The Last Refuge: a Poem and a Painting

-I am reposting a poem because it makes a perfect companion to the visual piece I just completed and, more importantly, because the Syrian Crisis continues to force families to risk their lives in search for a new home overseas.

seeking refuge
Watercolor, pen, pencil on photo paper.


The Last Refuge

I must say
I did not picture our destination so green
nor so spacious
or kind.
Peace now percolates
wrapping up the booms and blasts in fat bubbles
whisking them far away to the surface.

I dig my toes into the rejoined community of
Grandmother’s dishes
the bow of the bathtub
hearty chunks of a neighbor’s wall
all atomized like clay pigeons
for the sport of antediluvian urges.

Another yellow blimp lumbers by
baring its obscene yellow belly
bloated and writhing with more bodies.

We have lost El Bab
our door
and everywhere else the land looks upon us with
the weary eyes of a bitch, her teats teeming with pups.

Only the water greets us with outstretched arms.
The open sea.


A Grandfather Paradox

His was a reign of two-minute eggs, a marching morning
constitutional, Kolnish Vasser 4711 to finish each shave.

You were the wallpaper. Mother and I, visiting vases. We were
deemed too fair to hold a checkbook, to carry his surname.

We saw his fits of rage before the European Olive on the back
patio, her progeny staining the brick with raucous, unapologetic

laughter. So while he reminisced about a night inside the belly of a
Kaiser-issued horse, braving subzero assaults on the Russian Front,

we tiptoed to the kitchen and closed both doors. The dough would
let out a big sigh under your smooth strokes of the rolling pin.

When the sugar rounds were pulled from the oven, we swathed
them in frosting and christened them with a storm of pareils.

The balls of color rioted upon the countertops, onto the floor.
They exploded freely under our shoes, in between our teeth.

Then, after 95 years, an impending reprieve from life began to soften
his brow, lift his lips. He forgot to scold you for a 3-minute egg.

Through thick glasses he saw his daughter-in-law for the first
time. And the day I fell into the prickly pear, he cursed himself

for having put it there to replace the European Olive. The three
of us returned forgiving smiles, for of course we were the fairest.

Fathoming You: A Poem for my Father


with an ocean in your arms-
my caption for an image that cannot
be captured, that is only beheld
with closed eyes.

I remember you overseas,
an imagined dot bobbing
beyond the stitches
and snowstorms and
eulogies and

You would burst
through the front door,
reborn, with a suitcase of
offerings. Leagues began to unfold
before us on the floor just as another
wave was already drawing
you away.

After all these years
your voice remains a leviathan,
tangled inside the roaming forests.
So many of my words for you
flounder in a swarm of
sand and

But today
brings an offering.
When you call, I press an
ear to the receiver for echoes
of your open arms. They
carry me through
the tide.

Raising a Dream (in Shifts)

la frontera

-For all the DREAMers.

The Day Shift

Dawn is sitting
at my bedside. Alba.
Her name winks from a Motel 6
badge on her collar. She carries
piles of other people’s dirty
sheets under her eyes. I watch
them crinkle as she smiles.

¡Muy buenos días, mija!

She brushes the strands of
night from my face. Stores them
in a fat braid for later. Day
tiptoes in.

The countryside
sizzles and sings down
in our kitchen. Rancheros in
the pan, rancheras on the radio.

Qué linda está la mañana
en que vengo a saludarte…

Her voice is a honey that
smoothes out a.m. static
and warms the unfolding
words. They soak into
my mind and bloom.

Why must the sidewalk to
school languish like a desert?
There a snail has left its
shimmering trail of wishes
for a lush promised land.
Mami squeezes my hand
and whispers, I know he
made it. I leap over the
cracks, one border
after another.

The Night Shift

Papi is carrying a heavy dusk
under his nails, a midnight
soil. It eclipses those crescent
moons that rest inside my
palm. Back and forth, our
joined arms become a
metronome for the
steps we plunge into
the shadows

After dinner,
he resurrects a guitar
from its scruffy coffin.
He winces as he plucks
out the first chord.
It’s another stubborn row
of broccoli, cauliflower.
As more notes rise,
though, his eyes close.
His brow slackens.

Yo sé que no hay en el mundo,
amor como el que me das
Y sé que noche con noche,
va creciendo más y más…

I sip on a yawn, and begin
to drift off into the sound
hole behind the strings.
It is a window into an
unborn world.
It rings with