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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

jholtei ghorka (the yellow slide)

The yellow slide,
a dirty macaroni
shape
children clawing their
way backwards
and then
swirling down.
She wanted to
every time,
taking the short green
one instead.
Playing in the sand
making star shapes
and little cakes.
Quietly, I brought
her to the
bottom.
We sat, even
lay down and
looked up at the
clouds.
I began pulling her
by the hands
up a few
feet,
then letting her go.
She was terrified
like our kittens
during a
thunderstorm.
And we returned, each
time a few
extra inches
me letting her
go, then
catching her.
“Papa, will you catch me?”
She asks, every single
time.

There was a great
red rooster
when I was
a boy.
I wore jeans each
summer to avoid
getting pecked
during his daily
attacks.
I banged pots
and pans together
got the dogs
after him
but he kept
coming
until he died
and we made a
great soup from him
which I savored
for hours
sitting at the dinner table
long after everyone
had gone to watch
tv.

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