I once wondered why Mom and Dad left me that day
as I groped all over the kindergarten classroom for them
while I wiped my tears with the back of my hands.
I once wondered why Mom kept my sister and me inside
making us do multiplication and division problems
when right out the window my friends were playing tag-you’re-it.
I once wondered why Dad made such a big fuss
over a slight scratch on my knees
after I came home bleeding when I fell off my bike.
I once wondered why Mom always wore socks
decorated with holes on the bottom
and clothes that already lost their color.
I once wondered why Dad never gave up
when he started out with nothing but
a phone and a basement of a rented home.
I once wondered why Mom smelled like
the sharp mintyness of those hot packs for sore muscles
the ones you buy from Shop-Rite or Han-A-Reum.
I wonder now if I will be able to
remember the cool kisses Mom plants on my cheek
or the warm hugs Dad gives me when he comes back from work.
But now the day has come
for me to stop wondering
and to start knowing.
Five minute love songs,
Boston boys with red roses,
A Runaway Bride,
Quick Dry Correction Fluid,
Shake Well Before Use.
The earth trembles as the rusty metal
chains of the old garage door growls
and retreats back up into its crusty shell
allowing the big man in the jet black suit
to force his way into the silent, lightless
room holding three glass souls
that never fail to stare up at him
with their nebulous smiles.
as they fade
into the yellowing wallpaper.
his Marlboro-dipped tie
Thick long grey strands of
winding loops move in and out
escaping into the already made hoops
as she casts on effortlessly,
Knit, knit, purl,
purl, knit, knit,
purl, purl, knit,
knit, purl, knit,
Slip, slip, slip.
Her needles quiver,
she forgets how to undo
the mistaken stitch.
The greys slip off the cold
needle one by one,
Fold the square into four little squares
then like this and no, not like that.
Yeah, like that.
Two small bodies,
crouch forward together
with virginal heads bent,
knees kissing maple wood floor,
and tiny hands clutching onto
plum-cherry pink paper,
almost in the form of prayer.
She always made sure
I creased the folds
using just the tip of the
fingernail of my thumb,
or else “they’ll be ugly.”
That Fall evening, her pretty pink dress colors wet
with dark gray raindrop stains running down
to her Satin Touch tights
as she stomps down one of Philadelphia’s puddled streets
with heels pointed forward, splashing silver water
soaking all ten toes,
Movements behind her, an olive-green Buick
awkwardly pulls up beside the lonely drunk shadow,
asking, no begging, for another fake chance,
another fairy-tale lie lying beneath his charming
Then it comes.
The sour, stormy pain of hatred, disappointment
of love, of promises lost, drowning
out the sounds of her childish, wishful hope,
longing for another nightmare,
and nothing but the truth.
Gently, too quietly, the rain slips the golden ring
off her ring finger,
and rescues her from what she should have done
She watches the tiny golden thing
swim away into Philadelphia’s dark dank sewage water
without a fight, not a single struggle,
I refuse to share this mug with you.
It’s not because I’m afraid that
our saliva will mix,
or that our lip prints might touch.
It’s also not because
I might get your cooties,
even though I know you have them.
But it’s your dust that scares me.
When you pick this white mug up
your finger dusts will smear over the sides.
When your lips touch the edges,
those tiny grey particles will sprinkle
into my Green Tea and float like dead carcasses.
I try to dig my face into
the scratchy olive turtleneck,
but only my chin succeeds.
The wind cuts my cheeks
over and over again
as I wait for your shadow
to appear around the corner.
I take out the silver-plated
lighter from the pocket of
my faded blue-green jeans.
I flick it on and off,
then run my finger over
the two lettered inscription ‘BC.’
In my left pocket is
a brand new condom.
You bought it this morning
and told me to hold onto it.
You said you’d come back for it.
It seems to weigh down my pocket.
Shuffling one foot to another I see
the old wooden swing set we used
to play in. But you fell from the swings
and scraped your knees.
I thought you were going to die
but you were much older than me.
“I think you’re reading too much
into the haircut,” you say.
My watch reads quarter to one.
There is no one but the moon and me.
The shadows from the trees swaying
back and forth want to swallow me up.
I know you’re not coming.
You sit there alone
on your bedroom floor
gluing the tiny body parts to your
plastic soldier models.
You have always liked to do that.
You look up at me with your disfigured smile,
while your eyes chill me to my bones.
Yet there is something about them
that seems to be ready to shatter if I blew on them.
At five you were my Mushroom-man,
running down the long hallways of your house
with that white pillow over your head
while we tried to catch you in our arms.
At ten you were the sea captain,
at thirteen a lover boy,
with the names in the hearts you drew
changing as the seasons do.
But now you are in front of your cake
surrounded by the familiar chorus of the famous tune.
You are ready to blow out the candles,
but first you make a wish.
As the flickering glow paints strips of yellow onto
your trembling eyelids, your lips seem to stumble
upon invisible words.
It’s your big day,
but you feel so small.
Across from you are your mother and father,
sitting side by side, just for today.
You try so hard to hold that moment.
Afraid to let that go,
you forget to hold onto
As it rides down the side of your cheek
you slip away into the dark hallway,
stand there alone,
in front of the sink,
in front of the running water,
trying to wash away
your fifteenth birthday.