"Jolie Laide"Not even
A lifetime of living
in the shadow of these Great California Mountains
could convince me of their beauty
Scrubby brown things of jagged stone and
scraggly shrubs dotted like stubble
Certainly no match for the height or grace of the
infamous Sierras
But when the range opened up
and the land grew flat and wide
To think I would miss their imposing presence
Reduced to a crusty wall on the horizon
Well perhaps it was just
the unnerving uniformity of the Valley
And so I soothed my soul with the snow-capped, stratovolcano of the Cascade Range,
marveled at the mist topped Klamaths,
well-adorned with verdant pine and fir,
turned to my companions and uttered without filter,
"These are mountains,"
these stock image heights that adorn camping gear.
I have been There and Back Again,
and as the southern landscape embraces our arrival
I allow my eyes a little joy in noting
the brown velvety nature of these coastal lumps
turned golden in the sunrise
and their rugged, cloud-snatching siblings
dressed in Atmospheric Perspective Blue
and Wildfire Black
Hello, you poor burnt things,
sunbaked and sunbleached,
hiding a bounty of impermanent wildflowers,
flighty deer and free range cows and
waxy oaks and so, so, so many bees.
Hello, hello, I am home at last.


Semi-feralI see my cat in
every wild thing
Sparkling eyes
with the joy of life
The sun setting
in the hollow of his shoulders
in the flowers
Legs tucked, content
perched above its prey
Gaze trained on some hidden hole
in the meadow
Rooting around, ever hungry
Just a little wild thing
Sleeping in my home

Once More By the ShoreI am from an ocean peoples
The salt of the seas is
in the blood of my ancestors
I cannot flee the coast fast enough
To outrun the pounding of the waves in my ears
The taste of the reef in my mouth
Everything blue, blue, blue
So I find myself back here again and again
Two feet away from the foam
To feel insignificant before the waters
That which is amorphous and merciless
That which colonized the rock of the world
That which birthed life and color into being
That which lies in wait to swallow it whole again
Everything blue, blue, blue

Puppy LoveShe
speaks to her boyfriend
with the same voice she uses
on small animals
and soft things
I've never met him
but from the photos on her phone
he seems like a standard issue of a boy
tall and thin and sprightly
and just a little boring but
I should have given her more credit
that she would know good from bad
And from this
I can surmise
that there are soft boys out there after all
kind and gentle
who like to watch their loved ones bake
and offer reassuring thoughts
Not all is doomed
if there are boys out there
sweet enough, Good enough
to illicit the coos of a girl who cries over dogs

Jalapeño BusinessFinding hidden trauma is like
someone has left little chili peppers
in your cake
In a better place you might
enjoy biting into that
Spicy boy
with Intention
and the understanding of what you're getting in to
But now you're crying
Or glassy eyed and
unexpectedly destroying your insides
Oh this is why I am wary of cake.
Does everyone have chilis in their cake?
Why did I think this was normal?
And then.
the next time,
You cannot recall the burn,
Was it even that bad?
You reach for the cake
having forgotten that
your brain is an unreliable narrator
You're crying again.

Hunger StrikeHe won't eat
Like a fussy child
No tantrum but
The resistance is astounding
Pride is sustenance for old men
Tired of the world and all that is in it
They feast and wither
So I won't eat
Pity in my left hand, pressure in my right
"Go, take care of yourself"
I can also play this game
Maybe there is no winner
Only two skeletons
Like some Hugo nightmare
Waiting for the point at which we break
How long before time has no meaning?
How long before we are consumed?
(8-21 days)

Bless This HomeThis cramped house is
so very small
We fill the room with
Our shared laughter
Cozy and complete
But there is
nowhere to Hide
Not enough doors to shut out
the sounds of raised voices
seeping under cracks
and through the walls
There are no secrets between
Blood and blood
Scrutiny is the price of companionship
And stifled, still
Individually, inevitably
Drawn together
The magnetism of shared space
Boundaries seem almost brutal
in light of this bond
I learned to lie early.It took me years to learn that
Toxic does not mean
I don't love you
Sometimes Love,
however well intended
will wear you down
Especially in a place where
Personal rules do not apply

à plusHello, I say
Like we are strangers
Hello, you say
And I suppose we are
The stunted how are you
does not hide your disinterest in my life without you
When did we devolve into people who
only exchange pleasantries
of little substance
I always thought
Priding myself in simple, forever friendships
Unmarred by falsities and flatteries
Naively, I believed
my water-like adaptability to our time apart
meant we could come together again
Unchanged in our bond
Even as new people
Instead I feel myself
bumping up against edges
I didn't know were there
Walking on tiptoes
Feeling uncomfortable
as if I have overshared with someone
who will use my words against me
You cling to remember when stories
Reminiscing over someone who
no longer exists in this world
Not interested in who I am now
as if you too can feel that we are
not entirely compatible anymore
I find myself shrinking inward
trying to fit that nostalgic vision you have
as if that will solve this distance
We are the product of our personal spheres of experience
I feel my metamorphosis strongly
with each unspoken word and every hesitation
Goodbye, you say, see you soon
Goodbye, I say
Unsure that I will

UnripeMaturity is the peel that hides the green
A hint of mango in my mouth
As if the fruit was on the verge of inspiration
Not a half baked product;
the signs of work are there
But disappointment salts each bite.
What a shame.
Imagine what could be possible with just a bit more time...
It is a chore to finish.
I cannot help but wonder
if this is the taste of my amateur inadequacy
Fruit on the verge of inspiration
Not a half baked product;
the signs of work are there
But disappointment salts each bite.

LoverRemember when you sat down and just
let the inner worlds pour out of you
As if no one could reach you
in the highs of creation
The opinions of the masses did not matter
to you, more of an artist, an author then
than you are now
paralyzed by perfection
In this fog of frozen terror
I offer you the reminder
that the latin root of amateur
is to love
Do not forget your roots
That first fan so enamored with your work
that they urged you to create
until you could not control the flow of genius
from your fingers
Do you remember her?
Your small self so desperate to read your stories
You could not write fast enough to please her.
That ache remains if you dig deep enough
Set your words, your galleries, your shows
for this audience of one once more
The opinions of the masses do not matter.
No one can reach you
in the highs of creation.
Sit down,
let the inner worlds pour out of you.

DiasporicIt feels as though I'm looking through
the broken fragments of a stained glass ruin
made for the illiterate but
incomplete with time
Perhaps I could piece together
the truth of the matter
But some shards are lost
to history
to those who knew the context best
Eroded into fine sand and ash
and carried far on the wind.
Sometimes I hear in passing
snippets of the whole tale
passed down by some pilgrim
or a friend of a friend
In those moments, I cannot restrain my thoughts
What if, what if, what if
Cravings for the big picture
to feel like I have the right to more than a taste
My blood right does not grant me keys
to the wellspring behind the door
I peer through the cracks
hunched and desperate
for a glimpse of that other world.

I speak the language of my oppressorsVoraciously, I read, I recited
And so I am practiced.
Mercury in my mouth,
Words wrought with care
I find soft comfort in the lyrical links,
the babbling brook of my mother tongue,
sometimes smooth and slow,
sometimes angry and full of power I have stolen for myself
But it is a wire mother.
I learned to assimilate but She will never love me
She will not show me affection
What use is a model child
Polite and kind and well-spoken
with flesh an unsavoury hue of Other
I wish I could explain to my father
That vocabulary does not replace being weary
So long as I speak the imperial language,
I am perpetuating a colonial endeavour
centuries in the making
For the promise of acceptance and freedom
I left my exotic baggage on the shore
Foreign consonants and vowels forgotten
Only to find myself denied at the gates of Paradise
for the final possession I could not hope to shed
They pat themselves on the back
for their civilizing efforts
Here is an anomaly and not the standard,
a foreign body with a familiar tongue,
a mismatched creature to be displayed for conquest
Look at our collection.
"You were born here, you belong here."
With the blind faith of my parents, I want to believe this.
But not in this lifetime.
I would have to be born here a thousand times over.
And even then,
No matter how many pretty words I use,
someone will inevitably assume
there was only soy sauce in the womb
and a genetic predisposition to eat dogs.

Thinking About Reincarnation AgainGrappling with big life decisions
Not so the crow
Flap flap
Sitting where it pleases
Deign to meet a friend
Or not
No social anxiety for the crow
Flap flap
Soaring over field and hill
Stop on a sign
Or not
No search for meaning for the crow
Flap flap
What does a crow care for purpose
Eat, sleep, breed, caw
Raise a child
Fight a neighbor
Flap flap
A crow is a crow is a crow

HoardHere is the empress of little things
Lording over bits and baubles
No trash unworthy for her piles
Each one is a dearest treasure
Still, she does not name a favorite
Archived memories deep in storage
Unlabelled and near forgotten
Agglomeration feeds the void
Do not remove her from her spoils
These are extensions of her being
Well-loved cancer of the bower
Fostered artificial Growths
You who wander in her lair
Overwhelmed by sacred waste
Show interest in the mouldering items
Lest she add you to her collection
Should she go before her time
An inheritance for the magpie neighbours
This will be what her life has amounted to
Towering structures of unmarked boxes
Bags of bags astride of bags
Misplaced coins and hidden valuables
Abandoned DIY and a small garden of cans

Social MemoryI cannot help but get a little
teary eyed
at the thought of the endeavour
to make a mark on the universe.
Millenia of past humans proclaiming:
"Here I am."
"Do you see me universe?"
"Here I am at this moment, this time.
I belong, I exist."
We do not wish to be forgotten.
The we of today witness the us of the past
And we say to those whispers
"I see you. There you are."
And we take inspiration.
That we choose to capture the beauty of the world
in paint, on film, seared into our memories,
is perhaps to recognize
that we are part of the abounding wonders
in the stars and the sky,
the earth and its inhabitants.
"Hello universe you have
generated a most wondrous place
And I am glad to be
part of it."
An unnamed emotion
of belonging
and gratefulness
to our existence.

They landscaped the eucalyptus outside my window
And hadn't I thought for many months that I might
raise a small bonsai from a cutting
in my spare time
But now here was a tree bare
like bony knuckles of an arthritic hand
reaching for the sky with nonexistant branches
And each time I looked out, a familiar regret
that aching, dull drum beat of lost opportunity
Except in the eyes of a tree
What is every disaster but a new opportunity
For growth
For change
For novelty
Adversity is the forceful knocking down of doors
No barriers, only a chance for a new path
Plants do not dwell on days or months or years lost
Eons of evolution course through their vascular tissue
To them I am just a little wayward sprout
Worrying myself into the ground when I could be
Further, onward
Companions of time
rather than lamenting time lost
And maybe that's just a byproduct of mortality but
Even the annuals which bloom and die in a single year
do not seem to mind a drought
lying in wait instead for the right time
to seize their one chance at life
Unfortunate humans to be cursed with worry and doubt
And to wonder at their place in time
If I am honest,
I had no patience for a bonsai
Six years for a miniature tree to form
Six whole years and maybe it wouldn't even survive
Constrained by the pot offered by society
And yet
isn't that why I went to school
to fit into the box I was offered
to sprout as a refined version of some wild thing
to be appreciated for how I was molded and pruned
Four years was not so much time after all
So much so that I opted for an additional year
to get the extra growth I sought
And I changed paths, changed pots, and by the end
wasn't I also this small but still full grown
abomination of a tree
but a tree in my own right
The bonsai does not preemptively consider
how much time it takes to grow
or plan to fit so much growth into
this many years
I took the space and time I needed
because it was what I needed
There is no too much
Maybe stepping out into the world with no connections is like
having all your leaves cut off by some hasty gardener
And now you're stuck basking in the sun
with no means to take any of it in
Precious rays passing you by
Resources lost
But you grow the tools you need
Burn a little in your haste to form shoot and leaf
Push towards the sky
Regardless of how long it takes
You flourish again
There's a word in Chinese, 苗
Pronounced like a quizzical cat, "miao?"
The visual combination of plants on a field
Meaning seedling or sprout
The future generation
I feel my age and uncertainty more strongly
The more time passes
The more opportunity
whistles by
And behind me, the scattering of
even newer seeds
Faster growing,
Better at taking resources from the earth
But before the aged tree that has grown
at the magnitude of centuries
I am only a 苗
Barely a blade or leaf
poking out of the ground
Young and green beyond belief
The naivety and inexperience is expected
Indiscernible from those who came after me
There is some comfort in this
and the promise of