The look in their eyes

Walking around, you don’t even need to convince yourself you’re all right

such is the layer upon layer, you don’t even see, until it creeps up and then

blocking out the sun, darkness invades sight and everything is at once, changed.

I am standing beneath awning, the sun is nearly out, it’s a windy day and the chimes in the back garden keep a steady sound

as I have always been, I am attached but not part of, another dynamic, a family with their own ways of doing things

I bend to learn and listen, I smile when expected, at times I think I feel comfortable with my toes dipped in

he has sorrow etched on his face though he is still young, his eyes betray him and a slight quiver in his mouth when

she clearly doesn’t care

I want to ask her, what happened to cause the rift, but everything is fragile and tenuous as if we are tiptoeing around

a sleeping giant

since childhood I learned to pick up on what to avoid and what to leave untouched, the manners of an outsider

accutely atuned to other people’s needs and emotions

not quite an empath, I can tell when they need time alone, if I should make myself scarce

and all at once I recall, aged eight or so, doing just the same, sitting on a cold flight of stairs for many hours

picking at my shoe laces, tying and untying them, making stories with crumbs and the wrinkles in my joints

hearing their argument echo through the thin door

I am good at placating, massaging egos, staying invisible when necessary and picking up the pieces afterward

her eyes are flashing, she puts on a pair of high heals and I can tell what she is thinking though she would never say

she wants to run and pack a bag and leave and find someone else, anyone else

and his need is as palpable as paint vapor, she is strangled by it and her own indifference

I want to ask; You loved each other once, where did it start to fall apart?

do you think they’d even remember now? Unlikely. Too many years building walls

to keep each other out, they forget in their effort, the beginning of them and how

happy they looked in that photo.

I want to tell her, you have everything you need here, I can see it in his movement, it is as if he acts out the ache he feels

I want to tell him, if it’s going to be this way forever, pack a bag, leave before your heart turns to dust

I want to save them and mend them, and make it right

for the sake of the child whose toys we pick up and put neatly away, as if that

will save anything, or stop him from one day remembering

the look in their eyes

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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

The preserve of her emotions

Get up.

When you were ten, your body was a springboard

You bent in the wind, dashing forward.

Get up.

When did you start to believe otherwise?

With the coming of stiff mornings and anxiety in your belly?

As life crept nearer to unknown trials?

When did you give up believing?

You could again, hold the Fates cupped in your hand

And blow to scatter, seed to four corners.

Get up.

The white sheet, covers a multitude of unsaid

An imprint of the living, breathing, fear of mankind.

She appears to be a well behaved woman, with hair needing to be trimmed

But like a cake of many layers, the face fit for public consumption, is just wet paint.

If it was acceptable, she’d grab the quiet man, stooping to take her vitals

And craw in his ear, the gravy of her distress.

What would she say? That has not been said before? Who would care? In an ever-ready world powered by rhetoric?

When she was eighteen, she could command attention just by crossing her legs or flashing her eyes

But what a dismal game that felt, a fraud of poker and thighs.

They only paid her heed due to the bewitchment of youth and some promise it told their nether regions.

So often she’d mistaken lust and hunger for love and care

But they were no more than empty vessels, wishing to dock briefly in her harbor.

Her game, if it was one … of fishing for favor, a warm body, a pretend consolation

Left her desolate, like an addict without pipe

All her fancy, dried up and rotten in the artifice of it all.

And then she’d tripped over that invisible and superficial line

From youth, to something men did not wish to define and women morned.

She however, felt relief.

Not to be the party planner, proving her game was fitting in

It was gentler to command less and need no filling or straight flush

Though they say a woman’s worth, must be found in herself

For her sell-by-date leaves her invisible to the world.

And that was true. She did no longer

Turn heads or find men leant in, too close

Instead she was a ghost, haunting the specter of herself

Unsure why she claimed purchase on earth anymore.

It was as if the mic had been turned off

And everyone left the room

For the audition of younger models next door.

She was not a mother and could not connect

With married women who worried their husbands would stray, with downy cheeked baby sitter.

Nor was she eager to fill her face with plastic, just to feel a little of what she’d lost

(Why was it a loss?)

There seemed no path cut out for castaways of normal

No clear direction to take, on the other side of age.

Men … they remained mostly unchanged

Still harboring the illusions of youth, with rapidly balding heads and expanding guts

She felt so much … but who now wanted to hear her words?

Where was an audience for silver haired creatures of Artemis?

If she’d been an owl, she’d have screeched at night

And people would have woken and said; Goodness, that sounds like murder!

Such was her need to share

The preserve of her emotion.

So get up.

Though it has been long since you hopped on one foot

Or worn brightly colored hats, just because you could

And not, for the fondle of admirations dusty nod

But the sheer delight of being at last

A woman of substance.