February 24th, 2001

Chalkboard

(no subject)

Stuck in the desert
My insides
soft and tender
like fresh made jam
Peach jam maybe
The envied Peach that was
the exclusive domain of my best friend
Or the relegated pear that is
still my favorite scent
next to any kind of citrus blossom
Citrus
the cure for depression
and grapefruit
the cold freshly squeezed kind
picked from the trees in our yard
and then popped into the fridge
The grapefruit of diets and deprivation
The grapefruit of vodka and parents

I watch the golf balls bounce their way up the fairway
It gets to be a joke
how bad they are
these elderly golfers
coming up to our windows
occasionally peering in at us
while searching for their lost balls

The mountains are purple in the distance
and I can't tell if that is snow or clouds
gathered at their crests
like some long swept ghost skirt
I mix Tang for my son
trying to get the consistency right
The right amount of
sugar and orange food coloring
ice and water
while I listen to a story about candy
and watch the golf carts drive by

I feel trapped in this strange
desert recreation
of my childhood home
I'm lonely and sick
and Mother decamped
Took the maids and the money
and left me
as usual

Only now that I'm supposed to be grown up
I'm glad
I walk on this carpet that crunches
as if there are adult diapers
lain end to end beneath it
leaving dishes
wherever I please and
looking for the crickets
I love and my Mother dreads
Grateful to be almost alone here
With no one to tell on me if I stay up past one am
No one to claim I've left stickiness or blood anywhere
I can be naked now and
let the air touch my skin
and if the phone rings it won't mean danger
like it does at home

Looking across all this odd green grass
in this dry place
that is always getting wetter
I'm amazed at the waste of fruit
These poor heavy trees
dip their branches to the ground
hoping some lucky desert rat will unburden them
before the gardeners make their weekly sweep
before things turn bad and fall off brown

The wind is whooshing
through the palms and the jacaranda
still beautiful without
all of her purple blossoms
Water in the desert
where does it all come from?
All day jets have been leaving
mysterious trails over our heads
but no one bothers to look up
from their cards
and the steady click of the sprinklers
Lovers check in and out of motels
their keys clack at their sides
like golf clubs in the back of one of
these funny carts

I wish I had one for an hour or two
so I could tear across these perfect lawns
park at all the sand traps and roll down the hills
fish for golfballs in the fake lakes
and whiz by the elderly
Sunburned and sedate
in their matching outfits
big sunglasses
sequins and visors

Last night at the Elephant Bar
crowds of people
pressed for space and seating
as if it were the only restaurant
and they hadn't eaten in days
A little girl with a sweet smile
fought with her smaller brother
and two older couples
from Texas
stood around our tiny table and
looked at our food
asking questions
wanting to know what we'd eaten
An embarrassed mess of our plates
did nothing to deter
their eagerness
to claim our place
My son wanted to know why
I love people from Texas
when I hate the death penalty
and George W. Bush

He's smart, my son
He's the one who takes all of these
machines apart
reassembles them over there
and talks to his friend Pikachu
with a mike
"Mom I told him I love him
and he turned around and zapped me.
Why'd he do that?"
"Maybe he does that when he's really
excited and happy,
isn't he made out of lightning?"
"Yeah but you should have seen his face,
he looked really angry."
Fucking Game.
Fucking Japanese.
Why do they have to make everything
so goddamn realistic?
He's only ten
He doesn't need to learn
that things turn around and sting you
when you tell them you love them
He won't do it again though
He's a fast learner
unlike his Mom

Zippy Mr. Three Balls
goes zooming by
He's got to be about eighty
but he won't be distracted
by a friendly wave and a hello
when he's concentrating on his terrible game
My eyes sting from sleep and sickness
the dry wind
that keeps getting wetter
from all these patches of green
I pat the bellies of all
the bottle palms
It makes me happy
I could have bought a fake one
at the silk plant store
but it just wouldn't be the same

We shop at Target and Bed Bath and Beyond
I buy a soft pillow and try not to cry for the goose
rationalizing my way out of it
then hating myself while I hold
him in my arms at night
there's no mistaking
the smell of his sweat

I sit in my fake country bed
in this pink flowered bedroom
and look at my iridescent painted toes
I take the occasional call from my
disconnected boyfriend
while greedy money lenders
fight over
my naked sinking pirate ship
I play with my pink Hello Kitty toys
and watch another video
I love Africa but
I know this sweet
little boy
will die
It's the reason I never saw this movie in the theatres
too much identification
with the fear of losing
the one person
I couldn't live without
I wince and furrow
my shoulders are hunched
my head slightly averted
one hand over the remote
ready to press the
stop button
if I see another snake
Red and black poison lack
Red and yellow dangerous fellow
I say it over and over
It's only a movie
I say this too
all the time in fact
but it doesn't make my life any easier
doesn't help me differentiate
between safe and unsafe
real and unreal

Two little girls go speeding by
with my heart
I take a surprisingly painful breath
that brings up tears
because
it reminds me so much of myself
at their age
They can't be older than ten or eleven
skinny and tan
long brown hair
and ponytails
breaking the law on a golf course
with the young slow rhythm of time
that makes everything seem
so endless at their age

My biggest problem is that
I never let go of anything
not my memories
not my hope
not even this stomach flu
that everyone else
got over a week ago
I cling onto it like some valiant suffering martyr
and feel like that fruit tree
burdened and heavy
overladen
with unpicked fruit