I’m forced to pay attention this time of the year.
Cupcakes on my birthday,
a dozen chosen by my littles.
Close to noontime 2nd street roars
with dogs, bikes, and locals
who, like me, traveled from afar, just one time a year.
It’s not my sort of town,
too trendy to persist continually.
I clasp my girl’s warm fingers in between my dismay.
I’m forced to pay attention to this welded chain
between us. It binds us together when the current drifts us apart.
We journey through Ocean Boulevard
to familiar days on a lost calendar.
Paloma and Orizaba, promised to us by the chief.
Four years ago, he sat at our table,
passing food between our hands.
He’d tell us stories of battles won, lost, and unafraid.
Maybe you can manage my house, he’d said, the one on the bluff.
You’ll never believe what I know, tales of who what where.
We never knew why or how, it seemed,
he offered us fruit that never fell from a tree.
He left our hands empty, our hearts cold,
our stomachs in knots and our thoughts in regret.
I’m forced to pay attention to what I have left.
Cover image by Ruben Gutierrez.