Eating a Mango (from my next book, I hope)

You cannot tell the ripeness from its color

must press the flesh with your thumb

graze your fingertip across its skin

feel it give under gentle pressure

breathe in the scent of peach and honey

run the blade to cleave the fruit

along each cheek

try not to nick the pit

score diamonds into flesh

turn each lobe inside out

scrape morsels from skin with your teeth

nibble around the slippery pit

then gnaw it to get the last bits

juice running down to your elbows

dripping down your chin.

Tijuana (from “Letting Go”)

Southern California unwinds like a filmstrip

Unreels when we cross the border in the mint green Edsel

Men run into the street to meet my father and meLe

Wave their arms and say, “Senor! Senorita!”

He gets out to make a deal

Fifty dollars for new upholstery

Twenty for a new set of rims

He ends with a joke about us getting married

They laugh. I look at the ground.

On the street I look at the pinatas and sombreros

Embroidered with the name of the city

Serapes woven with yarn in colors not found in nature

My father sees a purse like his cowboy boots,

Ostrich skin with dimples where their feathers were plucked

Like the pimples pushing through my skin

And the hairs above my lip that I’m starting to pull out with

Tweezers like tiny forceps.

He sees me eyeing a silver bracelet inset with abalone flowers

Says to the cashier, “She’ll take this one,”

Slams it on the glass counter

I flinch

He pays for it

Clamps it to my wrist.

We walk past darkened bars

Disinfectant wafting from open doors

But my father buys his tequila on the street

Where we eat tacos full of meat and beans

Let the juice dribble into the wrappers and down our arms

And don’t speak.

Going back we see a man

With no hands and no feet

He sits on a cart with a can that says, “Please”

I reach down, and my bracelet sounds like

Money in his cup

My father walks on.

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Letting Go (title poem of book)

 (First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

-Emily Dickinson, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes”

 

Where did you go before you left?

When you couldn’t speak but made yourself say,

“I’m dying. Let me go.”

I told you to try as hard as you could

To live so that you could stay with me

When I finally told you it was o.k. to go

That I was taking you to a place where you

Would be unplugged from all the tubes

You put your hand on mine

Squeezed it as hard as you could

As if to say thank you.

 

How many times did you let me go?

When I was learning how to ride a bike,

First with training wheels, then with none,

You watched me teeter,

Resisted the urge to hold me up,

Like the time I was learning to swim and never did,

Clutched you on the first day of kindergarten

Afraid to let go of you.

Now I’ve let you go

Like you let me go.

 

When I left you for the last time,

On the airplane home,

I felt two taps on the shoulder,

Thought it was probably some obnoxious kid,

The kind who likes to kick seats.

I turned around

No one was there.

What were you trying to tell me?



My first panic attack

In the connecting airport

I was told my baggage had been sent to a city

Across the country

I thought your things would be lost to me

Never to be reclaimed.

Stood in line waiting for someone to help me

Only to be told there was nothing she could do

She saw me falling to the floor

Then took me in a wheelchair to the front of the line

I was told that it had been a mistake.

 

I even let a man into my body

Because I thought you had sent him to me

To fill the space that you left when you went

I made him into what I wanted him to be.

He took what he wanted, then disappeared

You always said men were only good for one thing

Was this your way of proving it to me?

 

You kept me tethered to the earth

Made me believe that you would never go

But the one who made me live and lived for me is gone

You gave me the gift of life

I gave you the gift of death

Now I drift unmoored, bereft

Wondering what other ways you will let me know

            that you’re not gone—yet.