Flowers grown in dark

close up of red rose on black background
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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.

Don’t have that kid

xrays-for-hearts

The therapist leaned back in her chair

light from the window framing the space in-between

“Your mother didn’t leave you now, she left you at six, many years ago

you cannot grief for, what you have never had.”

I thought of this as the clock wound its message of time

always against us, years apart, years unlearning reasons to love.

“What purpose is served in trying to reconcile when you neither know

why she has never loved you, nor what you did to cause this latest eruption

and given the certainty of it, perhaps consider, it’s the other way around, not

whole then broken, but always broken and never fixed.”

I tried to remember the last time I saw my mother. For a moment

I could not recall her face, or what she was wearing that last time

and my chest felt tight with anger at myself until it came and she

was real once more. I reached out in my mind, the way I have been

doing since childhood and tried to touch her, the image as always

grew dim and receded.

“The history as I understand it is, you never resented your mother

for leaving you at six, you defended this action when others condemned her

because you just wanted her to be happy, that was always more important

than your own happiness.”

I nodded dumbly. Silent and unable to articulate any further

response.

“She clearly did not wish to have children, that is no shame upon her,

however she did have a child and she left that child, with little regard for

that child afterward.”

I thought of the brief lunches, the walks down shopping districts, my

wanting to carry her bags even when smaller than her, a protective

fierce desire to do something, anything to win favor. How time seemed

so very, very short in those days, of fleeting moments built on years.

Want being the predominant emotion, desire for, longing, missing,

apart from, that continuation of chasing shadows.

“She had her own life.” I replied. Thinking of one of our last conversations

where she said; “Candy I don’t understand this need you have to be close

to your parents, I was never close to mine, you are an adult, you should

have your own life, when I married my second husband he became

my life. That is how it should be. We should not hold onto our parents like that

it is not healthy.”

As much as it cut me, like that metal string used to carve cheese blocks

I knew a part of me agreed with the part of her

who spoke of practicality rather than ‘duty’ and freedom over

the slavish obligation to ‘feel’ a certain way about people whom

many times we did not have connection with.

I recalled how much she disliked her mother, who was gauche, and

could not spell and only wore trousers and sensible shoes, who laughed

a lot and could sing bawdy songs and may have been unpolished

but also did not really defend her daughter against things

unbidden in the dark.

“My mother saw me as being like her mother, whom she

was not fond of. I was not the sort of daughter she would have chosen

had she had a choice, I had some things going for me, that she was proud

of, like my ability to socialize and make friends, she was always quite

cerebral and found it fascinating. She liked how I was good at gymnastics

and physical things, but my mind was not her mind, I didn’t inherit

her abilities, I was too emotional, too needy.”

“Perhaps it’s human nature to have a favorite child, to see yourself in one

of your children over another, to have preferences, but

if you condemn a child just for being different you are

instilling a life time of approbation and it seems, she was

treated very well by her grandparents who thought highly of her,

even her parents, building an ego and self-confidence, something

she never did for you, instead knocking you down, where you

didn’t have the ability to be so egocentric even if you had

tried.”

I recalled the time she told me she had never forgiven me

for my past crimes, I could not recall what they were, I do not

think she could either, it was more of a sour feeling she had

which I reminded her of, a mistrust, we both have that in

common, an inability to trust anyone, we do not sleep

sitting up, we take a long time to switch off, I found this

similarity comforting, she did not know it existed or the other

things we had in common, there were many.

“If I believed in myself as much as her, I would surely have

gotten a different response. But it’s a self fulfilling prophecy, if

you taint the ground water, the flower never thrives.”

In her garden, she grew roses, her mother grew roses too, one

Birthday I bought her many plants, she said they died because

of the weather, I knew she had not watered them, I did not

know how to reach her or please her. Lord I tried.

“She made it clear to you she did not need you or want you

in her life, she said she had not forgiven you for past trespasses

suggesting the woman who proclaimed not living in the past

held grudges from the past toward her only daughter

quite thoroughly.”

I knew what the death knell was, I knew it was a combination

of speaking out about my grandfather, her father, what he

was guilty of doing, and this, not out of malice or a wish to shame

but a desire to move beyond, to save, to love. It was the worst

idea and despite not being from a place of hate, was taken

as a betrayal, she is a lot like me, she finds it very hard

to overcome betrayal, it stays with her a long time, she

may grow used to pretending she is okay with it, but

at the back of her mind she seethes.

The second death knell was when my father, who

most of his life gave the text book definition of impartial

uninvolved, stood up for me against my mother not

wishing to destroy anyone but due to my illness and seeing

how much I had endured, thinking kicking me when I was

down was not right, he said so, and she never, ever

spoke to either of us again. My father who had lost his

brother decided this was okay because he said, life is too

short, although in truth, we were

all more than that, far more than that, our blood was shared

in a maze of snakes, I wished so much it had not come to

this place of emptiness.

“Your mother knows how to love and protect herself and that is

about it, she may feign love for others, but the truth remains

she is mostly concerned about surviving and whatever it takes

and that does not include you, never has, you are really an

after thought or something to feel guilty for.”

“I didn’t want her to feel guilty.” I said, thinking of

our conversation when she left, I am six, I sit in bed, my toys

are watching in the dark, their glass eyes gleam, she is crying

I have not seen my mother cry but maybe twice, I sense

she is on the edge, I want to help her fly, it doesn’t matter how

I feel it matters only that I save her, I tell her I love her and she

must do what she needs to. I meant it then, I mean it now, and

yet she thinks I am her enemy

which destroys me, every time I think about it, with her

father, the true enemy of us both, but she cannot allow this

truth to exist, as he is her maker, she must venerate his memory

even as he caused this breakage, even as we pay him homage in

our exile, she would choose him over me, the daughter whom

despite her belief otherwise, has never betrayed her, has never

been against her. I hear her say to me; “You must talk badly about me

as you criticize your father to me, you must equally condemn me to

him when you speak, you are two-faced, I have never trusted you.”

Words can be knives, they can be sharper than nightmares

piercing our armor, our very life blood, the sustaining force

we try to hold together with rags and pins, I wanted to scream and

say; “Please do not see me this way, you say I scared you with my

illness and you can not handle me calling upset, or afraid, yet

your husbands ex wife called regularly with just the same, you did not

banish her, and your husbands daughters did nothing of what

I did all those years, yet they are never wrong, how can this

double-standard exist when you know the truth?” My last

words; “I will always be here for you.” Asking her to speak to

me, be in my life, give me nothing but that, and she has

that power to say no, which she uses.

She would not hear because she has her version

although truth has no version only truth

I wish so much she could see how things really were

how beautiful we could be in those moments when

it worked and we laid down any grudge in favor of joy

life after all, is so short, so very, very short.

When you don’t matter to your own mother it is

hard to imagine why you should ever matter to

anyone

this is probably what I have struggled with the most

all of my life, though that is my fault for not being

stronger

feeling I am not worthy and there is no reason anyone should

want me or love me, or not betray me

I try hard, but I fail, again and again

it does not help that nightmares come true, you fear

and so it happens, she walks away, she does not

look back.

I hear her laughing somewhere, I hear her

living her life without me until one of us is gone for good

and then it will be forever too late

“She told me she read a poem I wrote years ago where

I wished that she was dead, but that was not the poem

I wrote, I wrote that I had felt the loss of

her all this time as if she were not alive, because when you lose

someone who is alive, it is worse in some ways than

when they are dead. That is what I meant, but she chose

to see it as my wishing her dead, which is the opposite

of every prayer I have ever had. As a child I would beg

the God I did not believe in, to save my mother

to keep her from harm. And the God I did not believe in

would not reply. Angered maybe that I did not, could not

believe or have faith,

in anything.”

The therapist remained silent, I knew from experience

a mixture of wishing I could just get over my goddamn

childhood and grow the fuck up, or is that me talking? Is

that my mother? I hear her voice often, sometimes she is

singing at a piano in the bar where she met my father

and I am as yet born, I go up to her, I am wearing a black

jacket and it has piping down the sides, I ask her not

to keep the pregnancy; “Take it from me lady, it’s better that

way, if you believe one thing, this is it, don’t have that kid.”

And I have a Southern Drawl which of course I have

never possessed, but how I wish she heard me and

I was never consummated, even as friends decry this, with

platitudes of; “Oh but think of the difference you have had

on this world!” Oh give me a break, none of us really matter

and if we could undo our existence, is that so bad? Is it as

wrong as taking an overdose? No, of course not, so get

over it.

I recall once she said I would

never be as talented as her and I could not write and then

I showed her my novel and she actually liked parts of it, yes

she cannot help condemning and criticizing, it is who she is;

The Editor, someone who knows and has a red pen

the very opposite of her parents, her weak mother who

did not stand up for her, her father who loved her the

wrong way, but what is wrong between blood? A lot I think.

When she liked a part of it, much as she tried to say it was

all irredeemable, I saw the surprise on her face and that

tendency toward hurting me and I felt happier than I ever

had just for a moment, before it was lost, thinking she was

proud of me. “You can’t take that away.” I shout up to

The Fates who have decided we are not to be together

in this life time and since there is no other (life time)

this is it, a separation, every day I live knowing she lives

and we are apart, it feels like someone has a hot iron

they are pressing it against my heart. Maybe it makes me

who I am, someone who cares too much, not everyone’s

cup of tea. Some people hate me on sight. Just like that.

I wonder, did she? Did she? Did she?

She said; Don’t lie about who you are,” but

we have all done it, it’s part of our fantasy, especially

if we hate ourselves, the only choice, else we’d not be able

to do anything and that was my father’s choice, one I

didn’t want to emulate, I had to find a way to function

without excuses, she couldn’t understand, she has a lot of

self faith, I had none, she abhors liars, but she lies too, only

better.

You see, I looked up to my mother

she used to say; “Never have idols, they are unhealthy.” She also

told me not to drink orange or apple juice, I did listen and

now I have no cavities, that is her doing, many things are

her doing, good things along side holes and pits. But

she was her own idol just as she was mine, so really

that’s a moot point, for a little child, watching her mother

who is always out of reach, I hear myself say; “Please. Please

don’t go away, don’t do this again.” Maybe that is

why she did, because she had the power, over me

who else would ask her to stay? Who else wants her?

Or any of us? Who? Foolishly I thought as we grew

older she would need me, that was a really stupid

thought, I berate myself, I never did predict her,

she is quite wild and untamed, a good thing, my heart

has loved her unwaveringly all these years

it has made me who I am in so many ways

good or bad, such as it is, I have grown on

a mixture of pain and loss, like a thin weed

can make life from between two stone slabs

but usually come the first flood or drought

it will be the first to

wither. She said; “You caused yourself to get sick”

I could tell her what the doctors said about smoking

during pregnancy or how my stomach has never been

okay, how can a child cause their own sickness even

before they get sick? No. No. It wasn’t me.

She is rarely sick, she has the fortitude of someone

who would will away sickness, I believe it. I try, I do not

succeed. Many times daily I speak to her in my

head just like when she brought me a marzipan frog

from a trip and I could not eat it, as it would mean

losing something of hers, so I coveted it, and she said;

“that’s so pathetic, you always do that, look now it’s spoiled and you

did not even get to taste it.” I could not tell her

“Oh yes I did, every night, when I looked at it, I thought

of you and hoped you loved me, and this gave me

so much joy, I was literally grown fat with it.”

Maternal instinct

Symphony

I am a mother

Though you are dead

I pretend otherwise

You feel me in that place that you are

And I sense you

In the small hands of my neighbor’s boy

In my urge to protect and let

Not one moment of harm befall

As if it were you, the ache inside

Sat next to me eating brunch

The waitress charmed by your precociousness

You don’t remind me a bit of myself

Just as my mother thought me a changeling

Who was the fair child she birthed? She wondered

Closing the door and walking into another universe

Away from the scold of maternity

It suited her to wear boob tubes and dance at 3am

Not wipe snot and vomit from the car seat.

OOO

And I see nothing of me in you

You eclipse a generation

Returning to be her and a little of your father

He had eyes that swallowed me whole

When I moved in his arms and invariably

He took and took and took

He also gave a little something of himself

Unwillingly in that hour before savagery

Even sadists have their moments of foreplay

It’s how they build to a crescendo

It’s how we fall for their slick words and

Hard falls

He filled me with you and underneath the green dress

I could see you swell and rise on the tide of my brine

Before the stairs before the marble

Cool on my burst cheek and the pattern of scarlet

He led me in oxblood to that single moment

We could have all ended there

With the moon ripe and redolent behind us

The smell of candle wax heavy on our hems.

OOO

There is no way to undo the circles

Looping through memory like planets fractured against starlight

There is only the clenched fist and a jump

Free wheeling in air, suspended

He watches with apocalypse eyes as I give birth

To the emptiness afterwards

Because his vision is winking out

Through time as we catapult and swing low

He tells me; you haven’t changed, your skin is still firm

And I splinter there in this path of thorns

The beating is joining bruises like daisy chains

You gave me life and then, bending close

Took it away with a snap of your callused fingers

We lie beneath the elm tree with our name carved

And you drink from my breast a milk of sorrow

I wanted you all to myself is your buttoned apology

It does not last .. it comes with the sharp pull on all fours

More hurt than can be described by sign and movement

Bearing a child and starting over bloodless

In one shattered moment

Leaning towards stairwell

Seeing you waiting

Below

Beckoning me

To fall

Afterbirth

Doigts croisés

tumblr_lp73476pl31qznd0so1_500Watch the fingers

of the eater

parting her meaty pieces

enveloping her meal

she will eat you alive

if you climb onto her plate

you may think it impossible

but cannibals waste nothing

in their pursuit and sate