What of the Truth!
Say, what is that?
It’s me and you and we and not;
my truth is here, yours is there.
Ours is both, yet neither too.
One plus one is one, not two,
when it comes to false and true.
Dissecting, inspecting, reflecting, as such,
Makes sums and crumbs become too much.
To draw a line, define what’s mine,
confines the mind to be blind and stuck.
True truth combines all lines we’ve struck.

Image credit: “Infinite Lines” by Tung-Lung Hsu

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The western sky is clear: no tall clouds, no sudden gales or chop.
Still I drift, try as I may.
The voyage made, the distance covered, wasted.
To reach safe harbor, but with no moorings, no anchor or kedge.
Twisting and sliding back to the current’s whim.
Call down the spotter.
Furl the sails.
Await the coming weather.
To be dashed upon the rocks,
or overtaken and founder at sea.
Or perhaps to run aground on sand,
castaway, alone on a mangrove island
to eat time and bittersweet persimmon.

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Words are a poor substitute for knowing:
Like the screaming dial tone of old internet.
Like smoke signals, ambiguous and transitory,
vainly trying to convey the full-flaming sentience of their source.
Much worse though, for their pride.
Like buckshot, making up for poor aim with blunderbuss breadth.
The target, when hit, left almost unrecognizable. A heap.
Each refinement leaves them only more antique, a steampunk prank.
Like degrees on a wall, turning people into picture frames.
Better to wet our fingers, and paint joyful lines in all the wrong places.

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I perch in place
in time and space,
and not quite understanding.

I don’t doubt though
that upon this bough
I’ve made the proper landing.

For where I alight
is a joyous sight
for those around me standing,

So I ask not why
I fell from the sky;
I do no such demanding.

And just as I came
I leave the same;
the unknowns notwithstanding.

This piece was written in memory of Denise Francoise France (née Henry), my recently passed grandmother.

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Coquí Finds His Voice

Now as then, on Borikén,
an island in the Caribbean Sea,
an amphibian is always singing;
the frog says his name “Coquí!”

Coquí sang with pride on a branch outside,
and wove the night together.
His faith abides in his Cemí guides,
but his neighbors feared the weather.

The black sky blared, and screamed “Beware
Huracán is coming through!
She doesn’t care, it is her air,
and this is just what she’ll do!”

Trees fell down and were blown around
as the wind made everything debris.
The island drowned in rain and sound,
and it was too loud to sing “Coquí”.

Huracán was strong, and miles long,
but was calm within her eye;
and, standing there, Coquí dared
to give his song a try.

But what was wrong? He’d lost his song
no matter how hard he tried.
While the rain had spared, now Coquí shared
his own water while he cried.

Though her eye had passed, Huracán held fast,
and she spun and blew until
at long last a good forecast
said all was calm and still.

Coquí was distraught in his hiding spot;
his bohío was torn to shreds.
Then he thought “let’s see how bad it got,”
and soon he filled with dread.

By the bay, Guaraguao’s hamaca was frayed,
and Caiman had lost his canoa.
To his dismay, Iguana’s mangrove blew away,
and Tiburon lost his barbacoa.

They were all tired from what transpired,
and were unsure of what to do.
Coquí was admired; surely he’d inspire!
They looked to him to guide them through.

He wasn’t prepared for those hopeful stares,
so Coquí closed eyes.
Like a nightmare, Huracán was there
when Coquí looked inside.

Petrified, Coquí froze and tried
not to show his fright.
The only way to hide that storm inside
was to keep his eyes shut tight.

With his sight confined within his mind
he saw right through the storm.
He was reminded that enshrined in
the center was a calm.

Finding within a place he’d been
and where he could always be,
his eyes opened and he smiled a grin
and sang his name “Coquí!”

His friends all cheered! His song had cleared
the storms they had within.
What they feared had disappeared,
and the truth had settled in.

Huracán had helped them rebuild themselves
with fierce winds from above.
They’d delved in self and found a wealth:
the strongest storm was love.

This piece was written shortly after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and is meant as a tribute to Puerto Rican resilience. 

Glossary of Taino Terms:
Borikén: Puerto Rico
Coquí: Frog native to PR that sings “co-qui”
Cemí: Ancestral spirit/deity
Huracán: Cemi of chaos and disorder; root word of Hurricane
Bohío: Grass hut
Guaraguao: Red tailed hawk, native to PR
Hamaca: Hammock
Caiman: type of alligator
Canoa: Canoe
Tiburon: Shark
Barbacoa: barbecue

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The Birth of Peter

A year has passed already since your birth, Peter Fenix, and it has felt all along as if we’d had you forever. You have a steadfast sureness, a resolute confidence, that makes everything you do seem just right; and you’ve shared that with us. You’ve made being with you feel just right, just like everything you do. You’ve made me feel as if I were chosen by you, as if you made the decision to be mine, and it was right. This deliberateness makes you a child of joy, and also as stubborn as can be. You know what you want, and we are blessed to feel wanted by you.

As we approach your anniversary, I reflect on your story of birth:

Sarah and I both knew, a short year after your brother was born, that we wanted to try quickly for another child, but we struggled in making the conscious decision and effort towards that end. Our lives were so up in the air. Shortly after Emi was born, we were living at our old house where Ava and Abuelo now live, and we started looking into remodeling the home to better suit our needs. In April of 2016, we visited my father’s family in Maryland and stayed at my Cousin Hope’s house. She had, at that time, two boys; and seeing how her home was set up we realized that remodeling wouldn’t work. We wanted a new home. We started the process of home shopping, and by them time we had actually started looking at homes online, I saw the house that I thought was perfect. Unfortunately, it was already sold, and we were nowhere near ready to make an offer on a home. Then, very suddenly, the house came back on the market. The buyers financing had fallen through. I convinced Sarah, and we convinced our skeptical realtor. We made an offer as soon as possible, which was accepted. Now, dramatically ahead of schedule, we found ourselves packing our old house up to sell (which meant taking a week off work and packing non-stop), and moving in with Ava and Abuelo (and Ona, Sebastian, Lola, Oreo, Mota, and Tuco) at the Race St. house. Five people, 4 dogs, and 4 cats, in a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment in a duplex with 4 other people, including Titi Clifford, who watches T.V. very loud.

I tell you all this, because it was at this time that you were conceived, and it was very much not expected or planned, despite our deep knowing and desire that it happen. When I discovered that it had happened, it again felt just right; like a powerful force had led us to you. Now I believe that force was you, that you made a deliberate choice and brought us together in the right time and place.

Your naming felt the same: just right. We had a list of criteria: a family name; interchangeable in Spanish and English, nature themed, not religious. Nothing fit, and in the end we met none of those criteria. Then, one day, Sarah and my Tae Kwon Do instructor, Peter W., the man responsible for your mother and I meeting, a man very integral to both her and my formation as adults, announced he was retiring. Suddenly, the name Peter occurred to us, and we were shocked that it was just right.

The lead up to your birth was much different then your brother’s. We knew more. We knew your mother had a unicornate uterus with rudimentary horn. We knew how and when you would be born; we had chosen these things. Despite knowing all this we were surprised. After discovering about your mama’s uterus during Emi’s birth, we decided to schedule a c-section with the same doctor who had delivered Emi, Dr. K, because we had liked her so much and she knew the situation. On the morning of 7/31/17, though, she was nowhere to be found.

That morning, as we had before Emi’s birth, we drove down Summit Ave., under the trees, towards downtown St. Paul. You were to be born at Children’s Hospital, unlike Emi who was born at St. Joe’s. This was because of the scheduled c-section. We arrived bright and early expecting to be seeing you in only a couple of hours. At first, it seemed Dr. K was simply late. We sat in a small room and waited. Then, hospital staff started trying to call her. We waited more. Then, they were having trouble reaching her. More waiting. Then, Dr. K’s office couldn’t reach her either, and the hospital began asking us about whether we would be open to different Doctor, or if we would prefer to reschedule. Your mother was worried about Dr. K. I was angry, and incredulous that such a thing could happen. Your mother got a massage. I sent angry update text messages to family members. Later we would discover that Dr. K’s secretary had been on extended leave, and that the temp she had hired had failed to calendar the operation. It turns out Dr. K was only a few blocks away, completely available, but unaware, and with her cell phone disabled because she believed it was her day off. We wouldn’t reschedule. We refused to. We had decided that you were to be born on July 31st. We wanted you and Emi to have different birthday months, so that your celebrations would feel your own. It had to be today. Today was just right. We met Dr. M for the first time that morning, as she was quickly brought up to speed on the situation, and everything moved very fast from there.

They laid your Mama down to prepare her for surgery and take her into the operating room. As she lay flat, she began to cry, scared and remembering our traumatic experience with Emi’s emergency c-section. I tried to soothe her as best I could, but I was scared too. Left in the small waiting room, I changed into my paper gown, and, much as I had with your brother, I felt a bit indignant at being separate from your mother, and very nervous, impatient, and just a tad queasy. I paced back and forth waiting to be told that I could go into the OR.

In the operating room, Mama still looked scared, and there were so many people. I sat and held her hand while we waited. With your brother, I hadn’t dared to watch the procedure, I was just trying to make it through. This time, I was determined to see my baby born. I stood to watch as they began the procedure. In hindsight, it would have been better to wait a bit longer before standing up to see. I watched as they made the initial incision, and then there was lots of yanking and clipping, and some blood. I got lightheaded, and sat again briefly. A nearby nurse must have seen my face blanch. She pushed my head down between my legs, to restore my circulation, and basically scolded me, warning that I not make things more complicated in the room. I breathed deeply, and held your mom’s hand. She looked scared, and I think I tried to soothe her to some degree. At least that was my intention, but I couldn’t miss your birth. I stood again. My knees shook. Again, I had stood too soon. There was more yanking and more blood. I sat again. The nurse asked me if I was alright, seemingly more with blame than concern, as if telling me not to stand again. But I stood again, and now saw your leg slide out. Then with a pull, your other leg popped out, and blood sprayed out across a nurse’s scrubs as they pulled you out upside down. I must have tried to sit back down, but the next thing I remember is the nurse who knew better was ordering me down to the ground. I was laying on the ground as they brought you over to the nurses’ station for cleaning. I felt a bit like a failure for not being able to meet you immediately, and for causing a bit of a scene, but I was happy to have seen your birth. As I lay on the ground, another nurse trolled me a bit, saying “I don’t suppose you’d like to cut the cord?” I told her I better not. Thinking on this story now, I imagine your Mama’s perspective, her fear, her seeing nothing but a white screen and me getting lightheaded, and I feel regret for not supporting her more, but I am glad for the experience of seeing you enter the world. I recovered shortly afterwards and tried to make amends to your Mama and the nursing staff as we took pictures.

Back in the recovery room and later in our hospital room, everything seemed great at first. You were a strong nurser, and you pooped three times and peed twice almost right away, which is apparently a notable thing; kudos. Emi and Ava visited briefly that first day, and I felt awed at this miraculous world. Emi gave you a stuffed lizard as a present. We took pictures. He gave you a kiss and, in true Emi form, a head butt before going back home.

Later that day, Mama was still feeling very nauseous from the operation, and we started to get concerned because she had a horrible “spinal headache” from the anesthesia, and it turned out here magnesium level was inexplicably low. The doctors seemed relatively unconcerned, but they were a bit perplexed and couldn’t figure it out. It seemed more like a technicality that they had to try to resolve before discharging us, but it meant a couple days in the hospital as they kept us until this stabilized. As this was happening, we also started to struggle with your latch and worried about whether you were getting enough food. Still, all in all we felt calmer and more prepared than when Emi was born and was in intensive care because of heart concerns. It made a huge difference to have you in the room with us the whole time. Also, there were benefits to our prolonged hospital stay. It allowed us to get help with lactation experts figuring out how best to get you to latch and feed again, and it gave everyone an opportunity to visit you in the hospital. This makes people feel very special, to be invited to see a baby while still in the hospital. Your great aunt Titi Sharon and your grandmother Babi happened to be in town from Puerto Rico and visited. So did Ava and Abuelo, your uncles, Betsy and your godmother Libby. Eventually, they gave Mama another “bump” of magnesium and let us go home. We went to a party with everyone who happened to be in town, and you met your grandfather Babu for the first and only time before he passed.

After your birth, Mama and I each spent three months in our new home with you; spending all our time getting to know you and make you feel safe and loved. During my three months of leave with you, I felt very safe, like you gave me a space to heal and grow, to just be with you. I did very little beyond just sitting with you. You were my T.V. baby… though I did most of the watching. Reflecting on the year since this time, I feel more complete than ever, like I am our family, and we are all a part of each other.

The purpose of life is, perhaps, to find a purpose, you seem so clear in yours, so resolute in your choice to be here with us, that I feel firm in my purpose to be your father, and it feels just right.

I love you Pichón.

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I am the seeker, I am the seer
gazing at the world as if a mirror.
Reflections of self seen in the other,
reflecting on this turns all to brothers,
to friars, to nuns, to tribe, to clan;
all things seen thus become “I am.”
My “I” turns round, the cog, the peg,
what was separate now together instead.

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