Stepping Stones, part 1

i am fourteen years old. the year is two thousand and four. my mom is away visiting my grandpa. he has cancer. he will not live much longer. i am feeling so alone. i miss my mom. i have already decided not to return to public school this year. it is August. i am sitting alone on the porch. there are no walls; it has not become my bedroom yet. i see a small piece of broken plastic in the dirt. it is sharp. i am sharp; if anyone gets close to me my anger and sadness will cut them. i pick the plastic up. i press it into my flesh, near my knee. i drag it against my skin again and again. i am bleeding. i lie when asked what happened. scraped myself on something. it was an accident.


i am seventeen years old. the year is two thousand and seven. my parents drove me to Burbank. we carried my things up to my third floor dormitory. at some point my dad cries. he does not want me to leave home. he has held on too tightly and i’ve been afraid to leave because i don’t want to break his heart. but at the same time i am angry at him because i want to be allowed to spread my wings and fly. i want to stop being his emotional crutch.


i am eighteen years old. the year is two thousand and eight. i meet a boy. he is really sweet. i tell myself i do not want a boyfriend. i want to be just friends with this boy. in a week’s time he will be my boyfriend.

best laid plans

i’ve just created a new rule for myself:
to only ever go to bed before ten PM
under one of two circumstances,
one- i’m seriously ill
two- there is a man i love beckoning
me to bed before ten PM.
tonight, neither is the case
so i’ll stay awake and upright.
but of course, i break
my own rules from time to
not this time,
perhaps some other
and i remember the time
you slept in the living room
when i couldn’t sleep
just because you wanted to
be near me.
and i was an idiot
and didn’t see how
we were falling apart,
or maybe i did and i
was already too far gone
to care.
“i (only) miss you late at night,
when i can’t sleep
and get way too honest.”
but the only part
isn’t true,
i always miss you.
even when, no, especially when
you’re still standing
right in front of me
and my front door
saying goodbyes to little humans
with messy hair.

daisy chain and hairpins

some say the drive takes an hour
but i know you can make it
in just thirty minutes
because you did it
at 1 something in the morning
i was yelling from the bathroom
telling it you it was time to go
you memorized every hairpin turn
and knew just how fast
to take them and still be safe
but today i head up the mountain
because i finally got invited
to hang with the siblings
and i wonder how long it will take
for us to reach
our destination

In response to Reach.

childhood friend

when the air conditioner’s too cool
and you crave the warm outside air

I’m drinking coffee from a can,
but coffee’s always come in a can

like the ones we used as stilts
when we were twelve or eleven

and my best friend’s name started with K,
but her real one started with A

she never used that name until
she married a “man” who abused her

they had a daughter
who was born ill, now she’s eight

K now goes by K again
and has another daughter with another man

she has blue eyes and blond hair
not like her Mexican sister

the new man drives race cars
and makes friends with butterflies

it’s been too long since we’ve talked,
but I guess that’s what happens

we drift away until we all float alone
in the ocean, waiting to collide

places i haven’t been back to

like the tattoo
on your left arm
the one sort of about me
but many of them are

like when we walked
to that party
but never went in
because i was scared

and accidentally on purpose
and i wished you would have
grabbed my hand
spun me around in circles

the r rated movie
that you couldn’t see
because you were 16
birthday hadn’t happened

when i skipped science
and we went to dinner
took the bus
and you turned 17

in front of Chevys
when you asked
and i said yes
it wasn’t a surprise

*In response to City.

we lived

this one seems like
it should be easy
considering how much
life we lived there

the snow the sun
the lake the hairpin turns
occasionally a hike
not often enough

i tried to drive home
one time at 3 or 2 AM
you had worked too many hours
i missed you too many hours

that stupid apartment
it was helping me kill myself
i didn’t want this to turn sad
a million happy memories there too

like the one where i found
wildflowers in a root beer bottle
on that little red table
left by a husband who loved a wife

or when i busted my knee open
in our volvo wagon
while we were having sex
in the driver’s seat

how bout when i accepted Jesus
on the way home i told you
you were overwhelmed with emotion
so was i, i think we both cried

and when we took Christmas photos
the year i was pregnant with J
we laughed so hard
you still loved me a lot then

*In response to Mountain

Hypoallergenic Poetry

I understand now
why we take photos
or write a memory down.
It’s because of fear;
fear that no moment
will ever be as beautiful
as this one.

But it’s a lie.
Every moment is beautiful,
each could be better
than the one before it.
If we look for it,
we’ll see it’s there.

It’s in the gluten-free chalk dust
that J says is “powerful.”
It’s in the way R stretched
on Tuesday when he was comfortable enough.
It’s in T’s favorite sentence,
“Here you go.”
It’s in this purple maxi dress
that I wore to bring a baby home.

It’s in my pen as I write
and later in my keyboard.