Letter Home #1

amsterdam 4:07pm

Dearest Diana,

I miss you so very much and it’s only been a week.  I miss your face. Your face is a serene sphinx, the exact color of sand as old as sight.  In place of earthen eyes are revealed two emerald tendrils.  They coil into you and reflect your verdant truth.  Tender shoots of knowing.  Sweet sprigs of grace.  I absolutely miss looking at my friend, and being seen by you.

Amsterdam is wet, and a couple pleasant notches above cold.  I am presently at a restaurant called “Chicano’s” owned by a rude, boisterous cerdo of a man from a land nowhere near latinamerica.  He is Kurdish. Talks down to each employee I’ve seen, especially the one woman who hasn’t quit yet. He stands on this street hollering at passersby, guessing where they’re from, trying to aggressively pull them into his establishment in what he surmises to be their native tongue, assuming insight around their cultural interests and sensibilities.  “Hey! Come in! We’re gay friendly!” he squawked.  The women walking by at the time had short haircuts.  In a flash of better judgement, he’s hired a devastatingly handsome young European to do most of his tourist vetting at the precipice of business and traffic.  He is 29, with the charm of Ferris Bueller and the eyes of Jared Leto.  He lured me here within the space of the following exchange:

el: Hey! Lady from Jamaica!!

yo: (smirking) I am not. From Jamaica.

el: from the states??! Come eat here!! Woah! You gotta lotta tattoos, you in a gang or something?

yo: yes, of course. a murderer on the run from the authorities.

el: (laughs and gives a knee buckling wink paired with a lip bite)

yo: ugghh. ok. I’ll have a seat. There’s wifi yes?

el: (in a playful french accent) of course, Madame

And then began this letter to you.  A few have asked me “love letter to your guy?”  “Even better.  My best friend”.

Last night, I had a dream that I was informed I was pregnant.  It was a glowing feeling wrapped in holy terror.  In the dream, I skipped the grotesque misery of birth giving and was magically whisked past the horrifying hippopotamus days of gestation into post partum bliss.  She was in my arms, perhaps aged a week. She was obviously half white and in the dream she belonged to a man we both know with whom I could never procreate.  Nevertheless, her unimaginable reality couldn’t take away from her beauty. She was perfect.  She looked right into me.  I can see her serious face as I write this to you. I looked at her and anything awful I’d ever felt entirely dissolved and receded into a kingdom that never existed, nor was ever imagined. It was as if I were as newborn as she.

I woke up missing her with an unfamiliar breed of sadness.

I write this to you now because I know somewhere within you and this planet, you want to be a mother someday.

I believe You would be the very best mother I’d ever know.  You already are to so many.

Care taker. Friend. Daughter. Teacher. Sister. Lover. Cousin. Photographer. Singer. Connector. Peace maker. Truth seeker.  Balance provider. Traveller. Enchantress.  Life giver. Laugh maker. Light worker. I could go on and on.

For many women, poof! Mother gets added to their list.  Often accidental, and is usually paired with either fisted resentment or hollow self aggrandizement, or both. You, however, in your first amazing motherly act have chosen to wait for all the stars to align. Or at least most of them.

As I am sitting, just now, a family of five just walked in with a child of 6 or 7 years.  The eldest daughter of 16, maybe, and of dark hair and temperament sighed into her lapel saying “It’s not fair the family has to suffer because she can’t sit still”   The group gave a collective eye roll and turned toward the culprit’s general direction.  She was laughing, jumping jacks, and simultaneously shooting everyone with her index finger artillery.  “Please, not tonight, Emma”, one of the adults pleaded, in a weightless, waxy tone that suggested the speaker was defeated before the sentence found its end. The family forged ahead, apprehensive of the next hour and what shameful, unpunishable chaos the little billy goat may have cued in her hooves.

And she, dancing all the green mile, reveling in her own mischief music, like Pan himself.

My first thought was “Diana would dig this kid, and she’d know exactly how to speak her language”

Children this misunderstood need pastures as possible as you.

The last time I prayed

Was in September. We had talked for hours like we always did and after we hung up I was so overcome with gratitude that I nestled in my covers and offered a prayer of thankfulness.

I said out loud the names of persons I carry with me and vocalized my appreciation. I said I’m thankful for my mother, her wobbly strength teaches me the beauty in flawed unconditional love, I expressed gratitude for my grandmother’s constant kindness, I spoke the name of my godmother’s grace and how powerful her example remains, and I said thank you for Ikey because after all the chaos, we still choose to love each other.

That night, I gave your name the praise your sensitive soul deserved. 

I never told you that I rested in the bed you’d been in a month before and verbally gave thanks for the unconditional, aggravated love you couldn’t deny me.

That was the last time I prayed and all I said was thank you for loving me. Thank you we are still in contact, thank you we still call each other, thank you we make time to connect.

I sit still on my porch and try to feel your hands and actually, I hear your words instead.

People say that the dying wait for permission.

I don’t believe you knew you were leaving, but I do know that you waited til everyone was in a good space with you

Most importantly, your mom.

I hear your soft voice, I hear your gentle hands across seas, I taste your meek mouth in the power you force upon me, I smell the silver you impress upon my tongue.

My truth will forever include your humor and conviction. My dance will always blush with your closeted sadness. 

This life I live will shine ever bright with the lessons and laughs we gave each other.

My prayers will continue to be the home you inhabit.

I love you.


If only you were brother
I could build you a resting place of childhood toys, growing pains, and knowing nods

If only you were father
I could walk tall with your words, laugh full of your lessons, create with the comfort of your touch

If only you were husband
I could drown in our decades of daily togetherness, glide through our home with grace, hoard our happiness with hawk’s talon

If only you were friend
I could sigh with the ease of our understanding, cry with the consistency of our visits, release you with rational distance

If only you were ex
I could discuss you in past tense, remember us fondly without future halo, hold tender space like not much had changed

If only you were lover
I could bury our ancient communion with limited lament, sacrifice a solitary limb, and one day listen to lovesongs with another heart to hold

It is on the roads between these kingdoms where I wander with no crown

Between guilt and grief
There is a grave with my name on it


The living create the inanimate
and the inanimate watch us die 

 The rest of my life without you is
neither rest nor life 

 Your tie breathes on an altar
beside your weeping love letters 

 Your painting does rain dances at dusk 

 Your photos make Salāt five times a day asking me to commit to just one more 

 the hotel keys give plane tickets a lecture on permanence and withering 

I used to believe I saved them 

 I know now the opposite is truth

Ahora, fantasmas nos dos

The unstoppable crying would be worth it if I believed you could see me suffering

The interminable lifelessness would be of some value if I believed you knew how broken I’ve become in your absence

The gradual dementia would be beautiful if somehow you could peek into this yellow wallpapered room

This all too slow death would be life if you knew it was for you

Maybe, somehow, somewhere, someway, you do.  Maybe you still linger here in a way that isn’t only in my molecules.  Maybe when I talk to you, you really hear me. 

I laugh at irrational religious folk and have become too much like them.  Praying to a mystery god.  Swearing by the unseen.

It’s all I have.

We talked everyday.  Of course I hear your voice.  You are the person I’ve made love to most.  Over the stretch of a decade. No one else had as much of me as you. Of course I feel your hands in my sleep.  You are the coven I share my secrets with.  this loss burns me at the stake. 

The both of us ghosts now

Grief for dummies

It is said to take 1 to 4 months for every year you knew the person to get through the grief and achieve some state of joy and normalcy, functional contentment

9 months to 3 years of mourning is the hilarious silver lining of this hurricane

I think living that way is laughable

There is an unbelievable courage in sticking it out

And, too, some cowardice in going thru life depressed knowing the best closeness ever is gone. unchangeable.

Shuffling. Ambling. Reminding your remaining friends of death with every exchange.

No one wants to touch the hands of death’s mistress.

They feel like tree roots in gauze.

Blood waltzing through paper screens with the cadence of seizures.

while it’s fresh

i went to watch eryka and karina get tattooed and ended up asking the only available artist if he’d start a piece for me.  willing and able and working, he agreed and we got started.  it was a piece i had thought about getting for years.  the key necklace you got me for the grammys in 09, with your eye in the top oval shape.  we always wore key necklaces when we were apart from each other.  that weekend at the bridge school benefit you autographed something by drawing an eye above a key shape.  after 2012, you complained about me having tattoos with other people and none for you.  I told you we didn’t need them because it could jinx us.  so, now that you’ve slipped into the shadow, it is right that i honor you this way and keep you here with me, in this way.

the first tattoo for you was the I on my left ring finger at that shitty parlor near your nashville home.  neither of us were too fond of marriage as an institution, but always knew if we were going to marry anyone, it would be each other.  when i saw you in June in NY you left me an envelope at the hotel, ink 48 in hell’s kitchen.  you wrote Danielle Owens on it.  I saved it.  it’s sitting on your ofrenda now.  along with the love letter you mailed me in dec 2010 when we broke up and you moved back to long beach from berkeley.  

just two days before you died, i was at heart and dagger with mona and i told her
“i think during this nashville trip, im gonna talk to ikey about us getting married”  
mona said, knowing we live in different states and hardly see each other.  “because we both know no one else can touch what we have”.

i had no clue i’d be in nashville to say good bye to you instead

so, i went to that shitty parlor and the guy was pressed for time and was being an ass about it.  he was flagging all the signs that say ‘don’t let this guy tattoo you’.  and i was about to leave.  it just wasn’t right but it was my last night in nashville so i really wanted to do it there, where you were ready to start a new chapter.  where you wanted me to visit.  where you wanted to convince me to settle down with you soon.  the music was on shuffle.  pretty basic shit had been playing and as he was working on our 5th draft and i was ready to walk out, portishead, live at roseland came on.  “only you”.  i started tearing up immediately.  he sat back down and i said
‘look. this tattoo is more important to me than anything in the world at this moment. if you are stressed about time, i need to leave’.  
he apologized and said we have plenty of time and we both took a breath, and got to work.

then came the eye-key.  as the artist, who calls himself “paper”, got started the girls and i were talking, shooting the shit, and speaking in spanish.  paper joined in so i asked him where he was from.  he said Mexico.  I asked what part.  he said Puebla.  I freaked out inside.  outwardly, i said ‘oh my god. are you serious?? that’s exactly where ikey passed away’.  the other artist, alex, who was tattooing karina looked up.  it was quiet in the room.

i teared up again. this time they were happy tears.  so reassured that you were definitely overseeing some things from the shadow and keeping a close, loving eye on me.  so, your close, loving eye will be in my skin once this tattoo is complete.

when things like that happen, and there have been others, i am more and more convinced that this physical shell i inhabit is still here to learn some lessons, here to pass some test.  you’ve left me the tools, weapons, and magic i need to figure it out this time, in this particular vessel, and when it’s over, you’re right there, as big and vast as you always were waiting to intertwine with me again.  
i think of you as an entire galaxy, your cosmic hand stirring the fire inside me and inhaling the steam from this cauldron with pride.  ‘it is changing finally, it is aging well’ you say, breathing me in with your ladle in hand.

no more talk of ending this life.  i walk this path before me armed knowing i’ll be with you again.  our love hasn’t gone anywhere.  im not religious.  neither you.  i just know how eternal our love is and it can’t be destroyed.  i can’t wait to swim in the stars with you and watch the rest of this world unfurl. together. 


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