Sunday, August 11, 2019

Charlotte

Charlotte
Sunday, August 11, 2019
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It’s going to be 103 degrees today,
Doug warned before he left.

But we weren’t where the sun could touch us,
were we, Charlotte? No.

There were no windows in the waiting room—just posters of pretty cats free of fleas and leaflets about feline autoimmune disease and the smell of wet fur and sanitizers.

Signs said, “don’t remove your cat from its carrier”
So all I could do was gently rock you in your case and sing “My Favorite Things” while you hissed at the beagle who kept pressing his nose to your face,
oblivious to the fact that you’re not there to make friends.

and when they took you back and ran the tests,
and when they said your kidneys were the size of string beans and you couldn’t drink enough water to sustain your five-pound frame from collapsing with inevitable failure,
and when the technician held you down to stick an IV in your neck,

all I could think of was how, on a toasty spring night 17 years ago,
I drove from New Orleans to Jackson with you in my lap, and for 17 years I’ve only known a home with you in it,

And now I had six months to prepare for your death,
when all I wanted was to walk backward through time,

back to Coralberry where you could lie with London in the grass, hear her giggle as you sniffed each freshly mowed blade,

back to Brandywine where you could sleep in the shade and chase shadows behind the glass,

back to the nights in Lakeway where you could walk between London and Kaya’s rooms as they slept, ever watchful like a shepherd guarding her sheep—an unquivering eye scanning the darkness for the dangers only a hunter’s eye could see.

Back to Fentonridge where you could purr and coo whenever Doug picked you up and called you his baby

back to the lower 9th ward where you were born where you could sip hurricane rain and watch Bourbon Street dip into the sea from the crumbling steps of a memory that you once called home.

My crocodile-eyed cat. Here is my hand, go ahead—self-pet.

You will always have my lap—always, always.

I write this before these six months have passed, before the words leave me and the long night begins without you in it, before I lose my voice as sure as you will lose your physical form, all five pounds of it.

*

They rang up your death sentence and handed me the receipt, along with three cans of chicken dinner designed with cats like you in mind, the st.jude of cat food, a feast for loss causes.

They let us leave with one last warning, “be careful, it’s 103 degrees out there.”

But we weren’t where the sun could touch us,
were we, Charlotte? No.

We were far beyond that.

-ep 8-9-19
Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Smile Because You Want to Smile (For London on her 15th birthday)

Smile Because You Want to Smile (For London on her 15th birthday)
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
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I can write about it now, London.

you had been alive for five weeks
when the old bags at your christening
combed their fingers through your mane
and exclaimed, “what a head of hair!
it’s a shame it will fall out.”

“Will it?” I asked.

“oh yes,” they laughed.

and I thought about it,
how every dark lock and red highlight
was doomed the moment you left my womb
and took your first breath.

it made me sad, but you were indifferent.
you gurgled and rolled over in my arms,
and you went on to defy them.

for 15 years, that head of yours has never felt
the bald blunt of wind.

it was your first rebellion.
it would become a pattern.

and just like your crowning glory and the many
afternoons I’ve chased you through the house
with a brush and elastic band, feeling like
an ax murderer in a horror film—
and you running like your life would end
if one bristle touched your tangled strands—

your defiance has been my curse on some days,
and a source of pride on others.

years after your hair refused to fall out,
when we were sitting in the doctor’s office
—you already bored with the assessment,
eyelashes fluttering, subdued,
looking out the window of possibilities
that I knew existed but you were still learning—
I realized I’m watching a girl unfolding
into a woman at her own pace, without a trace
of self-conscious deliberation that debilitates other girls
so easily (those little queens who sit beside you in class
and who smile when tasked and do what their mothers ask
without bargaining.)

I can write about it now, London.

even in our worst, most cliched mother/daughter moments—
I would never want to strip away at the sharp edges of you,
I would never want to disarm your warrior.


-Erin Passons
7-9-2019
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

July 18

July 18
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
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Shallow Focus Photography of Green Leaves


what an amazing journey life is
what a terrible destination
my central texas babylon matches hell’s wager
and raises it ten degrees.
my daughter is on a winged submarine 8000 miles above the clouds.
I walk next to hard-hatted men hammering steel to life
next to a building with its guts spilling out
this gory site brought to me today by June sunlight
and an email memo
“we’re making renovations”
so I take a sabbatical to the yogurt shop
and dive into bus exhaust and cigarette smoke crossing Guadalupe,
remembering the time hollee drove all the way to the triangle
for a grilled cheese, remembering this morning
dropping off my son at westenfield park
and how he walked away from me and back again
the blue backpack strapped to his razor-sharp shoulders
but in his shadow, a man awakening
and he’d be damned if I walked him all the way
to where three trees met in a circle and other
campers waited in their shade sans mothers
“mom I’ll be ok” irritation twitching his face
reminding me of his father
meanwhile my daughter sleeps in a metal machine
suspended over the earth and I have just
crossed the threshold of heat
to air-conditioned sweetness alone
mission accomplished,
next destination unknown.


EP, 6-25-2019
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Big Blind Is All There Is

The Big Blind Is All There Is
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
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 Image result for sri lanka

shantha missed earth day this year,
buried with her daughter under four feet of rubble.
she taught Westerners how to tame
the flames of curry with a side of mild rice
—until the windows shattered,
until the lobby exploded,
until their tongues were slathered with ashes
and only death could cleanse their palates.

The men brought cameras.
The reporter dusted her nose with powder.
“Here we go again, in the fourth (fifth?) hate (no, don’t say that!)
-TERRORIST attack this year.”

Let the finger pointing begin.
Who is responsible?
God, Thowheeth Jama’ath, Trump, in that order.
Throw in Al Quaida for good measure.
Also, the Sri Lankan government.
“They were warned!” cries the New York Times.
“They should have known better.”

Meanwhile the prayer warriors pause from drowning eggs in pastel colors
and gather en masse at their keyboard altars.
Pray for Sri Lanka, pray for New Zealand.
(Prayer does nothing, atheists hiss.
And the pagans are pissed.
“Funny how jesus had his coming-out-of-retirement
party on our special day…”)

Funny how such a beautiful time of year is capable of such ugly things.
Funny how Man makes it that way.

Meanwhile in Negombo they’re still recovering bodies.
234, 241, 250…

Meanwhile over the Lakshadweep Sea off exit 23,
smoke creeps through the loblolly pines and
a man sings beside the charred walls of St. Mary’s,
“Deep river, my home is over Jordan,
Deep river, I want to cross over into campground…”

Meanwhile on Cameron Road the ghost of Guru Angad serves a plate
of gulab jubun to my son, and Sikh men wrap his head
in holy threads, saying “turbans are an expression of love.”

Outside my blond child runs wild in fields of burgundy winecups and pink primroses,
his turban unwinding in the wind, the sky above split between sleep and fire.
meanwhile over on a park bench Madre Tierre sits, playing Texas Holdem with a polar bear.
“The big blind is all there is,” she winks.
She doesn’t give a damn about her birthday.
“I got 10 billion species of plants and animals
waiting for Man to get his sh*t together.”
She leans in. The polar bear grins.
“Listen: your dead don’t want resurrection,
and your gods grow weary of you.
you can split your differences down the middle  and call it ‘faith'
but only love can cleanse your palates from hate.”

Erin Passons
April 22, 2019
Monday, March 11, 2019

the best man

the best man
Monday, March 11, 2019
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republicans don’t want you, lewis.
when’s the last time you voted anyway?
you’ve been 21 since you were 18.
brian says you’re not human.
he has stories.
we all do.

last year a bomb blew up in your neighborhood.
your neighbors called, you were babysitting a dog.
you had no clue a kid would never walk again,
or walk with nails in his shins or walk with singed flesh.
austin was on lockdown, we were worried there was a war ahead.
but you stayed tucked away in your waterbed
singing hail marys to Live Oak cans and texting your friends,
“where’s the party at?”

the party shrinks every year.
I peaced out a long time ago, another casualty of monogamy,
one of many. you should be used to it.
how many times have you played the best man to a rat abandoning ship?
how many fly miles have you racked up travelling cross-country to serve last rites
to a lad about to be had by the cringing ring of a wedding bell?

I remember the Park City wedding,
when you found the groom pacing the church basement
on the morning the service was scheduled to commence,
cummerbund undone and fear-faced with a case of severe premarital jitters.
you said, “let’s think about this before you make any rash decisions”
and spent hours talking him off the ledge.
the ceremony carried on as planned.
it’s one of your proudest moments.
doesn’t matter they divorced a year later.
you were there to save the wedding; to hell with the marriage.

hollee says it makes sense, what you did,
“of course, lewis wanted the wedding to go on,
he was probably appalled at the thought of all
that alcohol being wasted.”

but, see, I think of you differently.
cause I still remember those summer nights post-divorce
hanging out at Fado’s by your invitation—you, me, Hollee,
the rest of your congregation, laughing and draining glasses
of lager and bumming cigarettes off strangers.
I remember it all
— the patio and the thick, soupy air and the stench
of parched plants panhandling to an impassive, swollen
moon—like an old man crooning to the illusion of water.
it was a beautiful slaughter, all those sweaty bodies squashed in,
dancing rhythmless to a U2 cover band, fist-pumping silhouettes
on shamrocks and stiletto heels getting killed by the sticky spilt beer of an after party.
you flicked ashes off my dress and asked me to dance.
I laughed and swatted at your hand.
“come on, erin, even liberals gotta have fun” you sung
whenever I got homesick for my kids.

back then, I would have traded the fun
to be in love again, or be in love with the life I’m in –
but I was wrong, and I want you to know how sorry I am,
and how very thankful.

hollee told me a story about you the other day.
(republicans don’t want her either, by the way)
she said the night Fado’s closed for good,
you took Justin’s plaque from its place above the bar stool—his bar stool,
the one he sat in for years,
sharing drink specials with you,
hitting on girls with you, trading barbs with you,
always the faithful companion
until ALS stole his laugh and closed his bar tab forever.
after his funeral you nailed the memorial plaque above his stool
“THIS IS WHERE JUSTIN SAT”
but Fado’s was closing,
and you weren’t about to let your friend’s memory go down
with the sinking ship. you took the plaque and carried him back
to a time when he could walk again—
and I sorta, kinda love you for this.

republicans can’t have you, lewis.
barbarella isn’t the beast you think.
we’ll talk about politics again when it's safe.
or we won't talk about politics at all.
besides, brian says you’re not human.
he has stories.
we all do
and we love you for them.
Thursday, March 7, 2019

luke perry

luke perry
Thursday, March 7, 2019
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Image result for luke perry 90210

when I was eleven I hammered Luke Perry to my wall
 and drew his name with hearts on my social studies textbook.
I shared a bus with boys who shot spitballs in my hair
and asked, “Why are you so pale?” as if I had an answer.
I watched the pretty girls take quizzes in Seventeen magazine
to find out if they were a Brenda or a Kelly.
I never took the quiz because I already knew I was an Andrea,
a friendless wallflower who kept her light dim
so other girls could shine brighter.

when I was twelve I replaced Luke Perry with a Young Guns poster.
the following July I woke up in bloody sheets and
Emilio Estevez pointing a gun at my kitten.
I rode the bus with boys who yanked at my hair
and said, “you would be pretty if you weren’t so pale”
(as if I had a choice in the matter).
I watched other girls closely and wondered which ones had also woken up
to the sight of blood and the shock of a new beginning.

When I was fourteen I replaced the Young Guns
with a poster of elephants.
I scrawled “Save the Rainforest” in my English notebook and
shared a bus with boys who said I was weird.
when I asked why, they said “you just are.”
I met girls who said “that’s ok, we’re weird too”
And we went about saving the planet together.

When I was seventeen I replaced the elephants with Eddie Vedder.
I wrote Nirvana lyrics in my journal
and burned incense in my room
to disguise the smell of cigarettes.
I shared a bus with a boy who shot himself
while his parents were at Easter service.
It rained at his funeral, and my friends and I began to dance,
because we were too healthy and young
to already know death,
and maybe the world would seem less dark
if we shined all our lights together.

when I was forty I read that Luke Perry was dead
and for hours I felt nothing.
Then I remembered being eleven and
defacing the map of the world with the name
of a star I had never met,
and how less rocky the landscape of adolescence had felt
with his star beside my bed,
watching over,
one light whispering to another,
“shine on.”
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