Hemingway makes your writing bold and clear.
Basically the coolest little tool to have as a writer.
This is awesome!!!
“I hate it when it’s quiet. I wish someone would just scream and make a run for it.”
“The woman across the hall from me screams every night around four in the morning.”
“Wanna trade rooms?”
Beside me are two women who talk as though I’m not there, but I know they’re aware of my attentive ears. This makes me feel less like an eavesdropper. Our three chairs against the mauve wallpaper are the only ones occupied at this time, because the other residents have chosen to stay in their rooms or have an appointment with a health specialist.
The one eager for excitement is small, often with cane in hand. The dark wooden finish of it gleams under fluorescent lighting as it rests between my leg and hers. She used to be a physical education teacher in Massachusetts. “Dodge ball is a sissy sport,” she concludes decisively when I ask her if she ever had her kids play that elementary school staple.
“I don’t think you want to trade rooms with me,” says the woman next to her. Crows feet at the corner of her dark brown eyes are hidden by a pair of tortoiseshell glasses, frames arched at each corner in a chic cat eye shape. “Besides, we don’t need any screaming. Why don’t we sing a song?”
I’m about to pipe in that a song would be lovely, but I’m cut off by a scoff beside me. “Oh? What sort of song, hm?” the small one asks, giving me the impression that perhaps her friend’s suggestion is ludicrous.
“You know, the song we always sing. Come on, let’s sing it together. You know the words,” her friend says encouragingly. She adjusts the glasses on the bridge of her slender nose and clears her throat before humming softly.
The soft tune is replaced by a duet, a pair of voices filling the previously humdrum air of the hallway. The constant scrape of wheels against tiled floors and the intermittent beeps of a heart monitor two doors down are suddenly drowned out by the words of a 1940s tune.
It was much better than screaming, indeed.
How to Pronounce Humility
When my father laid the first brick for his future apartment complex,
he whispered, This is for my children.
My father never struck me as much of an architect,
but he was always the type of man who could build a home.
The blistering Bangladesh summers wore out his fingertips,
leaving dry rivers embedded deep within his browned palms.
My mother was never much of a scholar,
but she is savvy to the secrets of the world that I’ll never find in a book.
She is on her feet twelve hours a day, and never makes time to complain.
It was an ocean that took her father away, an ocean that forced
the news to be heard through a telephone wire.
My father held her for the first time in years.
My parents wanted to make sure that their children had dreams,
goals to fulfill through hours spent swimming in words
dictated in a foreign tongue.
They needed to ensure that their children would
grow up one day to become something worth respecting.
They have difficulty whispering the word perseverance,
and yet they epitomize it through their time spent figuring out A-murr-ica,
this country with all its oppro-too-nee-tees, and
chances for their children to succeed.
At times she likes to sweep the kitchen floor
while listening to audio cassettes of folk songs from the seventies
because she doesn’t understand how to work a CD.
Occasionally he settles himself at the dining table, either
to count his money or to eat his dinner alone.
They wished for my success,
and I wished for their humility.
“Dodge ball is a sissy sport,”
Ms. Todd repeats over and over
when I ask about her days
as a gym teacher.
“We need more women in sports,”
she says to no one in particular while
watching the London Olympics
in an empty lounge.
“I wish someone would make a break for it,”
she mutters while clutching her cane and
resting her curved spine against the
peeling mauve wallpaper.
But no one ever does because the
eleventh floor residents of
Isabella Geriatric Center would rather
play dominoes, sleep in chairs,
sip milk from blue cartons,
or knit scarves in July.
“I’d run straight to Massachusetts if I could,”
she says to the nurse changing her bed sheets.
Ms. Todd likes to stay in her room and
stare out her window at the distant
skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan.
Each time her family leaves, she
locks her door for an hour.
She doesn’t want anyone to
see her blue eyes swell.
“Crying is for sissies,”
she tells me.
I was told the mango is the national fruit of Bangladesh
at an age when I still couldn’t place my finger on the map
to point out the delta that saturated my grandfather’s fields.
I was told it was “near Pakistan,” as though I could
navigate my way from Islamabad to Dhaka.
My father left the taste of sweltering summers
and power outages on my tongue.
He sits at the cherry wood table while he skins it.
Sometimes he listens to the news reporter delivering
death tolls and mortality rates and the wails of
a mother who lost a son in the politically charged crossfire.
He doesn’t flinch when she dabs her eyes with a threadbare sari.
The paring knife teases his thumb.
I ask if I can turn off the television.
My father knows when it’s perfectly ripe,
and he always saves the best slices for me because
he doesn’t know how else to remind me of my roots.
The idea of him sleeping under a roof of
corrugated sheet metal seems make-believe.
Imagine when it rained, he prods.
I try to picture it, but tonight’s mango is so sweet – I wince.
How to Love a Musician
at three in the morning,
my eyes don’t exist in the darkness
but I can still hear you composing. you
blindly trace fingertips along the
valleys between my vertebrae
like a set of familiar keys. there
aren’t 88 of them but I promise
if you practice scales on my spine,
I’ll sing as sweetly as
a Steinway Grand.
There’s more than just Southern charm
twinkling in the Big Easy smiles of
Nawlins natives sitting on porches;
their lips curl in welcome as we
wander the cracked pavements
of their recovering sidewalks.
Shotgun houses on Esplanade hide under
an arboreal canopy woven together by
gnarled branches of 800-year-old oaks.
Cerulean shutters behind filigree balconies
stay open to greet the Mississippi breeze.
Sunlight bathes Jackson Square
as tourists wander lazily between
masquerade gift shops, finding a
myriad of Mardi Gras trimmings:
beads, boas and Venetian masks
in explosive colors and the perfect gaudiness
of glitter, metallics, ribbons, and feathers.
They warned us about Bourbon Street, where
Hand Grenades and Hurricanes aren’t
dangerous (except for your liver), where
neon lights flicker above doors
leading into strip clubs and dive bars.
We dance beside a blue-haired woman
spitting rehearsed verses into a mic,
wondering if she’ll notice us.
Beignets taste better at 3 AM in an
empty Café du Monde with new friends,
even though the powdered sugar
misses my mouth entirely. I forgot the first
rule of thumb: don’t wear black.
We walk the same streets in the
French Quarter each day, fascinated by—
the waves of purple, green, and gold;
palm trees and streetcars;
the fleur de lis and WHO DAT!;
the taxidermied alligator heads.
We walk the same streets and I don’t mind
the aches in my step because even
Frenchman Street jazz can’t sound better than
our laughter as we walk home to the Seventh Ward
while the sun sets on the Crescent City.
anatomy, part III
Skin is the largest organ—
square inches of sensation,
sinews of sandpaper flesh,
stretched over a skeleton.
I wear my sins on the surface,
but not nearly as fashionably as you do.
You kissed me sweetly once,
but twice with malice.
I was five when I told you
I loved your scruff.
You laughed and said
you’d never shave again.
Mom left scarlet lipstick on your
shirt collar and you returned the favor
with purple bruises on her neck.
We came into your life with
skin like empty canvases.
You were the artist,
painting us the only way you knew how—
with a love so great,
you drowned us with
each brush stroke.
The marks of your acrylic fists
have long since dried,
leaving me with
thick skin that
I never asked for.
anatomy, part II
I am the ventricles and atria
haphazardly stitched together,
chambers filled to the brim with
blood, pressure, and hope.
Sometimes I swell with the coronary vice
of thinking every organ revolves around me.
I would claw my way out of this chest if it weren’t for
twenty-four ribs that keep me in cardiovascular confines,
far from unsuspecting appendages.
I would claw my way out of clarity and into darkness
if it weren’t for the twenty-one years of wisdom
granted by my mother, my ribcage.
At times I believed she
wrapped around me
like jail cell bars,
but now I know she’s
only ever been my
wooden crib fence.
anatomy, part I
My body exists outside itself—
I am the core of an anatomical
network composed of all of the
people I have ever loved.
I am the circulatory system,
replenishing life by the gallons.
I am beating,
Anchor me on either side,
with branched vessels
and the constant
You take my breath away
just quickly enough
to gift it right back.