Je suis désolé de n’avoir pas été comme tu

For

what seemed like forever

and was perhaps

some lost sand

sifting through light

slower when observed

turning like eager sun dial

face capturing shape and shadow

as the moon faced women

blue in Picasso’s rough brush

your edges sleek impossibly

by Masters deft curve, mimicking

nature readily, surely as time will

erode the fullness of our cheeks

your high bones hold you up

that half smile imperceptable

through memory shaking her

coat free of rain drops

as we drift further into long night.

I recall being good at Tug of War

in school with my artex white shirt rolled up

the thin fabric of my skirt flapping

dangerously high, leaning in for the pull

boys on the other end heaving, purposing

(this was always about more than a rope you know)

their extraordinary need to dominate and

our quiet, tugging urgency to defy

even then I might have upset the historical balance

made you proud, if you’d been watching

the length of rope dipping into glassy water

with the weight of decades, days spent

trying to form words of consolation where none

seem worthy enough.

You have slim bones that cannot pull heavy

rope from weighted oceans and even if

your arms were strong, I wonder if you would

gather me to you, within the eye of rushing storm

our fragile satellites eclipsing, resolving

sorrow with gentle grace, unleavened bread

yet to rise

to feel your perfumed palm on my forehead

the beneficence of your gaze, or hear

your voice, its sonorous depths, call for

me and gladly, I would present myself

for any time in your light is time lived

well and good and whole.

in your absence there is only

shadow and cold

reminding me, estrangement is unnatural

when it pares two segments of the same orange

apart, with no mend, balm or eulogy

great enough to salve the hurt

building within us, mountains of

dried salt from spent regret grown

dry.

I long and shall always long

to return to you

in that hour where memory

tells me

we laughed and

in your eyes I saw

my center

verdant and blooming

with the tender cobalt nectar

reserved for what can never

be replaced.

And tell her to stay

cotton-in-braille

My mother sits on the side of the bed, it is 1980 or 1999 or never or sometime in the seventies or perhaps she’s not really there …

Her indent remains after the door closes, after the light is extinguished in the green hall way, where usually people go to sleep and she goes away, away, away …

Even then I could not see well, I squint into the half light, I look at the painted gypsy caravan wardrobe my parents picked up in a flea market before I was born, the cheap thin wood which now, years later, would be considered ‘antique’ – oh the absurdity of those things.

I think of them, crouching on elastic knees, abundant youth, painting, red and blue and yellow. I think of the song I learned in nursery about a rainbow, I think about gays appropriating rainbows later on and how ‘gay’ is not how most of us felt. How appropriation is always ironic.

When I began to stop wetting the bed, my father bought a calendar and stuck it on my wall, he would let me stick stars on the days I did not wet the bed, when I got enough stars he said, something great would happen. It had to be better than the machine I’d had the year before that ‘buzzed’ when I wet the bed and woke me up. I didn’t see how sesame seeds and electric buzzers would stop any child peeing in their nightmares.

A week later I opened my curtains, there was a stuffed toy rabbit on the windowsill, it was slightly damp from being there all night, and it smelt like fur and home. I still have it. It still has me. I never named it. How do you give a name to the earning of pain?

We lived in a basement, it was moldy in the Winter and cool in the Summer. I couldn’t see the sky, I grew to like the idea of living underground, of burrowing deep into the earth beneath city concrete, where the bodies murmured against river mud. I believed in Ghosts. Ghosts most certainly believed in me, they were my companions.

They shimmered past in half-light, caught in doorways and shining windows and dour corners. They contorted into devils by the astigmatism of my eye, becoming faces with fangs, fingers reaching upward. I wondered even then, why I feared the unseen more than the seen. Why what was not real felt more real than real? How ghosts could become my torment, when the world outside felt equally remorseless? Why not put them away and tackle that which existed? Perhaps that is exactly why. For a child who did not know how to make things right.

My wardrobe was little for a child, I was little for a child, my bones were plastic and breakable, they snapped when I folded myself tightly into corners, and the four cheap velour rabbits bought one Easter sat alert and watchful on the windowsill with a half moon shining in and lighting the face of the wardrobe into a grimacing creature.

The rabbits and I heard things. We saw things. Through bad eyes and deaf ears. The sound of my mother leaving, her presence skirting the room like a flamingo dancer, her lithe form, her long graceful arms with impossibly thin wrists, the smell of her on my skin because I was born of her, and then born not at all.

A clock did not exist on the wall, it did not tick down time, it did not remind us of what we had lost, it was not there, it left only the outline of its being like a circle set by sunlight on fading paint. A sundial without hands, without notion of time. Existing as planets exist, not realizing they circle the other.

My clothes grew tight as I elongated and sloughed the years, I kept an empty bottle of my mother’s eye make up remover by my bed, it smelt of her, as her hairbrush did, I wondered how she could live without her hairbrush. I did not wonder how she could live without me.

The tenants of the tall building were unhappy and they smiled a lot to cover it up. They said things like; We will be glad to look after your little girl. When my father cycled away, relieved, lighter, seeking a woman, seeking freedom, I stood on the doorstep and watched and the ache in my chest felt like a piece of lead piercing unnamed parts and I thought of my mother, how when she was my age she watched her parents sail back to Africa whilst she stayed still and I realized … how she and I were interchangeable and only the years were different.

Once, my mother said her mother put perfume on a handkerchief and left it for her and she kept it under her pillow. I kept my mother’s hairbrush under mine, it smelt of the oil of her curly hair, and the damp of my tears and the dust of time, sweeping her skirts along the empty floor.

I am alone now. As I was then. It feels the same. It feels worse because there is no illusion. Nothing like the future to hide behind and solace yourself with. No ‘things will be better when you grow up’ after you have grown up and realized they are not.

Again we are back in my bedroom. She is standing up. She is sitting down. The moment of her departure is fuzzy like my eye sight and I tell her, in years to come I will lose my eye sight and you will gain yours and my father will still be cycling away not knowing they piled on top of me and beat me to pieces, or that three little boys could throw marbles so viciously until a little girls heart burst and she ran away.

She turns to me and says something but it was twenty years ago. It was never. It was yesterday and I cannot see what she says or how she says it, to know if it was meant or just words spilled onto temporary carpet. I cannot know because she did not know, and our act was just a part of a grander outcome, both of us have forgotten and remembered many times since.

I love her in a way that slices through the fat and gets to the bone. I love her in a way I cannot articulate meaningfully but she knows and that’s the worst part, she knows. Maybe ever since I have found my father’s bicycle and learned to follow his trail, looking for her, looking for myself, seeking the way out of the high rise and the pinching boys and the ugliness that turns away when they see what is happening because maybe they are glad.

It is a day later, a year later, a decade past. We sit on roof tops in the weak sun and eat boiled sweets. Ants pick at our toes, dandelion’s die and float in their seed form to be wished upon and we leave them alone, already knowing, wishes are foibles.

You say it won’t hurt but it does and I knew it before it happened but I let it happen because of the ache inside that needed anything, even if it was pain.

The roof top is strewn with the debris of childhood, and my mother’s brush no longer smells of her, it goes through my hair like it was only my straight, boring hair it had to brush its entire life, as if she never existed and we did not sit on the bed together, the curtains closed nearly completely, only a hint of darkness spilling through.

If I had remembered I would have told her then, do not leave me when the time comes in twenty years, do not say goodbye a second, a forth, a nineteenth time. No matter what you think I have done, how disappointed you are in me, what disgust you hold in your heart. Instead remember this, the moment we sat quietly and I put my hand in yours and said it was okay and you cried and I cried from then until forever, without using my eyes or my ears or my mouth.

My father is cycling away from me, he is squinting ahead as if he sees something worth seeing, and I am turning, watching my mother close the door, asking that it be left open just a crack, to let the light in, hearing her steps in the corridor, not quite believing she will never come back. Because children always believe in magic. And Ghosts. And Monsters. And boys with marbles in their cheeks and demons in their eyes.

When I woke next to you and you asked me if I had a bad dream, I watched you as you sank back down into sleep and your hair fell across the pillow, the tangle and darkness of it against white linen. You could have been her, I could have been him, we could have never had a child, I ask you not to, please, do not, I don’t need to be born.

That’s why I was late, and why you struggled for 40 something hours in labor, they should have cut you, small as you were, small like me, but they didn’t, maybe it was cruelty, we have seen a lot of that in our life haven’t we and it wouldn’t surprise either one of us, or maybe it was the belief that women were strong enough no matter what, and we know that to be true also, even as we think it’s a damn shame sometimes.

You were strong enough and I was strong enough – to survive or endure but never really thrive – maybe you did – perhaps you were the only one who could – I had my eyes set on a future that never came, and a bicycle turning the corner, and my grandmother waving me from the street as I climbed the stairs to my class, and just as she turned to go, I ran back and I came outside and called her name and she said; Why aren’t you going to your classroom? And I wanted to say; Why would I go into a classroom? I’m not going to learn anything there? I have learned more here sitting on this bed, watching my mother leave, hearing her say things she did not say, wishing I were as powerful as the God of the wardrobe and not being able to eat my marzipan frog she brought me last. Because she gave it to me and I could not consume it and for it to be gone.

And you would have understood because you had your emotions close to your skin as I have, which makes you easily despised and sometimes admired. Because you were a coward as I have been, letting her be crushed by your absence and thinking it nothing at all, when you set sail again and again leaving her with a handkerchiefand a loneliness the size of Africa. I could not fill that loneliness although good God I tried many, many times, but when you break someone, you can put them back together, it does not mean they can hold anything you then pour into them.

She was the most beautiful woman I ever saw, and that from a child who didn’t yet know how to lie. I compare my lovers to her now. Wonder if they could beat her at chess and laugh because I know they could not. Think on how she managed to stay strong even in the harshest currents, when I cannot always stand without leaning. I look nothing like her, there is only sometimes in the cast of light, a glint of her in my eyes, looking back and when I see it, I ask her, why didn’t you spit me out before I was whole, so that you never had to be disappointed and I never had to lose you, then and now and never.

My grandmother taught me to swim in a basement, I dreamed the river would break its banks and my little home would be drowned. I dreamed my father was on the bottom bunk and I on the top and every time the water receded he was lifeless and I could do nothing, except scream impotently underwater for him to live. My grandmother died before I was old enough to let her know the truth, that I was not her grandchild but a water sprite dredged up from the river mud and set to swimming in dreams not of my own. That I had no parents but the marzipan figurines of night terrors and mares and I peed in my bed until I was too old to tell and old enough to lie.

Learning to swim was the only thing I learned fast and well, everything else came slow and difficult, just like trying to love someone who doesn’t love you, or expressing things too painful for words. I could sit with my parents and paint my wardrobe but I could never, ever, close the chink of light coming in from the slightly opened curtains, spilling on the floor where she walked across, soundlessly, growing dim and incomplete like the china dolls set back on a distant shelf somewhere.

Now I wear heavy glasses and even that is not enough, I cannot drive at night, I see things that are not there, and do not see what is. I think that is quite ironic really all things considered. My stomach hurts to think of how easily the brush goes through my hair, and how girls with curly hair never needed hairbrushes, so how hers became mine, seems like it always was, and the bottles she left behind were empty when she was here, when she was gone, when she never was.

If one day I am asked, I will say, I tried my best, I learned to swim well and I could pick up one of those weighted bricks from the bottom of the azure swimming pool but nobody came to see me swim so I did not compete well and soon I gave it up altogether. I will say I remember my grandmother running after a man who had broken in to watch us swim and bellowing at the top of her voice she scared him off, all 5’1 of her. I think my mother would laugh at that story, she has a wonderful laugh, it lights up her face and makes everyone else in the room join in.

We will not invite the shadows, we will not ask the ghouls or the disappointments to attend. We will stay the two of us, and wait it out. The past, the present and the future. We will talk on other things and not linger on those that prick and make us bleed. We will circumvent the pain like a sleeping lion and I will make her smile at my stories, the way I did once, once some time, some where. I have forgotten exactly when. The two of us, so alike and so different, sisters, strangers, with love the size of a river, with regret as deep as a drowning. Things never said on the tip of my tongue, burning with love, as we are quiet on the edge of the bed, with my mother about to leave and yet, still there, and me, always leaning, leaning towards her. Wanting to reach out. And tell her to stay.

Suddenly it is midnight on the water

close up of couple holding hands
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I leave a stain on my letter to you, with the tinny ring of my mug

tea left cold when you called and I ran out

following your voice like a siren, heedless of consequence

you are the devour of my hesitation, I hesitate never when you call

side-stepping consequence like a brothel, seeking your presence as a sinner

looks for absolution and a saint kneels until it hurts, my ache is so

deeply laid it could not be recovered, even if they brought chains

here, streets bleed violet in shuttered neon blink

nights deepest scold rests

we take the ferry out into pelagic wake

afloat on silence, illumination veiled

your forearms, muscular against thin wrists

beneath sturgeon moon we shift like light

particulate drawn by shivering lodestone

less tender than impassioned

time, her death-and-gloried face

far flung from our observance, no more

liturgy of unspoken entreaties

there are no other words for your mouth

it is placed on your face like a torment, a

famine to touch, never stop craving, its perfect

shape

suddenly it is midnight on the water, my body

sore from your touch, we watch in hush

dark silhouettes take on life

their grave countenance

caught briefly by moon peel

as glossy as the pearl of your face

incandescent as we pass by

our hands entwined

we may be invisible compared to

the rest, but here, here we

exist.

 

FortuneTeller

People didn’t care

Just like with the Nightingale

The dead bird outside Starbucks

Didn’t warrant consideration

His feathers mottled by hot pavement

I felt

Bad I hadn’t noticed at first

But I’d been watching you walk

And recalling the depth of your coffee eyes

Whom of us lovers, has time

For dead birds

Finally a man thinks he’s brave to kick

Feathered corpse off to the side

Indicative of these times

I thought of the Happy Prince

Giving away his gold and jewel eyes

Enlisting a little bird to pluck

His riches to give to the poor

How I read that in school sitting

Elbow to elbow with sloe eyed kids who

Scratched their dry elbows raw

And the very same week we came across a dead bird

Its grave still beneath the weeping willow

Fastened by a Palm Sunday cross we’d kept unbroken in a book

Where children learn almost by hook and rook

Whether to practice compassion

Or not

I said to you; Oh look, it’s a poor dead bird

I wonder why it died? As if flung from the sky

And your eyes were hurt just as I knew they would

Because you are a grown child

I’d be bound to love

And we’d bury birds together

In every place they fell

Even if only a few care

Beginning in the playground

Watch them

Children will show you

Their future character.

Shadowlands

Sorry for the fade in my voice

but I’m not really here

I’m standing with you, among the fir trees

watching mango sun pray her rays

there is a voice in the air

singing a song of us

I was, I am, entire when

you are with me

I am, I was, whole when

you exist

we are together even as we are not

I am on my own again and you are

rounding the corner coming into view

it is our destiny to be pushed and pulled

like dancers from a stage

where the lights have of them, made

a kind of madness

you stand being absorbed by my

attention

it never waivered

you called me a laughing girl and

I put a gold chain around my waist

and told you, this is your chain you can

pull whenever you need me

the chain broke

the tree dropped its lemons and froze last Winter past

and you lie in my bed

with your caramel and your velvet

I dance for you

I open the curtains

and we set fire to the street

with our cries

i’ve got my mind fastened on you

play another record

don’t stop now

there’s the rest of our memories

to repeat

before the day is dark

and you have turned again
to shadow

Grace

143b75846d2aca92

If I am anything at all

I am yours

as the sun seeks the center of day to roar her rays

and sake world in golden waves

as earth breaks apart and mountains form

beneath water like temples surge

as your eyes hold me in their sway

the black of them, the holy place

as life lives beneath my skin

only when you seem to exist

there are times

captured and lost

never truly revealed

beyond our understanding

a chime of circumstance and gods

you are the priest to my implore

a song sung in aching hour

the fingers I let loose my soul

you are my gravity

you with your violet and your indigo

soul

there are places so beautiful my breath is stole

yet nothing, nothing, nothing I have beheld

can take the place of you in my heart

you are the missing part

you are the beginning and the circumference

even as I feel your knife

I cleave that much closer

it is my ritual to seek only

that place I call home within your own

we came from the same place in time

I was born of your need to be eternal

without proof of life

I exist and I perish

upon your word

you, the one I turn

you, the birth of me

you, the missing link

you, the key I wear

around my being

let me or deny me

I seek despite myself just one

who will never diminish nor could be

equalled in my heart

for some of us are old fashioned in devotion

a thorn could not penetrate more

that sea within me carrying your salt

if stained glass were more radiant

if storms could pulse with pinkening lore

if the world could find words for such things

I would still be

bare foot running the long mile separating now and then

then when you were my everything

now in the absence of peace

hither no meaning made itself known

for only in your arms I know

that steady belief and spiritual home

strike me dead the day I quit my faith

you are my goodness, you are

my grace

Its shining watch

Then make me a tree

that I may reach through earth

lengthening root

climb up, take form

gather again, that moment shook

from memory never

where moon was twice its natural size

reflected in your angry eyes

sitting in idling car

my sticky throated youth

your still punching vigor

movement then, as taught immemorial

of lovers who are not yet.

watchful of your thin wrist

flickering just before touch

warm air, window down

languid stroke of time

painting all these years hence

something you have

absented from, like unpicked fruit

in turning, strange and unfamiliar

I dial that feeling

quite often

not fantasy, no

something real

painted over

turned to shellac, too hard to prize

open again

I watch her in time

the girl I was

wondering at her thoughts

as I know them almost

unformed and loose

like her hair, thicker and tumbling than now

the auburn xylophone of her back

I could fall in love with

each of us again

the blush of your pomegranate lips

how your dark eyes soak up light

extinguish it black

no wonder, I say … no wonder

yet, would I be here now?

if I had not

beseeched night in stolen lament;

if it is meant …  let her call

fate or you obey, though months had passed

a moment, as electric as fire burns oxygen

like fingers on your neck portend soft doom

female silhouettes of trees sway in night breeze

would they have whispered?

no don’t do it, don’t go, turn back

heavy keys in light fabric, jingle like steps

wide open un-rehearsed land rushing past

silence and folded roosting birds, holding their breath

it wasn’t lust

it wasn’t yet love

something other

we were always

in between, time and sense

every song written about

when you leaned, close enough

fusion then, a kind of glory

unspoken of to this day

sealing our fate

like flightless coin

run over many times

shall silver

in tarmac, make

an echo of the very stars

blessing

its

shining

watch

Without you

Your betrayal came before the post on Monday

If I listened it may have sounded

Like paper in air, losing gravity

The unexpected slap of shiny magazine

And echoing hinged snap of closed door flap

The postman left his shoe imprints in the snow

One way in, one way out and the bare branches of the trees

Were cold dancers cupping themselves to imaginary fernace

You had already gone before the skies admitted

Their talcum-powdered descent of white

Your letter, handwriting in your bold certain shape

The same hand that had led me up the stairs

A silver bracelet bought when we visited the seaside, on your wrist

Strong hand, reaching for me, for my rustle and my yawning silouette

We were shapes against the mirror of moonlight

Streaming our own version of whispers and little cries

You never let go of my hand even

As you turned your neck and slept, dreamlessly by my side

And I lay in partial light feeling your resonance

Play like an instrument on my damp skin

Your upright, careful letter and the last word, your name

A name I had put into the core of me and melted down

Covering any fear that you’d crack my heart

Open like a woodland walnut and expose the soft innards

No, not this woman, with her fingers reading my brail

And her tongue searching for stars in the folds of hesitate

She has breathed me in, carved her name in my wood

I cannot stir without a part of her moving alongside me

Life no longer singular I am now and always, illuminated

By her rounding glow and the peach dream of her thighs

Wrapped in mutual surround, the open window

Carrying our symphony into gloaming night wind

How then are you gone?

As rapid as my chest threatens to explode

A single firework

Removed from me and behind, spending in your wake

Emptiness

Letters furthering no explanation, blurring in porcelain horror

If I had listened

Maybe the stir of settling snow or else

Some torn part would reveal

The sense in loss

I stand by the picture window

Wearing an old shirt of yours

Yellow at the collar and faded with wash

Across the road, a neighbor walks her dogs

She glances my way and sees

Only the shadow of

A life without

You

Evermore

Do you feel me touching you through time?

Gentle the light shines on worn wooden board

Where you dance unseen

Yet I have always been, closer for holding in my heart, your motion

Through the filament of hours, our bond unbreakable

You … as long as you breathe and afterward too

Shall ever feel me standing, holding you up

Not the string pulling you to act

I am instead, arms supporting your effort

To Slough off the grief and find surity in one heart

In this ransacked world we call ours, you are home

You are the northern star

You burn behind my eyelids when they are shut

You tattoo your pigment into mine

We are woven together throughout time

When I reach, you leap, light as startled spring deer

Joining beneath the shade of night, mixed into each other’s color

I know nothing of being without you

For all of myself began

The day I saw you turn

And smile with knowing

You

Who is dearest

Shall never long for nurture or companion

I am the locket around your neck

I sleep in your dreams guarding yet

Any that may hurt you, let them try

For you are

My celestial bride

No distance or passing shall thwart

Energy recognized, even in death

Behind you I shall evermore walk

Worshipping without words

A lovely girl

when she smiles it is like the world is rent and light bursts through

she takes my breath away with her thin, flickered wrists and how the tip of her tongue is used as signal

for her mood

no ink permanent enough to score

her mark upon my soul

like first cherry blossom, fragile in the cold, endures

a hundred lifetimes could pass and wouldn’t be sufficient

to show the depth of my attachment to her

two skaters on frozen lake, cutting eights over each other’s traversed shapes

I finish where she starts and begin at her end, to each the other, ascending like fireworks in indigo wash

when I hold her preciously against myself and hear the softness of time pushing past

a pain seizes my courage, to imagine myself without her is impossible

lift my chin, you’ll see her in my eyes, her reflection, her electric movement

it is said, do not rely upon another, for you will bear their loss

I do not know how to separate myself, we are woven, we are of the same material

cut with the same scissors and fashioned into human cloth

they left a part connected, a tug I feel when she is far

like a fistful of light, she once burned so bright I saw only her outline

if she was free, she’d still slip away, into the night just before herald of day

leaving her perfume and perfect sigh, she’d gleam, in midsummer eve

lingering through opened windows and flung hands taunting, the day to never end

she is a girl with eyes from the ocean, there are invisible lines leading me back

to her slim clavical and the motion of her sleeping dance

she wakens me in a dream, I am not able to feel deeply

without her muse, she has the gentle spirit and I am fired to chase her

through bluebells, and thin white trees, cupping their hands of green

worshipping without words