Dear (late) Father…

You visit the shrine I made for you
In remembrance of who you were
When you were alive
You like that I put rocks there

You visit my mother
And bring her flowers
You tell her not to visit your grave so often
You’re not there anymore

You walked straight into Love
With no fear left in your heart
And now everything you express
Is through that Love

When I wear your clothes
And carry your rocks
Next to my heart
And wear your whiskers
In a locket
I feel who you are
And who you were
Seeping into me
Down deep into my bones

Everyone tells me
I look more like myself
In your clothes
Than they have ever seen me
That for the first time
I look comfortable
In my own skin
In my own culture

You speak my language
A language of things
Not words

You gave me
All the right things
To find you again
Even past delirium and amnesia

I hope I can be in life
Half the person
You are in death

Those Below

Pharaoh built, they say
giant monument to gods
in the desert sun

blood-sweat-tears of workers and
tool-maker, architects, scribes


Martin Perl found the
tau lepton, a Nobel prize
many years of work

technicians like my father
made circuits, dug ditches, worked


those up at the top
deserve what credit they get
so do those below

those below are foundation
without them nothing happens

Sleeping with Granite

Me in bed with my bipap mask on and a big hunk of granite on my belly.

Me with a bipap mask on and a big hunk of granite on my belly.

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because hard objects are comforting
In a way that soft objects can never be

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because my father knew he’d die by December
So he hand-picked rocks as holiday gifts

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because my parents chose this particular rock
Shaped like a heart, heavy like a grieving heart

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because its heaviness anchors me
And tells me where my body is

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because I sat with my family on mountainsides
Made entirely of granite as far as you could see

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because it sings me rough but soothing songs
About the feeling it gets in the noonday sun

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because granite made friends with me
Before I had human friends

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because it reminds me of the Sierras
And the Sierras remind me of my father

I sleep with granite on my belly
I sleep with a bag of stones
In a shirt pocket oer my heart:
Plain grey rock with indentations
Volcanic rock with lots of holes
Tiger’s eye, Lapis lazuli, Schorl, Jasper
Amethyst, Orange Agate, Spectrolite

And all of these
In their way
Tell me I’m home

Football (American football, if it has to be distinguished)

When I was a teenager
My father slept in his running shoes
To prevent me running away from home
In the middle of the night
He was autistic too
And has hyperacute hearing
So there was no possible way
To slip by his door unheard

He’d block my path
I’d head-butt my way past him
Pitting my 105 pounds
Against his 250+ pounds
And often winning
Because I didn’t feel the pain
And then he’d have to chase me
All the way down the sidewalk
Tackle me
And convince me to come home
Before my screaming
Made a neighbor call 911
Which would inevitably lead
To a mental institution

My father said
I’d have made a good linebacker
This always pleased me to hear
Not that I wanted to hurt him
But that he cared so little for gender roles
That he was willing to envision his daughter
As a football player

When I was young
I wanted to play football
He told me the girl
Was the best player on his team

This worried me
Because for all I wanted to play
I knew I’d suck
And I knew of no life path
In which a girl could play football
Unless she was the best of the best
And maybe not even then

I would not have been able
To see the ball
As more than
Fragments exploding
In all directions
Brown and white
But disconnected and unfamiliar
Just like in basketball

Give me ping-pong
Give me badminton
Give me a game with a small ball
Moving fast
A light ball that my arms could hit
Without bending backwards
And that would activate
My tracking instincts
And I would be able to
Coordinate everything unconsciously
Even stand a chance of winning

But I didn’t want ping-pong
And I didn’t want badminton
Not at school, not there, not then
I wanted football
And nobody would let me play

My arms were too weak
To throw a good pass
My eyesight too jumbled
To make sense of all the players
Moving in all directions
Or the ball, at al

Football is a game of strategy
Of multitasking
I couldn’t do either one

Not to mention social skills
Visual perception
Ability to perform under pressure
If there was a game that was built
For everyone but me
It was football

Still, I wanted to play
I wanted the opportunity
To play, and to suck
And to be allowed to play anyway
Even if not on the elite school teams
I wanted to be able to do this
Without the girls who came after me
Being told:

“Sorry, we tried a girl once.
It didn’t work out.”

I wanted to play badly
Without letting down
A whole gender

I wanted to be
Just another player
Who was always picked last for the team
But who at least got to play

“All we need is time, but time’s too damn unkind” (*)

my dad understood
the language that rocks speak
and befriended them

he was fluent in
mountain, rock, forest, star, tree
listened to them all

the week he died
I showed him my rock friends
he respected them

after he was dead
I received a package
full of granite chunks

granite connects us
sure as DNA and love
granite mountainsides 

my only regret
not sharing rock friends sooner
while we still had time

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Sun and Rain

I woke up feeling
Like a piece of glass
While the sun casts blinding rays
Through the middle of my soul

I woke up feeling
Like a piece of glass
Ground down into tiny shards
That dazzle the eyes unpredictably
In the glaring sun

I woke up
With an awful taste in my mouth

I woke up
With clothes like sandpaper on my skin

I woke up most of all
Knowing something was gone
That I couldn’t replace
That I couldn’t even remember

When I was a child
I thought myself a monster
When I couldn’t cry
When I should have been crying

I used to lick my hands
Spread the spit over my face
And make sobbing noises
Then feel even more a monster
Because they were only fake tears

I’d feel so exposed
Just the way I do now
Like the piece of ground-up glass
In the sun

Even though I’m alone
And no one can see me
I feel transparent
I feel overrun

Sometimes when people cry
They say “It’s raining on my face”

I think it’s raining 
Deep down in my soul
Where nobody can see
And there’s no path
From the rain 
To my eyes

Owl Eyes


I was born
In the doorway of the delivery room
At change of shift
My mother had to lift the sheets
To show them I was here

I didn’t cry
I just stared
With big eyes 
And big pupils

“Owl Eyes”
My dad nicknamed me
As my parents wondered
“Who the hell is in there
Behind those big black eyes?”

I guess they found out
Slowly enough
As I learned to communicate better
But I feel like my father and me 
Never fully understood each other
Until he was dying

Because there was something he feared
About opening up to love
But he trusted me enough to do it
And I trusted him enough to do the same
And suddenly it was as if everything in our hearts
Was known to the other
On a level too deep for words

I was born during so many transitions
But death is the biggest of all
And I know my dad was scared
But I told him:

When it gets to its worst
Or when the pain gets too much
Lean on Love
It will not let you down
And he did
And we could see more
In each other’s eyes
Than we’d seen in a lifetime before

And my mom said when he died
He trusted us enough
To walk into the Light unafraid

Owl Eyes I was at birth
And Owl Eyes I was again
When my father took me out at night
To listen to the owls in the woods
And my eyes got big every time
I heard an owl hoot

And when my father was dying
All I wished was that
My Owl Eyes could get big enough
To see, and capture, his soul
In my memory

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