Kissing phantoms

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I saved an eyelash of yours

grew it from seed in a

blue-bottle

at first the greenhouse huffed and curdled

not used to cultivating such delicate wings

till I put you beneath my mattress

soggy with tears morning dew

you see, I had become

a cocoon again

needing no more than

one drop of rain on my

sewn together eyelids

scalded from rubbing

you see, I had thrifted

the parts of me that had

touched you the most

so I did not have to be reminded

why my hands stayed trembling

on countertops or reached

at night into marjoram dark

why my lips were chaffed and sore

from kissing phantoms

better then, to return to wax

bury the hatchet

and ones history

in somnolent earth

smelling of tea bags and bird feathers

ear wigs and lady bird nail polish

your smile

caught winking through amber sun

your convex toes

wriggling at the end of bed sheets

like crocus pushing up

the paving stones of my new city

it will speak a different language

contain no source for tears

no receptacle for self-harm

the last newspaper says

she left to parts unknown

wide indigo wings catching

cusp of moon as

clouds colored by grief’s insistence

curdle against wan light

mist abounding like a girl

carrying her skirts through water

involuntary sound of loss despite

washing your hands repeatedly

smoothing down the shards of

wakefulness

something grows silently

in you and cannot

be reborn

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In her cull

Before

Who knew how to die?

That it wouldn’t be instantaneous

As children imagine

A sudden pain, then unconsciousness

Who knew?

Death could go on years

Building and slowing like cold sea water

Burning firework left to fizzle alone in inky sky

That it would wind and unwind, a mad clock void of correct motion

Who knew?

It could take the very young, wrap them in wool, to cast down wet hill

The jarring and bumping eventual colission held at bay

Till forgotten

That it could take you

Suspend you from me and all familiar things

Where the recognition in your once clear and beautiful eyes

Became muddied and clouded with quiet violence

Your touch so soft, stolen and replaced with flinty brush off

Who knew

The courage of fighters

Seathing against their sentence and eventual

Chop chop of parts, scars and marred

Skin once free of blade

A scratch board of operation knives

She reached me

As I sat in my safe world

Pulled me through

I smelt anticeptic

Read her clever whirring mind

Far too smart for this dull world

How can such people die?

She laughs and says

At least I’ll go young and whilst I have my looks

So long as you don’t show the undertaker my scars

They remind me of barbed wire and grey hair and the lines you cut in snow

When skiing downhill

Her lips are red, she says

I used to ride horses and can speak five languages

I say

I wish you would stay

I could read you eternally

It’s the macabre and giggling nervousness you feel

Around dying

It brings out the worst or the best of us

I wanted to bolt

Race down the road

But I remain and listen

To the gurgle of her catheter

And saw the bruised clouds grow

As rain came like tears behind pitched fingers

Her humor never left

She knew more than all of us

What a terrible, terrible waste

She said; I can make an authentic French 75

I wanted to swap places, I am not so rarefied

But I am a coward

Before the machinations of surgeons

What devour they do, to our poor skin

Does it really prevent anything?

She asked, laughing at the cat

Who is also old and infirm before his time

Still batting the window when birds come to peck

At crumbs of comfort because it’s those little things

She says, keep you going

Like my favorite soup, a funny film, the sun coming over horizon

Reminding me I can still

Breathe

I learn to appreciate life

From her dying

The morsel of me

Though of language I only know two and

Cannot spell in either

It seems

Life is savage in her cull

The bright and wonderful snatched

Who among us had an idea of

How to die?

Then she laughs

Her teeth still white, her skin waxy and hot

And says, oh dear you!

Who among us

Knew truly

How

To live?

A gilded age

The giant cicada makes a sound

my neighbor thought was a whistle

or a strange faceless bird

we imagined a long white beak

and thick black feathers

but it was the hidden molten cicada

and he is quite verbal

pursing a haunting music

as my cat refuses to eat his food again

unsure, is it his teeth? Or his desire

to slow down and curl up

once and for all?

I don’t guess their motivation

why the cicada sings

why I find the sound mournful

echoing my own inner feelings

as if I were writing out on clouds

exactly what was inside me

why the cat persists in refusing

my best efforts to keep him alive

whether it is right to let something you love

die even as

you think you can keep it

if the right time ever

exists to say goodbye

and why I don’t tend the greenhouse more often

as I put so much effort into

growing the little seedlings

do I prefer the solidity of well lived things

over youth?

thinking back to my own empty glass

and sallow bedsheets and

neglectful lovers

the wan asp of being twenty

like heirogliphs on walls

staring for eternity

not ageing, nor real

a gilded age

passing to creped hands in sunlight

and furrows from thinking too much

whether this skirt is a little tight

these shoes too high

the longing to be running barefoot

through high grass again, mindless

of any consideration

nothing around my neck

but wilted perfumed summer flowers

not the strain of trying to make

a life out of dry earth

with tears of disappointment

when all around seem so

tucked into their gentle cycles

and you are rogue

wanting to be among the branches

with the murmured cicada

listen to the call

much like the imploring whistle of a train

as it would steam slowly into town

every night at midnight

you would reach for me

and nothing else would hurt

Than any human hands

Many will say

Love cures all

Those without it

Suppose

Once possessed

No grief and loneliness

I would tell them

Even with love

The hole in the world can be felt

And standing in your life

You may still feel as alone

As when you were single

There is no magic pill

Only the kind of sadness

That is not situational

But sits on the perch of the happiest days

Like a drab trailing cloud

Raining when you should be smiling

And the cult of happiness

Declares you a failure

And the cult of love says

Why wasn’t I enough?

And the insistence of mindfulness and karma and gratefulness and other totems

Banish your bad self

To the hinterlands

Where supposed beasts lurk

In the rolling gloom

And you are there talking to your therapist

Minding your manners and saying nothing

Of the deep scratch underneath your skin

Or how you came to be

A changeling

Who unwaged by the ambelical

Left the desolate nest

And found more succor in the sad glass eyes of a stuffed toy

Than any human hands

Many will say

Love cures all

And you saw the old lady in her wheelchair

Recognize you as herself

Fifty years hence

Though you would not wish

To inherit her absences

Growing like an orange

Without sun

Will therefore capture

No taste

Shoulders

Have you been a pall bearer?

Hefted the weight of a life

On your knitted shoulders

Waited out a scraped legacy

The bare snow covered branches

Truncating desolate plowed fields

Bird feathers showing in peppered shake

A recent emptying of warmth

Wearing kid yellow gloves because of early snow

Have you? Ever

Felt the weight digging into your neck?

Prizing reflection from your mortal frame

For he who rides on your calcifying bones

The errant and purposed heaviness of death

What did you think?

Going home to lean on thin elbows at kitchen table

Watching scarred pigeons on the sill

Coo and jostle for favored place in good fat sun

How stirred your mind

To the carrying of a whole life?

The resonance of loss, an impression

Marking you sutured and changed

Oh Lord, anything but cantinflear

Survival

The man wasn’t yet forty

Had cancer four times

Told her; This time I can’t survive it

She asked; Why are you still at work?

Don’t you want to leave it behind?

Take a trip? See the redwoods?

But before he answered, she knew

The photos on his phlebotomists table

Of three little faces, told her why

And it made her angry that they both lived in a country where

Dying people had to work for their children

To receive healthcare

And she was more angry

With her own lack of appreciation

For a healthy life that she possessed

Without children

Or any reason to try so hard

And he was brave because he had no choice

And she was weak

Because she did

All they saw

All they saw were moments left by those who came before

Not knowing what they meant or who they were

Lain in their waterpainted graves like matryoshka dolls

Did they grieve like us, whetting their knives on totems?

To understand those things that cannot be understood

A child breathing her last, in dimmed swaddling

The ache of old age, enveloping once limber athlete

Love crumpled like fallen leaves, forgotten beneath

Did they yearn to be special? Noticed? Relevant?

Or glide invisibly through spun sheets of glass

Like early morning bakers rising their bread

Grown stale by afternoon, becoming food for birds

Such circles clasped in ever decreasing circles

Worn as sea pearls on mermaids smooth throats

Were they kind? Merciful? Fearful? Incomplete?

The sight of tilled soil and ruined land cleared of living green

Did it bury the same arrow in their quincing conscience?

Will time gently lay a wreath of forgetfulness?

Over their efforts as if never and not, their lives

Extinguished in a long roll of time and bundled up

To lie beside other oxidizing keepsakes and memories

Til the last person who remembered, was no more

So much existing, lost in favor of the clamoring now

All they saw were moments left by those who came before