Too Young To Be Old

How can it be
That you and you and you
Possess the audacity
To flap your lips
With your tongue like a whip
In a loud self convincing
Another
“Try again please.”
Authorities
On hypocrisies
Across the seven seas
You’re like a kindergarten class
Adding peas
Like minds
Dyslexic logic telling me
That you agree you shine through me
And all of my overgrown
Invisibility.
How can you all count to three
And then like magic
Laugh into me
The impossibility
For my young and tired eyes
To have ever seen
Anything
Of substance
Anything of beauty
Any damn thing
That could ever
Mean a thing
For me
Or for you
Or anything
That could ever bring
A lingering
Important kind of meaning.
You say,
I haven’t lived enough to see
The life that lives outside of me
And I may never age to know
What maturity brings
What it really means
To be “old.”
But when the telling is told
And I’m the one teaching
The only one speaking,
The marks of my branding
Compassion and understanding
The crash of their landing
And force of their demanding,
Scotch-taped together,
The lone person standing…
You will learn what I say
That yesterday and today
Age is age
Just a measure to gauge
The years that it took you
To stay stuck on the same page
When I am libraries ahead
With the heart and the wisdom
Of an old soul instead.

Karma

Your world was pulled out from under you.
Died in a car accident off the “K” Street overpass.
What a shame that a boy had to die and you still don’t realize what it is that you do that hurts us into hatred.
We are not the reincarnation of those kids who died.
We are not your second chance to fuck it up.
I am not my mother.
You were not the womb that hugged my fetus for nine months-
That 14-year-old stomach intense apologizing for the sickly love that made me…
The sickly love that would break me.
You were spiteful in your fostering grandparenthood,
Bathing my youth in ice cubes,
Then drying me off in dollar bills…so that your hands would never have to touch me…
And every time I shivered, I got slapped with a bill screaming double time,
With interest, for the lack of gratitude that I never fail to provide.
I owe you this disease back:
A viral reconstruction of the cum shot you made me swallow,
Before my life was flipped around,
Spread open wide, and gang banged by the biggest tragic shafts;
After you became the actress-
The type-cast-two-faced evil villain…
Basking in your delusional illusions-
The practice made perfect expert at impromptu,
Believing your own reinvented memories;
Crying genuine Visine tears.
I owe you all the ill-ass-backwards empathy you gave me as a child,
The lollipop pillow pacifier, double dipped in anthrax:
My sweetened slow death suffocation that I lived in like a hospice-
Or my mothers overcrowded casket, with a straw…
Your social high society pity plan to murder me with the suicide that Dr. Karma prescribed that pain you claimed, even though it came before you;
The unnecessary pawn shop pink slip that can only be paid back in abuses.
I owe you back all your relentlessness, for all the love you kept yourself from feeling.
I owe you reciprocated hatred for every time you looked at me, calling me by my mothers name, still believing I was her.
For every time you dangled foster care in my young, lonely and starved face-
Like a warm meal, teasing me with the threat of a way out that you would never let me take.
I owe you an about face for every time I should have turned away from your fist, from your anger, from your spite…from the unhappiness you bred and took out on me when we all became exhausted from our collective karmic concussions.
We were so wrapped up in each other that we allowed ourselves to be laid to rest collectively; cramped together like sardines inside this box of blame…
Leaving only enough room for you to shake a proverbial finger at me after I flip you my middle payments-
Two for the price of one…a clearance rack sale that saves me the breath of having to speak “fuck you.”
Fuck you for every thought that you let pass through your head that said I would never amount to anything,
For every time you said you’d never help,
Two more for every time you help out your hand two inches short of helping me…so that nobody would know that you: were the bad guy.
But, what goes around, comes back around again,
And one day you’ll find that the hand you held-
Was actually holding yours.
And I’m sure you’ll find that
Karma
Will always return to give you back all the “good times” you sold your life for.
And when you’re old and lonely and more banged up than my Pa’s screen door…
You’ll know what it feels like to freeze for reparation
And starve for love,
And live, like dead.
Falling apart as you’re breaking from from the cracks inside your wrinkled script,
You’ll be a mosaic in reverse
When I water down my cut off my Scotch Tape reaches that keep your act together
And rip the audience away.
Someday you’ll know what I felt like as a child-
Living down antediluvian confusions;
Apologizing for faults that were not mine.
And even worse yet,
Someday you’ll know how incredibly deep the breathing bleeds inside your lungs,
And the insane sting of sacrificial splinters that numb your fingers
When you’re scratching against the cheap wooden casket lid,
When you’re still alive, with a heart, suffocating in a grave-
Screaming dog pound puppy hope, unable to articulate in words,
The plea I’ve plead, to resurrect me from the grave that my childhood was tied inside by the ropes of your nightmares.
Because the heart of that child has scratched through that buried box,
Apologized for crimes that someone else committed
And solicited the acceptance of so many dolled out abuses-
Just to be of use.

Raspberry Touch

I creep toward you, led by curious fingers,
Searching out smiles and raspberry touch.
My mouth envies yours,
And my lips long for a lesson.

If you have anything to offer,
Offer honesty.
If you have anything to need,
Need me.

I can only smile and watch your beauty,
Words are too cheap to describe you.
Thoughts fly through my head,
Like a freeway with no speed limit.

If you ever get cold,
Let me cover you in my warmth.
If you ever search for safety,
Let my eyes be your home.

I find beauty in your words,
No paint and canvass could compare to you
I get lost in the fantasy of a single kiss,
I am found, melted in the fever of my want.

If there is anything worth holding,
Let it be my thoughts.
If there is anything worth saving,
Let it be my passion.

Comfort are the many clouds, pretending to be animals,
Harboring your voice.
Piercing is the desire for your raspberry touch,
And painful is the beating of a sullen heart that’s always craving more…

…for we are never satisfied.

Cover Girls

Women who’ve lived unfortunate lives and hold their breaths under pumped up breasts, as they hide behind that caked on Cover Girl brick wall masks; willing to be broken by some dick more interested in anal sex than her first name…or front teeth. Faster than a jack rabbit to fuck the same mental sickness that sealed itself in a secret kiddy porn slumber party French Kiss–forced down her play dough sex.

Some uninvited lust always piggy backs these girls to third base before she’s even old enough to know what it means to be at bat. Women who hate baseball because it takes too long to pitch a fastball and also because they always get clipped by curveballs when she finally agrees to deep throat that tag-team-double-header.

They just make themselves into trading cards; defended by sickly stats; too cheap for a protective sleeve. Climbing into shoebox, after dirty shoebox…rubbing themselves raw. Chasing the most taboo acts of sexual deviance like their lost childhood innocence…simply for the comfort it brings to be held by the hands that trade her…

…myself included.

Doses of Suicide

You bury your face into my neck like the groove of my clavicle was designed for your head. Your lips travel the distance to mine and you slip me your tongue like a venomous snake bite. My lips are paralyzed, stuck to yours for a split second. Hugging to the crackle of clove cigarettes, I keep you near, liquefy my words, and breastfeed your poison back to you.

For three years I’ve swallowed down desire: your words tainted with land mines. I only write because my tongue has been tucked away in a secret spot, because I’ve tucked away the hopes of finding someone else whose kisses can wash away yours.

Don’t tell me time will work things out because I’ve sacrificed enough already. See, this love has an expiration date, and honey, its gone sour. What’s in me will make you sick to know that I can play these games too.

If you l only knew, you’d quit me; take those lips and walk away. Your land mines are just nicks from a rough shave because my three solid years of dedication have taught me to split the atom with my pen…cultivate the biowarfare within; wrap my broken heart in a poem and mail it to you in a letter like a pretty packaged bomb.

My eyes are needles under your skin, in your veins, feeding you all the heroine you never wanted to look at…much less try. Yeah, that’s heroinE, with an ‘e.’ The heroin, the heroine, the opium, blended with the HERO, in mE. Baby, I’m a drug; suicide, in doses…a mere addiction if you’re strong.

So watch out with those kisses, ’cause I know what Janis was talkin’ about when she said, “take it.” But I’m only gonna warn you once: you make think you’re stealin’ my heart ’cause “it makes you feel good,” but if you take too much…this love can kill you.

Mary’s Not A Virgin Anymore (v.1)

Keeling at the altar of shoved down regret, I light a cigarette candle of confusion for every sin I was too drunk or high to remember.

The singe of forgiveness embraces my lungs like the long awaited hug from the arms of every death I’ve managed to escape.

In this religion, Mary’s not a virgin anymore…she’s just one more youngster learning the ineffectiveness of the pull-out method, and the genius in the perfect ass-saving explanation.

Too bad it only works once though, because they say he’ll come again…and I’m sure he will; after all, they usually do.

Rant

It’s so easy to
Get lost in the
Things we choose
To let define us.
Though, rather than
Letting the divine
Value of a cause,
Concept or person
Be deciphered by
Your willingness to
DIE for them,
Try instead, measuring
Their worth by how
Willing you are to
LIVE for them…
That’s the more
Vicious dedication,
The true sacrifice.

Pretty

Her 14-year-old skin hung tight around my fetal curves, holding all of my innocence in the loss of hers. Not all the crayons in this box are pretty. That newly pubescent body holding me so tight I stretch marked it with the brand of my dwelling. She really loved me like she could never love anybody else; the fruit of the dogged pursuit of a statutory rapist. Let me tell you again, not all the crayons in this box are pretty.

I was ripped from that birth canal with a force I never deserved. I could have lived forever in that young, naïve, child’s frame that allowed a predator to become the only father that I would ever get to have. See, not all the crayons in this box are pretty.

She beat and used me. He spread my legs and abused me. She was all I ever wanted I a friend, because we grew up together; but she thought she knew it all, and he was in and out of prison all of the days of my life. I told you, not all the crayons in this box are pretty.

I only really ever talked to her when she was high. Whoa. Did I say, not all the crayons in this box are pretty? Well, she died of AIDS and he got life, and I lost the only parents I’ll ever have to love with a love that is so unconditional it stings; because I learned early on that you have to love the ugly too…because, not all the crayons in this box are pretty.

My Poetry

Don’t think you’re just
Gonna
Site there
Breathing the
Stale stillness
In the air,
As I stand here and
Unstitch my seems…

You better inhale
With caution
These words I speak,
Because that nasty smell I
Reek of-
Is honesty.

I’m ripping off Band-Aids
Using my words to
Paint pictures of my
Escapades.
Retelling stories of
Battles I’ve been through,
The many deaths I’ve survived,
And
Times I’ve been revived.

You know,
My wounds still cry blood-
Heavy and
Steady
And
Dark-
Covering you in the
Resounding crimson
Of my
Echo.

I spread myself like
A tan-
But you’ll feel me like
A sunburn-
As I expose myself through
This hole in my ozone,
Te breath in this microphone-
My heart,
Plugged into my mouth,
Amplified by my
Voice.

This is-
MY POETRY.

He Likes Me Cause….

He likes me ’cause I’m:
Different. Breakable. Needy. Tiny. Forbidden. Smart. High and low class. A good conversation. A challenge. A conquest. Conquering. A conqueror. Sexy. An affirmation of life. Caffeine and sugar. A consolation. A man. A woman. Interested. Interesting. The giver. Accepting. The exception. Non-judgmental. Special. Exciting. Dirty and innocent, but not naïve. Indecent. Wrong and right. A reminder. A secret. A lie. A comfort. Uncomfortable. Someone to care about and for. Imaginary. New. Old. Home. Lost. The good kind of bad. A drug. A drug addict. Love. Loving. Unloved. A leader to follow blindly into a tree, if I justified it well enough. A childless mother. A motherless child. A mirroring monster. A good lay. Sad. Open dancer wide, but virgin tight. A surprise. A lesson. An addiction. A simultaneous reason to live or die, together.

He likes me ’cause he(‘s):
In the dark. Breakable. Breaking. Partially broken. Needy of the same. A drunk. Lonely. Afraid. Lost. Needs love and affirmation. Wants to feel without feeling. A student. A master. Pleasing. Pleased. A conqueror. Unsure of himself. Only believes in my inevitable success. Trusts my truths. Can deny me. Can run away. Can be proud through and or above shame. Glued together. Falling apart. Feels alone. As broken as me. Not tied to me. Can’t hide from me. Doesn’t have to explain to me (but does anyway). Can’t feel too much. Likes to be on edge. Can pretend he doesn’t treat me like an indentured servant. Doesn’t have to love me “like that.” Feels suicidal. Can be a part of my life. Is addicted. Afraid of falling from his knees before me. Can pretend. Has power. Can fuck and run. Feels dirty, too. Definitely scared to death of me…but also brought to life by me.

Freedom

Eyes rolled behind,

trying to hide,

trying to pretend

that this weight I can’t carry

isn’t his.

Isn’t mine.

Isn’t ours.

I am

glazed over

with the residue of my longing.

The need for a man,

for a dad,

for a anyone

who would just give me the love

that the

California Department of Corrections

attempted to correct,

but only corrupted;

never saved.

Never salvaged.

Never cared to cure.

I am,

on my back

as I

slam into this same wall again

knowing that my

freedoms have

once again

become my vices.

He

ripped me open with his laughter

and all I could do was lie there,

fully aware that

this time

there was no ignorance that I could

slide into.

No bliss I could

use as crutches to

hold up my smile.

I cried blood.

I bled tears.

I turned my face

and let my god die,

let my savior fade.

I creaked and cracked.

I bent and broke.

But I-DIDN’T-SAY-NO.

And now I

find that the Listerine

won’t wash away

the burn of his lips on mine.

I find that

time will go and flow

and stop and skip

and skip and stop

and reverse, rewind.

Rewind to that day,

that fateful day

when my father blamed me

for the

confusion in his belly,

the,

sickness in his head.

That day when

night broke through

and never left.

The sun

ran away,

hid behind

the black cloudy fun

in my dysfunction.

It ground me into dust,

set me in water and,

let me rust.

Let me cover over

those days that some man

walked into my bed

and fucked with my head.

Said,

the body

I was wearing

USED TO belong

to my mom…

But I,

knew all along

that it

wasn’t right,

wasn’t fair,

wasn’t

after all I’d already been through,

supposed to happen to me.

But it did.

And so,

here I am,

four hours away

from the cell he sits in.

The cell that inmate

J17128 sits in

and waits for March 4, 2021

to come

because that is his

earliest acceptable plea for freedom.

The earliest possible day

that he can once again claim

he is clean,

he is reformed,

he doesn’t form

those thoughts

that brought him to try to

rape his 12-year-old child.

That’s the day he can once again say

he has found God,

the righteous path,

taken the holy bath.

Been once again bathed

in the light that shines on every

inmate who thinks that 25

is enough on a 25 to life,

when he,

has had enough of that,

black hole they put him in.

But it’s been

seventeen years and the sun still

has not shone,

the day still has not

broke through in MY life.

And I know that I have

become my own parole board,

but there is

no bed I can lie in and

still feel that I am clean.

No mirror

I can stare into

and not see filth.

There is no ease for me,

no way to say I am done,

I’ve been reformed

and I am

ready to move on

as a productive

American citizen.

But in all honesty,

I can,

only be free

when I am

in between the,

shackles of my memories

and the

pains of my reveries,

my daydreams that

probably look a lot more like

nightmares

when I,

think I’ve,

found god,

even if he is just a man.

To me,

it’s all the same.

So I’ve taken the key

to the shackles

holding me back.

I put it in a place that

I know I can’t reach,

and I,

keep searching,

keep working

to find the man whose

abuses run right through me;

whose

complete disregard for me

keeps me coming back

hoping that his

dick reaches

deep enough

inside me to,

pull out the key

that

unlocks MY freedom.

Maggie Bermudez, October 27, 2004

Maggie is a girl I remember 
most vividly from Cecil Ave Junior High School. 
I can’t remember if I encountered her first 
in the seventh or the eighth grade, 
though I think it was the eighth. 
I know that I first took notice of her 
in a Child Guidance therapy group 
that a handful of students were 
pulled out of class for on a weekly basis. 
I never could figure out why Maggie was in there, 
but I remember thinking it was something serious – 
and would watch her outside of group, on campus, for anything. 

My curiosity faded to intrigue of her 
awkward and unaware beauty that no one else 
seemed to notice. I remember feeling 
that her sadness filled her 
like a glass of water domed over her brim. 
Every movement was like a lesson in strength 
and control; like everything that she did 
was conscious of her domed sorrow and she 
would never let anything publicly touch her, 
lest the burden flood down her raw cheeks. 
It didn’t take a genius to know that she held 
and walked and breathed down something big. 

All of us kids sat huddled in a small intimate circle, 
in a closet sized room so insignificant, 
I myself never even wondered what lived on the other side 
of the door leading in. 
We were small in numbers and enormous in sorrows. 
Some of us acted out, 
some of us acted in; 
The Breakfast Club of Trauma. 

At the time, I didn’t yet know 
how to feel sorry for myself. 
I was only capable of primitive awareness 
of suicidal ideation 
and just starting to build the foundation 
for my angst. I only said things they expected to hear – 
nothing real. I only manipulated the process, 
never reaching to scratch unless I could dig deep; 
the big word whore for attention. 

I made part of the time interesting 
by keeping the counselors on their toes; 
made them feel like psychiatrists…all fancy 
and proud and diagnostic. 
I spent the rest of my time analyzing the other kids. 
Mostly, they were see-through and predictable… 

Then there was Maggie. 

Maggie spoke in a whisper – 
mainly okay’s but more so in nods. 
She wrapped herself in invisible introvertedness. 
She would cave her chest into her shoulders 
whenever the attention was on her. 
She had a nervous smile that never cracked for teeth, 
and curly untamed hair like morning wilderness; 
natural perm washed clean the night before, 
air dried in dreams and sorrowful tossing – 
too young to be more aware of the enormity 
which neglects from inside to out and top to bottom, 
and the abandonments that suffocate comfort. 

Never speaking, except the, 
“I don’t know.” “Uh, huh.” or “Okay.” 
safety net that squirmed its way through 
her esophagus; exhaling with jaws of life power, 
parting those teeth because she was 
caught off guard by friendly counselor inclusion, 
second chance banter. 

They didn’t ever try to address whatever 
was going on in her “situation” because they 
could never hold her hand tight enough to 
cross that question-answer fence. She was too 
sharp in her curt and uncomfortable answers. 
They tried everything to aviate those baby spoon questions 
into her starved love; but she never parted 
her lips long enough – too quick to seal her lips 
and the questions would just smear her cheeks 
with unwilling, yet polite refusal. 

Every answer could have been likened 
to a small child’s, “No, thank you, sir.” 
Too surprisingly uncommon; too respectful and proper 
to not forgive and respect the authority which 
she timidly demanded. They never pushed her more than one, 
“Come on.” Almost like her frailty was more than 
just inside her and even they knew with delicate knowledge 
that their words and enticements, if spoken too 
forceful or repetitious, had the potential to 
break even her skin before our very eyes; 
and she would fall apart like a puzzle, from a table, 
in that chair, in that tiny room. 

So she was left alone. 

I remember knowing that it wasn’t a show 
and respecting, even admiring that. 
She wasn’t looking for attention like most kids 
by avoiding it. She really was avoiding it. 
And she never concentrated stoicism. 
When she found comfort – her smiles were real, 
and I think surprised even her. 
And that made me smile; 
still, makes me smile. 

In high school, she packed the Tuesday group – 
fragile mute away and came out of her shell, 
to seem almost like the new girl in school. 
And in way, I guess, she was. New in her invisible 
scotch tape armor and subtle make up. With gelled hair, 
hard with Aqua Net strength; bigger than the concave chest of, 
*don’t look at me* that I remembered, 
still remember; 
am proud to remember. 

Five days ago though, while registering voters, 
she was murdered. 
They arrested the guy she was canvassing with. 
Nobody really knows what happened yet. 
Up until yesterday she was just a scorched doe – 
not even a definite “John,” or “Jane.” 

But as of today – the semblance of human gained identity, 
Magdalia Bermudez, 
21-years-old, 
mother to two small children; 
murdered, torched remains lifted from an orange grove east of town. 

Silent Maggie, 
surprised by her own smile, 
the eighth grader left alone 
in her feigned invisibility 
during those 
Breakfast Club of Trauma meetings. 

Maggie with curly hair 
like untamed wilderness – 
air dried in dreams. 

Rachel McKibbens performs “Last Love”

Rachel McKibbens is hands down my all time favorite poet and inspiration for doing what it takes to hang your truth out there on a microphone’s amplification from center stage. I was introduced to her work over 10 years ago when she first began performing. The university I attended was 2 blocks from a coffee shop called The Ugly Mugg Cafe.

Once a week at the Ugly Mugg there was a poetry event with an open mic, a feature, a break and then another open mic to sandwich everything in there nicely. The event was put on by two guys who called themselves, Two Idiots Peddling Poetry. It was here at the Ugly Mugg where I experienced spiritual awakening and rejuvenation for the first genuine time EVER. I was finally at church.

Back then, Rachel was not married, therefore not McKibbens yet and so she went by only her initials, RAC. I showed up every week for the possibility of catching her on the mic and she was usually there with all her might and children in tow. She was the one original idol from which I drew strength and unapologetically decided to follow the path that felt right to me. She was a kick ass mother who showed up every week with one kid on her hip usually (or breast feeding) and another walking beside her. She had long black hair with bright red bangs and arms nearly sleeved in tattoos already….and she never ceased to be brilliant and honest.

One day, she read this very unflattering poem about an experience from her childhood in which her father is described as mean and violent at a Thanksgiving dinner (I believe). The day she read this poem, her father was in the audience.

I was so awe-struck with admiration that I can say that moment changed my life.

The Ugly Mugg was where Orange County California’s National Slam Team came from and so even though I had been writing for well over 10 years already (I started writing poetry, very intently at the age of 9 or 10 and was 20 by this time). And even though I was there every week during the school year…for over a year already, I had never actually read on the mic. I was way too intimidated and frozen with awe.

But, when Rachel read the truth as she experienced it and just laid it in the lap of her father who was responsible for the trauma the piece captured….my whole being changed immediately. After that night, I stopped obsessing over the half-hearted teenage angsty mush that I had been so familiar with. I went back to my dorm room and wrote about my truth, with my dad, unapologetically and with full commitment to healing myself at that time, in that space. I stopped hiding my reality to save face for fear of who it would hurt or make uncomfortable.

That’s when I can say that the true sharpness of my gift slit my entire potential right open, letting me out for air with total relief, like I had been born again that evening….or born for the first time ever, set free from the cage of secrets that were not mine to keep.

I will be forever in debt to that singular experience, for it was that powerful.

These days, I watch this video performance of a piece by Rachel called, Last Love. It is like a prayer to me. I feel the intense reality of each word as it meets the next and the next, every unseen punctuation mark and the breaths between.

This poem is my Hail Mary prayer.