Tulsa Heat

Bare shoulder submerged underwater,

goosebumped from evaporated chlorine.

 

We sank to the bottom of the concrete block –

bricks warmed by low-hanging air as

 

trains swooped through – a steaming kettle in July,

slow and smiling over with lazy courage.

 

Trees lap back and forth and

hang in the wind as we rest in green and the

 

bridges that swallowed over us, highways of

muddy skin that serpentine through dried-up banks,  

 

led us nowhere but here.

 

Our hair absorbed what it could,

darkened armour rejecting molecules that could not cling, and

 

wine-stained lips remind me of winter,

yet we toasted away to sweat-greased nights.

 

Your eyes swoon over me. A hero’s blue-gazed

arrow to a Pisces heart,

 

and we dedicated that day to our baptism of summer

underneath the slow, smiling air of Tulsa heat.

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Firework

Bomb crack, baby.

Cannons de-canonized into

colonial dust –

dust bowls and skirts fly up with the wind and

thunder rolls at the sound of war.

The heavens respond to our earthly delights of

football fields and backyards

that sizzle with meat – the concrete is too hot

to walk on,

and on this day

we open up our arms to

the sky as it bleeds and cries

that this is our freedom.

This is America.

The Seventeen Year Cicada

A lack of cicadas

invests in a lonely summer –

no one sings us to sleep

or quiets the sprinkler cuts of hot August nights.

No sound to soothe our fears or lull a frantic mind

into binaural frequencies.

No courtship to the vast distance from our hearts

to the backyard.

 

So when our porches are silent

and the thick July air

doesn’t serenade us out for sunset drinks,

it seems as if staying inside is the best choice.

 

The Periodical Cicada lives for seventeen years.

Seventeen years for a new generation of nighttime choir.

Underground for seventeen years, brooding and growing,

until one night, unified,

tiptoeing into trees and flitting through the air –

they arrive.

A soprano string violin on a constant murmured bow,

giving the lightning bugs something to dance to,

and creating new life,

for just one night.

 

We tend to wait, in Oklahoma.

We wait at the stoplight, on the porch,

at the gas station – we wait and we stare

still as a star

so as not to shake the earth we stole.

But there was one night in late June,

we arrived.

We straggled our way from underground,

clawing the earth that had been suffocating

our throats, our wings,

and we stood tall in the trees, and

shouted as loud as we could

in unified chant – gregorian and round lips

with oval voices and thick lungs

that made it hard to hear the planes

landing above us.

 

We lit up our backyards,

if just for one night,

like a million cicadas

tiptoeing into trees and flitting through the air,

knowing we’ll be singing this night –

this one night –

as loud as we can. Creating new life

for the next seventeen years.

Rip

Never turn your back on the ocean. She said.

Even those tiny waves that build up – moving

plateaus stack deep into places we cannot escape.

Creaveses we cannot move – stuck

there since the Etruscans.

Blue space turns into black.

Into places light cannot grow.

Into places we cannot control with our hands.

Control everything else. Control your eyes.

Control your pores. Wave back to the

Aspen trees, whose leaves flitter up and down,

greeting you at the hint of wind.

Drive down the mountain, allowing

gravity to pull you back to flat

pastures and heat. Hide away from the lake

as it sits below ferns, underneath low clouds

and spring storms that come and go

like untamed thoughts in desperation.

Pass by the river and let it yell beneath you.

Let it baptise you with droplets that dry

in air thinned by the sun.

 

But never turn your back to the ephemeral

sea. To the salt that connects to the moon.

On the tide that birthed you.

Never separate your soul from the hands of ions –

electric charge that pulls you back and forth

until you rock yourself to sleep.

Beauty and peace disguised into ageless strength.

Rip yourself away from land, but do not

turn your back on the ocean.

She may never let you return

to where you can stand on your own two feet.  

Summer Heat

City of innocence,

of summer heat,

born-again, in-between,

surprised by a rainstorm

in early morning

when we thought the flower bed

was all dried up –  

with sweet relief, moving forward,

fear of lonely, of

going back to grasslands

and land-runs

and rusty windmills, where

plastic pedals reach up

toward the heavens,

lining silent cemeteries.

Where we hustle without pay,

without knowing where we’re going

constantly grinding,

brought to life through

newly poured concrete.

Without buses and sidewalks and  

miles and miles in between,

we are a city of quiet evenings

where cicadas preach

and junebugs dive bomb

into a house pumped by A/C.

A city that moves to train

whistles in thick air,

and towers stand

silently swaying

to the wave of golden wheat.

 

City of innocence:

we grow tall

but still crave the

warmth of summer heat.

Sounds of June

This poem was inspired by the sounds I notice once the summer months role around and the dichotomy between summer experiences for the privileged and underprivileged.

Sounds of June 

What does summer say – ?

Midnight chirps and sprinklers cuts,

intermittent rustle of trees

full from spring, throwing up bellies

full of thunder storms.

Run with your foot hard on the path,

hot concrete like a hot grill, meat sizzles and

scissors clip the dead ends of a rose bush.

With a crunch of grass as skin meets chlorine,

ceiling fans whip around and laughter after dark

doesn’t mean we call the cops.

 

What does summer say to the dark skinned man who

fell flat, face planted with

saliva stuck to dirt, dirt melts onto sweat and skin lumps

slowly rolling over as someone asks him if he needs a water.

Eyes unaware – unaware if he has a home –

no A/C as the body becomes darker with the disappearance of each cloud.

Head dress to cool the body, no relief

glass breaking – a dark liquid spills and scorches,

caldron bubbles as sirens call and

red lights flash in competition with the sun.

 

What does summer say when the heat suffocates,

we can’t breath,

and limp bodies on the side of the street remind you

of the unforgiving sounds of June.

Innocence Rendered

This poem was published in the 2017 Art 365 magazine in response to Kelly Roger’s artwork “Tales of Whoa.”

Whoa – how did we get to this place?

These tiny stitches make out the lines

to our fragile boundaries,

bodies that fade into the backdrop –

black thread quilting us at an early age, created with delicate hands

that embroider and nurture and

expose our innocent grit.

When we are like clouds –

feminine structures of ephemera where

we carry our woe in cirrus white, circulating oxygen, and

for eighteen years, we are stuck here,

swinging, diving, running, jumping,

breathing together to create a landscape of our own.

When we are one in three – drug from play too soon, with

knotted ties that expose our messy veins,

we became the unsung heroes with pink rosy

cheeks blushed from summer

mornings, barefoot, tying our shoe for the first time,

or in rain boots waiting for puddles –

where a string became a jump rope

made for the horizon.

We are the voices of laughter and squeals of joy when

presented with anything that the sun touches.

You are Bosch with gold lining –

illuminating our resilience –

not a triptych, but triple the innocence,

because there is no vantage point in the garden of earthly

delights.

We float, we fade and grow into adults. Our trauma disappears into

tales of awestruck, where our departure from here is not a triumph,

but rather an escape from invisible borders,

a release from the constant scroll of memories,

and where we can place our feet firmly on the ground,

finally asking, where are we going from here?