melinda noack

family photo, south l.a., 1996


——my family stands
——with my family
——on a bare lawn

——a smaller version of myself
——clutches a blonde doll

——that’s where we begin

——a long drive without a map
——to the place
——where my dad almost
——in a sea with edges


in another version
of this story
he is no longer

my dad

in another version
I remember more

than the stair’s whine
as my cousins and I
crawl upstairs
to a floor
that cannot give

I remember more
than the dares

to hold breath
in the basement

to mix vinegars
in the backyard

I remember
more than the tubes
in my second grandma’s


——my dad
——his half-sisters
——and half-brothers
——and their children
——all leave

——the bathtub
——bone dry

——I learn to speak
——the language
——of empty

——learn dryness
——is more than
——a curse

——and have no need
——to say goodbye




Through two sets of windows
I could see my dad cradling something,
laughing and bobbing his head in Leslie’s Pool Supplies
as I waited in the car with Sheryl Crow.
She was teaching me to distrust
Roman men as I practiced peeling
my thighs off pleather seats. “I laid my soul
down,” she cooed, “I’ll always remember.”
I asked her if I too would always remember,
this day, in the car, waiting for my dad for forever.
“Three days in Rome,” she repeated. I slid my hands
into my pockets, finding it strange how firm
loose, fresh rosemary felt. Dad returned
and I was disappointed to learn he didn’t find Leslie
but only a filter cartridge he bought on sale.
Mom would be pleased. I heard something
about a book, a familiar girl.
The word voyeur–some kind of thief.
We drove to find mom with brand new streaks
of sun in her hair. The hairdresser went heavy
with the highlights so mom tipped less. Maybe,
she’d find somewhere else. I watched her anger,
losing her head like a dandelion and rosemary
falling to her shoulders. Maybe I’d go to Rome.
Pick Roman rosemary. The weight of the dream
and the pool filter box with rosemary sprouted
at the corners left indents in my thighs
until Sheryl murmured, “This is home.”
I went outside to meet our neighboring hill,
returned the rosemary from my pockets. Watched
the needles re-thread and felt my parents
standing there, watching me. Sheryl’s voice now replaced
with the parked truck’s summer heaving and popping.
Dad holding the filter. Mom pulling a dandelion from her pocket.
The wind rustling.



melinda noack is a poet living in Oakland and a writer at an affordable housing nonprofit in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in sPARKLE & bLINKDream Pop PressOatmeal Magazine, and Two Lines Press, among others.  Once upon a time she helped build Lacuna, “the world’s most public library.” Now she mostly burns incense for her books to smell. Say hello at