Beneath the Mango Tree


Muladhara/Root

I long to return to Cherry Cove
to trace a toe along the coast
and photograph glass wind chimes
as if a picture could catch their lazy sound.
To chase a cat down cobbled steps
past broken clam shells picked apart by crows.
To sit in soft sand
cooled beneath thick madrona leaves
and stare into morning.
To kayak in the early fog
forgetting that the ocean breathes
until I’m run aground,
stuck in tide pools
and there I stay until the afternoon.
To sit upon the rocky shore
and stare out to the other side
a red canoe made double on glassy water
mirroring the dense green trees
until it becomes an endless forest
hidden from the world.

 

Svadhisthana/Sacral

I let them beat me
wielding their words like clubs
and bore the torment in silence.
When my own people could stand it no longer,
the whiplash of turning their cheeks
too painful to bear,
I stood before them
starving.
Days without bread cannot compare
to children without fathers
eyes without light
houses without inhabitants.
Everything I’d lived for
became another’s death sentence.
Who first called me Mahatma?
Prayers grew louder.
“I know a way out of hell.”
Riots stopped
then began again.
How do you ask a man
to sit in silence with
a line of rifle barrels
pointed at his heart?
And how do you live inside your own mind
knowing that he died
with your face in the back of his eyes?

 

Manipura/Solar Plexus

She returned to geometric cityscapes
blindingly reflective
angular windows glinting in the heat
frustrated travelers pushing toward paychecks.
At night she’d climb in bed
shut the windows
and close her eyes
to see golden roads
mustard colored houses
saffron tinted fabric
curry stained rice
and that little place
between her stomach and her breast
would light up,
a lantern in the window.
In the morning, she couldn’t see it
but she would smell it.
Curry again,
and basil and dirt
and that little light would warm and glow
like a pool of melted butter,
a tiger chasing its tail.
If she shut her eyes,
she could hear it past the subway platform,
calling out from street markets
men with pots of ghee and
mangoes, fresh picked
and the tiger ran faster
melted quicker
glowed brighter
until it burst its holy prison
spread across her insides
and she became liquid sun.

 

Anahata/Heart

My love is poorly punctuated, misspelled,
written on coffee-stained napkins
from the diner down the street.
It whispers in the nighttime
its silhouette hanging
high in the smoky perfumed air
muffled by musk.
It waits by the window
one paw sticking through the blinds,
watching with yellow eyes.
It’s a carefully crafted mud pie
decorated with brown cherry pits and strawberry stems
left on a doorstep.
A post-it note shoved into a mailbox
taped to a small flower
“don’t tell anyone.”
My love is a lighter
flickering in the sticky air from the nosebleeds
while Stevie Nicks sings Gypsy and spins,
black shawl billowing.
A white sand dollar,
forgotten on the beach where tourists stop to say
it’s beautiful to look at
but forget it died long ago.
A stack of letters you kept
treasured
but never replied to.
A broken traffic light
blinking erratic destruction.
A ­­­­mix tape
unwound through years of repeated plays
buried in a glove box
forgotten.
My love is a crow-beaked mask
meant to drive the devil away
but serving as a death sentence by mistake.

 

Vishuddhi/Throat

I swallow kaleidoscopes
drink the sky’s indigo and
pull it past my throat to
exhale the wind.
I become the
breath in my ears
head tipped to the shade
this tree throws.
Eyes in the shadows
watching my
expansion through the valley
and I stretch across the horizon.
Palms melt the sky,
conducting hummingbirds
til they sing
the poetry of vibrations.
The sky seems to meditate
on tiny purple explosions.
Today is rebirth.

 

Ajna/Third Eye

What figurines we are
propped on the mantle of the universe.
The boy is ignorance
the girl is want
and we never grew up.
Oh, lonely chess pieces
engaged in a game of wits
controlled by the witless.
We cannot rest
we cannot stay
we cannot linger
anywhere
so we tie our jaws shut
and moan through the dark,
our broken spirits scouring the sky
for a sign of our significance.

 

Sahaswara/Crown

What if afterward is simply
solitary confinement?
And Krishna is no one
and the hope I’ve gathered
slips through the hole in my bucket
and nothing waits beneath the tree
but an abandoned flute
and squashed mangoes?
Maybe this is as good as it gets
and my midnight prayers are just
short cries into darkness
until we meet earth once again.
When all possibilities of later
cease to be,
and lotus eyes shut for eternity
you forget – lemons have always been a fruit.

 

I will resist the urge to explain or contextualize any of these poems, even though they may be confusing to some. Know only that they exist in this collection, in this order, for a reason and were written with love from the deepest part of me. Relate to them however you will, because their meaning is universal.
Comments and constructive criticism encouraged and embraced. xo

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Porches Are For Brownie


I’m all for smiling
but that woman is baring her teeth at me.
Why, Giada? Why? They…sparkle…
And Ina, I know that France
with its shops and street corners, berets and baguettes
is enchanting
but why must you tease me like that?
Hey, you. Sandra Lee
What’s in a name? You might as well be called
Sandra Dee, with your spiffy cooking ideas and
adorable cocktails.
Why does your outfit match your kitchen?
And who told you to put moss on that table?
As a “centerpiece”– more like
centipedes are gonna crawl outta that moss.
Paula! I love you, boo!
Needs more butter.
Rachael Ray, with your EVOO, you do realize that
fine dining establishments have
adopted that
on
their
menus
right?
Bobby Flay, I don’t wanna barbecue with you.
And Masaharu Morimoto, you iron chef you,
that’s some scary seafood, bro.
But I watch you all
and love you all
if only to pass beautiful afternoons
on the porch
playing cards with my grandmother
with sizzling steaks and — “I wish you could smell this”
existing quietly in the background.
Porches are for Brownie, my grandmother.
Porches and The Food Network.

 

So concludes part three of my childhood poetry series. Cheers, and all my love to my grandma, Brownie, whose delightful ring of “Cappy, darling!” brightens my day every time I call. xoxox.

Brownie


Is she not the loveliest woman you've ever seen? The picture came out blue for some reason...but the beauty's still there.

Is she not the loveliest woman you’ve ever seen? The picture came out blue for some reason…but the beauty’s still there.

My grandmother turned 93 years old on Friday. 93 years old. Can you imagine? The wonderful and terrible things she’s seen…

She was born in 1920 in Delaware. Her mother died giving birth to her, and she was raised by her aunt and uncle (who she thought were her real parents until apparently she overheard that they weren’t but kept it a secret for a long time, poor darling). I’m named after her uncle, Charles Brown, who she called Cappy because “he was the captain of their ship” meaning their house, as he was not a sea captain but in fact a fruit farmer. She’s told me stories about the Depression, when times were especially tough since he didn’t have a set salary. Once, he brought a cart of apples into town to sell, and she watched as he brought the whole cart, still full, back that evening. No sale.

We can’t imagine what people went through back then. They saw the worst of times, and they bucked up and worked harder. My grandma got a job at Woolworths on Saturdays for 20 cents an hour in Dover. “Wasn’t that generous?” she laughed to me today, in her beautiful, high movie star voice. That’s one thing I’ve always loved about her — she was raised in Delaware in a time when everyone spoke like it was Hollywood. At least, that’s what I think. She has that beautiful, eloquent East Coast way of speaking, but it’s something I’ve never heard in anyone else; her accent is unique, even apart from my grandfather’s. He was from New York, son of Germans, and I’ve never heard anyone talk like he did either.

Pops and Brownie, we call them. Pops passed about 4 years ago, into his 90s, and Brownie carries on in her blue Keds, jeans and light long sleeve shirts, her lovely slender fingers worn with age but still as soft as they were when I was a toddler. Edna Brown, you darling woman. My sister has her nose, her fingers. I have her height, I suppose — she was 5’9″ at her peak, though I don’t know how much age has affected that. She played basketball in high school when very few girls ever did, went to nursing school and had a career when that was probably pretty rare, and voted for the first female Episcopal priest. My grandmother paved the way for so many women, in her small way.

She met my grandfather — I forget where or how — when she was in nursing school (I think…the stories run together sometimes, and I heard them when I was so little) and they went to a movie together. Apparently, Pops had fallen and bumped his knee quite badly a while before, and in the dark movie theatre, he told her to feel it. Her hand on his knee, inspecting his wound, she realized her friends were walking by and thinking she was being rather bold in the movie theatre, touching the knee of this handsome young man on their first date. She’d laugh whenever she told that story, and it might be my favorite one ever. How my grandparents got together…seconded only by how my parents met (in an elevator, where my father, gregarious and friendly as ever, thought my mom was cute and asked her which floor she worked on. He returned later to ask her on a date. They went sailing and then to a movie with a group of friends, and in typical idiot-boy fashion, my dad sat on the other end of the group, all the way across the row from my mom).

She taught me to play Rummy. She and I sewed a yellow fleece poncho together — I still have it, though it makes me look a bit like a duckling, especially when I put the hood on. She taught me to knit, and we’d eat Cheetos and drink ice water on the back porch in the summertime. Chee-toes, she calls them. We went to the flower nursery together; she’d look at potted plants, and I’d stare into the pond at the koi fish and name the pretty ones (original names like Goldie and Chocolate). We’d watch Paula Deen together and cringe over the pounds of butter she’d add to her food. Giada De Laurentiis (granddaughter of Dino De Laurentiis, movie producer and my father’s old boss) and her huge, scary smile usually made us click to the next channel almost immediately. We made red velvet cake together in 7th grade, and I’ve never been able to make one that good since.

All my favorite presents are from her. They’re little, random ones: a recipe keeping book that I cried in happiness over; a book of Emily Dickinson poems that I devoured in a few days. I nannied this past week and the little boy asked me what the best present I ever got was…I could barely explain. He wouldn’t understand. No one would understand. My grandmother understood. Cooking and reading…Brownie definitely understood.

I forget how deeply I love my grandma sometimes, because I don’t see her often anymore. But then I remember all these amazing times we had. I have my name because of her adoptive father. I have my height because of her (and my father and grandfather). I definitely got my fingers from someone else, cuz these babies are not slender. My nose is my mother’s. I am a combination of everyone who came before me, but I am ambitious and I am strong, just like Brownie was. I wish I had twenty more years with her, but I wouldn’t trade these last twenty for fifty more.

Happy Birthday, Brownie. You’re sweet and lovely and you make me smile, and I’ll always be your “precious child” even if I am a bit of a ding dong sometimes.

This will be mailed out to her, as computer literacy did not grace my grandmother as it did me — ha just kidding, I can’t do anything but type on this thing anyway. I might accidentally be as old a soul as she. I did get my love of Emily Dickinson from her, after all.

Mr. Senator!


I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the presence of secret service men before, but they’re not exactly secret. In fact, their attire practically screams, “I am protecting someone very important and that person is really close!” About 8 years ago, I experienced this firsthand.

My family was vacationing in Washington D.C. in the spring of 2004 and were driving along the street when we saw about sixty-five million (and I totally counted) “secret” service men standing outside a row of shops. “Maybe George is getting a coffee,” my dad said, referring to our beloved president George W. Bush and the Starbucks that the secret service men were standing in the vicinity of. So we pulled over (fancy that – a parking spot in D.C.) and got out of the car just as Senator John Kerry (you know, the candidate who should’ve defeated Bush in the 2004 election) walked out of a hair salon. We all know how silver and delightful (although slightly shocking) his hair was, so imagine it newly styled and glimmering in the spring sunshine. Now imagine yourself completely dazzled and possibly hypnotized by it. Now stop imagining that, because you’re being ridiculous. John Kerry’s hair does not possess the power of hypnosis.

Any of you who know my father (so basically none of you since a few of you are from South Africa and his voice, though loud, has not reached that corner of the earth) know that he is not shy. At all. And he was a huge fan of Kerry (or, perhaps, not a fan of George Bush and therefore a huge fan of the alternative), so you will not be surprised to hear that as the senator walked toward his large, black, bulletproof car my father yelled, “MISTER SENATOR!” so many times that I’m surprised a secret service man didn’t shush him.

Before we continue, may I just say that I admire my father a little bit for being a persistent man. I don’t think I ever would’ve done that, and therefore wouldn’t be able to say that I had met John Kerry. This blog post would be about 3 sentences long and would go something like this: “I saw John Kerry one time. His hair had just been dyed. He got in his car and drove away as I stood silently, pointing.” So yay Dad!

Anyway, nobody shushed my father, but Kerry did turn around and come greet us. The ghosts of secret service men past rolled over in their graves, and the ones present at the scene inwardly huffed. Why do famous people always do the ‘turn around and risk their safety just to shake some twit’s hand’ thing? they all thought with disdain. Because they need people to like them, John Kerry’s spirit animal, the otter, whispered to the wind.

He walked over and shook our hands and let us take pictures with him, which was cool (and those pictures later went in our Christmas cards, no big deal) although I would’ve preferred it to have happened when I didn’t have stupid hair. I would attach a photo to this blog, but this incident occurred when film was still being developed on a regular basis, and therefore don’t have a digital copy. Also, I am crap at scanning. So there. Maybe it didn’t even happen (it did).

Poor John. His hair, however spectacular (and possibly hypnotic?), was not enough to distract people from calling him a flip flopper or criticizing his self proclaimed war hero-ness, even though George Bush was a doofus and shouldn’t have been allowed to graduate college, much less spend 8 years as president. But at least I met Kerry and got to tell him, in my humble 10-year-old opinion, that I supported his candidacy. He was a nice man.

Plus, my degree of separation from President Obama = 1. Whoop!

I’m So Smooth


The one time I met a famous author, I got my arm stuck in a vending machine.

Rewind.

I was in 7th grade. Let’s also remember that I was fantastically awkward, had braces, and probably a horrible haircut. I also LOVED books. That part hasn’t changed, though I like to think the awkwardness and bad haircut parts have.

I hadn’t even read this guy’s book, and really, I barely remember him because before I wrote this post I had to ask a friend what his name was, but I was really excited because he was coming to our school to speak about writing, the environment (it pertained to his latest novel) and books etc. The first time I heard about Fyodor Dostoevsky was when this author held up a copy of Crime and Punishment in my little middle school gym. I feel like that’s kinda significant.

The librarian asked me to go buy Mr. Author a bottle of water from the vending machine so I could give it to him when he arrived. I was, in the words of Rebecca Black, so excited. I inserted the money, as one is supposed to do when buying water from a vending machine, and stood back to watch the machine do its work. Okay, I probably totally didn’t pay attention, because really, who would, but I’m trying to do a nice job of describing the scene for you… Anyway, point is, the bottle of water ended up getting stuck behind the little flap it was supposed to come out from.

I knelt on the ground, put my arm into the machine, and tried to pry the bottle loose. I didn’t. Instead, I managed to get my arm completely stuck inside the vending machine right as Mr. Author walked up.

He looked at me with distain and said, “Who the hell are you and where the hell is my water, you stupid cow?” I began to cry as he told me I was obviously incompetent and would never become an author if I couldn’t even pull a bottle from a vending machine. Oh, and he also kicked me.

Just kidding! He was probably really nice about it and laughed goodnaturedly or something as I finally pried myself and the water out of the machine. I honestly barely remember meeting him, just that I handed the water over and blushed a whole bunch. It’s funny, because you’d think I’d be excited to meet someone pretty famous, given that he was an author and I was obsessed with books. But it’s so much easier to remember the bad parts of situations sometimes. It’s sad how much bad stuff we remember. There probably ends up not being room for the good stuff in our memories, since all we do is remember when our arms got stuck in vending machines.

Maybe I’ll count that as a good memory instead.

Librarians are Superheroes


I have one thing to say: Librarians are superheroes. SUPER. HEROES. They can do anything! I bet when they’re at home they go invisible or fly around and stuff. They are modern day Clark Kents.

I read a book 3 years ago that I loved and wanted to read again, but I couldn’t remember anything about it besides possibly what the cover looked like, the fact that the main character was named Mick, and that the co-authors were married (but I couldn’t remember their names). So basically, I knew nothing. But I went to Jonathon, my favorite person on the planet (and reference librarian at my local library) and asked him to help me. Long story short, he found the book I was talking about in like 10 minutes. I think I’ll marry him. I definitely had a case of New Book High and wanted to jump up and hug him, but you know…he’s a librarian and a pretty quiet guy, so I wasn’t sure how appreciated that would be.

This brings me, totally randomly, to my next point. I don’t want my generation to stop reading. We’re so into being social now, and that’s wonderful because I’m a really social person too, but I don’t want us to forget that books are important too. Reading isn’t as often done in big groups or at parties as movies etc are. Okay, reading is NEVER done at parties anymore. Unless it’s reading off a karaoke screen. Point is, we aren’t as good at being alone as generations before are/were.

So let us not forget how important it is to cherish alone time and the little things. The naps, the books, the love we have. But mostly, the books. Specifically, books that I will write someday :) HA just kidding (but really). 

Let us always raise our books high in support of those superhero librarians’ jobs. I turn my page for you, Jonathon, superhero of the library.