Melinda Palacio



They Love Them a Story

for Chiwan

When our bird voices cry foul, they publish
our work, our poems about growing up poor,
not enough seed to feed our overeducated bodies.
homeless, addicted to crack.
Our insane beaks unable to hold water,
let alone, a job.
Our feathers ruffle no vein to stick that needle of comfort.
Bye bye pain, bye bye birdie.
They love them a story about
our clothes stolen from Launderland.
Our pineapple outfits, along with our innocence gone,
as washing machines devour our change, as familiar hands manhandle us.
When our brothers die of too much poison, of gun shots,
words rile our twitter feeds.
When we dip our quills in ink, write about survival, about flying
instead of being dumped into an ocean, weights shackled to our feet,
our pigeon poems are published.
I want to expound on the color of grass,
the thorns of prickly pears, my favorite yellow dress,
the sound of clouds shading a mountainside
as a single, wily woodpecker stashes
acorns and dates into a telephone pole.
A date tumbles from the bird’s beak.
A closer look reveals a fruit tree,
precarious thin branches fan
and tilt high-up on the pole
like a long legged dancer
in black patent stilettos.
When the wind blows,
the sky rains stones,
sweet ripe dates.


Mermaid, Don’t Drink the Water


All that ocean             don’t drink the water.

My grandmother says it straight, I don’t like water.
We drink Coca Cola instead. She put Coke in my baby’s bottle.

Oceans gush oil, Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.
All that ocean            don’t drink the water.

Orleans Parish, St. Bernard and Jefferson warn against
brain eating amoeba in New Orleans tap water. The world has never been safe.

As a child growing up in Los Angeles, I loved going to the beach.
What’s not to love?

Ocean water crashes, then dies to a whisper of sea foam. A show-off
ocean waves twist and turn, she waits for God’s approval.

Seagulls squawk as the birds circle for food and treasure.
Kids taunt waves with the their cherub feet as a familiar song
plays softly from a sun-soaked girl’s radio.

The bronze girl doesn’t care if her mother warned of water pollution
at the beach. She swims on a dare, ringlets past her shoulders and bikini
strings bounce. Water tickles her feet and she morphs into a mermaid.

All that ocean Mermaid,                  don’t drink the water.





Melinda Palacio divides her time between Santa Barbara and New Orleans. She is the author of two poetry collections, Folsom Lockdown and How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, and the novel, Ocotillo Dreams. She writes a bi-monthly column for La Bloga. Her work has been published in a variety of journals and websites, including Poem-a-Day from the Academy of American Poets.

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