The fragile cast 

Tell me again

To be fearless

Tell me again

To depend on myself

I am yet a child

Still holding her toy by the ear

I am feeling you give me

The hard water slap of advice

Cold on my cheek, formerly warm.

You say

It’ll toughen me up

But I already know

It has wrought the reverse

I am not

A leathered creature of your creation

I am already 

Quite changed and mangled.

Whilst you 

Suffered and carved expressions from granite

Still you were told, you were a marvel

I was weighted down only with disapprobation

And your searing brand of tough love

Tore me further without support

Gave me greater fears, made me feel alone

In a room full of sound.

You cannot rob a child of their ego before it is formed

Nor nurture one empty handed and pickpocketed

You cannot protect a child by harm

Broken is broken.

We all require, when we start in this world

The unconditional faith of others

In a look, a knowledge, some portion of belief

In the validity of us

Lifted just enough to see over the edge.

Life already begs to steal the best 

We cannot survive by being cast into fire before we learn to walk

It doesn’t forge stronger bones

We live as ash, insubstantial invalids

Longing for the strength of kindness.

Before you break a child

Think of them twenty years from now

Grown on thin gruel and scraps

We who stand in the tempest 

May appear whole

But in our essence we lack

The varnish of other’s meant to grow us tall

It is in the stained radiance 

We find the courage to face the world

Bestowed on us by those meant to protect

The fragile cast of a child.

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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

The growing chronicles #1 Bitters


I’m too tired

dear one

to refute your love of harm

or as you put it

hard but necessary truth

just as Swedish bitters are

good for you

spare the rod, spoil the child

so you ensured I learned the hard way

 

why then

do criticisms often taste

like gunpowder?

that overwhelming urge to correct at every turn

just like you were created to hurt?

what line, invisible or seen, exists?

to guide the critic in their pursuit

of picking apart the flaw

remaking anew and improved

 

you can do better

was my Christian name

you need to apply yourself more

the nightly prayer

and being absent

my response

 

you see

tear someone down consistently and enough?

you light them on fire

they become not as you hoped

your obedient (but inferior) acolyte

but something fragmented

a faulty firework longing to explode

earthbound and simmering beneath

your superior

assault

The parrot

fffffThe parrot took me to school

not the other way around

though he was made of cloth

he lived

when teachers asked

Candy why do you have a parrot on your shoulder?

I turned, flashed a gap-tooth smile and said

what parrot?

squawk, squawk

the parrot, my secret captain

a life saver for drowning children

learning to swim without floatation device

thrown in the deep end at first a mouthful of water

then spectral lights and buoyancy

I, a reluctant pirate

ransacking empty ships

lest I become immortal

O heaven

forbid

when I turn around

he is no longer on my shoulder

smiling with glass eye and slightly damp feathers

One shall remain unseen

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The owl

left gouges to your scalp

without a mouth

you spoke

do not go my way child

learn from error the better path

where? where granny?

behind you

where? where granny?

in front of you

where? where granny?

beside you

where? where granny?

she stood in formation an army of past

familiar eyes different words

don’t go my way, forge your own

inherit nothing of madness left to roam

your genes like spirits grown too wild

avoid the drink it gives you ghosts

spare the rod, saturate desire

lust for obliteration and self immolation

my reality makes shoes disappear under beds

the ache of springs unused to their test

it is our code to set fire to the best of ourselves

stay your hand as it passes

the naked flame

see into my cinders

another method for staying sane

when you itch … when you wish

to fling yourself into oblivion

think of me

cold and dead

this is not your future yet

you have pockets heavy with planting

get to it, press deeper the iron into soil

until you pull out the old roots taking space

make room for new

it is the labor of the faithful

tiring and requiring patience

do not forget to reach in deep

for just when you think you’ve got the last

one shall remain

unseen

Jamais vu

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You were born without a name

clothes handed down with sweat stains

not your own imposter

never seen

by false doubles who called you their child

you were nothing and you were everything

an unglued magic lifting off an empty table

set for nobody

you slept in the rafters of your ancestors

unable to articulate their absence

I recall the jars you had by your bedside

each one contained a scream

you stoppered and kept private

at night’s fall as we lay

watching bare branches flick in and out of

wan street light

illuminated shadows dancing

like anorexic girls inspecting themselves

this way and that, before elongated mirror

you would breathe out

and with your breath came a color

violet and sorrowful

like an instrument kept in velvet case

presses just enough to leave a trace

of the sheen in its wood

no matter how deeply I moved in you

lighting your emptiness with whispers

your anchor never reached the bottom

choosing instead oblivion

not staying long enough for choice

as cast off children know only too well

the fragment of life

spilt before their awareness matured

sitting in a full room alone

rubbing the soft worn cotton of a shirt

bought for someone else

 

Time

Rabarbra or Wife Engel picking Rhubarb via WikimediaThis place called time

tastes like rhubarb pulled from dark earth

washed too quickly

holds the grit

and fervor

my grandma says

coal and dirt protect the child

from disease and rancor

but will they erase? I ask

the tenor of nightmares brushing

thin window panes at dawn

before first bird call wakes

the timorous

for fear

can come in the unexpected moth

hitting light and dying upside down

bearing fangs

or in an accumulation of loss

seeking refuge in cooling pipes

when the world sleeps

are we lost then?

to the debris of ourselves?

making masks of highs and lows

as mountains would cleave themselves

into castles

I would like I told her

to be a badger or a fox

stealthy and unseen

beneath hedgerow of cast offs

wild and lost in retreat

among spun floss of highlands

where moss turns aubergine and dries

into purple air

once I saw a skull bleached into chalk

more could be said of its expression

than the world of scraped chairs

and reluctant mouths downcast in an effort

not to betray themselves

when they pulled me from the weeds

daubing calamine for poison ivy and

salt on adhering slugs

I asked they leave me

just a moment more

to turn into a hollow

instrument awaiting its pluck

in the warmth of an

empty room