Peephole

The dog that looked like a bear,
big and ruffled and angry like
hibernation was not going well
jumped against the wall of the hall
tore away ravenous down the way
pulling a too-small child, dragging that
child towards the elevator
but it couldn’t wait and squatted 
and pissed a lake when the
elevator doors opened so it ran
ran ran for the doors as the child
fell through the urine and shrieked
more angry than sad, and let
go of the leash and the dog/
bear jumped on Anush the 
woman in the elevator who lived
with the dog and the girl and then 
she screamed at the dog and the
girl covered in yellow urine, all
Armenian words now fighting in the
hallway so even the dog came slinking
back and the door of their apartment
opened and a fat fat man in black
velour pants and a chain around his
neck bellowed, walked out into the center,
bellowed some more until Anush 
screamed again, this time at him,
the contempt!  Oh wow the contempt!
She snarled and screamed and
two more children wandered dumbstruck
out of the door, no shoes on their feet,
shorts and t-shirts that didn’t look
real real clean, one eating cereal
out of the box until Anush screamed
at them and they ran with the unine-covered
girl into the apartment and the dog started to
quiver back on its hind legs behind the man,
started to strain and soon there was poop poop
on the floor but the man didn’t see it
and stepped backwards and stepped
right into the poop and swore:
“Shit Fuck!”
Anush backed up, he moved forward
to kill her and this is the way it
went until an even older woman
like grandmother-old came limping out of
the apartment and said something kind or
that sounded kind because the man stopped
in his shitty tracks and Anush took a 
breath and even the dog seemed better.
The old grandmother held out her arm and
her son came to her and gave her his hand
and called another name and another child,
a new one, came out of the apartment and
took the dog to the elevator and down and
they all walked inside the apartment and
closed the door and there was still piss
and shit on the floor but, finally, quiet.

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Garden

Plastic lights bobble along the patio wall.
Inside multi-colored paper clips and fabric boxes,
yarn and sequins stacked in cubbies,
child’s playroom for greeting-card guru,
red construction paper and computer screen
the size of a bed, fine stiff tulips
relaxed piano notes —
she found her Santa Barbara.

Bougainvillea spills over the view
framing sunset-valley eye-level
for short-grandmother-Mavis,
magenta thin-petals and 
lighted plastic bobbles and chimes
dance and dangle,
wise-woman hands inked and painted,
record of joy and death transformed
into keep-sake.

She sits with crafted memory,
a garden only a few square feet
visited every day.

(from I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors)


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Deal

His phone vibrates.  He looks at it.
His little girl tries to stay straight on a pink bike.
He hardens, hangs onto the pink seat.
“Fuck.” 
Undertoned
so his daughter doesn’t hear.
She peers at him, waits. She knows 
riding is over.  She holds the handle-bars.
They have plastic streamers.
“Just gonna be a minute, okay?”
He knows he’s hoping. She doesn’t care.
“Just a minute” as she puts her feet
permanently on the ground.

“Don’t got it.”
“Don’t know.  Comin’ clean wit-chu, man.”
“Don’t know whadda tell you.  Don’t got it.”
“What?  The fuck you say to me?”
“You threatening my family?”
“I’m gonna fuck you up!”
“You threatening my kid?”

The bike lays on the cement.  He spins around
desperate for his daughter.
She’s down the breezeway
talking to a baby palm tree
in a huge gray planter.
She waits for it to talk back.
He softens, turns:

“You get your fuckin’ money, okay?”
“Soon.”
“Not gonna happen, man.”
“Don’t got it, plain.”

Now he looks scared.  
It covers him like darkness.
He sweeps windows,
scours for signs.
Turning around and around
scanning, hurried,
stumbles toward his little girl,
touches her head,
she looks up at him,
she’s happy, points to the palm tree,
the gray planter,
tugs at his shorts.

“The tree wants Daddy.”
He says: “Yes, baby. It is.”
He keeps his hand on her head.

“I’ll get you your fucking money.”
The girl digs in the potted palm,
tries to climb in.
“Tomorrow.”
She’s looking for worms 
saying, “Here, worm, here, wormy-worm.”
“Tomorrow.  Stay away from my girl.”

It’s over.  The phone goes into his shorts.
He picks up his little girl.  He walks past the bike,
stops, looks at all the windows,
goes back, picks up the bike in his other hand,
leaves.

(from I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors)


In twelve years in Los Angeles, have you ever seen a neighbor?

Death Becomes Her

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