{My Time Zone and Yours}

After Billy Collins’ “Eastern Standard Time”

I am a woman of many time zones.
I’ve lived in 4 and loved people in
more than double that.

You are one of them, I’m sure.
So, while I sit on the carpet of my bedroom, typing this poem,
Billy Collins’ book open beside me,
clothes strewn about,
my feet crossed,
evening air slipping through the window,
I don’t know what you are doing.

You might be sleeping, as any reasonable person would.
You might be writing, too, for school or for self-help, like me.
You might be teaching;
reading a bedtime story to your kid;
completing an online school course;
running in the city’s forest;
biking with your backpack strapped loose to your shoulders.

There are any number of options for your activity in another
time zone.
Who am I to know.

Needless to say, I’m writing of time zones,
and I wish I could be in all of them.

I wish I could read your words as you write them,
or listen as your child asks you the definition of a word,
sit on the back of your bike,
or maybe just pass you on your morning run.

But I stay here for now,
writing on my bedroom floor,
and hope for a miracle.

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{Spain: March 2017}

A Story in 7 Verses

1.
Travelers on the plane smile kindly at us as we
laugh with our teachers
and rearrange seats.

2.
When we arrive at the Dubai airport,
we find a corner of the gate to make our own.
We sleep on the ground, get drinks.
We have been in airports enough
that we have our own unwritten schedules.

3.
When we arrive in Spain, we are cold.
Spoiled by equator weather,
we wrap ourselves in scarves and
goggle at old, clean buildings.

4.
As we board the train to Sevilla, we are giddy
with sleeplessness and the shine of new places.

5.
It is dark when we climb out of our bus in La Plaza de Cuba.
Our host families wait in the dark,
various small dogs, a few children.
From where we stand, we can see La Torre de Oro y La Giralda.
They shimmer in our eyes and as we speak
unintelligible sentences, I think
about how long I waited to be here —
magic land, accents, la marcha, and everything.

6.
My friend and I are greeted by our hosts and their small dog.
They talk with a loping Spanish accent
and their home smells European and
faintly of cigarette smoke.
They tell us of their daughter
who passed away in the summer,
pointing out her picture all over the house.

7.
El Palacio de Viana is tucked behind white washed walls
and blue shuttered windows.
The gardens are bursting
with green, an array of fountains, statues, and stone pathways.
There are old stone benches, soft with age.
As K— sits on one, I think about those
that sat before her.

We roam the halls — dark carpets, and paintings on the walls.
We visit the quarters of la duquesa, her turquoise blue sitting room,
her closet — huge and concealed behind an ordinary door, — her bathroom.
The coffee table in the sitting room has stout legs,
curved at the bottom.
The love seat beside it looks comfortable, but probably isn’t.
I wonder if she ever put her feet on the coffee table.
I wonder if she ever wandered to the library, pulled a book
from the shelves, wandered back to her room,
and drank her tea with her feet on the table,
thinking about her relatives in a far-away country.
I wonder if she ever ran barefooted through the carpeted halls
to her lover’s bedroom (was he her lover?),
the clock striking, 1 or maybe 3, as she lounged in
his grand sitting room.

{The Dentist}

As the dentist checks my teeth, his voice loud in my ears and close to my face,
he tells me about his son taking a year off from school.

“He went traveling. Backpacking and hiking and walking and exploring.
I only heard from him when he ran out of money, or needed something.
He’d call me up from the mountains, to check in and ask for the bank password.”

As he brings a whirring machine close,
I close my eyes halfway, and the shadow of his hand turns into a mountain pass.
The ridges and crests of his hand blend into snow-capped peaks.

The son is trekking through the desolate landscape,
a map in hand as he follows a long-forgotten path.
The men of the mountains, ragged and at home,
see him from their hideouts, mistake his sounds for a wild animal
until his boots come into view.
The boy wanders still further, searching for something,
his father left behind.

I’m Done.

For a long time, I’ve had a quote taped to my wall that reads, “I will respect your opinion as long as your opinion doesn’t disrespect anyone else’s existence.”

I don’t think many things are black and white, but I think this motto of mine is pretty darn close.

I will respect your belief that we should have lower taxes. I will respect your belief that tattoos aren’t okay. I will respect your belief that pineapple on pizza is disgusting. I will respect those beliefs because they do not disrespect anyone else’s existence as a human on the planet.

I am done respecting and trying to make peace with people who want to kick people out of the country. I will not respect the opinion that the LGBTQ+ community is delusional or wrong or needs to ‘get over it.’ I will not respect the denial of human rights like safety, health, and love. I will not respect these opinions because they are disrespecting the very essence of someone’s existence.

That is not okay.

I will not, and can not and should not, respect your opinion if it disrespects anyone else’s existence. Period.

{The Beach}

DeBordieu Colony, Georgetown, South Carolina
1-4 September 2017

My cousin and I walk on the beach,
water whooshing over our feet and up our ankles.
I can feel the sand rushing between my toes
and I can feel the power of the water.

We search for shells, my cousin’s eye tuned
to the big ones with no holes, shiny and whole.
When he sees a huge Florida Fighting conch nestled in the sand,
he runs to it, eager for the perfection of the hard curves.

When he picks it up, and it looks like a monster
has bitten a bite out of the side, the curling center
like a unicorn horn, he throws it aside,
knowing I will now rush to it, before the waves
once again take the treasure away.

I grasp the shell, pulling it from the prying fingers
of the rough South Carolina sand,
it’s craggy edges softened by
time and movement and water.

I will put this shell in my pocket,
along with the other pieces and parts of shells that
catch my eye as we wander the shore:
abalone,
angel wing,
barnacle,
olive,
calico scallop,
shark’s eye,
giant atlanta cockle,
boring turret,
mussel,
and the list goes on.

They jangle in my pocket,
like coins, but better.

When I come home, two airplanes and two cars later,
I pour my bag onto the table,
relishing the sight of the little ordinary treasures.

I write this poem and I long to be like my collection of shells:
broken and beautiful, collected by somebody’s careful eye
as they walk on the shores of their own broken life,
longing, as I am, for just a little bit of grace.