For Halo

My debt rests in your fur

as they light it

and it burns

and your form shrinks

from this world

your black and white paw limp against my clutching

fingers wishing you here

those images are cookie cut into my mind

called intrusive thoughts and flash-backs

I know them well

they are not my friend as you were my friend

I imagine what you feel and then recall

you no longer feel anything

though that does not seem right

without religion I am left unknowing

where you land next or if you will

awaken in paradise or remain slumbering

whether sleep or a void, if we can truly leave

and have nothing of ourselves remain

but ash and debris

it seems impossible that you were once

jumping onto the table and making me laugh

with your antics

only to be nowhere and gone eternal

I may not possess sufficient faith

to build castles in the sky but

your energy stays like stillness in

this empty house and from the corner of my eye

I still see your shadow slink just as

my grandmother’s voice is pitch perfect in my head

is that imagination or wishful?

Or do ghosts haunt us willing supplicants?

A bouquet of delusion to soothe our empty

arms or

will you live forever within me? And when I take

my turn at the Ferris wheel

our nothingness will reside near one another

I like the idea, all I have loved will

mingle as returned starlight in the ether

and touch one another with reminder

for being alone or worm food is

a cold dinner companion I wish not

to believe in

even if God turns his head from me and always has

for his man-made lack of female

and my rib is long and sticks into my gut

reminding me I am ever every man’s equal

and will never lay down to those dull prescriptions

of what constitutes truth from a man’s tongue.

Your fur was thicker than all the cats here

who grew up hot and listless on porches

you came with me in a pink plastic box

obscene in its garishness we laughed

putting it through customs

the harried lady at flight desk remarked

well there he goes as you were taken

hand delivered, to the pit of the plane

and I worried because I wanted you to be

on my knee but no madam, I’m afraid for long haul

he has to ride in cargo and don’t worry

few of them get upset, as if she were crouched among you knowing this

this seemed false as so many things do

when big decisions linger like absent friends

at the periphery of moments

too quick, too big, for staying still

briefly I wondered; Should I really be moving?

to this strange country I do not yet know and

burning this bridge indefinitely

it felt as wrong as right ever was and I stood

in the airport watching the thin man take you

behind a curtain and then as you were on your way

so was I.

You see …

I took my cue from you

quite often

and of the two of us when we landed

I think you looked less bedraggled

whilst I fought with immigration because one of my papers

was not ‘just so’ and they called and fussed because

immigrants are not very welcome in any country

and annoy those whose jobs it is to ensure

smooth sailing

and when we reunited

on different soil with the sound of cicadas or crickets

I was not sure in those days

you were hot against my grandmothers blanket

and had peed because they don’t let animals

out to the bathroom at 30,000 feet

which was exactly how I felt, hot and wet and stinking

at the same time, in this odd place where

people were outgoing and spurned shyness or other

attributes we both possessed

with aplom

following our dreams or maybe just mine

as your dreams were about mice or pigeons and later

lizards and snakes

as you learned the ways of the desert

and perhaps the tenor of your meow changed

to reflect the inflection of your adopted country.

It may seem easier but it is not easy for any of us

who come by boat, plane or smuggle, to

lands not our own, we each bring with us

that belly full of ache

and you were always able to

soothe mine with your purr and ever

reminder of our start beneath colder skies and

smaller streets with littler houses and narrow

rooms where we knew our place and here

we could only speculate or clumsily test

our sea legs against

the strangeness of being

with mistake and estrangement

our sole friends quite a while.

Unable even to drive I walked you down the road

for your first vet check and people gaped

from their large cars at the floundering Europeans

walking where no-one walks and everyone uses

big trucks to go one mile and purchase a giant

sippy cup and some Ding Dongs, things with

names that sound fun and 40 additives

my kind of humor and banter lost against

surge of habit, the vet seemed surprised I

had carried you rather than driven and tut-tutted

at your lack of dental hygiene

but remarked how beautiful your thick fur was

and how cats in these parts tend to have

snake skin, we all laughed at that, even you

cast a fish eye his direction like you

possessed the real secrets.

I remember those exploits and driving to Canada on another

exodus when stateless we began again

another groove in our fitful recording

the deep snow and your paw prints leading

me nearer and further

like ice fish we swam in our odd circumstance

always together, staring out stranger windows like

spectators at our own fair ground

in cold you slept beside me and purred

in your sleep to the sound of icicles

warming and falling into snow the

sky a heavy weight holding its breath

eventually we returned to the place of infernal heat

and sizzling side walks where no one but us

and straggly weeds dared to step and the years wound like

lost yarn beneath our odd foray

until you were old and fragile

and I barely noticing because I did not want to

believe you could quit being the little cat

in the pink plastic box glad to see me at the

first airport in our new world.

It was naive or immature of me to forget

cats lives do not echo ours and mine seemed

suddenly far too long and yours bitterly short

a terrible echo of inequality I did not

have the strength to imagine losing you

when together we always were.

Even people who wrote said; ‘Dear Candy, Dear Halo’

as if they could see the join of your fur and my

burning skin against the other

I told myself I would be there when they

sent you to that place I could not follow

despite knowing in my mind the terrible pictures

would roam long and unbidden for many years

to look into your eyes and remind you how much you mean

to me and always how I will look for you

until we are reunited and then I expect

all this will be mere bad dreams and

again we can go forward, or side ways or

whatever direction the after world takes us

but please together, is all I want

for with you gone, I wait without watch

an absence greater than anguish

for you were my best friend in this lonely world

assuaging the hard edges and frayed corners

we came here together and still I am

more lost without you than when I arrived

for your bright eyes and happy tail

gave me courage Halo and ever shall I

look for you coming into the kitchen in

the morning with your half howl of greeting

starting my day and ending it with

putting you to your bed

never once thinking there could be a time

when you were not and I still went on.

Aristotle said it best; a relationship is

two bodies one soul

that is real love

and we are floundering when absent from one another

like the ice fish when it warms up

and water is all but gone.

Advertisements

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.

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 said to me this is why

img_7163

She said to me, this is why

you start the ignition and drive

never far enough

the feeling of mud stuck in your wheels

when you find you’ve been stopped

a god-awfully long time at crossroads

watching emptiness

hypnotized by blink in and out of hooded light

amber in raptured darkness

a welcome, a warning, a half-moon or pecked ball of cheese

the days you used to eat diary and wear

push-up bras and frilly skirts with Wellington’s

climb the clouds

invest in heavy coats and lace up boots, the end of the world is nigh

where did your combat go?

as you sat watching life blink and slow

what year, what day? what hour ceased your climb?

did you know? Or was it something stealthy and unobserved?

crawling up your corseted will and into your slack mouth

waiting to be re-charged

finding power in the notion

nobody’s listening

 

other cars go past

some race, some idle, there are sunday drivers and seekers

church goers, drive-in’s, back-seaters

there are race-cars and old vintage trucks with their bellies full of stories

home paint jobs and clean-cut straight from the shop

the latter go to the Wash Tub nearly every week to ensure

their interiors are spotless

and you? Are your insides up to par? inspection? White glove test?

how much dust and debris have you collected and stored beneath your wings?

now coiled in retreat like parts of an engine without spark

do your chairs sag from too much sitting?

has your key grown rust and your feet lost their motion?

as you lull yourself with colors against soaping dark

go, consider, stop, go, consider, stop, go, consider, stop

you idled

engine running a purr into long painted lines

thin women without succor holding their empty bellies up against moonlight

did you consider?

this is your only time

no more is left after the bowl is licked and scraped and washed

set to dry and be re-used by someone with more gumption

in their sunday shoes

 

when did you remove the will, the effort, the urge

replacing it as you would a hub cap with something less polished

so you would not be noticed, fall in with leaves collected in plastic bags

collected at curb side

 

would you recognize

your own self ten years ago?

arms filled with bangles of silver

hair braided to kink and denote

fire in your belly, longing in your chest

here is the shimmer of the undimmed

climbing trees in their favorite

church dress getting branches in their hair

 

you and I ate cherries and plums

the sweet from the marrow of Jamaican sugar cane

baked by a fitful city left to burgeon

music from a dozen sources, the resin and hum

you hennaed my fingers and I shared my belief

this moment could be stretched to eternity

lying with my head in your patchouli lap

feeling the move and sway of need in us both

to uncover the secret

to living

 

then you were gone

I mended myself imperfectly

with mincemeat and old Christmas crackers

that had not struck their gun powder

nor cracked in explosive alchemy of two people pulling from either end

a wish bone sucked clean

what do you wish for?

I wished for a map

draw my direction in red

like the tongue of your hair caught under spotlight

I learned to drive

you learned to walk

with each determining we split, like dried corn will

after being soaked and then left to burn

 

lights blink

lost and found

a mitten on tarmac

a bag of garbage

one lens from a pair of glasses

adverb and pronoun

we each saw correction differently

you still dance

when the brass band strikes a tune

you merge into the crowd

lifting your arms above your head

my silver still slipping on your wrists

your disapproval branding

the center of my forehead

you sold out” you mouth

losing your way deliberately

you thought by cutting the string, tying it to a tree in a wood, you’d forget where you came from

all you did was create another way to suffer all your own

you were once part of a tribe

daubed in blue and saffron women of islands and sea skirmish

fearing nothing but rocks, jagged and monstrous

and even as we hesitated

we urged ourselves forward

now you sit

idling in a warm car on a tepid night with windows down

listening to a station play unfamiliar discordant tunes

and the headlights of other cars

passing you by on the outside lane

are the faces of those you gave away

when you emigrated in reduction

like the sauce of ourselves

left too long on the high flame

will burn and stick

unable to be

poured

Thursday’s child

costume-cute-dinosaur-funny-girl-inspiration-Favim.com-48812They said Texas was more friendly than the East Coast

but she’d lived in New York and that wasn’t true

not for queers and people who didn’t attend church

the year she arrived they put up picket signs on every corner

marriage equals a man and a woman

with a red X marking the hate

obliteration of alternatives

a dirty word it was

not to be homogenous and touch your

four corners to the cross

the year she arrived they said

if you don’t like BBQ, if you don’t eat meat, if you don’t go to Dairy Queen

get the fuck out of our state

you wear too much black we’re certain

you prefer Satan

she became a shut-in who didn’t

believe in mythical devils but had

met a few who walked the earth in the flesh

not leaving the house an irony

for a Thursday’s child

who has far to go

 

You may ask – girl why did you stick around?

but we don’t all of us have the luxury

of choice

the saying

you made your bed / now lie in it

can often apply

so you suck all the oxygen out of the room

hold your breath

hoping they won’t notice you are still there

but they did

pinching and pulling

you’re far too thin

you’re far too white

you’re a spoil sport who doesn’t like to go on team building exercises

she began to drink in the afternoons

wanted to swear the way she used to do

in Europe

where every other word was an expletive

but swearing is crude in Texas

they like you to sweeten your words like your tea

and drink it ice-cold

 

It isn’t really their fault

if you move somewhere you’d better try

to fit in

even ghosts can see the purpose

in choosing where you haunt, wisely

it’s not enough to think you can carry on liking the same things

she cannot wear tights in Texas

even in December it’s too hot

you have to mow your lawn A LOT

though she would plant weeds and watch

them enclose her from disapproval

in time, she learned it’s a state of mind

sometimes when you stop realizing you don’t fit in

you just might

and if that doesn’t work there’s always

four walls and closed eyes

growing wild flowers in her mind

swearing a little less often

in time everything works differently

you look back and see

what was once strange

feels like home

 

 

Except smell

I did not speak your language

until I learned in the dust of play

communicating with shapes and funny faces

then I understood more until

giving away who I was 

I embraced your world

step by step accents relent

we pawn our histories

to fit in better like the crayon

is never quite the right hue

coughing scarlet consumptive 

we want to be unseen unnoticed

to fly at night when all are sleeping

do not point us out in a crowd

or remind us of who we once were

the immigration of battleworn hearts

denies who we were before we marooned ourselves

in other tongues, other culture

they say you never forget your childhood

what do they know? sitting in the same

room as when they were knee high

the truth is you forget almost anything

except smell

and when you come to hold me close

you ask me why do you cry?

and the cumin of your hair is

something I can never explain

except with hands making

feelings out of air

Who built the ark?

0000_nativityplay16_8It’s your turn to make the second pot of coffee

let’s take the day off, close the computer, shut our doors

silence the voices who sound awfully like 12 and 13-year-old teens

complaining about losing their homework and pointing fingers

when did we learn not to grow up?

I always thought Huck had a point when he tied his handkerchief on a stick and took to the wild

this is not the Peter Pan kind of childish fantasy

when we talk of growing up and growing down we forget

like Picasso once said in order to render abstract we first need to know the techniques of how to paint

then we choose like the 90-year-old who says screw it I will eat what I want, that’s informed consent

childish however, is the absence of reason and consequence splayed like tired kids exhausted from pass-the-parcel

fluttering like a torn flag over a battle field of this and that

the news isn’t objective the screech of complaints sounding like a hen-house on fire

nobody listens nobody really knows it’s not about fact it’s about opinion and who gargles loudest

I think back to the playground of my youth where twice a flasher showed his bits to the girls and they all screamed

ew it looks like a sausage! I never want to eat meat again! and ran off laughing

it is true, me and Donna plugged the girls outside loos with toilet paper

so Mrs Slug would come and tell us off, mushy peas staining her apron

detention is better when it’s freezing out

we had reason behind our madness

and whilst we didn’t see the folly of flooding the loos back then

or how long it would take with stinking mop and bucket to dry off

we learned our consequence and next time feigned illness to stay by the radiator

oh nurse it’s my head it’s pounding! You do look a little green, here read a book

there is a learning curve

lost to generations who think answers are found in the oracle of computers

and those older folk who try vainly to stay relevant and forget their lessons

we would benefit from observing consequence and seeing it through

rather than a sound bite on TV as we spoon feed ourselves snippets of news

nothing stays long enough to take it in, we’re attention-deficit spinning tops

straining to think

would the chilly air of our playground and the closed doors until after lunch is over

wake us to reality? and if we stepped inside, would we attempt to take with us the lessons

we internalized?

or like the hippies of the sixties do we grow out of phases and give away our flares for business suit to rule the world

is death so onerous that we fear anything but power?

is inconsequence so fearsome we’ll make a splash at any cost?

what of all those we know nothing of? they say history is written by the victor, I think often

of all those who didn’t traditionally ‘win’ anything and what they would write

it is said you are bound to repeat history if you do not know it

but what if the very truth we revere, didn’t get it right?

When I was a kid in the playground I used to wish to grow up so I could

avoid being told when to play and when to learn

not knowing then nothing changes as much as you think

I envied the teachers their staff room where they thought we did not know

they smoked and ate hot cross buns and talked of rumors of the headmaster and

his male deputy

who both wore open toe shoes in Winter and I once asked him when ushered into his office for winning a poetry prize

don’t your toes get cold?

and he said

I do this in remembrance of christ I want to feel what he felt

and that Xmas we put on Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat

the drama teacher said candy you can do backflips can’t you? You can be the queen of the Egyptians

and I never felt so good as that day I wore an old wig I once dressed up and played Kate Bush in

with sequins and blankets stitched into approximation I shook my belly and pretended it contained jewels

the headmaster’s eyes teared up and he stole a look at the young junior who

sang along with our ‘who built the ark?’ louder than us all, dabbing his small eyes with the back of his hand

afterward Clement and I climbed up to the roof playground and on the wire we swung upside down

daring each other to fall knowing we couldn’t

maybe that’s a metaphor for the fear we need to feel

the safety net

of all endeavor

how holding hands with a boy in the dark

briefly I was the queen of egypt and everything seemed so real

in a way it never does now

because not once did I need a search engine to tell me

what I believed was true