Sheree La Puma (Western Voices 2020)

Exclusive: Western Voices, 2020: Edited by Scott Thomas Outlar
Bio: Sheree La Puma is an award-winning writer whose personal essays, fiction and poetry have appeared in or are forthcoming in WSQ, Chiron Review, Juxtaprose, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Heron River Review, The Rumpus, Plainsongs, Into The Void, I-70 Review, Inflectionist Review, and PacificReview, among others. She received an MFA in Writing from California Institute of the Arts and taught poetry to former gang members.

Returning to Silence
Based on the article “A Caregiver’s Story: Kaz Suzuki.”

There is no cure. This is what it is. This is reality. As the heartbeat slows, breath becomes shallow. A slow drip of prayers. Pain, stretches out, taut like canvas, toe to mouth. Blisters ooze. Pink, White. Grey. In December ‘89, a place without trees. With his hand in mine, he finally decides to test the waters. I marvel at our ability to live so many/lies. I shouldn’t, but I find it beautiful. Positive. With a disease like this, symptoms not patterns. Somewhere in the world, a dry cave filled with secrets, ours. They say to expect a rapid deterioration. They say pills could buy a decade, but when they talk about heaven, I prepare myself for the possibility that there may not be anything but a river. We are drowning in the here & now. I have never watched breath so intently before. Life exhales before curling back into itself. As sun undresses sky, I am alone. You are a shimmering final act. 

minimal acts of devotion

LA’s a fried chicken town, art, sawdust & beer. You are a monument & I am a wave
imitating a wrecking ball. Eager to be stars, we spend our first few days in line, waiting
for a pinhole portrait of the moon. I thought I could save you or at least peel back skin.
Wellness is a billion-dollar industry. I remember our bodies submerged in the Pacific.
I crawled into the shell of you like a hermit <crab> taking up residence. Quiet & dark,
your affection blankets me like a final resting place. But when the Santa Ana’s blow
wounds out into the open, you suck up girls like oxygen. I swim along the shore
drowning your name. I can’t pretend it doesn’t hurt.

Super Glued to a Hamster Wheel of Suffering
I want to scream, point my finger at your lips. Make Noise. Make Love. Eat from the wind.
itself. Find a body of calm <water> & create a new energy.

I think of you, daughter, at the nymph stage, Mommy bubbles on your lips. Tears like baptism, cascading down cheeks, your insecurity pooling at your feet.

Or was that mine? We were both feeding on the same pain, real & imagined. They say that the never-ending rain will wear down even a stone.

There was a time, before snakes & wounds; before the world stitched up your eyes, your mouth, your ears, that we both had the same thirst.

I saw it as you danced across the floor, pink scarf raised to the sky before heart, mind, breath & body folding into giggles. You were three.

What is the price of awareness? I tell myself that you are suffering, stuck on a wheel, going around and around to nowhere.

We can’t fix what’s broken. I sift through the remnants of a flooded house. All I have is memories & the waters of forgetting lapping at my door.

Lost in anger, we grow away from our roots. I am a stem. You are a bloom. We both seek a new life cycle.

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