From ALL DAY, TALKING
By Sarah A. Chavez:
DEAR CAROLE, I FINALLY DID IT
I cut it all off into a trendy bob
that fades up the back. You told me
not to, said you loved my hair long.
Well, you’re not here anymore.
DEAR CAROLE, TODAY I’M WEARING THAT RING
you stole for me at the art fair
on the green at Fresno State.
God, was I such a baby!
Poor me, I don’t have any money
to buy things. I kept whining.
I never get to have anything nice.
And most of what we’d seen
iron sculptures, clay dishes fired
for ornament, I was only just
discovering, but still, I thought
I deserved them.
That’s another thing age teaches you –
you ain’t owed shit. There is nothing
on this flying water rock that anyone deserves.
You should’ve smacked me, echoed
my father and told me to suck it up.
But you didn’t.
It was the third time we’d circled
back to that booth. Everything
about it was pretty: the rainbow
canopy, the sunlight glinting off
the semi-precious gems and hued
glass, the hot hippie without a bra
telling every passer-by about Gaia.
I fingered a large red and black
swirled ring, slipped it over
the callouses on my middle finger,
and spread my hand flat to admire it,
its heft impressive for something so lovely.
The hippie told me, the ring
wants to be a ring. I never take
from the Earth without her permission.
I spoke to the stone, told her what
and she gave me her blessing.
The hippie looked so sincere
when she spoke, looked into my eyes
with her large cobalt irises, the pupil a pinprick
in the blue with the sun glaring
behind me. I’m sure I said something
stupid. I always get so nervous
around people like that, who walk
through life like an open wound, their blood
and tissue exposed to the elements,
their insides shining on the outside.
I probably said, Cool and behind me,
you probably rolled your eyes.
I put the ring back on the organic
hemp cushion with the other
metamorphisized rocks, then spun
the color-tinted glass of the wind chimes
hanging from the canopy’s aluminum
frame to hear their tingle-tangle
and submerged my hand into the basket
of oddly-shaped beads, feeling what I
imagined the quiet core within a fossilized
stone felt like. As we walked away,
you said Thanks, which was weird, but
I thought maybe it got to you too –
so much unattainable beauty,
the reminder of all the things
we didn’t have and all the things
we couldn’t yet know we wanted.
Walking to 711 for cigarettes,
we stopped at the crosswalk light.
You took my hand and pressed
the weight of the ring into my palm.
I looked up at you, squinting in surprise,
but you just shrugged, said The stone told me
to take it. It said it wanted you to wear it.
DEAR CAROLE, FOR HOURS, IT’S BEEN BURNING
a hole in my gut, the shame
of never saying thank you
twelve years ago for that fucking pizza
you bought with SSI back pay.
It tasted so good: the grease,
the sweet of the tomato sauce,
the salt from the olives prickling
my tongue – I could actually taste it.
They don’t say on those Cymbalta commercials
depression takes away taste.
Sleep, yeah, sex drive, focus, but not taste.
I never told you
how for those months, alone
in my one-bedroom apartment I tried
to eat just about anything,
but it was all so thick and waxen . . .
one night, ravenous and wretched
I tried to eat an entire loaf of bread.
Cross-legged on the kitchen floor
the light from the street lamp cast ghastly
shadows against the apartment blinds
while I took slice after slice
of Wonder Bread from the Hostess overstock
warehouse on Weldon Street and bit
into each one wanting desperately
for the next to taste
like the smell of patchouli
in your room, like rain water,
like mud-stained carpet, like midnights
on the front porch,
like lying to our mothers and never getting caught.
Slice after slice – mutilated, the impression
of my teeth embossed on each one’s cottony
flesh – lay scattered
on the linoleum. I couldn’t bring myself
to swallow even the smallest
bite. Just kept spitting
slobbery hunks onto my naked lap,
into my tangled hair, until
I laid down, the floor clammy and smooth
like the palms of your hands.
Today’s poems are from All Day, Talking, published by Dancing Girl Press, copyright © 2014 by Sarah A. Chavez, and appear here today with permission from the poet.
All Day, Talking: “A stunning, gritty, and beautifully irreverent collection of poems, All Day, Talking repeatedly and necessarily corrupts the conventional elegy. Chavez mourns Carole, yes, but she also mourns herself—and all of us, the tragedy of how we see (or don’t see) one another in our contradictory identities and bodies. If you want to know the honest truth about what it means to grieve and to survive, keep these poems close and listen to this ‘all day, talking,’ which is both deeply personal and profoundly political.” — Stacey Waite, author of Butch Geography
Sarah A. Chavez, a mestiza born and raised in the California Central Valley, is the author of the chapbook, All Day, Talking (Dancing Girl Press, 2014), which was featured on Sundress Publications’ book spotlight, The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed. She holds a PhD in English with a focus in poetry and Ethnic Studies from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in North Dakota Quarterly, Stirring: A Literary Collective, Spoon River Poetry Review, Luna Luna Magazine, among others. Her manuscript, This, Like So Much, was an Honorable Mention for the 2013 Quercus Review Press Poetry Book Contest. A selection from her chapbook manuscript All Day, Talking won the Susan Atefat Peckham Fellowship in 2013. She is a proud member of the Macondo Writers Workshop.
Editor’s Note: There is a refreshing honesty to the poems in All Day, Talking that is, in equal measures, surprising, laugh-out-loud funny, and deeply touching. In this collection grief is portrayed–and love remembered–through a lens of realism that mirrors the very real and very unstable experience of loss. Memory is the vehicle through which a life lost is a life recalled, and the speaker addresses the absence with a candor and wit that seems to honor the relationship that gave rise to it when Carole was still living. Amidst a text thick with engaging and humorous stories, within the world of deeply confessional admissions and recollections, there exists the heartbeat of the lyric, “the reminder of all the things / we didn’t have and all the things / we couldn’t yet know we wanted.”
Want to see more from Sarah A. Chavez?
Sarah A. Chavez’s Official blog/website
Buy All Day, Talking directly from the poet
Buy All Day, Talking from the publisher
Broadside of “The Day the Alligators Feasted on Time” from Stirring: A Literary Collection
The Poetry Foundation: Irene Lara Silva in conversation with Sarah A. Chavez