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Poems

Love Poem For the FSA Guy

8 cartons of eggs for our cook to sign off on
all shuddering, cold shells
against their soft cardboard pockets, can’t hear
them through the box on your dolly
they have splayed destinies – fried and spread
across the flattop, stretched
thin with a blister of ooze trapped
inside (jiggle for over easy, still for over medium, broken for over hard)
do you know where eggs come from? can’t imagine the captive
hens popping one every 25 hours, what are they for in the hours in between,
eggs bleached and cleaned, little white stones all the same size, round smooth
by the sides of a hen’s cloaca
you give us eggs, we store them, we sign off,
you leave with an empty dolly
your cheeks flushed with morning air and heavy lifting, the
air you stir when you wheel everything to the counter,
what’s your name, you with your 500 anonymous eggs, how many hens will lay
before I see you again, how many soft energies in a hard shell,
how many FSA guys in a neon green coat

Face Plant on Montaigne’s Meander

in this unscheduled moment, my body softly lurching
tightness pocketed in my neck, that flesh bed hanging
from the sill of my head, bulb of infected tastebud on my tongue

Rotting Radish

sting sick smell of rotting radish, sweet sharp, stuck-in, a sickly sweet
that worms into you – already eating you before your first bite

Letter for G

I have started writing an email to you many times, in many different places —on the sun porch outside my classroom, on the patio in my host family’s house, sitting in the yellow tweed sofas of their living room— and I have not known where to begin. I want to tell you about so many things here, and it overwhelms me, and I want to be present with you in the ways you need, but I’m not sure what that even means, and it makes me sad. (an arrived-too-early-to-see-the-flowers-bloom-so-the-buds-will-have-to-suffice kind of sad.)

I definitely got some Marinao mud mixed up in my body fluids, clogging up my tear ducts and clouding my urine. It smells f u n k y in the street (in the “funk music” sense of the word), and there is often a lot of yelling from house to house and it’s sometimes hard to tell who’s yelling at who, and I reckon sometimes it’s even hard to tell for the people doing the yelling.

I just finished eating dinner, and while I ate, through the kitchen window, I could hear two kids trying half-heartedly to outdo each other in insults. One said “eres un pájaro.” The other shouted some animal name I didn’t know. The one responded “eres cinco.” The other shouted “eres cuatro.” My heart broke hearing them, trying to throw weight heavier than their words could carry.

Being here is so radically different from being there, it’s hard to tell how I feel about anything sometimes. For example, I feel so proud of my neighborhood and how most families here have deep ties to the Revolution, but I also feel spooked by the icky omnipresent masculine power here. Cat-calling is frequent, pointed and often uncreative. I sometimes don’t feel like a person when I ride the bus, but like a walking womb or a walking piece of ass. And I get tired of seeing images of Che and Fidel all over when my host grandmothers (who do all the housework, cooking, caring) sweat all day indoors for a debilitated Revolution, and everyone knows it, but nobody sees their faces anywhere.

Another thing; Cuba is very dependent on tourism, so socialism in Cuba feels like a dog with no legs— free education but hardly livable wages for teachers, free health care but no antihistamine (it would be very hard to grow up with a nut allergy here), government-issued food but bad bread and not enough rice. People w/ access to the USD equivalent have way way more power here and there is a wealthy class in Cuba growing from tourism and they say it’s only getting wealthier all the time. And I think, what?? How can Cuban schoolchildren chant each morning “pioneros de la Revolución, seremos como el Che” when things are so obviously not working? But this makes me think, how can I tolerate seeing a Target ad for plastic containers that are made from the oil of a corp. that pollutes the Mississippi River? 

Yesterday I was walking through Old Havana and I passed a building that was imploding from the inside and the old concrete frame of the house looked strung out like a spider web, and there were mounds and mounds of white powder filling the inside, made from old deteriorated furniture and cement and paper and other people’s trash and probably animal bones. And there were a few trees growing inside, and the shade was cool and clean, and I swear to you, G, you were hovering in that shade, in between the tree leaves, and I felt like waving, or reaching for your arm next to me to say, “G, look at that.”

As I always am,

Natalie




Erosion 

Centerpiece tv, eyes gravitate to corner, up, raised not in reverence but inertia – and music melody with kind of sickly smooth beat, always there – quiet earthones on wall, blend into earth, however anesthetized. Grandpa’s lips creased (rain lines/gullies down, gravity wearing the sediment of his skin) from sucking in for saliva and dentures

– what is a mouth without pressure – dropping fall of teeth, always holding in piece of body (a boulder sucked still in a hillside) 

–everyday the boulder was there / we clambered up the mud staying clear of standing in its path / it could fall away any minute / and then it wasn’t there one day / a hole like a lost tooth cavity, dry dirt crumbling in around it / nowhere in the slope of trees below did we find it / not slammed into the base of an old tree, not rooted in a ditch somewhere, maybe it was plucked from the sky –

the wet holding of my grandfather’s lips, his face edging out of his skin, ridges sharpened with rain and age, pushed upon – sharpness is a quality of cellular smallness, if you pear an edge down it becomes sharp, the ravines of my grandfather’s cheek

Shuffleboard

still sun and boards cluttered 
“too fast” is scraping wax slow
so many white wrinkles and boards scraped, time gelatinous under soft sun
and puffed-cake scrape of rubber-soled shoes on cement – and in a desert!
a display dessert tray, hard to tell wax from sugar, chalk from flour,
elbow skin from whipped cream,
neon visors from decorative fondant
–a quality of languid movement, a model version of real life

so this is the apex of white class mobility – work your way onto a shuffleboard court,
bootstrap your way onto a golf cart (not anesthetized exactly, something similar to dry cleaning)
it is hard to know where anything has come from

chalky, made, still, stark, dry, breakable, soilable, how could a small grid of green surfaces with old white people around them have the peace of a white plane – plain! yes, there is something horribly peaceful and warm and dry about this, a breeze, soft sunlight

just like fresh white/gray cement puffs out around its borders as if it were plush, but scrapes itchily agains a shoe, beckons bone and skin to it, to break open with sting and pus blood
just like clean flat white cake imagines knife disemboweling it, lines of frosting breaking clean into insides that spill and break
just like quiet shuffleboard game waits breakage and slip, skidding of body into stop, sitting still on bench into stiller than stone, how bliss is already statue, security of feeling this must be somebody’s dream somewhere, is it ours?



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