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?

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Balm

Just when you constructed your best notion of life yet

little occurences surprise, like rain on your neck

she is a woman of verdant verbena vitality

she lives in the tropics with the song of Finland

angels arrive, winging oceans

her voice wrapped in this time and others

lends a balm, sincere and lasting

like a fairy touching glass

turns dream to day

(For Raili. đź’“ ILU.)

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

Full circle

Princess

My neighbors and I played down by the two deep ponds, circled by hedges

warnings unheeded, crashing through nettles into leach infested waters

our Gallic faces screaming in delight at frog spawn and plump lily pads

one sister, a redhead with gap-tooth grin, the other darker, like late season honey

who knew then? Among the crags of the Pyrénées-Orientales, with their Catalan tongues

we’d split and divide like wheat, losing touch, floundering each, to find our way

as kids, our favorite game was building tepees, wearing feathered headdresses

many years later, sitting in a park in Ontario, I met an Ojibwe mistreated by the state

we sat beneath banners and he told me his Algonquian speaking father was full blood

how his people killed their Inuit neighbors and lost their totem in broken alliances

from this he said, they learned, honesty is the only worth a man possesses

his mother was a French migrant, from Perpignan, on the Spanish border

the very same town I first learned to dance, to make it rain, or so I pretended

I wondered, if somehow fate had flung herself in strange arrowed pathways

all leading back to tepees and kind men, who felt mercy without recompense

since I left and became an immigrant, the gentlest souls I have met, carried

Native American blood in their full cheeks and mercy in their hearts

reminding me of daubing my own face with white stripes and how

we never had cowboys or guns in our games, just long striped feathers

and the goodness of children.

 

(For B, Mark, Jean, Crystal, Lane & Jack, who carry the blood and make it count).

 

Walked with angels

You are the wonder of the world
a red man come from desert

you saved this girl from drowning in sand

pricked her lips with cacti juice

told her of the stars in your mouth

collapsing mountains

summoning sleeping giants to lie beneath us.

With cicadas, you wove me a blanket of safety

though you had nothing

you gave me all.

From the empty handed

comes the greatest gift

unfolding like paper water lillies

leaving stigmatas in my palm

the shape of echoing stars.

Never apologize 

Dearest

for being poor or empty handed

when your feathers are full and sunset lifts you high

the circumference of your heart

longer than a sincere word

taught me humility

and how to know 

the tenderness of kindness comes often 

from those who receive no thanks

for they are not rich

nor need those things to sustain their souls

walking with angels.

You are a man of your ancestors

truth in the words

as the bell chimed, you took me to be yours

pouring salvation into candles 

lighting my way to freedom.

So many years I had been caught by the neck

twisting in the wind unable to escape

the trap of circumstance

and in one pull 

you gathered me close and saved me

a hunter turned tender 

for the fluttering of his people

bestowing goodness like late harvest.

From the empty handed

comes the greatest gift

before we reach heaven

we may have still

walked with angels.

The best of tales

I fell hard, such is the consequence of a colorful lure

Flickering in shallow water lit by hope

the world was messy, like a thirsty rag soaked with blood

still not gaining sustainence

sickness an albatross, urging me to frail edge

I had yet to learn that words can possess no value

be simply pretty things, we are misled by like Xmas baubles, turned over to reflect pattern

how can a writer realize, words can be emptier than a hollow tree?

people who write them, do so with convincing candor all enveloping like hard sales pitch

it’s impossible to believe they’re just words, without meaning, or worse, deliberate opposite

of truth, that sparten ideal, sucking ice for nourishment

when the wet ass hour comes, and it always comes

those who stay, are not those who wrote long entreaty

not the flatterers, cake-bakers, trumpet players

they are usually the last you’d believe, quiet, unobtrusive leaves coloring your floor

when your loud friends have quit you, it is they who step up and inquire

are you okay? Do you need help?

I learned this directly, as if fed by a poisoned spoon 

the ache of losing louder voices and reward of quiet ones, whom you didn’t believe cared

because you listened for the caucophany and wordsmiths who

know their trade as story tellers, so very, well

and I, who also wrote stories, fell hook, line and sinker

for the best of tales

the one where it’s all about them, and if you fall short you’re out

why it took so long to see, the value of things as they stand

plain in the rain, but firm of foot

is down to the fanciful nature I had

before damp veil was torn off and sickness

cast her long net and kept you underwater without purchase

in that drowning you learned, the only lesson worthy of a mortal

it will not be those who come, bearing gifts, cherry lipped

it will not be those who say; you are wonderful, adorable

it will be the person who seems aloof and speaks volumes

because sometimes a story teller is just that

a teller of stories without depth, milking our need 

they do not stay when you reach out, just the length of the tale

long or short, it always comes to an end and then

they go on to the next book and you are left

dangling with pretty words, tied in useless bouquet

now I don’t know what to call myself

“recovering” of some sort of fairytale lure

and in that recovery I find the simple joy 

of people without tall stories
 

This is to thank so much all those magical folk I did not know would step up and to acknowledge those who spoke loudest and did the least by way of mercy. Each to your own I learned and I grew.

 

Radiance

Do not become bitter

When friend you thought is none

When calamity strikes her skin drum

And those you relied upon do not come

The world

Is a magical place of nonsense

What you know is often undone

By the whim of mercury and emotion

Little stays as you may have assumed

But in the hour of your isolation

Witness miracles

From the trees they unfurl

Familiar in compassion

A true heart rarely demonstrative

A kindness never published

Those with mercy on their tongue

Seek no recompense

Silently they stand at your side

Holding you when others did not show

Too busy in flamboyance

For the meak shall inherit trust

It is they who need make no false promise

Sincerity is not shouted from rooftop

Actions are louder than fancy words

Seek not the grandiose, who say they love

Take instead the slowness of certainty

You know when you fall 

By the tenderness of unexpected visitor

By gentle compassion and

The companion who you never knew you could

Rely upon 

Such is the mystery of things born in hard times

And the redemption of hope

Blooming

Blocking out disappointment with her

Soft and steady radiance

This poem is for those who selflessly were there in a supportive letter or word during the hardest part of my life. Please know it was you who got me through and my gratitude cannot be expressed enough but to say your kindness was everything to me. Thank you so very much. I have learned that true goodness comes often from the least expected corners just as those who pretend to care are often just hot air.