Imperfect paradise

Today baby, everyone is pert and beautiful

Photoshopped at perfect angle

Swollen lips, weak jaw, 2000 friends with guitars

Can’t keep up, even if I were two and twenty

Better my generation-X lost our film

Before developing

Didn’t keep a record, of that mistake, or this bad day

We pretend and forget, imprecision a comfort blanket

Not wanting to keep in touch, why force natural closure with technology?

We lost your digits and never knew your surname

A blurry mystery of poor memories

Was it that candlelit poet’s bar now closed?

No proof, no evidence, if a tree falls, does anyone know, if it’s not on Instagram?

I liked your home dyed hair, we shared night under looming sky in damp sleeping bag

You fucked my ideals of love when you slept with her

Sent me on my way with a trash bag of belongings

A dead squirrel slothing skin, lay ackwardly beneath your window

Its stink remaining when I was gone

Rumor had it you used her hose as contraceptive

I never french kissed again, or wore tights

Her name was Bo, there’s only my recollection to endear spite

If I saw her today, she’d be married, still tan and leggy

I’d be tempted to gaze up, crack a joke about what denier she preferred

Glad I don’t have a Facebook post about him

Or the other errors, or the other sins

We ran without skin, coats, phones, without GPS location

A bum camera slung on collarbone, for special occasion

Your grimy hands entwined in mine

We knocked our shins on tree stumps

You don’t need Technicolor to be lovers

You took a photo of me nude against the bed

When we argued I tore it up and now it’s zero

Thankful, as I hadn’t used a razor in too long

Along with you and your cigarette butts making daisy wheels of carpet fiber

We smoked when we knew it would kill us

We didn’t floss

Those were the days of ugliness, sloth and 3am torn condoms

I loved your 90s dirty hair and sunburnt cheeks

Keanu in The Rivers Edge, chasing Dennis Hopper and his blow up doll Mary through pine forest

Lying in dead grass in the park, watching topless girls dance with loops of fire

You pressed into my hips, we made out and I can’t remember much besides, the way your fingers felt inside

Perhaps I left early and rode the bus back through dark city, head leaning against grimy glass

Maybe we slept all night and I gave birth

To the ecclipse of time

Shifting and changing

No evidence of

Similarity to now

An imperfect

Paradise

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The next generation

This isn’t a pity poem

who the hell wants to read one of those?

but if I’m honest

which I’m not very often

preferring to put on a mask and sit mutely smiling on the outside

it’s sometimes harder to pretend and say nothing

than let it out

if I did let it out

what would IT look like?

am I really so bad for having an urge to share?

the empty feeling inside

surely that’s how we hope to fill ourselves

with something other than hot air or quiet despair?

one thing worse than peripheral is rejection, so usually

we stay quiet about how we really feel incase it’s true

nobody really gives a damn once you’re grown

how I got to this juncture is the easy part

a girl is born, her gender is already

a strike against her in a world easier on men

we don’t treat girls very well

maybe there should also be a rule against small families having smaller families

call it what you like, I call it diminishment

I was diminishing before I was born

when there’s nowhere to go, you usually strive to go up

but I was bad at direction, turned into a box turtle and hid in my shell

hoping someone would pry me out

that was my second mistake

generally it’s worth noting, people do little for free

if I could tell myself that I’d have said; Don’t rely on anything but you

you end up staying inside too long by yourself

before you know it, even the language you speak

taints your chances to pretend to be normal

I look

at photographs of other people

they are surrounded by people, fitting in like

well crafted pieces of puzzles I do not fit

I was the kid sent off to eat with other families, never my own

it felt like a kick in the shins then, and everytime since

feeling ackward in a crowd

because I didn’t learn how

to belong

so this isn’t a pity poem

i’m not chafing with self imposed isolation

not the girl who smiles when she’s crying, or maybe I am

or the one who feels more alone when amongst a crowd

everything is so quiet when that’s how you’re born

it takes a fortitude I don’t possess to break the cycle

erase the twenty years forming a tongue without social skill

I hear the sounds of a party rising over the walls

a party I could be at though, I know

i’d be pressed against the wall without a way out

though all I’ve ever wanted is to learn a way in

i whisper

i am irrelevant in this scenario

self worth is tied to others even as we know it comes from ourselves

i didn’t generate any faith

so I don’t believe in God or me

but I do believe in you

if this was a pity poem I’d ask

why you didn’t help me learn how to live?

though I know the answer already

you couldn’t do it yourself, what chance for me?

we’re cut from the same cloth, you and I

that’s why we both hide

like the man in the high tower

did he ever feel as lonely as I do?

why didn’t he need

the things I cannot seem to reach

it’s like I am stretching out for them

but the betrayal of beginnings and everything after and before, is too deep

we betray ourselves most of all

in trying to be what we just aren’t able to

a teacher once told me you can be anything at all

that’s a lie I know it

we each have chances and some of us have fewer props

so we stand ackwardly by the side

trying to be someone we’re not

until the inauthenticty feels like a curse

we revert to type even as we dislike who we are

this was set in motion before we knew

we’re just the next generation of lost

not self pity, no, more like a pain

a mere poem cannot do justice

Against the unknown world

They move together like quicksilver

indisipherable in pursuit

there is such a love in his eyes

her smooth hands cup his mouth

drinking the words he would gush

if they were not pressed tightly, one to the other

locked in an embrace

that gives life

quickening as signature is fluid

when she finds out, she imagines telling her daughter twenty years hence

the story of her conception;

your father and I loved you very much

we lay down by the fireplace, he took me in his arms

from this passion you were forged into life

clay breathed upon, bearing breath and soul

you were wanted, even before you chose

to fill us with yourself

my stomach grew and grew until

it was a tight drum on which to paint

the symbols of your dream

**

He moved in her, his eyes tightly shut

he thought of other women, he thought of touching himself

in the office toilet at lunch with folded magazine

and why such things happened when he had all he could ever want

here in his arms, still he betrayed with desires, ill-tuned to eternal love

when she grew fat and round he did not

wish to hold her quite so tightly, or touch her hot flushed pressing flesh

he thought of others, he got up early, and jogged his frustration into sweat

**

Don’t worry the doctor smiled, with a savage wink

as she labored and her face grew red and her hands sought his

and he wanted to run from the room and shove well fed nurse

against the wall and pour his horror of birth and future into her lipsticked sighs

don’t worry the doctor smiled, with a savage wink

i’m going to sew her up even tighter, it will be like

Christmas day when you unwrap her again

the quintisential “husband’s stitch”

and over his starched cloak and gown, the doctors grey eyebrows

went up and down and he, who was lost

lurched and threw up at the violence and the shame

of men and of women and of life and death, inequality and lust

**

then his daughter was born

fat and round and squalling loudly

if he could have interpreted those words, he felt they spoke to him a repromand

for his cowardice and his fears, imagining being a father

of growing up and settling down, of love and impossible challenges and joys

he saw his wife’s face, wet with sweat and hair plastered down

he felt more than he had ever felt, the emptiness of the past replaced

no longing to empty himself in the coldness of pornography as she slept

a lifetime from the day he first took her to bed and

stripped her of choice with impregnated seed

and now he knew

the fear of men is the strength of women

his daughter fixed him with swollen red eyes

watching him with a stearness that seemed to say

you can do this, you got this, you are not your worst thought

you can be who you want to be, you can be my father, you can love these women

you can direct our future, reshaping mountains

or fall into the arms of least resistance, worship the emptiness of hollow gestures

she seemed to be saying with her tiny fists and pursed lips

turn away from your shallow sport, take this road with us

he who once was weak, grew with love

those things that once were, no more

his resilience, their armor

against the unknown world

Scar

(2016)

She said
Don’t be mad
But you have scars on your back
And as the paint of forty dried
I learned something new
You can fall from horses
Even in sleep
Where maybe in absinthe dream we met
By starlight
Indistinct
Yet you know my shape
From other times
When I was not myself

And you
You were always there

A whisper of conscience
A ribbon around my wrist
Falling in equal weight
We are born again and again
Sometimes you are a bird
And I the tree, you the land
To keep watch
Next time
Write your memories for me
In dark pearls
Lost in sand
Coming up as moon
forged in silver trees

Expansion

Gaining weight used to feel

dangerous

body parts blowing up, smothering familiarity

she wanted to be in control of everything and nothing could be controlled

so she took what she could instead …

her own flimsy pounds of flesh

the shrinking and expanding of time

denial and suppression, weezing like old men

enraptured by ballet dancer who starves herself to death

if she ignored her bodies longing to transform, she stayed small

and boys could circle her waist and say; you haven’t changed a bit! She could believe the lie and retrace time

could still be a slip of a girl, wearing her old clothes from when she was free of the demands of adulthood and blood, blood that did not rinse clear even when scrubbed

and this she did, for far too long, for fear of else

for what more was she? Not a mother, not since hurtling down the stairs, pushed by love, she saw her baby break into knots of placenta and gore

now not sure of whom she had become, in absenting herself it was easier, to dwell in the old shell and not

expand

comfort in knowing one’s exact circumfrance

and how it would feel to place a hand upon her flesh

a control without anything behind it, empty strawman, left without match to kindle, burn and diminish

she stayed the same whilst the rest of the world changed

grew wider, grew taller, grew inside and out

she was a fascimile of her damp past

it wasn’t until a sickening reduced her to almost empty

where she rattled and she clacked and she was hollow cheeked and pigeon chested

then her heart flickered on and off and she knew

the danger of staying still, was too great

she ate, though the taste was gone and appetite nil

outgrowing her own well known shape, she became something new

it was a frightening feeling to find what she would be

now that she had turned the corner and let the adult in

would she be like her mother with tiny little legs and arms?

or more of her father’s broad shoulders and freckled stomach

she was nobodies lover and nobodies mother

it hurt to cut herself out of the place she’d been so long, though long stale

and try to break out on her own, one unfamiliar piece at a time

in the bath she would gaze at her new body

bearing the marks of where she had visited

the underworld and the center of the sun

burning and drowning simultaneously

Her chest resembled the teets of a tiger, her thighs wide and strong

Readied to climb mountains, burst dams, forge expectancy

nothing else seemed important least of all

if she fitted into or fitted out of

the places she used to belong

this was a new version

she was going to gain more

than mere pounds and stone

she was going to quit starving to remain familiar

and learn the value of expansion

For all

Before, it would vex me when my nose ran and I didn’t have a tissue

when the tap dripped and no matter how I jiggled it, the drip drip drip would perpetuate, leaving a little rust stain, impossible to clean

when the cat would kick his litter out and eating fast, his food would spill, over the side, as he bent to consume just to again use and befowl

his cycle of eat/pee/poo seemed deliberately artful as if should he speak he’d say; that’s what I think of you

I would be annoyed at myself, when I forgot to latch the garden gate after mowing

and at night hear the sound of things moving, wondering at the fragility of life, should something creep up and strike

how easy to be hit by speeding car or thunder bolt, I spent far too long worrying the clouds of their impending storm

before, I would stand in front of tiny mirror, angled at my waist-line muttering things, without knowing how shallow I’d become

the baubles and the bells and whistles, trappings of someone as yet to acknowledge herself

just the illusion, the dress, the costume

I built castles and didn’t consider the ground

I forgot the child’s dear wish to fly and thought only of earthly options

my head was packed with good sense and no dreams

it mattered more that I possessed signs and wonders than to be real

in time as our tinsel fades and the corners of our smile grow brittle

when challenges mount formerly wrinkle free forehead

we stand so far from truth we could not hear if it shouted

come back from the festival, where drunk on yourself you see

only reflections of you in the carnival mirror of the sea

spend time stripped of your attachments and awards

they serve no purpose when they matter not at all

stand a while with nothing, sense the pleasure of a day

born only once

the joy of survival

a moment without pain

where like children we find wonder

In those days of simplicity beneath the sun

before we learned to live so thin, nutrition coming from emptiness

before it would vex me that the bulb needed replacing, garbage taken out, the dried remainder of eggs did not come off breakfast plate

and now

I smile when for a moment I am peaceful and the lap of night winks closed for another day to unfold, the first strain of pink ushering dawn

and hope

for it takes only one change, for all.

Advocating

She used to tell other girls

Sista! Stand up for yourself!

And when others needed her voice

She lent her ROAR

Don’t be quiet and let them walk over you, she cautioned

But when it came to her own

She sat demure, a photo in old box

Doe eyed and blinking

Knees together, ironed hair

Palms touching in supplicate

Head keenly nodding on hot wire

Stomach lurching like unmoored ship, drunk on the dream of voyage

All the while

A scream building inside

NO! NO! NO!

I am not a number to be parceled and coded

Spat out and told, we have no answers, for we have no understanding of the soul

I FEEL and in the night, if you listen closely at my door you’ll hear me pray

To every spirit and four leaf clover, even, the lopsided rabbit in my arms

As time flickered away with each new day of sickness

She needed an advocate

To be her unguarded voice

Which had become lost

In all the twists and turns.

And the tall doctor

He was no mind-reader

He had his well rehearsed routine and could if needed, click his ankles in mid-jump

She wasn’t easy to label and dismiss

Nor did she want to be, a compliant good girl

She wanted to question until they dragged her out into the street

Writhing to the sound of her own outrage

That we are abandoned by medicine in our most desperate hour

Leaving unhealed like scabs, without voices, our ill tended shadows

She wanted to understand

And find ways that didn’t involve dependency upon pills

He was a blonde marionette, testing his overbite

Talking in her head, Yak yak yak

The sound of chomping wood and splinters for lunch

She heard no future

Unless she spoke up

But where was her tongue?

Where had it gone?