Another poem about boobs
Long after I was past being breast fed
I still sucked on my mother’s nipples in the shower.
They were big and brown,
like her hands. Not like mine,
pink and small skin I can’t grow up out of.
A woman once told me that three rivers run through Iraq:
The Tigris, the Euphrates, and Poetry.
Her nipples tasted like my own earth, like the silt of these rivers,
had the same texture as sea-softened stones.
We pretended I was still her baby,
that I still needed her like the moon needs
the ocean to mean anything to surfers, like fossils need
scientists to name them, like I still needed her body
to live in my own.
I don’t touch anyone in Berkeley.
I try to make up for it in other ways.
I go to the Berkeley Bowl,
stand among the fruit with my eyes closed and try
to learn the origins of eight varieties of plums
by their feel alone, by listening to their skin.
The stock boys tell me it’s unseemly to feel up the plums
but I pretend I don’t speak English
turn my face back to the fruit
imagine they are my mother’s breasts
whisper, “I love you, I love you,”
and wonder if she feels a tugging somewhere.
My phone rings right then –
she’s calling me.
“Hello,” I say, in Arabic, in case the stock boys are listening.
“Hello,” she says. We speak for sixteen minutes. She does most of the talking,
and I listen to her voice like it’s a plum’s skin that could unpeel the secrets of the universe
just for me. She is telling me I need to train myself in loving things steadily, that I need to
stop writing things in spurts.
Here is my country. I am living in it by living in my skin. I want to eat this earth eat rivers of
silt to be these poems to have a body that makes me feel connected to yours like I’m being
strangled each time my cousins are blown to bits by American bombs brains splattered on
the Baghdad streets. I want the tongues of the ones I love to taste the earth I come from
when they taste my breasts to taste my Tigris my Euphrates my poetry instead of this pink
ocean sunset. I want to be the water inside of you an ocean brought back to the river of
itself running through your mouth and back into your body so I can beat my way out again
by loving you over and over my mother my moon my mother my ocean my mother my
constellation of stars that are shooting themselves in the foot my mother my fossil of my
future fossil of my past my mother hold me close and forget I exist forget I exist forget I
exist as any body outside of you. Forget I exist as anything but your skin.
Sunflowers are my favorite flowers because of the radio
Halfway through the fifth grade, I became a latch-key kid.
The school bus, all yellow elastic, stretched-out cartoon of it, dropped me and my best friend off right in front of a known pervert’s driveway.
He was a big man with a potbelly and skinny sideburns who invited us to taste the blueberries he grew on a rolling cart in his front yard.
She and I ran fast, in opposite directions, to our houses.
Mine was further
I pumped confetti out of my lungs as I ran
It sparkled behind me as I swept down the boomerang street
I was a comet
My legs, twin tails
I was afraid the shine would lead right to my front door like a silver snail trail glimmer.
When I opened the door,
I had the whole house to myself.
Most days I would turn on the big radio
lie down on the wood floor, press my head against the wall, smell its plaster.
I’d put my hand on my heart and feel its beat change when different songs came on.
All the songs I knew, I knew from the radio or the old cassette tapes of classical Arabic music my mom would turn up loud in the car. Youtube didn’t exist yet. I’d find lyrics to songs I’d never heard on the internet and imagine in the melodies.
This is how I became responsible for the KROQ playing “Fuck Authority” by Pennywise on the radio.
Every day I called the radio station:
I’d like to request a song … Ummm … “Eff Authority” by Pennywise. I know you’ve never played it before, but I never heard it before and really wanna!
What’s the song called?
Ummmm … Effff Authority. Like, F-U-C-K … Authority.
One day, the radio operator asked why.
I told him, because I liked wearing a big yellow button with a happy face on it on my jeans, right above my right knee like that one kid in Dazed and Confused. Because I loved punk rock music. Because my mom yelled at the TV when George Bush came on until spit flew from her mouth and traveled right through the TV screen to hit his forehead.
I knew it hit him because right then he wiped it and squinted a little. Because boys at school beat me up for being short and dorky and foreign. Because I liked to write poems like e.e. cummings and he asked, Ever heard of Allen Ginsberg? My favorite poem is Sunflower Sutra.
I read the poem.
“I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and sat down under the huge shade of a Southern Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the box house hills and cry.”
And I’d never been on no locomotive, and I still don’t know what a tincan banana dock is, but I do know the Southern Pacific, and I do know box house hills. I know sunsets, and I know what it means to cry, and I know that there’s something about music, something about a stranger’s voice telling you you’re not some dread bleak dusty imageless locomotive but a beautiful golden sunflower inside.