Looking back at you

You took this photograph

Even if I forgot

The expression in my eyes would tell me

I was looking at your face

The dark of your eyes with their smile and their sadness

And all of us

Pieces torn into pieces, never too fragmented

For perfect recall

I remember every moment

Just as you forget

I hold on

Because you see

I loved you in a way

I shall never love again

You and just you

Us, and only us

And everyday we live

Without the other

I think of that moment

When you took my photo

And we both smiled

And held hands

Tightly beneath sweating table

And it is as if time

Has kept me there

Looking back at you

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Back to life

What is this place that one returns to?

for some, possible, easy even

to put aside a person, shelve them with other memories

like a box of postcards growing yellow

whilst I was always the girl who climbing on top of boxes

found the postcards and brought them down

splayed like restless tarot on my lap

try to fathom, walk back into time

absent people, love letters sent to

girlfriends now married, unrecognizable

childish handwriting, burst of emotion scored in yesterday’s colors

I have always liked stories and wanted

to read the secret histories of those

who would not share them with me

so your letters I had to put

in a green river one by one

for fear if they were not wet and destroyed

I’d read over and over til you came back to life

finding myself

running lonely highway to your home

knocking on your still familiar door expecting to see

your living breathing face, cheeks infused with color

smiling in that way only you did

when I stood before you.

When someone has died

they steal air from the room

leaving behind closed windows

rattling against wind and chill

you have to go in with heavy shoes

make noise, shake cold from your bones

open them wide until pure sunlight

blinds primal darkness

I recall

how your hair looked when

sun stroked it in streams of light

how unbroken perfection of your skin

resembled fruit, summer time and children

lolling about in gardens upsidedown, tongue out

though you were older, I always felt

protective in that way I imagine a parent may

reaching for their child, smelling joy and motion

of their life laid out ahead in patient sillouette

I have always been remote and stood away

from frilled crowd with hidden daggers

content to observe and only participate

in flung arms of dancing and those raw easy things

not requiring sustained inspection

it takes a lot for me to wish

to share myself with another

to open up those parts of me, I struggle to reconcile.

unceasing criticism can close off even the thirsty traveler desperate

to sit by warming fire and stoke shadows to divination.

With you, we were two unsupervised kids

sitting on the dusty floor of my attic

opening boxes of memories with fearless hands

we talked without fear, then as

day began to show her pink slip in sky

I’d take your slim arm and lead you

into my bed where

light enveloped our heads like halos and we tasted the rapture of undisturbed acceptance

see in the eyes of one born of me

part of you

our mingled DNA taking lilac wing

in the electricity of love making

I could smell you on me afterward

and loathe to bathe

stayed writing by the window

watching you cycle away

the strong muscles in your skinny legs peddling like

knock-kneed urchin

turning the corner

always leaving

the circumfrance of you behind

radiating on the road

like a mirage

and in my hair and on my body

a ghost or whisper of

someone absent and close

if I could have kept you safe

or stopped time

but the heart is a closing flower

once damaged she ushers her dancers

fold into velvet, trap the dream

we were strangers, then siblings

of sorrow and laughter

like night and day play

on the fringe of their fading

your dusky skin against my pale

never enough time

to say what I wanted to say

in language untranslatable

to mortal minds

we existed as pollen

carried on high wind will

strike new life into that which sleeps

drousy and given over to liquid day

and I have never returned to that place

without a throat full of pain

wanting to call your name

hear your return

the indent of your existence

anything but

silence

And how

Hear how the fox festoons dusk

With larkish bark the color of a young girls best pitch

And how

Bathed in sweat I consider mortalities strange lyre

The photos of parts of me transposed and caught in time

Nothing is real and all is magnified by the mind

As she weaves her dream about our smoky heads

Tiptoeing over slate roof tops like ballerina forced to cat burgle

In this sliver of reality I choose

To disguard any mantle of victimhood

In imperfect slices of myself I have survived

Nothing will tear me down, save the last licorice root before tree fall

I have played acquiescences tuneless keys long enough

This is what growing up feels like at any age

The acceptance, not all is well or right yet

If I look, I know my worth

I’ll not give it away to appease those who seek

Through their own brokenness, to strip me of waterproofing

Time is too drunk on her singularity

She is in the bare knotted tree branches

Bowing together in subjugate to winter’s breath

Fat cheeked children licking plum juice from woolen fingers

And though separate, we are in conversation from

The very moment of our meeting

I am talking to you and listening close

As river water hides stoop of cold

Dashing its relentless self across us all

Bound and sheltering

From chill? From ourselves? The secrets behind our eyes or

Those said things unwrapped and steaming on kitchen table

The fire changing light to ghosts

I hear three generations

The reflection of another casting

My own breakage

Gathered with bright leaves in sacks of deposed

Being told fear is a disease we let enter

Turn it out, rent out those rooms you no longer inhabit

Turning as I have, to you

The shining of your throat covered in words

I’ll not let loose

Waiting for you

At hungry waters edge

In any country in the world

In any language

You run ahead

Turning back

The half moon of your face

Drawing light

An infusion

Aching

And the unseen fox

I imagine her as you

Bold wordless vibrance

Full tail, muscular legs

The twitch of beauty

Stark against tarmac

Owning darkness

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

 

December

The bells of the church rung

He said it’s why he didn’t turn back

That and blossom in the thimbling trees so early

He believed in signs and symbols, so did I

Before I was grown and knew the torn things inside

He was the boy who learned on me

I gave what I could, but kept two things to myself

My secret was, I wanted a child

My sin was, letting him take you back

Standing fighting at the top of his marble stairwell

Smelling of his mother’s perfume and congealed cough sweets

I saw myself falling, pinwheel, before he cast me down

The imprint of his reedy hands, a daisy chain around pale throat

His child in my swelling belly, with eyes the color of regret

He said it was an accident, I felt his hate as I lost my balance

Jabbing me in the back with whisper and sharp intention

Get it out, get it out, get it out

He didn’t know the truth of us, my child and I

She wore silver bells around her neck

And in his mother’s sea blue bathroom of mirrors

I stood watching the rapture of your being, take me over

And in the night, your father tried to tear you gone

With his thrusts into me like a spear and a blunt knife

Still my child you held on

Staring through my eyes at me when we were alone

I could hear everyone’s comments before they spoke

If you have that man’s baby, you’ll be shunned

And alone was really alone. Still I thought

I am not a warrior, but I would fight for you, daughter

Quickening in me like a secret slipstream of language

I felt our connection, you were more than blood and sinew

I watched my burgeoning figure, as I removed my clothes

Thin and narrow, except where you were taking form

Stepping into the bathwater, I felt something cry and give way

And the bath became blood

Hot water on, with the door closed and locked

Your father saw water running on the tiles in the hall

All pink and gorgeous

He broke the door down and saw me sleeping in gore

All pink and gorgeous

In the hospital they whispered words of relief

She’s so young, so petite, it was a mercy and a blessing

Any more blood and she wouldn’t have made it

They didn’t see your father’s fingerprints or where

He cut you out with the slow deliberation of an absent butcher

The whoosh and hiss of hospital machinery

The soft whisper of pretty nurses shoes sliding on lino

Your father watching over me, the violence still marked on his face

When we got home, the taxi driver said; take care you goofy kids

Your father dosed me with pain killers and turned his raging back

I saw the emploring milk leaching from my breasts for you to drink

And it was red

I felt the sting of your vanishing scraped dead from myself

My stomach still swelled with your ghostly outline

Your father moved in his wrath lain sleep and mounted me

I said; I’m hurt, it’s too soon, oh God!
But God refuses sinners and pearls

You were gone so you could not speak too

And your father dove into places raw, stitched and mourning

With his eyes closed he imagined nothing and saw nothing

With his fists closed he rose above me in darkness like a wraith

Not touching the spilt evidence of you

Not realizing he was slick with blood and tears bound in a girl

Till morning when he washed you off and with it, me

As I lay in the stained bed with my nightdress hitched around my wrung neck

Feeling the milk in my breasts, the wetness of your ever spending

Feeling the tether from you to me and back again neverending

Your father went on to conquer worlds with a rod

A rich man with the same long fingernails and sharp soul

He calls me once in a while

Tells me I’m still beautiful

And if I saw him, he would bring harm

So I keep us safe and I see no one

As we sit on the balcony and I imagine

You’d be tall and you’d be beautiful like climbing honeysuckle

Because you are my daughter

We raise our glasses to your December birthday and 27 years

And your father he cannot attend our moments together

He may hurt us again, he may seek to take you away

He stays in his apartment in the city and grows richer

On weekends he chooses whores that look like I did

When I was just a young girl

With hair down to my bottom and no breasts to speak of

He had me before I ever menstrated so we thought

You could not exist

It was true, you did not

Home from the hospital with a pad of loss between my legs

But that was a fall I can still feel in my displaced bones

Seeing the future with each tumble, seeing his fists open and close

Alone now and you have been dead 28 years almost

And I light a candle

For what I was not meant to have

Though I would have loved you so

And I do

You speak to me when I sit by myself and the night is quiet

You tell me not to be lonely though it is impossible

I smile at you because that’s what mothers do

Spare their children

Any pain

The promise of the dream (nombrilisme series)

I dreamt or made up that I did

In sweet spot between wakefulness and sleep

giving over to fantasy as bolster against, hard spit of life otherwise

sometimes, you just need spoon of honey stirred in warm drink

reducing disappointment, like when you were ill as a child

someone laid a cool hand on your fever and whispered;

there there, there there

when I was little, I was very disappointed

with empty rooms, lack of interest, invalidating reasons to exist

I learned before I could talk, to fantasize and imagine

sustaining me throughout life, both as warm blanket against harsh reality

sometimes a drug that I used too much to ward away gloom

for when we live inside the rooms of our imagination

we create such spectacular palaces

sometimes, the outside world is neglected

we do not try as hard, if we can imagine instead

I danced with Jennifer Beals in Flashdance in my mind

why then did I need to try?

and reality it is necessary to know, you get nothing without effort

dreams are just dreams, eventually avoir le cafard, leaving you cold.

Once in a while, I still permit myself to

think of a world where everything I want, comes true

what would it feel like?

think of what hurts you the most, turn it into the best scenario, that was my moto

I hated how I looked, so in my fantasy land, I was free of all taint and condemnation

always abandoned, so in my mind, people came to me open armed

as silly and unrealistic that may be, in the cold light of day

lying in my bed, yesterday, I flung my arm out of the covers

into cold air

imagined a lover taking it

kissing my goosepimpled skin with warm lips

until I could hear their words, whispered in my ear

feel their want of me

curling around usually empty flesh

so long I felt, I had mastered the feeling of rejection

I could write a monologue on it

wanted to kill it, leave it dead and bleeding

never again know intimately what it felt like

to be lied to, walked away from, deceived,

never again know, how it felt to make mistakes

trust someone who promised and gave nothing

in my mind, I needed nobody

still they came, as fantasy will

the girl I set my sights on

changing her mind, bending to Fates chant

it was all rather sad, when you thought about it

here I was making up worlds that didn’t exist

when in my own, there was only indifference

but it is, the unbearable likeness of being

sends me to my mind palace, hiding from the world.

As a little girl, when it was cold outside

and rain fell or my own tears, in my prison

and I had read all the books, thrice over

nothing to see out of windows, nobody to speak to, or call out for

the emptiness of days, absent of structure and attention, I was to all, invisible

behind my eyes, I created a world

of being wanted and validated and sometimes

amazing

where lovers spoke entreaties, wonderful things occurred

and as I grew older I could pretend

it was not me who touched myself

but the hand of someone, I only dreamed of

for reality was falling rain

nothing worked the same out there

it stung of let-downs and empty words

even when something seemed real

it would not be me, who it came for

maybe recognizing, I was not worthy

for I spent too much time pretending

not working hard enough in stark light of reality

for I was ever a coward, escaping the grunt of dull living

for the majesty of the fantastic.

On weekends going to clubs full of dreams

just to escape sordid living of emotional poverty

drugs can be snorted or made up, by concentrating

and lovers who did exist, could be magnified

it is said, you do not fall in love with a person

but with passion itself

and I was guilty of that

though always I wanted, to meet the one

and I still believe such things exist

though not for me

I was never a fantasy girl, despite living in the fantasy

and you were my fantasy

though I did not make you up

I may as well have

for you did not want me

I cannot now, recreate you in my mind

you are more than I could ever imagine

now the dream is soured

because I knew you in the real world

and for the first time

wanted to stay there with you

dancing beneath changing trees

for once, I threw everything of me, at making something come true

it only confirmed what I had always feared

it may be true, we do not live without effort

but to risk our hearts and realize we are not enough

doesn’t seem recoverable

it is no wonder

many of us I suspect, live inside ourselves

where we cannot be hurt, by what we want and do not

have

is that selfish?

was it greedy of me to believe?

we are not given these feelings for them to

simply wither

but here I am, so many years later

still dreaming, solitary, untouched by something real

growing it seems, with every year

a little colder and more removed

for nothing is as sad, as going through life unwanted

having to find succor in the promise of our dreams.

Between us both we made it whole

1076417_Two_women_by_the_sea

Lean in, listen, I will only say it once

the shame, prevents a repeat

I must learn, not to be the person I have

my love, I’m not the girl you think I am

I don’t know where she went

I just stepped out for a moment & everything was gone

she might have gotten old, lost her way

that’s what happened when you keep

getting in the way of yourself

i’ve been waiting years for the sun to rise

remember how I used to be such a good dancer?

it was the tempo we inherited in each others grace

we turned like sundials who responded to moonlight

it hurts to think of those times

your hands entwined in mine like forest branches

creating crowns from winter flowers

piano keys winding down, ebony and ivory shivering

as opposites tripping velvet usher of hope

connection is such a rare place to find

change wrecking in tiny pinches & blows

your laughter echoing through stung lights

tea color turning gardens into amber

glasses of red wine like jewels against your blush

it was like a key I carried for years that never fit

you were the lock opening to me

you know when it’s right because everything has music

even when doves roost in pink dawn

holding back their flight until I open my eyes

the exquisite weight of you in my arms

i’d been living on scraps & empty cans before

you filled me with reasons to be full

loss is always worse when it’s blazingly real

and so little is real in this little bitter world

I could taste our memories on my tongue

after you left me standing in the rain

I saw you jumping up, catching drops with your mouth

felt the emptiness of your absence like a whetted knife

gutting me like a hunted thing, disgarded after pursuit

the funny thing was, I never blamed you

if I hadn’t felt so much, if I wasn’t the person i’d become

when bad things happen I always look in the mirror

and see why the arrow sticks

someone taught me that so long ago

I can’t even remember how to undo

the self defeat

but when we danced close I forgot those things

waiting to live & witness easy moments

of blue and red & your color, which is indescribable

I told you I would never leave you alone

the last time I trusted, it felt as if we grew up together

two pieces of butcher string nobody wanted

one of them got on a boat, found the horizon of you

aimed her direction like a sinuous archer

everyone else knew how to get through this labored life

my tricks were imploding, I had no wind up key

but you gave me the confidence to try

when I couldn’t do it anymore, you held me to the light

we flew past the wreckage others feasted on

I never expected to lose my one friend

as much time that passes, feels like only a second

slaughtering against shattered words

since I was that young smooth skinned woman learning to

cleave to you

it’s a curse to remember everything

to know no-one will ever come looking for me

like you did

because we recognized in the other

a reflection

something similar & broken

between us both, we made it whole

even though you are gone & where you sat

is cold and emptied of any trace

I still

look out for you

when it rains I think I hear

your footsteps in puddles, coming home

smell your wet sweater on hissing heater

your handprints on my cheeks, pressing hot kisses

my heart aches like it has

inherited the loss of all four seasons

of your absence & no amount of time

has the power over the memories of

how much you meant to me

they haven’t yet

invented words sufficient to convey this brand of grief

losing yourself in another brings

clouds murmuring over hilltops beckoning

darkness from fearful surround

and if you close your eyes

it almost feels like I am

lost in the spiral darkness

with you

sharing death

like we shared

everything of life

together