For what they did yet not know

140829195756-22-women-in-comedy-restricted-horizontal-large-galleryYou thought it was bad when

you got your first zit

and the unblemished skin of your youth

erupted like Everest

you thought it was bad when

you got your first stretch-mark

and the smooth thighs and breasts of your growth

betrayed the camouflage

you thought it was bad when

you got your first scar

a thin line of emptiness which they said

the bikini would hide

you thought it was bad when

you sagged and you spun with weight loss and gain

in the span of twelve fevered months

and then it seemed

unimportant

because those scars

the immature loss of vanity and adulation

crying over not fitting into yourself

the lament of sudden change

was less than the stubborn plant of your feet

in survival

and you went to your neighbor

who was missing a breast

both of you shared

the disjointed humor of pain

and you went to your preacher

who had lost his testicle

he joked about being single

and you went to your park

saw women with brain tumors cut out

walking their high energy dogs

and you saw

this silly game of magazines and perfection

of I will stay 20 and flawless forever

of men who would leave when you get cut up and bleed

how it is but part of a bigger picture

that of sweat and guts and fear

and surviving through gritted teeth

even if he left because you were no longer perky and up for it

because you threw up at midnight instead of

giving him head

even if the girl at work could wear heels and short skirts

and you hid your swollen stomach behind swaths of cotton

or couldn’t get out of your bed

because then … just as everything seemed

to be wrinkling and disintegrating and rebuilding

into something unfamiliar and changed and partially incomplete

another man with light in his eyes

who didn’t care about such things

smiled at you as you walked beneath the yawning trees

because your medication said

avoid direct sunlight

and he said

I have the same problem which makes it hard living here doesn’t it?

and you talked and he smiled

and said

I like the way your eyes twinkle

and you said

I get that from my grandmother

even when she was eighty-five she was

proposed to by farmers who thought

she looked like a kind of Katherine Hepburn

and he said

I can see that

red

would you like to meet here tomorrow again?

and you saw the way the world really worked

underneath the adverts for boob jobs and butt lifts

and reality tv that’s nothing of the sort

his hand brushed yours and you saw

sunspots on both

it made you laugh

a little like a hiccuping hyena

and he laughed too

the survivors

beneath the canopy of life

snorting like five-year olds

as skinny joggers with air-brush tans ran past

with sad empty looks

for what they did not

yet know

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Being twenty

15541394_10202354632784646_1452891421884110148_nThinking back

being twenty wasn’t as shiny

as bronze coin swallowed by carp

when

I went to eat Chinese and made a wish

to be young again

 

at twenty

I thought my breasts already hung forlorn

much like the oak grandfather clock

my father lifted from a former nunnery

when the nuns were gone and buried with the rhododendrons

the building disarticulated stood empty

beseeching intruders

awaiting renovation into flats for rich city dwellers

whose coins were gold

my father said

it seems a shame to let these apple and plum trees

be torn up and shredded they are mature and have

earned a right

so by night we dug up their rosewood roots

hefting in my grandfather’s wheel barrow down cobbled street

planted them in the little weedy garden out back

where they endured without their crowns

 

much as I endured being twenty

thinking myself imperfect

because of the pressure

burning like a hot wire in my

fizzing young head

like tight roller skates leave indents

my father said the trees never

bore fruit after moving

because once you’re planted

you grow roots only once

 

maybe that’s like being young

you are a tumbleweed and whilst some

take to being a spirit composed of air

there is something reassuring

like a warm fire or

a steaming bath

when you know it doesn’t really matter

all the fanciful dreams you had intended to wear

the way you sucked your stomach in

when he touched you underneath your dress

that tugged uncomfortably at tight seams

because you wanted to be

as gamine as

Audrey Hepburn

Defiance

14718735_10202095537187418_8475389863967140182_nAs she ticks upward

the hours tick down

crossed off by permanent pen

no you will not live this moment again

seize it as you would a hot sparkler

waved maniacal by laughing children

through mittened thin protection of wool

and in that conjure

you still the thunder of

what you didn’t achieve

what you didn’t yet reach

in the circumference of your dreams

just before burn

becomes indelible

raise up

let go of all worldly commands

to obey and bow

you are beholden only

to ushered majesty of tomorrow

make it worth your time

here standing in line with

other decaying eyes

blinking against saline

for soon you will rise

a little sorer for your walk

parchment for skin

timidity taking over waltz

then when you think it’s too late

surprise yourself again

swelling with love and energy

like the old dog who hears his returning master

will out run even March hare

for nothing is as lasting

as devotion

turning blushing cheek to quixotic moon

spilling beyond possibility

like frozen water is released

with first thaw

purest of all

Clock-face

a-girl-a-dog-and-a-horse-1921Laughter spills out, an unexpected guest

been many seasons replacing themselves since

she danced to a good song

look! What shakes now that used to be firm

standing painting your public face on

you omitted to check

the clocks wound themselves forward

now you tear the grey from your hair and lament; how long it takes to recover yourself?

standing flat-footed before a mirror where is the succor for survival?

in the weight of your accumulation? Bales waiting tied snug and square

maybe the lake doesn’t ask for praise when it endures the ice

nor the escapees praise, their fortune

we wear the badges of our internal battles on the inside of our skin

nobody congratulated, the warrior who holds us from despair

media will not report those valiant souls making their way through treacle

and every once in a while it surprised you to witness

winter talenting to spring

water getting warmer

new generations crowd shoreline

unknowing in a blink

they too will wonder

how it had been so long?

since they danced

in the arms of someone who saw

the silver thread in their being

as if miracles were fashioned for the living

and stories of a shared song could rub true

instead of lifting your sagging arms toward heaven

halving wan light of a late winter moon

lighting the shift of clock-faces

tucking their knowledge in shadow