You have to follow the path of your blood.

-- Garcia Lorca


I began in the San Joaquin Valley

beneath my grandmother's blood-

red cheery tree, my mother's bed

of wild mint and climbing rose.

We fed on tri-tip and pork chops

and barbecued chicken, ate my grandfather's

homemade fudge with goblets of Uncle Joe's

homemade wine. My Aunt Donna burned

every variety of cookie she ever made.

My dad was a poor man who managed

a trucking company and often screamed.

He married my mom before she discovered

he was in debt. Who could blame him

for seeing the cash registers in her eyes.

She worked for Reese Oil Company,

Western Stockman's Cattle, Century 21,

while he ate gallons of light-

pink strawberry ice-cream.

My whole life has been covered in dirt.

No man ever seemed worth the effort.

I felt nervous until I found a decent ball-

point pen. There is no use in comprehending

the past. With my first breath of freedom

I swallowed a bottle of vodka and moved

to Manhattan. Cockroaches, trash, tattoos.

I'm lasting here like the Bakersfield sun

come August. The one that gave me skin

cancer. My face and body burned there

for eighteen years. No amount of grief

can knock my grandmother's laugh out of me,

or my Aunt Donna; or my mom,

who didn't just turn on the engine

of her leased silver-blue diesel Mercedes.

She drove it through the house.