For my first friend in America

Candice Louisa Daquin, Poem

Your hand covers mine
we pose for the camera and smile a 100 watt smile
The American Way
since immigrating here, I have learned how to park a truck
discovered that shorts are not as anathema in Texas as in Cannes
I understand, ordering drinks you size up, trying clothes, you size down
topsy-turvy world for a foreigner, still lost in her baggage claim.
You made me feel easy and comfortable like an Adirondack chair
smooth wood, deep grain, eccentric shape
this became my town thanks to you taking the time to show me the way to fit in
with my queer, mixed-race looks different on the outside ways
no vegetarians, just signs proclaiming ‘love equals a man and a woman’ 
you stayed my hand when I wanted to give up and go back.
Now, the candles dim in the windows of the bar we once sat 
as if they know you are now gone, where the bird died and we buried it
flowers grow up and a little crepe myrtle, mountain laurel blooms wildly
across splayed streets replete with thin cats
seeking their breakfast in Taco huts, the color of watermelon
where I ate among the gladioli without fear.
In the beginning you were like Tiger Balm rubbed over my anxiety
I could make my way through the throng as good as anyone
your watchful eyes on my narrow back, urging me onward
how will I continue with you gone?
Family, you said, comes from the heart
you may find someone you love in the strangest places
I found you in a Chinese buffet eating Wonton soup
in my skinny jeans you asked me if I used to be a dancer
I said yes, and now I unravel for a living
you took under your wing, that juniper girl who
didn’t know how to fit in a State six times the size of her country
taught her the measure of her adopted land, how to avoid being gay-bashed
and left out of BBQ invites because you don’t fit in and nothing about you ever will
like the time we planted trees and you warned, never forget to be merciful, to those less fortunate
white cranes flew languidly overhead, we shared Limeade and Tortas, our feet in hot puddles
I recall the first time you were sick, I said, you reminded me of my grandmother
and you frowned; I’m not old enough!
But what I meant was; she had a strength, nobody else could see
every time I went to school she’d wait in her high-waisted pants of crepe or wool
tight curled hair, wearing oversize sunglasses, her brown skin against a sea of white
standing below the stairs, nodding with a wink mouthing the words; You got this
nobody saw that side of her, just as people dismissed you as a Jesus Freak
I learned, it’s often the things people dismiss in you, that are the best parts. 
To the rose opening this day after your passing, I say, go now and live in the sun
I hear your voice, see your face nodding, you got this
I want to run backward and say please don’t leave me, don’t go
but I know you have to and I have to go on alone but holding your wisdom
imprinted upon my heart.