Between the Lines

Late Night on Sixteenth Street

Walking back toward the Mission I cross
Vermont Street part of it surrendered to
the uprights for the freeway
one grounded and fenced off in the spot
where four-years-old I visit grandparents—
a block on which children still play in backyards
the air filled with the whip of wheels on concrete
not the slide of leaf upon leaf on the oak
as the wind riffles through their hair.
I feel the quickening footfalls of my grandmother
with small fingers braided into hers leading me
to catch a bus downtown but I think of
my grandfather more because he would have had more
of an opinion about the bodies
snarled up in thin blankets on the stoops of locked up
buildings radiant in the lamp glow of sodium
about the man I pass before Folsom Street
before the Mission Neighborhood Health Center
the type of man he might have driven trucks with
now holding himself while he drenches the base of a tree
muttering about “touch it.”

Although he is aware of me as I am aware of him
in the peripheral way
people of different circumstances acknowledge
and ignore the obvious solidity of the other
I don’t think he was talking to me
but to whatever memory haunts those of us
out on the street late in the day
living but unable to handle what entangles us.



Out of the West 

For C. Oshida

The sun edges the ocean as the freeway clots up  
and spinning wheels slow down at the ramps.
My car darts into the slipstream of the far lane where
petals loosened from plum blossoms scatter in the air.
An ambulance screams by toward a reddening coast.
I drive on home into the hills and look back
through the mirror blinded. I remember my friend
Catherine who married and moved to Fukushima.



a theory of natural selection

the future inedible
languages fused to patois in the desert where
we ride camels to resorts
green pockmarks upon heaving sands of heat
mirages of bodies mating
the contrails of genies who deliver us
rootless hybrids vigorous
in redacting folkways to peculiar dialects
for sale in cities as intellectual
property like seed corn, rainbow hair, or a cookie
cutter for whichever gingerbread
boy we would purchase out of the blue genes left
on deposit when we sign
we realize the unpredictable upsets the order
but the law still applies
the cookie once baked non-returnable

Sandra Wassilie lives in Oakland and co-curates the Bay Area Generation Reading Series. She has received an MFA from San Francisco State University, the Ann Fields Poetry Award, and a Vermont Studio Center Residency. Recent work appears in Cirque, California Quarterly, sPARKLE&bLINK, Writing Without Walls, and Transfer.