It starts
bright as lemons
fresh cream churned to butter
love’s weight in our hands     promising

We stitch
our lives slowly
and dye the joined fabrics
our saffron     turmeric     mustard

and so fragile
we pack our love away
like a yolk in its shell     waiting
to break

The whites
of your eyes turn
beige in our photographs
head down     arms at your side     looking

No     love
we are cowards
standing in fallow fields
we’re sunflowers in November

It starts
our lives slowly
we stow our love away
head down     arms at your side     looking

This is a garland cinquain for yeah write’s poetry slam. Click the badge to read other awesome cinquains and other poetry forms, and short fiction.

*Things are good in my relationship. It’s fiction. Promise.

Temporary (Permanent)

I’d just been down the street helping Justin. He was (shirtless) that kid in the neighborhood who was nice to everyone, so I offered to help him fix his bike.

He asked me to (stop staring at him) grab the little oil can from the garage. It was unusual to find him alone, so I asked him what he’d done with his fan club. He joked that they were all marooned on an island together—that’s why he needed to oil his bike chains: he was preparing to save them from doom.

As I pedaled the upside down Schwinn with my hands, Justin leaned over me clicking the bottom of the oil can. I felt his knee lightly on my back. His (armpit hair, bicep) proximity made me uncomfortable. Side-stepping, I made some excuse about getting home, to which he replied cluelessly “Snag you later then.” I walked up the incline of my driveway shivering,  confused.

Inside the house, my brother was in our bedroom. Mom was working at the kitchen table and Dad was snoring on the couch. So my parents’ room was the only option for me to calm down and avoid having to tell someone (my secret) what was wrong. I wasn’t sure I could. I laid on my Dad’s side of the bed and closed my eyes. Whenever a breeze from the open window hit me, I took a deep breath until the shivering stopped.

A few weeks later, I was in our cramped garage watching my mom sand a dilapidated hoosier cupboard. Flecks of sawdust shone brightly in her dark curly hair. She stopped sanding for a moment to stand back and look at her work, so I took the opportunity to ask if she’d give me a perm. She questioned why and I said I wanted to (fix myself) try something different for my first year of junior high. She agreed to do it—more questions churning behind the words—and then looked back at the hoosier.

I watched her work a little longer, trying to figure out why she’d bought the old stained thing. I knew in a few months it would hold a prime location in her antique booth. Customers would comment on how stately and charming it was, but I just couldn’t see how.

My favorite tv show at the time was Head of the Class, about a bunch of high school misfits and their dedicated teacher. I had a crush on (Alan) Simone, the shy girl with the long red hair. Simone had a thing for the curly-headed and brainy kid Alan. Lying on my parents’ bed before, I had concocted a plan to look more like Alan and maybe find myself a Simone to take to the first dance of the school year. I saved money to buy a sweater with a dynamic pattern. I asked for wingtips and learned how to buff them. The perm was the last step.

On the Saturday before school started, I was sitting at the kitchen table with medium-sized pink curlers in my hair—Mom apologized for the color; they were her only set— when my brother walked in.

“What’s going on?”

“Nathan wanted something different this year.”

“A perm?” My brother sat down, a smirk across his face.

The chemicals’ smell hit my nose before I felt them dribble down my scalp. I started to panic. I asked my mom what would happen if I didn’t (change) like it.

“I never did understand why they called it a permanent,” she said, “when it’s only temporary.”


The Whitest Guy You Know

I’d liken my skin tone to the color of recently bleached teeth, if you can call that a color. I have the kind of skin that… incandesces. My bare chest blinds passing motorists and birds. People tell me “If you don’t like it, just tan.” Nope, doesn’t work like that for me.  My sunburns turn an angry red for a few days, then flake off revealing fresh baby skin that is even whiter still. So I didn’t really expect any surprises when I spat into the vial and sent my DNA sample off to be tested.
I’d be lying though if I didn’t admit that there were always little “What If” bubbles flouncing around in my brain.
What if I was of Jewish, Asian, or African descent? Awesome. I’ll be able to get on a plane and visit my new family and there will be tears and good food and a lot of PowerPoint presentations on how exactly I’m related to them.
What if the stories about being Native American are true? So cool. I’ll be able to visit my tribe, and I will ask them to call me Standing Sun or Walks With Sunscreen and they will gently explain to me that Native Americans used words from their own language to name their children, not English words, and then remind me of my perfectly good name.
What if one of my relatives was hiding an adoption or one of the maternity nurses accidentally switched a baby? Then I can’t wait to cast actors in the unavoidable motion picture deal that follows. Emma Stone is a good crier so she will play the troubled nurse. Beau Bridges and Celia Weston will play my parents. Neil Patrick Harris will play me, obviously.
What was my point? Oh, yeah. I got the results back:
Ethnicity Map
The Ethnicity Map results of my DNA test.

99% White. And the other 1% is from an area of the world from which all white people have genetic ties. So my lineage isn’t as diverse as I’d hoped. There are still some surprises in there.

That 2% Iberian Peninsula is intriguing: somewhere in my family’s past was a Spaniard or a Portuguesiard. (Yeah, that’s the Portuguese equivalent of Spaniard.) My lineage being primarily from western Europe (France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands) and not from the British Isles is surprising too. Although, I suppose it was the people of Western Europe that originally populated the islands.
Ancestry also offers this screen:
DNA Home Page’s DNA Home page

The “Ethnicity Estimate” is the link to the Ethnicity Map above.

The upper right shows that I now have 104 matches to people on Ancestry. That feature is frustrating to me because most of them haven’t shared their family trees, so our connection isn’t obvious. I took the test to verify my research. For instance, I have a 2x great-grandmother Fanny Romine, whose maiden name—I’m fairly certain— was Grace, but I have no proof. I was hoping to connect to her descendents to prove my theory. To find a connection, I’ll either have to research Grace descendents on my own or contact all 104 cousins and play some Fanny Grace Go Fish.

The bottom of the screen shows a Thomas Hurd and a Dorcas Morris box. My DNA test has proven that I am descended from them. When I click one of the boxes, I see other Ancestry members that share their DNA.

I have so much work to do with this data and as time goes on and the technology improves, I’ll be able to learn so much more about my relatives’ stories.

The Pathway Home

Muskegon River
[photo credit: Wikipedia Commons)

This river breeds a longing fathoms deep.
The morning sun reflects her silver glow.
She stumbles through the gummy pines, asleep:
Roscommon, Osceola, Newaygo.

I didn’t ask to join her on this trek,
but follow as she summons wrens to wing.
The trout adorn her gown, each silver fleck.
She lolls on leaves and calls the stones to sing.

Their chorus builds as we begin to dash
through verdant moments I cannot pay heed.
Mosquitoes sting and branches low do lash,
but stymie not my dinghy’s fleeting speed.

Each passing wave dilutes a thrumming ache.
Muskegon, take me home upon your wake.