Papier-mache

e23b1d77a3144773d37a060c30b340b9--the-velveteen-rabbit-being-ugly

They said, keep the blinds drawn, what we have to say, isn’t good

they lay her down on a white sheet and beneath, the hammered metal hummed

the bulb in the middle of the room, behind linoleum, sung a hissing song

their white-coated pluck and scratch, indifferent and sterile, she was just, flesh and blood

another in a long line of patients who, largely were forgotten, consumed by a machine, uncaring of individual

she could feel the dried corners of her eyes crack, as she looked left and right

someone once told her, adult survivors of abuse, find it hard to relax

they are always looking for what is crawling out of cupboards

she didn’t want her past to run her future, but now it seemed, her future was in doubt

never before had she felt so alone

the petty bravery of moving countries, seemed a facile thing, for children who didn’t yet know, true terror

surely it is easy to be brave when you have no war, and are just posting letters

she lived like that for so long, running from childhood’s sadness, enjoying the wide open space of adulthood

thinking she had all the time in the world, surely growing older was for another life

it wasn’t entirely selfish, she did her part, but there was always the tendency to want to make up for the past, by living without a care

and then it was no longer that way

impossible to ignore, unable to let go of, she was swiftly consumed and irrevocably changed

even if tomorrow the cloud lifted, she would never walk as lightly as she used to

the power of naivety, ignorance is surely, our dearest friend

now her heart beat fast all the time, unable to still, the surge of emotions inside

she was a rabbit in her burrow, smelling fox

she was no longer the quick silver of a girl, without terrible knowledge

days were unbearably long, and serious, like the frown on an old man’s face

they spoke of compromise, a series of steps, faltering and bursting apart and trying over

it was as if all of her was removed and pummelled into earth and made to rise again

never was it more silent, never did she wish for the phone to ring and something to let her out of the nasty trap with jagged mouth

words are just words, she could have said; I am strong, I am going to fight, but in the next breath she may

simply not be able

and that lack of, that inability, like a prison, or a sudden dismemberment, was, a kind of horror she’d never been creative enough to imagine

like being stolen from yourself, and hearing in the distance, the sound of children dancing

to your favorite song

if life is indeed a battle, she thought, this is where I need to buckle down

put aside my tendency to want to climb out of the window and skip the lesson

stifle the longing to run fast, in the opposite direction

everything so far, had brought her to this point, it wasn’t what she’d imagined

instead, she’d hoped by now, she’d have found her groove, begun as humans tend, to build her fortress

it wasn’t time yet, it wasn’t nearly time yet

and all the days she’d squandered, thinking there would be more

all the long drawn out machinations, to position herself and be ‘responsible’

denying the lustre of living

she’d put off joy so many times, in favor of ‘sensible choices’

where were those now? She berated herself for not having taken

more vacation, more experiences, that glass of wine, danced on that table top

she worked for a future, she may never get to experience, sure she felt bitter, angry at her lack of insight

though most believe, we’re never ready for bad news or, the fall of favor

we think we predict worst case scenario but that’s only an anxious mind

seeking to control the uncontrollable and unknown

nothing prepares you for a premature curtain fall

nothing shores you up to deal with catastrophe

we muddle through or we give up

those are the only two ways we journey

when the wet-ass hour comes tolling

she felt a grief for her bad choices and wished, like others she could have no regrets

it is hard not to regret when you’re cut off from everything

difficult to look forward when the present is biting at your ankles

she wasn’t one to pray for herself

but she did now

she prayed for the strength she felt she didn’t have

she prayed not to feel so isolated

cried thinking of how many before her, went through this darkness alone, their hearts aching to be cared for

she was a little girl again, looking for her mother beneath furniture

seeing her in album covers and from the top of buses

that woman had her mother’s eyes, large and dark

that lady’s figure is slim and reedy like her mother’s was

at night she wanted to feel the way she imagined a child does

put to bed and told, everything is well, you are safe

if she’d had children, she’d be saying it to them now

but life threw her a curve-ball and she ended up reproducing only

empty rooms collecting dust

perhaps it was for the best, now that she’d sunk so low

for how could she care for anyone, when she could not for herself?

if everything has a reason, she wasn’t sure of this

to teach her gratitude? To punish her for lassitude?

if there was a God she hoped, somehow to end her suffering, even by means of eternal sleep

but she felt bad for praying when so many, suffered far worse than her, and how they coped, she did not know

only that she had to try each day to keep going, in what direction was unclear

she wasn’t sure of the sign-posts or meaning, it was too easy to let fear, guide her way

so many things needed to change and yet, she was tired, so tired of fighting and being scared

they say those brought up unkindly, learn to be strong

she didn’t feel strong at all, she felt like only a thin wind, kept her from collapsing

and all her plans were thrown in water, watching the ink bleed out, with nothing left to find, but papier-mache

her grandmother once told her, out of nothing you can build, entire universes

she tried now to imagine a place, where she would be restored

where all the things she still had to do, remained possible

surely you can tell when, the end of the record is over and, it’s about to go quiet

she hadn’t been able to, she’d one day been carrying her dancing shoes, across the newly waxed floor, her eyes feverish with anticipation

and the next, swallowed by sickness, left without curative

only the static of a cold room and a script for patience

she’d been spat out of the system, left to flounder by road-side

how different, she thought, from childhood where, we do everything to protect them from fear

sewing toys that will keep them company at night

mobiles to send them to sleep, songs to ward away nightmares

and at some eventual point, we decide they’re ready for the real world

full of savagery and disregard and people who are supposed to help

but are only doing the bare minimum

is it any wonder we flounder, and miss a step?

looking around in wide-eyed fear

mouthing the unasked question

is this what it feels like, to be real?

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Shade

There are

played

unwashed moments of

circumference

like silk wars

beneath unspoken seige

words hard to cleave

shape the ancestor

filling hallway with

limit and possibility

as day turns golden outside

we remain in shade

The growing chronicles #4 Undone


Ageing backward

once a child

stuffed with potential

you could be burned and

engage future with the severed fearlessness of the young

who do not believe the bell will toll for them

and come a day

marked by tree rings of frigid growth

looking up at sky emptied of cloud

how cruel the season burns

secrets from the branches

 

that day

an altered girl sinks beneath bath water

marred by her loathing self

what emerges trembled in fear

keep the lights on mama

she is returning to unknowing

It is the dementia of the soul

clamoring for relief

 

her bones are no longer soft and green

they grow lean and she curls

away from herself

those days of succor and wiggle

when was the last time you touched her like a flower?

and opening she cried into you

tumbling into a shared well of blossom

 

we both wear silver in our hair now

released from knowledge, return to unknown

lying like a split pomegranate

seeds spilling out

mouths stained radiant

how did you live so long to trap yourself?

back in the box of musk and gunpowder

the lock sounds like a scythe

it is cold and unworn

opposing sides climb to the rumor

you are undone

The growing chronicles #3 Hypochondria


It’s still a man’s world

a world where most of the earth

would stone two women in love

and those women who break the glass ceiling are often

unrecognizable as women

for they eat

with their bean soup

the dry wafer of other females
If I tell you

I am not prideful

it is the quiet and the book

an occasion of solitude

interspersed with longing

I’ll never be a loud mouthed girl to hang your spurs upon

but still I know how to talk to the moon

and I believe in you
At night

poorly lit by lamps

like yellow faces downcast

we walk vigorously

hand folded in hand

and that simple act

I cherish

above any gift or benediction
When we are apart

monsters live under my bed

shadows rinse in continuing pass

the joy of breaking bread

shatters

as bloodied

the unseen art of war

within gentle hearts

causes my pulse to spike

and in time succumb

to hypochondria

 

For it is you

who taught me first

this is how you wade in shallow water

not listening to the buzz of insects

searching for a way in

and this is how you swim in deep water

not minding the curdled heat reflecting in

masks off the surface of thought

you can if you really want

stand solid against the onslaught of fear

crawling beneath your skin as the sun

grinds us down into withered and parched semblance

you can if you really want

defy time and tendency and take a deep breath

learning to stretch far in the distance

without air

 

When I wake

and the thunder of your absence

breaks my resolve

when the smell of you is fading

in the comb of your absence

I hear your voice skimming water

like touchstones seeking entry

one by one you build your fortress

installing me against the ravage

that pit I carried every year

before you walked into my life and said

fear cannot win as long as you believe in love

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

Inherit their voice

2012610_1809dSat facing away from the sun

an old man wipes years from his eyes

drawn over with cataract like milky bath water

he strains to see the outline of motion

 

where are all the old men? He thinks

once so barrel chested and neatly trimmed

with mustaches and shiny hair like Cover Girl teens

where are all the eighties queers who painted beaches

with tight abs and tiny shorts in tropical shades?

 

now half empty, the beach longs for color

only rotund women with bristly chins

unkempt hair chopped without thought

some with children or children’s children

placing sensible shades and thick UV factor 50

on slow-moving parts of themselves

 

in previous years you could

reach out and paint a rainbow

in their courage of being twenty

though lesbians and gay men do not

always a palate make

such contrasts in their expression

these women without restraint

mopping the brows of dying beautiful boys

unwilling nurses drawn to duty

by suffering ignored

 

some judged, as is human’s wont

even those judged themselves

learning in pious pews the curses afflicted upon

the sinner

their ingrained prejudices wondered;

Why so many striken did not stop frequenting steam rooms

smelling of bleach and pleasure and illness

looking for strangers with no way to tell

if death stood beside them?

 

perhaps; time old division of the sexes

rather than, one bad, one good

men will find a hole, stick it in without regard

this is not a homosexual thing but

the nature of a penis

gay men acted upon that unrestrained impulse

all men share, save those who learn greater depth

than the hand, the orifice, the gag reflex

then disease clasped them in a death grip

chewing away at fragile worn tendencies

soon no beautiful boys remained

hot in steam rooms to blink their doe eyes

fringed with fear

 

some divisions are economic

lesbians with babies, lesbians without brawn

unable to act upon their natural instinct

remained married, starched at home, dying in place

whilst young men, fed on corn and barley, took good

California jobs and soon the boom grew teats

 

educated baby dykes today do not know loss of freedom

or the true price of salt

they can rack up bed notches in reckless abandon

imitation not always the greatest flattery

but back then …

all so new and unsanctioned

people didn’t have road maps or internet

to gauge behavior by

and in the dirty rim of a third glass of whiskey

courage and terror would sometimes blind

best intention

 

girls today repeat the worst inventions

of boys without purpose

those early days of the movement

can a life be a movement?

they died weekly and by the hour

in shabby rooms without succor or sense

strangled by disease, shamed by the ‘told you so’s’

just coming out

only to climb into a coffin and be carried

jeers and spit and hate to their graves

where few wept, for they too shared death

mottled with kaposi’s sarcoma

some haters slinging mud shouted;

you depraved souls! You reap what you sow!

is this the word of Mohamed & Jesus?

or cruelty with nothing more than hate to grow?

 

now gays think they are safe

over the hump, socially acceptable

on TV, in your face, sitting next to you, earning more

painting their rooms mauve, their wallets thick

HIV can be lived past, no more automatic death sentence

adoption is legal, and marriage, a thriving business

do they even remember how many fell?

before they could inherit this tenuous hour?

 

the old man was one of fifty

the last survivor of his generation

depleted by silent war

struck down by AIDS and her harpies

over time even medication failing hope

or bodies, tired from their walk

collapsing on scalding streets without

the kindness of stranger

 

the old man, he cannot say to today’s youth

this is how it was, learn from the past

because they do not care, it is their time now

and if they knew it would not matter

only the hour of their immediacy

compelling them forward to their own history

one day past them and in reverse

they may share his loneliness then

too late

 

the old man

who used to be a beautiful boy

with golden skin and hazel eyes

a thick swath of black hair hanging like a wave

he looks at his gnarled hands and sagging arms

with their scars and their ragged hurt

and he wants to be as loud as the young

and shout out;

 

where have they gone?

the beautiful boys of my time?

why must I outlive them all and see in my decline

the loss of their right, to be recalled!

for whom among us, shall pick up the mantle

and say their names, once we are all

beneath earth?

an entire generation cut down

and smoothed over like asphalt

 

do we ever think of that?

in our perpetual urge to be present, in the moment?

those who have gone before

stand now like ghosts around him

an entire era

strangled before they ever could

inherit their voice

 

(This is my contribution to Pride Month. I want to remember those who are not here with us, because they died when they could have lived, if they had not been forgotten and repulsed. During and afterward, Africa was equally rejected, neglected, ignored, and millions died. Worldwide HIV/AIDS is still a death-sentence, make no mistake. Those with power decide who lives and dies, whose life has worth, whose does not, decisions are not made out of mercy they are made coldly with calculation and lack of compassion. All the rest is froth on a daydream. Our memories are sometimes the only thing keeping us from repeating history). #neverforget

 

Red Mary

hemofgarmentThey said

she’s a sinner

that red Mary

she’s got shadows in her soul

everyone’s done a wrong

what’s yours?

she couldn’t recall a sin she committed

though many done against her still

showed in bad light shining as scars will

what constitutes a sin?

not picking up a fallen book or

neglecting the heart of an aching soul?

not burying a bird nor preventing its death

sailing into glass as you ate your day

she’d let

the dinner burn accidentally making snow flakes for the windows

she’d been too tired

to scrub the tile in the bathroom before the guests arrived

she’d given herself the bigger helping on occasion

but more often than not she made room for the needs of others

cramped with heads on her lap driving in the car

give an inch take a mile convert to metric lose measure

what comes first? you?

she knew she hurt herself when eclipsing

and if that was a sin

she was a sinner plenty

scratching charred lines of dislike across herself

like a map plotting direction with blooming red pins

but lord if that is a sin

to turn and bear our fangs within

when the world is full of clamoring snake oil salesmen

hawking their false wares

building temples for closed gods

telling children who are raped

no you cannot abort this is gods wish

then she was a sinner of the very worst sort

for her belief was

those who are without blemish don’t exist

but some of us are good

not living under the almshouse for the spiritually impoverished

she didn’t know what it meant to

live in sin be born to sin

she felt sin was a choice

you made or did not make

and she did not choose

to sin except

by laying in bed reading

on Sunday listening to

the vowels of the faithful

herding their flock