Julie Weiss

Featured in ArLiJo Issue No. 133

Left Behind

If it had all been a bad dream and you had
barreled through the front door, ravenous after
soccer practice, homework sheets spilling

out of your backpack, you wouldn’t have
recognized me: eyes the shade of storm clouds,
a torrent caving my face. I was proof that a man

could grow as thin as the streak that trails
a bird in flight. You would have said, dad,
why haven’t you washed your shirt?

There are ways to eradicate stains but
I wanted to wear your blood so that I might
collapse, intoxicated by your smell, stifle

the image of your body, motionless among the dead.
I fantasized about ghosts, how you’d enliven our walls
with your shadow moves. How you’d raise the hairs

on the back of your mother’s neck, as if pulling
one of your pranks, the kind that always got you
grounded but made us chuckle in private.

During the day, we keep it together. Nights
my mind shudders under the knife-edge of memory.
You step onto the stage of my nightmares

dressed in blood, launch your spirit body into
a leap, my leap, the leap that didn’t carry me far enough
to land in front of the shots. You leap in slow motion

as if mocking my failed attempt at heroics. Reeling,
I roar into the void: I never wanted to be a superhero!
I only wanted to chest the bullets that cheated you

out of life. I came up short, son. For a time, I thought
we’d lost our only child, but that was before
I learned to see you in a gust of wind, tousling my hair.

Before I learned to trace your expressions in swirls
of sunrise. Before I learned to recognize your wave
in the wings of a butterfly, flitting among daisies

outside your bedroom. All those colors gathered
in your arms, I think you might splash them
against the window, startle me out of my stupor.

Copyright © 2020 by Julie Weiss.
Previously published by Trampset, October 22, 2019.

Writer’s Block

I’ve never seen such gloss, such sparkle
arise like a phoenix from the depths
of the bathroom wall tiles.
A white so transparent I can see my own face
wavering back at me as if it were an oasis
or a mirage in the desert of my mind.
Dust is more than just bothersome particles;
once removed from walls and sprinkled on paper
it can symbolize anything I desire.
I could write a poem about death, its cleaver hands,
the way it casts our atoms into the cosmos,
no tearful goodbye, no remorse. No escape.
No good, a voice whispers. And she’s right:
I don’t want to spend all evening coalescing
with spirits, or navigating the slopes
of the afterworld, so I drop to the floor,
disregarding the age and ache in my knees
and scour the grooves with a toothbrush.
I spend an hour coaxing the grime
out of its long-standing comfort zone
as if it were a woman at her first lesbian bar
hiding in the corner, in a tremble of shadows,
hoping to remain imperceptible.
The woman could be a younger me
or the target of the speaker’s unbridled passion.
Ideas multiply, this chore has become a labor
of love. I begin to draft the poem:
two lone women, cocktail glasses clinking,
Tracy Chapman asking in that voice
of forests awash in twilight, or of bonfires:
“Baby, can I hold you tonight?”
No good, a voice whispers. No love, no sex.
And I listen as she lectures me about
succumbing to melodrama and cliché.
In my studio, my computer screen
has faded to black, the cursor has flashed
itself mad, collapsed into an invisible state
of unrest, while I sit on the floor, splayed atop
footprints and lint and other forgotten traces
of our daily lives. I begin to polish the cabinets
to a shine, contemplating the grandeur of trees,
their roots cradling the underbelly of the earth.
No good! she bellows. Nature is mundane. Trees
have been personified by poets for thousands of years.

Copyright © 2020 by Julie Weiss.

About the Author
Julie Weiss received her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from SJSU. She’s an ex-pat from Foster City, California, who moved to Spain in 2001 and never looked back. She works as an English teacher from her home in Guadalajara, Spain, where she lives with her wife, 4-year-old daughter, and 1-year-old son. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Lavender Review, Sinister Wisdom, The American Journal of Poetry, Sky Island Journal, Santa Clara Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry—Poets Resist Series, Random Sample Review, Stonecoast Review, Barren Magazine, peculiar journal, and Poetry Quarterly, among others.