The shape of things to come

If you reap what you sew

if karma is real

if we get back what we give

if you make your bed and lie in it

then the heavy chain around my neck

is my own making

and the silence

is my doing

and the absence

is my creation

my dead babies dance with my ageing cat

whom I brought when I immigrated

we both came over in cages

though his was short term

and mine I did not pee in

tending the gravesites of my sins

lost loves, light candles

music gets me stoned and turned on

I think of you taking me in your arms

know you never will

that for a wordsmith

words when they have no power

are murdered

you left the knife in as you

walked away with your indifference

I slipped beneath water

clutching pocketful of rocks

I’d shown you my true self

you said it wasn’t enough

because I’d gotten old being loyal

you’d gotten old not keeping your word

now words are buried

along with portions of disguised anger

and my ability to trust

I can’t start over because I’m still

tied up, now I like it

it’s the perversion of the prisoner

of love

to want change and

in no way seek it

we have lost our fancy moves

I can’t fit into the illusion

we used to run in so well

so I take a step back

watch my slow motion fall

into frigid waters and slit wrists

where the only thing to touch me

is a memory of your words

meaning what they say

as you gather me like a bunch of roses

and get lost in my petals

before they loose

fall to the ground

the shape

of things to come

The deepest cut

an-apple-rotten-on-the-inside

It doesn’t take much to knock a bruised fruit to the floor

watch it split apart like rotted glass, shards of damp skin in slow motion

try as I might, I AM that bruised fruit

try as I might, I cannot seem to recover myself back to where

once took for granted, the feeling of wellness

it doesn’t help when someone you loved abandons you

in the middle of your darkest hour

things like that aren’t supposed to happen

people who swear allegiance and loyalty aren’t meant to

be the ones leaving your side

such is the hour and fickle fan of illnesses devour

at least I know I’d never treat someone, that poorly

despite this and because of it, healing is slower

though I suspect anything less than fire would be

I didn’t know these things beforehand

the un-annointed do not possess future perspective

to see how illness strips your childish faith, cleaves you

bare and gasping

where family didn’t need to see me, even as I spent weeks in hospitals

it cut me to the quick, but it wasn’t the first or the last

maybe preparing the groundwork for your deepest cut

they say you get used to it in time

I never have

just as I never have truly understood the cruelty within some, who profess so hard to love

now, I am a changed person

I cannot make plans like I used to, thwarted by my body, haunted by ghosts

my illness is like a cobra, she stays quietly in the leaves

rearing up when I least expect or when I want most to escape

her possession of me, the way she knows how to tickle fear

with just enough venom until I am on my knees

I am sure some would say, this is therefore; psychosomatic

that it what they tell all women of hysterical turn

I saw in your eyes when I told the horror; your own disbelief

until doctors produced the proof, you still wondered

it became apparent to me, just like with sexual assault

being believed is paramount to recovery

alongside having faith in ourselves

I did not do a good job of the latter

finding myself more alone than when I started

and I thought I started pretty alone

I know I am a survivor and I was not destroyed

yet it feels like I was

when I look inside myself and find

so little left, a house without windows

it was only because of you, I kept trying

I told you that, I said, you were holding me up

when you let go

I fell to a place I did not know existed

I wanted to ask; Couldn’t you have just waited

long enough to see me through the worst?

but you wait for nothing except your own need

I had to find a way to stand even as everything crumbled around me

which is the biggest test I ever had and I failed it

I failed it again and again

walking through the lullaby of desiring to die for so many reasons

not least, the never-ending dance with sickness and pain

but somehow I did not die, I turned instead to stone

when people say I am strong now and ask; How did you get through it?

I don’t tell them; I am not through it

I still lurch and shake in the throes of unnamed demons and at night

I feel like an arythmic god has taken me and is spinning me

on high-speed like all my parts are made of jello

I want to ask that god; what is it you are trying to shake loose?

surely you know by now there is no more fruit left

not even the rotten kind

that fell and split and sunk into earth, a long, long time ago

it is only me remaining now; leafless, without sturdy branches

I cannot rely upon myself, I cannot rely upon promises

no longer a young, untouched tree with green shoots

I am damaged, broken and hobbled, by this specter and the unknown

as much as by those I knew and trusted

asking why to the imploring void; why are we stricken down?

to what do I owe my continuing? Even as it is, insubstantial

can they see in my eyes, when I pretend, I am trying not to gag?

my appetite spirited away by the scourge and never returned

I would die of hunger and not know it

were it not for some strange determination

I don’t know where that comes from

but as I stand, it must be a place within me

does not give up, as she did not, all those years ago when

the flames licked the top of my house and burned, everything I knew to cinder

I am not like the rest of the world; stronger for my poison

nor am I able to disguise my scars

if I were asked what recommended me; I could not answer

I would probably open my mouth and howl

because you can reinvent yourself, a million times it seems

I am just one incarnation, coming apart at badly mended edges

you, who are able to vault life in gentle sprint, must mock

I am after all, just a fallen fruit, lasting as long as she can

in imperfect, bruised skin

Not even ourselves

Why and when did people stop being interested?

as kids we would sit on benches and talk about our pain

there seemed then, such a mercy in the air

it hung like cobwebbed dew around us and

despite the hardships we bore, our friends were

our succor

Why and when did people stop being interested?

and grief was labeled an annoyance?

why does growing-up mean we no longer write

poems like this

do we no longer feel the same

or just hide it away?

and if it is hidden how does it stay so

with the swell and the surge and the blistering salt

I hear rain falling into a tin can somewhere

and briefly I remember eating out of cans in summer

my lips sticky with apricot

it was a luxury then and my grandmother carefully

spooned each peachy globule out and added ice-cream

I hated the taste of ice-cream and I loved

the feeling of lying high in a big tree smelling apple leaves

in those days

when tragedy struck

we children who are called resilient

had the hope or the armor of youth

and the cherish of our friends

I saw her running toward me across the fields separating our houses

her red hair and freckled face red with exertion

we ate stale cucumber sandwiches left over from her mother’s

garden party and she held my hand in her own

clammy seedy palm

as if I were a starfish

I told her of my disappointments and the ache in my chest

all those who had forsaken and gone their own way

with the wisdom of child she wrinkled up her eyes against the sun

told me what I needed to do was pretend I didn’t care a damn

because one day you’ll grow up and nobody will be able to hurt you

I held onto that advice like a piece of paper framed in my chest

but it wasn’t true it wasn’t true

and I wonder where she is now

if she has children

if she is the same kind of mother she was as a friend

if I could see her again I would say

thank you for giving me the hope to get to this point

maybe it wasn’t true, maybe adults fool themselves into

thinking they are not children with ageing hearts and

brittle bones

maybe being an adult is harder than any childhood

because you don’t have afterwards to dream of

and the future as yet unsummoned

with all your magic and all your wistfulness

seen through the eyes of someone not old enough

to know the reality

I would tell her don’t tell your children the truth

let them dream as we did just a bit more

where I can still hear my grandmother knocking over pots

as she makes an apple pie and the smell

of summer is all about us in a haze

and your red hair makes mine look blonde

and your freckles tan your legs whilst mine remain blue

and your hand in mine is the first hand of friendship

I would thank you for running when I called

because nobody has run since and I suspect

adults have ways of doing things

us children never quite understand

I’m thinking if I could choose a side

I’d go through time and clasp your wrist and run

into the high grass fields out the back and where

nobody would find us

not even ourselves

years from now

Erasure

Unrecoverable

People with holes in their chests

I got used to

opening books and reading the last page

reading lips in the dark

sharing a bed with nightmares

I got used to

your outline, emptied of care

squeezed dry these years

dessicated by slow fruiting rage

we lay as blue eggs will

in a basket of woven thorns

clucking over regrets, like weary card players at dawn

you gave me a cocktail of poison

I the dreary tread of error

it took a life time and a match

struck against willing rock

to burn the illusion

and gather ourselves whole

Even as spilt ways form streams

Cleaving together seemed

The natural passage of people with holes in their chest

Tasting the arrow as it exits

Where then? The other part of me

Located in your similarity

A death not proffered but needed

I, a bag put down, not retrieved

They mocked when she wept

Pointed at her words and said;

Her humiliation and dramatic way

Is overblown and immature

You nodded in agreement

Because she was no longer part of your wield

A flung thing to be lost and spoiled

Once you would have defended with your life

Told them; It is you / with your cruel minds / who should be ashamed

That was when we walked as one print

Beneath patterned trees still living, holding to

A belief some knots cannot come undone

it wasn’t true … our knot I saw dissolve

As you baptized change with solvent certainty

Moved toward it and away from me

Did I ever say … without you I

Thin-rooted and growing side-ways

Slowly fail?

I did?

Ah. Then.

I must have missed

Your response.

debris of the unsaid

row-boat-painting-surrealism-woman-dreaming-row-boat-in-hair-beautiful-painting-art-row-boat-in-storm-paintingOnce

the storm

predicted and prepared for

still

blew away the thatch of your house

sent water pouring like words with lament

and whilst

i was sickening

i thought I heard you row

across the expanse of us

holding your roof as umbrella

your feet bare and needy

opened my cabinet of questions

gave you a draft of why?

to which you descended beneath brackish waters

places submerged in lost question

claiming to surface

a moment where you spun in orange pekoe light

sitting stroking Gato before he

tested his claws on a tree the buyers tore down years hence

i climbed that tree in my high heels

you took a photo aping for the camera

and one fixing your sink in mini skirt

that’s my girl you said

we bathed because then you had a bath and I had heated arms to wrap you whole

the ocean of the past drawing in and receding

with it, debris of unsaid and unchained

time behind and unrecoverable

Once

i told you I was sick and couldn’t swim

you held me above waves with your will

till you decided I weighed too heavy

on the stitch of your skin to keep

we both

and neither of us

strangers and familiar

deciding and without decision

lost that year to the storm

as it set its pulse on our sundial and drank all hope in its spiraling eye

(there are many forms of love, you chose certainty over depth)

and once

i took a raft made of need and dragged the silty water

searching for what was lost

of us

who we were and were not

for you told fate you never knew me after all

an error of thinking … no more

then the storm left and all we knew was flat and broken

even trees we climbed were crushed like sad-faced dolls

as if an avalanche had glossed over the details

leaving behind a shiny surface and no more beneath

but dull reflection

The outsider

38638686_1843766582406138_8072796370370560000_nshe wasn’t like them, so they didn’t like her

to her face they smiled and said ‘nice things’

which she knew were lies

behind her back they laughed

and made dirty-lezzie jokes

because it made them uncomfortable

to think about what they thought she did

it made them feel a bit disgusted

like when you stand too close

she looked like them in superficial ways

wore at times, nicer dresses and had longer hair

the fact that she liked girls wasn’t in their

comfort zone

when it was summer time they had

BBQ’s and invited all the neighborhood kids

wondering if she would be safe around minors or

would do something inappropriate

when they started a mommy running club

she wasn’t invited because she was neither

a mommy or someone they wanted to

bare their secrets with

what would she understand of husbands?

maybe their husbands liked her

because she was unavailable

when it was Halloween they made candy and

knocked on all the doors but hers

because the other mothers said best to avoid

what they did not care to know

that’s why she lived a harder life than she had to

for there is almost nothing worse than pretend friendliness

leaving you more alone than if they said what they thought

and spat in your face

if you think that’s an exaggeration or she feels

sorry for herself

think on the tiny percent of the world

where being gay is safe or legal

and the huge part of the world where it is forbidden or punished

think on how many lament at

the shift in culture toward acceptance

calling it a ruination of our society with all

those damn fags

compare it to those who truly feel inclusive

how every day isn’t the same

when you have to contend with not fitting in

making everyone else feel uncomfortable

just by existing

nor can you talk about what matters to you

just in-case visual images abound and people

begin to change the subject

if it were a choice … a lifestyle … few would make it

yet she exists

wishing sometimes the phone would ring

another girl like her would say

I know how you feel

would you like to go for a walk?

she is a gay princess in a tower

and her princess

is somewhere in the world perhaps

thinking the same thoughts

two outsiders

unable to find each other

Your misuse

hijacked amygdala

They can tell you

Because you’re not going to back down

You won’t sell your sisters for a side ways glance

You won’t burn your bra, you may need it to strangle someone

You have the same look

All of you

The ones with green hair and multiple piercings who say fuck off before you smile

The ones who rule the world behind the scenes and nod as their husbands slip inside

The ones who are glory and begotten and forgotten and eclipsed and insist

They still live

You can tell

Even as they spell it out in myriad ways

I am not your slave

You do not own me

But once I was hurt very badly

By my father, mother, brother, sister, best friend, neighbor, uncle, stranger

And I carry the brand around my throat

Once in a while when I lean over

You can see it quickening

I…

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What they have to learn

The teacher hadn’t enjoyed teaching in a long while

ever since her notions and reality rubbed against one another

exploding the myth she held in teaching college, of making a difference

her students

whom the administrators asked her to refer to as clients

wanted to pay for a degree, not to learn

we don’t have time to study they lamented

we are too busy with everything else which is, so much more important

the students

did not respect her because she earned less than

they believed they would earn in a few years time

she wanted to say DREAM ON but it was no longer acceptable

to tell the truth

especially with college administrators

(who were paid well, to shuffle papers from desk to desk)

watching in the wings

she recalled why

she had wanted to be a teacher

at eight she’d been sent to a foster home

where the ‘father’ decided to show and tell

using his fingers in wrong positions

she ran away and lived

underneath a bridge for the night

listening to the stars wink on and off

and the weave and fall of the world

the next day they found her, dirty and lost

spanked her for making up lies about being abused

and sent her to another foster home

this time the mother

starved her lean

told her she was fat and ugly

when she hardly weighed in

got her to clean and cook and scrub

she preferred that kind of reality

it didn’t involve lies it was honest in its

taste of cruel

when summer was over and she returned to school

a new teacher had begun work

she had the faraway eyes of a dreamer

and her voice was soft like bird song

without saying a word she knew the children who

had been neglected and abused

she’d encourage them often and whisper in their ears

this may seem like this is all there is

but there’s so much more!

one day you will be free to escape your confines

you can shrug off your sadness and become

anything you want

so when the time came for her to age out of the system

she didn’t bring flowers and a card for her foster-mother

instead she packed her single bag and left before

morning showed in the sky

the room was bare and emptied but somehow

it didn’t look so different to when she’d lain there

trying to take up the smallest space

funny that we can inhabit a place for so many years and

when we leave it’s like we were never there

a wraith who didn’t get heard or couldn’t

break out of her little mincing trap of potted meat

she hated the flabby jowls and empty eyes

of those who pretended to keep

her safe

being old enough now to look after herself she

enrolled in teaching college hoping one day

she could reach a child who sat at the back of class

with dirty socks and a mouth full of regret

but time moves on and things change even as they stay the same

kids become hardened, demanding, insolent

hurry up, please it’s time!

parents throw expectations like rocks and call educators

pathetic losers who can’t do, so they teach

she wondered

is cruelty a vein, like in a rock

inherited over time to savage and destabilize

our yearning for safety?

standing there, in her cheap hose and one good pair of shoes

the scuff blacked out by polishing

she saw in the sassing faces of her classroom

a loss of care for changing the world

her own longing to reach through time and alter

one person’s trajectory lost

in the hustle bustle of uncaring formula

spitting out diplomas and marching forward

not thinking at all

about what they have to learn

Written for World Teacher Day. In appreciation of teachers.