You got out

(Part of a new series of poems about people whom I have met, who profoundly moved me).

They said

no it’s not a person, it’s a trash bag, or wad of clothing

as I turned the car around

knowing it was a girl, curled into herself

it was for her, the end of a long night

for me, an early morning drive

into rising sun

indigo girl

her limbs thin enough, to resemble twigs

hair colored black, face still-water of a child

she waved us off

no, no, no, I’m fine here

in the fetal position, on the cement

lying by the side of road exhaust

as predator number 10, idles his car and asks

do you want me to take you home

baby?

I press myself to the window glass

no, don’t get in the car!

he looks angry when she says

I’m just taking a nap, goodnight

his lust drives off, leaving fuel staining like road kill

I wonder

what he would have done if

all 90 pounds of her, in tiny shorts and torn top

had accepted his bearly, concealed hunger

how many predators comb

early morning side walks, hoping

to pick up lost girls?

she’s got sense and she also, doesn’t know

but I do

I was her once

crawling out of an abandoned warehouse

knife wounds, waltzing on my throat

cold semen in my belly

clawmarks designating, my survival

bearly

the car that stopped then

a light in darkness

they took me away, from near death

when so easily

I could have been picked up, a second time

a third,

by hands with bad intention

when you are fallen

people often crowd in, to help you

fall again

like wolves who smell

the coming of blood and

vulnerabilities, we think we hide

I told her

don’t get into a car with a lone man, or group of men

they may not show their fangs but

you are a little piece of goodness

sometimes people who prowl, want to hurt

that shining within you

we drove

she was looking out the window

with her unslept eyes and the residue of last night

still high on her pain

and for the first time in my life

I no longer felt a victim

but one of the imaginary horses, I used to ride

speeding away from slick, sales-man, cough

of curb-side prowler

I wanted to make her better

but sometimes you can only

patch and release

to maybe nothing safer than hope

with a few words

wishing, that when she’s sober

waking without assault

she remembers

you were her once

and you got out

 

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Uninterrupted innocence

Kids Jumping into Lake ChippewaPigeon-chested children with streaming noses

dive weightless into still water

breaking circles into smaller circles, rebounding against

sunlight

their laughter feels like a cold hand around my neck

as I imagine their futures

the girl with the black hair, she’ll be raped by her uncle

her mother will tell her, she is a dirty little liar

she will start taking pills at ten and graduate to heroin

when the school counselor asks her, where it all went wrong

she will think of the sunlight through trees

elm, willow, plain oak and cypress

the sound of her unmolested body, falling into water

as if baptized in reverse

the turn of her mother’s neck, in denial

her thick coral lips, mouthing betrayal

my brother would not do that

her own diminishing and the feeling

of wet, cold, bathing suit

sticking

cloying

admonishing

and she will not know, how to verbalize

that separation of self or why

it seemed permissible to sell her body for drugs

let men cut her up, into shards of her former wholeness

like fast food tastes bad

once it has been opened

she does not know, how it stopped mattering

if she protected, those broken walls within her

they were already torn down

that’s what she’d say, if she hadn’t

consumed her tongue and turned it hard

like a cliffs edge seems strong but crumbles

and the counselor, sighs and shakes her head

going home, only to wonder what more

she could do, to reach lost children

and the black-haired girl, gets her fix and slips

once more beneath glassy-eyed waves

this time, she can see herself

her blanched face, her loose fingers empty

letting go of all pain and slipping

like worry beads

deeper and deeper

and if I could, I would

walk backward in time

pluck her drenched and empty

fill her with sunlight and sound

reverberating like a crack in the world

opens and reveals a new passageway

she would come with me into the forest

her younger self remaining

jumping from the jetty with her friends

caught in elasticized moments

too free to escape the laughter

of uninterrupted innocence

Equality

The day I came out … all my girlfriends took one step apart

it can’t be they collectively agreed

she’s too pretty, she’s too feminine, she’s not a dyke she’s one of us

didn’t she enjoy sex with that boy in the garden? you know that party the one where

they turned the lights on and saw them straddled in tall grass?

What happened? Did you get raped? Was it because you grew up without a mom?

What happened? Did you get bewitched? Is she a sorceress? A genie? A devil?

Soon after the invites to go out on the girls-nights

dwindled

the newly minted lesbian sat alone with her shadows and her eye make up

growing stale in their plastic boxes

virile boys wondered why they hadn’t kept her straight

cleavage girls wondered if she had looked at them in the shower the wrong way

why didn’t you try it on with me? her bi-curious mates inquired, offended

as if loving a girl was loving the entirety of the species and jumping

from trees on the first female she sees, du rigor

sparkly gay boys annoyed her with their primping and their bitching

clique gay girls alienated her with their cold eyes and their own brand of judgement

you can’t be one of us you’re too long-haired, too shiny, too voluminous

they played pool and ground the chalk into the cue with the ire of exclusive groups

who don’t want those ill-fitting and new

soon she began smoking things in glass tubes because

only the druggies the desperate and the dead would let

her be

and on occasion when she was really crushed into ice and fire she’d try to cure herself

with someone unknown and faceless, grinding down with fervor and lust

neither of which she ever felt

like a poison the awakening was not Kate Chopin but

a black box with no lock and no key and still no way out

her family said …  well we always knew you were obtuse

liked to stand out, be different, not fit in, it started with

left-handedness in the cot

we just hope you won’t try to give us grandchildren

think of the shame, think of their difficult lives and step away

she didn’t even have love so how was she going to fill her womb?

at a club a gay man pushed her against a greasy wall and said

there’s something molten about you girl, you’re not gay you’re a hot bitch

and his erection pressed into her dress like a knife

you’re not supposed to want me, she whispered as he pushed harder

you like boys not girls

boys will like anything given a chance, he replied, staining her with ammonia and denial

walking home one night a homeless man grabs her from the bushes

holding a blade to her neck he tries to impregnate her

she thinks

careful what you wish for

as the slice of him burns her empty

the officer at the hospital while they gather the rape kit

all the swabs like brushes with unwilling paint

told her; try wearing pants not skirts

you’re too beautiful it is like a flower

the bees will come if you let them

and she wondered, how is walking down the street permission?

well it’s your life style you see, it causes problems

how would anyone choose a life style of alienation?

you’re good-looking enough to get a lawyer, he winks

before leaving her naked beneath paper gown

blood on her thighs, horror in her throat

to consider and condemn

herself

this is the life line of a girl who wasn’t linear

or bold or normal

or able to run with the swarm

she almost

tried to set herself on fire

to become one of those paper lanterns

lifting off the water into inky night

there were no hands to press her back to earth

they had been crossed and turned away

she didn’t fit into what they expected

what they needed her to be

were it not for you

with your wings and your fearlessness

on the day you told her

it’s okay not to be a stereotype

not every heterosexual woman will treat you like

you’re going to molest her

nor every straight man try to

put his hands beneath your panties

not every gay woman will

scorn your existence and push you to the corner

nor every queer boy loathe you

for being prettier than he

there are among us you said

people without definition or binary

who exist on the periphery of distinction

and we

will not

let you down

she wished she could tell

the pretty girl she tried to befriend who

always treated her different because she thought

you want me don’t you? you desperate lesbian

if you think you are free of bias and you believe yourself unjudging

stop and think about what you do unconsciously

with every favor to others over me, reminding

I have less worth

that is what happens without words without governance

the mistreatment almost invisible

like a paper cut

hurting more than it should

for the side-ways slice of discrimination is

often deeply sewn

wake up

wake up

she could be

your daughter

your best friend

careful how you step on this earth

without much you can

crush the fragile who only need

your equality

Masochism

tumblr_mfrhau9jIq1s0qvy5o1_500I’m afraid again

A queer feeling

As we trace our gloves on dusty balcony

You forget you’ve told me the story before

And repeat yourself

I watch

Feeling I am a mind reader

Mouthing well-known words

But for the ball in my mouth

I want to ask

Do you think it will bounce?

If you lay me down as your eyes say they want

If you have me now

Under this awning in the frigid cold

You’ll spoil my dress and your coat

And feel later it was not worth

The dry cleaning bill

You’re a man who suits the world of before

And doesn’t know his lines after

If you could squeeze until I choked

Without consequence

You would unflinching

I see this as I see stain in drafted light

As I feel you spear me like tendered filet mignon

Right through the middle

Your eyes roll like cut glass within red flesh

The devil peers out at the culmination

Spent and angry you hurry me to pull myself back on

Leading me by the funny bone in my plastic arm

Charge through the crowd to view the art show

Impatient though you caused our double crease

Like a thief without fingers weeps for what he has not pinched

Standing by the first mounted painting you pause

With the skin of you and the drink of me

Drying irresolutely

Then I see it

So fast, a flash and burn FURY

Hot house light splintering in storm

I know

For all the love, all the cabinets of delusion

It’s a farce I lay myself before, opening my mouth

Birthing cavities for empty souls

Adoring walking pain, stilettos of disregard

Stabbing with familiar falling shards

Self-harm wrought by masochistic ardor

To break my puzzle

Like coming home

A known bewitchment

Tearing apart sound

Ecstasy denied

tumblr_llxw06ogqm1qzn4kzo1_1280Here’s a moment of a girls’ life

it flickers, it flickers like a skirt, caught on a black railing, rented, torn, pried apart, and released, to flap, uselessly and without form

she’s lost her purse, her lipsticks rolled behind the bus and she didn’t put on her hose just right

the seams you see, they’re supposed to line up at the back where her heel hits the smooth patent of her shoe like how the girls in WW2 did it except they used eye-brown pencils because silk was needed for parachutes, oh and who can afford the cost of the worm?

that’s the way it should have turned out, fixing her seams, walking in with a kick and a smile, wooing her audience, beguile them, beguile them and they shall fall helplessly

exercise in futility, that’s not her, she doesn’t do performance art, that’s the image of her projected by those who believe, with her lips, and her green eyes, she’s kryptonite, such a bad bet, she’s a lame horse who prefers the stable, all those shrines to her potential, before she drank too much anxious about oh, more or less, everything in the world

and drinking they say, even in France now, is not du rigor but ruled out, if you wish to avoid your one out of eight women gets breast cancer statistic, what the hell? How to survive without sipping it down? Letting fermentation do its ritual on her guts, lifting her back into the gilded frame

she wished she were a boy, boys can still drink, boys don’t wear hose, they don’t have to worry as much if their armpits stink and they won’t have another boy tell them that their breasts sag when they rise up and clasp the void

if she were a boy she’d want to be a pretty boy the kind that other boys would probably hit on, with a large top lip and gleaming hair, because pretty gets you candy and she has a sweet tooth

if she were a pretty boy she’d try out fucking a girl just to know what it felt like

to be a version of herself with other body parts

would the girl look at her with frightened eyes, hooded and suspicious like a Russian doll, daub her sides with ancient gild, would she open her legs only because she wanted what you held back, in your frayed pocket, tightly wrapped, here it is, take a mouthful, bitter taste, will we live longer in our knowledge? The apple glows in the darkness from its position alone hanging from the lower branch of knowledge.

when she wakes up in the night and holds her singed hair back, hugging porcelain throne vomiting what she’s learned time and time again just doesn’t stay down

couldn’t she purchase another way of coping?

apparently pills have their own set of demons

she learns the art of the mask and strips for the doctor who takes his swab. It’s a painless test he lies, grimacing as he breaks her bones and pries denial apart, you won’t feel a thing

and then everything turned blue and the water didn’t stop running down the sink in the wrong direction and the clocks lost their hands and rolled into glue sticking to the inside of her emptiness, where no life was, sharing its wasteland

on E she danced until the fat at the top of her clavicle, that little jiggle you get when you drink lots of milk as a child and push your little breasts together, grew and people said well … don’t you have a fine pair on you?

not really she’d think if you could see how long it takes to get this look, all the tape in the world, and they’re still not really sticking

a bit like her, unhinged at one corner, asking; peal me back see what’s underneath

her own preference was for girls with skinny chests and protruding nipples she felt they were saying fuck you to every kind of lame expectation, their knife-like hip-bones, shaving her under the sheets like the incisors on wolves, the anger glowing in their eye, a Cheshire cat with blade

but she was too soft for that hard look and wore instead the conicular implements of torture Madonna had cast off

looking back it was fucking embarrassing

when did she learn authenticity? On the way home from the hospital when it rained and the dried blood on her legs, wound down her legs like a cat’s tail and smeared the grass beneath? she saw only mouths open, trying to speak, what do they want to say?

authenticity died between her legs and grew cold in formaldehyde and the rubbing of fingers itching for a cigarette

walking the streets homeless, holing up in an office during night hours, smelling the feet of those who worked there during the day kicking their shoes off

stains on the office sofa that never came off

when he would deliver her bag of drugs and she paid him with herself because she had nothing else

how much would that equate per kilo?

quite a good bargain all things considered, it was like he said, she made him act that way by the tilt of her head

I’m only tilting my neck to get a better view of the strippers on Wardour street she’d say standing at the window, neon blinking in and out, in and out, little panties not yet showing their wear and tear, don’t worry they soon will undo their pretty dark pink bows

he told her you have the smallest waist you look like a french dancer in a Toulouse Lautrec painting

I am a french dancer she would reply and smoke a Sobranie to the gold rim to make the point

gimme a break, you don’t even like Ricard Pastis and those cigarettes are Russian

you’ve got a point there, Pernod is vile, mix me something chopped up, cut it fine, I want to hear music, open your eyes, open your fucking eyes so I can hear

I like the taste of aniseed

I hate it, it reminds me of my grandfather’s fingers and that imported saddle soap he used, when I looked into his throat he had coals burning there, they could extinguish your heart just by breathing on you

change the record / or you’ll kill the mood

he was always in the mood, even when he hated her he wanted to ransack her empty space

lucky she licked the bag clean or her price would be too high, nothing is too much for a fistful of dynamite

I wish I could live inside you, he would whisper, eyes already rolling like a horse about to be led to slaughter, to the exit sign

christ I can’t think of anything worse, she’d reply into the pillow, limbs trembling, her neck aching with his pummel

how long can it go on? can you make yourself wet when you’re faking? Or do you have to run to the bathroom and stick your fingers down your throat? Fake sudden illness to avoid an overdose of you

back in the days when her bladder was strong she could take a pounding and not need to pee afterward, they used to say, you can eat motherfucking hot curry, be given one like a sailor and still walk straight

how many sailors were bent over themselves and filled with whiskey and crab claws she wondered

but you stand up too long, with eyes on your back unpicking your defenses it gets harder

how many times can you shout, oh yeah baby just like that, just like that, you’re the best

he is hard he is inside her he feels like metal she feels like clover and the bees the bees swarm around her obscuring her open mouth the color of raspberries

that’s why she never cuts her hair you can hide so far inside if you carve out a tree and wait patiently for the thorns to do their climb

the wood cuttings of her twins mocking her sins, cooing; what a dirty little girl, you turned out well darlin

I want my moneys worth, he would say half in jest, nostrils crusted with crystal, beckoning her with dirty fingers

take the blue pill, take any pill, watch yourself swallow, there you go, to bed now child, tomorrow will be another show starting at six pm promptly and ending, never

she’d pretend she was sea anemone, anyone else, the girl outside in Soho gyrating to some euro pop song her long fake nails glittering against piercings speaking rapid Lithuanian into a pink phone

her nipples hurt where he burned them with his need to leave a mark, a tattoo artist without his equipment he improvised his layers of penetration

give me something to remember bitch or I’ll make it hurt more

she thud lifelessly above him like an unmoared boat seeking harbor, half-conscious with sorrow, afterward she lay closed off and drugged, as peaceful as an envelope that has been licked shut

and never, ever, ever did she learn to undo, the need to exclude herself from the world

so where’s her next fix? how does she stop wanting it to fill her veins with code

listening to the grind of the world outside, a room with a view boarded over and willingly comatose, two words inscribed on her tomb, ecstasy denied

 

Unwilling

016_imogen-cunningham_theredlistThere are differing forms of narcissism

and sadness

wrenching and unyielding

can produce

solid fat trapped in water

thickened floating, unformed intention

we cannot breathe

holding hands to jump rope pinching noses

against fumes of exhaust

her knees were smoother and brown

elbows protrude like question marks

and when you are both fortunate enough to be old

her breasts will still point upward

whilst you shall swing heavily like a dowel

losing time with the rest of the world

she is lighter, her skip higher, cheeks flush with

the sting of cold weather tingeing red pinpoints

you don’t know yet

a time comes, the path breaks

one way is without constraint

the other a heaviness

you cannot shrug like boiled wool

as you see her wet feet climb upward

there is nothing to stop the relenting undertow

that’s what children don’t know

when they play behind wire and protection of youth

but if you look closely

like the colt whose legs and teeth are examined by horse breeder

tapping his aquiline nose

you can tell the furlow of a soul

in their pedigree and infection

do they have worms or marrow?

she was born hot and unwilling

jaundice beginning with first labored breath

but if you gave her a chance to dance

she would break over you, turn into water

a hundred fingers enclosing

circles of diminishment

no matter how fast she danced

legacy caught up and held her down

Queen of Thorns

grandma why didn’t you

prune me back when you had the chance?

cut off my head and let dead parts turn me violet

before you grew demented and wan

why didn’t you tear into my stuffing and let

the tartan apple seed scatter

maybe I would have stopped being a child

turning into a great ancient tree

where the girls who had smooth unwrinkled brows

could climb and flash their starched knickers

hanging upside down catching bird song

reflecting off fish pond surrounded by nettles

I was always better at being a spectator

than entertaining life’s specters

you should have cut the cord

played your last best record

let the needle run it through

scratching out hurt and

unwilling children

And burn their house down

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Her legs were her best feature

so they told her

pinching her bum as she climbed shag carpeted stairs

hauling more baggage than they’d ever have

oh and your throat of course

chuckle, chuckle isn’t that funny?

deep throat, get it?

no … not really

too polite to declare (curtsy)

but what if you did? Respond as you would if

truth led you by the mouth, clip, clop

neigh brey shake your tail paw the ground with hoof

sore and gaping and verbose in mauve and yellow

like a gypsy sacked from her tent

runs like a red brand through black and white trees

will she end up raped by the side of the road?

eventually selling herself by the truck-load

with eyes glazed over from too many mouthfuls

there’s only so much you can take

a tipping point lives inside everyone

like a secret metronome

ticking away, ticking down, ticking sideways, an itch never relieved

until earth and sod and mud and weeds land heavy and wet

on wood (four coffin bearers, bow their heads)

she hears them making a fuss downstairs

(the sound track is The Moody Blues)

who will go first?

me! first is best! the little one says

he’s got a big mouth that one and a small …

well no surprise there (audience laugh)

yeah but you can warm her up for me!

the one who enjoys pain reveals

when do I get a turn? says the last one

who is always too fast too soon too distracted to …

see her staring at the ceiling counting down

tick toc tick toc goes her life blood

here the vein here the slice here the fall

blue is the marigold dipped in the ocean

why does she bled so? When did she stop being closed?

She was never really shut, she was open all hours

flung wide by the longing of the sky to see her enact a star

spread white and glowing she longed for black skies to swallow whole

every last molecule

there’s blood in the bathroom! they all cry (exit stage left)

where could she have gone?

how did she survive the loss of so much blood? The little one said

roll over roll over so they all rolled over and one fell out

there were two in the bed and the next one said …

you see her now

she’s that motion in the corner of your eye, a cataract in full bloom

dropping by the highway like a midnight flower

speeding cars track her fade but they cannot see for their faces are made

of metal and plastic and rubber and gasoline

and she is made of earth

and she is gone to earth

and she is in the earth

away from the three little pigs

who kindle themselves into a fury

and burn their house

down though it is made

of brick