Rachal Marquez, All words disappear

The first time you called me my mother’s name

I thought it was just a slip,
the way someone would accidentally
say the name of the last person on their mind
and maybe that’s all it was
but then generations of names
started slipping between stories
I was in that accident in the jeep 40 years ago
and it only starts to hit me when
you never correct yourself, never notice
even though I know you know
my birthday was decades later
it’s scary watching you sliding
into your memories
but I hope they’re mostly pleasant;
you still laugh like they are
and I know you’re still with it enough
to not be happy I wrote this
but also wise enough to understand
that it takes an awfully long time
to start to say goodbye—
please don’t misunderstand,
there’d better be no plan to leave early,
you’re stuck with me now
because you’ve got a lot more stories to tell
but it’s okay if the edges are warm
and the picture is fuzzy,
and it’s alright if losing the thought
smells like your bookshelf

Light falls through the window shade

You used to think a blank page
would fix your problems,
that if you filled it with all your words
the right answer would rise to the top
like fat on milk or children’s fables,
back when they still danced
off the page for you.

But filled pages turn into
overstuffed accordion folders,
tucked into dusty corners
of the basement floors of your brain.

But there are whispers
just beneath your ear,
of ghost stories and infinite futures
that never quite make it onto the page,
sliding instead between your fingers
like ribbon or the hand
you can’t quite hold.

But all the words disappear
when you lose your path to them,
when the pen lifts from the page
and every letter finds home
on the paper now instead of belonging,
like they used to, to you.

Maybe if you could undo the words,
same as you wrote them,
take them back up
into your pen somehow,
maybe then the answers
—and I—could come back.

Tempering

Things are more precious when they can be destroyed,
and you’ll never know if I’m talking about a heart
or grandma’s china, because we only treasure the delicate,
and damn it I guess we’re all delicate
or at least moldable, so let’s jump off the cliff
of you can’t do this and maybe we’ll break
when we land in the deep end or maybe we’ll dive
deeper than we thought we could,
because it’s all about let’s see if we can
and I used to think breakable meant bad,
but hell no, darling, breakable means beautiful,
and I’m only talking to myself, so I will shatter
if that means rebuilding and we will all grow back stronger;
we are fragile and measured beyond value
not for our fractures, but for our futures.

Growth in exhalation

Today you are on a walk
with a 5-year-old
and when she finds dandelions
in a neighbor’s lawn
she wishes for infinity toys
and no school tomorrow
and you don’t want
to take away her next wishes
so you search for another
when you find it you wish aloud
that all the people who don’t have homes
will be warm tonight
you are trying to teach
an indirect lesson in altruism
even if developmentally
her wishes are normal and cute
you take a deep breath and blow
on the dandelion seeds,
but they don’t all blow away
you blow twice more and they’re
almost all gone but one stays
maybe that’s the way of things
even the good wishes
never get all the way granted
you drop the dandelion
but in your head pluck the last seeds
and put them in your pocket to plant later
or else be carried away by a kinder wind
because while you never give up
the notion that magic exists
you weren’t much older than the 5-year-old
when you learned that sometimes
you have to make the magic yourself
and you are finally starting to learn
that maybe that’s the best kind

Writing a letter on a flight

I cannot sleep as we pass over lights
on the ground that look like Cassiopeia,
and I cannot help but think that
sometimes the world seems upside down
we find the familiar in hard-to-reach places
we see, for a moment, beyond our half-open eyes
to the melody of the universe repeating,
rising up until it’s too loud for us to recognize anymore
writ too large for us to see our part in it
while we stare down at the dust,
the dust that we came from, the dust that calls us,
the dust left behind and irritated
by our boot prints of clumsy significance
until suddenly we’re looking up
to something bigger, something that reminds us to feel
small and miraculous, aware for a moment
of the constellations in our bones, on our skin,
between our heartbeats, so open your lungs
to the steady burning of hope
both on the ground and beyond our reach.

Rachal Marquez graduated from Pepperdine University and works as a copy editor and copywriter in California. She always thought she would write fiction, until a creative writing class showed her all the wonder to be found in poetry. She has published poetry in Pepperdine’s student literary journal Expressionists and their student magazine Currents.

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