Year in Haiku
Snow, a fresh canvas
As the soil sleeps below
So do I above
Winter is breaking
Grass like an old tennis ball
Ice shatters on shore
Cold breeze through thin walls
Hot dish water warms my bones
It's almost over
Muddy soles dragging
Island trails and tired dusk
The days are longer
Disease runs rampant
When the fruit tree goes unpruned
Sometimes loss is growth
Ripe warm tomato
In community we all
Live in abundance
Bike rides and skinned knees
Dripping sweat meets ocean breeze
The water speaks truth
Leaves curl up and die
Crunch beneath, this too shall pass
All dies in the end
Stagnance is violence
Move in every direction
Like the whipping wind
In Tucson, Arizona the heat wafts off concrete. Everything is brown,
tan, beige. There are no other tones. Except this black coffee house.
There's a pool table downstairs. I was too young to understand what a
pool table was all about. During the day old bikers would crowd
around it, rowdy and billowing smoke. I always wondered what I
looked like in there. I came from nowhere, talked to no one. I always
hoped someone would talk to me.
When I moved to Arizona I slowly forgot how to speak. I
started by disappearing from high school. I tried, they took my
picture and I walked down a hall of kids I figured couldn't
fathom what I was going through. I told my probation officer I
couldn't do it. I stayed holed up in a fancy apartment we knew
we were going to lose. We ate a lot of fungus. I don't
remember where we got it. We found a guy on myspace who
liked pot. We went to his house and smoked weed
awkwardly and then never saw each other again. I could tell
James felt threatened by the presence of another man.
James, who had provided me a safe space. I don't
remember what we had in common besides the need to escape
our own inner horrors and a love for open mics and Bukowski.
Ryan visited and played witness at our Pima County Courthouse
wedding. We didn't know anyone so our other witness was a
young Mexican bride (and citizen) to be. The courthouse in
Tucson was filled with convenience marriages and mine was no
On my 18th birthday I woke up homeless but in a house.
Jeff and Amy, our gracious temporary hosts, left me a cupcake
and I bought my first legal pack of cigarettes on my way to work.
I remember the chef at my restaurant offering us a tent. I
remember that he made me feel really uncomfortable when he
would offer me massages but I would pretend that I wasn't,
which is what you do when a white man makes you
uncomfortable in general right?
I remember that the first night on Mt. Lemon I couldn't
sleep, but I don't remember how we ended up there. The moon
was so bright and the desert was so quiet. I was afraid of javelinas
and had visions of tarantulas melting the tent with magic venom
and devouring us. I sat in the bed of the truck and read and
wrote by the moonlight. We survived on leftovers from the
restaurant and the kindness of my Creole bosses who decided to
ditch New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. They put us up in a
motel until we got on our feet.
Eventually UPS smoothed out its mistake and James got his
job back. We found a cheap studio apartment where everyone
spoke Spanish. I would fill it with cigarette butts and wine bottles
and we would live a dysfunctional life where I was always yelling or
attempting suicide. I don't remember much. I remember getting
the cats, and working midnights at Denny's. There was a full nude
strip club across the street and the girls would come in every night
and shower us with money and wisdom. I learned how to make a
meat lover's scramble in Spanish. I learned how to diffuse a meth
head and write poems by memorization
On off days James and I go to the park and feed ducks
french fries. On Fridays the Mexicans gather and show off their
classic cars and that makes it feel like home except that its always
sunny and warm. I don't remember the order things happened.
But thats not the story, the story is the little Mexican girl and her
guitar. The truth is I was lonely. I was scared and ran half way
across the country to escape my nightmares. I was still in survival
“I play guitar too.” I blinked the sun out of my eyes until they
focused on the source of a small voice. She was holding a beat
up Gibson. “Will you show me some chords?” I wasn't sure if my
mouth could form words in the daylight, or any words besides
“How would you like your eggs done?” I moved her fingers across
the fret. “Strum. That's a G.”
She was a child and perfect, not yet ruined by the world. I
was barely 18 and naive. I knew there was injustice in the world.
I had seen it in the poverty of trailer parks, in the trans women of
color murdered in the red light district of my hometown.
Oscar's family was deported when we were in middle school
but I didn't know what that meant. I knew Detroit had burned
over race and that my dad beat me when he found out I was
dating a black boy. In Tucson though all I could do was lick my
Tucson is a border town but I didn't really understand that.
I knew a lot of meth came through there. Mexicans died trying
to escape cartels or to cross the border into safer territory.
Children smuggled amongst cargo while crying mothers told
them you must go. The irony was lost on me at the time that the
cartels trafficked drug of choice was a powdery white substance
for America's elite and the disenfranchised working class.
I was half asleep when I heard a knock on the door. Bleary
eyed I opened it to see the little girl and her mother. Her
mother eyed me harshly.
“I can't talk to you anymore.” The little girl blinked back
tears and they both walked away. I didn't understand. I added
it to a long list of affirmations of my bad character. I mean it
can't have looked good. I'm sure our apartment oozed tar and
booze and you could just see it on my face anyway right. Those
of us with bad blood are marked or something.
The University of Arizona campus is fraught with bottle
blondes and failed quarter backs. No one will look at me or talk to
me. Putting books away in the library I over hear sorority girls
gossiping and future doctors talking about all the cocaine they did
last night and how they hoped they would pass this test. I never
understood why the campus was so lush and green in the drought
stricken southwest. I thought the cacti were pretty, who needs
The Saguaro Cactus has longer life expectancy than any
human. I was told to count 100 years for every arm and I obliged
silently across highway stretches. I don't know if thats true, but I do
know cactus plugging is illegal in Arizona and people do it anyway.
I left Arizona on a greyhound bus and cried through the
entire never ending landscape of brown, beige, tan. I wrapped my
arms around myself and heaved. I wasn't in survival mode
anymore. I was well enough to make my own decision, to at least
crawl away. I didn't know where I was going, but I knew well
enough that it was time to go.