Safe ascent

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This unspoiled place

holds a silence and a sound both

in the careen of wild bird, dove-tailing against light

swish tailed-fox, caught in glimpsing treeline, scar of russet

your wool pulled and caught like thoughts on wire

I felt you inside, like mercury, descending to places I’d locked

tight against battering fists and claim

how did you learn the maze and possess

parts of me I had yet to give permission?

though all of us are like the wool, caught and fluttering

against a world of happen-chance and calamity

it is only perhaps, in those untethered moments

love, unexplained by all things

captures in unguarded step

drowning tightly held belief

we are our own master

and in this yield

in your arms and the void calling overhead

a vast sky holds swell of rain

just long enough

for our safe ascent

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The road

At first the road seemed seemed impassable

Such a long distance with no sighted end

90 pounds was

A hollow eyed effigy, struggling not to drown

100 pounds was

A sickened mouth, forcing itself to swallow and chew

110 pounds was

A hunger to gain lost appetite, swill of food laying heavy with each urged step

120 pounds growing muscle

Punching the fuck out of weakness and despair

125 the goal, she fought, her joints bloody and plastered together

When she arrived, her body, her mind, her vibrating soul, she stood and cried

At the distance she’d travelled, cracked knuckles captured in dried clay

Stretching like bad memories, bleached by unrelenting sun

In spite of this, still, a flower is able to bloom

Conscience

We may depend upon nothing

except the strength of not laying down

our conscience, there in forked roadway

with the languid grace of a woman rising from steam

one direction will be covered over with water

you’ll have to learn to find your inner amphibian

and if you are successful at shucking off your humanity

retreating primordial beneath turbine waves

give a thought to those who toil above you in spirit houses

burning their feet on tar sprayed land

it reeks of our short lived desperation

like stalks of young corn, we blaze from green to gold

the sand of our time, trickling ever faster through thin glass

thinking in a fleeting lifetime we behold

true wisdom

while rivers and seas we pollute, in short-lived wake

remain behind as we turn to dust, then clay

it is not our nature to care what comes after we are gone

our footprints would not singe the serenity of nature so vividly

if gathering mercy outside our own existence, were our way

yet, imagine the unfolding beauty of caring for something outside ourselves

and softly we atoned our fits of rage, in wanting to have it all

before the sun sets for always and another day is born

Endure

Along with recovery

I had wished

For one neighbor’s heart to heal, as he tried to mend a leak

Another, to survive the scouge of sudden cancer

For the little bird to find her red box

Fill it with branches and lay her eggs

Nestled blue against the hope of frail humans

For rebirth and warmer days

When the winds were the only thing to die

And maybe the scold in a voice, twisting the knife

Yes, wish it away, along with traces of fear

You have survived the winter, you are still here

The same curled toes and cold fingers, clinging on

If you don’t die, you live, and that’s what you find

As false friends fall and new are born

As spring gathers her skirts and grass turns from brown to hopeful green

As your neighbor touches your hand and his eyes speak

Of the simple gratitude of caring

You didn’t receive it where you thought it would be

There are branches higher up than you can see

Maybe the little bird right now is looking for her nesting

And just like you, she seeks the comfort of knowing

If you make your home warm and secure

They can huff and puff

But you will

Endure

Against the unknown world

They move together like quicksilver

indisipherable in pursuit

there is such a love in his eyes

her smooth hands cup his mouth

drinking the words he would gush

if they were not pressed tightly, one to the other

locked in an embrace

that gives life

quickening as signature is fluid

when she finds out, she imagines telling her daughter twenty years hence

the story of her conception;

your father and I loved you very much

we lay down by the fireplace, he took me in his arms

from this passion you were forged into life

clay breathed upon, bearing breath and soul

you were wanted, even before you chose

to fill us with yourself

my stomach grew and grew until

it was a tight drum on which to paint

the symbols of your dream

**

He moved in her, his eyes tightly shut

he thought of other women, he thought of touching himself

in the office toilet at lunch with folded magazine

and why such things happened when he had all he could ever want

here in his arms, still he betrayed with desires, ill-tuned to eternal love

when she grew fat and round he did not

wish to hold her quite so tightly, or touch her hot flushed pressing flesh

he thought of others, he got up early, and jogged his frustration into sweat

**

Don’t worry the doctor smiled, with a savage wink

as she labored and her face grew red and her hands sought his

and he wanted to run from the room and shove well fed nurse

against the wall and pour his horror of birth and future into her lipsticked sighs

don’t worry the doctor smiled, with a savage wink

i’m going to sew her up even tighter, it will be like

Christmas day when you unwrap her again

the quintisential “husband’s stitch”

and over his starched cloak and gown, the doctors grey eyebrows

went up and down and he, who was lost

lurched and threw up at the violence and the shame

of men and of women and of life and death, inequality and lust

**

then his daughter was born

fat and round and squalling loudly

if he could have interpreted those words, he felt they spoke to him a repromand

for his cowardice and his fears, imagining being a father

of growing up and settling down, of love and impossible challenges and joys

he saw his wife’s face, wet with sweat and hair plastered down

he felt more than he had ever felt, the emptiness of the past replaced

no longing to empty himself in the coldness of pornography as she slept

a lifetime from the day he first took her to bed and

stripped her of choice with impregnated seed

and now he knew

the fear of men is the strength of women

his daughter fixed him with swollen red eyes

watching him with a stearness that seemed to say

you can do this, you got this, you are not your worst thought

you can be who you want to be, you can be my father, you can love these women

you can direct our future, reshaping mountains

or fall into the arms of least resistance, worship the emptiness of hollow gestures

she seemed to be saying with her tiny fists and pursed lips

turn away from your shallow sport, take this road with us

he who once was weak, grew with love

those things that once were, no more

his resilience, their armor

against the unknown world

One hand

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At fifteen a lewd boy, only 5’5 asked;

Will you pose for me with your legs spread?

She hadn’t shaved in three days, the stubble rubbed the backs of her calf where she pressed against enamel bath

A maelstrom in her eyes instead of pupils

He said; good, good, excellent, just like that … ba-aby

Now … Open them

And she remembered the first time she unfurled

Like those Chinese paper flowers that grow in water

A warm rose bud disturbed by prying fingers

She recalled the way unwanted thumb pealed her exposed

A fruit chewed on before ripening

The sting afterwards

Like she’d dried out all her moisture and hung like a salted fish to be slapped and dismissed

If she gave this boy, with sweat on his lip instead of hair, his hand down his pants yanking something terrible, a rolling storm, tattooing bruised landscape

His way would become her path

What would be next?

Can you scissor yourself over my friend and lower down like a stray bullet?

We’ll make money and you’ll have value

I’ll take care of you, afterward you can pretend it didn’t happen

We’ll smoke away the taste and I’ll move inside you until you release

Regret

It’s easier to prostitute yourself when nobody has your back and you didn’t learn how

To save yourself, to feel your worth

The sabotage within, so achingly familiar

If I do it’ll be like every other time I ruined myself over nothing, you say

Feeling deserving of the pain, shame is a funny fellow, makes you quite attached

When you’re adrift and running on empty

Who knew how easy it was to ruin a child?

Set in place, steps of greater sabotage

She could feel their sticky fingers on her thighs

The voices murmuring, it’s what you deserve

Sickness in a learned desire to be debased

On her knees being ridden like a horse, the riders

Grabbing her innocence, one handful of hair at a time

Til she was all used up and another empty set of eyes

Waiting for the next fix

She saw herself at thirty, dying in an empty room

And the boy who encouraged her now, high on himself and the vigor of youth

Didn’t know how easy it would be for her to tumble down the rabbit hole, he only thought of

Getting his cock sucked and how he could brag if she’d pose for his fantasies

She wasn’t his, she didn’t want to be the next hole, willingly bent over

She wasn’t a plastic doll or his fist, she didn’t exist for him to spank himself off

Her image was sacrosanct, her body inviolate

Her legs weren’t going to open and be his willing whore

Just because she felt empty inside and his thin flattery pretended to assuage, all the pain and losses

That wasn’t her path

He didn’t get to see her center or hold her up for inspection

The fine line between loss and lost is not so fine

She stood up for herself for the first time and learned

What we do, matters, impacts us, stays like a cancer

Life already hard, she needed all the breaks she could get

It began with leaving and not looking back

At the boy holding a camera in one hand

From basket deep

Clamboring, chiming, turning inside out for lack of space

Urging in one cold grey wave of fur and teeth

Lolling tongues, hot breath, slobber and frenzy

From a distance, life resembles a dark river

Cutting through early frost, hungry for warmth

And I think of the man who paints this bleeding scape

Of land into water and flesh undulating, back to earth

I wonder if he knows better than us, how close we are to one or the other

By just a pinch of his ink stained fingers, held up

To guage perspective, before he dips his brush and renders

This mist of mouths, graves and birth and sour roots, twisting through

Surviving even as skies douse and sun bakes flat, yet beneath myriad

A soup of souls closing and opening by ritual of tide

And still, life, clops down the cobbled street, hawking seasons from basket deep.

(Inspired by FEDERICO GARCÍA LORCA, especially the line, han venido los perros de plomo.)