I AM A TOTEM OF MY OWN BRANDING

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I’ve been told I’m a chronic pain in the ass

after all, it’s easy to destroy a child in an adult’s body

with past-tense words

and now in the time I’m meant to be at my strongest

chronic has visited me and stayed a long while

on a good day I think; This will not be forever

but temporary has always been a long way off

the doctors love to tell us; It’s incurable, get used to

living like this, hostage to something unknown and strange

as if that’s a normal thing to do

but if enough of us live with chronic illness, it will become normal

and that is not a good thing.

Before this …

I took chances, because you think

I’m invulnerable, sometimes I can fly

health, you take for granted

though I truly convinced myself, I had checked the boxes

right weight, exercise, organic, vegetables, no pre-made meals

(well, this is what I told my doctor, sometimes a couch counts as exercise, right?)

if I ate a slice of pizza, it was a treat with friends

though I like root beer, I never drank it

maybe making up for cigarettes, smoked in my twenties

but I thought if I keep jogging, if I keep living healthily

I won’t be felled, because you ARE WHAT YOU EAT.

A few months before I got sick, I recall

feeling strong, climbing through snow drifts and laughing

boundless energy, working long hours, feeling intensely alive

people saying; you look so healthy, your skin is radiant!

Those are not things people say now, unless

I apply a lot of make-up, to camouflage my fraying edges

instead it is me, who declines invitations

I am sorry I cannot go with you to eat, even though eating out

is the number one leisure activity where I live

because my stomach is ruined and I cannot digest much

I live plain and simple (and boring), like a nun and I am numbed

to the pleasures of wine and sauces and garlic, spices and oils

not recognizing my bloated mid section in the mirror

from the girl who once was told

she had an hour-glass figure, with a wasp waist

could run for buses and catch them in three-inch heals.

I know everyone has their burden

but when you get sick and it doesn’t go away

life becomes a series of scolds and let downs

you find out who really loves you and who harbored an anger

used the opportunity of your downfall, to insert a knife

it is the cowards way of course, but freedom of sorts

for none of us need, that kind of negativity in our lives

there is a blessing in disguise, when you find your tribe

the people who care and know the real you

not wanting to tear you apart, because it’s easy to kick you when you’re down.

But blessings do not salvage, the hours you spend sickening

remembering how you were rarely felled in past years

strong of body, sound of mind, juicing and walking ten miles

everything is turned upside down, inside out when you find

a burnt fuse, at the end of your outstretched arm.

There is no cure, there is no future

when you live, in a jar for the jarring

for a long while, I blamed myself

maybe in part, because someone I trusted told me;

“It is your fault, you must have somehow caused it”

easy to throw stones, at glass houses

I was a glass house, with many windows

break one and I cannot repair it

the wind will come in and make of my space

chaos

the sun will come in and make of my peace

madness.

Those things that brought me joy, were gone

instead, the regiment of illness strode in and stood firm

you cannot feel passion, when you are sick

ageing in hours, rather than decades, trying to stay above water

it is hard to feel hope

you rely upon the kindness of others

which is hard to do, if you are not used to it

and when they lift you to the light, you promise

if I can recover, I will try ever so hard to never be ungrateful

but with every mercy, is a dark day in hell

those days take it all out of you, like a scourge

the sickening can age you, more than a nightmare

one minute you recognize yourself, the next you are unknown

vulnerability, of not being able to take care of yourself

the expense and fear

your world crumbling around you.

These are things you get used to and when you have fallen

to the bottom and can no longer get up

that is where the truth lies

that is where you can find

your true self and the end of fear.

They tried to tell you that you were insane

making it up, all in your head, something’s wrong with that

crazy lady who pounds her fluttering chest in vain

tries to catch the eyes of doctors, with beseeching side-glance

SEE ME! HEAL ME! SAVE ME! WHAT IS WRONG?

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME? WHY DID I WAKE UP ONE DAY

SICK AND IT NEVER WENT AWAY?

And yes ! Something was wrong with me and still is

not my doing, not my causing, not my dreaming

despite you saying; You bothered us, when you called and were upset

no mercy, no mercy, no mercy, that is not love.

Helped me let go. Don’t hold on to negativity.

Oh doctor, get it outt!

and if you can’t, then give me the key, the saw, the pick

so I may survive myself and somehow continue on.

Am I to label myself chronically ill, or in recovery?

Surviving or dying or all of the above?

how do you define what doesn’t go and doesn’t kill?

Spending all your money on alternative treatments that

don’t even know what they pretend to cure

how do you describe one good day, followed by one in hell?

others won’t understand, because they are well

what I would give to return, to that safe water place

but even if I did, I would not be the same

you live years with a loaded gun to your head, everything changes.

I am not me anymore

I cannot see out of my left eye

I cannot lift heavy things, with my weak foreign arms

I can walk ten miles and not break a sweat despite this and be told

by friends and foes; OH YOU DON’T LOOK SICK

I am an apparent scar of contradictions and pain

I hurt every day, my stomach feels like

something is eating me from the inside out

it convulses and retorts and shouts

“you will never win, you will bathe in pain the rest of your life”

but I will still try

because I don’t know how to give in to enemies, I cannot see

and even as I cannot eat normal food

one day I am good, the next I am dying green

even as nausea, has become my constant companion

and bottles of pills and vitamins rattle in my pit

even as I fight to be gracious in the eye of the storm

and those I thought would stand by me, try to drown me instead

I know there is still a moment

I am well enough to remember who I am

never to find that peace of mind again

but maybe recover to another state of being.

I wake in the night covered in sweat and the disinterested doctor says

“get used to not sleeping, get used to all of this, it is what you must suffer and many others do”

as if it is normal to be like this, as if it is something we should not mention

I will never think it is normal to be hijacked!

I jog into the forest, because it reminds me I am still living, my feet still work

I fight with wilted hands, when they tell me there is no hope

that I should just consign my former glories to a picture album and put

my feet up for a fifty year occupation of sofas and couches and day time oblivion

because THE POWER OF ME can overcome the power of negativity and this I believe

as I see in the mirror a girl who doubts but stares back unblinking.

I have lost my will at times

I do not write as much,  I have less energy

the last time I had a romantic dinner was in a dream and I

sleep with a heating pad on my stomach every night instead of a lover

but I still pay my own way and my own bills

I have a pride in pushing back against status quo

DEFYING the prescription of HOPELESSNESS.

they tell me go on disability. Just give up

I am not going anywhere, but to the finish line

I learned

by losing everything and having nothing but

the sheer will and dim light of my existence

I can do this without those I thought I had in my corner

because I am stronger than I realized

and this grieves me, as well as reassures me

but I come from a long line of stoic, strong women

and it seems sicker than I am, that we should hate each other

because life, surely we have found out, is fragile

and love is all that makes sense

but even without love I will continue and not

let the flame go out.

Sometimes I ask myself why?

why not just give in? Take the knife, swallow the pill

to oblivion or some non-sign-posted destination

I don’t have children to protect

it would be easy to slip out of this world and its sword edge of pain

but somehow I feel I should protect myself

maybe because others did not

maybe because you defend yourself in the end

when everything else is fallen and you are still

somehow, standing.

I am weak and tired and prematurely aged into

a hunched over version of myself

hair greying with shock, skin is sloughing off and my

body is tied to the rhythm of a sickness that purges and gluts

I was told this kind of disorder was permanent

but nothing I have found, is ever guaranteed

so I have chosen to ignore this and believe

we can all fight and overcome

anything

even a death sentence

even betrayal

even silence

and when we know this

when we are strong for our weakness

realize our tears are just water and salt

burning the frustration of our visiting menace

then, we know nothing can hurt us, more than it already has

and we are free to dream

of a future without so much pain

where death stands to the side and lets us regain

some of our former dignity

for there is nothing dignified in sickness

and you don’t know me when you said I was glamorous

that is the last thing I am

I am beautiful for my courage

beautiful for my fear

beautiful for my survival

beautiful for my defeat

beautiful for my mercy of those who have no mercy for me.

And life is a wax and a wane

life is a torture and a friend

I am the totem of my own branding

I may live in a time where nobody else of my kith and kin remain

and once that would have filled me with pain

now I know you cannot rely upon

labels of safety

it is only by looking into the hearts of those

who stayed by your side when the storm hit

even if it is one, even if it is naught

you remain behind

the tempest cannot roar forever

eventually even agony ceases.

I wish now, to be everything you were not

to love others unconditionally

care for those who are in need

be the change I want to see

I want to find myself

at the end of all of this

I want to tell you, sickness

you do not win

you are just a miasma

I am a spirit with a soul

I will endure you

the me, of me, will remain

long after, to remember her worth.

Before this all began and through it, learned

only the fierce remain

only those willing to FEEL

and not those who run from feeling

with the ease of the damned.

Faith

My love

it is so hard to keep

faith

with every day there are changing shades from day to night

sometimes I am comforted by fireflies and evening moth

who dual beyond the porch, betrayed by flicker and swat

I imagine the patterns of her wings, that magic sting of light

so short their lives compared to ours, so rich and meaningful I would infer

sometimes it is the exclusion of pain gives me rest

when I can at last unroll my carpet and forget

carrying the weight all day, a vase of ache absent of flower

to place this nowhere and have it melt away

I lie in the bath and heady steam dissipates reality

in those musings there is only the delight of a girl

seeking her passion in lingered meandered imagining

and you come to me, full of health and unharmed yet

by cruel flint and staunch of your absent conscience

and you lay me down and make of me what you will

a thousand pieces of me broken and rebuilt

which I give with my all, for you were and you remain still

far more than sense can convey

in the hour of day when dreams are gone to sleep

I see the cruelty of your take and take and take

the hunger of your keep and how I was but a thing, in your

cabinet of curiosities to be taken out and squeezed when you

thirsted or when times were hard and you needed the succor of

kindness to tuck you in, nothing of you was sincere or loving

all that I held dear possessed the sound of my own breaking

it was as if I had become pupil to mistreatment

learned many times on illiterate whip of inheritance

children soon become acquiescent to disregard

I didn’t know how to be worthy and you took my pain

pinned it to a velvet card and called me Opodiphthera Eucalypti

my blush and powder, the soft rubbed fur and bleed of color

round and round my pattern and maze, sucking from thistle

the gypsy without, I live in silk and attraction to light

pollinating only the fruit of predators like yourself

as you pinch my wings with your greed and whisper

my lunar, my atlas, spin your silken web across my longing

for I have never learned my worth and you wish to

gobble on my spirit as you may an Autumn apple

the fragrance of your dissection

my love

it is too easy

to stay my life in wait of your call

watching others continue onward and myself find

nothing but the covet and anguish of a prisoner

if I had the strength to

I’d hurl myself against the glass

leaving a smudge of myself in technicolor

for children to press their noses against and wonder

oh what ever life could make such a kaleidoscope

and in these mixings of burning and yearning

parched by want and crushed to nothing

the dancer emerges broken and fragmented

to spirit into night her ether and the longing

she is free of her torment and bound to the wax and wane

of one who has rubbed against and been caught by

a terrible rope, woven with obsidian, the shade of pain

my love

it is too hard to remain

faithful

to your brand of hurt

and live in dying with every pursuit

I have long imagined I am already prepared

for the hour, the moment, pain exceeds its curse

and slipping like oil and water and vinegar bound

we change from solid to infinity and beyond

where only the stain of who we were and what we bore

that burning need to consume, that hunger for

all the poison within your sickening and how

never did you rest until the very perish was wrought

standing still like a girl reaching for

something invisible

my love

it is the fresh unopened rose

and her tightly closed promise

shall see tomorrow and claim

the glory

for I will not be there to witness

this new day and those trespasses for this comforts

me in such a depth as if every kind of anguish

were salved by the knowledge this too shall end

and you will dissolve in time

beyond the fragment of what has been

into the very air like things we cannot yet see

whirling and catching the air in relief

for moths have never lived long enough it seems

to know their beauty and how it is

for us who live sometimes too long

and rise to see another day, alone

The expulsion of love

this oneWhere are you now?

Sitting on your stoop, first light, cats weaving between

coffee in hand, watching sunrise,

what are you thinking?

You are not thinking of me

the door is shut on us and you turned the key

it took only the loss of hope that gentle thing

and I became a stranger

so many days, months, years and still

I know you less

is it that easy? Was it that hard?

The expulsion of love

still live, dying on the floor.

I met you when the coals were

burning hottest, all I wanted was

a reflection of those feelings

you took my hand and guided it

into your clasp and pressed my back

with a deep

push into another world

the world of you

where I have been these many years.

They weren’t just words

though if I strain I can hear

the first you whispered

our curled against other in dark

your fingers creating universes

I felt their beckon

as I had not before

the press of you and the beseech of me

it was as if once inside

you claimed that part and as your possessed

I never struggled to be free

it was what I had always sought

to be needed at that scolding temperature

we barely survived our love

it burned and that heat was

the very raging heart of us.

Now day is long

you are gone in so many ways

absent in your once fine mind

emptied of the gentleness I knew

a stranger to me, a welted memory

it is not death, it is not life

I cannot talk to you, the only one I would

I have no solace in recall

it is like being tortured

there is only time, and they say time

heals all, but that is a lie

perhaps for you, already forgetting

I recall too much and everything

is a red road sign to us always.

The day I stood nude on white balcony

I did not recognize that girl who

had stupidly wanted forever and you

she wanted the innocence of us

how neither had ever fallen before

how you were virgin of touch and I

closed and shut up

together we opened the universe

you, it was only you and

it wasn’t me but for the echo of you

enfolded and besotted as no

future can replicate

there are some times only

once and never again

moments and feelings untested

who meet and create together

that celestial place in time.

I think of you now with a crushing feeling

as if someone has come within me, a trespass

thrown out all the certainty and warmth

leaving me emptied and discarded

surely you know that and pass it by

as your armored heart does not

recognize me anymore

there is nothing more awful

than to fade and diminish in regard

until you are no more than

a throwaway comment.

I walk the streets of my memories

like a widow in her veil

watching myself dry into a statue

of torment and you? You I suppose are free

it was always your selfhood to

change and alter in fickle flick of wrist

the time, the hour, in this case the girl

who stands in her memory palace

trying to rid herself of the feeling

it will only ever contain your shadow

and the footsteps you left

some bloodied, some too deep

to ever expunge that influence or

the sound of your whisper calling me

over time and space to some created place

where I am ever yours and never

free of that promise I made when you asked

me to submit and wed, the marrow to

your existence.

I did not understand how easy it was

to break and smash the very articles of

us

oh my love, oh my love

I never said it before, I never said it afterward

where did you bury my soul? And where

is the key to unlock that prison I inhabit now?

where being alone, I hear at night

the fidget and torture of your touch

over the fading moon an outline of

you and only ever you, it has become

an effigy to something once

consumed me whole and kept me digested

within you darling, to your very core

where I heard your life blood rush and gather

I became then, the child of you

she cries out now to your emptied eyes

turned from me, reduced to ash

as cold and unfeeling, as if never was

the burn and sear of branded emotion

we called us two and now only one

the loneliness is destroying me

inch by inch, I claim further madness

for you were me and I do not know

how to exist without, the belief we were

sewn in harmony with

each other’s binding, become all I know

all of me born, the day you baptized me

with your claiming eyes

deciding it should be me, you take

as your mate in this world.

Now our world has decayed to naught

you will not return, or have a thought

for what you left behind when you

closed that door

and

without sound

left the key to

rust into

red

water

Yehudit

14gottschalk3-jumboWe learned to swim

in the flickering pools of each other’s eyes

desire born in quiet step and curtsy

before I ever touched you outside this dream world

you were the betroth of my sleep

we circled each other in origami folds

acquainting, never strangers, always known

as if time held us apart long enough, to generate

in the deep cry of longing, a hallowed place

where only those destined for the other

shall like painted flowers, made of paper

embrace, release and turn to ink

coloring water the stain of lacquered longing

reborn on latticed wing of desire

to breathe again in the surround of this singular girl

for you, are my pendant, hung close to my heart

you do not tarnish or fade in intensity

you are the twitch in my smile, a muscle pulling

upward each time I think of you

it is as if, with every turning day

a part of me becomes dissolved

like sugar in tea sweetens what is plain

I am able to see in you, what you no longer can

those vestiges you put away

in a box too high for reclaiming

where your silver rings and sunlit hair

lies dormant, replaced by sensible overcooked hours

I was perhaps, born to return color to your cheeks

even as it grows dark I see your

sleek head bowed in feigned peace

knowing if I were admitted into

the sanctum of your unspoken sorrow

where peach hued roses bloom fragrant

there would be a blush again

marking darkness exquisite

as the silhouette of your dusky butterfly

brands my marrow indelibly

for it is simple; two people who did not plan

falling out of the sky, meet the other

everything changes, if they leave behind fear

we are not given wings, if meant to only walk earth

you send me to heights I could not

describe before you walked into my life

claiming my tiptoeing heart

we who are dancers of dusk and dawn

whisper secrets stored so long

out into infinity and beyond

she who is diminutive and siren

hear my song

Its shining watch

Then make me a tree

that I may reach through earth

lengthening root

climb up, take form

gather again, that moment shook

from memory never

where moon was twice its natural size

reflected in your angry eyes

sitting in idling car

my sticky throated youth

your still punching vigor

movement then, as taught immemorial

of lovers who are not yet.

watchful of your thin wrist

flickering just before touch

warm air, window down

languid stroke of time

painting all these years hence

something you have

absented from, like unpicked fruit

in turning, strange and unfamiliar

I dial that feeling

quite often

not fantasy, no

something real

painted over

turned to shellac, too hard to prize

open again

I watch her in time

the girl I was

wondering at her thoughts

as I know them almost

unformed and loose

like her hair, thicker and tumbling than now

the auburn xylophone of her back

I could fall in love with

each of us again

the blush of your pomegranate lips

how your dark eyes soak up light

extinguish it black

no wonder, I say … no wonder

yet, would I be here now?

if I had not

beseeched night in stolen lament;

if it is meant …  let her call

fate or you obey, though months had passed

a moment, as electric as fire burns oxygen

like fingers on your neck portend soft doom

female silhouettes of trees sway in night breeze

would they have whispered?

no don’t do it, don’t go, turn back

heavy keys in light fabric, jingle like steps

wide open un-rehearsed land rushing past

silence and folded roosting birds, holding their breath

it wasn’t lust

it wasn’t yet love

something other

we were always

in between, time and sense

every song written about

when you leaned, close enough

fusion then, a kind of glory

unspoken of to this day

sealing our fate

like flightless coin

run over many times

shall silver

in tarmac, make

an echo of the very stars

blessing

its

shining

watch

Moonshine

(inspired by finding an old photograph of a fancy-dress party I attended at University that I hadn’t seen in years)

One of them is me

but which holds the key? Later perhaps we

shall know our fruiting journey through

maze of youth

and slow pull of stocking

for kind of touch best found

in satiny afternoon glow

outside I hear my dim-eyed neighbor

mowing lawns until he aches silver

because his wife has turned away

nobody touches him anymore with

the dreams of yesteryear

so we sprint toward each

invisible finish line

with emptiness in our hearts

filled with busy distraction

nothing lasting, nothing to

endure or sate cold claim

of climbing into bed

unwanted or alone

the feel of darkness, our shroud

from terrible disappointment

and then

then I had it all and didn’t know

standing on the precipice

we laughed at our indomitable

facility to thrive

not yet diseased

not yet rawboned with stretch marks

nipping their silver lines like unwanted lace

or sagging pieces shaking to no

good beat

not yet diminished on shallow waxen wheel

of male adoration

though for me this was never

a piece I wished to carve for myself

it was the love of a woman I craved

like first drink from fountain

on a hot day with no clouds in sight

languorously we exult

in

crocheted certainty, time will stand still

make for ourselves exceptions and grand entrance

the labor of hope so easy and lubricated

then

we’ll never be shaken off

like a dull wet thing

nor left to gather dust

as something once favored

we are surely, gleaming warm heads

of our own personal state

if I could have heard the warning

should I have been able

to listen?

likely not for

day is long and hour far

we take lovers for bread and jam

hate yet a curiosity

our parents live robust

we can yet still, the freedom to

go home

there are structures protecting

the hollow timber of our hearts

from these days what we can we learn?

as growing up and away

truth becomes stretched and gray

friends falling away

the bounty of never-never coming to claim

her inevitable duality

delight in youth, for contrast is cruel

all should have its value

but we are flippant with our boon

and when the cold night comes

we usher ourselves to greater darkness

in the strangeness of change

not able to see what is portent

nor later

the freedom

released from expectation

to unfold our wings

take flight

no more a shining thing

but something effervescent

and filled with

light

casting its thrall

as long ago, diving for pearls

we claimed the moon

Totems to that absence

It isn’t my weft to self torture

but on occasion, often bidden by

emotions tumbling from rusted cage

I try to restrain them

overtaking my control

then, you are there

in the sunlight streaming through paper blinds

hurting my eyes so that all but a whiteness

is felt behind closed eyes

the unceasing wetness of tears

cause my skin to feel chaffed

even in summer

you would think eventually

they would dry up, but they never do

just as you would think I’d stop

remembering so accutely or

longing so intensely for

things near and far away and closed

as to not exist

except in my urging of them

the you, that you were

confident, slick, arrogant

I have never liked arrogance

but behind it

a soul and a heart

I wished to conquer with my own

urge gentleness out of you

like impatient bird who cries

before it is morning

I often feel, if I allow it

that I was created for you

and despite this

you threw me away

because I could not survive, or pay my way in the world

if I did what you asked

you did not care about that

but only, what you would receive

and though I remember the light in your eyes

dimming and your kisses growing

less in intensity

there are days I wish only

to touch the moments

that for me, were happiest of my life

whether that is absurd or downright

sick

it really doesn’t matter anymore

now we are lost in time and space

spinning away from the other

more and more, with every passing moment

and that hurts as if it were a fresh wound

though it is old and many times healed over

that healing is a lie

because I am never okay

without you and this you knew

when you left, it was to take

the part of me I loved best and

the capture of my heart

the days afterward were

inconsequential even though I tried

to bring meaning back, it was as if

color and sound had fled

only the flowers I bought you

linger in my mind

their lovely pink and the way

flowers must always die

just as

time kills

but does not destroy

the original love

or its resulting

pain

I do not want to spend

more years sitting at tables alone

watching my tears grow cold as

the light captures me in a moment

of you

and how you were

when you didn’t yet know

you would always leave me

the radiance of your smile

still lights my heart

followed by a pain

knowing

that version of you

shall never exist again

that love for me is now

grown over and neglected

by irrevocable doors closing

we did not know, would sabotage

something as true

as the feeling

of us

I still believe if you’d

searched your soul you

would not have let go

for life gives us few

if any

perfect

memories

too often we remain

eternally haunted by

totems to

that absence