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.

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The wounded eyed girl

15Before I knew myself, uttered out loud the words

labeling me a this or a that or a who knows?

I developed feelings for a wounded eye girl

we were kids really, dressing up as Japanese geisha in my room

all festooned in asian print and a little tea set I got for cheap

from china town

we wore chopsticks in our hair and bowed ceremoniously

singing the only song we knew in Japanese

with The Mikado playing in the background

I liked her thin arms and her prominent nose

her knock knee urchin look and bandaged soul

I liked how strong she was even as she looked like she’d fly away

most of all I was attracted to her wounded eyes

for there is something heady and bewitching in

pain

and its infinite manifestations

we’d dress up, I would paint her lips scarlet, we’d put on

funny accents and roll on the floor looking up at glow stars

I still had stuck there with movie posters of vampires

she would fling her arm out across my chest,  tell me of herself

pouring out the suffering of her short life

and it was an awful life before she was

brought to this city we lived in, both from somewhere else

transplants, orphans, ghosts of ourselves with missing DNA

she would tell me of her homeland, how

her father beat her black and blue for

being a girl

why as she got older he took

each of her sisters one by one

and they didn’t come back

whole or even

well repaired

I wanted to lick the pain from her cheeks and hold her to me

until the wound healed

but nothing I could ever do would assuage

the wounds behind her dark brown eyes

so we played as little girls do

building camps and tepees and western saloons

once I played a prostitute and she a cowboy

I cocked my head, snapped a red garter and asked her;

want to have some fun soldier?

she laughed, such a lovely laugh

her black hair and coffee skin, shining with fantasy

she didn’t like being herself anymore than me

we got into our pretend saloon bed

I served her a pretend shot of whiskey

acted ‘saucy’ the way I had learned from TV

she rolled her eyes laboriously like a comedian winking

pulled up my petticoats which were real

and at one point had been my mother’s wedding dress

when she married my father, bare foot and broke

with a velvet ribbon tied around her neck

and our fingers explored each other

as we giggled and changed our voices to all the favorite

TV characters we knew

I think I even tried to be Sue Ellen

I wanted to tell her then, not to stop

to press my mouth to her pomegranate lips

touch her swelling breasts with my own lack of

run myself like a cat across her saffron skin

but even then I knew

damage makes bad bed fellows

we soon changed the game, to cops and robbers

climbing out of the window, swinging from trees

though in every story

there was an element of romance

I thought of the old shows I loved

where the actors were always

dancing around the circumference

of each others heart

how in real life sometimes they married

I told my father; Oh see! Oh see! pretend things can come real!

but some cannot

and she and I grew up

once she told me she had always known I felt like that

I blushed dark red because of course

thinking I’d been subtle when watching her changing clothes

she married a blonde haired man and moved to Australia

had a little boy and hopefully

a ceasing of her alotment of pain

because more than anything I wanted that for her

even more than the beautiful moment

of two girls

laying in sunlight

laughing at imagined things

for the rest and peace and escape

of anything real

 

She told me, don’t worry about it

We’re sitting talking about how we know

You’re making me laugh at jokes, about Hannibal

How I only like Gillian, because she’s a bit like you

And I can’t tell anyone, including you

You reminded me how I knew, I was still alive

In the video of you dancing, uncaring and wild

That’s how I’m reminded why

I know beauty

How women

Are the possessors of

All that is beautiful

With your downcast eyes, the color of absinthe

Hair falling in your pale face, cut cheekbones and grace

The switch of your merciless, marching intelligence

The sorrow, the humor, the passion lines

How you make me laugh hysterically and blush

Pouting, pulling on your cigarette, getting me aroused and nervous

Without trying, you command all attention

Your wit is sharper than a sword

When you didn’t talk to me

It was like a blonde flower, turning her lights out

The night was darker

Still I heard

That song you made immortal

The sway of your slim hips and secret smile

And I’m speaking to you in a language, I outlawed

Because he dirtied it for me, forever

But you sound so lovely talking in the fog

I know I have to stand at a distance, or I’d reach out

Grab the concentration from your lovely brow

But to be in your blazing aura

The tiny, angry, intelligent, firey soul

You inhabit like no other

You were the girl who woke me up

I’d give anything to dance with you

To that exact song, in those same clothes

Your then blonde hair, a chaotic wisp

The crunched concentration on your francophone face

There’s classic and there’s disheveled-perfect and you’re both

I’d take your hand and say

Don’t worry, I know the rules

But for fucks sake we’ve both been here long enough

born the same year

You got the small chest I always wanted

And you said you liked my eyes

Same color green as yours

Not narcissism

But sisters

Lovers of

Pain and hard living

We only trust those like us

Who smoked and drank and have to show on our tired faces, the weariness of living

Where boundaries are never crossed

But fantasy is free and inked

And you like being adored

I am good at loving

Sad, happy, gorgeous girls, with crooked smiles

Who hold my attention with their spark

Catching in the darkness like a skinned rock, thrown out to sea

On Brighton beach

Where we’ll always be young and beautiful

Me chasing you in the cold sea

You disappearing into green waves

This is a real world as it is an unreal world

I was going through the list of who I am following on WordPress with a view of clearing out people who had stopped writing on their blog. It’s sad. All the good intentions we have, all the excellent names for blogs, the ideas, the effort, where do they go?

Interestingly; I noticed that many of the people who had depression and/or feminism in their title line were no longer writing. I wondered, is that a coincidence or do things that matter but are not popular (depression/feminism) die out?

Whilst I admire those who continue a blog for years, writing faithfully every day/week/month I would also say that many of the BEST writers are those who start blogs and never continue them. I wonder where they are now? I wonder if they are okay? It seems sad to see their potential and ideas lost.

When I was sick I didn’t write for a few months here-and-there but people knew I was still around. I wonder how long it takes to not be around and not be noticed if you are not around, I wonder how long it takes to vanish or feel you have vanished?

Upon joining WP I met with a small group of writers/poets/thinkers and they were my ‘first’ friends here. What is interesting is of those, some are still my dearest friends and some completely vanished and this after professing love and life-long friendship. Of those who vanished, either into their own egos or others, they were the loudest at proclaiming such undying friendship. Had I known then, they were just saying it, I wouldn’t have invested as much time in cultivating those friendships but not everyone is like that, usually only those who speak the loudest (and I wonder why that is?).

At times I am tempted to ask some of those who never keep in touch, what happened? Where’s the love? ha ha ha! Because they were SO VERY effusive and then like a raisin in the sun they dried up and went onto greener pastures … I guess that’s the whim of the budding author for you! Yeah I met a few of those too. I learned from that fickelty though. No matter what happens, I’ll never feel too self-important for those who were there for me.

Going through the list is like looking back on the years I have written on WP and all the people I have met. I feel so lucky to have met those people, so many of them I really count as TRUE friends and I care deeply for them. Others I may not be literal friends with but I admire what they do and who they are, very, very much. We are basically, a wonderful community and I feel richer for being here.

Let’s spare a moment for those who are not here. In our WP world we have lost people. Those who have died. Those who have become too sick to write. Those who are too depressed to write. Those who are not here and though we do not know why, they are gone. Let’s think about those people we met when we first began here, the faces and voices of those who are not here now for a myriad of reasons. I for one, do not forget them. It’s a bit like first-love, you don’t easily forget your first.

Thank you to Rita, Eric, Tony, Monique, Derick and Sabrina, some of the very ‘first tribe’ who welcomed me and whom I had here on WP, for still being around and still sending your sunshine my way regularly.

Oh, and if this teaches me anything, it is to appreciate someone whilst they are here and to try to always keep writing through life’s ups and downs and appreciate the value of people coming into your life and holding you to the light.

For Paul and Cynthia. We remember you.

 

What was lost, is not

il_fullxfull.328869000what was lost, is not

you were meant to die

you were not meant to die

we were both so alive

even though, without modern means

your poor head, my aching conscience

may have felt the drop of earth

far earlier

the stars so alight, over our premature sleep

we did not think we could lose

and still

life shows us in picture cards

‘having a wonderful time, wish you were here!’

how tender the road without direction

how still the clock in hospital room

counting down, looking up

explanations for frailty

pistacho shells growing in number

blood coursing through our stride

the winding path and sudden start of deer

their black eyes, wells of ink

reproaching

if I had to do the same again I wouldn’t change anything

but maybe, plant better roots

for sickness can shake the most stalwart

where everything is thrown around and

stooping to bend fallen moments

can seem like it will never

rebuild what was lost

life can

be a small flame, hardly visible

it may appear to flicker

out

and still you endure

the absurdity of surviving

we laugh at photos of catheters

because it is the only way to clamber over

the horror still lying beneath everything

after all

who expects to reach out and find

the dissolve of certainty?

after all

who believes the boogie man under the bed

will actually show himself?

in the gowns of harried doctors

who poke and prod and pronounce

without

mercy

after all

our world is in short supply of tenderness

and when we implore God

or the toilet bowl

for strength and a little succor

how do we imagine the rescue?

after all

it may be a stranger who

reaches out

a loved one who

turns away

such is the carnival

and round lights grow hot

on your restlessness

after all

it is not easy to be

cast in uncertainty

adrift we only know

the tug of another’s flounder

we are strong in

searching each other

for direction

embracing imperfection

as if it were

the most beautiful moment

from horror comes

straight-backed on her tired horse

the unspooling of

hope

for as sure as you are still

racing by my side

what was lost

is not