Trouble with Paper
I didn’t feel smart. Always: Her messy desk, rat’s nest of paper.
I could keep socks paired, spice sorted. Not paper—
Stand in front of class, repeat: My desk is messy. Feel the heat
from brain and heart blister your face. I’m messy with paper—
He couldn’t manage. You’re smart, I told my son. He felt stupid.
What’s all this? Stuffed in his closet and under his bed, paper—
You’re smart, I told my daughter. Smart. She felt dumb
as her bent-elbow Barbies, clueless dolls swimming in paper—
Receipts and bills crumpled in shoe boxes. We can’t do our taxes!
What’s to become of us? My love, please wait to recycle the paper.
My grandfather drove a bread truck for People’s Bakery of Oakland,
went on strike for worker’s rights in Oakland.
My mother played marbles, rode horses, sculled on Lake Merritt
when she was a girl in Oakland.
My father was stationed at Coast Guard Island, fell in love
with my mother at a USO dance in Oakland.
The earthquake wiped out my grandmother’s childhood street
when the freeway collapsed in Oakland.
There’s no there there I didn’t realize
Gertrude Stein was saying about Oakland.