Before their time

They say courage

Is learnable

Sometimes acquired in combat

 Trial by fire

But I have tasted white flames

Walked on coals

Swallowed whole

The seat of Hades

And still

Unable to grasp pole and walk electric tightrope

Never brave

A weathered rock unable to move

Even as sea receeds and escape, presents herself

It is not courage I possess

But by default

Staying power

Sometimes it is easier to be frozen 

Than act or flee

Simpler to tred water than

Drown or swim to distant shore

I am well versed in biding time

Treating days as if they were not precious

Undisciplined in

Owning my error

Avoidance becoming

Personality

They said I was a free spirit

I say

I was a gutless procrastinate

How long will life have waited

For me to act? Before

Sighing in disgust

She throws in her hat

Leaving me to consequence

For surely, what we believe in youth, will not burn

Catches up

Paying back ten fold

The only life is the one you make

To be a spectator in your own existence

Is not even a half measure

There is no reward for cowardice

No fulfillment in hiding

Life is a burning bush lighting darkness

It doesn’t burn nearly long enough

We

Are made of nothing without

Ernest endeavor 

Do not put yourself off

Climb the mountain

Conquer the voice telling you not to bother

For soon we are too feeble

Too near that twilight of the soul

It will be late then to lament

Take care never to postpone

Life

And if you must, do not be harsh 

For those who stumble can continue to try

One day it will all be so worth it

Every ache, every struggle

Mighty is not always the healthy mind

But those who refuse to lay down 

And die before their time

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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

Stillborn

thFrom Germany to Australia your parents fled

the brush of taint

your mother a beauty

your father with only enough room in his heart

for singular devotion

when she died, cut down by trolley car in front of you

aged six, catching the splatter of her broken skull

he took you into his bed to make up for her absence

you grew wan on divulgence of sin

til neighbors found out and your doors were broken

three men in uniform standing around the bed

get out they said

the smear of their inferred condemnation thick in your ears

like river mud swallowing you up among grubs and slugs

who blames a child for her abuse?

those who know nothing of truth, shining their finery with glass

you walked the line all the way to a foster home with metal teeth

thrown out at 17 for falling in love and shaming their Baptist ideals

as you and he prepared to marry he rode his bike in the night to pick up

his mother’s narrow ring

skidding on freak ice on the way back his head caved in like an exploding star

you stood at the altar alone waiting

impatient clock showing

he will not attend

afterward with nothing, there was no reason to stay

someone said like they do before you pass 20

let’s go to India

so you packed up your emptiness, put your leather sandals on

high in the Himalayas you caught the fever and nuns with tight wrapped mouths

whirled with lines and decay

nursed you as you slipped in and out of consciousness

liquid and sorrow pouring from you in bucket loads

a miracle! they announced when clawed your way back

what did you have to live for? being the whispered irony

and there, in the desolation of knowing nothing you walked

kept on walking until your feet blistered and your soul took flight

in the low hanging mangrove trees

where at night the shadows looked like an epiphany and you decided

I will return to my native land, the one of my ancestors

you wrote a distant aunt, she replied; come to the black forest we have

mud that will cleanse you of your sorrow and broad-shouldered men

Germany with its fairy tale castles and starched people rolling their own

you clambered over your wreckage, beginning again as only the young can

a flutist falling in love with your dark eyes and shiny thick Germanic hair

a marriage led to loneliness, he toured, you waited, touching his absence

with lightest fingertip

until it seemed being without him, would fill you more than staying put

traveling to Greece alone, you burned and burned and burned

turning yourself into oak

a waiter slept in your bed and kept you cool

against the battering murmur of sea tapping at french windows

life grew inside of you

when you took your first real job in London’s garish metropolis

heaving with anticipation and empty suitcases of hope

your daughter gave you the first peace you ever knew

a perfect child with a little mouth and large eyes

your Greek baby she lay in the curve of your hips smiling

and you breathed, deeply, and slow

like a long traveled bird finds purchase and easement

on empty shore

she, with her little tiny fingers and little feet

died of crib death just as

a match can be blown out never to

be re-lit

feeling like she hadn’t existed and she couldn’t be gone

here was your second decade of sorrow

etched between your fine eyes and deep clavicle

WHY? was not a word you used

absent of all

living only because your chest deemed it necessary to rise and fall

in time to your still-born ache framed

in reluctant silver requiring continual polish

you wanted to hurl yourself out of existence

yet you flourished as if life had said

we have taken and now we nourish

you grew successful, wealthy, every night you tucked yourself up

alone in a singletons bed

until the smell of the sea on the shores of Australia called you

it’s been eighteen years and it’s time

to come home

passing over Sydney Opera House you saw

the curve of sky and water meet

something within you released

he seemed to be waiting in the first corner you turned

as if always there, just ready to reveal

his promise to stay

with time they say pain subsides

which you know isn’t quite true

though love can keep together broken halves

by its stubborn hold on people who

would otherwise fracture and become

light on water skimming surface

it was not fair,  it was not right

now you are back in your homeland where

you began and will draw to a close

I hope

with the knowledge that even lives

built on pyres can hold

depths we release like night birds

flying unseen

overhead

Calypso

under-the-old-appletreeThe Gotan Project

reverberating tangoed reggae

the summer we spilled from the first floor

as steel bands pass by in their smart costumes

shiny buttons gleaming against oiled skin

feathered masks and sarsaparilla staining mouths

learning calypso had been the moment

I slipped from one world to the next

we listen peaceably

I tap the point of my shoe and then my heel

like when I wore coins on my sole

you have an oxygen tube in your nose

the bags beneath your eyes are gathering wool

serving your country leveled your ability

for small talk

but music can make strange bed fellows of us

you say

is this Spanish?

I confess I’m unsure

of the exact ingredient

isn’t that true of so much these days?

you snort and for a moment I worry

your beliefs are in line with segregation

until you unfold the photo

of your curly-haired children

their ebony mother with her muscular neck

crossed with sea pearls and a faraway gaze

salt breeze bleaching the tips of fingers

it’s them that keeps me going

you say and your eyes are veined and bright

for a moment as if you absorbed the joy

of love and it healed you

rising from mirthless wheelchair

we shift dry footed across lino floor

whisking it fast with purpose

I am spilling in scarlet, you in patent tux

your hair a wild brillo sheen

the world of what was and what is

flickering beneath rhythmic eye lids

 

Stigmata

 

093c3ac60161fdab3e0a048f7e5ccf6cThe day they pricked paint into her back

permanent and violet

she grew a lotus mandala

lending a little stigmata wisdom

to the thin bones of her grow

for she didn’t know that year

whether to follow sharp train tracks and disappear

into the woods not to be discovered

or walk into winter blizzard

feeling her way through to

imposing red bricked hospital

sagging against its frame like

an auburn flame caught in globe

shaken from foothold

placing her wet gloves on chaffing radiator

tell the patient man behind his mahogany desk

littered with prescriptives for disease of the mind

I am not well I am not well I am not well

you must take me from my freedom and tie me up

in a satin bow atop a new gift of hope

somewhere I cannot think or pass

in my mouth the marble and coinage

of my jailer

 

if she had let herself fall then

with his regard whiskering her lament

and plummet like a fire consumed comet

for the first time without control just

the ember of her flaming skirt searing

a series of interrupted tap dances

spanning shortened  life

in the direction of diminishing

sticky mouthfuls of sweet jam taken in dark

tap tap tap tap

braille, wittled cane, white and wooden

hers was the fear of generations

her grandmother, her grandfather

laid to rest in sweet meadow of

Mont-Ventoux, beyond lavender fields

where their metallurgic table of elements

could rest from unquenched desire to end

take your medicine

euthanize the unrest

let the sleep of the dead

usher silence in prayer robe

when he died

holding his dry paintbrush

when she died

clutching her wet scripture

when their loss mixed in formula

writing her DNA prophecy

she learned to lace up her unease

absenting breath needing not to breathe

not today doctor

not ever

these houses for the poor of heart

medicated, inviscerated, shuffle in

do not come out

 

she left her gloves on the radiator

followed her tracks back through virgin snow

easier when you cannot really see where you go

somehow standing amidst the roar

sea on dry land, oceans in desert flowers

it might take defying your legacy to survive

it might take not wishing to be the next pin to escape

bowled over by shared cross-stitched disease

even the empty

even the weak

 

she got a tattoo of a lotus

on the small of her back

where men had whispered hot and slow

you are slender like a branch

I want to bend you in two as green willow

will not snap

supple in bow, play me never

this girl has forged her symphony war

out of rising in morning, ready to give up

she survived percolating tendency

and the ones who thought her lean

pressing her against shiny coffee tables

unbuckling their murmuring distaste

for respect

thinking her a orfice, a receptacle, alabaster secret

and not a girl capable of swallowing fire

 

they did not believe in signs and wonders

nor warriors who wear no armor

she stands in her diluted ink

she is the beginning, the circular, the ending

of ways we are forced to be

a stain lies on her skin

it feels like an angels imprint

lending courage for the quiet

of soul, who gathers the leftovers

surviving beyond her welt

she is merciful to the meek

as a storm gathering in force, swells against

shore, building momentum

turning the raw belly of sky

monochrome