the castro after midnight
was probably not the place for me

not as crowded as it looked
on the eleven o’clock news
but still plenty of revelers
wandering the streets

some intoxicated and slow
weaving along in high spirits
others sober and fast
striding through with purpose

a few completely still, sitting
at unserviced bus stops, sipping water
observing the flow of people, passing
excited, but unsure what to do

khmer lessons

i am a first grader again
sounding and stuttering my way
through combinations of characters
amazed when the strange squiggles
translate into words i know

i had forgotten
how excitingly painful
and tiringly satisfying
learning to read could be

and am reminded
why children enjoy
those end-of-page high-fives
so much

meeting the family

attending my first pride
this weekend
and I am

to check on
a junior high friend
who recently
lost her mother

to beat at boggle
the high school buddy
who’s been
kicking my ass at words

to catch up
with a college housemate
over coffee
and artisanal chocolate

to have them
around me
for the first time

to find out
if they all
the same person


“you’re supposed to leave a trail!”
he exclaimed
seven years old and frustrated
two failed attempts as seeker
into our afternoon of hide-and-seek

i’m sure he didn’t mean
footprints in the mud
broken twigs
or even ribbons tied to trees
but rather some part of me
yet sticking out enough
to catch his eye

are we playing a variation
of this game as well?
is my writing enough
of a trail for you
or am i still
too well hidden?

phka malis (jasminum sambac)

the delicate fragrance
from a small palmful
of unassuming
twilight blooms
scattered on the bedside dresser
reminds me of rural cambodia, but also
transports me to hot central los angeles

late summer nights
passing time with friends
beside small but flowering
evergreen bushes
planted in plastic westco buckets
on the walkway
of our second-story apartment
waiting for the temperature to drop

where i spent more evenings
in two years
conversing with neighbors
than i have
in the twenty since


it would take
three months
to undo
what the sun
has done
in three days

but I am through
with spending
my time
hidden away
in shadows

the brown
is so warm
so natural
and has been
so patiently

good mornings

every once in a while
I awaken to pounding
that is not my heart
responding to the alarm
but is instead from the kitchen
two rooms away
the unmistakeable
rhythmic dull thudding
of a hefty granite pestle
striking a melange of spices
(always garlic and dried chilis
sometimes with lemongrass or ginger
or termuric or galangal or some other
fragrant root or berry or bark)
in a matching granite mortar
with sides polished from years of use
by the same family of hands
and with a bowl worn so smooth
the increasingly homogeneous paste
slips and slides from side to side
constantly threatening to
but never actually spilling over

I listen and let my heart keep pace
with the steady beat
knowing that when it stops
the aroma that sneaks its way
under the doors to me
will signal that it is time
to get up

deeper than skin

i’ve been looking into tattoos
and while the general consensus
is that putting someone’s name
on your body is a foolish move
because “what if”
i’d still do it
because even with “what if”
futures ahead of us
midnight-black beads of ink
embedded beneath my skin
would pale in comparison
to the river of you
already coursing through my soul
and even if “what if” happens
the canyons you’re carving
to spell out your name
would always remain
and no matter what
your name will still
be beautiful