Red Mary

hemofgarmentThey said

she’s a sinner

that red Mary

she’s got shadows in her soul

everyone’s done a wrong

what’s yours?

she couldn’t recall a sin she committed

though many done against her still

showed in bad light shining as scars will

what constitutes a sin?

not picking up a fallen book or

neglecting the heart of an aching soul?

not burying a bird nor preventing its death

sailing into glass as you ate your day

she’d let

the dinner burn accidentally making snow flakes for the windows

she’d been too tired

to scrub the tile in the bathroom before the guests arrived

she’d given herself the bigger helping on occasion

but more often than not she made room for the needs of others

cramped with heads on her lap driving in the car

give an inch take a mile convert to metric lose measure

what comes first? you?

she knew she hurt herself when eclipsing

and if that was a sin

she was a sinner plenty

scratching charred lines of dislike across herself

like a map plotting direction with blooming red pins

but lord if that is a sin

to turn and bear our fangs within

when the world is full of clamoring snake oil salesmen

hawking their false wares

building temples for closed gods

telling children who are raped

no you cannot abort this is gods wish

then she was a sinner of the very worst sort

for her belief was

those who are without blemish don’t exist

but some of us are good

not living under the almshouse for the spiritually impoverished

she didn’t know what it meant to

live in sin be born to sin

she felt sin was a choice

you made or did not make

and she did not choose

to sin except

by laying in bed reading

on Sunday listening to

the vowels of the faithful

herding their flock

To the bottom

marie-lise-diagonala

Go down

very far down

to the bottom of the sea

I shuck you off

zip up my boots

think of corn husks and masa and chili staining madder root

lips tarnished from pleasuring you

friend without the benefit of youth

I make you come even when you’re done

leash between us yoked at the throat

pain has long learned not to show

as macular degeneration steals acuity

we are what we want to see

but you are a poor vintage

you don’t convince the blind

we who cover ourselves in your outpouring

know more of you than crows

lining hot wire

know of the sky

Polemic

Girls Doing Handstands, Southam Street, London 1956

A polemic once

mapped the world and

chambers of the heart

declaring

men love men three percent proof

and women love women

once or never

It explained the empty feeling in the bars

girls playing boys hitting balls into green pockets

It explained why gay men swelled in number

disco fever, why did they smell so much better?

is it nature or nurture?

testosterone in the womb or green enchiladas?

is it birth order or red hair?

left-handedness or playing Barbie too long with your sisters?

was it the color purple or your best friend Michael

showing each other what you had beneath the lilac tree

screaming and shouting FRANKFURTER!

at the top of your lungs

running as fast as you could

a natural instinct

the adults

drinking Pims Number One

look up briefly with reddened lips

boys will be boys

and girls will be girls

they nod all-knowing

knowing nothing

of the sum and the handspan

found only in the dial and fragile turn

of wonder

Countenance of zero

guy-bourdin-three-color.jpglook at her pale face she looks half dead

bet you could get off school pretending to be sick any day

yeah she could

and she did

going home on the bus wearing tights in summer

girls with blue souls

born in the wrong continent or era

where pallor was detested even by racists

dark skin purchased by the half hour

slapped on and smoothed over the counter

where she couldn’t make herself sun-kissed for all the tea in china

even if the tea were orange pekoe

where she wasn’t able to change who she was except in the dark

in the dark she was a wolf with sisters

outrunning the easy cloaks of shame

ridicule on the street like they all had the same script

sometimes she’d say something in return but the stinger was already in

tight venom digging up her roots and the foundation she built

she hated her reflection so she smashed all her mirrors

until a soul with her reflection in their eyes told her

they got it wrong

just as the little brown girl was cursed

for they said she was too dark

just as the little black girl was scorned

for they said her nose was too wide

just as the little coffee girl was bullied

to straighten her kinky hair

they got it so wrong the judges of nothing

she’s just like her all sisters

they share her hurt and scars

girls who don’t need to hate others for

fashionable causes and empty cat calls

she will let them ward off the sun

and bursting through

become the center of

a female endowed fuselage

liquid hydrogen

oxygen

woman

in all colors

damning the

countenance of zero