One night after
a day of
let downs and
all the rest

I parked my car
in its spot;
let the engine run.

I couldn’t
step out
or turn the
engine off.

You came running
down the stairs
to my door.

You reached in,
turned off the car,
guided me out.

I thought maybe
that could be

yet powerful
moments of love.

you were what I called home

I often wonder if you
remember the falling.
It felt like coming home to me.
Until the inevitable
came like the change of seasons,
we turned
The memory of what was
comes to me in flashbacks.
We grew up together in
private moments
navigating the wax and wane
of an intimacy too mature
for what we could know of it.
I was 13 the first time you
threatened it.
I was 14 when you really tried.
The in between is what I remember most.
The scent of your
black Pink Floyd hoodie,
smelling of your mom's cigarette smoke
and Tide detergent.
Like something out of our control
what was once supportive and pure
turned toxic.
Expectations became chains.
You told our friends stories.
They called me a whore.
I learned to lie and manipulate.
felt safer than
The alternative
lead to an abuse
I still hear my own
voice use against me
13 years later.
Slowly I
lost myself in the sensation
of becoming nothing
beyond the pleasing
and the apologies.
Love and safety became
foreign and unattainable.
I sometimes avoid turning my
phone on ring
it reminds me of the time you called
so I’d hear every sound
of what you said I led you to do.
Now I exist in nights
that come
after a day of supporting others
and I wonder if love
is something
only other people can experience.
You tried to escape life
and left me holding the responsibility
in hands that I still
wash raw trying
to make peace with the shame.
I try to find new ways
in relating to others
and still find myself
staring into
that do what they can
with what they know.
Now they aim to heal
rather than defend,
to absorb love
and yet
I was taught to swallow whole
the blame
to hold the responsibility
to jump to conclusions
before I am surprised with
another blow.
I'm now just beginning to
that my home is meant to be
and consistent in its
giving and receiving.
My home is meant to
grow rather than deplete.
What am I to do
when home
from the very touch
of my own hands
at the surface
of love?

damaged lenses

Tonight street lights are the only stars.
A few burnt out and I do not see
the black ice on the sidewalk.
I fall
hit my head.
Shattered something in my eyes.
Grey turns into bursts
of red and blue
and all the things
that don’t make sense.
I ask two strangers,
“What does it look like?”
They tell me love is
orange and yellow normalcy.

I crawl to my car
reach for my glasses
in the glove compartment.
The colors fade and I’m seeing
for the first time
in 13 years.
Out loud I ask,
“What have you done?”
Sadness comes to me
petite and vulnerable
yearning to be seen.
She looks at me,
shakes her head.
The view shifts and I’m there.
I’m 13 and I’m falling.
I’m 14 and I’m calling his dad.
“Your son, he took pills.”
“What happened? Why did he do this?”
“I told him I didn’t love him anymore.”
I’m alone on my bedroom floor.
My mom listens outside my closed door.
She hears a flat tone in my voice
dissociated from the words I say.
“He did this because of me.”
My voice sounds older.
Older than 14.
Thick with pain and knowing.
I watch myself from the window sill.
I see the exact moment there’s a shift
in the eyes of a teenager.
It is then
I begin to believe I am responsible
for the feelings of others.
That love is torturous and painful
secretive and life-threatening
It is this moment I believe
I am the victim
and love the betrayer.
The numbness of 14 consumes me.
The same feeling
that helped me dial the number
to tell his dad his son called
to say goodbye.
His dad is remarkably calm.
When I say these words
and that I was the reason for them.
A car beeps.
I startle and see a crack
in the glasses
that have sat in their case
for 13 years.
The frames are bent,
the lenses scratched and cloudy.
I remove them from my face,
fold them delicately in my lap.
I wait to feel.
Nothing comes.


Bare is the hill we begin our work.
The sun rises, it’s brisk.
He wears sun-bleached jeans
Battered brown work boots
a jean shirt and hat.
He reminds me of his father.
I meet him at the crest.
“We’ll plant six.”
We begin positioning
our shovels, the buckets.
Bags of dirt line the hill’s edge.
I look down to the bottom.
The task feels daunting.
We use our shovels and picks
to help navigate our footing
along the incline.
We line up the trees
I look to him to begin.
I picture how he will recline
on his worn, brown chair
as he reflects on his day.
He will look to
the hillside.
He’ll know he did what he could.
“I’ll start digging.”
I watch him.
He uses the tools his
father shared with him.
Dirt caked on the handles
from decades of landscaping.
My father
tells me to fill the holes
to hammer in the stakes
to plant the bushes and trees
that soon will adorn his hillside.
I carefully observe his process.
His methods are intentional,
techniques from the old country.
I mimic the way he breaks ground
His heal on the shovel’s end
the hard dirt breaks.
We strike red clay
Pennsylvania’s bedrock.
The sun rises over my father’s land.
I hear him whistle as he works
sweat falls from his brow
his skin tan from a summer
spent planting.
He is his father’s son.
Breathlessly, I announce,
“We’re finished.”
Six trees planted and watered.
My stomach signals its hunger.
It’s noon
I climb to the top.
My thighs burn and ankles itch
from thorn scrapes and bug bites.
“Let’s go for 12.”
I feel anger rise within me.
He’s never done working.
I look at him
as he drinks water.
He assesses what’s left to finish.
I run inside.
Famished, I devour a banana,
some toast.
I consider retreating to my room.
He did say six, after all.
I reconsider
I look out the bay window
the one his chair rests beside.
He is digging a seventh hole.
I hear the radio play on the patio below.
Motown flows from the speakers.
He smiles as he catches me watching.
Resigned, I return to the hillside.
I ask him what’s next.
He tells me what to do.
I finish the job
the way he’s instructed.
It’s 3pm when we finish.
We sit under the deck
drinking fresh water.
The radio wanes behind
my father’s breathing;
his satisfaction.
“I’ll need to plant the front yard soon.”
I take him in
he is already out of this moment
and into the next.
Years from now
I will witness my father
sitting in his chair
He’ll look up once in a while.
He’ll look to the hillside.
I head inside to shower.
The sun reaches its peak.
I look out my bedroom window
and see my father.
He’s pushing a wheelbarrow.
It’s winter now,
I visit home and find him
sitting in his worn, brown recliner
reading the newspaper.
He smiles when he sees me.
I sit on the arm of the chair
I rest my hand on his shoulder.
“Remember when you helped me?”
We look over the hillside
“I thought you said just six.”
He smiles, knowingly
“You finished the job with me.”
He gazes over his hillside
the one we made our own.
We look at each other.
He knows I remember.
No longer bare
the trees are growing,
taking space.
Grass covers the land.
We look over the hillside.
He puts his arm around me.
I realize now what he sees
as he looks out the bay window.
The trees flourish
the leaves fall with the season’s mourning.
He sees us on our hillside.