Back to life

What is this place that one returns to?

for some, possible, easy even

to put aside a person, shelve them with other memories

like a box of postcards growing yellow

whilst I was always the girl who climbing on top of boxes

found the postcards and brought them down

splayed like restless tarot on my lap

try to fathom, walk back into time

absent people, love letters sent to

girlfriends now married, unrecognizable

childish handwriting, burst of emotion scored in yesterday’s colors

I have always liked stories and wanted

to read the secret histories of those

who would not share them with me

so your letters I had to put

in a green river one by one

for fear if they were not wet and destroyed

I’d read over and over til you came back to life

finding myself

running lonely highway to your home

knocking on your still familiar door expecting to see

your living breathing face, cheeks infused with color

smiling in that way only you did

when I stood before you.

When someone has died

they steal air from the room

leaving behind closed windows

rattling against wind and chill

you have to go in with heavy shoes

make noise, shake cold from your bones

open them wide until pure sunlight

blinds primal darkness

I recall

how your hair looked when

sun stroked it in streams of light

how unbroken perfection of your skin

resembled fruit, summer time and children

lolling about in gardens upsidedown, tongue out

though you were older, I always felt

protective in that way I imagine a parent may

reaching for their child, smelling joy and motion

of their life laid out ahead in patient sillouette

I have always been remote and stood away

from frilled crowd with hidden daggers

content to observe and only participate

in flung arms of dancing and those raw easy things

not requiring sustained inspection

it takes a lot for me to wish

to share myself with another

to open up those parts of me, I struggle to reconcile.

unceasing criticism can close off even the thirsty traveler desperate

to sit by warming fire and stoke shadows to divination.

With you, we were two unsupervised kids

sitting on the dusty floor of my attic

opening boxes of memories with fearless hands

we talked without fear, then as

day began to show her pink slip in sky

I’d take your slim arm and lead you

into my bed where

light enveloped our heads like halos and we tasted the rapture of undisturbed acceptance

see in the eyes of one born of me

part of you

our mingled DNA taking lilac wing

in the electricity of love making

I could smell you on me afterward

and loathe to bathe

stayed writing by the window

watching you cycle away

the strong muscles in your skinny legs peddling like

knock-kneed urchin

turning the corner

always leaving

the circumfrance of you behind

radiating on the road

like a mirage

and in my hair and on my body

a ghost or whisper of

someone absent and close

if I could have kept you safe

or stopped time

but the heart is a closing flower

once damaged she ushers her dancers

fold into velvet, trap the dream

we were strangers, then siblings

of sorrow and laughter

like night and day play

on the fringe of their fading

your dusky skin against my pale

never enough time

to say what I wanted to say

in language untranslatable

to mortal minds

we existed as pollen

carried on high wind will

strike new life into that which sleeps

drousy and given over to liquid day

and I have never returned to that place

without a throat full of pain

wanting to call your name

hear your return

the indent of your existence

anything but

silence

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And how

Hear how the fox festoons dusk

With larkish bark the color of a young girls best pitch

And how

Bathed in sweat I consider mortalities strange lyre

The photos of parts of me transposed and caught in time

Nothing is real and all is magnified by the mind

As she weaves her dream about our smoky heads

Tiptoeing over slate roof tops like ballerina forced to cat burgle

In this sliver of reality I choose

To disguard any mantle of victimhood

In imperfect slices of myself I have survived

Nothing will tear me down, save the last licorice root before tree fall

I have played acquiescences tuneless keys long enough

This is what growing up feels like at any age

The acceptance, not all is well or right yet

If I look, I know my worth

I’ll not give it away to appease those who seek

Through their own brokenness, to strip me of waterproofing

Time is too drunk on her singularity

She is in the bare knotted tree branches

Bowing together in subjugate to winter’s breath

Fat cheeked children licking plum juice from woolen fingers

And though separate, we are in conversation from

The very moment of our meeting

I am talking to you and listening close

As river water hides stoop of cold

Dashing its relentless self across us all

Bound and sheltering

From chill? From ourselves? The secrets behind our eyes or

Those said things unwrapped and steaming on kitchen table

The fire changing light to ghosts

I hear three generations

The reflection of another casting

My own breakage

Gathered with bright leaves in sacks of deposed

Being told fear is a disease we let enter

Turn it out, rent out those rooms you no longer inhabit

Turning as I have, to you

The shining of your throat covered in words

I’ll not let loose

Waiting for you

At hungry waters edge

In any country in the world

In any language

You run ahead

Turning back

The half moon of your face

Drawing light

An infusion

Aching

And the unseen fox

I imagine her as you

Bold wordless vibrance

Full tail, muscular legs

The twitch of beauty

Stark against tarmac

Owning darkness

The savage rent

don’t put up the tree this year

because in different directions

festivity trickles, a sloe-gin reminder

of loss

wintered in the dyed hair of visitors

who pinch our cheeks and proclaim

you are healed

when we know

such things rarely occur

the savage rent may

gloss over with skin

a scar as smooth as ice

can cut despite its fragility

they hand out mince pies

to carol singers who stamp

their booted feet in earnest

whilst we have no need of lights

winking and ushering

memories best left unwrapped

she has gone on with herself

a banchee howling her moon song

like a new chapter in an old book

the leather worn and much used

but still the characters implore

one more story grandma

and I am mending old clothes

to fit around my leaching soul

as ice turns back to water and

skies reveal

another season

another set of rituals

this time I will not

hang a wreath and pretend

to usher the year in with confidence

sometimes all we can do is

darn the holes in ourselves

tighter, less gaping

almost neatly

though anyone looking closely

would see how they

sung and stretched

the fabric of us

perished beneath

Behind your eyes

DSJPQ56W0AEq2Dl.jpg largeWhen I stopped dancing full-time and entered delayed puberty

my breasts swelled like a lily in a pond

at first it was kinda cool getting attention from boys

then I hated how they jutted out and called ahead

like car headlights

slowly tracking, flashing, blinding

in those days of Flashdance and Fame

the three L’s; leggings, leg warmers, leotards

loving in the afternoon, running to studio

dancing with the smell of sex on my stomach

other girls ate salad and cardboard

threw up in the bathrooms

bound their breasts with cloth

I admired their long necks and sinewy thighs

the tightness of their waists and flat chests

my own puberty felt like something out of control

foreign and unwanted to me

I wanted the lean girl of childhood back

the one who climbed trees with one hand

hung upside down

eating apples

there was too much

attached to owning breasts and thighs

even his circle of me dimmed

looking at some of my friends

the ones with slimmer hips and shoulders

still in their girl-doll-bodies

I with my woman seeping out

became a thing of disgust, or so I thought

when I carried his child, my breasts grew even more

wetting the front of my nightshirt with wasteful milk

his eyes took in the sum of me and disgusted

he looked away

always preferring me hairless and skinny

like a girl not a woman

no make-up, wearing little thin things

someone he could control

so I had a sickness in myself

of warped images, desire and lost babies

starving myself beyond the pale

it wasn’t hard, I had little to lose

soon I ran for buses on the breath of feathers

circling my waist he’d say

you remind me of Audrey Hepburn

being tiny, I decided it had been a dream

no child, no loss, no lack of desire

he sexed me every night until sate

leaving bruises on my legs and arms like

vampire bites

but always turning his head away

like he was thinking of someone else

when he left me for that girl

who was dark-skinned and voluptuous and healthy

I realized being a little girl didn’t keep me safe at all

after that I never gave myself away

to people with eyes that looked straight through me

or hands that grabbed to own

a piece of me or what I possessed

though I had no idea what

that was

lying by myself in a small room

smoking hashish in the dark listening to

Tunnel of Love on repeat

I tried to turn my heart to glass

only my body wanted to be awoken from her slumber

a virginal boy, with no grace and long hair

filled my nights and my bed for a time

I taught him how

to roll the perfect joint

and study, where time ended and pleasure began

once he asked

why do you bind your breasts every morning?

they are beautiful

I turned from him

my skin burning with secrets

and did not ever reply

for who can disclose the litany of pain?

as it lies

like a sleeping child

behind your eyes?

Between us both we made it whole

1076417_Two_women_by_the_sea

Lean in, listen, I will only say it once

the shame, prevents a repeat

I must learn, not to be the person I have

my love, I’m not the girl you think I am

I don’t know where she went

I just stepped out for a moment & everything was gone

she might have gotten old, lost her way

that’s what happened when you keep

getting in the way of yourself

i’ve been waiting years for the sun to rise

remember how I used to be such a good dancer?

it was the tempo we inherited in each others grace

we turned like sundials who responded to moonlight

it hurts to think of those times

your hands entwined in mine like forest branches

creating crowns from winter flowers

piano keys winding down, ebony and ivory shivering

as opposites tripping velvet usher of hope

connection is such a rare place to find

change wrecking in tiny pinches & blows

your laughter echoing through stung lights

tea color turning gardens into amber

glasses of red wine like jewels against your blush

it was like a key I carried for years that never fit

you were the lock opening to me

you know when it’s right because everything has music

even when doves roost in pink dawn

holding back their flight until I open my eyes

the exquisite weight of you in my arms

i’d been living on scraps & empty cans before

you filled me with reasons to be full

loss is always worse when it’s blazingly real

and so little is real in this little bitter world

I could taste our memories on my tongue

after you left me standing in the rain

I saw you jumping up, catching drops with your mouth

felt the emptiness of your absence like a whetted knife

gutting me like a hunted thing, disgarded after pursuit

the funny thing was, I never blamed you

if I hadn’t felt so much, if I wasn’t the person i’d become

when bad things happen I always look in the mirror

and see why the arrow sticks

someone taught me that so long ago

I can’t even remember how to undo

the self defeat

but when we danced close I forgot those things

waiting to live & witness easy moments

of blue and red & your color, which is indescribable

I told you I would never leave you alone

the last time I trusted, it felt as if we grew up together

two pieces of butcher string nobody wanted

one of them got on a boat, found the horizon of you

aimed her direction like a sinuous archer

everyone else knew how to get through this labored life

my tricks were imploding, I had no wind up key

but you gave me the confidence to try

when I couldn’t do it anymore, you held me to the light

we flew past the wreckage others feasted on

I never expected to lose my one friend

as much time that passes, feels like only a second

slaughtering against shattered words

since I was that young smooth skinned woman learning to

cleave to you

it’s a curse to remember everything

to know no-one will ever come looking for me

like you did

because we recognized in the other

a reflection

something similar & broken

between us both, we made it whole

even though you are gone & where you sat

is cold and emptied of any trace

I still

look out for you

when it rains I think I hear

your footsteps in puddles, coming home

smell your wet sweater on hissing heater

your handprints on my cheeks, pressing hot kisses

my heart aches like it has

inherited the loss of all four seasons

of your absence & no amount of time

has the power over the memories of

how much you meant to me

they haven’t yet

invented words sufficient to convey this brand of grief

losing yourself in another brings

clouds murmuring over hilltops beckoning

darkness from fearful surround

and if you close your eyes

it almost feels like I am

lost in the spiral darkness

with you

sharing death

like we shared

everything of life

together

The fear of others, becomes the dismissal

Long before now

there was a time I did not write

could not write, would not write

I danced, I moved, I climbed, I painted

with our heads together like arrows, friends and I

toy rabbits, ladybugs, a glow in the dark star

would entertain ourselves with crayons and pastels

plasticine and Lego, wooden blocks, old socks, foil and glue

I built fortresses in the woods near my grandmothers

house where she looked out occasionally, a glass in one hand

erected camps in trees fallen in the storms

or beneath protesting furniture that wasn’t meant to be moved

turning into a gypsy tent, bedding, blankets, string

anything the imagination could seize and shake out into magic

I did not write

even then I felt

words were just words

so glib and easy

words like; ‘have a good birthday’ from

people staying absent

words like; ‘you know I care’ from

people not caring

I couldn’t spell, so I didn’t reply

I didn’t enunciate, so I didn’t call them back

the phone would ring in the distance, mournfully

if it got too loud, I turned the music up

all this by the age of ten

I was free of words, they were not my language

a song and the movement it encouraged was

an elongation of expression and urges

and later, a dance club, even at 14, seemed safer

than three sheets of echoing, empty paper

rubbing shoulders with strangers who sought like me

to raise their arms through the strobe lights in search

of something missing

not seeking drugs or sex but the fury and beauty

of dancing away their sadness

I didn’t know it then

acting upon instinct

the instinct to run, when you cry

dance when you want to jump

push away those who clamor for attention

stop feeling the pain you do, every single day

whilst some of my friends who were depressed

listened to The Cure and other sorrowful LPs

I scorned anything sad and

stepped into the light of disco, rock, electronica

in time I found there were other things you could do

to turn off the hurt

and I did them ALL, every damn one

There is an honesty to admitting to yourself

I don’t know what’s been happening, but I’m in pain

everything I should rely upon has gone or never been

I am alone and I am scared, I haven’t yet grown up

nobody will help me so I have to help myself but

I don’t know how

I learned it felt good to lie in bed with someone

even if they were nothing more than warmth and key strokes

I learned it felt good to give rather than receive

because you protected those parts of you, rarely revealed or wanted

I learned drugs were not a menace but a street form

of antidepressant for kids who couldn’t tell their hurt

didn’t know where to begin or how to heal the

emptiness and anger growing in their bones

I learned if you are crushed badly enough, time and again

you grow a skin of fur and you become a feral creature

not human anymore

but living for the night, pulse of music playing

brief flicker of excitement, when you forget being yourself and all that comes with that

the disappointment, the heartache, the rejection

you’re just a shivering wretch, gaining admittance into forbidden light

you’re just a body that can move and shake and vibrate

beneath the waves as they engulf the roar and scream

every morning I swam 25 laps

every night I ran in heels for the bus

every stroke of midnight I transformed into anyone but myself

it felt good, it felt more real than trying to

inherit the mantle of despair and unwanted closing walls

I climbed out and didn’t go back

I never wrote down a word

not even when I received

another letter stating things that were never real

words were lies, words were lies

I’ve always been drawn to truth

Somewhere in those years, something changed

maybe you get lazy, maybe you forget your way

or the pain becomes something you think is who you are

or the hurt is a coat you wear without knowing you do

I stopped swimming in the mornings

I quit dancing in the evenings

in my blood lay a virus of dormancy and despair

it grew and grew like a wild flower teasing out of concrete

until I’d forgotten my way through the elaborate maze

I was just another lab rat, waiting to live their life, turn to ash and regret

Now the irony is, I’m writing all the time

I write how I feel, I write how you feel, I write out

the hollow cries kicking from inside out

but words are fickle, they are not your friend

words convey what you mean, and equally they contradict

words don’t get things done

words are on pages, often unread

If it would work I’d burn my thoughts

watch them light up the night on the 5th of November

put on my running shoes

go to you

take you by the shoulders and shake

all my words out of your head

run with you down the highway

find the place we can be in my mind

get on the dance floor, pull you with me

try another communication

another way of getting through

anything but the languages that leave us empty

mistrustful, doubtful, not waiting for more

we’ve both been there before

at the end of a letter

shaking our heads

for all that was done, versus said

is often quite the opposite

you tell me, if I knew you, I would not like

the person I came to know

but you are wrong, so very wrong

it is in the imperfect there is wonder

I’m used to people backing off, going cold, erecting walls

it’s what I experienced every day

the fear of others, becomes the dismissal

there is another way

let me show you

but not like this

let me show you

in between words

with every gesture of my soul

give me this

When a lover replaces the ghost

je-tu-il-elle-1976-007-naked-women-lying-on-bedYou always said I was so beautiful

in your arms I let myself believe

in many things

now I do not have those assurances

it’s like being born again and starting over

i want to tell you, because I think you’d understand

whom else would I ever share this with?

how difficult it is for your girl

to no longer be that person

I have to grow up, grow beyond you

I’ve been living in your rule book and my own intoxication

maybe it’s like a recovering alcoholic

we took our share of hard knocks

I’m going out on my own and it scares me

I hear your voice in my head saying I can do it

find myself believing I can

on the far side of pain and loss, meeting myself again

leaving the sick room and its soft slow death

closing the door on you when you passed from me

there was only the outline left in cooling sheets

someone unrecognizable in your place

an effigy, an imitation with nothing of your gentle ways

I want to tell you I found someone

a girl who leaves me breathless, with eyes like french glass

but there’s things we can’t speak of

for some wounds, carry their own salt

we were the best of friends by the end

still, neither of us needs to know

when a lover replaces the ghost

I still feel so alone since you died

thinking I can hear your answers

on the breath of each nighttime wind

maybe I imagined you all this time

slowly forgetting what it felt like to be whole

and silence has always been my music

now I lay you down here, in the quiet dark earth

to rest, become a memory without strength

for we who continue to live must

shed the weight of sorrow

rising beyond what we thought possible

run forward when we are beckoned

until we can

run no longer