All Day, Talking / Sarah A Chavez

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dancing girl press, 2014

Sarah A. Chavez is a mestiza born and raised in the California Central Valley where she worked every job from farm laborer, to janitor and maintenance, to barista, to waitress, house-sitter, web editor, tutor, and finally administrative assistant for a Native American drug and alcohol recovery home before going back to school to pursue writing and teaching. She earned a PhD in English with a focus in Creative Writing (poetry) and an interdisciplinary specialization in Ethnic Studies, with a focus on Chican@/Latin@ & Native American literature and culture, from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. During her academic career her work has been the recipient of the Fredrick A. and Minnie J.M. Stuff Memorial Placement Fellowship (2014), the Quercus Press Review, Fall Poetry Book Award, Honorable Mention (2013), Stuff Dissertation Fellowship (2013), the Susan Atefat Peckham Fellowship, Literary Contest (2013), the Arts & Letters/ Rumi Prize for Poetry, finalist (2012), the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Competition, Honorable Mention (2012), the Vreeland Award (2011), Chancellor's Doctoral Fellowship (2009 – 2011), and the Excellence in Education, 2007 – 2008 teaching award from Ball State University’s Correctional Education Program.

Her poetry can be found or is forthcoming in the anthologies Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence, Not Somewhere Else But Here: A Contemporary Anthology of Women and Place, and In Gilded Frame: An Anthology of Ekphrastic Poetry, as well as the journals Third Wednesday, LunaLuna Magazine, The Fourth River, North American Review & The Acentos Review among others.

Dear Carole, I wake up like this now,

talking. My lips moving or closed, eyes
fixed on the bowl of morning cereal
or the street that stretches
black into the horizon –
the consistent flow of conversation
droning on and on like a radio
someone forgot to turn off.
I looked it up. Some experts say
OCD or ADHD. It could be
the mania of a bipolar, Asperger’s,
logorrhea, fluent aphasia, or just plain
narcissism. A lot of medical
message boards say it’s for attention
or to block the constant hum
of one’s own thoughts.
And what’s it about? Nothing.
Anything. Everything really:
the shape and texture of the sun
setting behind the old Tower theatre,
the sliver that slipped under my nail
from the raw wood bench in the park,
the clatter of the mailman, lifting
and slamming the dented metal
basket that waits expectantly
beside the front door, the clothes
of a whore on Belmont, her chunky
heels, slick tight skirt, breasts
testing the valor of red rayon, dogs
barking in the distance, the rat’s
head that sat like an omen in the middle
of the sidewalk, the misshaped chip
in my Fritos bag, the stone
that found its way into my shoe,
the neighbors’ loud sex.
How my hip ached after tripping
on the uneven steps that lead
to my apartment, how even though
it was early, I went to bed
just to stop it. The talking.

I’ve had to quarantine myself.
It’s definitely disconcerting
to those around me. I got fired
from the library. Apparently
they don’t want the kid
stocking the shelves
to give a vocalized running commentary
of every book that gets snugged:
Metaphysics: An Anthology,
Situating Existentialism: Key Texts in Context,
New Perspectives on Type Identity:
The Mental and the Physical,
The Incorporated Self,
Leibniz’s Mill: A Challenge to Materialism.
When the librarian came over
to shush me, I told her about those times
you and I went to the baseball ditch
in the park when it rained
to kick through the filthy water
that took forever to seep back into
the earth. The closest thing we
had to a lake. And as she was taking
me by the arm to the back, I
described the piles of books
on the floor of your bedroom,
the five large glass ashtrays we stole
from Krakatoa teeming with ash
and chap stick-ringed butts,
the remote control that was missing
the “9.” I talked my way across
Mariposa and N Street, past the police
station, all the six miles down Van Ness,
afternoon commuters ignoring me
like they do all the crazy homeless
that stalk the streets when the weather
is nice. But even sleep can’t quell
the chitchat chattering my teeth
over this dried out slab of a tongue.
In this ailment, the only consistency
is that it’s to you.
Always, the talking is to you.