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Last month I was encouraged to make a formal submission by someone at a reputable literary journal. Tonight, after finishing my revisions, I reverted some of my poems here to private drafts. I'm fairly sure this wipes my C!s*, but far be it from me to pass up bartering some imaginary karma for a chance to improve my CV.

All five poems will reappear here eventually, either because they've been published and rights have reverted back to me or because they're not appearing in print at all. I think the latter is the somewhat more likely event, but occasionally the universe surprises you. In the meantime, I apologize for pulling a stitch or two from our collaborative quilt and promise to make amends in some grand and public way.


*user gnarl tells me this isn't true, so it seems I can have my cake and eat it too!

Another in a long line of 'well, that happened' moments. Names changed for my convenience.

During the dead hours between service check-in times, if there's no crafts to help put together, or errands to run, I walk around the church premises and listen to my iPod. If there's nobody around to laugh at my jiggling, sometimes I run.

Today, out in one of the front driveway entrances (there are several. The church and its many offshoots take up the entire city block), the one in front of the children's ministry, there were two guys handing out fliers. Beside them was a sandwich board sign.

Guy One: Hey, you wanna flier?

Zeph: Uh, about what?
*catches a glimpse of the sandwich board and sees the words 'Homosexual Agenda'*

Hoo boy.

Guy One: There was a law passed requiring them to teach that homosexuality is good in schools. This is so they can take it to the ballot and people can vote on it.

Zeph: Ah. No, thanks.
*hurriedly walks away*

Guy Two had been behind me, holding out fliers and not saying a thing, decides now to open his mouth. He says something I don't catch about how my children will be the ones dealing with this in their schools- which is actually pretty insulting, now that I think on it.

I look old enough to have kids?!

I make it to the end of the block, turn out of sight, cut through the decorative hedges (Sorry, Mark!) and run my jiggly self back to the kids ministry. Inside, Torri, Pastor Karl, Maria and Lydia were all gathered around the corner kiosk, chatting.

Zeph: Ah, Torri? Do those guys with the fliers out there have permission to be out there with fliers?

Torri: What guys?

Zeph: Two guys out front are handing out fliers. Something about stopping the homosexual agenda and abolishing gay rights.

Torri: Oooh. Not that I know of. Is Sherry in the coffeeshop? You can go ask her- she's the one in charge of that sort of thing.

So I bolt over to the coffeeshop, where I find them working on the post-rush cleanup.

Zeph: Hey, Judy-

-The lady with her back turned to me and I relize that, no. That isn't Judy at all-

Zeph: Oh. Hi. Is Liza-?

-Liza pops out of nowhere-

Liza: Hey, Zeph. What's up?

Zeph: Do you know where Sherry is? There's some guys outside with fliers trying to abolish gay rights-

Liza: Okay, I'll call her.
- a customer approaches the counter-
Can you ring this guy up?

We switch places: I go behind the counter and ring up the guy's bottle of orange juice (1.75$, 1.89$ with tax), completely befuddling the new lady who's by the espresso machine, watching me. (It should probably be noted that at this point I'm in my overlarge Aztec Sunset Wootshirt and a pair of blue jeans- we're very casual in the children's ministry. But as far as this lady is concerned, I just came in off the street and started working the reg.

After, Liza comes back in and tells me that Sherry's going to deal with it. As I leave, she asks if I can work Wednesday.

Zeph: But isn't that Ana's night?

Ana is the second most senior worker at a whopping four years (on and off. She quit for like a year, then came back). She also hasn't been to work in about three weeks.

Liza: She called in sick.

Zeph: Ohhhhkay. Is she alright? I mean, it's been a while-

Liza: I don't know.

Zeph: Okay. And, uh. *whispering* Who's that lady?

To which Liza laughs and introduces me to my newest coworker, Ray- which, she assured me, is short for something much longer and nigh unpronounceable to anyone without a natural Syrian accent. (I've yet to verify this, as I haven't seen it written down yet).

That done, I return to my kiosk, inform Torri what’s up and receive the phenomenal understatement,

Torri: (upon being informed that sherry’s dealing with the guys) Oh good. That sort of thing out there just upsets everybody.

Well done, Torri. Well done.

Later, after the second service lunch rush, I ask Fran if she knew what Sherry had done about it.

Zeph: *after having thought carefully about what to say, how to say it, leans back and casually wipes off the counters* Oh hey, do you know what your grandma did about those homosexual agenda guys with the fliers?

Fran: *nearly spits her water* What?

Zeph: There were some guys with a sandwich board handing out fliers about the homosexual agenda and how to combatant it. Sherry said she'd take care of it.

Fran then carefully looks around, sees the shop is empty but for us (the others had gone to clean up the monitor room) and hurries outside to look. She comes back in a assures me that, yes, the guys and their sandwich board are gone.

The rest of the day proceeded smoothly, culminating in me half-assing an essay I'd thought was due Wednesday, but was actually due Monday, and a good chunk of my sketchbook getting soaked with soda. I guess that was actually a good thing, because if the sketchbook hadn't been there, my school texts would have gotten wet, but it's still irksome.

I got to see my dad. He and my mom have been awfully chummy lately. I find this disconcerting. On the one hand, they're both adults setting aside their petty differences and are now able to function around one another as such. On the other, one of my earliest memories is of me hiding in the in the livingroom while they screamed/threw junk at eachother in the kitchen because I had to go to the bathroom, but was too scared to pass them. So it's kind of a weird juxtaposition. grown up me is happy for them, but the little me in the back of my head is getting the same wigged out feeling one gets when seeing Faith, the two legged dog.

(part eleven of Thirty Days in Brazil: Fiber in a Faraway Place)

The last week was a blur of fever and fiber. The pollution and the native viruses had me in their grip after the Rio de Janeiro jaunt. Consequentially, I dreamed about the river through Sao Paulo and the constant stench of rotting corpses, of concertina wire gleaming in the perfect smog-tinged sunlight. I dreamed of fiber run under the floor and rats scurrying through cable trays, noses quivering. I dreamed of being locked into datacenters and tugging uselessly at the doors, scanning my badge fruitlessly over the beeping readers.

When I went to work, I was quickly exhausted, the laptop screen blurring in front of my eyes. In the Sprinter van, the landscape washed by as watercolor, on fire with streaks of vivid orange oil paint and nebulous clouds of woodsmoke.

The river smells like ten garbage dumps. The wire is gleaming on the walls. The jungle closes in, clashing sword-like leaves against the walls of civilization. Under the floor, someone pulls back their leg, kicks. 'Security' gives way to thick black rubber, falling away into another room.

Close your eyes. Open them.

How long have I been asleep?

A barbecue, the night before I leave.

A mile out down a winding road flanked by dozens of crosses, relics to the dead of crashes, to the victims of the cliff on the outer side of the road. Three year old cachaca flavored with apples and cinnamon, passed around in tiny tin mugs. An old man, the father of the house, fries sausages on a century-old brick and cast iron stove the length of the room. He cuts down slices for me, spears them with a fork. I receive them in eager hands.

Dancing in the rain as the night comes down. Bright shouts of Portuguese in the mosquito netting. Beer poured out in plastic glasses. Karaoke in the porch. More sausages, steaks grilled under jewel-like crystals of salt, wood-fed flames dancing under them. Eating them, still sizzling, with the point of a knife.

Cachaca. Too much. Stumbling out into the car, Brazilian tech eager to get home. All of us eager to get home.

Panic. There is a car ahead. Slowing down. Looking around a lot. The car between us turns.

Ahead, the car suddenly stops, turns around, pauses, blocking the road.

"Turn! Turn!"

"There is a cop, we will stop!"

"There's no one in that car! Keep driving!"

"There was a cop!"

We are followed through the winding streets of the village by this car, until we can lose it, and then we are speeding away on the only road out, scared shitless, passing dozens of crosses. I have never wanted firearms quite so badly before. I have never been so furious.

Lulled into complacency.

This place is not safe.

Embu market, drinking down columns of beer, last minute tourist trinkets, rain comes down for the first time in my stay and the last, washing the cobblestones slick and clean, washing the river, drizzling into my hair. Drunk off cheap beer, my coworkers shake my hand, hug me, pound my back. They are off to the taxi.

I continue on, into the night, to the airport.

The code is GRU, the flight is TAM, and I am through security, flashing passport and papers and bags onto the conveyer.

Butt hits seat. Buds hit ears.

Finally, inevitably, the engines roar under me, and fuel is taken up as we accelerate down the runway, and away.

The rain and the jungle fall away in a wash of black and grey and blue. We are airborne.

I am coming home.

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