“To Hold Hands Again” and “When My Songs are Over, I Lose My Grip”
To Hold Hands Again
after “Dolores, Maybe,” by John Murrillo
My hand was rewoven once,
twice, the spring I fell into a sleep
that erased my memories. Coma,
they said, would not touch me. My disability
would walk again, small steps
up the road, before feeling dizzy,
before placing my prosthetic
on his hip so I could steady. This was
Oakland, California, 2010. No protest. I wouldn’t know
protection if it followed me.
I wanted to walk alone. His jacket
knew me when the breeze
bit me: I never took it off. I kissed him
on the cheek and said I’d return
with his menthols. Same same,
never thinking I wanted to cut
through Koreatown so we could
smell our favorite stews. Never
wishing I could loop my hand
to his belt buckle
and feel less lonely. My witness is a mirror,
curving back to when I clenched
the Marlboros in my palm,
a stone. My witness is brushing
my hair from my face; how,
in feeling, I heard the siren
before I stopped at his street. How I never saw him after that,
except when they carried him—his long limbs,
his soft hands, and the gunshot
wounds circling his chest.
I wanted to lie with him.
To pelt him with my stone hand,
to implore for his stay inside
instead of going out to find me,
because he feared I would not make it; I never
finished our walks, and never alone. In my 2010. Oakland, California.
My first love leaving before I could loop
my body again. I’ve never written
to anyone. Until now, until you. Please, I want
to remember his touch every time
my hand refuses to feel again.
Tethered to my prosthetic are fingertips,
strung like a razor wire, an ornament
that dances a path I wish I could hold on.
When My Songs Are Over, I Lose My Grip
How do you grieve when they’re gone
but not gone? How can I know when
I will die and let someone say my name?
That is what I plea to myself
after I run away from group home
the first time, to try my fate
on the streets—a humility, at best.
I latch my hands onto white bread,
bologna, and cookies, falling
for contraband like a chain-
in-progress, waiting to be caught.
Sometimes, a swish of vinegar
in abandoned houses; they never
took their cleaning supplies.
What I did to fight hunger,
to keep nothing God-like,
to be fine if I was ground
for prison. But it’d be my myth
if I didn’t keep living. Nobody
listened to an eleven year-old’s
song for freedom. Mostly,
I drummed towards an obsession:
give me a can of Campbell’s
soup, and, in the thick of my pitted
stomach, I learn my father’s
orphanhood. Mouth by mouth,
fallen like insects when I couldn’t
find food. I cupped the ants
and kneeled before what God
must have ordained on another
child’s neck: spell me a different
word for monster.