On display

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I have my father’s feet

they are ugly I think

manly, wildebeest, sinew and bone

elongated toe as if saying

I am to be placed

deformed and bunion-esque

in shoes that will never fit

much like life, much like life

my father was considered a handsome man

many years women worked themselves into a hot

lather over his ways

perhaps it was a study in contrast

most men his age had already

mortal guts overhanging and could not

string a good sentence together

my father was verbose just as he was

shy and his hair was thick and hung

just so across his scarred brow

it seemed to galvanize the heterosexual piper call

women wanted or maybe they simply

didn’t want to have nothing and he

was nimble with his word play

indeed they forgave him for being

a redhead and if you think that is cruel

you’ve never known one or been one

they are the vilified among our kind

for their pallor and their color

an exotic relegated to rotten

less so in America

there is perhaps still

progression

yet my father, despite his flaming stamp

seemed to cut through the chaff

always though directed toward brunette, for a

blonde would be scared of the redhead

gene

and it is true they have begun to turn away

russet colored men from sperm banks

so my father had a chip on his shoulder

for being red when his father was

dark and swarthy

how then the man who is neither?

I inherited the pallor but not the color

nor the freckles I have some

of my mother in me though

she would say not

now I see it more and more

as she is less and less

snipping me out like

a bad paper doll who has

transgressed

I miss her even in preparation

for our dissolution

we are quite similar

and just as different

but when I see her eyes in

the mirror I ask

wasn’t I worth trying for?

It is futile to query

the reasons for disinterest

when studying psychology I learned

as only children never understand

the myriad ways we misinterpret

ten people in a room who all see

a different thing

perception then, is a liar and a clown

we should stick to loyalty

but that has fallen out of vogue

I thought being pale I would

age better than my contemporaries

who tanned themselves into oblivion

how I envied their brown

it’s enough to drive you crazy

wanting what you are never

but I am ageing faster

maybe it’s the mercury in my blood

or the grief I don’t seem to be able

to set aside

perhaps I have forgotten what it is like

to be cherished or how to dream

I do not know

but I dyed my hair when the grey came

taunting with its white brush as if to say

here you go, have a sprinkling

you’ve earned it

now my body begins the fiendish process

of cutting off

its estrogen and skin

starts to dull and lose its shine

almost enough to wish for

the discontented pale girl once

lucky I have no lover to

impress

for there is nothing

to brag in my loss of elastic

and sad dumpy thighs

they say you

do not need to have children

to sag

and I can attest

to no live birth

and much gravity

what was once popular in youth

the cleavage

the early fruit

becomes an enemy to

the middle-aged

am I that already? I seem

still to feel like the dancer on stage

earning her moves

taking love between her chest bone

squeezing it of juice

I visited my old studio when I went ‘home’

saw young girls with

long necks and flat chests

I wanted to be them

and also I did not

for it would be tiring to

start over again

with all the expectations and all the demands

there is something

still and good about

less

but I may have taken it to an extreme

with the quiet of my life

the emptiness of my eyes

if you see me

forgetful and slow

and then to dance

in a fleeting moment

you will understand

it is not easy to accept change

when you have not yet had your time

but forgive me my ugly feet

and look into my eyes

that is where I can still be found

searching for you

among the debris

and the loose ribbons

we kept so perfect

pinned tightly

on display

 

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Totems to that absence

It isn’t my weft to self torture

but on occasion, often bidden by

emotions tumbling from rusted cage

I try to restrain them

overtaking my control

then, you are there

in the sunlight streaming through paper blinds

hurting my eyes so that all but a whiteness

is felt behind closed eyes

the unceasing wetness of tears

cause my skin to feel chaffed

even in summer

you would think eventually

they would dry up, but they never do

just as you would think I’d stop

remembering so accutely or

longing so intensely for

things near and far away and closed

as to not exist

except in my urging of them

the you, that you were

confident, slick, arrogant

I have never liked arrogance

but behind it

a soul and a heart

I wished to conquer with my own

urge gentleness out of you

like impatient bird who cries

before it is morning

I often feel, if I allow it

that I was created for you

and despite this

you threw me away

because I could not survive, or pay my way in the world

if I did what you asked

you did not care about that

but only, what you would receive

and though I remember the light in your eyes

dimming and your kisses growing

less in intensity

there are days I wish only

to touch the moments

that for me, were happiest of my life

whether that is absurd or downright

sick

it really doesn’t matter anymore

now we are lost in time and space

spinning away from the other

more and more, with every passing moment

and that hurts as if it were a fresh wound

though it is old and many times healed over

that healing is a lie

because I am never okay

without you and this you knew

when you left, it was to take

the part of me I loved best and

the capture of my heart

the days afterward were

inconsequential even though I tried

to bring meaning back, it was as if

color and sound had fled

only the flowers I bought you

linger in my mind

their lovely pink and the way

flowers must always die

just as

time kills

but does not destroy

the original love

or its resulting

pain

I do not want to spend

more years sitting at tables alone

watching my tears grow cold as

the light captures me in a moment

of you

and how you were

when you didn’t yet know

you would always leave me

the radiance of your smile

still lights my heart

followed by a pain

knowing

that version of you

shall never exist again

that love for me is now

grown over and neglected

by irrevocable doors closing

we did not know, would sabotage

something as true

as the feeling

of us

I still believe if you’d

searched your soul you

would not have let go

for life gives us few

if any

perfect

memories

too often we remain

eternally haunted by

totems to

that absence

Back to life

What is this place that one returns to?

for some, possible, easy even

to put aside a person, shelve them with other memories

like a box of postcards growing yellow

whilst I was always the girl who climbing on top of boxes

found the postcards and brought them down

splayed like restless tarot on my lap

try to fathom, walk back into time

absent people, love letters sent to

girlfriends now married, unrecognizable

childish handwriting, burst of emotion scored in yesterday’s colors

I have always liked stories and wanted

to read the secret histories of those

who would not share them with me

so your letters I had to put

in a green river one by one

for fear if they were not wet and destroyed

I’d read over and over til you came back to life

finding myself

running lonely highway to your home

knocking on your still familiar door expecting to see

your living breathing face, cheeks infused with color

smiling in that way only you did

when I stood before you.

When someone has died

they steal air from the room

leaving behind closed windows

rattling against wind and chill

you have to go in with heavy shoes

make noise, shake cold from your bones

open them wide until pure sunlight

blinds primal darkness

I recall

how your hair looked when

sun stroked it in streams of light

how unbroken perfection of your skin

resembled fruit, summer time and children

lolling about in gardens upsidedown, tongue out

though you were older, I always felt

protective in that way I imagine a parent may

reaching for their child, smelling joy and motion

of their life laid out ahead in patient sillouette

I have always been remote and stood away

from frilled crowd with hidden daggers

content to observe and only participate

in flung arms of dancing and those raw easy things

not requiring sustained inspection

it takes a lot for me to wish

to share myself with another

to open up those parts of me, I struggle to reconcile.

unceasing criticism can close off even the thirsty traveler desperate

to sit by warming fire and stoke shadows to divination.

With you, we were two unsupervised kids

sitting on the dusty floor of my attic

opening boxes of memories with fearless hands

we talked without fear, then as

day began to show her pink slip in sky

I’d take your slim arm and lead you

into my bed where

light enveloped our heads like halos and we tasted the rapture of undisturbed acceptance

see in the eyes of one born of me

part of you

our mingled DNA taking lilac wing

in the electricity of love making

I could smell you on me afterward

and loathe to bathe

stayed writing by the window

watching you cycle away

the strong muscles in your skinny legs peddling like

knock-kneed urchin

turning the corner

always leaving

the circumfrance of you behind

radiating on the road

like a mirage

and in my hair and on my body

a ghost or whisper of

someone absent and close

if I could have kept you safe

or stopped time

but the heart is a closing flower

once damaged she ushers her dancers

fold into velvet, trap the dream

we were strangers, then siblings

of sorrow and laughter

like night and day play

on the fringe of their fading

your dusky skin against my pale

never enough time

to say what I wanted to say

in language untranslatable

to mortal minds

we existed as pollen

carried on high wind will

strike new life into that which sleeps

drousy and given over to liquid day

and I have never returned to that place

without a throat full of pain

wanting to call your name

hear your return

the indent of your existence

anything but

silence

And how

Hear how the fox festoons dusk

With larkish bark the color of a young girls best pitch

And how

Bathed in sweat I consider mortalities strange lyre

The photos of parts of me transposed and caught in time

Nothing is real and all is magnified by the mind

As she weaves her dream about our smoky heads

Tiptoeing over slate roof tops like ballerina forced to cat burgle

In this sliver of reality I choose

To disguard any mantle of victimhood

In imperfect slices of myself I have survived

Nothing will tear me down, save the last licorice root before tree fall

I have played acquiescences tuneless keys long enough

This is what growing up feels like at any age

The acceptance, not all is well or right yet

If I look, I know my worth

I’ll not give it away to appease those who seek

Through their own brokenness, to strip me of waterproofing

Time is too drunk on her singularity

She is in the bare knotted tree branches

Bowing together in subjugate to winter’s breath

Fat cheeked children licking plum juice from woolen fingers

And though separate, we are in conversation from

The very moment of our meeting

I am talking to you and listening close

As river water hides stoop of cold

Dashing its relentless self across us all

Bound and sheltering

From chill? From ourselves? The secrets behind our eyes or

Those said things unwrapped and steaming on kitchen table

The fire changing light to ghosts

I hear three generations

The reflection of another casting

My own breakage

Gathered with bright leaves in sacks of deposed

Being told fear is a disease we let enter

Turn it out, rent out those rooms you no longer inhabit

Turning as I have, to you

The shining of your throat covered in words

I’ll not let loose

Waiting for you

At hungry waters edge

In any country in the world

In any language

You run ahead

Turning back

The half moon of your face

Drawing light

An infusion

Aching

And the unseen fox

I imagine her as you

Bold wordless vibrance

Full tail, muscular legs

The twitch of beauty

Stark against tarmac

Owning darkness

The internal dream

Your soft hair

grace

beneath the moon

I imagine us

light limbed

piano hearted

slipping from key to key

hands on my face

tracing soft accompaniment

I lead you onto oak floor

dancing beneath wax

and French 75 on your breath

moving to a hum

the internal dream

your arms curled around my waist

close your eyes

see ancestors walk

silver hammered

your mouth crushing mine

the oval and the heart

echoing across sound

no barrier

the unraveling trip of clothes

pressing against skin

somewhere ivory music slows

candles burn out

we can smell in the dark

hear the sound

of our mutual breath

as you gather me

as I lean and become

desired

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

The wounded eyed girl

15Before I knew myself, uttered out loud the words

labeling me a this or a that or a who knows?

I developed feelings for a wounded eye girl

we were kids really, dressing up as Japanese geisha in my room

all festooned in asian print and a little tea set I got for cheap

from china town

we wore chopsticks in our hair and bowed ceremoniously

singing the only song we knew in Japanese

with The Mikado playing in the background

I liked her thin arms and her prominent nose

her knock knee urchin look and bandaged soul

I liked how strong she was even as she looked like she’d fly away

most of all I was attracted to her wounded eyes

for there is something heady and bewitching in

pain

and its infinite manifestations

we’d dress up, I would paint her lips scarlet, we’d put on

funny accents and roll on the floor looking up at glow stars

I still had stuck there with movie posters of vampires

she would fling her arm out across my chest,  tell me of herself

pouring out the suffering of her short life

and it was an awful life before she was

brought to this city we lived in, both from somewhere else

transplants, orphans, ghosts of ourselves with missing DNA

she would tell me of her homeland, how

her father beat her black and blue for

being a girl

why as she got older he took

each of her sisters one by one

and they didn’t come back

whole or even

well repaired

I wanted to lick the pain from her cheeks and hold her to me

until the wound healed

but nothing I could ever do would assuage

the wounds behind her dark brown eyes

so we played as little girls do

building camps and tepees and western saloons

once I played a prostitute and she a cowboy

I cocked my head, snapped a red garter and asked her;

want to have some fun soldier?

she laughed, such a lovely laugh

her black hair and coffee skin, shining with fantasy

she didn’t like being herself anymore than me

we got into our pretend saloon bed

I served her a pretend shot of whiskey

acted ‘saucy’ the way I had learned from TV

she rolled her eyes laboriously like a comedian winking

pulled up my petticoats which were real

and at one point had been my mother’s wedding dress

when she married my father, bare foot and broke

with a velvet ribbon tied around her neck

and our fingers explored each other

as we giggled and changed our voices to all the favorite

TV characters we knew

I think I even tried to be Sue Ellen

I wanted to tell her then, not to stop

to press my mouth to her pomegranate lips

touch her swelling breasts with my own lack of

run myself like a cat across her saffron skin

but even then I knew

damage makes bad bed fellows

we soon changed the game, to cops and robbers

climbing out of the window, swinging from trees

though in every story

there was an element of romance

I thought of the old shows I loved

where the actors were always

dancing around the circumference

of each others heart

how in real life sometimes they married

I told my father; Oh see! Oh see! pretend things can come real!

but some cannot

and she and I grew up

once she told me she had always known I felt like that

I blushed dark red because of course

thinking I’d been subtle when watching her changing clothes

she married a blonde haired man and moved to Australia

had a little boy and hopefully

a ceasing of her alotment of pain

because more than anything I wanted that for her

even more than the beautiful moment

of two girls

laying in sunlight

laughing at imagined things

for the rest and peace and escape

of anything real