Opuntia

My twin and I
guessed at the problems
somebody had
by the bus lines they rode.
When Dad passed out
we wanted the ocean
rode two buses to the beach
where the palm-lined streets
were named after semi-precious
gemstones.

My father was a part-time
bartender
part-time jeweler
he’d handed us polished
tourmaline and beryl.
Turquoise street dead-ended
where a whale washed up once
oozing putrescine
and cadaverine—molecules
guiding the scavenger birds.

I learned the chemistry in college
clung to carbon atoms
moved to a city
where friends say street names
with so much confidence.

The grid approaches
close up in landing
when I fly back
to the house by the bus stop.
Now that Dad is sober
he insists on walking
my twin and I
to our cars at night.
Our far away lovers
send words through satellites
to our purses while we hobble
in polite steps for Dad’s hips
across the bank parking lot
over cracked concrete.

Cactus pods tower above
the neighbor’s slant roof.
Feather-petals splay
to street light. Look.
So beautiful somebody says.
We three squint upward.

 

by Katie Afshar

 

Katie Gallagher.jpg
Katie Afshar
is a pediatrician and writer who lives in Oakland and commutes to San Francisco about three times a week, often scribbling into a notebook in a train tunnel at the bottom of the bay. She has been published in Metonym, Milvia Street and The Sun Magazine.

 

 

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