by Aaron Samuels
photos by Julianne Popa
Grandpa Origin Story
Grandpa Samuels was a tall man with broad shoulders and a laugh that would punch you in the chest. It is said that he used to run through rainstorms in Jamaica and come home completely dry. He was so fast; he would run between the raindrops. When they came for his family with bullets and knives, he swam across the ocean on the back of a jellyfish and made a new home for his family in New York. The first thing he did was cut open his kidney and peel out a large green lime. He took the lime and the jellyfish to the southernmost point in Brooklyn in the middle of the summer. It was so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. So he fried the jellyfish and the lime and cooked them until they were dead. Then he threw them into the ocean and promised he would never return. The trick was that only the jellyfish knew the way back, which is why I have never been to Jamaica. And the lime, well Grandpa seemed to get along just fine without it. When grandma asked him what is was like to live without a part of himself, he just shrugged his mountains and said, that’s what it means to be black. And he never ate another lime again. According to my parents, on the day I was born, they found thirty 5 jellyfish washed up on the coast of the Hudson River. Nobody knew where they came from. I came out of my mother fist first, with a sour look in my eyes, like I was demanding to be taken home.
After the funeral
Grandpa would send parts of himself in the mail
whenever we needed a new computer.
My dad would explain:
the motherboard is the computer’s spine,
without it, we would only have a bunch of pieces.
Dad and I would sit for hours,
as he taught me how to rebuild Grandpa
piece by piece.
Listen to the spinning magnet in Grandpa’s chest,
he would say. That’s how we know he is awake.
Grandpa would send us more memory,
when we were running low,
or when the memory we had was corrupted.
I am not sure if I ever met Grandpa, but when dad placed
the RAM into my still growing fingers,
I saw the old man’s hulking figure on our front porch.
That’s enough, dad said.
Sometimes, one can have too much memory.
Dad shivered and took a long bruise out of the skeleton
computer, and placed it back in his upper cheek
and all I heard was grandpa’s billowing laugh.
My first trip to the computer store, mom asked me
where we were going.
To get Grandpa, I said.
We are going to get a new Grandpa.
After I check the condom,
the ghost of her
glides me to the sink,
& carries two ice waters
for the waiting melody
in my bedroom.
Before I hush open the doorknob,
places two gourmet chocolates
between my teeth—one for me
and one for the beating heart
wearing my athletic shorts.
My lover pulls for my neck,
takes one of the orbs
under her tongue.
As we bring
our lips to touch,
a shadow whispers
into my dripping ear,
not too soft,
not too fast,
& reaches her hand
into my fingers
like a glove.
Together, my ghosts
and I burrow into the body—
each ticking lilt
Every inch of flesh
the makings of a ghost. ◥
Aaron Samuels is a Pushcart-nominated poet, a nationally touring speaker, and an acclaimed facilitator of critical identity discussions. Raised in Providence, Rhode Island, by a Jewish-American mother and an African-American father, Aaron discovered spoken word poetry at age 14 when his English teacher told him he was not allowed to break meter. After declining this advice, Aaron went on to become one of the premiere performance poets in the country, featuring on TV One’s Verses & Flow, HBO’s Brave New Voices, and TEDx Washington University. His work has appeared in multiple journals including the Tidal Basin Review, Apogee Journal, and Muzzle Magazine. His first book Yarmulkes & Fitted Caps was released on Write Bloody Publishing in fall 2013. More information can be found at aaronsamuelspoetry.com
Julianne Popa is an analog photographer. Raised between wild-flowers in the southern Carpathians and the Spanish Mediterranean Sea. Julianne is a bit of an introvert and does not like to talk much about her (or her work). She takes plenty of photos every week but does not publish but a few. She mostly captures herself, nature, and her beloved ones.