Broken Puzzle

we used to fit together perfectly
our broken parts, like a puzzle
every morning
your presence
a beautiful surprise
a gift I can never repay.

but in time we would
cut each other open with those same broken parts
and I’m afraid to heal
because what if we no longer fit?
your absence
would be a you-shaped hole in the Universe
bigger than the Universe itself

and that
is a puzzle I cannot solve.

There Is A Story Written on
My Daughter’s Body

There is a story
Written on my daughter’s body
In languages I don’t speak
Ancient hieroglyphics
Cave paintings on womb walls
Chiseled lines
Like a prisoner counting the days ‘til release
Words cut deep
Like ancient ravines, eroded by time
Like the banks of the Nile
Worn away by tears
Recent dramas & ancient traumas
Memories & dreams etched in blood:
birth blood
menstrual blood
Blood shed by the ancestors

There is a story
Written on my daughter’s body
That I can never understand
Written in a script I can’t decipher –
Even though it is my story, too.
Recent dramas & ancient traumas
Words cut deep
Like an unfathomable chasm
Window to the abyss
The depths of the earth & her pain
Memories cut deep
Like trauma-infused-DNA.
Like scars
This story will never be deciphered or healed
But – like scars – it will give healing
Even when the blood has dried.

Things I thought when I watched
the cops arrest some boys for
stealing bikes on 55th street

where his mother is
his father
& if they will cry when they see him in a cage

all the fuckery I engaged in when I was 15
& no one put me in handcuffs

& how it must hurt so much
for a soaking-wet-120-pound boy
to be slammed to the ground
& pinned
by 3 grown men

& how long that pain will endure
in mind
& in chemical reactions
embodied memories
long after the bruises have healed

how carefully manicured the church lawn is
backdrop to brutality
(jesus never comes out
to admonish the centurions)

of the cops
& their rage
& the absurdity of their work
in a world in which kids stealing bikes leads to
privatized state violence
& handcuffs
& guns drawn:
they must be so unhappy
must hear the black girl
hair in a bonnet
shout FUCK 12 as she drives past

of liberal hyde park,
its bought-and-paid-for-private police force.
they are thinking (they don’t shout):
why can’t they just be like obama?

but mostly, i think of my own daughter
standing next to me
& wonder what she makes of all this
if she sees police as potential protectors
or these boys as potential friends
& how hard it will be to move in a world
in which these contradictions are
embedded in her skin

“What Did You Dream about,

[For my brother]

What did you dream about, brother
In those last days
When you lay there
Tubes sticking out
Your only friend?
Did you dream of the days
When I would come to your room
And sleep on the floor beside your bed?
Did you dream of the knowing
That can only come from a brother?

What did you dream of, brother?
When strangers told you
As you lie prone
The question for which there is no answer
Becomes the answer to every question.

I dreamt of regret
For lost years
For remembering the days
When I would come to sleep on floor beside your bed;
For knowing, the knowing
That can only come from a brother,
But letting years get in the way;
Of intimacy.
I dreamt of the terror
Of not seeing sons grow up.

In these long, lonely days
I hope you dream of your sons:
The big one
Loving the little
And coming to sleep
On the floor beside his bed.

Rochester, NY, 2013