Fireflies in Union Square Sound Like Your Father
Whole skyscrapers. Grand glittering ornate monuments
to my own ineptitude I could build and still
never satisfy him.
Not even these melting stars
streaking through the sky most emphatically,
or a holy ritual as an altar boy I rehearsed for his sake
(though I didn’t believe in his religion),
with ceaseless benedictions curling upwards in smoke
from a swung thurible in a serpentine litany—
still he’d find fault.
Tonight I sit in this park,
and overhear the word enthralled,
picture young and old faces and the naked
flesh of men I loved who could never love me back.
A bronze Washington is riding off to war, again.
I hardly believe what I see: a flood of fireflies
lift off a branch, a glowing ghost, perfect
in its strangeness, singing in that familiar paternal voice,
his song of not good enough.
Eel Fishing, Leahi Beach
Could I ever convince you to go back
to that night sitting on the rock wall jutting out
into the Pacific? Diamond Head’s old man face
watching us wait forever for tugs on our line,
a signal that we’ve caught that elusive lightning
hidden away in the crevices of the rocks.
A summer sky blends into water.
Beneath us tiny phosphorescent fish,
with their night vision, make their way
to the edge of the Earth, back to the constellations.
We eat cherries, spitting out poison-filled pits.
Turning our faces toward the mists off the ocean,
we talk about everything but—
God dials down the knob on the night
and the stars brighten. Then a jingle bell signal:
We finally catch one, its skinny whirling dervish dance
all silvers and greens. Contain it to a bag and hang
it from the rocks. We strip the clothes off
our bodies, jumping into the water. A rush
of ripples surges out across the sea,
our message, unbottled, to a bedridden world.
The bag on the rocks it’s wriggling, violently,
as if it contains a million moaning stars. The eel,
restless in its captivity, eventually reels
(and after all that waiting).
We intended to let it go, though, didn’t we?
But what else did we lose, without meaning to?
A Tendency to Manage Distance
Fifty people at the lip of a grave, and I’ve chosen
to stay in the car. I can see just fine from this far.
They write messages on helium balloons, release each
into oddly clear blue, shiny red green blue ovals dotting
the view. Let’s not talk about the mother draping her body
over the tiny white box. How about the rows of etched
stones sprouting from manicured grass? Or the geyser
of water rising from a man-made pool? On the drive in
I saw an old woman selling heliconias from the bed
of a truck. What a gorgeous flower. Did you know
flies lay their larvae in the red bracts? Imagine
the old woman tromping through her yard hacking away
at these plants. Do the larvae survive? Do they get a chance
at life? I’m thinking about the monkey painted
on the bedroom wall; why I can’t hold my breath past
the count of ten; how, suddenly, every other use of
the word precious has been rendered utterly superfluous.
They’re writing on balloons, but do they know at a certain
height what will be left are shards of latex fluttering into
the ocean? They’re placing the flowers in bronze vases.
Do they know in a patch of dirt somewhere the larvae
are shaken awaken, are desperate to get back
to their gestational slumber? Today, certainly today,
any one of us would have preferred to stay asleep.
Perhaps No One Is Immune to Memory Distortion
I watch, at night, pageants
in the hospital in Waikiki, and see
(in a dream) on the lawn of Iolani Palace
the shadow of Care Bears and leaves.
I buy us a coronation pavilion—
Then I wake up.
Mom is pregnant, asks for little outfits
and scissors, again, to tear
a tumor out.
I don’t know when she got it.
She never says what her migraine is.
She smokes all the time—Benson & Hedges,
drugs, weed. She smells like menthols.
Because it’s brain cancer they marry, he tells me.
He works. Loses his scholarship, for her.
The Marine Corps (his dream).
Of a man, for a man.
(Pageants I watch at night.)
Poses (like Care Bears) are for girls, he tells me.
But I’m born in the closet.
He smokes Benson & Hedges, like she
does. And on the weekends he has an affair
with the orderly at his job, Kahi Mohala
Behavioral Health Center. And she,
the orderly, is 16.
Grandma dies in the bath. Mom leaves
him. We only ever see her fat sister.
She’s acting up on
girls’ night out. (Three months later)
she’s locked in, down, under, then out,
Loren Moreno is a journalist and writer from Honolulu, Hawaii currently living in New York City. He is a graduate of the MFA Creative Writing Program at The New School. He is the author of the chapbook AARON & KEONI (Gertrude Press, 2013).