Nothing of me

She stands in the doorway

The outline of her slim shoulders

The hallway light seems peachy

She is home and without her

Home will be a strange wasteland

Where survivors cling to wreckage

Watching for her shape every night

The smell of her still on tortoiseshell hairbrush

Why didn’t she need it when she left?

How did she choose what to take and what to leave?

The only choice I was certain of

..

I was not under consideration

That need, to not need

Suffocating on duty and then

Deciding to toss it into waste bin

Along with other chains

I have carried as my own brand of perfume

She who gave me life, wanted life without me

Always did, from the first day they placed me in her arms

And she thought … oh no

It isn’t her fault

Love never arrived

But I am left alive

Yearning to matter, knowing I never will

It is a bigger part of me than I care to usually admit

A voice in the dark always crying for Mommy

A word I haven’t used, I know not

I thought I’d grow up and get over it

But wherever you go, there you are

In my case, a kid whose mom didn’t want

I’m still looking at doorways

Watching for her tread

In other’s faces, a memory yet

Even as I grow older than she was

When she squeezed her heart

And despite the shared DNA

Found it held

Nothing of me

For my first friend in America

Your hand covers mine

we clasp for the camera and smile a 100 watt smile

The American Way

I have learned

how to park a truck

that pale legs are not

as anathema in Texas as in Cannes

I understand, ordering drinks you size up

trying clothes, you size down

topsy-turvy world for a foreigner

lost in her baggage claim.

You made me feel

easy and comfortable like an adirondack chair

smooth wood, deep grain, eccentric shape

this became my town and in so many ways

it was thanks to you taking the time

to show me the way to fit in

the candles dim in the windows of the bar

as if they know you are now gone

where the bird died and we buried it

flowers grow up and a little crepe myrtle

as if forever our steps, will be marked here

mountain laurel blooms wildly

across splayed streets replete with thin cats

seeking their breakfast at Taco huts, the color of watermelon

where I ate among the gladioli without fear.

In the beginning

you were like Tiger Balm

rubbed over my fear, I was no longer shivering

could make my way through the throng

as good as anyone

your watchful eyes on my narrow back

seeing how I did, urging me onward

how will I continue with you gone?

Family, you said, comes from the heart

you may find someone you love in the strangest places

I found you in a Chinese buffet eating Won Tong soup

in my skinny jeans and piss and vinegar

you asked me if I used to be a dancer

I said yes, and now I unravel for a living

you took under your wing, that juniper girl who

didn’t know how to fit in to her new clothes

taught her the measure of her adopted land

like the time we planted trees and you warned

never forget to be merciful, to those less fortunate

the sky was pure blue that day, on the wind

the smell of honeysuckle and river lily

white cranes flew languidly overhead

we shared Limeade and Tortas, our feet dipping in hot puddles

I recall

the first time you were sick

I said, you reminded me of my grandmother

and you frowned; I’m not old enough!

But what I meant was

she had a strength, nobody else could see

every time I went to school she’d wait

in her high-waisted pants of crepe or wool

tight curled hair, wearing oversized sunglasses

below the stairs, nodding with a wink

mouthing the words; You got this

and I’d go into my classroom with a 100 watt smile

not fearful anymore

nobody saw that side of her, just as

people dismissed you as a Jesus Freak

seeing past the strength of your resolve

to live with love

I admire those; who have mercy and compassion

I look to those; who are loyal and unafraid to love

it is the weave of this girl, to follow in those footsteps

bring kindness, do good, lend yourself to gentleness

when I grew sick I saw, how many live with

anger and resentment, undoing their humanity

until they are unrecognizable and only breathe

the exhaust of their bitterness.

To the rose

opening this day

after your passing

I say, O glory, O beauty

live in the sun

as radiant and perfect as anything I have known

and I hear your voice, see your face nodding

you got this

I want to run backward and say

please don’t leave me, don’t go

but I know you have to

and I have to go on

alone but holding your wisdom

your mercy

in those lessons you left

imprinted upon my heart.

Short respite

When I wrote about the grief inside myself

It wasn’t me I described

But you

The two of you who made the me

And then like rice thrown at midday wedding

Scooped me up and put me to boil down

On a high flame with no watchers

I burned to nothing

Leaving a sticky rim around the pan

Reminiscent of starch and glue

Like your clothes always pressed, clinging to your neck in hot weather

Or the piles of things he began and disguarded

I stepped

Out of the hot pan

Walked through greese and debris

Every step I took something stuck

Bits of dirt, jam, floss and mud

Moments

Pressed like thirsty flowers to dry flat between books

What would you have done differently, with the benefit of heindsight?

Too late for that ironic idiom, pass the parcel

Til you’re the last without a chair and resolve is bare

Just a quick ticking heart, searching in shadow

Unended furniture where they left, in a hurry to escape, what they had yet to learn

I was hungry for you to care

But you birthed me on sweltering tarmac and took off

Your quickening feet on fire

I melted into pitch and asphalt, rising

Like a badly fixed road will buckle and bow, emptying hunchback, the misshapen and malformed

Limping its circumference at night, skin tapping, indigo beetle hide

Like a fantastical shaman with shaded eyes of a moth and fingers of water

Dips his fountain pen, scrawls my fate in runic blood

You who were ill prepared and unwilling, gave up the burden of your consummation

To thrive or drown, two choices thrown with skittering dice

Take your place at the wheel of Fortune, await your turn

When the heat of days lessens and short respite from hurting

Can be found

Collecting Mother’s

As a child, as an adult

I collected mother’s

Bewitched by what had been absent

The soft strength and maturing gravitas

Of gentle women who suspend the sky

It has long been a desire of mine

To inhabit the energy of mother’s soul, long enough to learn, the mystery

It is as if I am a man-child, cut from peripheral cloth

For she who is a mother, has a remote wholeness I cannot absorb

The density of putting others before herself, to bring life squalling into this world

Surely her soul is closer to the reduction and encroaching waves, shaping time

For her voice speaks of places I have yet to go

Mysteries in the birth and death of life, she intuits

The breaking foamy sound, one of collapse, folding in on itself and remaking

Like marbles in opaque jar, clustered too close to roll, will eventually spill

These tears, when dried, leave furrowed salt smudges

They do not know their existence well enough

To forget that another breeze, wild and hennaed

Would lift even leaden spirit, from washed reproach

Like children on the cusp of summer, appear ethereal, in fine grain light

Laughing with a freedom not found, in classroom

Imparting her knowledge, handed down by palm print

Sometimes I feel I am a fragment of her rich tapestry

A thin thread that could easily unravel and with strong wind

Be carried into puzzling wilderness, away from her sure footed climb

I feel safer when she is near, holding up the world

Her feet deep in red mud, her head just reaching heavens gate

S.O.S.

28514640_10155366958932338_2887770778102742777_o324300484.jpgI wanted to

open my mouth as wide as it will go

no .. even

further

disarticulated and gaping

for maximum sound

a fog horn

and implore you

describing

the itch in my throat

the lump that turns to anchor

pulling me down to ocean floor

no oxygen, just humiliation

It says

Help me

I’ve never asked before

hot-faced and ashamed

I’m all grown up and lost

wandering toward your call

Help me

unpick my mistakes

return to the scattered fold

but every time I begin

something in your tone

heeds a warning

and I go back to

holding in

sore like spring cold

my throat is not meant for singing

it is a lump hardened by knowing

you will not hear.

(After becoming so sick I decided my only option would be to move back to a country with socialized healthcare. I basically said as much to my father, the first time I have ever asked him for help as an adult. I felt so guilty for asking. Some of my pride comes from being independent, not relying upon others. I find it hard to ask. But what was harder was his lack of response. I could blame many things, maybe he was in shock, maybe he didn’t know what to say. But parents are parents for life, if their child at any age needs help, and you know they may not be able to help themselves, I would think most would help them. Now I feel stupid, ashamed and embarrassed for asking. I hadn’t expected too much, just some type of support in moving back, if indeed a way could be found. But he stayed pretty negative, he doesn’t want to make an effort or get involved. I realized then I had long thought family meant we were all in it together, helping each other through this life, but it’s more ‘them’ and ‘me’. If I could, I would help myself. I’ve done it every other time. But being sick means you can’t always help yourself. There is no worse feeling than asking for help after feeling so bad for having to ask for help and then feeling absolutely ridiculous for having asked. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, it’s just challenging because it would be better if I could live in a country with socialized healthcare at this point, being swamped by bills I cannot afford. I suppose like many who do not have that option I will have to find another way. I don’t feel hard done by, I just feel like I don’t have that familial support that I half believed I could have, if I asked for it, that feels very lonely but also I feel stupid, for expecting, or asking anything of anyone, I wish I had the strength by myself but I just don’t).

A glimmering girl of movement

images

Things are not always what they seem

I came from negative photography so I believed, beauty came from broken wings

She’s is a muted goddess but she feels she is muddied totem and godless

Running on raw feet to keep the fear at bay, she is Zola Bud without a flag

A thin line of angularity, stretching on tarmac into distance with her naked courage

She says, damn it, don’t put me on a pedestal

I want to tell her; it’s just believing in you, but she’s like me in that regard

Children brought up on curses, never believe velvet coated words

They’re drawn to the familiar caustic lack of praise, boiled with the bones of shaven headed ancestors

She feels safe in critical people’s iron gaze, mulling over flaws like antique appraiser

And if I could I would, redo her start, give her warmth and security, raise her up and place, the sunlight in her eyes

A golden trophy for my cousin, who runs at dawn to hide her cries, one long limbed stride into furious future

And as she runs she hears the chime of those who believe in her, even as she can only concentrate, on feeling motion tuning its drum

There in her deep heart, thrumming to keep going, against weather’s worst, she defies expectation, a glimmering girl of movement

 

FOR MY BEAUTIFUL COUSIN. I LOVE YOU.

The fragile cast 

Tell me again

To be fearless

Tell me again

To depend on myself

I am yet a child

Still holding her toy by the ear

I am feeling you give me

The hard water slap of advice

Cold on my cheek, formerly warm.

You say

It’ll toughen me up

But I already know

It has wrought the reverse

I am not

A leathered creature of your creation

I am already 

Quite changed and mangled.

Whilst you 

Suffered and carved expressions from granite

Still you were told, you were a marvel

I was weighted down only with disapprobation

And your searing brand of tough love

Tore me further without support

Gave me greater fears, made me feel alone

In a room full of sound.

You cannot rob a child of their ego before it is formed

Nor nurture one empty handed and pickpocketed

You cannot protect a child by harm

Broken is broken.

We all require, when we start in this world

The unconditional faith of others

In a look, a knowledge, some portion of belief

In the validity of us

Lifted just enough to see over the edge.

Life already begs to steal the best 

We cannot survive by being cast into fire before we learn to walk

It doesn’t forge stronger bones

We live as ash, insubstantial invalids

Longing for the strength of kindness.

Before you break a child

Think of them twenty years from now

Grown on thin gruel and scraps

We who stand in the tempest 

May appear whole

But in our essence we lack

The varnish of other’s meant to grow us tall

It is in the stained radiance 

We find the courage to face the world

Bestowed on us by those meant to protect

The fragile cast of a child.