Want & Ritual

Helmut-SPREAD-6FI grew up fetishizing

the nubile antonyms of beauty

Helmut Newton’s exploitation

penis behind camera stroking

sloe-eyed girls with tired mouths

smoking yellow papered Gauloises

nipples grazing peach crinoline

men’s eyes like dry stones, seeking squeezing

I grew up thinking

contortion and bondage was

an art form not

excuse for masochism

as unsupervised child, I’d look through

graphic design manuals

that inexplicably had vulvas and

perky breasts

to illustrate Pantone

it was after all

the seventies

what did I know? Except

women on beaches without tops

giving me francs for not spilling their dirty martini’s

Mon sucre d’orge, sois gentil, va me chercher mes cigarettes

always gentleman watching

the rise and fall of female throats

nicotine mouths, stained vermillion

long tan legs swept beneath chiffon

men taking them to hotel rooms

children

smoking the leftovers whilst adults

fucked behind closed doors

wondering

when I grow up

how can I lie beneath

a girl whose sweat glistens

like marzipan

and if she should

sip on me I think I’d scream

all my silver bracelets falling off

like metal flowers on hotel carpet

after all

life is a film

where we tie ourselves up

with want and ritual

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She told me, don’t worry about it

We’re sitting talking about how we know

You’re making me laugh at jokes, about Hannibal

How I only like Gillian, because she’s a bit like you

And I can’t tell anyone, including you

You reminded me how I knew, I was still alive

In the video of you dancing, uncaring and wild

That’s how I’m reminded why

I know beauty

How women

Are the possessors of

All that is beautiful

With your downcast eyes, the color of absinthe

Hair falling in your pale face, cut cheekbones and grace

The switch of your merciless, marching intelligence

The sorrow, the humor, the passion lines

How you make me laugh hysterically and blush

Pouting, pulling on your cigarette, getting me aroused and nervous

Without trying, you command all attention

Your wit is sharper than a sword

When you didn’t talk to me

It was like a blonde flower, turning her lights out

The night was darker

Still I heard

That song you made immortal

The sway of your slim hips and secret smile

And I’m speaking to you in a language, I outlawed

Because he dirtied it for me, forever

But you sound so lovely talking in the fog

I know I have to stand at a distance, or I’d reach out

Grab the concentration from your lovely brow

But to be in your blazing aura

The tiny, angry, intelligent, firey soul

You inhabit like no other

You were the girl who woke me up

I’d give anything to dance with you

To that exact song, in those same clothes

Your then blonde hair, a chaotic wisp

The crunched concentration on your francophone face

There’s classic and there’s disheveled-perfect and you’re both

I’d take your hand and say

Don’t worry, I know the rules

But for fucks sake we’ve both been here long enough

born the same year

You got the small chest I always wanted

And you said you liked my eyes

Same color green as yours

Not narcissism

But sisters

Lovers of

Pain and hard living

We only trust those like us

Who smoked and drank and have to show on our tired faces, the weariness of living

Where boundaries are never crossed

But fantasy is free and inked

And you like being adored

I am good at loving

Sad, happy, gorgeous girls, with crooked smiles

Who hold my attention with their spark

Catching in the darkness like a skinned rock, thrown out to sea

On Brighton beach

Where we’ll always be young and beautiful

Me chasing you in the cold sea

You disappearing into green waves

In her cull

Before

Who knew how to die?

That it wouldn’t be instantaneous

As children imagine

A sudden pain, then unconsciousness

Who knew?

Death could go on years

Building and slowing like cold sea water

Burning firework left to fizzle alone in inky sky

That it would wind and unwind, a mad clock void of correct motion

Who knew?

It could take the very young, wrap them in wool, to cast down wet hill

The jarring and bumping eventual colission held at bay

Till forgotten

That it could take you

Suspend you from me and all familiar things

Where the recognition in your once clear and beautiful eyes

Became muddied and clouded with quiet violence

Your touch so soft, stolen and replaced with flinty brush off

Who knew

The courage of fighters

Seathing against their sentence and eventual

Chop chop of parts, scars and marred

Skin once free of blade

A scratch board of operation knives

She reached me

As I sat in my safe world

Pulled me through

I smelt anticeptic

Read her clever whirring mind

Far too smart for this dull world

How can such people die?

She laughs and says

At least I’ll go young and whilst I have my looks

So long as you don’t show the undertaker my scars

They remind me of barbed wire and grey hair and the lines you cut in snow

When skiing downhill

Her lips are red, she says

I used to ride horses and can speak five languages

I say

I wish you would stay

I could read you eternally

It’s the macabre and giggling nervousness you feel

Around dying

It brings out the worst or the best of us

I wanted to bolt

Race down the road

But I remain and listen

To the gurgle of her catheter

And saw the bruised clouds grow

As rain came like tears behind pitched fingers

Her humor never left

She knew more than all of us

What a terrible, terrible waste

She said; I can make an authentic French 75

I wanted to swap places, I am not so rarefied

But I am a coward

Before the machinations of surgeons

What devour they do, to our poor skin

Does it really prevent anything?

She asked, laughing at the cat

Who is also old and infirm before his time

Still batting the window when birds come to peck

At crumbs of comfort because it’s those little things

She says, keep you going

Like my favorite soup, a funny film, the sun coming over horizon

Reminding me I can still

Breathe

I learn to appreciate life

From her dying

The morsel of me

Though of language I only know two and

Cannot spell in either

It seems

Life is savage in her cull

The bright and wonderful snatched

Who among us had an idea of

How to die?

Then she laughs

Her teeth still white, her skin waxy and hot

And says, oh dear you!

Who among us

Knew truly

How

To live?

Thrift Store Special

teddy1

If I hung in a storefront

I’d have no label

It was torn off in the wash

The store owner lied

Trying to cover a great crime

I’m not gentle cycle, nor wash below 30c

I don’t fluff up well in dryer

Or need ironing on low heat

I’m a thrift store special

Good for a gander, then better cast off

Stuffed in the back of your closet

Forgotten until you move house

When you hold me to the light

Exclaiming; where did I buy this?

A little wistful, a little disgust

Just like a spare thread can run

Through any knit and mar its form

I was shrunk on hot and stretched in cold

Long before you grabbed me out of the lucky dip bin

It was the elongation of my experience

Like wool is malformed turning huge in water

Expanding and reducing, I am the sheared sheep who took off

When the shepherd came to my turn

I never backed down, nor avoided spitting in their eye

My fur smells of energy and emptiness and freedom and neglect

You wear me when you want attention

Or to be someone you’re not

And I’m sequins gathered in a pearls bosom

The knotted mohair and impossibly soft angora

But most of all, I’m the time you left your possessions behind

And rode in the dark without lights

Imagining your bicycle a horse and you …

with your dress catching in the spokes covered in oil

You just wanted him to catch fire on your edges

Sounding the cavorting need you had to bloom beneath

Then you were a water-lily and even years later

You are reminded each time a candle is lit, the smell of wax

How he burned your fingers with his inelegant desire

And you opened like origami to his bewitchment

Then you were a dragonfly, passing through fountain

If I hung in a storefront

I’d have no label

But you’d purchase me all the same

Over again

Smiling

At the memory of

Something you couldn’t quite grasp

What I learned from my father’s girlfriends #2 Leslie

Canadian Leslie

sensible tweed and corduroy

dressed like 50 at 25

white turtleneck and tanned legs in Winter

a talented skier who told me; don’t slouch kid, you will stunt your growth

she disapproved of children who stayed up later than 6pm

from next door I could hear her twangy voice

then the creek of stairs as they climbed to my father’s room

women from any part of the world make the same sounds

hmm / yes / hmm

Canada, I thought when very young

must be a strange land if it’s covered in snow

and still the girls can be tan and have golden streaks in their hair

she didn’t like European humor or sleeping in on weekends

it makes you fat to be idle, she scolded and ate her sugarless oatmeal

after a while she didn’t like public transport or pub culture

so Leslie applied for a PhD program in animal husbandry and moved to Alberta

where I hear she raised eyes

adopting Vietnamese pigs and falling in love with a man from Beirut

her WASP parents wished she’d stuck with my dad

they weren’t ever going to work

she hadn’t liked my baby photos and wouldn’t watch

film noir detective shows on Friday nights with Indian take-out

she left behind some maple syrup and we poured it

on white toast

because after all, this was before we’d learned

how to make Canadian pancakes and Canadian waffles

from French cooking shows