I return to my birthplace with a focus on breath.
It’s easier to inhale the California landscape.
In Tennessee, I live in a bowl of green suffocation;
hillsides consume & stack with bouquets of trees.
I’m at the bottom wanting to look up & over, yet
driving through the Mohave desert is smoker’s teeth —
expansive shades of yellow rust, Suessical Joshua trees,
mountain range in the distance followed by cracked
sea floor. The bluest skyline traces the face of the earth
for miles as I drive. Now, I know I come from clutter
& hoarding, like the makeup & Q-tips that litter my
bathroom counter in constellations of chaos. I come
from single mothers with big pores like black pepper
on my nose. I come from Pacoima United Methodist
Church, from older black ladies remembering my
grandmother & my mother & me as a little girl,
hugging my neck with compliments as Hawaiian leis,
saying how pretty & all grown up I am, saying they
remember me running through the pews with frilly,
white socks, telling me to bring some sunshine back
home. But in Nashville — the weather is bipolar & I’m
always the black thumb. I found my meditation on
the Venice boardwalk. Hadn’t been on a bike in years,
wobbled through break boys, whiffs of dank marijuana,
Chihuahuas & pit bulls on leashes, drum circles
with dancing transients, wet graffiti on concrete,
sweet cut from a fresh mango cart with juice dripping
down her hands, denim on denim and no one cared
the color of my husband’s hand holding mine.
Somewhere in Laguna, I wrote my name by the lip
of the ocean. I come from breaking beach waves with
the sand sucking the detritus from the center of the earth.