poetry

I Wonder, Black Brother

I see you, black brother
dancing in the subway
Your children and wife laughing,
ready to exit the train.
And I wonder: May I go with you?

Black brother, I see you
with your loafers and backpack
and physics book in hand,
Waiting to sprint once the doors slide open.
And I wonder: May I sprint along with you?

You, black brother, I see
sitting on the platform bench,
resting against your shopping cart
of hand-picked bottles and rags.
And I wonder: May I sit and rest with you?

Black brother, you, I see
wearing your dinosaur shirt,
beaming a proud strawberry ice-cream-coated grin.
And I wonder: May I scoop you in my arms and never let you go again?

I worry about you, brother, every time we meet, and I wonder
if a young white-skinned woman is what you need in your possession to keep you safe.
To get you home alive.

Because I see you, dear brother,
as a human being.
One that matters so goddamn much to me.

When Your Aunt is Everything with Wings

Tia Stephanie 1
When your aunt is everything with wings,
Light is her preferred method of travel.
Floating. Skimming.
Air is water
and gravity, optional.
 
When your aunt is everything with wings,
Courage glitters her skin.
Bravery is her cartilage.
Divinity, her flight path.
 
When your aunt is everything with wings,
She teaches what effortless beauty looks like,
How grace is weightless,
and joy, a song.
 
When spring blooms and
stars fall, winds whip
and sea mammals breach —
Power,
strength,
fortitude,
and faith
have names,
when your aunt is everything with wings.
 
Happy Birthday, Tia Stephanie. ❤ What an honor it is to be your niece.
Photo credit: Stephanie Jensen Garza

When you love yourself, and I mean really love yourself

Love Reflection

When you love yourself, and I mean really love yourself,
you cannot help but look at that person in the mirror and weep.
That person who lives in a body tailor-made to swell and shrink
with the tides of food; whose scars, curves, lines, and bumps
pattern the casing of an animal, a house of the entire emotional spectrum;
whose dreams churn the engines and heat the heart;
and whose laughter delights the stars and all ancestors before her.

Yes, I love you.
All of you, person that is Me.
Every inch. Every piece.
Finally.

© Amelia Isabel

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel, in Buenos Aires, Argentina

For My Sister

Sisters swinging on swingset in backyard
If I could turn back time
to that day on the swings
I would 

Summer clung to the air
jostling the canopy
of the Great Pecan Tree
He laughed with his whole heart
and so did we

Down and back
forwards and Up
Wild curls reeling
to catch the clouds

Faster, higher
sweeter, lighter
toes scraping the sky
The moment, our spaceship
suspended in delight

Before the kitchen door opens
Before the magic breaks
Two backyard pendulums
swing

© Amelia Isabel
Photo credit: Hannah Nicole

Belong

A silhouette of a woman sitting and watching the sunset
When feel like I have nowhere to belong to –
I must remember that I belong to myself.
These bones.
These feelings.
This soul.
They are a universe –
a land
uninhabited by any other creature.
Only the cells of dinosaurs
and distant galaxies have called me home.
But in this life
I rule them alone.
My life is my kingdom,
my body my planet.
My reign shall be long and golden,
as long as I look towards the light.
Even in darkness,
I will glow,
burning the borrowed embers
that breathe and live all on their own.
I am responsible for this soul.
This Being.
For as long as we both shall live.

© Amelia Isabel
Photo credit: Kevin Cole

A Visit from Maya Angelou

Christmas lights strung across a room

Once upon a time, the Greeks believed in invisible fairy creatures called “dæmons” or “geniuses” that served as spirit guides and the ultimate connection to one’s divine creativity. They helped us to transcend, become one with our calling, and step closer to understanding what life is all about.

What if invisible fairies weren’t the only ones helping us in our creative acts?

Last week, I had a unique opportunity to intimately bear witness to my own creative process as a new poem burbled up inside me like a cork floating up to the surface in a pool of champagne. A classmate of mine shared the following lines in our poetry course:

It’s the strangest sensation to be happily lonely
to keep the thoughts of a universe, safe inside a humbled heart
It’s a whimsical place, to feel luckily bound in a body 
that won’t misuse its wisdom

With my genius at my side, we wrote this piece:

Sanctuary within a Temple
A Reflection on the Universe within the Body

My heart space
Is a child’s bedroom
A warm womb where I am tucked away
Beneath a rolling sea of linen and down
Looking up through soft sheer canopy curtains
At the twinkling lights of the universe
Strung across the ceiling
Gently swaying
To the pulse of my chamber walls
Rocking me into the safest slumber

And ultimately, the following story. I didn’t realize it right away, but as the last line came out, I gradually noticed something different about my poetic genius. The familiar sensation of a whimsical story began banging around inside my ribs, commanding to be heard. And I obliged.

Dr. Angelou, this one’s for you.

Screenshot of my youtube video, A Visit from Maya Angelou

“Lights” photo credit: Chris Jones

Canopy Curtain Call

Respledent Quetzal captured by Frank Vassen in Mirador de Quetzales, Costa Rica

[Photo captured by Frank Vassen in Mirador de los Quetzales, Costa Rica] 

Crystal-like whistles
Airy chirps and yawny sighs
Resonate from tree to tree
The orchestra awakens

The Sun opens a curtain as
The East Wind pushes through
And hushes the choir

Ringing through Monteverde
Like drops of water
With a festival twist
The opening number begins

Snow white coattails
Blood red vest
Long machete plumes of green and blue

Mesoamerica’s beloved ave
Cuts through the canopy

Like an electric strobe light

© Amelia Isabel

Me in 2008 birthing the poem in the middle of the cloud forest.

#ThrowbackThursday to a poem I birthed in 2008 on a bridge in the middle of the Costa Rican cloud forest. This is my most cherished work of poetry I have ever written. (Look at all that HAIR! And that concentration! That’s Czikszentmihalyi’s “flow” right there!) Photo credit: Sarah Boncal

The Dam Cannot Hold

"Expansion" sculpture in New York by Paige Bradley.

Poem inspired by Paige Bradley’s “Expansion” sculpture featured here in New York City and from my own fears of embracing my inner Light. (Photo credit: Paige Bradley)

Here I sit
broken in the sunlight
My scars illumined
from the inside out
Cracked

Bandages once invisible
hold together
fragile skin, bones, and breath

My light is showing

A bumble bee bumbles overhead
Scanning me
zzzzz
My scars shiver
revealing where they are hidden
Can he sense my shadows
quivering deep beneath
my ragged walls?

I crumple

liquid fear
seeping out
warmed by the sun

The bumbling bloke
bounces into the window
sending shockwaves skipping
across the glass trampoline
Disoriented
or giddy in his own delight
he shoots off
and I remain
Quaking

Light pools beneath my aching fractures
enflaming the cracks
searing the transparent tape
This dry dam cannot hold

What happens when the light breaks free?
Where will all my pieces go?
zzzzzz

© Amelia Isabel

The Creative Process of Legos


Solitary lego

How often do we find ourselves guilty of focusing too much on the product of our work and banging our head against the wall every step of the way through the beautiful but odious creative process?

This year alone? More times than I’m going to admit.

So, in an attempt to stimulate my creative juices, I attended the JustThis: Zen Writing meetup at the Austin Zen Center earlier this week. The group begins with a short meditation followed by a prompt, then 30 minutes of writing whatever comes up. Finally, we go around the room, sharing whatever we’ve written, and the rest of the group can offer feedback.

The prompt was a short piece entitled Finding the Lego by Maryann Corbett of St. Paul, Minnesota, about turning up one small object loaded with meaning.

Nothing really resonated with me in the piece other than the idea of the lego. This was also my first time attending the meetup, and I was late, so I identified with the missing lego piece, feeling like the outsider who tries to fit in at the last minute.

The 30-minute session began, and I had no clue what to write. I was already allowing myself to feel uncomfortable because of my tardiness (I arrived right in the middle of meditation portion. Awkward.). With a smile from the organizer, I assured myself that it was OK that I was there, and that I was welcome. So, I focused on the lego:

I am the lego
I am the lego who shows up late
asking for its chance to connect with the others.

Aren’t we all legos?

Lego represents the building blocks of matter
But even Lego has legos
Lego atoms
Specially designed to make it into a lego

How far can we go?

How far can we go
‘til we are no longer lego
and more of something else?

Then, my mind veered off into all kinds of directions. Stream of Consciousness. Danny Kaye. Lego doodles. If lego spoke Spanish: Soy el lego que llego tarde… then, finally writing the words “I don’t even know what I am writing anymore.”

I was about to give up and just sit there for the remaining 5 minutes, just staring at my skirt… when one small gem popped out:

Legos in my dress
Legos in my chest
I am a kingdom of legos

Building nations of dreams
Creation it seems
is but a thing of legos

Huh. Process does work.

I’ll be hosting my own poetry meetup tonight at Friends & Neighbors on E. Cesar Chavez at 6:00, and we’ll be honoring process. Event info here: Eastside Poetry & Coffee.

Photo credit: Paul Hudson

Blue

I saw a blue balloon today
floating along the stratosphere —
caressing heaven’s belly, batting
its glittering eye, intrinsically aware
of its place between the cosmos.

I saw a blue jay today
squawking down below our porch —
flitting among the branches, hopping
alongside the dry creek bed, content
in his handsome feathered frame.

I saw a blue bicycle and his sister today
racing each other through the park —
squealing in delight, wanting not
to be last, training wheels flying
as swift as wings.

I saw you everywhere today
coloring shirts and shoes and a dragonfly kite —
laughing behind graffiti, smiling across
the expansive Texas sky, your blue hair waving
in my memory.

For Machelle.

© Amelia Isabel