Of being

c62At twenty

when most young people

have such inner light they need

no tanning

I stood in the Pre-Raphaelite section

of the foreign museum

where prisms of light gathered

in tepees over head

born with an exaggerated self-consciousness

it felt as if all the disinterested

milling around staring at art

with their mouths open and crumbs from croissants

smearing their lapels

were disapproving

it wasn’t self aggrandized

I knew then as I know now

I am just one of a million million

but the glare of the crowd

was like a purse being pulled inward

gathering her fret

I’d been inspected too closely, too frequently

as a child prone to blunder and freedom

reined by yoke of adults disapprobation and neglect

now it felt like every stare

was a leach on my skin

sucking for marrow

I wondered

at the girls who posed for masters

in cold bathtubs of water

approximating Ophelia’s death throes

or imagined when they

lay quiet in their grave

mouths still stained with laudanum

life plucked by the need for art

art approximating life and not

artifice struck me then

unable like the fawn colored girl beside me

to walk with certitude

she was only a few inches taller

though her neck was more a swan than cat

she held little more potential

yet held the world by its umbilical

whilst I sought out back doors

to any exhibit of youth

it didn’t sit well on my angular shoulders to

flaunt or even preen unaware

I had never known how to un-know

the unbearable lightness of being

(last line and title from Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí by Milan Kundera)

Children with no reflection

girl-fishingMy feet were always too big for vintage shoes

granny said

girl you’re outgrowing your ancestors

measured my 1980’s girth with pokered face

disgracing corselet historians with modern gait

I never was the black-eyed-girl of my father’s heart

his own ungainly DNA bore him a chip off the old block

who knew his self-loathing would rub free like lint

on the broad shoulders of imperfect kin

you’ve no delicacy in your frame girl

your hands are too wide for these kid gloves

you cannot fit into the stays and confines of the past

where did you come from? changeling?

half and half in one world and the next

part girl part boy part aberration an inverse

it was easier to steal a pair of dungarees

climb the old knobbly willow tree

dropping apple pips in indigo pond

a disappointing girl with one eye patched lest it wander

I saw my delicate mother and her child’s form

rush like a dancer into applauding future

gone from those who would love her best

she left a horse hair brush that smelt of her skin

and I did not know what to be

standing there with my unliked shell of pallor

a mockery of fallen relations between two lovers

retreating to the verge of attention their child

I waited until nobody expected me home

muddied, stained and bramble scratched

children with no reflection

if you asked me then whom I loved the most

I would have pointed to the owl

grand in his luminous white feathers

for he saw the little girl’s disappointment

and together they sang

low into night

to beckon timorous vole

closer