18. Drive to school. See balloons taped to your locker. Give your friends lots of hugs. Turn in your homework and raise your hand; ask when the next assignment is due. Put your hair in a pony tail. Run in a track meet. Win first place. Go out to dinner with your parents. Eat a hamburger and fries. Talk about plans for college. Order the double-decker birthday cake. Eat the entire thing.
19. Wake up next to a boy you don’t really know. Reject the call when your parents ring. Spend the day with a bunch of college freshman who live in your dorm. Take the bus to the mall because you don’t have a car. Watch a girl with brown hair get her ears pierced. Hold her hand. Eat dinner in the cafeteria. Feel gross afterwards. Go to bed early because you don’t know what else to do. Dream of having long hair.
20. Stay up all night thinking about what you’ll wear the following day. Spend all morning pulling apart your closet. Wear the first outfit you tried on. Fake a smile all day. Constantly check your makeup in the bathroom. Cry on your way home from school because you just realized you forgot to wear eyeshadow. Eat dinner, late. Throw up the birthday cake in the downstairs bathroom so no one will hear. Have sex with your boyfriend so he’ll say he loves you. Try to feel pretty before you fall asleep.
21. Wake up in a foreign bed. Hear a sheep next to the bedroom window. Take a long shower. Drink two cups of tea for breakfast, skip lunch even though your stomach is grumbling. Walk around the town of Nelson. Remind yourself that you’re abroad. Climb a steep hill just so you can step inside an ancient church. Find forgiveness in a stained glass window. Listen to the rain.
22. Watch the sun rise from the comfort of your front porch. Drink a fresh cup of coffee. Smoke a cigarette. Or three. Think about your mother. Wonder what she’s doing. Listen to your housemates move about the house. Wonder if they’ll come out and find you. Hope they’ll just let you be. Spend the afternoon daydreaming, and the night actually asleep. Wake up with throbbing cheeks from smiling so much the previous day. Eat some breakfast and feel okay.
The cancer killed my grandmother at the age
of eighty-five. Extensive Small Cell Carcinoma.
Cancer of the lungs. Would it help if I told you
she smoked four packs a day up until she was
seventy years of age? Or would be unbearable
if I told you she never touched a cigarette in her life?
They say there’s nothing more powerful than
the strength of your DNA, and my grandfather
had a lit cigarette in his hand, every hour
of the day. Last night I stayed awake and
etched my grandmother’s name into my desk
drawer so she’d forever be tucked away, then
lit up a cigarette right there in bedroom and smoked
the sun awake. The smoke is still stuck in the room
trying to escape, banging on the windowpane
as if adhering to the glass was its only fate.
I’m thinking about my grandfather
and how he’s awake by sun rise.
This morning he’ll light up a cigarette
and wish for her to open her eyes.
Even the Buddha
stays awake some nights just to
point up at the Moon.
working on a poem about my grandmother. what a brave soul.
the moon cracks itself open
like an egg and bleeds itself dry
just so the sun has something nice
to stare at should it wake up
in the middle of the night.