You Can’t Tetris Your Way Out of Trauma

Two poems by Laura Villareal

You Can’t Tetris Your Way Out of Trauma


I was never good at Tetris.

I watch you move the L block,
turn it so it fits with I.

You don’t know I know
you’re trying to arrange memories
into an order that makes them disappear.
After the desert,
after the new scrap metal,
after we miraculously walk away,   	
       after we gather our things
the next day from a towing company
in a town with the name of a cartoon cat.
After months adjusting our spines.

You flinch when a car comes at our side,
before it rests at a stop.

I understand. The memories
like new blocks set before you
wondering where to put them,
how to turn them to fit comfortably
in your brain. They appear unexpectedly—
a peripheral glint of metal,
a sudden stop startles you.

I feel I should’ve been able
to out steer the inevitable.

I often wonder what would’ve happened
if you were driving—how you would’ve
reacted when that speeding car came.

You remind me alive
is the best scenario.

I watch you build with precision
ensuring nothing stacks too high

& isn’t that the key—
we keep everything just below the surface.


Miss the Forest for the Trees

The green brained ball is a horse apple,
my mother tells me. There are still many things I cannot name.

I age into unknowing. Older, less blazing eyed,
wonder is microscopic. But grief—

crystalline and innumerable—
shines everywhere.

Like the park I spent my youth in,
I have become a manicured wilderness.

A new bridge & paved paths,
the bordering forest now opens

as if calling me in. So I go.
Stories warn us to be wary

of the forest’s invitation
but once I heard a lion’s yawn

through low cedar trees
& I answered that call too.

We return to what we know
even if it’s become unfamiliar.

As I walk between thinned trees
I find a shelter made from their felled companions.

Sometimes I mistake shelter for the trees.
Sometimes I wonder if you understand me at all.

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