing that in that river, a revolution already
swims. You’re the fucking fall of Rome 2.0.

I grasp at the same air I always had. I run according


to my privilege to spaces where I can forget your face.
I say no to the smashed and carcinogenic origami
compromise you ask of my soul and I go $10,000
dollars in debt. I sucker punch you in your nuts
because you’re definitely made from maleness. You
give me six weeks maternity leave and nine paid
holidays. At night, I dream of slitting your throat.

Your dreams are less organic. You dream about layoffs


the year before pensions, about tax breaks and change

Nora Boxe r 49
management. Your dreams aren’t dreams.

Dear Capitalism.
I am going to my face from a million years ago,
Our original face.
A face that knows how to put hands on a
whale bone, wash it in baking soda and put it in the
center
of a space built to honor ancestors. A whale
that tells us everything
swims interconnected in the wide deep waters of the
world.
Going to a face that puts hands
on that whale and vows to protect it, going to a
face that doesn’t question the effectiveness of that
vow.

A face that vowed to swim against the stream,


to remember its thousand-year tooth.

Our original face,


hidden,
Our face before we even traded currency like shells.
Our face before we were human, before we were
wind.

Dear Capitalism,
Here’s the thing. I’ve already vowed to spend my
life telling stories that are beyond your grasp. Now
I vow to only use you as a tool to keep telling those
stories. We will lock horns endlessly, two elks in a
battle for dominance, our myths ruining each other
until we are done. You say I’m small but I’m smaller
than that even, invisible. You say I’m invisible and I

50 N o ra B ox e r
accept. I disappear into the chasm you didn’t know
you had. Like anyone who’s been able to take off the
mask, like anyone who’s awake enough to know you
have been cracked. And we are going to breathe and
breathe into it, figure out how to join forces. Figure
out finally we were joined all along. We are going
to mine it, mine it; calling into the Earth who will
eventually split you open.

Nora Boxe r 51
n Hill
Steve

The Loan

It comes back to me in pieces,


in reflective bites over breakfast cereal—
the smile of moonlit miles,
walks under freckles of stars
two bodies, folded in a hammock,
childish words for you, carved in a tree
so close, the summer grass as we crawled.
And we rubbed, I and thou,
cheek to cheek,
hair to hair,
cheek hairs brushed by dew,
drizzle like feather clouds
like memories of my baby blanket,
star-crossed patterns peering
at each other through our
windows—
what marvelous shelters,
you and I,
what a lighthouse,
what a beacon glowed within you
and beamed out at me
through your windows.

And then—suddenly—it was all gone. Poof!


This life is on loan, it turns out.
What we thought was ours belongs somewhere else,

53
drifted back home
leaving a pile of bones and
scattered remains, ashes, chalky petroglyphs
shards of pottery
and a long trail of relations like ribbons
to carry on with what they too have borrowed.

Dandelion’s time had come to leave upon the wind,


not returning when spring
pushed up through the soil again.
We thought we would all live on the same block forever,
a shady cul-de-sac with
a box elder swaying over the creek,
the water feigning timelessness
tree rings to infinity.
But a storm got the elder, the years dried the creek,
your kiss became a memory
our conversation a hushed prayer,
the doctor’s words a trace
whispering through the moonlit lace,
the last light I saw reflected in your graying eyes showed
the telephone disconnected,
the boisterous neighborhood grown silent
the bat and ball, lifeless in the on-deck
a field no longer sown,
the grandfather clock chiming
over a hearth gone cold.

Everything in its own way announces the final call, we


trowel a foundation,
mark ourselves with a lifetime of endeavor,
and then we are called to relinquish the monument,
no, it relinquishes us:

54 St e v e n H i ll
Dull Chatter in the background announcing
itself at the door,
with a rap and a rude harrumph,
waistcoat fastidious on the coach driver,
ah yes, the coach awaits, the door creaks open,
passage for one.

It’s a marathon and then


nothing,
silhouette instead of stone,
the universal groan,
pace yourself, passage for one
you won’t be takin’ it with you,
this life is on loan.

St e ve n Hi ll 55
en Gray
Stev

C o ro na
When you sink into a deep domestic meditation
because you’re out of work along with half the work
force and
it has been going on for months, you wonder who is in
control and how much longer it will last. The
occupants
sequestered in their insulated boxes, reading books
about “the staggering collapse of U.S. intelligence”
concerning the coronavirus coming at us while
a heavy blanket settles on the continent, it is
a quarantine that is unwarranted according to some
and others think it’s warranted and no one wants to die.
You think about it while you’re on the roof deck with a
bottle
of wine, your forehead being pounded by relentless
moonlight
and the full moon is a tranquilizer when there is
a lot to worry about, the disconcerting parallels
between a medical necessity and an authoritarian
lockdown where the citizens are not allowed

57
to get together and their mouths are covered like a
symbol
of their voices being censored and they have to walk
alone. You’re staring into space, communing with the
mountains
of the moon, another way of social distancing.
There were warnings and rehearsals that were soon
denied
(the same occurred with 9/11), like “It can’t happen
here.”
And whether or not it was deliberate it’s another
occasion
where the profiteering meets the mass psychology
of fascism. The confusing information is a
camouflage,
you try to bring a constellation into focus.
The tectonic shifts occurring in the government
are throwing off a lot of people and a cloud of money
flies around like starlings with the homing signal of a
corporation. It requires our cooperation.
The Overlord who occupies the White House said,
“I’ll be your
oversight” and fired the man in charge of oversight.
Our leaders have the insight of a box of rocks, it was
bred out of them by the system and is adding to a
sense of dread. It leaves you in an existential trance,

58 S t e v e n G ray
you sit at home and listen to the sirens in the
neighborhood
and see the Bomb Squad going by, the vehicles
are black and maybe it’s a drill. You hear the virus
killed
a folksinger and you want to write a song:
“CORONA CORONA,
what are you doing here… I really hope you’re gone
next year….”

St e ve n Gray 59
n Wang
Lilia

S w i m m i n g L ess o n s

i was born by the ocean


a puckered rosebud
a mouth full of sea
when i was two, my father threw me into the
ocean to teach me to swim
i didn’t learn how to swim but i learned
how not to sink
how to flail, how to flounder, how to fall —
a mouthful of sea
and then,
how to float
i grew up in silences
deep enough to lose myself in
in the thick muted echoes
of floating under water
punctuated by rage
pure enough to wound with
when i was four, my father pushed me on a
borrowed bicycle in the cul-de-sac of a
neighborhood that did not belong to us

61
“Go back to where you came from” etched into plaster
one dawn break
when i was five —
a name that was not mine
from my first grade teacher
a name that did not belong to me
from my church pastor
a name
from a book of English names, meticulously studied
in the waning light after night shifts at the only
Chinese restaurant in town
at 21, i put on Craigslist the room i shared with a
man i thought i could love
i still knew nothing of belonging but i knew
so much of longing
i almost drowned in it
they say that repeated friction — the force of wave
after wave — wears down even the strongest of
rocks
or it teaches you how to swim
i left my names behind
shed like broken notes falling from my tinny
keyboard
scattered like ashes, each letter swallowed into the
past
— a mouth full of sea

62 L i l i an Wan g
when i was 28, i sunk 50ft into the Pacific in search
of sea turtles
climbed onto the edge of a cliff to cry into the
branches of Joshua trees
danced under a purple trellis as the shoreline blazed
i lived with the sound of the sea filling every marrow
in my body
i learned that a home outside of yourself does not
always exist
but yourself
is sometimes all you need
i learned that i love the salt of your skin
your scent lingering on my tongue
and that falling isn’t far from flying
or, from diving,
plunging, head-first
into the Connecticut River during the New
Hampshire winter and emerging
exhilarated, underneath the numbness of my skin
and i think i am learning to swim

Li li an Wang 63
D.S. Black

IN MEMORY
BREATHS NOT TAKEN

Memorious the day’s


calendar a time
each new outrage
eclipses the last

too thick and fast


moribund
they come any
sense any hope to roll back
zombies the dead hand of
a cannibal economy

To the inverted flag aglow


against the embers
Minneapolis a toast in solidarity
mere steps outa Oakland

dreading a script now too familiar


I can’t breathe
why not get off the captive
lift knee from neck of prisoner
would you fancy a snoot full of pepper
spray from a killer in blue
under color of law
why must these fires burn to make

65
long overdue an arrest
for murder

without video this inhumanity


would still stand
in broad strokes when police riot
the dark whinings of capital
fear numbers no surprise the tide
rises up rising down against their
fall of night

In memory of a world before


this madness
this time of plague
should I say the plague this time
the fire that burns is time saying
enough coronal mass infection

I’m not blaming the sun


for a virus novelistic in scope
epic in its ability to transmit
words in song or by breath
droplets suspended in air

for the record I’d prefer a short story


even better a microfiction nightmare
caption or haiku—lower word counts
fewer bodies counted syllabically
on the front page of the Gray Lady

when government
refers to we the people as
human capital stock
know that they see our time as ripe

66 D. S . Bl a c k
to return to the slaughter trenches

they have nothing else to offer us


but commerce of souls expended
biomass an age of stochastic terrorism
bleeding from nose and ears
lend us your eyes a new era dawns
but whatever you do don’t
nock this arrow in the blue
this police statement
sponged in blood

D.S. Bl a ck 67
ro line Goodw
Ca in
399,112
Eleaegnus commutata
Wo l f
Willow 06-06-20 0745 PDT

resting on the shores of the Matanuska River


on a balmy summer evening, on a rain charm
the likes of which, issuing from heaven, sliding
past and sliding past, creatures of light or of
love, the blood-braid, the back of my hand, heart
song, heart boat calling you up and these the
night leaves the slip of sun, clothespin, bowl
of slivers in the fireweed, as far as the eye as
far as the candlewick or magpie, if you go
resting on the shores of the Matanuska River
take your map and lightning bolt, take your life
now pedal to the metal, now cut and weld, now
rot and rust and how the sky splits, the plot twists
the earth at your back, at your snowlight, your
granite opulence, your citizenship and shadow
flecks of mica now shapeshifting into sisters
resting on the shores of the Matanuska River

The poems take their titles from a moment’s worldwide COVID-19 death
count, the scientific and common names of a wild plant, and the date and
time (Pacific Daylight time) of the death count. Each poem also repeats,
three times, a line of text from the book Discovering Wild Plants: Alaska,
Western Canada, The Northwest by Janice Schofield.
69
425,044 Streptopus amplexifolius
Twisted Stalk 06-12-20 0833 PDT

a beautiful group that includes the very poisonous


camass and/or webcap, the chalk pit the quarry
the headwaters, I was just a kid I was lampwhite
was candle traffic, what the sky said what the river
took and under me the wet earth pulsing, metal
tailings, arsenic, a split shield, metamorphic, I
live here, I live here I was looking at the ice, gold
pine spire on the prayer path, the mammoth path,
the bare tree and its manifold splendors, the lily
a beautiful group that includes the very poisonous
tongue its twilit spell its machinery its very own
insinuating verbiage: moon the pull of tides, spine
the serpent, hands the lilac sprigs athwart the face
of the waters pushing north, love, hooves, constell-
ations, milk-thistle, song for the stay-at-homes
the trauma bonds the carbon-based the loyalist
a beautiful group that includes the very poisonous

70 C a r ol i n e G o o dwi n
ah Sanders
No

If only it was

the days trickle, don’t they?


grains of sand turned porous sludge.
caught in a glass bottleneck
arms akimbo.
the months just vanish, huh?
paper numbers made wadded scrap.
every concrete gutter
visibly buried.
the next year, what about it?
penciled x’s now cosmic fluff.
blown from the page
limbs pinwheeling.

71
before&after

before,
a sneeze could be a sneeze.
a trick of the season
finding escape.
Before,
a headache was just a headache.
last night’s third and fourth
reminding you.
before,
a knee just hurt.
a joint’s pliant cushion
showing age.
Before,
it was only wind.
blown hard across faces
lacking subtext.
Now,
& after,
a body a warning sign.
every pining ache
a death knell.

72 N oa h S an d e r s
Kelly Gray
The e te
B l u e Bl o
od of a Bol

The truth of the mushroom is that it’s an expression of


the underworld, the tender lick of umami fruit, grown
in the shadow land. There is a certain marvel at the
explosive nature busting up through wet leaves and
smelling like the liminal space between then and now.

This is what happens when you send your death to


the soil, when you bury your lover. Nooooo, shush,
not their body, but the idea of them. Conceding that
they were only ever an idea, you walk into the forest of
Autumn, with your switch blade or hatchet, or maybe
just your ungloved hands and a spoon. You were never
prepared for this part of the story.

You start digging, past the lovers from before, through


a catacomb of squirrel bones and the places where your
fingers bleed. You mix him with nutrients and lore of
the soil, with worm shit and pine needles, and all the
layers of your torn dresses and his one sock that you
keep moving around the house, unable to throw it out.

You keep digging till you find that bright white


highway of mycelium and goodbye, and you leave
him there with all his exposed hypha while he dies.
Again, this is just the idea of him.

73
But he is there dying in the underworld of the forest,
and you come back a week later to find him,

bursting forth in new form, edible but toxic, bleeding


blue, not at all the thick striped mushroom you were
looking for.

74 K e lly G ray
Amy Smith

Mercy

at the beach house


salt in the air
sand and cicadas
a sigh in the
direction
of a teenage
mother as she
forgets the camera
says fists aren’t hands

75
posture

fingers tapping thin keys


at work : at home
the difference between the hum
of electricity and breath is acoustic
the difference between the white glow
and the backs of hands is shadows
imperceptible internal motion
warming back at the glow
against a forehead moist
from making believe
real hard

76 Am y Sm i t h
elicca Bac
n Ang e lo
w na
Da
Opening

We do a lot of opening.

We open jars of jam, peanut butter, honey, mayonnaise.


There are opened cans of beans, olives, and tomatoes
next to the opened bottles of wine and soda. We crack
eggs open on a greased pan. We hear them hiss. We
open the doors for Amazon packages and DoorDash
deliveries. We open apps to see what the weather is
like today. Fog in the morning, but it will burn off by
noon. We open our blinds and windows to verify that
this is true.

We open unread emails. We make choices to leave our


emails unopened. We check for open space on our
calendars today, and hope it doesn’t get booked up.
We’ve been suffocating in the heat of our computer
screens, one meeting disconnecting before the next
one starts.

We’ve been telling each other to “keep an open mind.”


We listen to meditations that tell us to stay open to
the thoughts that arrive. Take a deep belly breath in
and sigh with your mouth open. Sleep with one eye
open if you don’t trust yourself to rest.

Keep your options open in case something better

77
comes along. Keep your eyes open for a good deal.
Open the conversation with something familiar—
remember that time we were all stuck inside for
months?

Do you remember how the dentist says, “Open your


mouth wide,” as the pressure of a water pick drags
itself along your gum line? Do you remember how the
doctor says, “Open your mouth and say ahhh” as you
taste the wooden tongue depressor?

Are you going days without opening your mouth to


speak?

We are told, “don’t open your mouth” when someone


tells us a secret. Don’t open that can of worms. Don’t
open the door for strangers. Have you ever said “don’t
open your eyes” to someone before a surprise? How
long ago was that? Where did you bring them? What
did they see?

What about the other things that want to be opened?


You have a headache, so you push your palm down on a
bottle of Advil and twist it to the left. Your books want
to see the light for the first time in a year. Open up a
book to a random page. Read it silently at first, then
read it out loud. Imagine the open wound of a fresh
tattoo. The planning it takes from the first sketch to
the final appointment.

When all of this is over, there will be a surplus of fabric


for mask-making, sourdough bread starters, and signs
that say “we’re open for business.” There will be grand
openings and reopenings. There will be soft openings

78 Dawn An g e l i c ca Ba ce lona
for restaurant owners to gauge how many people will
come inside.

We’ll be asking the bus driver to open the door for


someone who is sprinting to the bus stop as the light
turns green. We will sit in our rooms to open letters
without throwing away the envelopes.

We’ll open our car doors to a trailhead, see the wide


open field, the Pampas grass poking up at random
intervals, the surprise of flowers opening their faces
to the sun. We will say hi to other hikers on the trail
and smile instead of measuring 6 feet between us.

You’ll plan to meet everyone when doors open at 7pm,


before everyone else starts to file in. You’ll open a tab
at the bar and tell your friends to put their drinks on
it. They’ll treat you next time. You will welcome each
other with arms wide open. You will push your way to
the front. The first band greets the crowd. Everyone’s
will mouths open to cheer.

And we will all open, open, open again.

Dawn Ange li cca Ba ce lona 79


- july 6, 2020 -

You might also like