Baggage

i wake up one sunday morning,
half-open blinds streaming
white winter sunlight. you
spread a tea-stained crossword
across my lap, and wonder
if i know a ten letter word for
nostalgia.

when june arrives, it feels like
i’m looking at your face
through a rain-soaked
window, but i can still hear:
the sound of your smile,
the crunch of your morning frosties,
how you’d tune the radio to a
channel that does not exist because
you enjoy the sound of
static.

so in a tiny airport, headed
nowhere, when i’m flipping through
a book and i chuckle at the phrase,
“avocado colored refrigerator”
i know you would understand why
i bought the book in an
instant.

my summertime movies have
a side of pastries, but
your hair smelled strangely like
icing sugar and now, all
my future powdered donuts are
tainted.

and when i’m writing on the
back of my bill in a noiseless cafe
out by the river, i dip my fingers in
white sunlight and wonder if
the answer to nostalgia could be
heartbreak.

so if i see you in the middle of a
crowded grocery aisle, bagel in
one hand and chilled yogurt
in your cart, i will tell you:
my head is a messy place to be in,
so why don’t you pack your
bags and move
away?

The Wall

We were early, not fashionably so. I had my ragged notebook in hand, my sweater the color of spring sunshine. When we walked in, our footsteps curious, the slate grey floor echoed our nerves.

I found a seat in the front and instantly made eye contact with the large, hand-painted wall at the far end. It was acrylic on brick, pastel on muddy brown, stories in every crack.

I heard a switch click on, flooding the room with lights that matched my sweater, breathing life into art that smelled like a wallflower. I saw five people, huddled around a table like it was their own little secret.

Jimmy played his guitar in a corner, for friends who liked his music better than him. I saw a violin on the next guy’s shoulder, he had struggle on his face and a rip on his faded white jeans.

The man in the center – I called him Karl – had his cards fanned out in the way that experts do, and a drink on the coffee table. He gambled the night away with his two other friends, mischief hidden in his dark brown eyes.

But when I was drawn into things that were more poetic than Jimmy’s guitar or Karl’s poker face and saw heads down, hair streaked with the glow of active smartphones, words tumbling into poetry with every breath, I felt Jimmy play along, Karl set his cards down and the violin? The violin was finally in tune with our shaky words.

Dear Roald Dahl,

It was my eighth birthday and a wrapped package the size of a shoebox lay quietly on my bed. I poked and prodded, gave it a good shake, then slid one finger below the tape and ripped apart the wrapping paper.

I was shocked to find a stack of novels, each brightly colored and illustrated with sharp, pointed noses and stringy hair. My parents had given me a golden ticket to a factory of over-the-top adventures and the best childhood heroes.

Some days, I wanted to glue my nosy neighbors to the ceiling and on others, I memorized the exact ingredients of George’s marvelous medicine. Danny taught me what “poaching” was and all I wanted to do that summer was travel the world in my own giant peach.

But Matilda? She stole my heart faster than she pored over her books. Filled with hope and a sense of wonder, she made me believe that we could all stand up to the Miss Trunchbulls in our lives, telekinesis or not.

With your stories, you took us on adventures that tickled our funny bones: the evil were taught lessons with thinly veiled irony and our favorite characters always found their happy ending.

These are books that crawled into my heart and stuck with me long after childhood. I hope more little girls stumble upon the magic within their pages, and find in them a companion for lonely nights and long bus rides.

Love,
A 90s kid

Magic?

It’s a sunny afternoon, we’re done for the day, eager to head home to the ice-cream in our freezer – and that’s when we see you. An image flashes before my eyes, one that I haven’t seen in years: the bright-eyed little girl with plaits in ribbons, white blouse neatly tucked into her checked skirt, hoaxing me into a tree-to-tree game. So we call out your name, fingers crossed that you might turn, and in that split second that a million strings of fate untangle, you look up and stare us straight in the eye.

But no, I don’t believe in magic.

So what was it like, finding you after a decade of switched schools and lost phone numbers? It was as easy as hopping on a bus, getting off an hour later and finding ourselves at an open mic: packed with a creatively starved audience, the careless strumming of a guitar, dozens of fairy lights and the nervous munching of our loaded fries. I felt the butterflies escape as the flutter of poetry filled the quiet of a late evening sky. I wouldn’t want my first open mic attempt to be with anybody else.

But no, I don’t believe in magic.

You call me up one afternoon, tell me you’re being spontaneous and surely, a visit is in order. I find you at my doorstep in a few hours and as the night wears on, we bump into some grand adventures with unplanned sleepovers and planned gatorade. And as we spend all morning walking around town, finding insipid coffee and aesthetic brick walls for the polaroids we keep in our wallets, I feel the comfort of home wash over me, knowing I needed my monthly dose of happiness.

But no, I don’t believe in magic.

As you get ready to leave, we trace our stories backwards and plot connections worthy of constellations. You open the package I’ve left you and tell me that this particular book of poetry has been unduly stubborn about falling into your hands. I tell you that’s because it’s been waiting for you, one spontaneous bus ride away. My fingertips tingle as I type this, and yes,

I start to believe in magic.

Subway

Newspaper crumpled as it was
folded in half, travel-size. The
late night metro smelled like
all the school kids and pressed suits
it had transported on
a rainy Monday.
You stared into the pitch black
of the racing window,
worn out eyes, hands fidgety from
the lack of a cigarette pack.
Your faded Nirvana shirt reeked
of sentimental value. I tucked
my glasses in my coat and
looked up to find you staring.
It wasn’t the kind of eye contact that
flattered you or even sent chills
down your spine. It felt
more like you were scanning
my every move, sizing
me up, counting
my breaths.
A dropped keychain,
an unfamiliar cough,
the shifting light from the windows.
I wandered into the bar, it smelled
like happy hours. We were
the only two people who would
rather be sprawled on the
corner sofa than dance
to EDM’s Top 90.
I was two beers down and bursting
with conversation. You laughed
at my shower playlist, that
annoyed me a little. So I
attacked your striped pants and
called them a midlife crisis.
I told you why piña coladas in Maui
were my alternate universe. We
argued about serial killers and
war films. I told you where all
the underground bookstores were.
The night wore on, you emptied
your pack of cigarettes. I had
never discussed Murakami
with a stranger before. It was
half past two when we
finally shuffled out. You put on
your coat and offered to share
a cab. You told me conversations
like ours don’t happen everyday.
But I let you walk into the
Monday rain, where we were still
strangers on a subway.

After Hours

I sit across from you, cross-legged, uncomfortable.
This sofa isn’t made for singular conversations that make it
through the night.
I fumble around for the remote,
there isn’t one.
So the raucous blaring of a
music video continues.
There is cheap wine, white:
I like the bitter aftertaste.
And there is music, the kind that
doesn’t stick with you,
but reminds you of an old song
you might have heard in a jazz bar
that can only be described as blue.
I laugh at our mistakes as high strung teenagers, indie posters taped over
fragile bravado, secrets stashed
below the bathroom window.
You steal a look at the book on
my night stand, I tell you it is about
shoveling snow.
We talk in metaphors, so I fetch you
a cup of liquid nostalgia and we
flirt with disgruntled singers and old
photographs that still smell
like the ocean.
The light shifts across your face,
no need for a clock. I play
with the idea of crossovers and
classic margaritas, crowned with
indecision and loud, seaside laughter.
You call me cheesy and throw my
mixtape out the window. We find
the tangled strings that lead us
to each other, and idly wonder what
would happen if we undid them.
I am struck by the feeling that I should
write about this for people don’t stay,
but poems do. I laugh at your joke
about ferries, but the whole time
I am wondering how long before
you leave, too.

Subtitles

The air sang of yesterday’s rain and clouds bursting with thought.

I sat cross-legged on a wooden bench, absorbed in bits of conversation and quiet laughter.

I watched him spin his spaghetti into little knots on his fork, and wondered if I understood true love.

Our shared glass of lemonade had left it’s stamp on our table and the ice was dwindling in the summer heat.

His socks peeked above the hem of his faded canvas shoes; they were canary yellow with chocolate sprinkles.

I smiled because they reflected his soul.

Our conversation was scattered bits of memory and attachment, it spun around in the air till it formed our very own cloud of thought, full to bursting and floating above our heads.

I found connections so rarely, without physical contact.

And as unromantic as our Sunday lunch was supposed to be, the concept was a rather romantic notion.

I felt it under my skin, creeping to the recesses of my heart and pulling out secrets I hadn’t yet told myself.

The walls of privacy crumbled slowly, but crumble they did. And I did not try to build them back up this time.

With shaky smiles and nervous eye contact, I found that true love or not, with him, my actions did not need subtitles.