This is how you see me, the space in which to place me. ~ Layli Long Soldier
~ ekphrastic poem based on Victor Cartagena's "Labor Tea"
sitting here on the floor trying to conjure you up
like reading tea leaves in a cup, i am looking for signs
you are one of a thousand shrouded faces strung up on a tree
are you thirsty for clarity? are you steeped in grief?
i want someone to tell you sweet things.
i look for you where summer lasts forever.
your throat and your skin are parched, brittle angel.
you used to smile all the time, so it's difficult to recognize you.
"i didn't realize tea had its labor issues like coffee and chocolate,"
says the lady to her friend and they quickly move on.
with the individual tea bag, the measuring of you has been done for us.
with the individual tea bag, the disposal of your remains is easy.
you are stacked thickly, abandoned after the withering stage.
the necessary fermentation takes place.
how brutal, how beautiful to slip me into new skin, you whisper.
to get your gaze on. to stay awhile.
passport photos in tea bags like toe tags. tag. you're it.
words fail me.
i want someone to tell me sweet things. but that's none of my business.
Originally published in More Good Talk: Poems from the Poets Laureate of Santa Clara County, July 2017.