Ode to Malala Yousafzai
She is a pool of gleam.
She is a seed, the rain.
She is a prairie of idea,
the harvest of motion.
She is rosewater
in a sandstone bowl.
She is the refugee, the tarp
of tent, the flame of fugue.
She is the arms of mothers,
a ribbon in a porcelain moon.
She is a lioness and loneliness,
the newborn swathed in pink.
She is earth yellow,
She is a threshold,
an arch, a minaret.
She is every headscarf––
magenta, amethyst, celeste.
She is our hands, our pen.
She is majestic, magnifique.
She is a luminous lagoon.
She is the sea––il mare,
la mer, el mar,
First appeared in Malala: Poems for
Malala Yousafzai (FutureCycle Press)
Shel, you were my first make-out partner
in a pool closet in the Hollywood Hills.
Couples tangled on chaise lounges
in an 8th-grade queue. No heartache,
no saliva exchanged. A de rigueur lip press
maneuver. Guitar lessons–– remember
Guthrie: "Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye
Rosalita, Adios mis amigos, Jesús y María?"
Shel, we knew no Jesús, no María, no Juan.
We doubted life existed east of Western
Avenue. We'd never heard of taco, tortilla,
tostada. All we knew was our ducktails
had to be squared, & boys in black peggers
got sent home. No risk of conversion to Cholo
in our West Hollywood schools despite
some kids whose families had first rented
in East L.A., freshly landed from Brooklyn
or the Bronx, though some drove their
two-tones straight to Tujunga before they knew
what a jota was, how to pronounce La Jolla
or jacaranda, its blossoms purple-raining down
on sidewalks, clinging to the soles of our bucks,
shag of our mothers' beige carpets. Delis,
kosher butchers, temples dotted East L.A.
streets then. Where was the threat from el sol,
la luna, el mar? Amor. Remember Friday nights
we played guitar at The Garret on Fairfax, drank
mulled cider (What was that?), me ghosted up
in white lipstick, straight black skirt, black
turtleneck? Shel, The Garret was no House
of the Rising Sun, no Streetcar Named Desire.
No sockettes with my C.H. Baker black flats.
I handed him my Macy's bags of facts:
eight years of EOBs & tax returns.
He climbed the steps & hurled them in the truck
with others' ready to be crushed by blades.
And so the re-creation has begun,
the tabula rasa, like a magic slate,
a child's whose rub or peel of plastic delights:
Now you see it, now you don't. No truth
to spin, no monument. The letters, shapes
evaporate like homes dismantling in
charity vans, the furniture displaced
like lives without a country's tenderness.
No ashes to enshrine from documents,
no mercy found, no heart to resurrect.
(first appeared in Moria)