Yet, still kiddish

With iridescent sun and Busy Lizzie’s, the day

curtsied bonne nuit

as shyly as a virgin

as boldly as a lover

as robust as an old woman

laughing from the pit of her well-lived stomach

vein-laced hand flung back in half-made-gesture

the opacity of her skin belying

the depths of her eternal sea green eyes

(For Derrick)

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

Absence bound in absentia

I’m fading, lover

day old bread thrown to wild birds

their wink gleaning

our false rise

lover … I’m fading

in and out

washed by time and exposure

old camera, old film

new development

the blink of an eye and we’re

gathering hats for our funeral

see, there’s a swatch within

me

wild and unfettered

the brush of red in the hedgerow

uncatchable

redolent with longing

to be more than yours

greater than this

dusty shelf

empty bed

absence bound in absentia

immutabilité

In the afterlife

There is always something to do

pick up the leaning umbrella before it hits the window,  leaving

a tell tale smudge

clutter. Le désordre

le bruit, le fatras,

a maniac for the mind seeking calm

in Upton’s Jungle where only heat bakes

rocks inedible

cushions flattened by visitations, last nights vestige

reminds me of when the bad boy dropped me off at my house and I ran

whippet thin and full of bile through tall yellow grass before sun was up

thinking if I could get inside, wash every molecule off, it wouldn’t be real

for what is real? Who is alive and who is not?

Was it real that you gave birth to me? Or did I come out from your forehead

like Athena without guile, just seeking, the end of the puzzle

wet with embryonic writhe

a dot representing the center, a square we are lost in, a triangular shape of a woman

scything herself of humanity

yoga mat lying on the floor, when no one is looking, legions roam across

their sticky melange leaving detritus and DNA – filthy castings of a viral world

and we think there’s a purpose to cleaning? When our minds are so

filled with dirt, the stain of then, the need for order, no end in sight

you died before I could recall my own conscience

still playing in the sandbox with Pavlov’s dog

salivating at lunch time when the ice cream truck sounded

turning the corner into our 1970’s neighborhood

all the kids who grew up to be wrecked, all the kids with abuse

shuttered behind their sleep-filled-eyes, what we knew and did not know

before we lived, before we were fully conceptualized

clambering out of robot heads into uniforms with starched collars

and itchy labels. Derrida scolds me for forgetting

the metaphysics of presence, how the hair startles before

we are aware of the interloper.

My mother, without me would have been

the same, oppositions casting wide circles around the other

in extravagant orbit,

her elegance like a chill shadow

against ivory, casting divine repetitions

she may once have wondered what it would be like to

behold a daughter and then, cleaning the smudge

the umbrella made on the glass, moved on to watering

the thirsty plants, who never receive enough

sustaining in this infernal heat. Montaigne’s grotesques

filling empty space with coherence, as monsters dressed in provocation

attempt to mediate man’s presumption, for our limit is sifted clear of

lasting knowledge in the face of holy entreaty.

I am and I am not

here and there, once and before, dancing to the last song

of the evening in your arms, unable to

tear myself away from the grand illusion

that life could be smooth like a record with

little grooves created from their undulate

music to move the water inside our soul

carried far until we grow

weary somehow of the weight

and set it down beneath a tall tree

where we shall never move from.

(First published in Free Verse Revolution, 2020). 

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.

Two opposite ends of the same breakage

I a child

asked her, an adult

what does it take? To be merciful?

How much effort? Will it hurt much? Why

doesn’t the whole world

try?

And she, an adult

fiddling with her rings, two on each finger,

because she had run out of places

to exhibit her finery, her sophistication,

she, thought of where she would go

when she left our run-down, poky house

and did not return for supper

and what she would do

when she wasn’t weighed down

with runny nosed children and yellowed aprons.

She, who has the mind of three bright men

and a heart that did not really hold space

for people who could not spell, or those who were

slow, ones who did not impress, their light not bright

but stuck in amber, she said naught,

for she liked fine things

over much

and that did not include

wellington boots and children’s well played with toys

dragged through muddy pathway, leading to small houses

where there is life, oh laughing, gainful life, but raw with

the knuckles of everyday, up to their elbows in greese

and the machinations of surviving.

I, a child

asked her, an adult

what does it take? To be merciful?

watching the baby bird, turn to bone and feather

beneath the great conker tree, its crimson roots

like great yawns beneath moss, reaching through

heavy clouds with the hands of imploring worship

and life

so harsh and unwilling, to include ‘fairness’

would steal away humanities belief in kind deeds with its

brutal parsing

which is why , my grandmother, sitting on our stoop, paring apples,

with a sharp knife inherited from her father

told me once

(and she could never spell, for she left

school early to work in poorly paid factories

only once managing to get through

The Communist Manifesto).

Child, we must be good, we must be kind.

For nothing else knows how to be, they simply

act upon their instinct to survive. Like

the lambing season, when a new lamb is

born and the mother dies, we turn our eyes

heavenward but there is no tenderness, only

the brutal knot of nature, felling her herd

till balance is restored. Our human hearts

with our aching over suffering, fit poorly

with the callous hand of nature, she must

cull with her sythe irrespective of who deservse,

there is no mercy as we know it, in this

whittling of life. Only those who survive

and those who do not, dying in bleached

bones by the thoroughfare of our journey.

I thought then of you, with your

fine clothes and your well trained mind

and empty rooms filled with piano playing ghosts

how you were

much like the nature I saw around me

beautiful, wild, out for your own gain,

surviving at any cost

and I

the strange flux of humanity and terror

seeking to be merciful

among the debris of our eternal battle

with light and dark.

I knew then, why you despised me

why I loved you

it is like the fable of the scorpion and the frog

it is your nature

to sink deep into the foaming earth

showing only your glacial tip

as it is mine

to seek mercy, in unyielding hearts,

two opposite ends of the same breakage.

If we always run from being stung, in Summertime

sometimes we miss out on dawn

thus we must permit

the risk to gain, a possible reward

high in silvering trees

where the sleepy bears

hide their honey.

In search of wonder

nobody reads in between the lines

or maybe everyone does

the day she removes her wig and stands

bare skulled for all to see the shroud of mud

her halo, her halo, he is four feet under, he is

not still, neither she, neither we

the ancestors who

fallow the earth, when heaven is closed

from their potential remains, beauty emerges

like a song setting the vibration in your pores

a string instrument without music

pushing back to the day before you

realized you were weeping uncontrolably

as you cycled along overgrown tow path

in search of blackberries, to stain the urge

a badger or a fox would do

something with color and freedom in its movement

take me, take me, I am not content or part

of this stifled world of pretend

I cannot even stitch straight

I see in the glassy eyes of the stuffed, pressed

hotly behind restraining glass, their silent

screaming visage

please let me become part of your make believe

I would live as Mr Fox did, beneath the earth

and brew my cups of magic there

as the irregularity of goodness atests

there is nothing worth waiting up all night for

not now you are broken, not now they are all

left, their footprints ash inside my mouth, a

late form of christening in Winter’s lament.

I miss you, the people whose faces I knew, part of me

part of nothing anymore, they are the last of my kind

what kind is that? When all was pinching and no more intact?

I am broken in ways, mosaic cannot even repair

there are chinks in my armor so raw, unpolished, without spit

sufficient to wipe the dread

they weep blood before I know they are there

no oil, nor prayer can save , no benediction

nor virgin kneeling in fecund earth with all the days

of her life ahead like fresh laundered sheets ready

for their slaying

those with eyes to the sky

they see not gods, I fear

but the winged parallel of our loss of mercy.

I am tired before I am awake

my eyes open to the sound of water

drowning is like the advent, it proceeds over a series of

days, as we attempt survival, urging ourselves to dress, button by

button, the tender details, crashing like hungry waves

against recalcient rock, what will bleed when it

is devoured? What will remain whole in spite?

Remembering your touch, electricity galvanizing

withered skin to longing, growing restless beneath

layers, your reach of me, the place no one finds

I dreamed of you, leaning over, a painting in motion,

your small hand

tethering me to the furnace of your eyes, a language

I couldn’t hold faith in, Je voulais tellement te croire

who is to say, you do not possess beneath your

candle light skin, the fur of ravenous wolves?

How to sustain faith? The thirsty plant, gaping curtain,

the light that gets through

falling on our faces as we watch dust particles

collect like lovers in ever shining quiet

whilst we grow old with the fatigue of loss,

its shroud a warmth against cold nights alone

thinking of the furvor of youth, its glossy coat

shaking off trouble like a lean legged hooker will

stand straight backed even in snow. Our tempest

for life, an appetite, whetting, scuttling blatently

down deserted roads, the roam of longing,

I tie my hair back, pinch my cheeks redder,

watch the violet play of day and night run

her unwashed glass through my eyes, leaving

a smudge of blood, a tinge of what’s to come,

the descend of love, as it bursts full and redolent

throbbing in our ears, like shells pressed tight

blocking out the stifle, hearing her thinning,

each year, a chink of life, apportioned into past

a transaction of dying in
silhouette, the boy swam

against the tide, his muscles straining, ever deepening

wade of escape, we all

keep to our tea stained hour

the rustling moment they were there and photographed

haltingly and aching behind inherited furniture

their eyes like mine, covered over with

old coin

sent to another realm, behind, stand behind

time and her exquisite fangs

drinking the lost salt of this land

her daughters

her sons

they grow weary of watching

and turning slow like dials

in dusk

their shape sharp

against the ochre

bleed of diminishing

sun

elongating until

their form is

altered ever

more.

The refugee heart

gratitude
Todd Davidson/Illustration Works/Corbis

Before hard faced words and tightened bouquets of spite,

came silence

The child swirled in embryo, unscathed by adult cast of hate

Yet unknowing we inhabit cruelty, like a brand in darkness will

light no way but vengeance, reflecting shadows of lost conscience

against petroglyph walls

stories dissipated in forgetting what is true.

This child who once had temerity and self-worth clad about her, the vestige

of some right to exist, perhaps.

An instinct, as weeds will thrive in exhaust and skinny cats climb insurmountable

to glut on that thrashing impulse, called survival

words now scarred, like badly bandaged souls do not forget the echo

of a tender heart turned wicked, nor that merciless piercing

through skin thought impenetrable, to embrace hot metal

as if it did not catch our very soul on fire.

Once, we all wished for, love, pure and unfettered, blooming as night rose

carrying her scent against warm air, inhaling vetiver magic, aware then, of all things

our cache of hope, restless in the waves, we yield, undulate and count

moon peal across black water, spinning youth into gossamer

too fine to hold us securely.

Those burnt coals raked certain, beneath the old impulse to run

mindful of how we grow, the thirst for something real remains

tantalizingly distant

against the roar of white waves, crashing tirelessly to shore

reducing our ankles frigid with the climb, a vaunted capture

of sea — receding against open hands to places beyond

our feeble reach.

As it grows light, the footsteps of those who walked ahead

finding debris of promises washed to shore, frozen by their spent fuse

and silvery starlight echoing her distant mockery of possessing any

certainty

those, who for some reason remain here, despite themselves

hollow in the want for familiar arms to gather them up whole

pressed to a beating heart, the murmur of security bound in

crescent sky.

A reddening brings the dream, she swoops low and achingly,

casting silvered birds from their reverie

that we not succumb to our collective despair

finding the drawers and cupboards of truth ransacked and emptied

by unseen robber

and instead, wait by the edge, long in the rising sear of sun

blackening our backs with shadow

for the sound of her footfall, across the dunes, sunk in splendor.

Her journey long, she made it anyway, even in the worst heat

of midday, when insects burrow against the burn and her mouth

opened in an O for the drink of your love

a beacon on a jutting rock, watching seagulls mock the air

with white foamy lift

wanting only for you to need

in equaled measure.

Flowers grown in dark

close up of red rose on black background
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For so long I learned how

to unlearn living

taking from myself the stuffing of hope

letting it sink into water

to become sea dragon.

For so long I learned how

to unravel my sense of self

until she splayed like un-knotted parts

lost to sense, blown away

by wind and rain.

It is hard for me you see,

to understand the codes others live by

grasp a secret language of self-worth

belief in the core, where others cultivate

confidence or ego in neat parcel.

I had instead, a drive-through approach

shake-n-bake

leave the oven open

for patients to escape the asylum.

I was born a weed

between dirty post-war concrete

little watered, little attended to

I grew and persevered alongside

dog piss and empty coke cans

my color brighter than the cultivated plants

in your garden for my contrast to

yellowed grass much bleached by

urine and exhaust.

But weeds and thin things of little substance

need more than a little luck

to grow up whole

at some point I stopped leaning toward the sun

chose moonlight as my mistress

where over the oval of my sadness

I mistrusted the rest of the world

for she seemed to me then, full of

unkindness and pinches from cruel people.

In safe-guarding ourselves so long

we can easily forget

the chime of purpose

the rain of love

we think we can subsist on existing alone

that’s what I did,

survived without living.

It was long ago now, but still it seems

only yesterday at times, I met you

with your bright electric eyes and your

shocking lack of restraint, how your

madness compelled you forward with

a lightning rod as your scepter

I felt your hand reach for me

and I was undone by the intensity

of us. A jewel within a cave

that for so long held no light.

When you stopped loving me,

it rained for forty days and stayed

dry at night, I walked empty roads with

bare feet and saw flowers like I had

once been, growing fitfully by the side of

street corners, not knowing yet, what they

reached for or whether fate

or courage, would give them

wings.

If you take someone broken who didn’t know

how to be whole and you give them

love, they will either break it accidentally

in their desperation and fear, or love will

consume them and leave them unable

to live without it.

I felt without you;

incomplete, erased, unwilling

to live on, there seemed no point

for I had not learned to love myself

and perhaps I never will,

it’s in my blood, my DNA to be

shockingly empty of self-worth

I exist without living and it has become

a nasty festering wound refusing

to scab over.

You went on with your life because

for you, living wasn’t dependent upon

anything but hope, you had enough of

that to last several people’s lifetimes

it was, I think, the bequeathing of your

sickness. A magician claiming to

turn things to gold, when all he

possessed was slight of hand.

I however, did not know

how to forge hope or find reason beyond

habit for waking each morning, every

day I did, the burn grew ever deeper, never

really resisting the urge to

consume me whole. I heard voices

they would sing lullabies of

jumping from tall buildings

as others would have dreams

of flying. Mine was bent toward

destruction, a solace in the imagining

of ending this charade.

Tarnished people with little reserves

are good bait for hungry souls

who feast on their need to be wanted

with the savagery of a nation.

Since you, I have lived with dying almost

every day, the punctuated purpose of more

than wiping the slate clean, devoid

of consciousness, tantalisingly distant

I am haunted

by memories of joy like a slow

sword delivering poison

too intense for most of the world

I remain alone in my grief

binding it to me like a silent

child.

You knew this when you met me, you let

the dogs of your heat devour what

little strength was left, for survival

isn’t easy when there’s no water in

the deepest well.

I blame myself of course, as all

good victims are taught,

occasionally I wish for anger

to cleanse the pain away

even if it left just charred parts

and blackened ruin, it might

be easier to bear than

regret and memories

as potent now as the very day

I let my defenses down and you

walked in, radiant and unafraid.

WE are shelters for the needy

but so often, the Narcissist chooses

the same abode and for those of us

who grew without succor, or enrichment

there is nothing easier than our undoing

at the hands of a cold heart.

If I had a daughter I would never

let her flourish trapped between concrete

I would watch her until she grew

strong and had within her, all it takes

to ward off those who seek only to

bleed and consume what is good

and untainted. Perhaps it is too late

or maybe one day, I will learn

a way to keep growing

not just existing, and it is possible

in time, the scars of you could be

replaced by someone else. If such a

person existed, I cannot fathom, for this

world is often frozen in its

eternal demand for the cruel and

the unkind to conquer

and dance on the

fallen necks of

flowers unable

to keep facing

toward sunlight.

Still.  We.  Exist.

Perhaps in time

we will do more

than simply survive.