Thoughts in light

She has written herself off

or so she says

watching youth inherit the mantle

she stares at her own flaccid chest

in unforgiving morning sun

and tries to convince herself to gently let go

light pouring in through the bay window

creating a halo effect in surround

she is bathed in unexpected warmth

her pores absorbing hungrily

that urging intensity, a happy blindness

as if the world paused in its toil

to tap her on the shoulder and whisper

it’s not near over yet girl

go out, gather your arms full

live

live

live!

Notes of a common waiting room

The woman with one breast is friendly
She jokes about feeling lighter
We nod grimly

Gallows humor
Palpable energy shift from 20 year old gamer wearing graffiti hi-tops, and 60 year old with deflation in her eyes
The ravage of time and effect, painted on women of different shapes, scars like badges of honor except when they’re not


The old lady is marked by a blue gown to our uniform pink
She exudes weariment without lifting her head from its downcast slump
Her limbs look like they have been pickled and left in hot Texan sun
She has an old ring on her wedding finger
I want to say something
But the lump in my throat and her shuttered aspect stay my hand

Instead I nod to the New Yorker and tell her there’s a free seat
Nobody really wants to sit

They want to run
Be anywhere else
Anyone else
I miss the days they just told you that you could go
Says the tall woman with a burgundy hair band
The woman cooked in black garb might belong to a cult
She had an accent and glowers

She says she drove from Eagle Pass because they don’t have good medicine there

Simmering rage in her balled lacquered fists
The hiss of some impossibly expensive machine out of sight

everyone meets eyes over masks, the unsaid being
Is this good medicine?

We play occidental musical chairs

The magazines are gone because of the virus, we hide our faces behind our fabric hoping for modesty that has long fled

Nurses walk their daily steps in the shiny lino corridor, their hair gleams like peacock feathers, they are harried but kind eyed

I get a young woman tech who has quiet jazz
She talks of wanting children. Her brother is sterile. She’s afraid to get tested.

I urge her to try. Thinking of how not long ago I stood in her slightly less comfortable shoes
Imaging a future

How they unfurl and then dry up and close, ready for the rush hour drive back
Mascara lines running like train tracks on masks of horror

A scrawny woman with platinum hair asked me how to do something on her phone
etiquette is said to save us
Not in the time of Covid, I think

A high school had blossomed in the pit of the waiting room
Some have been here two hours
They divide solemnly into temporary allegiances
Some like the loud mouth
Others roll at the waiting and click their dry tongues
It reminds me of paper flowers put in water

Her grandchildren are visiting. The mute girl in the corner looks young enough to be one

I ache for her fledgling fear
Knowing

None of us are safe
From the words
Come and discuss your findings with the specialist

Never tamed

Oh love

death is a transition

just as life is a bird

who interupted, will startle

leaving a smudge of indigo

against stark whitewashed sky

the shush-shush of neighors raking leaves

whose auburn crepe bows in protest

for they wish to lay still with the grass

turn seasons over in their golden hours

this artificial need

to tidy, put away, is but one method

of seizing a control far from reach

I fold in your arms, light gloaming through shutters

out of the corner of my eye I see marks on my skin

the furlough of time and suffering, chaffs against endurance

your eyes look oriental as you age

their downturn makes you smile even in pain

lends you a kindness strangers respond to

quiet is infused with our collected breathing

in this moment we live

sheltering from portent

I see the neighbor’s son helping his mother

he’s grown thin and reaching like the trees

not yet aware of diminishment

or why his mother holds back tears

when the sun paints day dark and shadows roam

casting their memories, as we did once with a torch and our hands

your shape lasts in my mind, a totem

I’ve carried an ache so deep in me for so long

it seems to exist independently

a Golem of my own creation

perhaps he will bend and lift me up, when next I fall

weighted by emptiness and disappointment

maybe he will spin me around in browning leaves

escapees of the neighbors rake

flung in unfettered defiance

a string of thoughts

stirred

never

ever

tamed

Below zero

Snow I have always

been thankful for your expunging

whiteout

how you take dirt

and suffocate it

beneath insistent layers

the wild and untame methods of your

settling, blown like befuddled

birds in all direction, swirling in

lost echo, falling eventually to

sugar-coat the dim world brighter

as pipes fail, their fragile egg shells

bloated with trapped water

a parallel I think

to our own shuttered lives

When I was a child I would

be told

do not go out in the snow for long

you will catch your death

and I hoped

very much

that were true

for to sleep

a red rose in bosom of white

I could fancy in my child’s mind

no greater perishment

though fancy and its

myriad ways of suggesting

death

grow less appealing

the older we get

Now I avoid slipping on ice

for fear of crushing my elbow into

shards like my father did

I see in the distance

my grandmother’s dog

he is trying to eat snow flakes

and puzzled when they melt

barks into whiskering storm

I think he speaks for us all

in this grand illusion

half wanting to be

taken off by encompassing whorls

carried to ice palace

where surely the meaning of

everything can be found

along with my mittens I lost

in tenth grade

stooping down to place

the cherry in

my snow robins

breast

Tempera

Query feels like a brand though it comes with veil

the doctors say, phantom pain becomes step mother

to fragile veins

first one to freeze come a cold snap

ready for tindering a bristling fire

at noon I want to eat warm eggs from your palm

touch your vermillion paint brush to my own face

feel the render of tempera against parchment

without any contempt for you, I wish you gone

but ink dries fast in the cold, it’s a myth it takes a warm day

to run a bath and slit your wrists

they never ask why, only how

the fire trucks blink like fallen damsons on melting streets

it was your enemy knocked on the door, broke it down, carried you out

not laughing at your slack form, the way your hair when wet

thins into dismal life line

the bequeath of surprise leaves us wordless

I with my bandages, you with your newly found soul

the sweetness of sharing this clementine center almost makes us forget our mutual hatred

to burn in respective votive, prayed to by sinners, also cherishing the role of loathing

dying is a slow storm, coming in squall, lost to its own menace

we leave the phone off the hook and become masks affixed to unpainted wall

maybe the next inhabitants will lift them gently from their nail

and remark before painting

that they left no shadow

How’s it taste?

In the olden days

they mined towns for their ore

like men drank youth from the

neck of local girls

until everything became brittle

time fled ahead

to something unrecognizable and sour

then we looked up from our tasks

seeing a familiar chink of light in day

years falling away, yellowed pages

surprising us with how many

collected at our feet

how could, all this time have gathered, and

dust in our hair, as we sat, hunched over

our endeavors like hungering cats

without respite?

Without children, our marking

of the passages of life, mislaid somewhere

a half mended cardigan

no longer fitting right

we skipped from pursuit to distraction

thinking it possible to always return

to that hour we woke

our heads wet with the burnished zeal

of awareness

now, now we have slept

without knowing our slumbering

the turn of years into decades

our prodigious output, a heavy weight

on the bare necked sap of youth

staring into the mirror seeing lines

that have crept unbidden in afterglow

like thieves, we still believe ourselves

that youth

with shiny hair and bright intentions

where have they found themselves? Lost

among conifer trees, flitting in and out

like an optical illusion, solitary birch

burying fears of

going blind and birthing cancers

instead of placentas beneath the mother tree

stifling truth

for one of ‘maturity’ and ‘reliability’

ironed sleek on fists of thawed rebuke

though every night as indigo infuses sky

there remains a longing with the starlings to scream

fermenting anguish out into the humus

where nobody, save the desolate lost

might respond to entreaty

and return, by pull of thread

tug of color through dark

that vital spirit cherished

when all else went to rot

amidst the berserker of youth

thirsting on its short straw

determined to drink it all

before we, parched and fragile

in garnishment, got to share

a little of life, just a glance

backward to the days spent dancing

lost in sound, the writhe of

bodies about, surging in a sea

of shared rebuke

of this cold world

where water in the morning on your face

scolds

your vast, lovely, unspoken

dreams

Review: Four (4) Poetry & Art by Tara Caribou (published by Raw Earth Ink, November 2020)

When has been more necessary than 2020 and early 2021 that we have needed beauty?

Stuck in sterile homes, we do the best we can. Nonetheless we stagnate a little, because we are meant to be alive, breathing, feeling creatures of the wind.

For most of us, we’ve never been indoors so much. For some, who reside in the unparalleled beauty points throughout the globe, they have been our divination to the lost world.

WordPress siren Tara Caribou author of Four (4) Poety & Art (Published by Raw Earth Ink (late 2020) has long been that paragon, that horse whisperer of beauty and the observation and offering of it.

Tara Caribou

As well as an accomplished photographer in her own right, Caribou is founder of Raw Earth Ink, an indie micro publishing house based in Alaska, publishing some of the hottest talent out there.

Consequently you would not be wrong to assume Caribou has little time to devote to her own abilities as a poetess, but there you would be wrong. With incredible self-control and discipline, Caribou has been blogging, building a reputation for her young dynamic company and writing exquisitely, all while running another business and producing some of the best poetry and art books I’ve seen in recent years.

Because I know this, I cannot be surprised at what Caribou achieves, she is a very quiet powerhouse of determining and mastery. She never does anything half-measure, she is a true old-school perfectionist and she happens to have the one thing few of us possess. Really good taste. From her logo to the choices she makes about whom to publish, and what project to embark on.

Why this matters so much, is related to the initial success of her second poetry volume. If you are going to publish something about the four seasons, life, the outdoors, you want it to be in some way, reflective of the indescribable beauty of the outdoors. At the same time you have the safe space to write your heart out and not apologize for doing so;

a hundred crumpled pages / glimpses of who I really am / for I am / alone.” (Filaments of Ink)

Using her own artwork, photography and uncanny design skills, Caribou has accomplished her goal. I’m inclined to leave it at that, but it’s really worth mentioning this is no easy feat, for the greater percentage of books I read are middling in design, occasionally very disappointing and never possess that wow factor.

Photo by Tara Caribou, Alaska.

From the moment I received my excitedly purchased copy of Four (4) I saw what Caribou had accomplished. She’s brought the outside inside for us all;

Without Pain I’d find no ultimate balance / for this my jaded soul.” (Lessons in Pain)

Four (4) is like a beautiful day and a sonorous night. The book possesses everything almost effortlessly. Her cover is thick and gleaming, the artwork sumptuous and dreamy. The colors vivid and reflective of a perfect day. This is both a classic design and modern enough to be appreciated by all and cherished for the loveliness of her wrappings.

Inside we find even more delight. Four (4) is so well thought through, again no surprise there, as I know Caribou’s prodigious work ethic, but the care and attention to every little thing really sets Four (4) apart from other small press books. I think this little wonder, is perhaps the best calling card Caribou’s company can have, because if you wanted your book to be as gorgeous as this, you’d need look no further for a publisher.

Tara Caribou is one of my most enjoyed poets. She writes a lot, she works hard at her craft, but she doesn’t hide her emotions behind theory and method, she’s very much in the real world. It is this bravery to reveal and knowledge of the value of deep observation and consideration in writing, that makes it so easy to revel in Caribou’s written work. At the same time, she is not convoluted, she is not pretentious, she is a writers writer, she writes about what we all at some time or another, consider and want to understand better;

Who am I really? / Can somebody tell me? / It’s dark in here / Smoke and screams / Is that me?” (No Escape)

If you are familiar with Caribou’s work you will also know her for her passion. Generally I run a mile from writers who ‘write out sex’ because invariably they leave me embarrassed or disgusted with their renderings. But there are those whose sheer voracity of unsated passion, lends them the quill for writing on intimacy and doing it well, usually because they know what to reveal and what not to and how. Those writers? I definitely read;

I’m trying to hide all my inside parts / the real parts / the something found beneath ribs and sinew / for it’s deep inside I hide all the truth.”

The four sections of seasons are reflected in mouthwatering chapters, with the really lovely (and original) idea of creating ‘considerations’ for each season. In Spring, we have time and light and dark, echoed through Dawn, Midday, Dusk and Night. Within that section, the poems speak of these themes. Summer possesses variations on the theme of love, Autumn speaks to the elements, Winter of the moon. I don’t want to say too much, because that’s the delight of unwrapping this gem, but you get the drift, and can appreciate alongside me, the tremendous thought gone into this collection.

I made my own / powerful lines spoken with weak knuckles / or perhaps just a weakness for love / well, weakness is weakness / but I never claimed to be strong.” (What I Meant to Say Was)

Even without her prodigious talent and drive, Caribou’s eye for beauty is unparalleled and it is this, her opus magnus, she lends us, in our darkest times. Four (4) couldn’t be more timely, it couldn’t be more relevant, and it honestly, truly, could not be a lovelier book of poetry and art. I am so impressed, it only makes me prouder of Caribou’s achievement as an artist in the world of publishing, where we all think we can never be surprised again … how wrong we are.

If you love the beauty of our world, I recommend Four (4) to you as the best of what you may currently be missing. If you are a romantic at heart and have no outlet, Four (4) is your new friend. Caribou’s willingness to plunge into the truth of what makes us human and the best things about it, are uncanny and she’s not one to shy away on paper from exposing realities we all can benefit from.

And I’m lying here / Wondering / About space and time / And where I fit.” (Space Between)

Ironically, it is Caribou with her vision, that helps US understand where we fit in this world. Her pure rendering of what possesses our core, is hard to reject. I believe she actually has known her place in this universe a very long time and that is why she is so wise and aware. But even sages should have their doubts, that’s what makes them relatable and ultimately, human;

Hold my hand / let’s move together forever / always forward / into the light.” (Echoes)

People say the quieter people are the ones we have to watch for, and they’re not wrong. While the rest of the world bleats loudly, Caribou is hard at work, producing and conceptualizing publications that will stand the test of time and give us something truly worthy to sink our teeth into. That’s no easy endeavor and she and Raw Earth Ink are among the most impressive creatives I have met.

I pluck a few motes without effort / they weigh heavily in my palm so / I relax my fingers and blow them out / little galaxies all their own.” (Far-Flung Galaxies)

Purchase Four (4) here.

Raw Earth Ink

Candice Louisa Daquin.

Misleading light

You’re not leaving yet are you?

Girl with mango skin, every direction she turns

a kalidoscope of hopefulness in her smile

I notice how she wears her rings on her fingers like mine

that is because she is me

lost to time, a pull in a favorite knit top

the burgundy losing its focus as

it gathers holes

this is because she is me

bound to gravity and her weighty entreaty

toward inexorable end

a time away, yes, yes,

and nearer now than ever before

the steal of youth cloying on her dry hands

people slip her sweets and say: You are a doll

and she knows if she were a doll she’d be

able to affix the grimace all day and probably say

mama if you tipped her upside down

which is what she cannot say now

anymore than: I hurt, I cry, I feel

for she is passed that invisible line in the sand

where confession is pretty

she’s on the side of adulting

among the oaks and bulbs promising

fertility in Spring

but maybe they will be too tired

to show much of their lustrous potential

isn’t potential for under 25’s? She

read that somewhere in one of those

damaging women’s magazines before

they were transplanted to a screen

where weary eyed, prematurely hunched

poor postured youth eat their life’s golden ticket

like it is a salty snack at bedtime.

For sleep, for retreat, into the veiling woods

the silence unfolding like a veil, mist disgusing

her disappointment, even love doesn’t always

fill in where that ends, fickle in ways

you only learn when it’s exhausting

to find alternate routes, still she finds herself

thinking of the mango girl, the weight of the future

bowing her head like a shy dancer in the wings

of some hot lit theater

how then it was overwhelming in an entirely different way

the touch of a stranger, electricity firing her magic

quills into ether and those nights of no sleep

spent creating, describing, entire worlds

the future, a glittering prize, a lover, a friend

perhaps

perhaps

perhaps

it is time for her to leave

her skin shed in parts like impatient lizard of the desert

indigo handprints leading into arroyo

the scars of her like points of light

shining through

perpetual dark

as we mistake a falling star

when it is ignis fatuus

mere oxidation of phosphine

causing us to believe

remarkably and with some relief

in fairies again

It can kill

Almost sun up

the tinder box within my chest

is scratched free of ignition

I have nothing left to light

against encroaching darkness

for so long, it was only you

who kept me burning, fed the diminished

flame within

now, cold weather comes hunchbacked

like a visiting relation who has

no regard,

streets are emptied, as ducklings for feasting are

short-lived in their joy, for we live in a climate

spoilt with her bounty

the people proclaim Winter their enemy

hiding inside, till blessed sun returns

to bake streets into their usual direct lines.

I have always loved the cold

for it is somber, serious, it does not apologize

for not laughing or smiling toothily for a photo

the cold is an adult, a survivor

and my warmth is now swept out

into the street to nourish next years

growth.

You have left me ransacked, weighed with grief

or rather, I permitted it

with my need to divest you with

my self keeping

it was you see, a way to continue

waking up in the morning

brushing hair, scrubbing feet

clean of their midnight chase into darkness

where if I stayed long enough

I might find no way out.

I used instead, the succor of your regard

for me, a diminished thing in a shiny coat

of false expectation, as hibiscus bloom

just before frost, as if daring it to

kill

knowing, one day, the flint

would no longer strike alight

the flame no more catch

and we’d be without fire, without warmth

without familiarity or loyalty.

As those who feel and then feel nothing

ransacked void with wilted affection

the chill of their galloping regard

worse than any Winter storm

for knowing your hater is surely

a greater pain than strangers who harm

just for the merriment of it.

I know you. I see the emptiness in your eyes

these years have rinsed out slowly like a series

of rogued pinches and double-exposures

I understand, too well, just as

I see my own senseless defeat

lain on unflinching wet ground, not moving

for the cold has washed over and she is

frozen in her private grimace.

Some of us can carry on

without the light of another

I have long existed without harmony

safety, even sanity, but I cannot lose, no

I cannot bear to, the surround of you.

If it comes then, you will find me

a memory in a long story, a footnote to something

larger than us all, lost in yellowed paper and indistinct

photos of past, growing longer with each yawn

and outside of us, that tree will still stand

in 200 years, we will have children born and

die here on this land, where the dead are

forgotten to we who roamed once, through the ravages of

time and her pitiless relinquishment of mercy.

It is the way, of mortality, even love may be mortal

in how she closes up sacrosanct and inviolable like a flower

denied light

refusing to bloom again. You say

nothing because your mouth is

filled with ashen excuses, and moving on and

what you’ll do next; it is a tempest, a fever

beneath your skin, lending you the fugue-state to

live again, for you are from your mercurial ancestors

a kind of people who always find ways to

endure, as if doing so, will make you more

memorable.

I then, I am not like you, nor ever have

possessed, the penchant for survival you tout, it doesn’t

matter much, we are all going to be

soot and lost words before long

the race, the belief we matter, is just

grime on our sleeves as we pass

through. I have seen a world

without me, as I have witnessed a life without

you, they are all echoes of each other

betraying the faith I had never quite built

knowing you would leave

observing in your eyes before you were aware

the emptiness of regard, how softly we skim

life’s abundant surface, like we hardly land

at all. At times it does not feel like it can

be real, this ache, this movement toward

self-destruction, surely this is not how it ends

and yet, years become decades and still

we find ourselves, curled into a ball, waiting

out the cold, a frigid breeze coming in

beneath the door, reminding us, no matter

how much we may like the Winter

it can surely kill.

The magic fairground

I scratch my head, the mixture of henna and indigo dyeing my

finger nails black

thinking of the red pill and the blue

Alice and her little vial

Drink Me

Pandora’s Box

Athena’s head exploding, a rebuttal to Zeus

yellowing wallpaper closing women’s mouths

Radcliffe shouts in her lesbian manifest

those following her down the well of loneliness

high waisted and limber of spine.

I want to nibble upon you morning, noon and night

but I do what is right and keep my fantasies in check

behind the lines of notepads and in the ink of pens

I suck till my tongue turns blue-black

your lips remind me of a pomegranate even without rouge

they look edible, lush, full like an excuse never to apologize

we are girls of violet, our pin in the concentration camps was

a pink V

last night I watched When Hitler Stole White Rabbit

at the Jewish Film Festival, chewed the inside of my mouth

in frustration at the abhorrence of others

when I was a child I did not have a pink rabbit

you left your hair brush and your rose water and your

tattered lace-edged simple night gown

I don’t think you ever wore one again, in the 1970s

nude was in vogue

women coming and going

from my father’s room

with dimpled bottoms and breasts like Claire Bretécher 

I learned my likings on photography books, under the section

‘erotica’ and other arts, believing archly

pornography an expression, when now, thinking back

they had such sorrowful eyes

like deer who stare into

the lights of an oncoming truck

is it bravery or hypnosis? Perhaps

it is fatalism, the French, myself

moving to countries who do not condone

indolence, expecting different results

when escape has no good set of keys

just jangles from your pocket like a taunt.

It’s not cute when you’re over thirty, to

long for the purple balloon in the supermarket

or lie, cat-like on the carpet and me-ow when your lover

is mad

it is not seemly, to be childish when you have

your first crows-feet, or need a push-up bra

unless you leave your glasses to the side

dive in, deep and thick

the molasses of not giving a fuck

where 80 year olds, excel and laugh

like they did at eight without front teeth

much the same, much the same.

The magic fairground, everyone remembers names,

I recall songs and colors of girls eyes

how they look sleeping, with their hands flung

like emotions above their heads, bent at the wrist

bangles on the floor, hidden beneath cascading sheets

elegance in angles, the way eyebrows furrow

in thought, how that line shapes over time into

a question mark, the parchment of skin, in

darkness, tracing braille, for the day none of us

will see, more than the outline of certainty.

You said: “Maybe you won’t love me when my

breasts sag, when I stop working out and the

lines of years begin to encroach. Don’t you like my

firm arms, they do not hang like bats, my mother’s did

I am mortally afraid of skin that hisses when you look

at it.”

Perhaps men had done this to you, torn down

your childhood gauze, made you feel the need to

apologize for things to come. I have read

Dreams Of Young Girls, I know how the photographer

can project a fantasy upon a real girl, even

when she is young, begin to pick her apart

as she unfurls like a Christmas amaryllis, not

caring the pickpockets of their distain

leave her in rags. Or maybe it was another

woman and her cruelty or her hatred? Tight

in an ill-fitting jar, straining to propagate.

“After all, you are so perfect,” you said,

smiling at my narrow hips (like a boy)

my unmarked skin (sun-screen)

the thickness of my hair (good shampoo)

how taut my calves look in leggings (optical illusion)

girls with girls tend to compare

it is not always favorable

though we find in our mixing bowl of humility

a little easement

the tasty wick of joy

burning low into auburn night

going over

those fears

with soft fingertips

and gentle reproaching …

Oh softening

Motioning

Nightfall

In whisper find blessed felicity

A body untouched, lain emptied of worth

brought to life, my Lazarus, spinning moon beneath our chins

rounding music fluting her velvet want to stay beautiful physically

for you to hold your breath as you touch, yes I understand

and still, beauty retains a deeper chord

dancing on raw feet to Erik Sate, trying to impress.

No, love, no, age is wine

spreading in the roof of your oval mouth

each place it has visited will transport you back, among the

grapes, tanned beneath reliable sun till just ripe, rolling in barrels

aged over centuries, buried with

secrets, the taste of fruit and toil, lustily on its wood

roots reaching deeply into history, for every year lived

another branch uncoils, the leaves, a brilliant green, bearing fruit

then flowers, finally sheltering, those beneath

such is a woman, such as you are

lying in my arms, the sweat of sleep, hot on your neck

cheeks pushed against my shoulder blades

causing you to look like you are pursing your lips

in effort to dream

finding ways always

to hold you closer,

closer

closer

closer.