I Swear

For Hill

Thinking about crown shyness in Muir Woods,
just two small town aces–
children of factory workers–
clipped at the roots, reaching out,
not desiring touch but community.
Like the trees, reaching out,
belonging, holding, sharing
but still autonomous.
You take a picture of me peeking
between two trunks.
I take a picture of you
looking up at your crown of trees.

Thinking about sharks in Santa Cruz
but jumping in with our body boards anyway.
A perfect day, we both agree.
For once, my fear of the water suspended.
Floating for hours, holding our boards,
an occasional blast of cold
brushing our dangling legs,
only getting out when dolphins
surface behind us, reminding us
we are so easily prey,
depending on environment.
Cotton candy on the boardwalk.
I say again or you do,
“Can you believe we’re here?”
Against all the hands that try to hold,
not to nurture.
How ours feel stronger now and full.

Picking out pumpkins
in Half Moon Bay,
pumpkin pancakes at shared tables.
Craft fairs in Pacifica
and Albany and San Francisco.
Highway 1 and getting stranded
in Lucia because of heavy rain,
rescued by a person with a chihuahua
as copilot who guided us through
rockslides and downed power lines,
camping by Lake Chabot,
waking up to wild turkeys,
sleeping in box cars at Dunsmuir and Clear Lake,
so many beaches,
Golden Gate Park,
Musée Mécanique,
Aquatic Cove and the Hide Street Harbor,
Scrap and its aisles stuffed with treasure,
shows at the Orpheum and Golden Gate Theatres,
Land’s End,
Sausalito,
SF Pride,
Asexual Unconferences,
walking Cesar Chavez Park early in the morning,
looking out across the Bay,
the White Elephant Sale,
the music of the Fruitvale District,
BART and the occasional ferry ride,
the Alameda dog parks,
$5 Sundays at Jack London Square,
Skunk Train,
Glass Beach,
Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden,
Tilden Regional Park,
beignets at Powderface,
The Sandwich Board,
Fog City Diner,
Santoro’s Italian Market & Deli,
Hella Vegan,
Souley Vegan,
Butcher’s Son,
Sunshine Cafe,
Ole’s,
the chicken shack,
Gott’s Roadside,
almond croissants,
pizza on the Haight,
all those bridges.

How could we take any moment for granted,
all our lives riding the drop off,
feeling the rush of cold reaching up?

Do you remember how folks who regularly escape
our country’s borders to places far beyond our grasp
begrudged our every adventure, our sibling bond,
not understanding where we came from, who we are,
what this all means, how impossible all this is,
never knowing the machines designed and hungry
for our bodies, how close to the edge we’ve always
been, like so many in our generation, surprised
to make it to 30?

This memory, repeating: mom slumped at the kitchen table,
looking like Rodin’s The Thinker,
cigarette in hand, clothes saturated
with potato grime and sweat.

Remember how people said
if we went to college we’d suffer less?
Remember when a bag of bread
from Little Caesars was a good meal?
And how we used to save free candy
from Halloween and melt it in our coffee
because creamer was too expensive?
How we still keep a log in our heads
of where we could shower and sleep
should we become homeless
in every place we pass through?

College educated, clipped at the roots,
by our hands, but first by theirs.
No longer belonging to any place, anyone.
We have always been simultaneously too good
and not good enough. Those we come from,
clipping the wings of their darlings,
so afraid to be alone with their true selves.
Those we live among,
never feeling like we belong.
The only home we carry is the one in our hearts.

They will never know us.
They will never understand the roots
left to wither in toxic soil.
They will always believe we had soft lives
because we’re so quick to smile and laugh.
They will always be surprised that we have master’s degrees,
or they will resent us for it, or it will never be enough,
a requirement checked but still no one opens the gate.
They will always think we’re too queer or not queer enough.
They will always think we’re weird because we don’t want
the things they want, the lives they live.
They will never sing our songs or speak our words.
They will never hear a noon-day bell the way we do.
They will never see the stars we dreamed under,
the promises we made to ourselves.
They will never hold the hearts we hold.
Their lives will never be blessed by the enormous
but much-too-short lives that have blessed ours.
They will never know how your heart broke again and again and
kept giving, you the shining light of this bloodline,
your joy and love and hope and confidence our greatest achievement.
They will never know the darkness we’ve passed through,
leaning against each other when our hearts and hands felt too small.
They will never appreciate how strong you are, how bold, how unbreakable.
They will never know our beauty.

Us, together and alone, out there on the edge,
treasuring our true selves, determined
to leave behind nothing but joy and love and acceptance,
determined to keep our hearts and minds and arms open,
undoing toxic legacies.
Dangling our deep green into that deep blue abyss.
The warmth of your hand in mine.
Our big hearts leaning over the edge.

I swear, dear heart, I haven’t taken a single moment for granted.

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