greg solano \ winter 2014
Our mother says the light
in the backyard you’d turn on
at night to smoke cigarettes
now sometimes turns on by itself.
It’s just like trying to hold onto
someone by a single strand
of their hair.
My brother’s forearms
were twin daggers
that blossomed from roses.
His legs were gray elephants.
A black ship with purple sails
was moored on his heart.
Don’t laugh! Youth was his
in that way. It was knotted
into his curls. Kind but always
fighting—running, leaping, getting
jumped. Laughing and frowning,
grimacing with soreness. Smoking
in the dark just beyond the light.
Birth of the artist
My father was always smashing things.
He’d come home and find
I’d scribbled something in pencil,
on the yellow formica counter in the kitchen,
or on the linoleum floor, beneath the fluorescent
light grid of the drop roof.
Like in a factory. Which is where it began,
I think. My problems with food.
Years later, in art school, people were
still talking about Freud and when
I started to appreciate how simply
it is that he describes a human I began
to see myself as human and also
reactionary. You see the first thing
my mother did after she kicked my father out
was remodel the kitchen. Of course she had to
give him some time. We bought one more
of everything we had and it was with all of it
in the living room—the new TV, the second
microwave, that my friends learned
they were getting a divorce. Now we moved
from that house shortly after we redid
the kitchen, and so I don’t remember quite
what it looked like or what it felt like
to be happy there. I think now my mother
remodeled nothing, she simply had to
dismantle. Which is in the work.
The use of that trembling line, the obsession with
those kind of oddly fractured stairwells. Sure,
there were never any stairs in the house
yet I had to pace. If I couldn’t pace
then I couldn’t draw. Even back then
I needed more than a piece of paper
and a pencil. I’d walk from my room
down the hall to the kitchen and pause
at the impasse of the plastic tarp
that obscured the kitchen into white dust
and light. The abandoned factory.
We set up the microwave in the living room
and that’s when I began to feel truly American.
Now what those years mean
I couldn’t tell you, except that of course
it’s right here. I can’t help it.
The way my father eats
neither could you. You
ever going to teach your son
some manners? asked my half-sister
as we ate on a veranda in the DR
the summer I was nine and my
mother and sister were in Paris.
Shame is more resilient than human
empathy. That night my half-sister
rode horses on the beach with a
black man. My father was furious.
He fell asleep on the couch
watching Lethal Weapon.
Afraid, I paced in the glow
until the screen snowed. An act
of cowardice, which is, I think
really an act of compression. But the TV
is still playing in my father’s house.
Greg Solano is a Cuban-American poet and graduate of the University of Viginia’s MFA program in Creative Writing. His poems have been previously published PANK Magazine, Matter Monthly, and Different Interest.