For Paul

016_imogen-cunningham_theredlistIn the other place of keeping

afterward when door is softly closed

and light extinguished

where flowers bloom without need of sun

perfuming air with unseen stamen

at last you are unburdened, free of torment

we sit at oiled wood table

eating buttered toast with fingertips

you tell me of  real things

that time you fell into a river as

you reached for tires swinging overhead

just one more inch and you’d have been saved

from submerging with oily fish

and yet you say, it taught you

the value of sinking and how quiet

beneath the world can be

where creatures with opaque eyes glide past

watching you try to breathe

they called it a near drowning

you claimed second-sight

we shuffle our checkers, mindful

it’s your turn to win tonight

 

for Paul

you were a brother of sorts

sprinting ahead of jostling crowd

lean and bronzed by effort

your heart a flutter of machination

once you said, now I am old

and I laughed and reminded you

there’s so much time left

except you knew

and I did not

time can collapse upon itself

just as it begins so it can end

all the days we spent waiting for the next

better to live now and climb

that tree to sling rope and dangle seat

children long after us

will come to the river and watch

each others fear and then wonder

jumping into the void

and as you are gone

I clear away the plates and ready for the next day

not sure it will be free of rain

I hear you outside among the trees

you are laughing at me

for my fear of things I cannot know

remember, you say, it’s not about control

it’s about having the courage to try

I watch you walk toward the river

you are straight and lean again

no scars, no pain cross your way

I want to go with you but you have told me

it is not yet time

we’ll play again, be patient

master this moment

live now in the warm rush of water

watching overhead

moving clouds turning from blue to white

and then to grey

 

For Paul. You counted, and you mattered.

 

Less

165549735_cd2d7777b5The future will not decide, I decide

if I find myself alone in possession of these feelings

at an age when the cliffs stand a little deeper in the water

the sea will recede and return the next day

less me

for it is my belief

we can make choices

based upon empty doorways

standing between the weft of things

knowing, our time

though it goes blurred into fathomless future

need not defy sense

and us born with less

we don’t want trinkets and rooms of wrinkled souls

talking about the caucus of the world

we want to live and burn

in that bright solitary

and when those we love

are no more

our place is not to wait for natural means

but take to surging waves

walk through a mirror of water

regaining in emptying out

those painful places we hold

dear and near to us

all these years we inhabit life

like a nervous electricity

will wait to strike

just once

and leave the deed

blackening the tree

long it stands marked

for future generations to remark

I wonder how

I wonder what

caused this burn

she lays her hands against her pulse

such a little flicker of life

and then

one blow

one determining

and it is snuffed out

to join the star dust of our might

you think me cowardly or without insight?

I hear nothing now

but the swell and call of shells

hypnotized by the whorl

of their ever decreasing

circle

returning to

sand

The sugared heart

thThe sugared heart

laps fast its moisture

wicking with thirst

as if salt were consuming

what must stay sweet

you said I will never die

my heart is strong

pulse low, pressure steady

without considering the price

of sweet emotion

playing like piano before

tuning

discordant and

unexpected

in quiet rooms

with closed doors

Briefly, before retort

432a1f78aa4dbe5f9a11bd1afea97dc6What if you were?

different

waking up putting your feet over the side of the bed

with the harsh unrelenting knowledge before you think of anything else

I am trapped inside myself

these are my feet cankered and worn with little parchment lines drawn

for every regret I possess

I can hide all day from seeing them but come night, climbing into bed, still they will remind

you are subject to yourself

what if you are a raging inferno within smoked glass?

and everyone buys the exterior version that comes with a label?

choose your own go on, you know you want to

write it in permanent pen on the underside of my third finger

it is human bondage

as ad-verb the moustached man picks ‘mysteriously’

the Irishman says a noun; ‘predictable’

the Hipster proclaims adjective; ‘too old’

the Gen-X femme fatale scolds; ‘not enough visible scars and I hate how she can wear a skirt that tight over her scales’

and you? You don’t speak because you traded in your words for a shot and then another

drunk neat and with your elbow at perfect ninety degree angle

reflecting the awkwardness of ritual in bar window smeared with tarot gravy dust

you do not tell me

stop wearing hose in 70 degrees and if you must, choose pastel hues or flesh

flesh is the color of us all and none at all, for wolves come in multi-color and neon

you do not tell me

cut your hair though it has begun to trail across the bar like ivy once won will entomb even the redolent doll faces who obey without query their whiskered diviner

let’s see how far it goes before the world implodes, then we can sell it by the ounce for bonfires or new clothes

you do not correct

my pronouncement of life or the syllabus of strife I work against my sulfur state with enriching purpose

you could knock me off my slide so easily, bring your trained fist to my cheek, salt the wound pour a little rum and black call me a new blend of this and that

here drink it down and turn into tarmac

you could run over me, keep me flat or press your iced lips to my heat and have me beg

but it’s been a long B side and it’s time for the rain to ease, where drivers, previously intent, lessen up, watching for a break of light through cloud formation

you know why I stand here, pressing my hips against your side, empty me, chamber my void

you take me by the throat, lay me down in my own match book to sleep, watch the children dream, how deeply they ride their velvet horses

you bought me rings without names and names without ownership

I own the fierce tail of my pursuit and not much else

when we lie beneath the city listening to her caw

you are still as cold water washing over me in rinse and roar

it’s not your way to feel

you love without desire

desire without love

the rub and the rub and the rub

no fire will come

it is my conjecture this will end when the rain starts again and cars slow down even more to peer in

tin-can blurred faces seeing nudes vaulting tables and a man holding a gun

gentle as a lover without fingerprint

you place it in my mouth

then yours

the taste and smell of fire

would you have time to bruise?

briefly

before

retort

And burn their house down

938185112_tp

Her legs were her best feature

so they told her

pinching her bum as she climbed shag carpeted stairs

hauling more baggage than they’d ever have

oh and your throat of course

chuckle, chuckle isn’t that funny?

deep throat, get it?

no … not really

too polite to declare (curtsy)

but what if you did? Respond as you would if

truth led you by the mouth, clip, clop

neigh brey shake your tail paw the ground with hoof

sore and gaping and verbose in mauve and yellow

like a gypsy sacked from her tent

runs like a red brand through black and white trees

will she end up raped by the side of the road?

eventually selling herself by the truck-load

with eyes glazed over from too many mouthfuls

there’s only so much you can take

a tipping point lives inside everyone

like a secret metronome

ticking away, ticking down, ticking sideways, an itch never relieved

until earth and sod and mud and weeds land heavy and wet

on wood (four coffin bearers, bow their heads)

she hears them making a fuss downstairs

(the sound track is The Moody Blues)

who will go first?

me! first is best! the little one says

he’s got a big mouth that one and a small …

well no surprise there (audience laugh)

yeah but you can warm her up for me!

the one who enjoys pain reveals

when do I get a turn? says the last one

who is always too fast too soon too distracted to …

see her staring at the ceiling counting down

tick toc tick toc goes her life blood

here the vein here the slice here the fall

blue is the marigold dipped in the ocean

why does she bled so? When did she stop being closed?

She was never really shut, she was open all hours

flung wide by the longing of the sky to see her enact a star

spread white and glowing she longed for black skies to swallow whole

every last molecule

there’s blood in the bathroom! they all cry (exit stage left)

where could she have gone?

how did she survive the loss of so much blood? The little one said

roll over roll over so they all rolled over and one fell out

there were two in the bed and the next one said …

you see her now

she’s that motion in the corner of your eye, a cataract in full bloom

dropping by the highway like a midnight flower

speeding cars track her fade but they cannot see for their faces are made

of metal and plastic and rubber and gasoline

and she is made of earth

and she is gone to earth

and she is in the earth

away from the three little pigs

who kindle themselves into a fury

and burn their house

down though it is made

of brick

Re-deliver

thNo

you can’t be

you died giving birth

legs gaping

mouth heaving out

curses

you stained my forehead

with the yolk of an egg

meant for curanderos

to interpret

your throat as long

as two hands encircling

a belly tearing out

her burden

your lovers wore felt

holding their hats in nicotine fingers

instead of joining you

theirs was the watchful crow

blue in lamplight

touch the fleeing blood

growing cold on lynx tiles

she was your lover

all of you shared her

grief and easement

like a tenancy of trombones

blowing cold you are

unable in your tarnish

to re-deliver her

scolded by her nature she is

bound by insemination

pushing against her wet thighs

a different kind of urge

get it out get it out get it out

her eyes inherit the cataracts of her

blind ancestors

you rue the days you turned her like a book

leafing through her cavities

planting your frustration in her deep recess

not thinking for a future

where blood makes palm prints

on her hot cheeks and as she lifts in agony

you recall her climax and breathe in

the stale dusk of death

ushering life on the tail end of

unwanted consequence

here is your daughter

she stands naked and boneless

sucking your inability to

grow dignified and wise

you fidget in your plastic seat

as her hands grip your weakness by the stem

enveloping provocation as

men will reach for their reflection

one last time

smoke to the last

their comfortable curse

feet reddened by women

who die beneath

deed

The undead heart

b7e9260585815d324f4850ebd699eaf3In my head

there’s a record on a turn table glossy and black

when it gets to certain grooves I recognize the play of needle over vinyl and each crackle is a familiar passage through well-worn emotion

I turn everything on to create loudness

to expunge what I hear by drowning out

the washing machine, the dish washer, the blender, the coffee grinder, the lawn mower, the radio, the alarm clock, the hair dryer

I run the bath, I run the shower, I run the sprinkler, I run the garbage disposal, I run away from the song

It has one word going round and round

one face, one memory, two memories, a thousand

a wrist with a silver bracelet on, flung in sleep against burgundy sheet

every time you brushed the hair away from my eye, every squeeze of our fingers captured, every kiss, every smile, every year I see the wave of loss it is not so far beyond turbulence

today the clouds will not clear, I get in the car, I tune to the loudest song, I scream as I drive, years burning my eyes, straining to see through my own download

If I had a name for it that name would be wreckage, ruin, destruction, destroyed, unplug  me, burn it out, scold,  defeat, disintegrate, desolate, muted, drowning and burning at once

I would be a legion of black horses sweating sorrow

I would be a night never turning into tomorrow

I would be a shroud worse than death for the one glimmer

that hurts the worst and makes you hold your breath ever deeper

a chain, a spike, a hammer, a knife

and all I felt was love

and all I wanted was you

and all I am is nothing

It plays round and round

like two hands cupping sound

no amount of running or noise can disturb

the undead heart

Full

f64c917f731235b5604b2779ecb5e01bMy hand

resting a top yours

the same size in our shadow

you with little feet and longer ties

inheriting portions

 

I see in your eyes

the easement of life

as if you are in slow motion

falling gently behind yourself

going back in time

I think of the local cinema

being old enough to see over the railing

a film about a man plugged to a machine

all his memories flickering in retreat

until he is a fetus a heartbeat a blip

so far back he does not exist

 

is that you?

dissolving, reducing

I watch bread rise and moon’s sink

wonder at the circular motion of things

how I slept with a light on

now you remind me

not to close the door

my chest aches for what I long to give but cannot

 

it is as if you were born of me

my longing to love

I cannot make sense of why

but you were always the only one

my arms reach at night for your surround

 

I hear your voice on hungry chime of wind

all the pain blooms around me

like cancan girls frothing their scarlet hems

I remember bougainvillea climbing up the walls

can see you with your hair slicked back from the bath

steam rising in dark breeze

 

you made a circle of me and wore me around your neck

where I lay far too still listening to your heart beat

now we are divided by wire and thread

two half-made mannequins

no matter how far I stretch

I cannot reach your gaze

it stared listless at angry waves

as they build and recede

in the abyss of your memories

Find me in cinder

777bbca7e13ef8f0b821cfb0c2ee3e63Press tighter

the ribbon too loose

the welt too shallow

press tighter

block out light

kneeling in our find

discovering strange arms

do not right the wrong

of absence

you lace your shoes all the way to the top hook

standing by the gutter watching imagination speed past

grab a cab, take a train, hail a bus

erase the deep scratch

take yourself as far as you are

find me

find me in cinder

I’m sweeping up my make-believe

ashes mark the brand with loving hand

I left myself on a train somewhere

heading past the blur

trees convening into walls and thorns

thorns

shaping my need

pricked back to defeat

raise your hands in prayer

watch them fall leaden

like pennies who deny wish to the carp who

listless grows fat on his doom

once you reach the bridge’s middle you will know

the circumference of your blank page

I am here split into footsteps

wet with their hasten

I am here giving birth to your disregard

bloodied in veined marble

it was always the fault of mine own flaw

I don’t have a skin like you do

this girl rends in spinning glass

pretending she is well enough

for this loud world

we who bruise on emotion

catch the lasting arrow

so fine they go, the ones who can

shine themselves well

boarding future with jagged step

watch them marvel at themselves

for six weeks and six years and six centuries

I buried feeling in soft velvet boxes

whispering to the fox

we who are timid

cannot stand the jolt

we who are fractured

do not wear pain for long

before relinquishing fight

deep in the rosebud

where the fold has yet to

come undone

they told her she was wasting her time

trying to be normal

give it up

you speak in imperfect step

from passive to shout and back again

you do not understand your tense or your verb

you were rejected by the snotty folk

who pinch their noses as they bustle past

in formula

and alacrity

bet you know all your grammatical rules like

a foreign language whilst

I paint in saline and muzzled howl

save this last lesson

when you shout

ensure the fields are on fire

and the birds indigo sky in their fright

you will never know what it is like to be

savaged in kind

is that the sound of my neck breaking?

over the ache?

reaching one last time

growing old in perpetuity like

light staying too long in the same place

turns listless and if you listen carefully

with young ears you can

hear the rustle of her gown

bitter with the after glow of grind

I know I’m wasting everything

except this last buried purse

of everything

if I let go now

the seeds will spill

out of me

and grow taller

than I ever

even on tiptoe

could be

Within the woods

thYou lost your grip on reality around the same time

my own dalliance with death disturbed the rafters

my shoulders of a man, yours of a sparrow

we danced around amber whiskey bottles

setting fire to tarmac

lifting our skirts before silver ash enveloped us

but maybe I didn’t clean my feet well enough

you began to tremble in the morning

and I found I could not move

it was as if a deer had been startled

standing quite still in dried grass

he was frozen in situ

for a time I wanted to break out

resume merriment and three penny carnival

until the feeling of falling inside

behind the bones of your face

where all emotion blanches and traces

secrets and lies

became my norm

I did not know anymore

how to stir cocktails of polite acquaintance

or make small talk trace like sleepy snails

I did not know anymore

what became of my social graces

pinned and folded beneath me like taffeta

it gave me comfort to

lose my art of conversation

the yawning maw of fraternization

I listened to words and they did not

beckon me come closer

I felt as strange as the outdoor moth

who half wishes he did not

slap against warm glass trying to

eat the light

for it is not you he seeks

but the burn and blitz of some fantastic

singeing his wings in tattoo

and I too

had always yearned for that feeling

never discovered among the feeding troughs

of social intercourse

and once or twice I left

a full and heaving party

to lift my legs for a stranger in

cramped confine

because the hard bang and knock of his

emptying wood was

more honest than all the winks and nods

whispering behind my back

words

I no longer needed to use

only three ever necessary

I love you

though now you are smudged out

by burn of cinders staining toes

gone as cold as foggy morning

selecting mute I retraced my arc

pushed myself back beneath my bones

within the temple

within the woods

where the deer finally moved

from her camouflage and

sprinted light as powder

into converging dark