Steel eyes

Why

don’t older people

express their despair

as much as young?

Do we numb ourselves so much?

Shame? A mask we don

to pretend we’re well

when everyone knows

ageing doesn’t bring respite

from demons.

It is the singular reason

aside chubby cheeks

I wish to be

16 again

for all the friends

who unknowing of pains

to come

had the tenderness

of a hundred, 40-year-olds

who have seen

and are

gone

into their

steel eyes.

It interests me to recall how much time a young person will give someone who is upset. There’s visible difference between what a young person will say and do, versus an older one, that I think has nothing to do with becoming more mature. Older people have little tolerance for depression. You would think, based on this, older people suffer it less, though we know this isn’t true. Is it to do with hope? Societal shaming of seeming weak if over 25 you still give it your time? I always wonder what those over 40 do by way of finding support and people ‘hearing’ them, when the entire world seems to shut you down by a certain age, including yourself.

New girl

A broken bottle

a discarded hairbrush

totems within totems

effigies of past and present

a light knock on the door

she’s wearing a French halter dress

her ankles are slim like my mother’s

she’s not my mother

her skin is brown like my mother’s

she’s not my mother

her black hair is curled like my mother’s

she’s not my mother

her perfume speaks of wanting passion

it belies the faux expression on her face

attempting trickery

she bends to me and pretends to be enchanted

by childhood photos

they are not her photos to touch

with her careful, manicured pink nails

a color my mother always hated

she had more style in her little finger

the one with dupuytren’s contracture

more a question mark than deformity

it didn’t stop her playing the piano

carving her place in my father’s heart

and this imposter? Flicking her way into our life

like a cheap fan you buy, because you are sweating

I want to tell her, using grown up words

I may be six, but I know what she’s up to

with her shifting glances toward my handsome father

with her endearing crossing of espadrilled feet

if she touches my mother’s hairbrush

I will burn

this happy house down

Salvation

Detail lies

prism-like

at the bottom of the cheap glass

heche en Chine

blurred by straining eyes

brokenly watching colors

as they wink in and out

made indistinct

by tears, long rinsed

clear of salt

Weather vane

Before they laid bricks on her and called her a place

not a thing of flesh and light

before she lost her ability to mimic cat

and jump unheard

out of open windows

before her arms lost their ache to

live unbridled unburdened in

the clear surround

of joy

she was a light footed creature

listening to no scold

obedient to no rule

her father called her willful

her mother, spirited

her grandmother covered her face with faux shame

though she hid a smile

cousins were told to mind themselves

around her urging sprint

lest she rub off

some of her mercury

some of her wild saffron

the thing compelling her shine

when all seemed still and lifeless

a hurtling progress to wholeness

they forecast her early demise

said nothing, nobody could subsist

as fevered as her run

Zola Bud without shoes

temerity pulling her strings

as if puppetmasters were sea sprites

fashioning their dreams on tierra

with undomesticated weather vane

bound tight to wildest storm

trethevy quoit

Stand here

moss washing over rock

hands in time

I think of all who have passed through

their atoms blessing sky

if you were here with me

your Irish bones and Welsh soul

how many years will I wish

you were with me

this girl of shifting blood

drawn to the pasture lands of Cornwall

more than any purposing Chaîne des Puys can evoke

the Sioule wrapping herself between empty valleys

or the sorrow of les Pyrénées, a gentle horror

languishing in Cathar country

their ghosts stumbling between worlds

I never belonged in those spaces

memory an acerbic ¿Cómo se dice

*as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods

just as I do not now, own a home

in the barren tumbleweed of Texas

unattached, they call it ‘winged pigweed’

even as we sneeze it away to carry on

lonely pilgrimage amongst spoiled tarmac

perhaps it wasn’t even trethevy quoit

but you, and your pure love

filling me with a peace

I have not possessed since

(*line taken from King Lear, Shakespeare).

Weigh Scale

Do you hear it?

Relief sounds like

a girl’s slip

a bird’s wing

your eye lashes fluttering

against your blushing cheek

Do you hear it?

Suffering sounds like

cloth pulled by stick across dirt floor

chalk pressed violent into board

fingers opening blouses raggedly

your chest bone protrudes

more than the year before

Do you hear it?

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!

I join you, though I am not you

Your smell stayed like a red hand print

Trying to grow in spaces that do not fit

I join you, though I am not you

Lingering in the periphery

Feeling a hard pain in the bones of my chest

Knocking like persistent woodpecker

a wick of red against gray

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

Never tamed

Oh love

death is a transition

just as life is a bird

who interupted, will startle

leaving a smudge of indigo

against stark whitewashed sky

the shush-shush of neighors raking leaves

whose auburn crepe bows in protest

for they wish to lay still with the grass

turn seasons over in their golden hours

this artificial need

to tidy, put away, is but one method

of seizing a control far from reach

I fold in your arms, light gloaming through shutters

out of the corner of my eye I see marks on my skin

the furlough of time and suffering, chaffs against endurance

your eyes look oriental as you age

their downturn makes you smile even in pain

lends you a kindness strangers respond to

quiet is infused with our collected breathing

in this moment we live

sheltering from portent

I see the neighbor’s son helping his mother

he’s grown thin and reaching like the trees

not yet aware of diminishment

or why his mother holds back tears

when the sun paints day dark and shadows roam

casting their memories, as we did once with a torch and our hands

your shape lasts in my mind, a totem

I’ve carried an ache so deep in me for so long

it seems to exist independently

a Golem of my own creation

perhaps he will bend and lift me up, when next I fall

weighted by emptiness and disappointment

maybe he will spin me around in browning leaves

escapees of the neighbors rake

flung in unfettered defiance

a string of thoughts

stirred

never

ever

tamed