(there is a woman wearing a hamburger helper costume & she’s scaring a little boy. i am the little boy & i am a ghost of myself)
(in SF again. freakin out because I almost forgot to drink water. I almost forget a lot of things. I go to an organic bodega by the side of the highway in the middle of a robbery. the robber tells me to pull down everything from the racks)
ROBBER: Pull down everything from the racks! Bitch!
(i’m scared but i’ve also been here before. he has a gun but it doesn’t look real. he’s a little mean like he thinks he’s smarter than me. i can’t decide if i like him or if i’m trying to make the best of a situation he asks if i can give him a piggy back ride)
ROBBER: Can I hop on your back?
ME: Yeah, that’s okay.
(he’s not that heavy & i guess i’m having a good time)
ME: Hey, this is nice.
(eventually we leave & i ask him if it’s okay if we just hold hands.)
ME: Is it okay if we just hold hands?
(i never really get a good look at his face)
I MADE YOU A PLAYLIST
My parents’ song is Que Tontos Que Locos, a bachata about two lovers who keep seeing other people but really just want each other. How stupid we are, how crazy. That’s not my parents story but the rhythm attached itself to it anyway, like when a cat sinks into your legs in the middle of the night, or a leaf settles into your hair & you don’t notice until someone looks at you hard enough & says “Can I get that?” & then for a moment, you are touching.
When I look at you, a song gets stuck in my head.
Our bodies are not the same
as they were 10 years ago because cells divide
& science, whatever, yada-yada.
The only parts of us that remain the same are the hair in our ears.
I learned this from a movie. Does it matter which one it is?
They bend & wither over time because they’re the only ones we’ve got.
Obviously, we are cruel. We turn the volume all the way up so that the
song takes over the air around us, makes it so there is no place we’ve left
behind or a place to get to, there’s just the steady, blaring in-between
that lulls us to sleep.
I pull on the hairs on your arm.
I wonder if they can hear me.
Olivia who is sensitive can’t listen to certain songs
because they bring her to certain places & then, all of a sudden,
her phone dies so she has no way of getting back home
without walking through the town, asking a local for directions & in turn
making small talk with the local, stopping in a bodega to buy a bottle
of water, getting distracted by a father & his son skipping cracks in the sidewalk,
catching her reflection in the mirror of a used electronics store, thinking,
“I didn’t look this way when you used to love me.”
Puloma is gonna get married one day & I’m going to slow dance
with her to “Better Son/Daughter” at her wedding
& her husband will be watching & he won’t know
any of the words.
Is it masturbatory to think I am going to be the song
you can’t remember the name of?
That you’ll tell the person next to you,
(who is like me except maybe cut in half & bleached
& doesn’t care about social media so she only takes pictures
of trails)“It goes like ba-ba-ba” or maybe it’s “Da-da
-da-da” & she doesn’t know what you’re saying & takes out
her phone to check & the ba-ba-ba & the da-da-da-da is stuck
in your head for the rest of the day & also your life?
In the dark, Mariajose plays me three different versions of “Tennessee Whiskey.”
We can be so honest with each other but never actually
do anything about it. We say we hate
country songs to separate ourselves from whiteness
but what’s the difference between a country
song & a ranchera, anyway?
There are men & guitars & horses nearby,
there is inherited land that stretches for miles,
there are alcoholic sweat stains in the shape of a couch,
there is a sun that sets just for us.
Stephanie sings “Hero” by Mariah Carey
at the Miss Teen New England contest in Connecticut.
We spend all day looking for a karaoke version.
We go to Radio Shack.
We go to Best Buy.
We go to Newbury Comics.
The best they can do is lower the vocals
so Mariah’s voice is a little ghost
around my sister’s.
She gets third place.
We keep the trophies in the kitchen, behind glass.
Actually, the first impression made to infants isn’t sight but sound.
It seeps through the belly & gets into the amniotic fluid. You probably
already know this. Mami always said I was smart because she put Mozart
on her belly. Maybe Mozart was the first man to get stuck in my head. Maybe he was
the first song I thought was only mine.
It could feel like a knife, slicing into the cheese of your brain
or a cash register violently opening & closing, a restless alarm lover that doesn’t want you
to sleep. How to get rid of an ear worm? The world
wide internet suggests
chewing gum or having a conversation
or listening to the song all the way through,
or picturing the song ending,
Abuelita wants them to play Vicente Fernandez
at her & Mariano’s wedding in the hospital chapel
but all they have is the in-house music therapist
on his flute.
Chris blasting Bomb the Music Industry to stay awake
on the New Jersey Turn Pike, Samuel handing me the aux chord
asking what do you mean I don’t know Bones by the Killers? Jess touching
my leg on the highway & saying that this Best Coast song isn’t about Love
it’s about being an addict, Connor not saying anything
when I play “Yellow Eyes” on the Tobin Bridge,
Jon singing the bridge of
“Say it Ain’t So” in the car with Rachelle
at a stop light at the top of his young lungs before the song
was a meme or a memorial. All of my lovers, all of my friends.
There is no song that belongs just to us.
I wear the songs out.
I leave them out in the sun.
I forget to feed them.
I throw them in my backpack.
I get on my bike.
They rattle inside where they get scratched up
by my keys, my chargers, my pens, everything
I think I need to carry
with me as I make my way to you.
DREAMING OF YOU
“There’s no place I’d rather be than here
in my room
you & me.”
I want to know who the “You” is. Is it God.
Is it a Band. Is it the person we’re confessing to
in a diary. Second person is
useless but maybe that makes it powerful. I used to think that God was
living in the glow-in-the-dark star I had stuck on the ceiling as a child
so whenever I would masturbate I’d just
Late at night while all the world is sleeping
I stay up & think that everyone I’ve ever loved is the same
whimsical spirit floating from one sad flesh husk to the next.
I will spoon the wall or the wall will spoon me, and all of the spirits,
every sad clown, every animated guitar, every inside joke about an arbitrary
sock will hold me until they fall asleep.
You & me are having sex to a movie.
Or during a movie?
Or at a movie?
In conversation with?
At least we’re in the dark enough
so I don’t have to feel bad about my body.
At least there’s only this light from the actor’s faces,
floating across my skin.
I’m afraid even my orgasms have dimples.
I text you, “Dang, I have plans!” but what I really mean is
what is better than me
and my imagination? What is more loving
than of all the ways I can invent You
Regretfully, the barista who gave me
$1 coffees didn’t have a crush on me,
but was just “new” & was recently “fired”
because he “didn’t know” how to “use the machine”
I saw him at the bar last night.
I waved to him. He cocked his head & turned
I walked into a coffee shop
but no one was there who looked like
they could completely fuck up my life & inspire
a mediocre poem & a half so
I just left.
That was a lie.
All three of those things.
I crave a ferry to San Francisco & a dead phone
full of messages. I’m horny for an empty chair & a street
crawling with the shadows of strangers. It feels good
to have all eyes on me. It feels better to blow
them all away like ladybugs.
I can’t say for sure if I’ve ever had good sex.
I just know that I can enjoy myself & that afterwards
there’s a fertile kind of sadness.
I wish all of my friends could have sex
with my lovers so that way we could
compare notes but none of my friends are single.
I guess what I’m saying is I miss my friends.
Why are people in relationships always
I came to New York to get an MFA
but maybe also to fall in love?
Don’t tell anyone that.
New York is cool because you only start
dating someone so that it’s easier to pay the rent.
That being said my roommates are always ending things
& I can always hear them.
One says, “I just feel like I’m capable of feeling love
for multiple people.”
The other’s like, “But will you always love me the most?”
On & off, on & on, for days & hours. They cry & they scream
& they pull out their hair & then it gets longer.
I want to pull back the curtain that separates my
bedroom & theirs & tell them to Break Up, please.
Just kidding! It isn’t a curtain.
It’s a series of jackets duct taped together.
Just kidding! It’s a collection of polaroids throughout the years that I’ve strung together with
Also kidding! It’s just a door.
I keep it closed.
I’m watching a couple peck
each other on the cheek at a stop light.
They’re on bikes. I want to yell
“That’s unsafe!” but that would
probably make it more unsafe.
If you must know, my parents
had a bad divorce when I was 12.
But before that, they would dance
at the family functions. They would
bachata across the floor, heads together
hands pressed against necks & backs,
sweating & swaying in this violent
way everyone always said I could sway,
because it’s in my blood.
My sisters & I sat the tables lined with flowers
& plastic sheets & we would hide our faces
embarrassed because all of the primos & tios were watching.
And of course, my parents knew that.
Then the song would end.
Then the lights would turn on & it was just them
left on the floor of the gymnasium rented out for the night,
surrounded by defeated balloons
& cake that was all crushed
strawberries & earnest whipped cream,
which is, for some reason, the way Latinos love
This is how I like to remember it, anyway.
“Dreaming of You” was released posthumously,
which is a word that I used to believe
meant “After you were funny.” If you’re that
pretty can you have a good sense of humor? Come on.
I can’t help but crack
the hell up listening to Selena whisper, “Como te necesito.”
Is that what boys would want me to whisper into their ears? Spanish
songs all so fucking dramatic. Everything is
a stage, I guess, or the altar we die on.
So, wring your hands at my feet!
Set some candles on my shoulders!
Place those flowers in my eye balls, baby!
Cry over my wardrobe!
I don’t know. Don’t listen
to me. That won’t make a good song.
How about, towards the end,
when she whispers “I love you,” and answers,
“I love you too”?
It’s like I can see her.
It’s like she’s talking to me.
It’s like she’s alone
in her room, in some apartment in the ceiling.
She’s got her fuzzy slippers on.
She’s got her hair in two tight black trensitas.
There’s a green exfoliant mask settled on her moon-
face. The lights are still on because she’s a girl
who is all at once confident & afraid. She’s holding
up her two hands & she’s pinching them into mouths.
She’s making them kiss.