Archive for the Prose Category

The Heart Beats, The River Runs (working title)

Posted in Fiction, Prose on September 11, 2011 by melissa merin

I went to the river this weekend, got home a few hours ago.  Sat down to write this.  It feels a little out of control.

 

Barbara was sure that the joy left her face for good the moment Gary collapsed on the floor of the River Run Saloon. One could hear her desperate plea – Gary? Gary? Gary! – up and down the river, and probably all the way to the floor. The trout would scuttle this way and that, confused by the sonic scream from the dining room. Pieces of shale were hastened toward metamorphism as the echo of his name loosened them from their dark grey slabs. Glasses rattled on their shelves as everyone else stood stock still, afraid to do anything but gape in awe of Gary’s giant body, lifeless on the floor.

Across the river and down about 50 yards, three friends stopped frolicking in the glacial tide of the river and scurried to the shore. Unaware, for the moment, where the sound had come from, each felt naked (which they were), and terrified. A certain alienation swam through each of their veins when, for that one moment, the moment of Barbara’s wailing, they each wondered if they were safe with the others. They listened as the terror above thawed and one person called 9-1-1 while another ushered children out onto the grassy lawn behind the saloon and still a third, cool headed woman demanded that everyone take some steps back.

Back in the Saloon, Barbara’s husband smoked cigarette after cigarette at the edge of the dining room. The sound of Gary’s body falling to the floor had shattered any hopes he had that Barbara and Gary were only friends, only creative partners. Barbara never panicked at pain, never swooned in agony at death. Barbara had seen death most of her life, which is why she and her husband decided, on their fiftieth birthday, to move to River Run, Population: 93. With her savings from the hospital and his hands weary and withering from running his father’s carpentry business, they knew that they could lead a simple and quiet life. Barbara would no longer have to tend to the dead and dying, and Robert could fish and do a little carpentry on the side. Robert thought of these plans now as he stared at Gary’s massive chest. He’d been the most powerful man Robert had ever met – the kind of man who could fell a redwood with just an ax and maybe some whiskey. The kind of man who could send his wife into hysterics.

The ambulance drove quietly into town. No sirens, only flashing red lights. Neither speeding recklessly, nor honking at stoned, sun-scorched twenty-year old men loitering in the middle of the narrow two lane road. The paramedics pulled in slowly and parked the bus carefully, a respectful distance from the door. The waitresses of the River Run Saloon had already draped Gary’s body with a table cloth. As the medics lifted him into the bus, one enormous brown, calloused hand dropped to the side. Barbara thought he was waving.

She watched streams of light rest across the curtain of pines atop the tree line. The sun was falling. She held herself with both arms tightly across her chest and leaned solidly against the oak door frame. Even the frogs and the crickets and dragonflies seemed to honor the quiet. She could hear Robert pacing in his shed, rummaging through his carefully organized drawers full of tools and nuts and bolts. He chiseled a piece of wood. Then the sound of his lighter. The faint breeze carrying his smoke to her nostrils. She hadn’t smoked a single cigarette all day. Inhaling deeply, Barbara closed her eyes to remember the day Robert nailed the final nail in the door frame and carried her over the threshold to their new cabin and new life. The scents of the freshly cut pine and oak boards in the studio built especially so that she could paint. Each shelf, each pane of glass laid by Robert’s hands. She opened her eyes and it was now truly dusk. Robert watched her back from the kitchen. He hadn’t touched her all day.

Robert soaked his hands in lemon juice and warm water for hours the night before the service. He scraped layers of soft dead skin from his hands with a pumice stone. To look dignified. The same way he had when he first drove to the town to make a bid on the land. Barbara thought of this as she watched Robert tying his brand new black tie. His hands were softer now and shiny, yet his finger tips were still not sensitive enough for the delicate intricacies of tying his tie. Before he could throw it off of his neck, Barbara walked wordlessly to him and finished the job. She let her hand rest on his chest and felt his heart skip a beat. Gripping the front of his shirt quickly, she exhaled, looking only at the new wrinkles she had created. Robert didn’t remove her hand.

Until the funeral, Barbara and Robert and Gary were the darkest people to settle in River Run in two hundred years. It hadn’t occurred to either of them that today there would be scores of brown faces milling about the town. Driving toward the funeral home they discussed it. Gary had a lot of friends in town, but no one had spoken to each other much since he’d fallen down. They weren’t sure if anyone had made preparations. Robert approached Keating Jefferson, the owner of the River Run Saloon about it. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” he said pensively. “I guess I’ll call down to the Saloon and make sure there are enough beds. And whiskey.” Keating surveyed the lines of cars now arriving, full of cautious and anxious people. He nodded toward them, “If Gary’s folks are anything like Gary, they’re gonna want some whiskey.”

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Notes on Madness

Posted in Prose, Rebellion on April 23, 2011 by melissa merin

Madness- much like any other drug-

is appealing because it never

seems to end.

In the unconscious, I think, there is

a desire to hold, unbending, to

a system of desires.  Longing

comes to mind.

The pattern of an ambulance

siren seems to sync up to

the pitch – the highest pitch

that the ear is capable of holding-

at the exact moment that

one can no longer hold anything else

within the tubes that carry thought

from one place to the next.

Sometimes

it sounds like a screaming baby.

I kept a diary of words

organized in a system that

I called poetry.  When I

was younger.  I tried to

commit them to memory

in an effort to make the

meanings (I assumed)

being conveyed last as long as

I possibly could.  Apparently, I was

only supposed to live to be 18.

As I forgot the word-systems,

I realized again and again

that there was no such thing

as a fact when in referrence to

matters of the mind.

Madness, much like a ticking

clock, is intimidating.  It can

end without warning.  You might

feel suddenly as though you

were caught in a line at the DMV

with no pants on.

I recognize there are many

instances in which I failed to

let go of grief.  Grief is

worn on my body like the

skin on my back; often

unattended to, ever present,

vital to my survival.

Breath is captured in the lungs

for a fraction of an instant

(a subjective mental fact).

Held long enough, it can cause

injury to the brain.

It’s dangerous to let go

of something at the last

second.

It can also be dangerous

to not let go at all.

I wrote unanswered letters

to people I never intended

to receive them.  I was  surprised

that my breath could catch on

disspointment.  I believed in

building my own emotional

outcomes.

Madness. In layers.  Held

beneath the folds of the brain;

straining against the skull.

Bright light in a box.

When last I challenged these

systems of words, to produce

long-lasting meaning and effect,

I was still growing.  Child like.

I didn’t want to go into that room.

All of the beautiful people and the
bright

colors and, the weary application

of optimism.  Behind the door, I

was perpetually 16.

In front of the door, the girls

were always laughing.

Caution.

My back creaks now.

A rusty door; a condition

of age, hard living, bending

to nurse broken and

compressed bones…

The first time it went

completely out

I was having good sex.

Releasing air in waves

never before realized by

my lungs.  I had to stop.

And I held my breath again.

Okay, Samantha

Posted in Poetry, Prose, Rebellion on June 24, 2009 by melissa merin

Okay Samantha, strap yourself into me.

I sit to write about you and forget my words.  20 billion miles above the planet in a ship that simply should not be, my body moves along at a slightly unfathomable arc over clouds (which, even here, can’t be pure.)  Sitting perfunctorily still, I can only utter something that ends with ‘each other’.

When I start to write, there is you and your hands on me when you got back in the car; or your hand on my knee when we were crammed onto that beer and piss soaked couch…then there’s me and there’s Grady, his head shaking like a pendulum regardless of time or tears.  His hand on my head and my head on his shoulder, shaking.  My hand on his head and the tender way we touch each others faces and necks and hair wondering, is this what it takes to love each other?

And I feel guilty Samantha.  Like I might have betrayed you.  How many times have you told me you love me?  How many times did I truly listen?  Was it very often that I figured you’d pull through this or that fight and then I’d find you again?

When I shuddered, when I recognized that I’d have to call our mutual friends, tell them that you left for good, I broke.  How to tell your story?  I refuse to talk about you in terms of people who’ve died before you.  I’ll not only tell your punk rock stories.  Be prepared world!  The stories about bottles breaking on our backs on Bartlett street, or the timid way you announced your triumphs in Jimmy’s basement will ring out with the bath water.

You’re not a punk statistic, not a friend I met in a bar once a lifetime ago.  You’re a person.  Real.  You love me and you told me so.  And I love you.  Ivy says, Let us not forget!  We radiate!  You do.

I’m writing these words from an airplane, a little before the wing.  The first time I was ever in the air this high, every snippit of afterlife moshed through my brain when I realized I was above the clouds.  Now, they look like the aftermath of millions of micro-explosions- they are everything at once;  the debris of life, people, our thoughts, our lives.  They’re vapor now.  Are you?

Careening just below the atmosphere, I would imagine this is what your head must have always felt like flying above your body, but what do I know?  I’m the one who can’t take comfort in your peace right now.

Loss In Air

Posted in Fiction, Prose on June 8, 2009 by melissa merin

When the doorbell rang, I was eating potato chips and watching c-span. I didn’t think I should answer the door – after all, it was my brother’s house and I wasn’t expecting anyone to come all the way to Brighton to visit me. I opened the door anyway. I guess I was curious but not as curious as Jefferson. He was taller than I and skinny with a pot belly and slightly bowed legs, almost the way you might imagine someone with rickets to be. His straw-straight hair was a mess on top of his head. His hands were jammed into his pockets, even though it was a clear 57 degrees without a hint of wind. I watched as his eyes floated this way and that, two big brown pools with slight red eels slithering over the glassy white globes.
“Hey there,” I said in my friendliest Southern Californian.
“Hey yerself,” he grinned. We stood there for a moment with only the mile high air and the occasional hum of a diesel truck from the frontage road around us. I shuffled, a little uncomfortable.
“How’s it goin’?” My second attempt at perfunctory conversation.
“You live here?” he squinted his eyes at me like he was looking for the Colorado tattoo between my eyes.
“Nope. I live in California.”
“Huh,” he said thoughtfully, as though that explained all of it.
“What can I do for you?”
“Oh,” he kind of stumbled over his next words, “I thought we’d come and uh, you know, uh, say hello.” I looked behind him to see who ‘we’ was. It was just him.
“That’s nice of you.”
“I figgered since y’all er, whoever was new here ya might have some questions.” His voice was thick like there was mucus stuck in his throat and the way he said “I” was exactly half way between Texas and Wyoming. He must have been born and raised in Colorado. There was something else familiar about him, like he could have been one of a hundred boys I’d roamed through creeks and ridden bicycles with when I was a child. The familiarity vanished quickly though. He just stared and stood, every once in a while moving something around in his mouth.
“Well,” I said, “thanks for stopping in. I’ll be sure to tell my brother you were here. What’s your name again?”
“Oh, I’m Jefferson. Me and my wife live over there-” he pointed down the road toward the water tower.
“I’ll tell him you came by, Jefferson.” I started to close the door but he didn’t make any move to walk away and I didn’t know what to do, so I just said, “Goodbye,” as he stepped off of the stoop and walked east toward the water tower.

Later that night I asked my brother if he knew Jefferson, and he said not at all. My brother and his wife had only moved into the house a month before, so they didn’t really know anyone in the neighborhood. It was just they and their dogs and the pinball machines in the basement. In fact, everyday when they went off to work, I’d go out for a smoke and it seemed like no one else really lived there. Sure, Bridge Street was busy with passing cars, but all of the houses they passed felt empty. “I don’t know how you do it.” I was telling him after dinner. “I mean, how do you get anywhere except for driving?”
My brother said, “I like the quiet. I couldn’t live where you live.” He was defiant, but still friendly. He winked at me and smiled, “I know what you’re really worried about, and don’t worry. If we get stuck at the bar we can always take a cab home.”
Which is precisely what we did after a few beers and a few neat scotches. I don’t normally drink scotch, but then again, I don’t normally hang out in the bars of Brighton Colorado singing along to Garth Brooks’ “Thunder Road” with a bunch of guys who drive pick-up trucks, either. When we got out of the cab and my brother paid the driver -he always paid, even when he was down to his last ten dollars- he hurried inside to grab a fresh pack of smokes from the freezer. “One last beer?” he called through the open door. “You know it!” I yelled, a little too loudly for the quiet track.
He was taking a long time and my lungs were impatient, that or they were ready to collapse. This was before the smoking ban that finally swept into Colorado, and I had been taking advantage of not having to leave my seat to go smoke in the cold. I lit up my twentieth cigarette and tapped my foot to the country songs still ringing in my head. My friends down south and I always make fun of ‘new country’ but I had to admit that it was catchy.
I saw his hair before I actually saw his face. Jefferson was creepy. I didn’t understand how I hadn’t seen him before, but there he was walking toward me at two-thirty in the morning.
“Hello?” I decided it would be better to pretend I didn’t recognize him. It’s sort of a trick I learned growing up.
“Hey yerself,” came his voice.
“Oh, hi there.” We were playing the greeting game again.
He stepped onto the lawn, blowing smoke out of the right side of his mouth like a cowboy might. His face was a permanent squint as he said, “Y’all just come back from the bar?”
“A couple.” I answered.
“All right,” he said.
“Um, Jefferson, is there something I could do for you?”
“Oh. I – ya know I’se just wonderin’ somethin’ today after I left.”
“What’s that?”
“Well,” he started sheepishly, “I guess it’s my wife really, but we were wonderin’, are you from Katrina?”
I actually wondered for a second if Katrina was a town in California where he might have had some relatives. Then the water rushed to my eyes and I blinked it back and laughed maniacally. He looked a little hurt, but I didn’t sympathize with him. “It woulda made sense, I guess,” he said.
“What?”
“Nothin’. I guess that’s it.”

My brother was kicking one of the miniscule pebbles from its place among the other rocks and chain smoking. The cold snap seemed to pass and now it was only brisk. Our part of the earth was starting to tilt toward the sun. The stars were starting to disappear. “Maybe he just didn’t know.”
“Clearly, Pete, he doesn’t know.”

“Don’t get mad, I’m just saying, he doesn’t know better, he’s an old Colorado hick and he’s ignorant. Who cares?”
“He’s not that old.” “What?” My brother had a way saying what the same way you might say, You’re an imbecile.
“You said he was an old hick, and he’s not that old. He’s probably our age.” “That doesn’t mean anything.” He chugged his Bud Light and pulled another one out of his coat pocket.

“It does. People our age shouldn’t be so stupid.”
“Maybe he doesn’t have a TV.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Television allows people to see things they wouldn’t ordinarily see.”
“What, like black people?”
“Maybe.”
“Pretty smart for a soon to be Doctor.”
My brother sank his beer. “I study rocks, not people,” and burped loud enough for Jefferson and his wife to hear. “Go to sleep. We’re going to Denver in the morning.”
“It is the morning.”
“Stop it.”

A few observations:

lying in the bed, no window coverings, lots of open land, dead grass ’cause of the snow. On the perimeters are big trucks, big brand new houses. Out of the top left hand corner of the window, the flag ripples in the wind. I sat below that flag last night. It must have been twenty degrees, but I was determined to smoke that last cigarette; cool my nerves before going to bed. I heard it, but truthfully, out in the plains it’s hard to tell where a noise is coming from. I kept staring at the big polished rocks on the border between my brother’s house and the neighbors’ and I imagined that there was a creek running over them. That’s what my ears told me was happening and I was so drunk that I started to believe it. I stood up and grunted – my brother does that too- and I stumbled toward the rocks to see the rushing water and that’s when I looked up and saw the flag whipping in the wind. no window coverings in the entire house, however there are security systems. No big city, no crime

the dogs bark at everything, there are so many pillows it’s almost like lying on a big fluffy mattress.

my brother will drink a half a case a night, if he wants to; in a whole day he may drink an entire case.

don’t forget in the distance there are trains and there are coyotes and you are in the middle of a brave new world.

and there are the times we broke windows in the alley with rocks
and the time before when we weren’t allowed to go near the alley
the breaking into peoples’ homes
the lighting everything on fire.

Jefferson, again at the front door. His eyes peer at my face fascinated. I want to be offended, but it’s impossible to ignore the boyish cheeks and the crooked, tobacco stained grin. He asks, again, if my brother is at home and I have to tell him, again, that he’s at work.
“What does he do?”
“He lectures at the university. Geology. He studies the earth; rocks, minerals, dirt.”
“He ever tell you what these rocks are called?” he asks, bending to run his fingers along them.
“Well, technically it’s gravel.”
“I know that much, Miss,” he grinned again.
“I mean, gravel comes from all sorts of places. It’s an aggregate.” I had heard that somewhere.
“Right.” He kicked the stuff around a little and massaged his neck awkwardly. “How long you gonna be around here?”
“Are you trying to get rid of me, Jefferson?”
“Nah. Just wonderin’.”
“I fly home in a week.”
“I’ll be back in a bit.”
“Oh-” There is also waiting on the runway, watching the big metal birds roll slowly, one behind the other and the other. When suddenly the captain thrusts the bird forward and your eyes are glued on the window – it never gets old, watching the boring buildings zoom by and suddenly your feet aren’t on the earth anymore and you’re in sitting position, but it doesn’t matter much what position you’re in, you’re in the air. In the air; angled up toward the clouds or the smog, and you can’t help thinking of every cheesy song that has to do with love and being high; -er than a kite; as the sky; on you; Edging toward the skyway, you can feel it, first in your feet, then your belly and finally your head; you’re getting lighter and lighter. at some point you become heavier again, the pressure from the cabin and the gravity trying desperately to bring you back down to earth, but now you’re not in control any more. There’s nothing you can do about it. You’re flying. A fumnambulist is a tight rope walker.

How amazing this is.

Jefferson said, “Have you ever flown while the sun is going down? The bright red scorch of the sun on the earth’s horizon underneath a maze of city lights and highways and backyards with swimming pools in them…” “Yeah, I have seen that before,” I said it automatically, but it was true. I had seen everything he said.
“It’s the only time I got to take my feet off the ground if you know what I mean,” he grinned and spat a small bit of tobacco to the floor.
“It was nice talkin’ to ya,” he said abruptly and turned and walked away.
I watched him saunter up the street back to his house and when he was out of sight, I mimicked his gait in the three car driveway. I was trying to write how his hair went, thin and wiry and all over the place, like a three year old’s.

My brother was certainly tired of hearing about him. Delilah, Pete’s wife, was struggling with a giant frozen lasagna. We could hear her wrestling with the cellophane. At one point it sounded like she was stabbing the cardboard. I imagined her eyes narrowed like a jackal’s and her tongue furiously wagging from side to side as she battled the giant glacial beast. I looked at my brother over the Denver Post. He was hunched over a stack of papers, oblivious to the carnage in the kitchen. He looked up, slightly nodding toward the kitchen and muttered. “This is her catharsis.”
Over the burnt remains of dinner, Delilah gossiped about co-workers neither I nor my brother knew. She was an accountant at a run down law firm near Elitch Gardens. Every six months the partners would get comped tickets and the whole firm would go ride roller coasters and eat funnel cake together. She had worked for the law firm of B & J, Denver since college and she knew everyone’s business. Tonight she told us about the senior partner’s secretary, how she was getting a divorce because she had slept with the boss. I stared blankly at the vinyl table cloth.
When Delilah seemed to run out of steam my brother announced, “I have my final dissertation argument in June.”
“Babe, that’s great!”
“Yeah Pete. That’s awesome.”
“Does that mean you’ll finally get tenure?”
“Delilah, I keep explaining to you, I’m not even staff. I’m considered visiting until the degree is finished.”
The high vaulted ceilings and chiffon dresses disappeared from Delilah’s jade green eyes, while my brother’s placid blues focused on the limp iceberg salad on his plate. He pushed it around clockwise and then counter, trying to appear thoughtful.  Delilah took a deep breath and smiled slightly, “Either way, that’s great news honey.”
“Thanks.”

The sign of the King Sooper’s was exactly the same as it was when we were little. There was a puke green van in the handicapped space and a wind catcher was hanging from the mirror. The driver slept with his mouth open, the fog on the windows expanding and retracting with his breathing. “Do you remember going to the one in Denver to give away puppies?”
“Yeah!”
“Delilah doesn’t believe we ever did that.”
“Why would you make something like that up?”
“When you figure it out I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to hear it.”
We stood there for a moment. The bright red glare from the sign made the circles under Pete’s eyes seem darker. He looked tired. We got in the car and headed west. The view of the rockies was like a giant photo stretched across the windshield. “When does she leave for Vegas Pete?”
“Tomorrow night. I’m taking her to the airport.”
“You mean her work doesn’t have a giant roller coaster that will come pick her up?” Pete had to smile.
“I don’t understand why you don’t like her.”
“It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s that she’s…she’s…”
“Shallow? Uninteresting? Self Centered?  Fake?”
“Damn Petey.”
“Well?”
“I think she’s waiting for you to get famous.”
“I think she’s tired of waiting.” He lit a smoke and held it. “I’m thinking about going back to California.”
“The Land of the Liberal?”
“Without Delilah.”

As we pulled into the driveway, a pick up truck full of teenagers careened down Bridge street and screeched to a halt. “What was that?” I strained to see a shadow flit across the road.
“Prob’ly a deer.” My coat was tangled in the seat.
“In winter?” I wrenched it free and started to roll up the window.
“Global warming,” my brother smiled, and then, “I think that’s your friend coming.” He flicked his cigarette and rested his hands on the wheel. I turned in the direction of jaunty Jefferson and smiled for a minute. I raised my arm and Pete was already backing out of the driveway.

G’night Grampa

Posted in Prose on June 1, 2009 by melissa merin

Bloggage…

Friday, July 14, 2006 G’night Grampa

It’s been a little over a month since my grandfather died and it’s very hard to write that. I went to New York in June and watched his simple pine casket get lowered into the ground. I held my father’s arm, both of us crying while the Rabbi spoke of my grandfather’s love for my grandmother, also dead, his love for his family, his love for Israel. I realized that soon we’d be sitting Shiva in his house which is itself a shrine to good taste, his family and Israel. Surely enough, when we walked into the house it was the same as it was the last time I’d been there, before my trip to Israel and the West Bank. The night before my flight he handed me an old Hertz map and told me to wear sun glasses as the sun in Israel is brighter than anywhere else in the world. I think he added that for poetry, but I bought some glasses at the airport anyway and wore them throughout my trip. Once we arrived at the house, my mom, sister in law and I prepared the table with food so that my dad and uncle could rest a while. My brother stood stoicly in the hallway, seemingly afraid to disturb the quiet and peace in the house. As the day progressed, relatives and friends came to the house to sit Shiva and share stories and eat. People I had never met before introduced themselves to me, and others whom I tend to see only at weddings or Bat Mitzvahs hugged us, apologized for our loss and commenced to talk long and thoughtfully about my grandfather, the last remaining patriarch of my father’s family. Over and again came the phrase, “How he loved Israel”, and all I could do was nod. I knew that my grandfather loved Israel as much as he loved all of us. He and my grandmother were both survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. They’d lost their families and friends to maniacal genocide and I believe as they did, that it was their faith that saved them and guided them to one another. They formed a solid and loving union, had two eccentric and awesome sons and grandchildren. They did well for themselves in America, however they were not naive enough to believe that America was going to be the safest place for them and their remaining families. They prayed and hoped and lobbied and acted for a land called Israel, where Jews were first class citizens who could not be oppressed or tortured and murdered. And how could anyone begrudge them that? Once, years ago, my grandmother sent me an email begging me to do something about the anti-Semitism that, to her, was running rampant on college campuses. I was a student at San Francisco State and inclined toward activism, so she knew I could help stem the tide of racist rhetoric. We engaged in a long correspondence whereby I always stated that I empathized with her position but could not condone the displacement and killing of other people so that another people could achieve their goal. I take heart in the fact that she understood that. Sitting in their house surrounded by their friends and cousins, I fell silent and tried to have a private dialogue with both of them because I knew that if they were watching this scene of grieving, they knew that I was uncomfortable with all of the lauding of Israel. I tried to explain again that I’m an idealist who believes that peace can be achieved through dialogue. I tried to articulate in my mind’s mouth that Leila Khaled was fighting for her life much like Malcolm X was fighting for his. The words seemed cheap and unnecessary somehow, so eventually I left them. Today is the weekend. In San Francisco we’re cracking beers and celebrating a break from work and our very gifted and privileged lives, where we do only what we want. Where we work for rent and food and beer and smokes and rock shows and other items we won’t save if there’s a sudden fire. In Lebanon, in Gaza, in Iraq, today is another day of fighting, of surviving, of hoping that one day all this shit will stop. I’m thinking heavily today of my grandparents and their love of Israel and I hope that their love can encompass those folks who are, as Amir’s father in Lebanon put it, “watching the fireworks”.

Sis

Posted in City Sketch, Prose with tags , , , , on May 30, 2009 by melissa merin

Sis is walking or shuffling – depending on who you ask – and this can not be easy for her. Hunched under a dozen coats draped loosely over her shoulders, she is at once an eye sore and phenomena. How she can keep moving through spontaneous declarations of “Fuck Yeah!” from the crowds huddled around the small oval table tops on the sidewalk and the white boy’s answer to Canta y no llores! (Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay!) is a mystery to me. I’ve made it my business to follow her with my eyes. I tell myself night after night that if anyone messes with her, I will run down the fire escape, through the second floor window, down the stairs and out the door and I will defend her. When we pass on the street, I know that she needs me to say hello to her, so I do “What’s up Sis?” is my standard greeting. I call her Sis because the first time she asked me for change six years ago, she called me sister and I was eager to return the platitude. Tired of being addressed as “Sister” by scruffy white men with straggly pony tales at anti-war actions, I was glad that this certified Sister was giving me my propers. I handed her a dollar and asked if she was warm enough, if she needed any food, if she was all good? She said she was okay and she told me to take care of myself and shuffled on down the alley, past the murals of revolution, past the wild jasmine winding it’s way up dilapidated wooden fences.

I started anticipating her. I’d leave a bag of chocolate, toilet paper and tampons in the corner that she liked to hide in. I bought her a new broom one time because she was always sweeping up the alley behind our house. You could count on Sis gettin’ real pissed when ever the garbage trucks came because they always left tons of trash on the street. She’d start mutterin about how people just didn’t give a shit, how she was always cleanin up their damn messes…

Salt Marsh T-shirt

Posted in Poetry, Prose on May 30, 2009 by melissa merin

Salt marsh miniatures

on red cotton blend

habitats for song birds

with shallow chests that refuse to breathe

One hand wipes away the low current

before tilting the next glass