Three Poems – Leyna R.


I Am Why

My back was turned when the glass exploded. It’s so cliche to say, but it really did seem as though it went grenade-like outward – eight months later, I would find still another piece of it with my barefoot under the kitchen island in the middle of the night. Clearly,t I didn’t see it happen, so I can’t say how it really went, but the first thing I thought – it’s so embarrassing – was ghost. How else could a glass move from the counter to the floor like a firework if not knocked or dropped by some ethereal hand?

Later on I would decide water slide. Would decide slick counters, sloppy hand washing, sour grapes. I’m always one for the science of things, the hows and whys of the world. There is always a reason, like, I am why I miss you. I am the reason this thing is, I am the body this longing splits off and creates itself from. Everything has to come from somewhere. There is always a beginning, a catalyst, the point on a shard of glass that splits the skin and makes blood, makes a wound, the first moment a scar is born  –

The first moment I saw you, I should have known a scar was born –

the red-hot feeling in my chest and throat and brain that I mistook for fate was really the cutting of glass, the hand of a ghost, a firework that had already exploded. I had no idea, but things were broken before I ever even saw the mess. I could say it’s not my fault, my back was turned, but I am the sloppy handwasher, a slick puddle of water inviting things to break from me, I am the reason the glass exploded. My first thought was ghost? I am all these ghosts from the past that pre-cracked everything between us and when I got there again, all I knew was bloody feet, was was that something had exploded, and no matter what I tried, it was too much, too far, I could not clean it up.


The King Salmon Spirit Turns Girls Into Fish and That is How We Get Autumn

After salmon are little fry,
they believe they want to live in the ocean.
Puberty comes
and they are gone.
They have no idea that someday,
they will miss this place like magnetism.

I turned 18 and moved the fuck out of Alaska.
My mother still calls me all the time
to ask when I'm coming back.
I've never saved her number in my phone,
so it always pops up like a stranger's
and I can pretend wrong number,
ignore where I've come from.

Salmon always know where they've come from.
They return to die in the exact same place they
were born and grew up almost every time. 
They don't fall in love with salmon from the 
next stream over, or maybe they do.
It's just so much easier to end up with someone
you can count on going home with.

My one-that-got-away is getting married
this summer,
two weeks before my brother,
and I won't be there for either wedding.
I always believed I'd be a part of both,
but I'm still pretending
I can always live in the ocean,
that there's nothing special about Alaska,
that I don't want some place I can count
that I can choose not to end up
in the same place I started out.
It's not a choice.
They tore down the hospital I was born in 
years ago.

The salmon run this year was perilously small.
There are seven scientific hypotheses why,
but they are all related to a change in the climate.
Alaska is slowly melting.
The waters are all rising.
The highways are all sinking.
Entire villages built on fish skeletons
will soon begin spawning slowly down the river,
back to the forests they were built from.
Things are just different now.
The place I was born
doesn't exist anymore.
I may as well keep swimming here for a while
to keep the fishermen hopeful.

The Yu'pik believe if you do not fish for the salmon,
the King Salmon spirit will not send you any more fish
the following year,
will not send you a following year,
there may never be another season.
Since prehistory,
Native Alaskans have built religions around the idea
that some salmon must die at sea
for things to keep going.
Some of us are just destined
to never return home.
Maybe we never wanted to.
Maybe we died
right where we were happiest -
in the freedom of the ocean.


Intelligent Life

An alien comes down from a planet I have never considered and asks me about us,
about these silly beasts with only two legs and no wings and soft, pliable claws,
and I tell the alien I do not mean to disappoint, but honey, I have no fucking idea.
I could not tell you shit about humanity with any real confidence, except to say that
maybe everyone feels like they could not tell you shit about humanity with any real
confidence, and maybe just everyone feels like the bus always takes more or less
time than they thought it would; maybe there’s a whole diverse species finally sharing
the same hive mind that promises that you feel like you are not sharing a mind at all.

The alien doesn’t know laughter or why we do, but would laugh here if it were human.

Curiously, they have expected this. After all, they have mastered intergalactic travel,
fuckers have learned to thoroughly do their homework before flying down like gods,
those that would, could, or are ready to intelligently design or destroy every last torso.

We, it seems, are always thinking we are this new and brilliant star in a universe that 
makes stars like humans fuck, constantly, and all the time, and sometimes just for fun.

Doing their best Humphrey Bogart impression, which is difficult without facial structure
or audible language or a cigar, the alien says, sweetheart, just tell me why you live,
how you things that stop so easily, are stopped so easily, continue to conquer and
kill off the things you love, why do you kill all the things you love, do you not understand
the best version of a hive mind is one where all the beings come together for a party,
they mingle and mix and pair off pieces of mind with other mind until everything, mushed,
sits equally mixed and pleased about it, knowing they are the molecule next to them.

We are not here for the best experience we can find, or to make molecules happy, I say.
Natural selection still chases us like dogs, and we losers, it seems, were born of the goal,
to fight back
so that once,
one of us
might win.

The alien learns laughter, gets back into their ship, creates a constellation just for fun:
“You cannot win when you fight yourself.” it proclaims loudly above the earth now, and
we take that as a challenge. We practice laughing at the stars like it’s all they’re good for.
Just you wait,
you dumb
fucking aliens.
We rifle crack
our knuckles.
Just you wait
and see.

About Leyna R.

Portland Poetry Slam Masteress, professional ex-Alaskan, part-time sarcasm machine. View all posts by Leyna R.

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