The Borderline’s Bride

Nuptial rites at midnight

espousal gently prodded for life

sleep walkers into union they

wake to find promises in dark fulfilled

she wore her matrimony patiently

believing any escape better than remaining still

but time plays tricks like a young child

what we thought then, changing like old glass

will gather yellow reflection within its make

until thrown out for being discolored

or broken half deliberately, the mind thinking it no great loss

is this the fate of age? Bequeath a lessening

value over years, ruin slipping her knot

through stooped shoulder blades with expertise

of well worn harbinger ?

What appeared so intoxicating at 19

shows itself, pickled and cloudy, parody of spectacle

aghast at her own self, the indulgence of emotion

losing reason for the oily climb of bodies urging

their mischief upon the other with that slick beat of youth

no surely not, people cannot

be this blind, not her, who has always

prized insight, could she have become

the Borderline’s Bride?

Her lover, in absentia is fickle, for her

butchery is not written down or photographed

but presented in myriad glass cases for dissecting

so slowly, almost lost to time, the gradual

rise and fall of things, until one or the other

is sullen ash

then she knows, really knows, in that

concrete unyielding way tragedy presents

its litany of excuses for why you mistook

the garland of betrayal and tenderizing

your own mouth, placed the fish hook

deep where wedged against sense it pulled

hanging your best intentions by their easy mockery

for years cannot be recovered

mistakes undone, still not repaired

they lie like unsent letters

beneath the pillows of

those unmoving in wedlock

a fox somewhere screams

redolent and full

a sudden horror piercing night

startling the most stalwort

to sit up in

terror

blue black hours

you exhaust me

with your perpetual need

you who is I, I who is me

this hungering for solace

rubbed like frankincense

on pulse points

used to be said, a woman’s evocation

was found in the thread of her blood

tasting her, found, a salt and an admonishment

for knowing mystery is not permitted

you exhaust me

with your perpetual need

you who is I, I who is me

attempting free fall, finding balance in

tender pretend, the chime and rounding of days

a music without orchestra, still she sings

heal me from the want

expunge that holy desire for more

give me a reflecting glass

that I might climb through

touch my limbs as they break into fire sticks

combusting in torrent, the woman, the girl

the crone

she sits with sun on her face

careless of time

she has put aside her duty

listening instead

to the song of a bird

whose feathers remind her

of blue black hours

Absence bound in absentia

I’m fading, lover

day old bread thrown to wild birds

their wink gleaning

our false rise

lover … I’m fading

in and out

washed by time and exposure

old camera, old film

new development

the blink of an eye and we’re

gathering hats for our funeral

see, there’s a swatch within

me

wild and unfettered

the brush of red in the hedgerow

uncatchable

redolent with longing

to be more than yours

greater than this

dusty shelf

empty bed

absence bound in absentia

Entrance by default

Maybe it’s time to stop wearing

a dead woman’s perfume

find my own

smell

be my own

woman

I met her when I was 11

looked up to her in that tinkering way

I have continually become besotted

with older women

those who knew more than I

all the secret clubs they belonged to

giving me entrance by default

knock, knock, admittance, change your coat

alter your mind, don another mask

take a turn at the carousel, the diamond

cut of your eyes as you churn out living

into the willing mouths of babes

go on lap it up …

drink yourself into thinking you’re not you

comfortable with anything but

your own skin

the smell of your life clinging to my escape

like a day old glass of wine

just drinkable, a little bitter

redolent in mid-day sun

as soft as fur

I think I’m old enough

to be myself now

which means

your smell

in that white bottle

that I can only buy in rare perfume shops

because it was long ago discontined

much as it reminds me

of being a young girl

trying to understand why

she had feelings for older women

(that were definitely not about seeking a mother)

those days are over

I’m old enough now to have had

my own children

and while I still

have a thing for older women

I’m not going to smell of you

and the memories

anymore

Bulletproof

(Inspired by reading Cordelia Feldman’s novel In Bloom, reviewed after this poem).

When the rush comes

questions like: Why are you doing drugs? Are you an

unhappy child?

Do you realize how inappropriate it is?

Bad choices lead to worse choices. Slippery slopes. Killed brain cells.

Those questions seem irrelevant

for, that which you have searched

seemingly before awareness, birth, first flickering

is surrounding you and the fucking magic of it

is holding sorrow so far away

you can’t recall the last time you felt its fingers

closing around your throat in possession.

Yes sorrow

misery, self-hatred, dysfunctional thinking, dysthymia

depression, malaise, disorder, horror, they

have long sat at your scarred table

munching on your best intentions

not to throw yourself from a bridge

just because every day is so painful.

Parents show the whites of their eyes

like distrusting horses being inspected

for cavities and you are the hole

they observe without looking

wondering how they birthed

someone so strange, unexpectedly unwell

did we not take enough pregnancy vitamins?

Was it more like my ‘funny’ uncle and how he never

seemed quite right?

Blessed, tainted blood

that’s not it

anymore than sexual abuse or

quiet pinch of undiagnosed learning disorder

when there are cheery-faced celebrities proclaiming

their cured malaise, even as they grew up

in fire

therefore, it is not

the firing, how deeply you set, how many cracks

it is more the knife of life

cutting you open

silence surrounding before

you knew you were alone

a haunting long before words like

‘intrenched’ and ‘affliction’ were commonly nailed

like scarlet blooms on thirsty cacti.

Sorrow, you were flowing in my blood stream

like an unbidden life, wishing to suck mine out

marrow and all.

There’s only apologies

for not being able to be what you want me to be

grieving for the perfect mess made when I was doing my very best

not to cut myself to ribbons

and as self-hate dances with a wish to

pull hard on the string attached to light bulb

and just blink out ….

music and its phantasmagoric wonder

infiltrates darkness with a tender mercy

potent keys of a piano played on an empty stage

seem to possess a furtherment.

You, who sup at the high seat for well-adjusted

cannot really fathom, aside in dusty theory

the every day battle with spirits resembling

skewed reflection and how when joy arrives

soft and cloudy, she is split savagely

by the very strength of your inner tenency

to plunge headlong, when you want to do

the opposite.

Fate lifted me out of the car gently

like I meant more to him than a one-night-fuck

and maybe thinking back, I was

precious

in that turkish delight moment

softened at the edges by

little blue pills.

If I die in ten years from some malady

will you point your frozen heart at me

and say; “Her bloody drug use killed her”

without recalling

without it

I’d already be nourishing trees

with my life blood.

Will you state: “She was weak because she

couldn’t cope without them”

forgetting, we do what it takes

to stand upright, pulled from the inside

skins flayed on electric lines of penance.

For our generation, for some of us

those who didn’t yet know how to

put words to how we felt

the holes in our fabric

those diminishments

only worsening with perpetual self-reproach

(after all, didn’t we have a roof over our heads?

How the hell could we be so ungrateful?

Do they say that to people with cancer?

Only the smokers I think, we are banished

to the smokers ward if we suffer from

depression, they put us down as incurable

and slightly pathetic and faces turn away

like cliffs beckon our swift feet forward).

I danced beneath strobe lights, proud of reaching

19 and not having taken anything stronger

than weed, my iron will a contrast to

my crumbling will to live, sometimes

it fascinates me. He whispered in my studded

ear; “I know you disapprove of hard drugs but …

and like a violin played accutely until

you find yourself crying on the other side

of intensity, I saw the futility of holding back

how ‘good behavior’ didn’t work with the model

of suffering experienced daily, another way of

saying it was

fuck it

the pill was bitter like

poison

and returned me someone

I had not met in many years

happiness flooded my bloodstream

I didn’t care it was artificially induced

all moods are, all behavior dictated by

the flow and ebb of chemicals surging

in our amygdala.

Why do some of us fall so far?

When others seem oblivious of

sorrow like it’s a thing to bring out

at funerals and nothing more? Can we really

reduce it to ‘failure‘ and ‘success‘ and affix the

ugly admonishment forever, like kicking

someone all the harder once they are down?

The self-loathing and condemnation

invariably accompanying perpetual sadness

lifted like a shroud and music entered

my blood stream with an invoking joy.

Many years later I read about ‘self medication

and thought as a professional

trying to help people who felt

like I did / alone / worthless

how trite labels and ‘understanding‘ in general

was.

I’d write you a book of my foray with drugs

if it didn’t cause you to condemn me

then again

you already have

so why not?

Don’t throw stones

at glass

houses

unless

you’re bulletproof.

Cordelia Feldman writes on WP and has published her first book of fiction In Bloom. She’s a magnificent person and a genuinely beautiful human being. I urge you to purchase a copy.

In Bloom

I didn’t know what to expect when I purchased In Bloom. That can be exciting. I purchased it because I have followed the author Cordelia Feldman on her blog for many years. As a publisher/editor I tend to get high burn out for acquaintance reads but this was not at her behest, I wanted to read In Bloom, because the quality of Cordelia’s writing and humor over the years has often left me astounded.

In Bloom is semi-biographical set-in mid teen hood. Which might seem odd at a time when the adult author is struggling with metastasized cancer since her mid thirties and this has taken such a chunk out of her valuable life. One might not be blamed for thinking she’d write about a later time in her life. However, if the reader has ever had a prolonged battle with their health, they will intimately appreciate the difficulty of ‘going there’ and the positive impact of focusing on other things. In addition, the challenges a writer has to accurately reflect her past self, something few do realistically and Feldman excels at.

Cordelia has in her blog, done a monumental job of focusing elsewhere, she’s ‘bloomed’ in the years since her cancer diagnosis despite all obstacles. Her infectious optimism, her attitude of caring for others even as she suffers, the way she brings humor out of the darkness, and her undefeatable intelligence hook you from the start. With each blog post she refers sardonically to a book title, often obscure, and that quick mind of hers is as agile now as those who have never experienced a days sickness.

Likewise, with In Bloom, a little gem, a veritable Pandoras’s box replete with humor, nitty-gritty mindful observations, completely lacking in self-pity and with so much to evoke and fascinate. Why fascinate you may ask? Many of us can directly relate to being a teen and going through much of what Feldman has gone through, but many cannot. This is both a warning and a true invoking of a time in history and a type of lifestyle for the young that Gen X’ers and perhaps many others, can appreciate.

Just as we can put an album on and suddenly go back in time, In Bloom takes us to the tawdry experiment called youth and provokes some intense feelings about why we do what we do when we do it. For some, drugs are a clear cut no, no path to hell. For others, they’re a rite of passage. My personal take on it is; drugs are a gateway, to growing up and moving on, but for some, a gateway we don’t regret, nor judge.

The club scene of the 90s in the UK was spectacular and for many young things, going out and dancing all night on Ecstasy was the most fun they’ve ever had. If that makes them sound sad twenty years later, well you weren’t there. The clubs had such atmosphere and comradery that it was impossible not to see them as Magic Faraway Trees of their time. It might be like trying to explain to a non-drinker why a drink can feel so good at the end of the day. Or try telling your parents the Sixties weren’t a revolution.

All the proselytizing in the world and nary a judgment cannot convict those hearts who bloomed in that era and recall it with fondness and a little embarrassment. If you imagine ecstasy earned its name through hard graft, and lived up to it, there’s nothing shabby about those Turkish delight infused experiences anymore than throwing rocks at the Beats Poets for their dabbling with the illicit.

Feldman writes hypnotically and with great alacrity, understanding the mind set of the teen to an uncanny degree. Her intelligence as a writer is evident, but so is her sage wit. Feldman conjures a time that has passed but we can all to some extent, look back on. However, this is not all she does. In Bloom isn’t merely a celebration of taking drugs at raves, that really wouldn’t begin to give it its dues. In Bloom is an evocation of a young woman’s experience with mental illness.

Do drugs cause mental illness? We know they can but more often they exacerbate or draw out, what is already there, for chemical and hereditary reasons. We don’t truly know the myriad ways mental illness occurs, just that it does, and for so long, it was judged and condemned without trying to be understood. Feldman attempts understanding through description and succeeds admirably, in her gentle nudging toward insight through the stumbling’s of the newly initiated.

The main character of In Bloom is clearly a composite of the younger Feldman, but she’s also a character in her own right. Her experiences are not mere autobiography, she and her cast of bandits are all fully fleshed out people existing within In Bloom and they make you care about them, despise them, cheer for them. Do not forget 17 is the age mental illness will begin to rear its head irrespective of whether you are downing E or lemonade, although of course, the reaction with the former will be more dramatic and so it is.

I rarely want to stay up reading all night as I used to because I read for a living. But In Bloom was that notable exception, as I feel it will be for many of us. Before being tempted to cast stones and accuse Feldman of glamorizing drug-taking or blaming her cancer on her previous actions, consider the truth. We don’t get sick because we dabble with drugs as kids. We don’t start doing drugs because we read about them in a book. Pain has its outlets and kids know that well. There are deeper issues here, ones that In Bloom cannot speak to, but we all know they exist and we all know life is far, far more complicated than what we see on the surface.

The ultimate value of In Bloom lies in my knowledge that I would have enjoyed this book immensely whether I knew Cordelia as a writer beforehand, or not. Her skill as a writer has never been under question, she has proven her worth time and again with her tapping into the amygdala of her readership. Her intelligence as a thinker on this planet, is beyond refute. I only wish deeply that she were given time to write more, as I suspect, in Cordelia Feldman we have a voice of our generation.

Then, now eternal and beyond

When is the sentence? When the rule?

Is love only for the young? Passion denied after certain decade?

Does lying in the afternoon, tangled in our creased movement, somehow cease at certain juncture?

Removed and lost, replaced by sensible conversation and larger lunches?

No sag permitted? Desire given a codeword only known to the young?

Do ladies of a certain age still splinter into starlight and bursting, hold the rapture like a songbird?

I have seen wrinkled, grey women with pendulous breasts and spongy thighs

Take the best of a young man’s drawn in breath

With just one measured glance and turn of disobedient foot

Their steel hair aflame, the catapult of their sex burning on their jaunty lips curled in conquest

Surely there is no air left in the room

Surely he cares nothing of their scars and marks of life when standing over him

She is all woman

Full and robust like the wine he dares not serve for saving

She has no need of games or manifest

Hers is not a youthful, flighty, thinning regard

He will not love her for the firmness of her bosom nor quietly praise her convulsing hips

Instead, together they will turn ripe fruit to drink

And laughing, pour the marrow of meaning one from the other, sharing mouthfuls

A united confidence (we will both die one day)

A mutual understanding (but oh what fun we shall have till then!)

I see them

No longer shackled to status quo nor bound to social convention

Free as their clothes billow in the fulment of a second era

The one Jung promised held insight and yes

Abundance of desire, for we have laid down our vanity and gathered our applause

Lost in his ardent kiss and the meeting of them, drawn as one

Holding up the world and each other with humor and plucked string

Her smile reminds him of being twenty and then, not at all

Glad for his years and the sensation of her over him like a night time rose

Her perfume is from every corner, her touch a slow syrup poured in time to symphony

He is captivated by the folds her mouth makes

Eating pasta by firelight, cross-legged in mirth

She is at once the girl and the crone but most of all she is woman

Enfolding him inside herself like a conch with many windings

Her life can be told from the lines on her neck

There is the stillborn, there the hungry child pulling at her sore nipple, there the stretch of life roaming her stomach in silver marks

She smells like damsons picked late in the season

A little wild

He can lay himself down next to her and tell her his fears and she will listen

As she has walked this long on the same well worn road

Sometimes dancing, sometimes searching, always witness

He can dream whilst he rides inside of her without rebuke

She will submerge them both in her intuition till moon goes beneath cloud, silvery and wrapped in insight

When she cries out, he will bend to her need with the lesson of years and instrument

Not a young man with muscled body and formless brain

But a partner able to pleasure her with the depth he has finally sewn

Her eyes may wake red and tired but her laugh is deep and echoes throughout his day like ticker tape

Reminding him he has surely found at long last, a mate

And she, a friend, in this abyss of living, a hand

To clasp and be tugged back to life time and again

For theirs is more alive now than fifty years since

Running, slow and surely, after the dying brand of fire

Eclipsing the sunset with its incandescent glow

Her face enfused with light and he

Crying without knowing why, whispers in jagged pieces

His symphony of love

Then, now, eternal and beyond.

If I could give my younger self any advice it would be to say fuck off more often.” Helen Mirren.

The Analyst & Peter Pan

Holding tears beneath excessive eye-make-up

not smart when pealing secrets from heartache

I noticed the Analyst had cut her hair

in Jewish faith, hair is a woman’s greatest vanity

to cut it, often a sign of extreme despair

I cut mine when I was sick, it fell like a lambs tail

to the floor in red scissored ribbons

in the mirror I looked like a shorn stranger

trying to climb out of familiar eyes

reminding me of the time I sheered it off at 16

my lover left me soon after, he did not care for short-haired girls

I told the Analyst I liked her new look

wondering if there was a story behind it

the never-never velvet glove of Pan’s world

his need not to be a he or she or have a Wendy

instead to be free as we are at ten when

nothing of this world can truly touch us

gender becomes a learned yoke in the future

she recalled her sheer days of freedom

wishing to return as we all do, to a kinder time

I do not know if I am this or that

but I know what I am not

I felt it was honest, when you do something big

there is always more of a story behind an act

I sat looking out of the small office window

remembering sitting there before

sick and heaving

thin and fat

slump shouldered, bare-faced and dolled up in war paint

I remembered

driving to you and dancing in my limbs

as I saw you look up and wink

changing the light with your smile

knowing

I will never leave that office and find you again

because you were gone even then

I just hadn’t known it

too sick, too set on denial and fever dreams

perhaps when you know you will never experience

that feeling again

it is harder to let go, watch such a large part of you, fade into background

you are grieving she said

her short hair in her face

I thought of you and the pulse, laying like a long empty road, between us

my heart squeezed with a terrible pain

children flying from an open window into stars

tears splash on my skin, like your touch

which I will not feel again in this life time

so you pronounced with granite in your eyes

and I nodded

dumbly

unable to say anything more

but watch the light

skip in and out of the small windowpane

where once I held

as much pure love

as Peter Pan

For what they did yet not know

140829195756-22-women-in-comedy-restricted-horizontal-large-galleryYou thought it was bad when

you got your first zit

and the unblemished skin of your youth

erupted like Everest

you thought it was bad when

you got your first stretch-mark

and the smooth thighs and breasts of your growth

betrayed the camouflage

you thought it was bad when

you got your first scar

a thin line of emptiness which they said

the bikini would hide

you thought it was bad when

you sagged and you spun with weight loss and gain

in the span of twelve fevered months

and then it seemed

unimportant

because those scars

the immature loss of vanity and adulation

crying over not fitting into yourself

the lament of sudden change

was less than the stubborn plant of your feet

in survival

and you went to your neighbor

who was missing a breast

both of you shared

the disjointed humor of pain

and you went to your preacher

who had lost his testicle

he joked about being single

and you went to your park

saw women with brain tumors cut out

walking their high energy dogs

and you saw

this silly game of magazines and perfection

of I will stay 20 and flawless forever

of men who would leave when you get cut up and bleed

how it is but part of a bigger picture

that of sweat and guts and fear

and surviving through gritted teeth

even if he left because you were no longer perky and up for it

because you threw up at midnight instead of

giving him head

even if the girl at work could wear heels and short skirts

and you hid your swollen stomach behind swaths of cotton

or couldn’t get out of your bed

because then … just as everything seemed

to be wrinkling and disintegrating and rebuilding

into something unfamiliar and changed and partially incomplete

another man with light in his eyes

who didn’t care about such things

smiled at you as you walked beneath the yawning trees

because your medication said

avoid direct sunlight

and he said

I have the same problem which makes it hard living here doesn’t it?

and you talked and he smiled

and said

I like the way your eyes twinkle

and you said

I get that from my grandmother

even when she was eighty-five she was

proposed to by farmers who thought

she looked like a kind of Katherine Hepburn

and he said

I can see that

red

would you like to meet here tomorrow again?

and you saw the way the world really worked

underneath the adverts for boob jobs and butt lifts

and reality tv that’s nothing of the sort

his hand brushed yours and you saw

sunspots on both

it made you laugh

a little like a hiccuping hyena

and he laughed too

the survivors

beneath the canopy of life

snorting like five-year olds

as skinny joggers with air-brush tans ran past

with sad empty looks

for what they did not

yet know

A gilded age

The giant cicada makes a sound

my neighbor thought was a whistle

or a strange faceless bird

we imagined a long white beak

and thick black feathers

but it was the hidden molten cicada

and he is quite verbal

pursing a haunting music

as my cat refuses to eat his food again

unsure, is it his teeth? Or his desire

to slow down and curl up

once and for all?

I don’t guess their motivation

why the cicada sings

why I find the sound mournful

echoing my own inner feelings

as if I were writing out on clouds

exactly what was inside me

why the cat persists in refusing

my best efforts to keep him alive

whether it is right to let something you love

die even as

you think you can keep it

if the right time ever

exists to say goodbye

and why I don’t tend the greenhouse more often

as I put so much effort into

growing the little seedlings

do I prefer the solidity of well lived things

over youth?

thinking back to my own empty glass

and sallow bedsheets and

neglectful lovers

the wan asp of being twenty

like heirogliphs on walls

staring for eternity

not ageing, nor real

a gilded age

passing to creped hands in sunlight

and furrows from thinking too much

whether this skirt is a little tight

these shoes too high

the longing to be running barefoot

through high grass again, mindless

of any consideration

nothing around my neck

but wilted perfumed summer flowers

not the strain of trying to make

a life out of dry earth

with tears of disappointment

when all around seem so

tucked into their gentle cycles

and you are rogue

wanting to be among the branches

with the murmured cicada

listen to the call

much like the imploring whistle of a train

as it would steam slowly into town

every night at midnight

you would reach for me

and nothing else would hurt

Herself

She is, dismissed by men her age who

Gaze hungrily at girls their daughter’s age like

Wolves without pelts, urging toward light

Perhaps they think youth will keep them steady, as age creeps into their veins

But their heads, empty yet, of the carousel of experience

Her soft skin does not reflect the many places she will inhabit

A wisdom in her eyes will more than compensate for any lines

As they draw together in laughter and back again with the sketch of time

She may

Lament her losses but surely not regret the gain

Of a certain suppleness of mind

Hers will one day be, the confidence found over fifty winter’s more

She draws you in with her knowing, like familiar shore

It would be her bursting chest of pressed flowers, against my own, making greater indent of memory

Not a fledgling bird nor snared fox but the beauty of a falcon, gazing into distance

Her love would be measured then blown about the room in spirit form

To chase my wonder of her self possession

She stands in a gown looking out and I see

A bead of sweat we made, caught on her neck like a pearl

Even as I touch her she is untouchable, for her strength

Was forged in deep water and honed over the years like a well turned bell

Can be clearly heard, ringing us towards her

Back still straight and the scars of her living like jewels

She has brought life, she has survived beyond herself and the low imprint of convention

Free of such empty things she is now a lover released from expectation

To be at last

Herself