In Eureka, California
Aunt Tara, her yellow dreadlocks, her stories
from an acid youth—it felt like a whole summer
spent with her, but it was just one week.
In the shadow of redwoods and ponderosas
she taught me to braid three pine needles
down to the gummed scales that knotted
them together. Her son on the park swing
drew arcs through air, time, that single
afternoon, and in the evening we drove
further into the forest, toward a gutted stump
big enough to fit the five of us, grandparents
included. We swung our feet against the bark
and pitched forward carelessly, as if we were
looking over the world’s scenic rim.
This was Tara’s home.
Everything had its place among those alien trees,
even the necklace she made for me, a shard of red
coral strung with cultured pearls. I wore it yesterday,
walking a hilly road past a stump that could sit
just one person. But who’d rest there? The wood
glistened, sticky with something, exposed
as a wound. My aunt, whom I hadn’t called
in years—was she really that lush forest I’d seen
at dusk, in burnished light—were any of us?
When I was a child
I’d stare at the ceiling and travel back
in time to set my mother’s collarbone,
the one she broke at 17.
When I was the ceiling, I was cracked
in so many places you could’ve seen
I wish I’d known
to warn my brother We won’t live forever
under the same roof.
When I was a juvenile
cardinal, I landed on a power line
so far from my father all he saw
was moving wire.
I should’ve said how much
I loved his Turkish accent,
the way he told me Too much feta
and you’ll overjoy the poğaça.
When I was a neon sign somewhere
off Route 64, my mother called me
beautiful and begged me to come home.
I was gone so long I’d almost forgotten
the crooked bone near her shoulder,
how old my Baba had grown.