Remember Barbara (section 5 of 5)

for Barbara Struncova
1979-2010

Chapter Three, continued

*****

Where are your teeth, Barbara?
Where are your bones?
In the brackish muck of an estuary, delivered by the tide?
On the bottom of the deep?
In the belly of a shark, a crocodile, a worm?
Are you resting near the coast you loved, enshrouded in the makeshift stolen coffin?

 I know you are in the ocean you loved, in the country of your dreams.
The warm touch of the sun is your fingers, the brush of the wind is your breath.
In the thunder, I hear your crying and feel your tears.

*****

None of it makes any sense.

Her family didn’t go to look for her.  No one.  Surely the sister speaks English and could have pressed Jim, if she had gotten there in time.  They could have pressured the police.  They could have raised holy hell, like the parents of the young man who disappeared two years before.  All of us know his name and recognize his face, even if we’ve never seen him alive or dead.

Ivan took everything, even her clothes, and left.  I don’t understand.

Why did they prevent the police from checking her phone, her computer and the rest of her things?  Could they not have realized this would be the result?

Who is Ivan?  Did they really call him?

Why would Jim have left her things untouched in the first place?  Shouldn’t they have disappeared with her if we were supposed to believe she was traveling?  The board bag was big enough.

After the OIJ made contact with Barbara’s family, a terrible silence fell over it all.  The family asked the OIJ not to talk with her distraught housemates, who were facilitating the investigation, and the OIJ asked the housemates not to talk with anyone else.

Barbara’s uncle in Prague sent private investigators to Costa Rica.  They trudged around frowning, sweating, asking questions and taking notes; then they were gone.  Why didn’t he come with them?  Why did a massive search for her body not ensue?

 

I see there is more I don’t know about Barbara than what I do know.  More I don’t know about Jim, too.  It didn’t matter until now.   We were all expats from somewhere—all of us—with families left behind, the stories we told and the ones we didn’t.  It didn’t matter, then.  We were friends and that’s all—eating together, laughing and playing volleyball on the beach on hot Sunday mornings.  Nothing mattered but us, here and now.  Until, suddenly, everything mattered, and it was too late.

What stories did you not tell us, Barbara?  Could they have saved your life?

 

*****

I talk to my husband about it.  He calms me, saying it was surely an accident.  A strong man like Jim, with a precisely or poorly aimed blow to the temple, could kill a person, large or small.

“And the blood?” I ask.

He says she could have fallen unconscious to the floor, causing her head to bleed.  We all know head wounds bleed a lot.

But that much?  Enough to fill a closet and leave a trail to the door, then into the trunk of a car?

“And the saran wrap?  And the duct tape?” I ask him.  I can’t help it.

“Drugs,” he says, as if it were obvious.

I should have known he would say that.  Strange behavior, in his mind, is always the result of dealing in drugs.  He says that if you need to pack up drugs, presumably marijuana and cocaine, you wrap them in layer after layer of saran wrap with things like coffee grounds and oregano leaves in between.  If you’re good, you can even fool the dogs.

“So Jim had drugs to pack before he left?”

“Sure,” my husband says, shrugging.

I don’t know.  I don’t see it.  I don’t see it at all.  Of course, I wouldn’t.  No one saw any of this.

“Why do you think her family didn’t come?” my husband continues.  “And why else would Ivan take all of her things and made them disappear?”

He thinks there is some dirty family business going on.  I know he does.  Jim’s dim past, Barbara’s obscure job, and the family with money who gave every appearance of squelching the investigation…  He’s Italian, and can find the shadow of the mob behind every bush in the garden, if he looks long enough.

I’d like to argue with him.  I like think I’m being fair.  I’d like to have something to say in their defense, but when I open my mouth, I have nothing.

Of course there are dangerous sexual practices that can result in death.  Nothing about Barbara leads me believe that she was voluntarily asphyxiated, accidently past the point of no return, but how would I know?  Each possible scenario is more preposterous than the last.

And I insist like the refrain in a song sung by devils: what about all the blood?  Or whatever it was that left a trail from the closet to the car.  Something happened in that room that has not been told.  If Jim is innocent, then why did he run away?

 

We lost two friends.  Barbara is somewhere turning into sand, her bones in the deep or in the bellies of estuary crocodiles.  Jim turned up in Texas again, but I haven’t exactly wanted to stop by.

I hope it’s all a scam—an elaborate, indecipherable scam to delude everyone who knew them—that Barbara and Ivan are living somewhere on their own paradisiacal island, bought for her by her family with dirty money that was somehow laundered in her supposed murder by her lover Jim.  I hope it was all a setup.  I hope to God that Jim is innocent, and that we have all been cunningly outwitted.

I would love to apologize to him on my knees.

I don’t expect to.

*****

 

They are still together among my photographs, embraced, smiling.

 

*****

I remember you, Barbara.  I insist.
Everything is not alright.
May your lover be brought to justice for betraying your life.
Where can he hide from what he has done?

 In my dreams, one day, perhaps very far, Interpol will knock on his door and they will drag him away with metal around his wrists and make him tell what a wicked thing he has done.
I want to see his face in the newspaper, hear he has been captured.
I want terrible men to make him say what he did to you.
I want him to say it, whatever it was.
I want to wring this secret from him with my bare hands.

Haunt him, Barbara
Haunt the ocean.
Look up at him from beds of kelp that wave like your hair.

Haunt him, beautiful friend.
Find him in the country where he is safe because no crime has been committed.
No one wept at your funeral.
No one can prove that you are dead.

 *****

Everyone moved away.   In January, two somber couples moved out of the beautiful beach house that three entered.  None of them could bear, even in brightest daylight, the ominous quiet of the empty room.  At night they jumped at every shift and rustle of the breeze, glimpsing, from the corners of their eyes, the glow of blood.  They took Jim’s belongings and threw them away—all of them.  No one wanted any of it.  Randy adopted the dog.

No one is left at all.  Nothing remains to bear witness:  no monument, no marker, no voice speaking a name in the silence.

*****

 I remember you, Barbara.
I do not forget.

I feel your smile in the sun.
I hear your laugh in the rustling leaves of trees.
I know you are somewhere in the rain, evaporated from the sea.
You are in the mangrove tree, growing from the fertile mud of the estuary, where lies the crocodile who snapped your finger bones.

 I don’t know where you are.
You are everywhere.

*****

Read the “Afterward”
(additional information that I have learned during the writing of this story)

IMG_3412

Us (except “Jake,”) at Marco and Rebecca’s wedding, July 2010: Barbara, “Paige”, “Marco”, my husband, “Rebecca”, me and “Jim”

 

Barbara Struncova disappeared on December 5, 2010 and is still one of Costa Rica’s cold case missing persons.
All of the names of people and most of the names of places have been changed.
All of them except Barbara’s.

Remember Barbara (Section 4 of 5)

for Barbara Struncova
1979-2010

…I promised.
But I am not keeping secrets anymore.

Chapter Two, continued

There were traces of blood all over their bedroom.  The police sprayed their mysterious spray across the floor, and there, beside the bed, a bright puddle began to glow, its center radiating like a dark, terrible sun.  Small fluorescent smudges appeared.  On the wall by the bed, an unmistakable hand print shone clear ghostly fingers.

“Whose hand…?” I asked, not wanting to know.

“We don’t know.”  But there was more.  “And in the closet—   It looked clean in the daylight, but when the cops sprayed that stuff, it glowed.  Bright.  The whole closet.”

 

What the hell?

 

Maybe a worker hurt himself during construction. Terribly. Then he touched the wall. Maybe other renters once had a dog that lay there bleeding to death after a vicious fight. In the closet. A dog would like that.

“No, no,” the cops say. “Human blood.”

Is there a way they can be sure of that? What in God’s name happened in there? Is this fluorescent cop blood-spray even real?

I Google it. It’s real. Bleach activates it too, I read, and for a moment I feel better. Maybe it was just bleach. The cleaning lady spilled it.

Then I feel sick again. Who spills that much bleach in a closet? A floor mopped with bleach would have a uniform glow.

“The police think he kept her there for a day or more. They found one of Jim’s flip flops with blood on it and they took it to see if they can get a match from her family.”

 

 

Was it in a crime of passion? A fury out of control? Did he plan it?! Impossible.

Jim was as strong as an ox. He could have strangled any medium-sized adult with his bare hands, woman or man. He could have suffocated her with a pillow. Suffocation is quiet and, whatever happened, no one heard a sound.

But why the glow of so much blood? Or is it bleach? Does it make a difference? Even though Jim left with only a backpack, the pillows and bedding were gone from the room, and, in the bathroom, not one towel remained.

He made no secret of owning a gun but nothing suggested that shots had been fired. Did he stab her? Why, if he could so easily have suffocated her? Did her head crash against the cement wall or tile floor? Was she instantly unconscious? Why didn’t she scream?

Did he gag her first? Hold his hand over her mouth? No. He couldn’t have. He loved her.

And the saran wrap? The duct tape? Possibilities occur to me that are unmentionable. Maybe I watch too much TV.

What in God’s name happened to Barbara? Why?

 

 

The cops sprayed the blood spray through the common area and stood in stupefied silence as a glowing trail appeared, wide and solid, as if something heavy had been dragged out of their room, across the floor, around the pool, up the stair at the entrance, through the door and onto the front porch.  Then it disappeared.  The cops took their hats off, crossed themselves, and mumbled what sounded like, “Santa Maria.”

Just before the fading cover of that night gave way to dawn, the OIJ knocked on Randy’s door, demanding to examine his vehicle.  Startled and stammering, he rummaged for the keys.  They filled the old Trooper with spray, and there it was behind the last seat:  the same eerie, nauseating glow.

Nobody’s dog died in Jim and Barbara’s closet.  Whatever was in that closet slid out the front door of the house and disappeared forever from the trunk of that car.

And then, after that, nothing. Absolutely nothing. Jim was gone and there was no sign of Barbara anywhere. Ivan took away her things. No sign, ever, of the long board bag charged to the Czechs.

The police, having a crime with no criminal and no victim, turned their attention back to chasing thieves.

 

*****

Remember Barbara
Part Three

I tell myself the story a thousand ways, asking her silent ghost which version is true, begging her just to nod or twitch a finger when I get it right. I have tried everything. She is motionless.

Surely it must have begun with a fight. Truly.

Give me that much, Barbara.
He left the bar early—tired, bored, and annoyed that even though you all speak English, you kept slipping into Czech as if he wasn’t even there.  Laughing hilariously, and him sitting there like stump.

You came home at 1:00 o’clock, early by Europe’s definition of a night out, late by Jim’s.  But the Czechs came every year, and every year it was the same.  Jim never seemed the least bit jealous.

I guess this time he waited up for you.

 

And what? Was he angry? Did he accuse you of cheating? Say you didn’t love him? Was he drunk? Were you? Did he ask you for money? Did you refuse? Say you’d had it with him? That you were sick of it? Did you tell him you couldn’t go one more day like this? But why would he kill you for that? Is there any way you are alive?

Did you know something about him and threaten to tell? Did you accuse him of something true and unspeakable? How did he become so terribly angry? Or was it anger at all?

Was he waiting for you in bed feigning sleep? Did you tiptoe in trying not to disturb, brush your teeth in the bathroom with the door closed and slip quietly into bed beside him, sliding a warm arm around his chest and kiss his ear? Did you think he would make love to you when he grabbed you by the throat?

Did he mean to kill you when you opened the door? Did you feel it in the air? Did you know something wasn’t right?

Did you know you were dying, Barbara?

 

What did he do to her, that beast? Press on her throat until she stopped thrashing? Hold a pillow on her face? Strike a deadly blow to her temple? Split her skull against the wall? Did he cut her with a knife, the animal? Why? What did she do to him but love him? What did he fear she would do?

Did he think we would believe him?  And we might have believed him longer, if his lies had been less absurd, if he hadn’t told them just before her mother’s birthday, just before Christmas.  When both came and went—and really, one was enough—everyone knew she was dead.

If he could have conjured up a sliver of concern, it would have helped. We might have thought for at least a minute that she really ran away, taking nothing, intending to return and perhaps somewhere in her adventures met with misfortune. We might have tried to believe he was innocent. He could have paced, called her sister, talked to the police, twisted his goatee, shed a tear. But nothing. Sneers, sardonic smirks and crazy bitch.

 

*****

I think if he’d meant to do it, he wouldn’t have done it there. He would have taken her on a trip somewhere to a rented room. He would have taken her alone on a boat into the sea. He would have had the car and the board bag ready if he knew he was going to need them. He isn’t that stupid.

I make up a story to believe because I need one. In it, they become angry and say terrible things to each other. Wine makes her bold. And in a blind rage, he doesn’t care. For one second too long, he doesn’t care.

Then he smacks her face and waits for her to come to. And smacks her harder but nothing happens.

Bitch, wake up.

Now what has she done?

He shakes her and her body lolls.  He presses his head to her chest where he can hear that her heart has stopped, and the flood of sorrow boils into pure rage at her pathetic weakness.

Now look what you have done to me. Got the last laugh. Died, you stupid bitch. Crazy bitch. Goddamn women, man.

cut 4

Barbara Struncova

Read the last section of the story 

 Barbara Struncova disappeared on December 5, 2010 and is still one of Costa Rica’s cold case missing persons. This is her story according to me, as close to the truth as I am able to tell it.
I call it fiction in a fading hope that it is.
Make no mistake: I will never stop hoping that everything I have supposed is wrong.
Everyone in this story is a friend I have lost.

“Are you still Mennonite?”

“So…are you still Mennonite?”

That’s a question I am asked almost as often as I reveal the truth of my roots and it is coming to me with a new frequency since the August launch of my book When The Roll Is Called a Pyonder: Tales From A Mennonite Childhood.

I can see that I am going to have to come up with an answer.

For most Mennonites where I come from, the fact you even have to ask would be the answer in and of itself. My light is evidently under a bushel and we all know what that means. Or at least Mennonites do.

But my last name is Zimmerman and I have a Mennonite pedigree that doesn’t stop, including surnames like Brubaker, Neff, Martin and Horning. I went to junior high at Manheim Christian Day School, high school at Lancaster Mennonite High School and college at Goshen College. When I was thirteen years old I was baptized on my knees by the bishop and for several successive years, pinned a round white doily to the top of my head every time I went to church or grandma’s house to symbolize my submission before God and men. And I was proud of it. I can sing 606 without the book and I know all three verses of “Heart With Loving Heart United,” the soprano line and the alto. I make pork and knepp on New Year’s Day like Grandma Brubaker did wearing an apron with blue rick-rack that Grandma Zimmerman wore over her cape dress. I wash my kitchen floor on my hands and knees with a bucket and a rag and my fail-proof recipe for pie crust comes from the Erisman Mennonite Church’s cookbook. So of course I’m Mennonite.

But I moved far away for a long time and I’ve fallen in love with dancing: salsa and merengue. Can you remain a Mennonite after you learn to move like that? I spent so many sunny years in a bikini on a surf board that I have lost all ability to feel the shame prescribed for immodesty. So I don’t know. Now what?

I consider myself a pacifist and like to believe I am non-violent. I believe in being nice to everybody; does that count? Military vehicles and anyone dressed in military clothing scare the crap out of me—I can’t help it. I’m down with the priesthood of believers and concur that the significance of infant baptism appears to be lost on the infants. So obviously I’m a Mennonite, right?

But I haven’t been a member of a Mennonite church in twenty years. I haven’t been a member of any church in twenty years. I’ve barely entered a church in the last twenty years until I recently started unfaithfully attending a United Methodist church. Why? My town doesn’t have a Mennonite church. Oh, you mean why have I gone back to church at all? I don’t really know. I just got in the mood. Is that my age showing?

I’ve been married twice (divorce, not widowed), both times to men who had never heard of Mennonites and didn’t believe I was serious until they saw with their own eyes. I’ve broken all of the 10 commandments except for the one about killing and I only feel repentant in a handful of instances. The fact that I would even make a statement like that—what does that make me?

I don’t pray before meals or before bed or at any other specific time of day. I pray spontaneously—almost accidentally—as if I have an invisible friend inside my head. I don’t read my Bible, really. When the mood strikes, I like Ecclesiastes and Matthew and Ester. But I know Psalm 23, Psalm 139, the Lord’s Prayer, I can almost recite Luke’s version of the Christmas Story from the King James Version and at one time during my teenaged years I committed to word-for-word memory the first 11 chapters of the Book of Acts. Does that mean anything?
I don’t think I believe in the traditional heaven and hell. I’m not sure what to make of the Holy Trinity, to tell the truth, because I suspect the church got poor Jesus all wrong as his toes were disappearing into the clouds.

Can you be a Mennonite if you question whether or not Christianity is a crock? If I say I am Mennonite, do I ruin the meaning of the word? If I say I am not Mennonite, does my blood laugh out loud in my veins? Is being Mennonite about espousing The Mennonite Confession of Faith? If you can start being one by espousing it, do you stop being one if you take issue? Even if you obediently wore skirts and dresses throughout the entire 4 years of high school? What about if you have a private moment of glee every time the clock says 6:06?

So tell me yourself: am I still Mennonite?  In one word you will define both of us.

 

What The Teacher Expected

Of all the emotions that I experienced in February when I got the email from eLectio Publishing stating that they wanted to talk about my manuscript “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder: Tales from A Mennonite Childhood,” there is one in the mix that you might not have guessed: relief.

Fifth graders from all across the Manheim Central School District recognized by our teachers for our writing ability participated in a special workshop, the details of which I have completely forgotten in the ensuing 33 years. I have a vague memory of the delight of being chosen, of getting to attend an important activity that not all of the students could go to, of kids I didn’t know from other schools and unfamiliar teachers hovering over us. I found it all terribly exciting and loved the recognition of having been singled out as extra special.

Although I’ve long lost the details, what I took away from that activity was a green-covered spiral-bound book of writings we produced; printed and presented to each of us with the signatures of the teachers who lead it and words of encouragement for our budding talents. And I saved it. For a very long time. In spite of all the times I almost threw it away—I didn’t.

But I wish Miss Carol Steiner had used a different word. “Never stop writing,” she penned in curly cursive. “Someday I expect to see you as a published author, Diana.”

If you’ve read “When the Roll Is Called A Pyonder” you know that the little Mennonite version of me was no stranger to adult expectations and none of them were optional. You to go church on Sunday. You don’t lie. You eat the potato soup. Keep your legs down. Recite your Bible verses before dinner. Be nice to your sisters. I’m not saying this makes me unusual; I’m just saying. When you are a child and an adult tells you that they expect something of you, this is serious business. Failure to meet these expectations in some cases equals disobedience and in many cases will produce punishment.

There’s another meaning to the word expect. It doesn’t so much imply a requirement as hope or an anticipation of what one imagines the future may hold. You expect a baby. You expect that May will be warmer than April. You expect to pass the test you have studied for. Or not.

I imagine that the second meaning of expect is the one Miss Carol Steiner had in mind when she wrote that in my book. But those words hung over my head glowering like an imperative for thirty some years. They were supposed to be words of encouragement, not of admonition. I told myself that over and over again. But they scowled at me from behind their green cover in the back of my mind. No matter how deeply I buried that book in the pile, no matter how far I moved away or how many other expectations from my childhood dissolved, those words stood there with their arms crossed waiting for me to comply: I expect to see you as a published author, young lady.

Then ten years passed.

Then twenty.

Then thirty.

And I was very disillusioned by this failure. Not that I had stopped writing. But I wasn’t a published author. Not that I had really tried. But clearly, as I was not even able to meet the expectations of an elementary school teacher, I had grown up to be profoundly disappointing. Or she was wrong about me. Or she meant the other kind of expect. But that didn’t make me feel better at all. That stupid book just sat there, taunting me.

So when eLectio contacted me proposing to publish “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder,” an enormous weight dissolved from the center of my chest and a tidal wave of relief washed over me.

Whew. I made the grade.

I went looking last night through the boxes in my shed for that green book. I wanted to check which grade I was actually in and find out what Miss Carol Steiner’s real name might have been before I throw that thing away once and for all. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Maybe I already tossed it, after eLectio called and I finally felt absolved. Could I have purged a skeleton like that from my closet and not remember it? Or maybe I just put it away a little better last time. Maybe I’ll come across it someday tucked in the box with my first stuffed animal and that Children’s Bible with color pictures and the bead necklace Aunt Joyce brought me from Africa.

It’s kind of ironic that if I’ve thrown it away it boomeranged right back and if I still have it I don’t even know where.

On Keeping A Diary: Guest Blog Post for Women Writers, Women’s Books

I received an invitation to write a guest blog post for Women Writers, Women’s Books.  This is the first invitation I have received to write a guest blog post and I am highly flattered.  I don’t know exactly why they invited me–my book isn’t even technically out yet–but it made me feel like a room without a roof to be included among the writers on this site.

Here’s a clip from the piece which essentially demonstrates why it is of critical importance to me as a writer and moreover as a human being to keep a diary:

“The fabulous thing about these diaries is how raw they are, how badly written, how true and unpretentious. Like notes to self, written a long time ago so that I might not forget. That’s exactly what they are. As I read them, I realize how much of my own life I have forgotten. They take what was mine, what I have lost, and bring it back to me.

I open the books and there it is. High school. College. Loves. Devastations. Doubts. Adventures. Rages I’ve forgotten about entirely and suddenly the storm resumes as if it had never ended. Loves I haven’t loved in a decade suddenly burst into the center of my heart.  And you say oh but all of that is behind you. Yes of course. Like the long beautiful tail of a comet, it is behind me.”

Read the rest by clicking this link:  http://booksbywomen.org/talking-to-myself-the-importance-of-keeping-a-diary/

A New Stepmother Story

i want a new story
where the stepmother
is good
where the mirror
is just a mirror and
she was never all
that fair anyway

i want a story
where the little girl
falls asleep in
her arms (i can
tell you one myself)
and the brothers
grow into men who
pick her up off the floor and
twirl her in squealing circles
when she walks through
the door

i want a story
where the stepmother
sees the girl turning
into a woman and
tells her about tampons
takes her to the mall
buys her blue jeans
listens to her secrets
promises not to tell
and doesn’t

i want a new story
(may I have a fair chance?)
where a finger prick brings
band-aids and the good stepmother
herself kisses
sleeping beauty

For Barbara

My friend Barbara disappeared three years ago this week.
Whereas on one hand we pretty much know what happened to her and where she is, no one ever found her.  I am not convinced that anyone truly looked.  But I, for one, refuse to forget her or pretend that everything is alright. 

where are you barbara
with your tame dogs and
bright strings tied
about your wrists?
where are your brown arms
swirling skirts
and painted toes?

the wind is your breath;
your gray eyes are
rain clouds.
spiders are spinning
locks of your hair.

open your mouth and
speak, barbara.
tell me a story,
draw me a picture.

the ocean is salty and
warm like
your blood.

does it mutter
your secrets?  it is
guarding your bones?

Everything But the Words / Todo Menos las Palabras

(The same poem first in  English, then in Spanish because I try to pick my favorite one and I can only pick both)

i remember the night you
borrowed flavio’s blue car
the bottom halves of trees i
could see through the
window where
we stopped along the
dusty road

what did we say to
each other
that night i
remember it all but
the words

* * * * *

recuerdo la noche en que
prestaste el coche azul de flavio
los troncos de los árboles que
veía por la
ventana donde
paramos en el
camino polvoroso

qué nos dijimos
esa noche yo lo
recuerdo todo menos
las palabras

(from Tell Me About The Telaraña, 2012)

The Same Boots

The headline says, “Nicaraguense Muere Atropellado” but they don’t give a name or show a face. There are policemen in the photo, a dented car, a man’s legs on the ground, cut off by the photo frame. There must be a thousand Nicaraguan men in this city and one of them failed to look both ways.  I start to turn the page and then I see the boots.

I feel my heart seize and the shock wave goes through me to my fingers and toes.

Those are his boots.
No, they’re not.
We bought them in the market in Rivas.
No, they’re not.

I look as hard as I can at the photograph. I hold it closer. I hold it farther away.

The buckles are different.
No, they’re not.
The strap is different.

The truth is I can’t really see the buckle or the strap.

“No identificado,” it says, “en Bajada Grande.”

Why would he have been in Bajada Grande?
It’s a free country.
He doesn’t even know anyone in Bajada Grande.
Those are his boots.

I would know. I didn’t want to buy them for him. They were so expensive; so much more than what he really needed. But he wanted them. He tried them on and said they were perfect. And they were really gorgeous black boots. They made him look sexier than ever. I wanted to say, “It’s too much, amor. This money is all I have and it seems like so much to you but it is nothing. Nothing. I have to get on a plane and fly away. I have to go places and do things and I’m not really your wife or even your girlfriend. I’m using you.” I bought him the boots.

I didn’t buy him those boots to die in them.
They’re not the same boots. They’re different.
You can’t prove they are.
You can’t prove they aren’t.

My God I never wanted to see him again. He stalked me, pursued me, terrified me. But I didn’t want him to die in the street atropellado with his boots on. I wanted him to wear the soles through dancing with girls young and beautiful as he.

Is he dead?
Is the city safe, now, for me?
Can I stop walking with my head down between bus stops?
Glancing over my shoulder to see I’m not being followed?

I am dizzy.

Say what you want, I know those boots.
They’re not the same boots.
Is he really gone? Am I safe now?
You’re paranoid.

I don’t know which voice I want to be right and which I want to be wrong.

All I know is that I know those boots.
They’re not the same boots.

blue blankets

she wants grandchildren,
dreams of our bellies
swelling with babies –
her inexplicable daughters
safely sealed in matrimony
and we get cats
get dogs

she sees my first wrinkle
with panic
her time runs out with mine

shall I cut paper hands
for my poems?
pin the pages of stories
to dolls she can hold?
shall I name my notebooks, wrap them in
blue blankets,
bounce them on my hip and
sing them songs?

(an old poem from sometime before my nieces and nephews were born to partially absolve me,  but the questions remain.)