The look in their eyes

Walking around, you don’t even need to convince yourself you’re all right

such is the layer upon layer, you don’t even see, until it creeps up and then

blocking out the sun, darkness invades sight and everything is at once, changed.

I am standing beneath awning, the sun is nearly out, it’s a windy day and the chimes in the back garden keep a steady sound

as I have always been, I am attached but not part of, another dynamic, a family with their own ways of doing things

I bend to learn and listen, I smile when expected, at times I think I feel comfortable with my toes dipped in

he has sorrow etched on his face though he is still young, his eyes betray him and a slight quiver in his mouth when

she clearly doesn’t care

I want to ask her, what happened to cause the rift, but everything is fragile and tenuous as if we are tiptoeing around

a sleeping giant

since childhood I learned to pick up on what to avoid and what to leave untouched, the manners of an outsider

accutely atuned to other people’s needs and emotions

not quite an empath, I can tell when they need time alone, if I should make myself scarce

and all at once I recall, aged eight or so, doing just the same, sitting on a cold flight of stairs for many hours

picking at my shoe laces, tying and untying them, making stories with crumbs and the wrinkles in my joints

hearing their argument echo through the thin door

I am good at placating, massaging egos, staying invisible when necessary and picking up the pieces afterward

her eyes are flashing, she puts on a pair of high heals and I can tell what she is thinking though she would never say

she wants to run and pack a bag and leave and find someone else, anyone else

and his need is as palpable as paint vapor, she is strangled by it and her own indifference

I want to ask; You loved each other once, where did it start to fall apart?

do you think they’d even remember now? Unlikely. Too many years building walls

to keep each other out, they forget in their effort, the beginning of them and how

happy they looked in that photo.

I want to tell her, you have everything you need here, I can see it in his movement, it is as if he acts out the ache he feels

I want to tell him, if it’s going to be this way forever, pack a bag, leave before your heart turns to dust

I want to save them and mend them, and make it right

for the sake of the child whose toys we pick up and put neatly away, as if that

will save anything, or stop him from one day remembering

the look in their eyes

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I said no and you said yes

I said no and you said yes

The first time was before I can remember

adults do not have dominion over children’s souls

but that’s what happens when you touch a child and cause her to be unwhole

the second time was in nursery school so I suppose your foray of my body had begun

as I emulated what was done

in the back of a toy caravan with my pretend boyfriend and he liked it a lot

made me feel dirty though, I did not know what that meant at the time

seeded a doubt in the core of my person, like a rod of copper slowly turning green

the third time I lay face down on a dirty carpet and three boys played marbles across my back

they got the idea from a porno mag their father hadn’t hidden very well

and their kid sister watched from the doorway, and I told her with my eyes, go to your room or you will be next

I said no and you said yes

it became as normal as something bad can be, I wanted to see her, so I had to cross the gauntlet and you were the gatekeeper

nobody believes you when it is easier to disbelieve and go on thinking respectable people don’t lie

you taught me to hate games shows as they were our background noise

and grandma would come in laughing and I’d see the guilt in her eyes

sacrifice the daughter, sacrifice the child, sweep the dirt underneath the bruises of generations

at nine I fell in love for the first time with a boy who wiggled above me but he of all, respected my desire to be unmolested and we hung upside down from the monkey puzzle tree holding hands

I said no and you said yes

James Brown was your name like the singer, and you didn’t take no for an answer

you climbed my bunk bed and pulled down your pants and if the door bell hadn’t rung you would have got your way

I wonder who came after me and if they were saved by the bell?

I said no and you said yes

yes yes yes you know you want this

no no no I really don’t

but you asked for it, you tempted me, you flirted, you caused me to have a hard-on, this is YOUR FAULT

I kissed a boy in the garages outside school and it felt dirty and wrong because it reminded me of what others had done

before I made decisions of my own

I said no and you said yes

I felt guilty about touching myself because of the Jahovah witnesses and the Mormons and the teacher who stapled my confession together and said we won’t talk of it

when I tried to tell her, this is what happened to me

and you didn’t feel guilty about playing yatzee and karatee on your father’s bed with the nylon sheets and the little bobbles they made when you made a tent and put your fingers in

and you didn’t feel badly when you lied and said you would only touch and instead you went too far and before I knew you were pinning me against a table

I said no and you said yes

children who are violated don’t always know what’s best for them

they are broken and they are scattered and they are stomped on and they hate how they look when the light is on

but they want to fit in and they want to be normal and sometimes in trying they get it all wrong

the neighbor told my parents; your little girl is using bad words and teaching my boys how to curse

and I said fucking hell what does it matter?

but it did, it mattered a lot, to stay in the confine of childhood and not grow up

because growing up meant it was real and you had to deal with it and whilst you were a child

nobody believed it could happen anyway so you could pretend it did not

I said no and you said yes

yes yes yes I know you want to

no no no I really don’t

and my second boyfriend said he wouldn’t go too far

but he did and he did and he did

and I ran through the streets holding myself up and I shouted to the trees that had fallen because of the high wind

why do people pretend? because I didn’t understand and it was a language impenetrable

but I was not … impenetrable

I was just a place of conquer

I wanted to find a lock and keep myself closed

but they kept battering down the door one after the other

because patterns are sometimes all we have to show

for the cycle of abuse

I said no and you said yes

the last time was in a public street

dragged off and soon the roads diminished and the woods were thick

he moved like a silver fish cutting his way into my secrets

I lay staring at the knife

he told me, I won’t cut you if you are nice

I was very, very nice

no no no

yes yes yes

the policeman said; I have to ask, it’s my job, did you want to have sex with this homeless man?

and I pulled up my torn skirt and my ripped hose and my shredded blouse and my dismembered bra and my bloody underwear and I said

if you can even ask that question

you will not recognize justice if it comes

no no no

I said no and you said yes

the last time and the first time and all the rest

when children become girls, become women, become less

than the worth that is owed them

yes yes yes !

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.

Papier-mache

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They said, keep the blinds drawn, what we have to say, isn’t good

they lay her down on a white sheet and beneath, the hammered metal hummed

the bulb in the middle of the room, behind linoleum, sung a hissing song

their white-coated pluck and scratch, indifferent and sterile, she was just, flesh and blood

another in a long line of patients who, largely were forgotten, consumed by a machine, uncaring of individual

she could feel the dried corners of her eyes crack, as she looked left and right

someone once told her, adult survivors of abuse, find it hard to relax

they are always looking for what is crawling out of cupboards

she didn’t want her past to run her future, but now it seemed, her future was in doubt

never before had she felt so alone

the petty bravery of moving countries, seemed a facile thing, for children who didn’t yet know, true terror

surely it is easy to be brave when you have no war, and are just posting letters

she lived like that for so long, running from childhood’s sadness, enjoying the wide open space of adulthood

thinking she had all the time in the world, surely growing older was for another life

it wasn’t entirely selfish, she did her part, but there was always the tendency to want to make up for the past, by living without a care

and then it was no longer that way

impossible to ignore, unable to let go of, she was swiftly consumed and irrevocably changed

even if tomorrow the cloud lifted, she would never walk as lightly as she used to

the power of naivety, ignorance is surely, our dearest friend

now her heart beat fast all the time, unable to still, the surge of emotions inside

she was a rabbit in her burrow, smelling fox

she was no longer the quick silver of a girl, without terrible knowledge

days were unbearably long, and serious, like the frown on an old man’s face

they spoke of compromise, a series of steps, faltering and bursting apart and trying over

it was as if all of her was removed and pummelled into earth and made to rise again

never was it more silent, never did she wish for the phone to ring and something to let her out of the nasty trap with jagged mouth

words are just words, she could have said; I am strong, I am going to fight, but in the next breath she may

simply not be able

and that lack of, that inability, like a prison, or a sudden dismemberment, was, a kind of horror she’d never been creative enough to imagine

like being stolen from yourself, and hearing in the distance, the sound of children dancing

to your favorite song

if life is indeed a battle, she thought, this is where I need to buckle down

put aside my tendency to want to climb out of the window and skip the lesson

stifle the longing to run fast, in the opposite direction

everything so far, had brought her to this point, it wasn’t what she’d imagined

instead, she’d hoped by now, she’d have found her groove, begun as humans tend, to build her fortress

it wasn’t time yet, it wasn’t nearly time yet

and all the days she’d squandered, thinking there would be more

all the long drawn out machinations, to position herself and be ‘responsible’

denying the lustre of living

she’d put off joy so many times, in favor of ‘sensible choices’

where were those now? She berated herself for not having taken

more vacation, more experiences, that glass of wine, danced on that table top

she worked for a future, she may never get to experience, sure she felt bitter, angry at her lack of insight

though most believe, we’re never ready for bad news or, the fall of favor

we think we predict worst case scenario but that’s only an anxious mind

seeking to control the uncontrollable and unknown

nothing prepares you for a premature curtain fall

nothing shores you up to deal with catastrophe

we muddle through or we give up

those are the only two ways we journey

when the wet-ass hour comes tolling

she felt a grief for her bad choices and wished, like others she could have no regrets

it is hard not to regret when you’re cut off from everything

difficult to look forward when the present is biting at your ankles

she wasn’t one to pray for herself

but she did now

she prayed for the strength she felt she didn’t have

she prayed not to feel so isolated

cried thinking of how many before her, went through this darkness alone, their hearts aching to be cared for

she was a little girl again, looking for her mother beneath furniture

seeing her in album covers and from the top of buses

that woman had her mother’s eyes, large and dark

that lady’s figure is slim and reedy like her mother’s was

at night she wanted to feel the way she imagined a child does

put to bed and told, everything is well, you are safe

if she’d had children, she’d be saying it to them now

but life threw her a curve-ball and she ended up reproducing only

empty rooms collecting dust

perhaps it was for the best, now that she’d sunk so low

for how could she care for anyone, when she could not for herself?

if everything has a reason, she wasn’t sure of this

to teach her gratitude? To punish her for lassitude?

if there was a God she hoped, somehow to end her suffering, even by means of eternal sleep

but she felt bad for praying when so many, suffered far worse than her, and how they coped, she did not know

only that she had to try each day to keep going, in what direction was unclear

she wasn’t sure of the sign-posts or meaning, it was too easy to let fear, guide her way

so many things needed to change and yet, she was tired, so tired of fighting and being scared

they say those brought up unkindly, learn to be strong

she didn’t feel strong at all, she felt like only a thin wind, kept her from collapsing

and all her plans were thrown in water, watching the ink bleed out, with nothing left to find, but papier-mache

her grandmother once told her, out of nothing you can build, entire universes

she tried now to imagine a place, where she would be restored

where all the things she still had to do, remained possible

surely you can tell when, the end of the record is over and, it’s about to go quiet

she hadn’t been able to, she’d one day been carrying her dancing shoes, across the newly waxed floor, her eyes feverish with anticipation

and the next, swallowed by sickness, left without curative

only the static of a cold room and a script for patience

she’d been spat out of the system, left to flounder by road-side

how different, she thought, from childhood where, we do everything to protect them from fear

sewing toys that will keep them company at night

mobiles to send them to sleep, songs to ward away nightmares

and at some eventual point, we decide they’re ready for the real world

full of savagery and disregard and people who are supposed to help

but are only doing the bare minimum

is it any wonder we flounder, and miss a step?

looking around in wide-eyed fear

mouthing the unasked question

is this what it feels like, to be real?

It is in horror, we see truth

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Before

is a color I cannot describe

a place I don’t fit into anymore.

 

Even if I am restored

things will be changed for good

for most of us there are times

that shape our marrow

could be in the form of torment

maybe sorrow, sometimes joy

often the hardest times leave deepest imprint

perhaps it shouldn’t be that way

we should rejoice our luck a little, usually too busy enjoying ourselves

to leave permanent mark or maybe, challenge speaks louder than mirth

it is easy to accept a good day like a hot bath

than deal with a bad and hollow foe

that’s when our quick is sharpened,the story of our lives written

on the tip-toe of endurance

and what if we do not want to endure?

too bad, shit happens, legs break, minds crack

we’re going to end up there at some point

better waterproof our leaking sides best we can

the ocean isn’t a forgiving mistress.

 

When I fell, my mouth filled with salt

even then I didn’t know how far torment, reached down

it was a well, beneath the sea

a second drowning

for those who long to be free above ground

shackles of the merciless kind

only then I wondered at the strength of others

enduring from such an early age whilst I

ran long in the garden, unawares, chasing butterflies without a care

thinking I knew real pain from a momentary hurt

I knew so little

just a moment ago and a life time apart.

 

I am a twin of my previous self

we stand on different sides of the same coin

I am submerged, she is still, basking in the glow of a harvest moon

sometimes I look over at her and feel such envy

anger for my lack of appreciation when I, was her

but you cannot lead a horse to water

you cannot teach a child what she must learn

getting stung on the principle, she discovers through pain

it wasn’t in my thoughts that I should be

the girl on the other side of the echo, pleading to return

I don’t know if I will be permitted

but should I ever, walk again without curse

it won’t be as the same person, but a mixture of two

once you’ve seen yourself and begged for mercy

everything alters and everything stays the same

it’s up to you to be mindful of what you learned in that maze of pain

I learned what we think of as hardship

is often just everyday life

what we believe is suffering

can be comfort compared to other lives

when we don’t think we can change

then we aren’t given a chance, we know we should have

it is in diminishment we find elucidation

it is in horror we see truth.

 

Let me back inside my life again

and I will not be the girl who, took the easy road

for she now knows, just how deep anguish can go

it is in the tangle of the briar

and the wormwood of old trees

whispering advice never heeded

by the youth who believe themselves free.

 

Before

is a color I cannot describe

a place I don’t fit into anymore

 

 

Shards

dscn1772-2There is an edge

ever-changing, indescribable

and as you turn your shoulder

thinking the sun has only burnt

one side

the other is latticed

in marks of your exposure

as things of darkness will crawl

deep inside you like a well without end

and build with whitened fingers

their hungry descent

until you are changed

even as you taste the salt of your tears

staining your face like damage

blackening light into rotten parts

tearing your wings to pieces

it’s been so long you forgot

once you were able to climb

high into sky and feel something

unknown now like a lover

who has turned to enemy and stranger

instead without warning

the edge presents itself

in terrible hour like a sharp knife

one moment you are clinking glasses

smiling into the camera

and others remark

goodness she’s aged well

look how happy she looks

the next you are ripping the lies

from your arms, all that glitters

tearing into shreds artifice

tying together knots in hope

they can end

the sudden terror inhabiting you

always cruelest when it shows

just as you believe you might

have escaped

yoking you back

get on your knees

here you are, here you are

your toes grip the edge

you see the emptiness below

much like what lies inside

untethered, unnamed

for who can put a word

to terror? to hopelessness?

who can place a finger on the place

the rot set in and began

to devour the person you once were?

leaving a scarecrow

others do not see inside

the stuffing ready to ignite

they only see the perfect smile

accoutrements without truth

glittering like shards of glass

scattered in the night

Softly by the spoonful

33879402735_73c9d87faf_kThere exist still

people who were born when the world

like a split fig, bequeathing aubergine center

was half the size

in a fabled time when

individuals could be appreciated

for more than their overt strip-tease

hot and pulsing on flashy poles oiled by media

consumption

 

my grandmother

with her perfect straight teeth

and flossy hair refusing to be tamed

called a beauty in her day

would never have held up now

a corn maiden left to rot in untended field

days then, of gentle reproaching and

beguiling unknown

how intoxicate to consider, what you cannot reach

where now, less possesses such mystery

in its hoard of foil

than generations guarding jailers keys to reaching secrets

you could think all your life you were set

in one direction like weather vane, divining nature

and upon the death-bed of your elders, find out

nothing you rolled in your palm, was true

not even the dice you flung impatiently forward

 

for now we have proof

and proof is not

like a closed oven door

raising cake or bread

proof can rob us of dreaming

and those imprecisions and improvision

making fantasies stick like early

peas fattened against their husk

 

now the only fantasy

is waking up to become someone else

soon they will have us inhabiting machines

thinking ourselves free

maybe the irony will be

in those metal cases our brains

will grow mercurial wings

we are after all, rather fickle things

thinking ourselves to immortality

as Icarus searched to quench

his melting dissolution

 

I don’t share this ache to overcome my nature

it is my wish to lay me down and sleep

fertilizing the next seed

so when they say eat your greens

if you do, you may be the one in six to reach triple digits

I secretly chew and spit into black soil

preferring the liquor of a shorter candle

if I lived that long

nothing of the world I once loved

would remain

 

Buddhists say

live in the moment, not past, nor future

but I am a backward bespeckled girl

with a tilted womb and trigger finger

I am a girl who was partially born

with patched lazy eye and pigeon toe feet

I inherited bunions from my father who

stole them from his grandmother

she was blind with cataracts and still able

to see clearly

don’t live in the city, she chided him

the country boy who sought

museums on sunday’s instead of church

you’ll always be lonely, she prophesied

and he was

staring out windows at tall buildings

with long faces, void of harmony

 

whilst I leaned more toward my ancestors

who tilled fecund earth with prematurely calloused hands

finding peace in silent prose press of peat

to nourish encroaching tides of meaningless

gabled society can bring

 

from my mother I gained

some wit and spark

but also the propensity to climb inside myself

so far I didn’t know how to trust

and when it rains and the weather shifts

its turbulence

my head aches with clamoring change

an internal disturbance like children

playing band with pots and pans

it was always the habit of myself

to disbelieve the town crier

hefting his false bell

handing out sugar for the children

and pills for heavy-lidded adults

back in time I stood

warming my small hands against radiators

gloves wet from snow thawing

capture of damp wool in sticky air

the psychiatrist said

did you come here alone and you are only twelve?

I wanted to tell him

how many times I learned the way forward

without hands or trace

but some truths are best kept

behind your surface

he told me something I have never forgotten

it is the unkindness of those familiar

scars us worse of all

than any cut from a stranger

yet still

grief is a thing of feathers loosened by seizure

as rain will envelope sound, cutting off from usual ways

we tread deeper into ungulate symphony

he said; somebody should have loved you better

and I watched

my gloves shrink ever so slightly

as loose wool pulled taut in warmth

just as I

will lean into glassy light composed of grainy prism

away from those who string their netted words

higher and higher in hope of catching

butterflies

 

it is summer now

the sprinklers in gardens come alive at night

catching mating dragonflies unaware

lightly slapping window panes as they arc

and fall

the cat will only seek to step

on cooling tiles when sun has set

and behind my eyes if you looked

a hundred cages stand emptied

where generations have flown

toward the sea and diminishment

 

I know

as I feel the tilt of myself shift like

long seated shadows will at last

urge toward darkness

the slightest ember could ignite

this fragile ballet of footprints and placement

as tables set for breakfast loam in nightfall

specters in deletion, we rise and consume

time and understanding

softly by

the spoonful