November 16

The day was cold and spent in memory,

remembering benches of all things. 

That summer in Cambridge sitting cross-legged on a bench I sit like a child on a preschool rug one of twenty sitting in a circle waiting for the start of story hour and a man sits next to me long dark hair a brown suede vest and teeth from ear to ear he says “Relax your shoulders. You are a statue. Remember to breathe from the inside. I felt your presence, you drew me here. How long have you been here? What are you doing? Where are you going?” 

 

On a bench at the Smith museum before a portrait of a woman in a white dress a man tells me I look stoic and on the bench in the Common a man tells me I look French “Bonjour! Are you French? You look French.” 

 

Perched like a covert on a bench in Union Square watching old men in cardigans play chess locking eyes with the chipped-tooth woman from the bus and her smile sends me straight to flushed cheeks and bedroom thoughts.

 

Rolling on a bench in Hollywood temporarily in love with all things a man tells me to take care of my teeth because “THAT is a beautiful smile.”

 

Waiting on a bench near the Central Burying Ground where I'm told last night a man froze to death atop a grave clutching an empty bottle of Listerine. 

 

Sitting on the bench in my parents' backyard my little nephew on my lap on a golden fall day both of us in sweaters mine black his red with Krueger stripes pointing at overhead planes I say "Plane!" he says “Peee!” I say “Plane!” he says "Peee!" both of us laugh uncontrollably. 

 

Amherst in the garden with the overgrown shrubs on the bench right in the middle of the path such odd positioning on that bench crying at night realizing for the second time I am falling apart.  

 

By the Guadalquivir smoking a cigarette on a bench in afternoon sunshine wearing a scarf as a skirt because it is 80 degrees and I am a terrible packer.

 

Chicago in the park the overhead tree branches block the sky but it doesn’t matter I am staring down at my phone waiting for it to ring for word of a job I want but do not get.

 

Madrid at the train station wondering where to buy a toothbrush desperately in need of floss how the air smells of an oven diesel and dirt an oppressive thickness an inedible torte.

 

Maastricht after buying a spliff and too afraid to smoke it afraid someone will find out. 

 

Manaus after the boat the monkeys the katydid on my hand the green the red that smell again of cooking meat in dirt. 

 

The benches in parks I've forgotten tried to forget the loneliness of waiting the unlikelihood of welcomed chance all the time spent on benches hiding blending wanting the wholeness of love.

 

One night steeped in lonely I ride the Red Line from end to end and a man sits on the bench seat next to me his sweatpants stuffed with crumpled newspaper he tells me which stops to avoid the ones where they “Ask questions.” then asks what I think of Braintree but answers for me "Strange image." Then continues "What about Wonderland? Ain't no Alice there."

 

One day I ride the Green Line down each and every track the corner of my left eye black and blue and swollen from a fall the night before the crack of dried blood left a crooked blackness by my temple and I reek of troubled teen. 

 

One night I walk from my studio in the Mission to the Embarcadero sit on a bench by the Bay Bridge and cry watching the Bay Lights thinking of my nana how I loved her how at my age she worked on an assembly line in a factory making light bulbs and at the end of her life lost her mind told my mom my older sister was hanging out her bedroom window dangling there like a monkey and it is then at eight I learn about dementia and do not say a word for three entire days. 

 

Sacred acts of desperation too shy to speak hidden by an immovable patience always unsure not yet ready to make a sound. 

 

On the bench high up in Leona Canyon crying the day after the fire. 

 

In a small city island across the Bay from San Francisco I read a book of poetry but cannot focus the woman on the bench beside me speaks a Castilian throat and tongue into her phone and I wonder what ever happened to Raquel and Don Fernando “…boca, nariz, ojos…” 

 

It is warm but not warm enough there is still this breeze I'm told never leaves the island I am cold again and I do not want to be I am alone again and I do not want to be I am uncomfortable in my skin again and I do not want to be I cannot be but I want to be I think I do not want to be here anymore but I do not know how to leave this bench until one day a friend advises “Just pull the bandaid off." 

 

Getting rid of everything save for books and clothes and all my rocks and shells my dog and I drive across this country again and arrive at a different ocean and different island and set up shop on a bench by the water where before the Revolution men torched a grounded British schooner and I wonder if there were any women among those men shirking petticoats for britches bonnets for tricornes what a sight that fire must’ve been a powder magazine explosion shooting straight into the air. 

 

On my new bench I watch planes come in and wonder where they’ve been and sometimes wave “Hello!” staring out at the marina I watch sailboats bob and tilt the thud suck smack of water on a hull and listen to laughter come from the yacht club the clink of glasses at a bar a heron takes off and soars water dripping from its wings while my dog goes for a swim returning with a stick he picks at spits at and falls asleep at my feet curled up like a cat and snoring like an old man I realize I am waiting on a bench again waiting for my dog to wake waiting for some man to sit beside me waiting for him to go away so I can be alone again and resume my rambling thoughts.