Sow

a sketch

Advertisements

The woman stared at her garden. My garden, she thought. She had never had a garden before. Not really.

As a kid, she would water her mom’s plants. Until one time her parents went away for a few days, she forgot about the prayer plants in the bedroom that otherwise remained empty.

“You killed the prayer plants,” her mother accused her. Her mother small but powerful with her hands holding together the brown leaves that, when green, would fold toward one another in solemn conspiracy.

Her mother’s words rang ridiculous at the time, but she roiled in recall.

“You weren’t here. You let them die,” she burst.

Years later, her mother — sitting in a circle of family and friends at the point late at a party when the ice has melted — would offhandedly say that this was the worst thing her daughter had ever said. Then, she smiled at her firstborn, for a time her only, as if the memory bound them.

Two days after her mother passed, she remembered the plants. She drowned them. Accidentally but still. It wasn’t for a few more days that someone told her what she’d done, was in fact doing at that moment she learned that plants can drown, that they drown at the root.

Colada morada

a sketch

The water was a purple kind of brown, as if it knew the word gloom. Still it looked inviting under the dust-burnt clouds. The water’s color belied its warmth. But not to him. He saw colada morada. He saw his grandma, stirring her royal blue pot of berries cooked past a pudding, standing in an oversized shirt and pajama pants, avocado mashed into her hair. She explained to him once why she did it, but he couldn’t remember what she said. He didn’t remember much of what she said other than the things she would always say. Those sounds would never leave him. They were too of their own, like a faraway star so close in the sky.

The way home

a mood story

He decided to draw a map. If he mapped out his mind, he’d find a way out. Eventually, he figured, he would need to redraw it, on a large canvas, tracing across the continents of papers beneath. For now he started with what he felt to be the center. That room inside himself with no windows but a cot.

The room was walled by darkness. It surrounded him like water. He could see himself staring at it from the cot. He was sitting on its edge, bent, elbows on knees, hands clasped.

He stood and walked forward. It seemed like the only way.

Once he crossed into the darkness, he heard himself step in puddles. He could feel it too. Each step as if tapping into and through to another side, and immediately falling onto a shallow bottom. But he had the sense it wasn’t all puddles below. Only where he stepped.

He kept on. He liked the patter of it. He began to decide where to step — or leap or lunge — based on the sound he had made and now wanted to hear and next and on.

Dop dop-dop dop dop dop-dop dop dop dop-dop dop dop…

Dop-dop dop-dop dop-dop-dop dop dop-dop dop dop-dop dop…

In time he forgot the map and stepped on, as if he had never known anything else.

Racist Profiling in Arizona

I wrote a version of this a few weeks ago while driving back to Los Angeles from Arizona. I pulled off the highway to write it. The whole drive until that point, from the Grand Canyon to Williams to Kingman to Ludlow, I couldn’t stop wrestling with how I felt when I was in Arizona and why. It was the first time I spent real time in the state – meaning “not holed up at a business conference” – since I was a kid, since I realized how some people look at me and people who look like me, since I learned what that 7th grader meant when he called 6th-grade me a “spic.”

I wrote it on the side of the highway, then I put it away. It felt too angry, too unfair, too personal. Then tonight happened, and I feel too angry because this feels too unfair, too personal. To me and people who look like me and other people who don’t look like him. So here’s my anger. Here’s how unfair it feels. How personal.

To the white in the “The 2nd Amendment is my Homeland Security” shirt.

To the white who smiled at my white girlfriend but didn’t look at brown me.

To the white in the bright orange vest and bushy mustache.

To the white in the UNC hat with the sunburnt neck.

To the whites wearing biker cuts into the Kingman Cracker Barrel.

I don’t know you. Who you are, what you believe, how you see me. I could hardly see you. I saw around you.

This is Jan Brewer country. Joe Arpaio country. Land of the Minutemen.

I couldn’t see if yours was a racist’s face because I couldn’t see past this place.

I couldn’t see what you saw in my face. If you saw my face. If you saw what I saw in you, even if it wasn’t in you.

And then I looked away. I didn’t want to see it, even if it was in you. I didn’t want to give it life.

And then I crossed the border into California.

And then, two minutes across the border, I saw a Trump billboard.

And then, three-and-a-half hours outside of LA, surrounded by a desert that turned brown or always was, I saw a big rig in my rear window, its grill coated in the confederate flag.

And next?

Election night

I can’t sleep, so I’m just gonna write until I can.

Give me a keyboard I want to write

Not a pen or pencil

I want the words to rush too fast for that

Blaze like the pain, burn onto the page

Words to hurt

I hurt

This hurts

 

The TV hurts to look at, to see what this means

Half the country wants him

Half the country believes in him, in what he believes

At least half of those that voted

 

The remainder, the ones who sat it out

This is what you stuck us with

This is what you said with your silence

Fine

Fine that he disrespects anyone who’s other

Fine that he disrespects the truth

Fine

This is the line you let us cross

 

The others, the ones with their third parties and write-ins

This is on you too

Did you believe your candidate could have won?

You wouldn’t vote for her, but did you think your votes for them would beat him?

Did you want them to?

This is what your vote won

This is what we lost

 

And this is how he won

This anger

This fear

This crush

This blame

This pain

This hate

 

And this is how we let him

That ignorant innocence that thought this isn’t us, not anymore

That thought this couldn’t happen, not here

That thought this couldn’t win, not him

This is us

This did happen

He did win

And now we feel like them

And we can’t