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Thursday 20 March 2014

Superheroes Kiss the Bomb Before They say Goodnight

Superheroes Kiss the Bomb Before They say Goodnight

By Kelly Grace Thomas


She leaned over and whispered to me,

this is what a breakdown looks like,

remember sometimes its comes in mumbles that you kick around with half tied shoes

before you learn to run away.

Fighting for what’s right is not always easy, just look at the comic books.

The orphaned super heroes who had to sew their own capes

before they could climb out of the sewer.

Sometimes it takes centuries of fighting the villains

before the nightmares can banner their purpose.

But you must remember, she said, what the breaking means.

The dirt under your shoes that collects like dust not even tornados can shake

The moments you didn’t bite your time when the screaming clocks demanded sunset. 

Because brave men have spoke on the cancer of silence

that following the rules can cousin apathy

and it takes a leader to ask why before they follow the verb of direction.

Do not search for superglue instead of reason.

No one said the parts of you would remain whole.

No one said superheroes always get a sidekick.

Sometimes the team assembles after risk has been put to bed.

There are far too many soliloquies professed to dark alleys

with no audience to sympathize

But it’s worth taking your hands out of pocket to show your fists,

Because monsters always confuse claws for power.

Yes, you will break, and no one will hear the cracks.

No one will see how that broken and beautiful mean the same thing

when compassion is your dictionary.

There will be no picket lines to follow to safety

Only you with your cape, and just enough fabric to sew your morals together.

You will wonder why the skyscrapers can’t talk back.

You will wonder how the bully of dark has been written on the ballot so many times.

So, she said, when the bomb comes, kiss it with those cherry war-painted lips

And tell them to keep on dropping,

that you are ready for another.

You will place yourself back together with tongues of prayer

in a language only native to your heart.

Every syllable will throb in this portrait of solitude

But in the end, you wrote you own story,

And that, she said, is what saved the day.



Monday 17 March 2014

If I Were French

If I were French

By Kelly Grace Thomas


The French never had a word for weekend. So they borrowed from us.  

Maybe in a country so driven by passion, it seems gauche to distinguish

service from sanctuary.

The French never apologize for their stinky cheeses, big noses, or third glass of wine.

They don't stutter apologies in accents as thick as rivers of lavender honey.

Beauty is both confidence and culture,

something Americans have spent lifetimes trying to purchase.

My whole life I have always wanted to be French.

To smoke and argue and break empty picture frames that used to house photos of lovers

I thought would stay.

Maybe if I were French elegance wouldn’t be a question mark 

and I wouldn’t need excuse or occasion

for black lace or red lipstick.

I would kiss the morning newspaper and tell the world to read my lips, 

to listen up, cause it's gonna be big, 

but only if I were French.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

The Art of Wood Working

For my father (and Ron Swanson) 

The Art of Wood Working

By Kelly Grace Thomas


We carve ourselves from wood.

Remember the roots that once connected us all.

Strong mahogany promise,

the richness of cherry in a Sunday afternoon. 

There are no regrets, only lessons.

Feel the weight of oak between your fingers.

Know that hands, like branches, were built for craft.

Built to reach out and make something grow.

Strength is counted through age rings.

Wear bark as armor, waiting to release

the thunder of stories that live inside the grain.

Lathe those words into something new.

Something beautiful enough

to give those old torn up roots purpose,

once again.

Creation is the strongest mark we can leave in our place.

We must carve, whittle and plane ourselves,

turn corners of tigerwood,

breath poetry into balsam fir.

Sit with nothing but you and a piece of the earth,

to show that life is a forest of discovering

that sands us down, smoothes the grain,

to make each shape our own. 

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Simple Pleasures

For my aunt Kathy.

Simple Pleasures

By Kelly Grace Thomas


We must count life’s simple pleasures

like just-in case buttons or buried treasure loose change, that hides in well-worn sofas.

Savor the warmth of a tiger-striped cat,

purring on your lap,

 on a wintry silver Sunday.

Adore the crispness of each quickly turned page,

play with plot and

pay thanks to the god of story.

Lick the sea-salt from your lips,

tickle your taste buds

and know that spice has been no stranger.

Trust in tradition, Christmas cookies and campfire sing-a-longs,

these moments, hand stich our patchwork,

build a fortune of memory.

Postcards where the hands of a clock sway

from cruise ships to cozy kitchens to car rides laced with adventure.

The thirst for exploration is perhaps the most sane thing we can own.

Build mountains of faith with each act of discovery.

Remember each part of the globe,

has taught us how to pronounce life a different way.

Thread the needle through the locks of the Panama Canal, to snow-capped Alaska,

to small island, jettied and white sanded, New Jersey.

We watch tides, like family, ebb and flow. Count lighthouses to bring us home.

We must wear these moments, simple pleasures

 like delicate tanzite waterfalls, pulse amethyst ambition.

Wear them around our wrists and above our hearts.


Sunday 12 January 2014

Things I Need to Say Out Loud

[Things I Need to Say Out Loud

By Kelly Grace Thomas

1.Stop making yourself a china doll. Painted on smiles the color of turned Merlot and skin a silent still water pond. You let men break you, like stained glass windows at wartime. Swallowed metal. Hide their bullets in your stomach until you cough lead. This is not the only way love can taste.

2.The world does not owe you success. So give every ounce of yourself until you’re only hopscotch of shattered syllables. Learn to echo. Write like your life depends on it. It does. Be so good they can’t ignore you. And expect nothing. Know that words will be your only food. Chew them hard before you spit them out.

3.Clean out the closet. There are rotting pieces of you, other people bruised and worm-holed. Like peaches that forgot how to ripen. Do not replay those conversations. The ones that left your heart so empty, that you’ve become a church no one prays in.

4.It's okay to be tired. To cry behind a steering wheel during unfriendly commutes. To hate the watered-down lettuce you call lunch. There is no rehab for perfection and the way it subtracts pieces of you, like a hurricane of hungry teeth. A Richter scale of self confidence each time that earthquake of a voice asks, “am I good enough.” Yes. And No.

5.Wear your scars on the outside. Write poetry in the bathtub you have named your temple. You are a superhero of heartbreak. Sew a cape. While you’re at it, catch a theme song. No matter how times you are orphaned on cathedral steps, you will always fight for good.

6. We all need love. We wait, like feral dogs at lovers’ doors. Begging for someone to let us in. Beware of those who never bark. Who hold secrets like locked doors, professor’s shock collar philosophies. Know that you have done nothing wrong. Not every door is made of glass.

5. You can heal. Pieces of you will break. But you are not broken. Live at the bottom of the ocean with spilt ends until you crab claws grow back. Make friends with the fish whose names you cant pronounce. Just keep swimming. Rip currents are imaginary, like mad queens and unmarked tombstones.

6. This isn’t even close to over. In all the ways that scare or give breathing room, there are no periods at the end of this sentence. Skip with ellipses, wink with the semi-colons, you my darling, are all paragraphs and poetry. Someday this ending will be a tattooed line of literature, on a shoulder that is always kissed goodnight.

7. You are a masterpiece. Sometimes you need to cut off an ear or live in the back of a museum to find your audience. You are a train wreck of tidal waves, ready to break. Use every color in the crayon box. The brake them in half. Wake the neighbors and never, even apologize for all the ocean of ways, you feel this world.

Sunday 5 January 2014

365 Thank Yous

365 Thank Yous

By Kelly Grace Thomas


I count the things you have taught me,

on hurt fingers you’ve kissed, station-wagoned adventures

and long distance phone calls that carry the comfort of a hug.  

I count the lessons like constellations, a bed of jewels time can’t touch.

They glimmer in tide pools of midnight, reminding me I will sparkle instead of survive,  

because I, I am part of you.

Part of the voice that whispers there are no dark and hard corners,

because everything softens under the power of kindness.

My gratitude, like powdery petals of pink Bermuda sand,

could never fit into this poem, year or universe.

So as January opens a new chapter of sunrises, at a kitchen counter that feels like the

 safest place in the world, I stare at the blooming Amarillas and think of 365 ways to tell you that

I owe you everything and an ocean more.   

Thank you for the way you taught me to love, without apology or permission,

showing me to use my heart as a flashlight, remind me that smiling daisies grow in even the darkest forests.

Thank you for teaching me to appreciate the magic of abundance,

to live like a queen in the land of lobster and chardonnay, even if for only an eyelash bat of a moment.

To never forget we all deserve the wishes made off cruise ship balconies and in Las Vegas fountains.

We deserve to laugh in oceans the color of turquoise gems

and to be reminded family is the better than buried treasure.

We have all the gold we need. 

Thank you for showing me the value of still pond patience, a skill, like holding my breath, I’m still taking notes on. 

For showing me it will always get better, for holding my hand as I crossed troubled-watered bridges

where salt-water tides turned tears into laughter, heartbreak into harmony. 

You listen with a grace that makes unconditional support an art form, it has shaped the compass of my heartbeat.

Thank you for teaching me that learning is messy, but it takes many chapters to write a masterpiece.

Every day I search for words to match the beauty of what you have given me,

until they’re found I can only offer 365 simple thanks yous.

Thank you, for teaching how to use every inch of my heart.  

ShopRite Marvel

ShopRite Marvel

By Kelly Grace Thomas


There is something to be said about small town grocery stores,

the intimacy of the run-ins and bump-intos

aisles accordion with tales of soccer games and job promotions.

We circle with curricular small talk and coupon catch ups.

“Why don’t we do this more often?” we say, holding the same box of Cheez-its for the past twenty minutes.

If only they served coffee in aisle 12.

Fifieen years later, we still buy the low calorie ice cream, hoping the investment pays off.

Grateful for small towns, where post snowstorm, your neighbor shovels your driveway

while you were out buying eggs, running into people you didn’t even know you missed. 

Saturday 4 January 2014

Flight Delay

Flight Delay

By Kelly Grace Thomas


Sometimes it takes a snowstorm-

when the earth lays a blanket of ivory over us so fragile,

that even a footprint of a feather, would break us-

Sometimes it takes a snowstorm to hold us still.

Maybe we need to breath in a place a little longer,

Maybe there is a whisper yet to say,

with breath like a ghost that haunts at midnight.

The snowstorm has kept me here today,

I won’t ask why, I will only sit and wait. 

Friday 3 January 2014

Shattered Gingerbread: An Ode to Shaky Shattered Sugar

Shattered Gingerbread: An Ode to Shaky Shattered Sugar

By Kelly Grace Thomas


After all the holidays are spent, belts have loosen and the snowstorm,

like little white feet kicking at that ground, grounding flights,

remind us we have no control, we build.

Construct our sugarous ode. 

It’s true, our Gingerbread house will never be pretty,

we have dealt with that fact.

Used a hot glue gun where there should have been confection.  

Instead of cavities we will have calking.

Award kitsch and accessorize, remind us that a good sense of humor goes a long way,

farther than perfectly trimmed rooftops.

The Gingerbread house was supposed to be loved,

the family project that would keep us at the table,

thirty minutes longer after dinner that night.

It’s structure was built. The father a project manager, the oldest daughter the visionary.

The youngest a skeptic.

And after the filet arrived medium rare and graham cracker crusted cheesecake

danced between diabetic and decadent, the fall of the house of ginger began.


On a hard wood floor swept all to cleanly, in the hands of a mother, trying to clean up the contagious house

guest  clutter, it shattered like stained glass at war time.

 The roof, the doors, the foundation jigsawed themselves, parted into pieces of apology.

One week later, in post-new year’s pity, with a mother who won’t shut up about weddings,

we have created a Frankenstein cottage.

On January 2, spackled and exhausted, we decorate the best we can.

Take turns with tacky, wish the holidays back, as outside wintergreen turns to spearmint.

“Im putting down the gun,” my mother says. “Shubbery is not so easy, is it?”

“I having a Hersey’s Kiss to deal with the stress.”

“We all are,” I say, as the hard candy speaks of this year’s American Hustle influence.

There is something to be said about plastic stepping in for sugar.

Something so real about the way it broke, slid across a compass of oak, that wild geese in search of

somewhere warm.  

Like we needed to put it back together again,

flaws and fractured flavors,

needed to build with love instead of beauty,

just to know, for once, it was possible.



Wednesday 1 January 2014

Hooray for Magic

For my sister, Kat Thomas. Happy New Year!

Hooray for Magic

By Kelly Grace Thomas


In this choose your-own-adventure life,

you must chase magic with breast-pocketed secrets,

hold it close as a heartbeat.

Bow to childlike honesty like pelicans in prayer.

Meet the breath of opportunity like the first days of summer,

saltwater doilied skin and watermelon soaked thumbs,

lick the warmth with lazy calico satisfaction.

Life can always sparkle.

Seek out glitter in birthday cards, on fingernails

and know that dancing is always appropriate

anytime and anywhere.

If you can’t hear the music, find another instrument,

and play it as loud a possible.

Wake the neighbors.

Do ballerina twirls in aisles of frozen peas,

make a maple tree your three-ringed, Big Top.

We were put on this earth to play,

make setbacks an obstacle course of sandbox philosophy.

Because whether you believe it or not,

something magical is always about to happen. 

Saturday 14 December 2013

Things that Cut

Things that Cut

By Kelly Grace Thomas


We battle these imaginary shadows 

Meet our enemies in dark corners of hourglass gossip.

Dismantle parts of ourselves: eyelashes and collarbone,

 like model airplanes built of glass.

Propellers cough through barbed-wired nights.

Wings that wear frostbite, like a flamingo in snowstorm.

We must fly above these chain linked borders, used our duct tapped second-hand philosophies

to keep us whole.

Our souls, mahogany and oak doors, of well-built grain.

Some leave open.

Some deadbolt with time.

Nevertheless we are all peepholes of promise, that scavengerhunt for the key.

A heart, that whispers in haiku, holding the syllables left in rainy day bank accounts

to taste beneath its tongue.

A hand, seeks a body made of cotton instead instead of cement.

Don't hang this faith on hardness,

remember the things that create instead of cut.

Life is a battle of a bruises and bankrupt battery.

Learn how to take the punches gracefully.

Because a glass heartbeat, no matter how shattered, can still reflect the moon. 

Friday 22 November 2013

LA Monsoon

LA Monsoon

By Kelly


Today, brake lights lit up like Christmas tree in a line of ruby bowing heads,

on freeways made of broken pieces made into one.

Today, the annual check of windshield wipers cast away the beads of moisture

that had gather like ladybugs on a spring windowsill.

Today, in a 60-degree cold snap, residents put on their beanies, paid respect to the people of Seattle,

those brave souls,

and bared the unbearable weight of eight-hour umbrellas for a 15 minute sprinkle.

In a city which is always so dry, cracked and brittle,

it is nice to see things soften with this cuddle-up mist.

“This is normal for you, isn’t it?” asked my students,

who see me as a foreigner from New Jersey, who has grown accustomed these moisture-filled natural disasters.

I looked out the window and saw a young couple, gooey-eyed and in love

hold school binders over one another’s head,

a cuddle of gray embrace.

“It is, I adore it,” I said.

Thinking how sweet it must be

to have someone by your side

to weather the storm with. 


Thursday 21 November 2013

Sixth Period Philosophies: Gabby the Goldfish

Sixth Period Philosophies: Gabby the Goldfish

By Kelly Grace Thomas

Sidenote: Random lines were contributed by my students. I tried to weave the best I could .


Every since the dawn of time,

we’ve looked to goldfish to cheer us up.

Glass bowls and bubbly memories, ten second bliss with a dorsal fin.

I used to keep mine on the kitchen table;

I called her Gabby and told her all the best parts of my day.

One day over my after school afternoon snack,

she told, me she swallowed the moon because the sun was lonely.

She said, nothing was the same once we lost time, lost the up and down of things.

We used talk at the sixth grade lunch table about our pets.

Turkey sandwiches over a vile of chattering,

Kool-aid smiles and chocolate smudged fingers.

Life is like a feather, Tommy said, a whimsical statement due to the fact  

his puppy Buster loved to play catch.

I had Gabby the goldfish, who never sunk, who I was convinced

should be a professor in goldfish philosophy.

It took a single bullet to the shatter the glass.

I ate lunch alone the next day.

Between the light and the dark Gabby lives,

when I take a sip of coffee or ask Apollo why crows screech so loud.

The brightest of light creates the darkest shadows,

Every since the dawn of time,

We’ve looked for goldfish to cheer us up. 

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Los Liones: Part Two

Los Liones: Part Two

By Kelly Grace Thomas


On days when hurt piles too high

and the blister of Monday to Friday is rubbed too raw to touch.

I lose myself in the dust.

With a seventy degree forecast on a sunny November,

where cloudless skies match neither the season nor disposition,

I begin to climb.

I circle the ocean, like a hawk for food.

Trace the outside of the mountain like a lovers cheek.

Heavy-footed, I try to put space between the ache and the altitude.

I tell myself if I get far enough away from down there,

maybe the boulder of pain will turn to pebble.  

Knowing 'far away enough' is a finished line I might never reach.


On my good days, I walk quickly past the couples holding hands,

the yoga-pantsed sorority girls trying to tighten their asses,

and the tourists in heavy sweaters and thousand-dollar automatic flash digital necklaces.

On the bad days, I see the other hikers and begin to run.

Wanting so badly for it to be nothing but me and the wind,

and a silence sea level will not grant me.


Last Sunday, on the fifth mile down,

stuck behind German tourists, whose crooked tongue always makes them sound full of blame

I watched as a well-intentioned blonde, adored a couples’ Labrador.   

She bent down, reached to affectionately smooth its golden coat, appreciate its beauty,

and questionly watched, as it shrunk away,

nothing but jutting shoulder bones and apologetic tail.

“Someone did a number on her,” the owner said to the blonde,

whose extended hand went unmet.

Both exchanged abbreviated pleasantries, sighed at the abuse animals should never know.

I listened, feeling invisible and awkwardly out of place.

I quickly tried to slip by, disappear in the dust, wanting to be the ghost I went up there every Sunday

 to become.

The dog silently looked up, met my eyes. 

The only one who saw me.

Big brown egg shells, fragile and the color of hurt when it's lived at the bottom of something too long.

“You too,” it said to me.

I looked away. Lowered my head, like its shameful tail, and quickened my pace.

Yes. I thought. Me too.


Sunday 17 November 2013

Road Trip

Road Trip

By Kelly Grace Thomas


I think of you on some deserted Midwest highway

that hasn't learned your temper yet.

With a shoebox full of ties,

you chase the winter.

Hold it close.

Windows down.

Celebrate callous like a trophy.

Laugh at those seeking warmth.

You are not listening to the CDs I made you,

The letter I wrote sits unread in my dumpster

among eggs shells and other things that easily break.

I’m still picking up the pieces, sorting through all the things others didn’t want.

I thought I deserved a goodbye.

You thought I should swallow your silence, chew on all the things you never told me.

Grant me park-bench pity as you the miles between us grow.

Your apologies held like rotting Velcro, every lie starting to rip.

I sit in traffic on Lincoln, return library books on your old street.

You never held my hand. 

The joke always falls upon those with faith.

Learn to give up before the punch line




I turn on the heater with questions I thought kept me warm.

I feel pain deeper than wells without echoes,

but hug my words tight, knowing

never again will I invite the cold 

into my home. 

Tuesday 22 October 2013

A Home… Sometimes

A Home… Sometimes

By Kelly Grace Thomas


We spend our whole life looking for a place to belong,

a person to call home.

I spent so many seasons waiting on doorsteps.

Goosebumps and snow-soaked shoes.

Watching people step on leaves, as soon as their colors changed.


I always thought of you as a locked door,

all scratchy red brick and chains.

Eyes like doorknobs, heart like a peephole.  

In a hallways that smelled like a cold, vacuumed hotel,

I’ve spent months trying to look in.  

Knuckles blistered from hollow knocks with no reply.

On the other side of the door, I could hear the screams, held prisoner.

Captive in the closet.

Sliding doors covered in mirrored pain. It’s always easier to look out.  

Sometimes the cries would escape through the keyhole

like overboard feelings that didn’t know how to swim.

I wasn't strong enough to save them.


Sometimes, when the currents calmed, you would let me in.

Heated moments where whiskey unhinged your deadbolt,

tossing the keys you usually held so tight,

in one of those messy drawers

that held its hand over the mouth of secrets

that only needed air.


I thought of ways to untangle the knots that had started

before you learned to tie your shoes.


I was always like a house where someone left the front door open.

Let potential buyers tour the memories that decorated my doubt,

fed them mashed potatoes in my kitchen.

Spent hours making everyone comfortable,

but myself. 

I let strangers I thought I knew come in, rearrange pieces of me,

 drag furniture across my soul,

 until I no longer knew where I lived.

They looked under my bed, where I hid as a scared little girl,

 knowing it is impossible to outrun dark monsters

when dawn is defined by who decides to spend the night.  

Figured if I gave them a nightlight, in the shape of a heart, they might want to stay.


Sometimes on nights when we took off our masks,

held the honesty like treat or trick candy

that quickly disappeared, leaving clothes tight,  

hungry for more.

You and I would end up in the same room, looking around the house.

You with your padlocks, me with my nightlight.

And we would talk about how well we fit,

but only sometimes. 

Sunday 6 October 2013

Sand Crabs

Sand Crabs

By Kelly Grace Thomas


With too much beer, you miss bad habits

you shouldn’t.

Eithers hands or arms feel lonely.



Maybe if I fill the air with pumpkin spice

the fall will come sooner.

Over red wine and goat cheese, I will reference a summer

dry and hot, that never seemed to end.

A vacation spent waiting for lemonade stands or anything

innocent to rest my cheek against.

I lay my confessions my 70s table cloth

like a child with a map of every dangerous place not to go.

Words are like waterfalls.

Beautiful and crushing.


We must smile if nothing else.

Write poetry on brick graffiti walls

to try and find meaning.

There is no try

only a path we walked before

Mud under our feet.


I am searching for the water.

Searching for the dawn.

It’s never been the crossfire, I was trying to dodge

Just a reason to put down this gun

that, I’ve loaded with metaphors.

Similes full of scenarios, for all the things you never said.

Kept bullets like family heirlooms,

Ammunition for the coming attack.


I must remember to paint.

How to run along the shoreline in

search of answers I buried in the sand.

But when I dig, all I find is sand crabs.

With mouths so small all they think about is biting.


I would bite back,

If only I could blame them for their sins. 

Friday 20 September 2013

The Borders of Comfort

The Borders of Comfort 
By Kelly Grace Thomas 
When you see a white, American girl from a middle-class family, the last thing you think is illegal immigrant, but that's what I was. For one year, I gave up my identity, tip toed off the grid, and learned a lesson in humility and humanity.
 Before I decided to move to Barcelona, I taught English at a continuation high school for at-risk youth on the border of Mexico. Every day, I was met with the exhausted eyes of my students, who had walked and waited hours to cross into the United States. In the rain, in the heat, attending to siblings with bagged lunches, they lined up for a shot at the American Dream. In the blue-black morning they braved their journey, accompanied by parents’ prayers, wiping sleep from their eyes, homework in their hands. Although half our students weren’t “legal” citizens, my school taught with the mindset that education, if nothing else, should be equitable. Each day they told me stories in broken English of cartels and kidnapping. Most days, it hurt to listen. I called them my heroes. 
They loved me and I loved them, but somewhere between my whiteboard and their desks, there was a disconnect, an ocean between us. It wasn’t until I asked them to put their story on paper, that I realized that language was an invisible bridge neither one of us had the words to cross. They would fumble with adjectives, unsure and hesitant, their mouths’ searching for the English counterpart to all their Spanish emotions. Between rolling r’s our eyes would meet, we both wanted so badly to understand, but there was still a border between us. My students and I each felt guilty and embarrassed at our inability to find our footing. There were no syllables to meet the different paths we walked. Out of 300 staff and students, only three people at my school didn't speak Spanish, I was one of them. There was this gaping question mark that tickled my conscience. I realized curriculum will never reach character if you don’t understand culture. I craved palabras, to find roadmaps to their story. 
I knew there was an easy way to solve this: take classes, buy Rosetta Stone, practice on my 45-minute commute. But I have never liked easy. Through struggle we learn about the parts of our self that are waiting to find a voice. And once you find that voice, you truly learn to sing. With frustration biting at my heels, I decided to leave my comfort zone. I gave up my adorable San Diego beach cottage, waved goodbye to some of the best friends I’ve ever known, and moved to Barcelona. It wasn’t until I stepped foot on Spanish soil that I realized the extremity of what I had done.
 I studied for months before, begged my students to quiz me, watched movies in Spanish to try to begin a conversation with the world I would walk into. It wasn’t until a taxi driver asked for my new Spanish address that I realized how lost I truly was. I had moved to a country with no friends, no job, and no mastery of the language. At the moment, shaking in the back of a Barcelona cab, I felt I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
 “Que?” “Que?” The driver barked at me. “No entiendo.” He couldn’t understand what I was saying. My trembling hand wrote the down my new address.
 I always had a way with words. I tinkered with language and its magic to alter perspective and inspire change. I wrote poetry that evoked goose bumps. I worked as an investigative journalist begging the world to ask more questions. Words were my superpower, and I had given them away.
 Because of the varied dialects in Spain, English is not always a priority. In Barcelona, most children learn Castellano, Spanish, and then the local language, Catalan. The “don’t- worry-everyone-speaks-English” tourist mentality just doesn't apply. There was no one to help, no one to translate. I thought of my students and how badly I wanted to learn.
In Barcelona, I worked as an English teacher at language schools, conducted one-on-one lessons, and taught a speaking class at a local high school. “You know no Spanish?” They would ask me. I would smile and say “un poco.” Just a little. 
My first three months in Barcelona, felt like trying to complete a puzzle with half the pieces missing. I had to find new friends, support myself on a barely-there income and navigate a city of unnamed alleyways and unfamiliar traditions. Too poor to pay for Spanish classes, each day I spent hours on the Internet, writing Spanish flashcards and memorizing phrases. As I slowly rebuilt my superpower in a different tongue, the calendar marched forward.
I knew the day was coming that my ninety-day visa would expire, and I would be forced to make a choice. I could stay, live illegally, and give up my right as a citizen. Or I could return to America, and slip back into a comfort zone that always left me craving more. I was learning too much to cut this adventure short. 
There were serious moments of regret. I would call home crying because it took me three days to find nail polish remover, or because without health insurance a doctor’s visit cost a week’s salary. With a handful of Spanish in my pocket, a bank account in single digits, and longs walks in the rain to work, I knew how my students back in Chula Vista felt. Now, my eyes were like theirs, tired and pleading for understanding. 
Christmas was looming and I would return home to the United States for a short visit. Excited to see my family and friends, and ecstatic to speak English, I boarded my flight back home with a layover in Munich. 
In December, Germany was cold and unforgiving. A snowstorm had grounded all flights and with hotel vouchers and routine apologies, passengers were asked to stay the night. In yet another desert of foreign tongues, I searched frantically for someone to translate the situation. Only one question loomed in my mind: if I left the airport would I have to go through customs? I received quizzical nods. 
Customs meant I could be deported. The stamp on my passport was well past the ninety-day tourist visa. And even during a giving season, I knew my chances weren’t good. That night I slept on the floor of the Munich airport. I hid my passport and cell phone in my bra, for fear of being robbed, and completely stopped feeling like a person. A citizen who mattered. I remember a chill waking me in the middle of the night. As my eyes focused I was staring face to face with a large rat, scouring for rest as aggressively as me. This is what it feels like to be second-class citizen; I thought, to give up your identity for a shot a something different, something better. 
After a New Jersey holiday and tales of my adventure, I returned to Barcelona a week later. As I was ushered through customs, I held my breath, wondering if they would let me into a country I didn’t belong. My mind drifted to California and students crossing borders. They gave me a stamp and ushered me back to Barcelona, where I would live illegally for the next ten months. There and then I decided to savior every minute, talk with as many locals as possible. I would make myself as part of this world, even if I was told I wasn’t.
 Almost a year later, I left Spain, carrying on four hour conversations in Spanish, giving the locals directions, and feeling more Catalan than American. Barcelona had taught me how to stand in my own strength when all support was gone. 
When I tell people of my experience they say, “I could never do what you did.” I simply respond, “Sure you can. You just have to be okay with being uncomfortable.” 
As a teacher in California’s San Fernando Valley, I speak about my experience to a similar group of students. We talk about struggle and what it has taught us. We talk about the borders that we cross, on land or in our minds, to find opportunity, to find ourselves. I throw around words like perspective and humilty, talk about getting lost to find myself. Now I can look my students in the eye and tell them , “Sinceramente comprendo tu historia porque es la mía también.” I truly understand your story, because it is mine too.

Saturday 17 August 2013



By Kelly Grace Thomas


When you love everything this much, heartbreak is just another day of the week

on smoky porches the stories never quiet,

I fight them with chardonnay,

look hard into silent spaces that leave room for ghosts to roam.

Every playground has its bullies

And recess breaks like storm clouds, waiting to  release blue thunder.  

Air has an accent of questions only children know the answers to.

I tell myself that pride keeps the second-guessing at bay.

That the fragile hand stitched plan of things to come is just another piece

of  a home I haven’t yet unpacked.

This jigsaw of fighting harder or walking away is a last meal

leaves me craving one more moment

of a course where I try my case.

I want to baggage check the anger, pay silence its fee

to stop bankrupting my certainty

the nine circles are only seasons

shaking the earth, where fault lines form.

I bow to these fractures that start from the soil and spread to the sea.

Thursday 8 August 2013

Support a Local Documentary! Support Music and the Arts!

My amazing sister is filming a documentary about a super UNIQUE cover band at the Jersey Shore. Please help her KICK START this amazing project Click here :

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