Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You Al Capone, I’m Nina Simone

If I had my way I would’ve been a killer.
But the only thing I had was music.
Well, the sea first.
It was always the sea first,
music, second.
You can quote me on that.

Mama called it the devil’s music,
because she knew
God so well.
I liked the sound
of that,
but still when I was a young girl,
played for the first time,
they made her move
to the back of that music hall.
White gloves covered her black, black
hands and she held onto the tiniest purse I’d ever seen.
My hand hovered over those keys, stopped the sound
until they let her back to the front.
What can you fit in a purse so tiny?

I married a white man once,
he was a creep.
You can quote me on that.
He never said it,
none of them ever do,
but he wanted me to change.
And I don’t do that,
it’s just not my thing.

But I tell you what is my thing –
That’s all I want now.
Not to change the world,
because I can’t.
The rich are getting
richer, the poor poorer
and me, 
well I’m just getting old.
And I’ve realized it just ain’t my job to change this world, Baby.
You can quote me on that.

All I want now, are the raspberries
that grow in my garden.
This tree bearing fruit for winter.

Not even love,
it’s too much lava, and I’ve been
burning up for many years now.

I don’t want to change the world, not
I just want my raspberries,
and a man
who is rich, and who can give me
a boat- a sailboat.
I want to own it,
let him pay for it.
You can quote me on that.

First, was the sea and then came my music.
Not this dirty black jazz the white people hear,
but this black classical thing, the Duke and I play.

I don’t know how Mama did it,
with a purse so small.
I always wanted the things
my hands hold
to be bigger.
Big enough to fight
the voice that told me once –
Because you’re black.

And now, all I want are
And sailboats.
And the sea, it was always the sea first.
You can quote me on that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A LA Girl Learns About Public Transportation

It's true. I hate to say it. I almost don't even want to say it. But I have to. I miss my car. I miss seeing my reflection in it's shiny black surface. I miss walking outside of my house and knowing that it's right there, just waiting for me. In Los Angeles, it seems, your car becomes something more than a means of transportation, it becomes your best friend - dependable, comforting, willing take you far away from whatever it is you are trying to get away from. I grew up in cars, changing radio stations, helping my mom talk her way out of speeding tickets. I never rode a bus really; except for the bright yellow school bus with hot leather seats where the cool eighth grade kids got to sit in back. I sat on my Dad's lap when I was eleven, steering his car around in the high school parking lot. Growing up in the suburbs, a car meant freedom, a way to get to the city without the embarrassment of having your parents drop you off, sometimes even walking you to the door of the party you were attending. Somehow I never let go of this association. Recently having moved to San Francisco, to what at times seems like an entirely different universe, I learned about the convenience, disturbance, and inevitable heartbreak of the public transportation system. Running after the 24 bus a few days ago, I had time to really think about this. Here are a few do's and don'ts of riding public transportation  that may be helpful to you.

DON'T talk to the drunks with pocket knives however nice or attractive they may be. There's a difference between a ruggedly sexy man who's had a few too many, and seems to be covered in dirt because he just returned from a camping trip, and the alcoholic who many many years ago was handsome but now walks around with a pocket knife attached to his belt, a forty in his hand, asks you how your day is going and then tries to hold your hand. Know the difference. And if for some reason you confuse the two, immediately get off at the next stop.

DO always carry an iPod, book, or magazine. You never know when that J train is going to be forty five minutes late, and looking busy or entertained is a great way to keep the crazies from talking to you.

DON'T stare at the couple smoking crack on the bus. He will turn around and cast a Satanic curse upon you. And if for some reason you fail at this, immediately get off at the next stop.

DO always give your seat up to the elderly. However, if someone is missing all their teeth do not automatically assume they are elderly.

DON'T accept gifts from strangers. I know the bracelet looks cute, but seriously, you have no idea where it's been. And the goo covering the box doesn't look too promising.

DO know alternate routes. You're a city girl now, which means you need to be self-sufficient. Being stranded isn't fun, and knowing alternate ways of getting where you want to go, oh let's say if the J train is forty five minutes late, is quite important.

Keep reading for more on this SF adventure...

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Sweet Days Of Shirin

is as sweet as her name,
recites Rumi and Hafez.
Writes poetry
in the silence of a room no one can enter.
The ink spills from her fingers,
big black drops 
that help her to breathe.

They have closed her University this month.
The men with the guns
and dark eyes,
who fight for a God
they secretly fear,
but say still they love more 
than anything.

During the day she covers her hair,
her shoulders,
her long legs,
her sins
beneath a chador.

On the streets of Tehran
she is just a face
in a sea of faces.

She walks by the gate of her University today,
peers through the window of her old classroom.
Her teacher sits inside
on a small yellow chair,
shedding tears for the beautiful voices 
she is beginning to forget.
Shirin feels the end of a long gun dig inside her back.
Move along
there is nothing to see here.
This time they are right.
There is nothing.

She makes a quick stop at the corner.
Meets with Mahtab,
who places a small bag in her hand.
This goes unnoticed
within the bustling noise of the bizarre,
the cracking of pistachios,
the loud voices of tired men-
tired even of their own oppression.

Later that night she arrives at her cousin’s house.
His parents in the country side for the weekend.
Within the doors she hears silence.
She follows the long hallway,
down the stairs,
through the basement doors.

She hears music 
alive like a beating heart,
her chador comes off,
she breathes again.
Someone places a glass of whiskey in her hands.
She is kissed by all,
even men with dark eyes.
Instead of guns,
they hold her hand as they enter another world.
She carries two white pills to the tip of her tongue,
as she recites a prayer silently.
This is a different kind of poetry.
She empties the rest of the freedom pills in a tray, 
glasses usually filled with tea,
now tipped over with dark fluids that burns when it goes down.
She passes the tray around,
the way her mother taught her to-
elders first.

She makes sure to skip no one.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When Did Tea Become So Smart?

I drink tea. A lot of tea. I prefer it over coffee, and when your parents drink it seventeen times a day, you seem to have no choice. So what happens when an avid tea drinker discovers a new breed of tea? Intelligent, zen-filled, therapeutic tea? Well, she stops wasting hundreds of dollars a session on therapy, and starts ripping those tea bags open every day - hoping, praying that the little paper on the end of the tea bag will know just what to tell her.  Because it was, in fact, just written for me. Here's just a taste of what my Yogi Tea has been saying...

Realize that the other person is you.

When we practice listening, we become intuitive.

Let love elevate yourself to excellence.

Your greatness is not what you have, it's what you give.

Your destiny is to merge with infinity.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Pillow

I hug my pillow at night 
as if it is a body 
My pillow doesn’t 
toss and turn at night 
or roll over and push me off the bed
I do not wake to its morning breath
or an emptiness next to me 
before the sun has even risen.
My pillow is soft 
and a late sleeper
and fits no matter how I turn myself.


Without my glasses,
I cannot see
the naked way he looks.
The way his mouth moves when he speaks.
The scar on his right shoulder
he does
not look at because his brother
died in that accident-
an upside down tree,
with roots in the sky,
branches spreading along his arm.

Without my glasses,
the world is
mumbled secrets, 
forcing me to reach my hands out.

Forcing me to touch the curves
and corners of created things.
To mistake his hands for mine,
to find sad things beautiful,
touching these scars that still bleed,
as I feel my way

Thursday, September 3, 2009


At the bar last night, the man with the unbrushed blonde hair left a set of stairs at the door.
"Nice stairs," the bartender told him as she grabbed his beer.
"Where do the stairs lead to?" my friend asked.
"A wall," he said.
"What color are they?" she asked. He drank his beer and continued to ignore her.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tequila and Love

I’ve been thinking lately about sex
and why I seem to have so little of it.

It feels almost
like a waste
of a body.

And then I think about
and why I seem to have so little of that too.

And my yoga teacher’s
shiny head as he walks around the room,
approaches me
smelling of lavender
and lemon grass -
like a foreign country.

He presses down on my shoulders
as my body twists upon itself.
Your body is open -
he tells me -
You are willing to change.

I’m happy that he notices.
It feels good that someone notices
these things.

I’ve been thinking about stuff like that,
sometimes even when
a boy I meet at a bar asks me to dinner,
shows me his tattoos
explains what each one means
as if taking me on a personalized tour of his life -
tells me he can hear the ocean from his room when he sleeps,
tells me he’s a good cook.

And me,
I’m one of those eager tourists,
the one with headphones on at the museum-
the one carrying a map,
spending her money on cheap souvenirs.

I’ve been thinking about stuff like this,
sometimes even while
I drink his tequila
so he doesn’t feel alone
and he grabs my hand,
his palms wet -
like he’s been looking for it all night long.

And in the dim light
with the loud bass surrounding us,
the homeless man asks us for a cigarette,
lights it up and stands next to us -
too close perhaps -
so black he is glowing.

And inside of this buzz
I begin to confuse the burn of tequila,
with the warmth of love.