Unmentionables

What can’t be said aloud

or even blown into an envelope

placed in a bottle and set to sea

or kept beneath your pillow in diary

those words and feelings without words cannot

find a place of expression

for a multitude of reasons or just one

you carry them around like a weight

dripping from your neck

sometimes in a weak moment

you feel yourself urging to spill

the bunting and string it high

confidences for everyone to see

what’s the worst that could happen?

and yet, you know, the worst

is bad enough to keep

you quiet

how many others, you wonder

carry their own list of unmentionables

and what would they be?

any in common or always unique?

if you let someone know

the sum of you

would they

grow bored?

become disgusted?

smile and say ‘i understand’

when they did not?

who can understand the deep of us?

where we dare not venture, let alone another

what permissions given and retracted

exist?

like the long necked lillies that spring

miraculously from dry texan ground

after it has rained and

the electric mist has caused wonder

to touch the barren

perhaps it is a sign when

you can talk of such things

late into the night

with a stranger you will never

meet again

or that you whisper to yourself

the varied outcomes of confession

strung on a tree, lighting dark road

no, sometimes it is best

we model our forefathers and mothers

who knew what to keep to themselves

for years they held them in jars

turning to the light once in a while

and when they died, sometimes you would find

one survived the cull

and everyone would hush and hold their breaths

in inky silence

not sure of how to respond

somehow a secret after you are gone

doesn’t hold the same concern

and maybe they were free of them

in that hour

when all who knew, discovered

they had not

known them at all

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Unable to speak the words

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Love can be the greatest feeling in the world

love can be a lie

and when love is a lie

it can rip you to shreds or enable you to rip yourself

because love isn’t quantifiable

therefore you may never know

who it is who guts you and slays you; Is it you? Is it love?

how can a feeling have the power to empty you of hope?

or leave you ransacked

how can an emotion

something that can’t be touched, or jarred or bottled

hold such sway?

cut with deep scythe, parts you thought impossible to reach

was it the other? Did they own the power

or was it giving them permission? To dictate an emotion

or is love, proof of being human

and the sorrow of that and the beauty of that

a very human trait, along with hate and indifference

which at times seem, to take the place of love

and when your eyes, look at me and there is no movement

only the wearing down of time, a series of frustrations

when you fidget and seem to want, to be anywhere but here

I imagine you in years to come, remembering nothing of us

then I wish I had no capacity for love, I wish I had pretended all along

replaced my heart with coal

but it was never an object, never something you could hold

love was almost a virus

you walked into the room

and I caught it

the fever and the aches

they may never leave me

now I have a relationship with them

in absence of you, I’ll find myself inheriting memories

wondering how, some people walk away, almost light-footed

and others stand in place and burn, the oxygen all gone

unable to speak the words

of loss

50 minute slots

prostitute

This therapy doesn’t work

I take an hour to get made up

so I do not look like the long toothed tiger

I feel inhabits my emotions and wishes

to roar and cry uncontrollably

while she sits thinking about

her recent vacation and what

she’ll have to eat for dinner

because after all this is just a job

she is just a human

who has a right to time off and a life outside

the pain she allots 50 minute slots

I am convinced

paying for therapy is a little like

paying for love

you get little of the real stuff

and a lot of compensation and emptiness

I feel alone in the room

hearing myself drone

I want to tell her everything

I want her to know how much I’m hurting

I want to express my fear and my loathing

but she is a stranger

who takes my insurance

maybe I should be thankful

but I’m bitter and repressed and tell her

what she wants to hear

after all, therapists want to believe you’re doing alright

even when you’re one step from the edge

after all, therapists need to sleep sound at night

just as I childishly wish she’d turn around and say

this isn’t a job, I care, I really care about YOU

let me in

and if she did I would, but that’s supposing

people aren’t who they are and they very much are

professional detatchment

closed-off, remote, shuffling from one hour to the next

waiting for the time they can walk out the door

not think about other people’s problems

there isn’t much empathy going around these days

we’re all so tired and I’m getting to the end

of wearing cracked masks

even when I need to break apart

which you can only do when someone

gives a shit

nobody pays for reality

and as much as it is known

‘therapy is a gift you give yourself’

and as much as it is claimed

‘if you do the work you’ll grow’

I don’t want to go through the motion

I want to be cared about

I want her to give a shit

I want things that are impossible

because she’s a job and I’m a client

but this way around it feels like

I’m the hooker and she’s the john

because I’m blowing hot air

and she’s sucking it up

How many women does it take?

It was raining the day the movers truck pulled up

piling furniture into the back, exposed to wet streets

everything dirty and unfamiliar

when you take your safety out of its box

when you unlatch your secrets

and expose the insides of a locket

sticky mouths seek to further that exposure

until nothing of your peace remains

but the belly of your secrets on display

as if you were sitting in class without underwear

as if the abuse etched in your soul were a t-shirt

as if his fingers weren’t in the dark but had been

dipped in luminescent paint and everywhere they went

left their grimy imprint / yet you think

this horror may have been the very best thing

as wretched as exposure may taste

at least it wouldn’t be a case of disbelief

how many women does it take?

for one person to not hesitate

how many must say;

he did this / that happened / we are not okay

because of this / why do I have to prove / with gore

and soiled soul / the truth / why isn’t it sufficient that I say

why why why

did he lay a hand on me?

how many women does it take?

a juror in the Bill Cosby case disclosed the reason for his guilty verdict;

I believed he was guilty because he said he had drugged girls

hearing it from the horses mouth got my vote

are we bidding on a horse? Did you check the inside of his mouth?

what of the SIXTY women who spoke?

their voices do not warrant proof?

were people just speaking words?

to deaf sign posts stating;

move on / get over it / don’t make a fuss / why should we believe you?

one person has lied before / you must be lying / that’s our automatic default

what hope then

for one girl?

one single soul

violated in the dark

of a house when all is moved out

and she is left inside a shell, within a shell

the echoes of trucks taking memories

somewhere else

how many women does it take?

to be heard.

Against the unknown world

They move together like quicksilver

indisipherable in pursuit

there is such a love in his eyes

her smooth hands cup his mouth

drinking the words he would gush

if they were not pressed tightly, one to the other

locked in an embrace

that gives life

quickening as signature is fluid

when she finds out, she imagines telling her daughter twenty years hence

the story of her conception;

your father and I loved you very much

we lay down by the fireplace, he took me in his arms

from this passion you were forged into life

clay breathed upon, bearing breath and soul

you were wanted, even before you chose

to fill us with yourself

my stomach grew and grew until

it was a tight drum on which to paint

the symbols of your dream

**

He moved in her, his eyes tightly shut

he thought of other women, he thought of touching himself

in the office toilet at lunch with folded magazine

and why such things happened when he had all he could ever want

here in his arms, still he betrayed with desires, ill-tuned to eternal love

when she grew fat and round he did not

wish to hold her quite so tightly, or touch her hot flushed pressing flesh

he thought of others, he got up early, and jogged his frustration into sweat

**

Don’t worry the doctor smiled, with a savage wink

as she labored and her face grew red and her hands sought his

and he wanted to run from the room and shove well fed nurse

against the wall and pour his horror of birth and future into her lipsticked sighs

don’t worry the doctor smiled, with a savage wink

i’m going to sew her up even tighter, it will be like

Christmas day when you unwrap her again

the quintisential “husband’s stitch”

and over his starched cloak and gown, the doctors grey eyebrows

went up and down and he, who was lost

lurched and threw up at the violence and the shame

of men and of women and of life and death, inequality and lust

**

then his daughter was born

fat and round and squalling loudly

if he could have interpreted those words, he felt they spoke to him a repromand

for his cowardice and his fears, imagining being a father

of growing up and settling down, of love and impossible challenges and joys

he saw his wife’s face, wet with sweat and hair plastered down

he felt more than he had ever felt, the emptiness of the past replaced

no longing to empty himself in the coldness of pornography as she slept

a lifetime from the day he first took her to bed and

stripped her of choice with impregnated seed

and now he knew

the fear of men is the strength of women

his daughter fixed him with swollen red eyes

watching him with a stearness that seemed to say

you can do this, you got this, you are not your worst thought

you can be who you want to be, you can be my father, you can love these women

you can direct our future, reshaping mountains

or fall into the arms of least resistance, worship the emptiness of hollow gestures

she seemed to be saying with her tiny fists and pursed lips

turn away from your shallow sport, take this road with us

he who once was weak, grew with love

those things that once were, no more

his resilience, their armor

against the unknown world

Guilt


Guilt

Is a rare bird of shame

Its plumage

Breathtaking

For guilt

Captures the beholder, willing or not

Averting gaze from all else

Guilt will render paradise dowdy

Comparing freedom with the chains of its capture

Guilt is an old, fond bruise

Reminder of moments left torn to shreds

It will piece them carefully back

Twice as convincing, twice the weight

Strung round your neck like noose of sea pearls

Begging to be drowned

Guilt is a rose bush with bleeding thorns

A shudder as you catch yourself thinking of

Those pursed secrets you’ll never disclose, even to yourself

Snapshots you expunge, that still, listlessly, rise from the depths

Never speak of it, even to the merry faced doctors 

Plunging their needles as far as they’ll go

Guilt

Makes you sick

Wan faced, old before your time 

Aloof in the varnished secret

Guilt

Steals your liberty 

But like a lie

Guilt is not vanquished, even by truth

There are things better never admitted

Keep them so deep inside you start believing the deception

Until

Like a wide eyed bride

Guilt takes your hand 

And plunges you back where you’ve been all along

There’s no solution to shame when it’s too late to undo

The poison that you drink, the person you’ve turned into

Guarding yourself like a wreck against sharp rocks

With less and less by the day to salvage

If you spoke it out loud

Surely the very sky would catch fire

How many of us must carry a spark?

Burning in our secret hearts?

And maybe this is why

You never know another person by what they share

Instead

It is the unsaid

Electric in the air

We recognize in others

The tarnish of shame

As clear as promises once given

Cannot be refunded

It’s a girl

Jean Shrimpton in Harper’s Bazaar.jpegYou try to convince yourself

but the only person who believes you

is you

with your hands in the warm water of the sink

faraway you hear the sound of dishes being washed

see a woman standing straight backed

her toes inverted

she’s staring out into the night garden

wondering why she believes herself

when everyone else can see she’s a fraud

a pretence

someone who subsists on delusions

like age doesn’t matter and

success isn’t measured by attainment

her thin veined hands

busy with pots and pans

to keep from stillness striking her dumb

 

behold her truth

she has gone through life with her mouth sewn

tied into knots of her own doing

and a few given her at birth

when they lifted her out into the stale city air

and said

well I see that

it’s a girl