The sum of us

Good Girls don’t write about sex

Overtly

They disguise their want in paralipsis

And allegory

Hoping the one they wrote it for

Reads in between watery lines

Just as we think we know and we don’t know

How to play a violin to life

What specific string to rub dulce, with bow and how?

To produce the exact sound

Of heaven

For we rely on machines purchased

In stores that wrap them in paper and

Blush behind their make-up

To soften the blow of loneliness

They even offer them in pink with ears.

I decided long ago to

Forgo batteries and think of you instead

With my flesh and my bones

Nothing more but those images in my head

Of you lying back unclothed

Ready for feasting

I’m long past apologizing

For my need at midday to think

About sex

Women do it too

Maybe not in the office bathroom with a magazine

Or tiny screen zooming in

But quieter, and softer, lying in the bath

Lights out, candles giving off waxy

Myth

The world is changed outside and we

No longer obey fluorescent lights

I dim ours and the moon in turn

Shies from long curtains

In dusk I see the curves of you

Reminding me, as if I needed reminder

Of why I think of you all the long day

And how and in what ways

For I don’t believe there will be a time

I’ll stop boiling my blood in imagining

And the moment we come together

Is ever more for waiting

It seems at times I wait, more than I actually find

Perhaps the rejoinder of fantasy is

We can inhabit it more, than what lies real

Yet as you undress, I know

Nothing I can conjure up, can compete

With the real feel of your skin against mine

The human touch of our hands enjoined

I may be called creative, but I could never

Describe those pleasured hours well

We are it seems, beyond all living illustration

For beauty when it is actual

Is not the plastic doll on the shelf

Nor her vibrating friend, who promises

To get you off so easily.

Some things are worth waiting for

Some people are necessary, chasing eternal

For even one night with you, would suffice

Against a hundred with someone else

I cannot replace what you do to my heart

Every time I see you turn a corner

And smile that crooked smile of yours

Eyes glinting, a little cocked half walk, half run

We meet in our dreams

We stay together when apart

It is the sum of us

We add up

Even as everything else

Does not

Letter to a dead friend at 5am

Natalie my friend.

Because you are you know. A real friend.

Though you lie beneath your roses now and I

feel as if I lie beneath them, with you.

For I am not as alive, once, twice, three times

as you ever were

you, who were beloved in life, you, who passed too soon, too well

into the light, beyond to your garden

where those who loved you and there were many

sat cross-legged waiting for you to tell a story

make us laugh, make us smile, radiate with your old world charm

for you were one of the last ones, the best generation

reminding me of my grandmother, those fine ladies of yester year

who did not have our mistakes and our errors, the Booming Boomers, befuddled Gen X kids, lost Millennial’s who

never quite learned, how to wake up early and brush their hair, until

it gleamed.

I keep your photo, I retain your last message to me, I have a quote on my

desk you wrote

and mindful always, you told me; Listen, don’t give a shit

don’t!

People will hate you, especially if you are good

it’s the way of the world, you told me, smell the roses, don’t give a damn

and don’t forget to swear copiously …

I have forgotten many things, my rule book is sabotaged, I keep making

the same mistakes, *stop it!* (say nothing, it’s safer!) I blunder as if I were a child sometimes, unsure

of the etiquette, not able to read minds and plunge my hands into

the mass of wriggling thought, to harness something tangible

I never understood humans ever so well (why are they so cold?)

their mascinations, their secret selves, it were as if being

an only-child I watched from the outside with bemusement

(or horror) (or incomprehension) why do they survive without needing

something? Someone? More than ego? Self-satisfaction? What

urges them to action? If not something meaningful?

One minute they would be saying, they loved me and the next

turning a cold shoulder, the variations, the deceptions, the quiet

subtext I did not relate to, what ever did they mean when

they went silent and I dropped like a dying star (autism is

more honest than what we deem normal, i’m certain)

out of their orbit? How to tell? What to care about? (I am

afraid of not mattering to anyone, and everything I do being futile, I don’t

want to go my entire life as lonely as now, with that hollow

fear inside my mouth, unable to come out, lodged deep

like a burrowing moth will press itself like unbidden velvet).

Natalie – – you said; Child, don’t care so much

for nobody cares as much as they say they do

unless God is watching and even then, they would be loved

without putting forth effort, they would have worship without

knowing the feel of ground skinned beneath their knees

few will truly care, this idea you will have a devotional

following, is only for the wicked and the vain, if you are lucky

I mean — really lucky

you may have friends you can count on one hand

who truly, when the chips are down, and before dawn has come

will turn to you and rise you up

from sickness, in health, in death, who will come and pay their respects?

I recall your funeral, how we passed down the long line

many were your contemporaries, women you said used to

criticize you for swearing overly, even accused you of making it up

about your mother, (surely her life wasn’t that hard!) but that’s why I love you, you said

for you believed me straight away and with the innocence

of children we came together, I had my first seventy year old friend

staying long at the coffin, flowers on top, clouds filled with rain as

if God were waiting until we passed, to let loose his tears

I didn’t believe in God, as you did, I did believe in you and you

were faithful and hypocritical like the best of us

a flawed, imperfect, relic of a human being with

magnificent hair and a dirty laugh.

I should have come visit more often, I said,

as we all say when someone meets their grave and the

smell of dirt is in our nostrils, time being as it is, so fickle

and short, and we, who are still young, think we are far

from this hour, not so far, not so far.

You told me, listen, forget what you’ve learned about

piety and mortality, people are beasts, the world is cruel

but if you can find someone who loves you, then hold on

for dear life, and do your best to help them through

for there is nothing sadder than loneliness in a room

full of people and there is nothing better than one hand

reaching for you in a crowd

pulling you out

into fresh air, where if we were the same age

I suspect I would have stood up to those who bullied you in

your thirties and told your mother to go hang when she

said she found you a disappointment

I know how that feels Natalie, we shared the same stories

forty years apart, when you were born I was not

still feel I am not, I miss you because

you were a riddle in a lesson in a riddle in a lesson and I

don’t meet people like you very often, nor have I in a long while

stood in your garden and smelt the roses, they bloom just

before the light you said, just before it begins to dawn and

that is when I would most like to close my eyes for the last time

and sleep forever.

On that day you died, I watched out of my window

for surely there would be a sign, something of you

gathering into the ether, if I took my glasses off and squinted

maybe I could see in the unyielding darkness a little of what

you spoke about, that stirring of Gods and tempests and

humans lost on their own gloat, people who exist without

giving a damn about, each other, or the basics of care, I never

understood, even if I were well versed as you, on parents who

didn’t really want (me) (us) (you) (I) (anything).

Last night I dreamed of going braless to the store and seeing

an old lover who stared at my chest the entire time, I dreamed

of boarding a plane with nobody on it, except waving oxygen masks

I dreamed of you and I dreamed of my mother

in the dream of you, you were walking through the rose

bushes and in time you were out of sight, and music I liked was

playing through an open window and I saw you take flight

and soon you were high in the sky and my eyes could no

longer follow your trajectory and I thought – – maybe I should

let go, but I don’t want to, I never have wanted to, I can’t

it isn’t in me to let go – – – (God I wish it were!) and the dream was about my mother

and she had always been gone and wasn’t there and

I was (holding her hair brush)

and I was (stepping into a lake)

and I was (still)

left behind to take these memories of people and sustain them

as if a bomb had obliterated everything but my recollection

be it real or wrong or scattered like pollen, I don’t know

I don’t know what to do Natalie, to be loved? Be glad of shrugging

them all and living in a cabin in the woods? Or to matter, to

be of consequence, like I felt with you. Was it because you were

old or just kind or just hurt or just battered by your own mother who

you said told you she had wished she had

a boy and not a girl and not you and not you and not you.

Why do the good ones die? Why will one day I watch them

throw flowers for my mother and long then, to have had her

tightly woven around me like clay

but untouchable is untouchable and yearning is for children

(she won’t have a funeral anyway, she doesn’t believe in God

either, and she won’t invite you, no she won’t invite you least of

all to a wake without a wake).

So grow up and put your shoes on child, your feet will get muddy if

you continue to walk bare foot when it rains and the thorns

will always sting even if you are pricked countless times

there is a sharp edge to beauty you said, did you know, I was once beautiful?

I know I replied, I can tell, you still are, because a woman with

wrinkles like ships on her cheeks can smile just once and

a room is devoured by her radiance

if others can’t see that, it’s all right

I think of you now, and then and in the future

alongside my day as I work beneath the fan, it is still hot

in September, yes you said, it always was in bloody infernal Texas.

People remain alive in our memories or they are forgotten

as I am, before they die

it’s all about how much they exist and what magical

recipe keeps them real and how much glue they possess

and whether they hold on, out of sheer bloody mindedness

or just for the hell of it

or perhaps they swear a lot and eat three over-easy eggs for breakfast

when the sun rises and the day is golden

and we begin over

like fools

like humans

like lovers of people who are warm and good

Natalie, like you.

Invisible ink

When they say someone is driven to distraction

can’t stop thinking about …

I imagine

a woman running in the rain

newspaper overhead, painted nails

pursed lips, the crook of a smile despite

her hose getting wet, soaking her clavicle, glistening like

some jewel in a torrent might

suddenly fruit

it reminds me of the first time I heard Suzanne Vega sing

not knowing she was singing for a woman

but something in the detail caught my eye

how she felt the same hot breath, steaming glass

lost bra strap, showing slip, untucked blouse

a stray hair, falling in her eyes, it took all of my

self possession not to reach across and brush it

back into place

although I’d rather press my face

into her neck and lose myself to the sound

of rain and tempests, growing inside me

wordlessly showing her the crocheted waves

with every brush stroke

a painting cannot be completed without

sufficient water and concentration

much like a woman cannot be pleasured without

the breath of sea and infinite patience

it is like learning an instrument

your fingers growing sore in repetition and as they

tire, music is formed, her mouth opening

throat reddened, thighs dampening, heat climbing

you find yourself approaching

a cusp of wonder without worthy language

to describe, its motion

when I am tired, sorrowful, when I feel wan daylight

setting behind me, proffering dusk and your absence keenly

I close my eyes and feel her in every song

that girl beneath the awning, trying to close her

umbrella, her shapely legs and slender ankles

breasts rising against damp silk, in one long sigh

there are passions within us

that have teeth and fire

where hunger is a permanence

just like the silver locket hanging

about your neck and how if you play with it

I find myself needing to be

that silver, that shape, that falling

between you, against your skin, as if we can possess

another which we never can and so we try

again and again

thinking up ways

as coffee grows cold

as people flit in and out

hardly noticing the girl

who sits alone

wrapped in thought of you

a blunt pencil by her side

writing

in invisible ink

the landscape of a

woman

lost in rain

just out of reach

Even as I tie my shoes,

the distraction in my chest feels like you

has your taste on my lips, wetted with

unspoken remonstration

time can pass so fast, until years are bundled into telegraphs

yellowing with their swollen journey

still so few stand out, make themselves remarkable

just by their bloodied being

those who shine, one in a thousand, more, tops of heads

in a crowd, who gets the crown?

With everyone chiming for attention, I give it to you

even as you do not ask , such is my cinema of devotion

watching the replay in my mind, every turn

lifted wrists, precious movement, chiseled in memory

if you asked me I’d know exactly how you felt

even without touching, the xylophone of your small ribs

for I have spent hours sculpting your shape

these silhouettes and textures known by one

who watches ever observant, silent in her study of years

the first time, then now

landscapes apart, still, as if time has

claimed you a piece of her, nobody else

has a part, they are forgotten on periphery

ordinary to your owning

as long as I continue not to speak aloud

I can pretend it’s real

observing you, as you might a

longed for thing, just out

of reach

blinded to all else

a rapture without

name

Don’t go home tonight

Don’t go home tonight

don’t leave this warm circle we built with our skin and bones

I killed an ant earlier and I felt badly

as I had watched it climb up a book and grab on to a little morsel

it has always made me feel remorseful for killing even the smallest creature

I don’t eat flesh for that reason

aside, you, I eat you, feast upon, alive and laughing your deep throated mirth

it never occurred to me one day I would have in my arms

the vibrating surround of a whole woman

the majesty of her glory, how she shifts like light

from somber to ejubilent in the fracture of a moment

women are not easy creatures, to tame a little, or keep satisfied

their minds, their bodies, are compartments of mystery

open the same drawer twice, out comes a different response

I will never understand or fathom, your maze of contradictions

that may be half the pleasure, for we who are simple clay

love the complexity and madness that is your fire

your dimpled skin and reddened throat leaning backward to my entreaty

the sounds you make, when I bring you close

a high keening like joy is just out of focus, a mayfly touching surface

I hold those memories inside me like water

crossing the empty desert of a day without you

night comes and goes as fast as pleasure

resisting my petition to remain static and eternal

if it would just slow and stay, I’d render you speechless in slow movement

the stirring of cream into coffee, languorous and ancient in ritual

until you flung yourself back into enervated ocean

where together we met beneath water and the whole world

was lit from beneath us

my love, asseyez-vous à côté de moi. faire battre mon cœur

stay

stay with me tonight

let us both be lulled into believing

morning does not need to dawn

Untouchable

l.

I slept though I did not sleep

onboard the memory of you

wrapped around my legs

entwined we touched, we did things

in real life we would not

like thirsty vines found purchase

I wake hot with a sore-throat

for calling you in dream

you stay just far enough away to be

exquisite, painful

still, you are with me

all throughout this fatigued day

my hair matted with thought of your voice, your mouth

heart faster for desire unspoken

recollections like film reel

thin wrists, strong arms, long neck

slender back of an archer sending her arrow

colt legs as brown as sundown eclipsing

autumn leaves

the bedroom lure of your perfumed eyes

I saw it years ago and it pierced me

as keenly as a real knife might

cut through something willing and laid it open

to conquest

I said nothing then,

my tongue in my mouth

longing to taste yours

stays quiet, stays quiet, stays quiet

for to break the spell

is to wake.

ll.

If magnolia trees did not take an eternity

to bloom

I’d plant one and plant you

watching your volumineuse petals

open and fracture

my thirsting heart

with your uncertain entreaty

I lie awake at night

unable to breathe, to sleep, to be still

able only to replay

the expressions of your face

with such easy unconscious grace

my cheeks burn from laughing

smiling, it is as if

a new sun was born in the softness of your hair

one in which I felt desire

something hidden in dark too long

my hands tied, I sit in a high backed

chair sipping my penance, my lack of ability

to ever be close to your ideal

for I have never competed and I will not

share you with all the others

trying not to be noticed when I glance

again and again, at your smooth legs and arms

why weren’t you mine all along?

I had thought so then and now

wordless, I did nothing

for you are made of crystal

catching all colors

my prism is just one

I will the rain to come

drench us both, obliterate sound

words I would say if I could,

if I could

if I could

silenced, in downpour

I walk away

I stay, watching you

until you are the storm in my eyes

or tears, growing their want

ever, untouchable.

The night I went out without shoes on

Wasn’t it a miracle?

Neither of us died trying to get to the meeting place

all the lights in the world seemed out that night

I had only known how to drive a few months

you were an old hat who routinely broke laws

with bottles wedged between your legs, a

cigarette burning ash down your fingers

there had always been a desire in me

for brokenness, as if I recognized in those

souls, something in myself

or a freedom in people who abandoned ettiquette

and discarding it, became suddenly free

I liked the wild, I liked women with untamed eyes

and dirty minds

the moon was full that night and we watched owls

gather themselves in flight and swoop

cloudy restaurant lights flickering in and out on the side

of the empty high way

I had watched films about a life like this

I said to you, films like Gas Food Lodgings or Paris Texas

where the greatest landscape was the tarmac

and the wide abundant merciless sky

where people sheltered in shadow and night creatures

crawled unseen and women met by closed restaurants

the flicker of their 24 hour advertising, sizzling against blackness

you were strange looking as if you had

deliberately tried to destroy yourself and I

forgot to wear shoes, my feet hot against still baked

soil, biting fiends flying in humid air, thick with ‘unspoken

entreaties

I wanted you to slam me there and then against

the unresisting brake of my car

leaving a bruise the size of texas clouds

I wanted to break apart like rocks with gem stones

inside, find something in both of us

bigger than the sky, deeper than weary darkness

but I was too young then and fear wrapped herself

like a blanket of stars and pulled me back

into the world, into doing what is right, into being careful

and sitting up straight when you eat at the table

all these years later, I still think

if we had set the car on automatic and just ridden

away

down that empty highway, into hushed, blooming night

we might have found the part of us

still lacking

every day we wake up

wash our face, comb our hair

and look too long in the mirror

searching for the lost parts

of our dark dreams

Someone else’s rapist

You

someone else’s rapist

lean back in client chair

shadows of survivors indented behind

it is difficult

not to want to hurl you from that sacred place

screaming; You do not have the right! Haven’t you possessed enough flesh and soul?

I place one hand over the other, as if I am

wearing plastic gloves and submerging them in

hot dish-water, doing some kind of

domestic yoga move

instead of drinking or cursing or rising up with sword.

You are physically attractive, it might make people ask

why do you need to rape? Just like they ask; Why would he rape her?

Why did she wear that short skirt? All sorts of wrong-headed pronouncements

cluttering our throats with ire.

I have seen how women write, to prisoners like you

fascinated by the ‘bad boy,’ even marrying you

you, who would chop them into little red

pieces and eat them, if they only

could find a decent frying pan.

Maybe it is like having a tiger behind a cage

his heaving, ancient, lustrous fur, intoxicating sanity.

I do not pretend to understand

although I know we are strange, muddled creatures

the mechanisms of desire, who is to judge?

The one who wishes to be urinated on, beaten

savagely, tied up and left for dead, or

marry Ted Bundy on a Tuesday?

There are surely, limits, I think, as you

boldly express your hyperbole repentance

and I silently disbelieve your every word.

I am thinking; It’s therapy like this rotten apple, looking shiny on the outside,

that is dismal and false, chewing out the center of our profession

where sociopaths play with

good intentioned rules like

greedy children with plastic building blocks.

I have no doubt, if you were truly

alone with me and not

an emergency button away

hanging loosely from my slender neck

you’d bite me until my skin became

a map of welts and hurt, leaving a necklace of rose blooms, then

drive yourself through me like an

arrow, I will never forget the piercing of

and whilst you feel your pleasure in lies

I am disgusted that I have to bear witness

to your play acting, as surely no woman living

should have to hear anything you have to say

ever again.

There are times, being who I am

isn’t what I want and

I’d rather peal off this weary ‘caring’ suit

wear red tights with a monacle and no bra

drink peach schnapes at mid-day with one olive

my legs flung over afghan sofa

fingers pushing lovers between my legs.

But we become who we are, and I am

the psychotherapist who must at ten am see

rapists

as they abuse the system the way they

butchered women’s bodies

tasting the scars like livid memories

on their ugly thin lips of denial and delight.

I don’t ask you why you did it

I know as well as you, and do not want

to hear your false apologies, you are no more

repentant than the lion, who having eaten his

fill, will sit in the sun sated, licking his thick fur

clean.

I want to apologize to the women

I shall see later on

who inherit this contaminated ghost-world chair

though I clean it after you have left

your stink remains in my mind

as your poisonous choices infiltrate this supposed sanctuary

and I feel your hands on me like glue, as if you were not

slouching in front of me, but pealing

your clothes off and rushing your terror

in my face.

We are after all, only

a thin surface of respectability in a

hidden gleaming jungle of pretense,

if the lights were to dim

if the others forgot I was working late

one day, you’d quietly like a lynx, lock my door

and cut me to pieces with the

hatred in your emptied eyes.

I know, you see, what it feels like to have

a dagger thrust through your body, filled with damage

a mind of repulsion, set on repeat

the disgust creatures like you, leave women like me

to deal with, deep in our Kintsugi psyches.

This is why I sit here, knowing if I

turn you down, I lose my job , yet aware you will not

from me, receive favor or even, compassion

I do not have any.

I would, if I could

turn violence against you

damn you to torment yourself

but, I suspect that will happen one day

when you drop your soap, in the cinder-block showers.

if that makes me Old Testament

I’m okay with that

you see, I never signed up for victimhood

I carry a knife in my loose sleeve

longer than your worst horrors

you are deficient in your belief

you are still a menace, we have

already begun the war, you have already fallen

to our rebuke

if I’m judged for this, I will remind people

choices leave scars, as hunters do

and we who survive

will turn our scars outward

never again

let ourselves be lost

to the predator who thinks

he can outwit the deer

Gandhi said; An eye for an eye leaves

the whole world blind,

I have learned, I can see

in the dark.

Submit to The Kali Project

I am editing another Anthology in collaboration with CrossTree Press called The Kali Project.

If you are an Indian woman Poet/Artist (or you know of one who may be interested, either in India or internationally) please consider submitting work to The Kali Project. This anthology is a collection of poetry, prosetry, and artwork from women of Indian heritage, in response to the courageous determination of Indian women to gain full equality in India.

Subjects to consider writing about include but are not limited to: Feminism, equality, political upheaval, women’s-rights, sexual violence, LGBTQ rights, gender identity, violence, marriage, concepts of Indian female identity, inequality at the workplace. Change.

The Kali Project is open for submissions until October 22, 2020.

You can submit up to THREE poems and THREE pieces of artwork.

Please submit poems with your full name as the title in Word.

If you are interested in submitting for the front cover of The Kali Project your painting will be considered for the front cover and/or inside the anthology. The cover will be color. The inside is black and white. All artwork needs to be able to be reproduced in black and white.

Please note CrossTree Press is a women-run, discrimination-free publishing house based in the USA. The Kali Project will be published in Winter 2020 and will be available via Amazon in Kindle & Print format.

Any questions / or for submissions please email: submissionscrosstreepress@gmail.com

Please share this post widely. Thank you very much. For more information please join The Kali Project anthology site on Facebook. Or follow my personal Facebook page.

Pirate radio

Totems she left behind

what lost?

What gained?

cinereal clouds pierce cimmerian dusk

your fingers fastening in my hair

we interlaced in one another

le plus vieux pont, la plus jeune émotion

lineament of women,

crossing from mortal to sempiternal

drawing you to me, redolent with love-making

I empty myself inside you, like flowers plucked will dry

and retain their incense

your neck a budding posy of marble obsidian, onyx, malachite, rose quartz

pillowed thighs, yielding beneath entreaty

a woman is nectar, ambrosia, a mist on the breath of dusk

her center a temple to invoke

donne-moi ta soif laissez-moi vous rassasier

entreat the reciting of capture til we ripen into rapture

wordless in renewal you lend me promise,

I bestow the eternal endeavor turning metal dial,

through tempest comes outlying supplication of wireless reverie

Dormir sous les vagues

it’s 1999 again and we’re drying our wet socks on hot radiators,

the tips torn by exertion our fingers

chill-blain, curling mouths open to each other

fais moi pleurer de plaisir like blind seals

dipping beneath ocean coming up for air

as fire crackles across pirate radio wave