Still so changed

lungsThought I saw you today

resting on the cream tile beside our silver fridge

a sign of my eyes seeing ghosts or fading out?

The doctor said; Watch for ink marks and sudden black spots

just like your coat, as you leaned in to clean eternal

not you, this time, or ever more

only my shoes and socks, black and white as

your fur

recalling when we traveled, back when we could

before lock-downs, before freedom was something nobody

took for granted

how in the arroyo of the desert we climbed

cactus flowers and box turtles, lazy sunbathing snakes

finding purchase of indigo rock

how my spirit felt released in that stark landscape

greater than any city, eclipsing us

as you searched for things to kill and torture

though you possessed a kind heart

a little metaphorical

a little incidental?

Our bid for escape, as now we are closed and shut up

you lying beneath red earth, turning to desert

I am still above ground

wondering at times, for what?

Another road trip? None would be you

nor would freedom taste quite as sweet

though I expect when released

people will emerge

dazed and half willing

shaking off their forgotten selves

staring about for stars and clothes

meaning and fireworks

just the same

as it ever was

and still so changed

and still so very

changed.

And tell her to stay

cotton-in-braille

My mother sits on the side of the bed, it is 1980 or 1999 or never or sometime in the seventies or perhaps she’s not really there …

Her indent remains after the door closes, after the light is extinguished in the green hall way, where usually people go to sleep and she goes away, away, away …

Even then I could not see well, I squint into the half light, I look at the painted gypsy caravan wardrobe my parents picked up in a flea market before I was born, the cheap thin wood which now, years later, would be considered ‘antique’ – oh the absurdity of those things.

I think of them, crouching on elastic knees, abundant youth, painting, red and blue and yellow. I think of the song I learned in nursery about a rainbow, I think about gays appropriating rainbows later on and how ‘gay’ is not how most of us felt. How appropriation is always ironic.

When I began to stop wetting the bed, my father bought a calendar and stuck it on my wall, he would let me stick stars on the days I did not wet the bed, when I got enough stars he said, something great would happen. It had to be better than the machine I’d had the year before that ‘buzzed’ when I wet the bed and woke me up. I didn’t see how sesame seeds and electric buzzers would stop any child peeing in their nightmares.

A week later I opened my curtains, there was a stuffed toy rabbit on the windowsill, it was slightly damp from being there all night, and it smelt like fur and home. I still have it. It still has me. I never named it. How do you give a name to the earning of pain?

We lived in a basement, it was moldy in the Winter and cool in the Summer. I couldn’t see the sky, I grew to like the idea of living underground, of burrowing deep into the earth beneath city concrete, where the bodies murmured against river mud. I believed in Ghosts. Ghosts most certainly believed in me, they were my companions.

They shimmered past in half-light, caught in doorways and shining windows and dour corners. They contorted into devils by the astigmatism of my eye, becoming faces with fangs, fingers reaching upward. I wondered even then, why I feared the unseen more than the seen. Why what was not real felt more real than real? How ghosts could become my torment, when the world outside felt equally remorseless? Why not put them away and tackle that which existed? Perhaps that is exactly why. For a child who did not know how to make things right.

My wardrobe was little for a child, I was little for a child, my bones were plastic and breakable, they snapped when I folded myself tightly into corners, and the four cheap velour rabbits bought one Easter sat alert and watchful on the windowsill with a half moon shining in and lighting the face of the wardrobe into a grimacing creature.

The rabbits and I heard things. We saw things. Through bad eyes and deaf ears. The sound of my mother leaving, her presence skirting the room like a flamingo dancer, her lithe form, her long graceful arms with impossibly thin wrists, the smell of her on my skin because I was born of her, and then born not at all.

A clock did not exist on the wall, it did not tick down time, it did not remind us of what we had lost, it was not there, it left only the outline of its being like a circle set by sunlight on fading paint. A sundial without hands, without notion of time. Existing as planets exist, not realizing they circle the other.

My clothes grew tight as I elongated and sloughed the years, I kept an empty bottle of my mother’s eye make up remover by my bed, it smelt of her, as her hairbrush did, I wondered how she could live without her hairbrush. I did not wonder how she could live without me.

The tenants of the tall building were unhappy and they smiled a lot to cover it up. They said things like; We will be glad to look after your little girl. When my father cycled away, relieved, lighter, seeking a woman, seeking freedom, I stood on the doorstep and watched and the ache in my chest felt like a piece of lead piercing unnamed parts and I thought of my mother, how when she was my age she watched her parents sail back to Africa whilst she stayed still and I realized … how she and I were interchangeable and only the years were different.

Once, my mother said her mother put perfume on a handkerchief and left it for her and she kept it under her pillow. I kept my mother’s hairbrush under mine, it smelt of the oil of her curly hair, and the damp of my tears and the dust of time, sweeping her skirts along the empty floor.

I am alone now. As I was then. It feels the same. It feels worse because there is no illusion. Nothing like the future to hide behind and solace yourself with. No ‘things will be better when you grow up’ after you have grown up and realized they are not.

Again we are back in my bedroom. She is standing up. She is sitting down. The moment of her departure is fuzzy like my eye sight and I tell her, in years to come I will lose my eye sight and you will gain yours and my father will still be cycling away not knowing they piled on top of me and beat me to pieces, or that three little boys could throw marbles so viciously until a little girls heart burst and she ran away.

She turns to me and says something but it was twenty years ago. It was never. It was yesterday and I cannot see what she says or how she says it, to know if it was meant or just words spilled onto temporary carpet. I cannot know because she did not know, and our act was just a part of a grander outcome, both of us have forgotten and remembered many times since.

I love her in a way that slices through the fat and gets to the bone. I love her in a way I cannot articulate meaningfully but she knows and that’s the worst part, she knows. Maybe ever since I have found my father’s bicycle and learned to follow his trail, looking for her, looking for myself, seeking the way out of the high rise and the pinching boys and the ugliness that turns away when they see what is happening because maybe they are glad.

It is a day later, a year later, a decade past. We sit on roof tops in the weak sun and eat boiled sweets. Ants pick at our toes, dandelion’s die and float in their seed form to be wished upon and we leave them alone, already knowing, wishes are foibles.

You say it won’t hurt but it does and I knew it before it happened but I let it happen because of the ache inside that needed anything, even if it was pain.

The roof top is strewn with the debris of childhood, and my mother’s brush no longer smells of her, it goes through my hair like it was only my straight, boring hair it had to brush its entire life, as if she never existed and we did not sit on the bed together, the curtains closed nearly completely, only a hint of darkness spilling through.

If I had remembered I would have told her then, do not leave me when the time comes in twenty years, do not say goodbye a second, a forth, a nineteenth time. No matter what you think I have done, how disappointed you are in me, what disgust you hold in your heart. Instead remember this, the moment we sat quietly and I put my hand in yours and said it was okay and you cried and I cried from then until forever, without using my eyes or my ears or my mouth.

My father is cycling away from me, he is squinting ahead as if he sees something worth seeing, and I am turning, watching my mother close the door, asking that it be left open just a crack, to let the light in, hearing her steps in the corridor, not quite believing she will never come back. Because children always believe in magic. And Ghosts. And Monsters. And boys with marbles in their cheeks and demons in their eyes.

When I woke next to you and you asked me if I had a bad dream, I watched you as you sank back down into sleep and your hair fell across the pillow, the tangle and darkness of it against white linen. You could have been her, I could have been him, we could have never had a child, I ask you not to, please, do not, I don’t need to be born.

That’s why I was late, and why you struggled for 40 something hours in labor, they should have cut you, small as you were, small like me, but they didn’t, maybe it was cruelty, we have seen a lot of that in our life haven’t we and it wouldn’t surprise either one of us, or maybe it was the belief that women were strong enough no matter what, and we know that to be true also, even as we think it’s a damn shame sometimes.

You were strong enough and I was strong enough – to survive or endure but never really thrive – maybe you did – perhaps you were the only one who could – I had my eyes set on a future that never came, and a bicycle turning the corner, and my grandmother waving me from the street as I climbed the stairs to my class, and just as she turned to go, I ran back and I came outside and called her name and she said; Why aren’t you going to your classroom? And I wanted to say; Why would I go into a classroom? I’m not going to learn anything there? I have learned more here sitting on this bed, watching my mother leave, hearing her say things she did not say, wishing I were as powerful as the God of the wardrobe and not being able to eat my marzipan frog she brought me last. Because she gave it to me and I could not consume it and for it to be gone.

And you would have understood because you had your emotions close to your skin as I have, which makes you easily despised and sometimes admired. Because you were a coward as I have been, letting her be crushed by your absence and thinking it nothing at all, when you set sail again and again leaving her with a handkerchiefand a loneliness the size of Africa. I could not fill that loneliness although good God I tried many, many times, but when you break someone, you can put them back together, it does not mean they can hold anything you then pour into them.

She was the most beautiful woman I ever saw, and that from a child who didn’t yet know how to lie. I compare my lovers to her now. Wonder if they could beat her at chess and laugh because I know they could not. Think on how she managed to stay strong even in the harshest currents, when I cannot always stand without leaning. I look nothing like her, there is only sometimes in the cast of light, a glint of her in my eyes, looking back and when I see it, I ask her, why didn’t you spit me out before I was whole, so that you never had to be disappointed and I never had to lose you, then and now and never.

My grandmother taught me to swim in a basement, I dreamed the river would break its banks and my little home would be drowned. I dreamed my father was on the bottom bunk and I on the top and every time the water receded he was lifeless and I could do nothing, except scream impotently underwater for him to live. My grandmother died before I was old enough to let her know the truth, that I was not her grandchild but a water sprite dredged up from the river mud and set to swimming in dreams not of my own. That I had no parents but the marzipan figurines of night terrors and mares and I peed in my bed until I was too old to tell and old enough to lie.

Learning to swim was the only thing I learned fast and well, everything else came slow and difficult, just like trying to love someone who doesn’t love you, or expressing things too painful for words. I could sit with my parents and paint my wardrobe but I could never, ever, close the chink of light coming in from the slightly opened curtains, spilling on the floor where she walked across, soundlessly, growing dim and incomplete like the china dolls set back on a distant shelf somewhere.

Now I wear heavy glasses and even that is not enough, I cannot drive at night, I see things that are not there, and do not see what is. I think that is quite ironic really all things considered. My stomach hurts to think of how easily the brush goes through my hair, and how girls with curly hair never needed hairbrushes, so how hers became mine, seems like it always was, and the bottles she left behind were empty when she was here, when she was gone, when she never was.

If one day I am asked, I will say, I tried my best, I learned to swim well and I could pick up one of those weighted bricks from the bottom of the azure swimming pool but nobody came to see me swim so I did not compete well and soon I gave it up altogether. I will say I remember my grandmother running after a man who had broken in to watch us swim and bellowing at the top of her voice she scared him off, all 5’1 of her. I think my mother would laugh at that story, she has a wonderful laugh, it lights up her face and makes everyone else in the room join in.

We will not invite the shadows, we will not ask the ghouls or the disappointments to attend. We will stay the two of us, and wait it out. The past, the present and the future. We will talk on other things and not linger on those that prick and make us bleed. We will circumvent the pain like a sleeping lion and I will make her smile at my stories, the way I did once, once some time, some where. I have forgotten exactly when. The two of us, so alike and so different, sisters, strangers, with love the size of a river, with regret as deep as a drowning. Things never said on the tip of my tongue, burning with love, as we are quiet on the edge of the bed, with my mother about to leave and yet, still there, and me, always leaning, leaning towards her. Wanting to reach out. And tell her to stay.

The fixation & the vexation

susan seddon bouletSometimes there is an unbuckling of

temper and fear and loathing

mixed into indigo and strewn

in furied air

we pick it up as

a smell long forgotten

taps long dormant senses

and despite the years, regain

a moment mislaid

your arms doused with powder

glittering like another being, turning,

you, spectral and otherworldly

an afterglow of fiesta, a street

littered with signs of party goers

their tossed colors, a mélange of remembrance

we grind and mash and rearrange

clothes strewn in multi color love letters

on unpolished floor

seeking to find in electrified connection

that dizzying light

buoying briefly from surface

telling of depths few venture

where usually we rest, bobbing and sailing

absent of passion, thinking like the face of a clock

about slow steady movement, predictable pauses

spasms only in the imagination

or when a familiar song stirs a disquiet

whilst below, in regions beneath our reach

gained access through mutual need

briefly like the flick of a match

sets sulphur stalking cold corridors

only there, unbeknownst to the world

and her grave tick-tock visage

we earn closer, sloughing skin, molecules

separating individuals, ages, castles, skies

until on the windswept summit we fall

clutching each other in entreaty and relief

fading from sight, resisting wholeness

becoming starlight

only then, your damp hand caught

somewhere inside me, my bruised

lips smarting with the pressure of

cascading into earths center

do we know a place that is only ours

where we are pre-Denisovan and

holy, beneath the candle of a human’s

little watched life

that shallow wick, curved in entreaty

for meaning, for Gods, for monsters

and your rounding stomach, wet with tears

salt and oxygen and loss like a tableau

of everything, a table set for two

we sit obedient and fatigued

the lines of us, drawn before we arrive

breaking outside the cast, little cracks

small fizzures

with the fixation and vexation

of mortal love.

Kristiana Reed Interview / her second book / Flowers on the Wall

Recently I had the great fortune to interview one of my all-time favorite modern poets Kristiana Reed and here, alongside her interview, is a short of her reading one of her poems from her second collection of poetry, Flowers on the Wall. This collection came out yesterday and can be purchased here.

Candice: You have a background in Classics and you write a lot of very high-quality poetry that pays homage to your learning. Do you feel that helps you as a writer? And if so, how?

Kristiana: Thank you. The fact my degree is in Classics has afforded me a knowledge of mythology, of empire, of how history repeats itself, of the beginnings of poetry in the oral tradition, and of some of our earliest poets (Sappho, Theognis and Hesiod). Consequently, I find myself alluding to the past, our legacy and ideas which perhaps enrich the poetry I write. I think I’m very influenced by Homer’s descriptions of nature, Ovid’s darkness in Metamorphosis and Virgil’s idyllic landscapes in his Eclogues and The Georgics. This said, the study of Classics is very Westernised and Eurocentric and is therefore limited in this sense; I would love to learn more about the ancient empires in the East such as the Abyssinian and Persian empires and explore the literary tradition which was born there.

Candice: What inspired you to write poetry over say, prose or some other art form? Was there a specific genesis or was it almost an outpouring that became something more formal?

Kristiana: I still write lots of prose but I am more confident with poetry. I have a love for the brevity in poetic storytelling and I am insecure in regards to prose and the development of plot, characters and action. Poetry was my way to write about my Nanny’s (Grandmother’s) garden (which I still refer to as a fairy garden) and my way to express moments of fear, indecision and love as a teenager. I was told I was good at writing poetry from a young age so I guess I stuck with it and I remember my A-Level English Literature teacher telling me even my essay writing was poetic. It was never a conscious decision but I’m happy with my choice.

Candice: Who influences you as a writer/poet and why? This can include any type of artist or non-artist – explain what about their output influences you.

Kristiana: Again, I have no specifics here as such. I am an avid reader and I absorb storytelling. I remember images or phrases for years so sometimes these become a starting point for me when writing. Musicians are an influence – I have vivid memories of sitting cross-legged in my bedroom, aged twelve, reading the lyric book inside the CD case for Avril Lavigne and Evanescence. Even now, I often judge a song based on lyrics because for me they are just like poetry. Lyrical poetry was poetry set to a lyre; nothing much has changed apart from whether we pair our words with music or not.

Kristiana Reed reads one of her incredible poems “Tattoos for the Living” from her collection Flowers on the Wall

Candice: Your work is very pastoral in some respects, something I deeply appreciate as modern poets often stay in the navel-gazing pews and you are unafraid to really stretch outward into any genre. But your appreciation of the pastoral stays with me because you really know how to bring to life your surroundings. Do you feel where you live has influenced how you write?

Kristiana: I have always got lost in my surroundings and this stems from childhood. Already I have mentioned my Nanny’s garden which was a constant and burgeoning with blooms (I could easily watch the seasons from my slide on the lawn). My favourite memories are often associated with places and so I felt such freedom when I moved to where I live now which is an area between the town and country. There is a wheat-field at the end of my garden, woods a short walk away and the quay. To me, the natural world is magical. I always thought I was magical in these places and I guess I still hope to harness this feeling of hope, space and joy. I would also argue the cycle of nature is the best metaphor for life.

Candice: I noticed how prodigious you have been since Covid 19 and your wonderful movement of writing a poem in response to a poem that inspired you – almost daily. Do you find moods change your writing or are you able to work through any mood and produce solid work despite how you feel? Was it always this way? Is discipline in writing something you learn or something you are born with?

Kristiana: As a teacher, from the moment lockdown occurred in the UK, I was secure in my job. This meant I could work from home safely and found I had more time in my day. No longer standing in a classroom for 4 – 5 hours a day, I began to write more often and then the ‘on Reading’ prompts were created. The process of sourcing these poems and then sharing my responses with people and reading their pieces has been wonderful. I’ve had to teach myself the discipline of writing every day or every few days and I am aware that come September, this discipline will give way to full-time teaching again. So, in short, discipline is taught. I do not believe any one is born disciplined. In regards to different moods, I’ll often try to harness it where I can and let it fuel the work. If not, I’ll cheat and post a poem from my first collection and unashamedly plug it that way…

Candice: Do you see a future for poetry once we get over our immediate love affair with online memes? What does poetry bring to 2020 and going forward that prose does not?

Kristiana: I think the argument ‘online poetry is nothing but memes’ has been raging for so long I’m not sure it is even valid anymore… It is a very cynical view of a community which thrives. Through my use of social media platforms, I have met talented, fascinating and brilliant people. I’ve had the pleasure of reading collections I would never have discovered if I had stuck exclusively to my local bookshop. I think we are too quick to belittle online communities for what they are, communities.

Mainstream media will tell you the boom has come from Kaur’s Instagram poetry and for some reason we should be ashamed of this. In fact, whether you agree with the accounts boasting thousands of followers for two-line statements, who are we to judge what is art for some people? The fact an audience exists suggests people enjoy it and I’m not prepared to sit on a high horse and extoll what we should and shouldn’t be seeing from poetry. Poetry is an artform and thus subjective. It is a different entity to prose and so again, I do not think it will be anything more than prose will. I often read several books at one time – novels, poetry collections and non-fiction. All genres have their merits and reasons for why we should get lost in them. Life is far too short to get caught up being critical about how others consume art.

“I have learned so much about editing, designing and formatting through the process of creating and releasing two collections. It means I am perhaps prouder of them because I know how much of myself I have put into them beyond the written words.”

Candice: Bravo. well said. I completely agree with you! How has teaching influenced your writing if at all and what would you eventually like to do with your writing if you had the chance?

Kristiana: Directly, some of my poems are inspired by interactions in the classroom and what I endeavour to achieve as an educator. Teaching English also exposes me to a lot of poetry from the poets we may consider the ‘greats’ which has helped me construct the ‘On Reading’ prompts each month since June. Eventually, I’d love to have a series of collections which very much chart the passing of time and how I will no doubt change and, hopefully, publish the novel I’ve had in the works for almost two years now…

Candice: What is the most important thing you have been told about your writing that stayed with you and helped engender your next step in being a writer of poetry?

Kristiana: Nothing necessarily springs to mind here… when I wrote poetry as a teenager I shared it with very few people. The moment I realised I wanted to be a writer of poetry and to share my work with others was in the early hours of a morning in 2016. I couldn’t sleep so I wrote. Then suddenly I had an urge to let what I wrote out into the aether, if you will. Thus, my blog My Screaming Twenties was born. I wanted to document my twenties (kicking and screaming). And actually, I’m glad it was an inner voice which drove me to take this step because I haven’t regretted it once.

Candice: How does building a community of writers versus FVR and other mediums, help you personally as a writer and what are your goals in doing so?

Kristiana: Taking over FVR from the wonderful Nicholas Gagnier has been so incredibly rewarding and that certainly translates into building up a community around myself. I know we often look at creating a platform and audience in the frame of ‘How can I market myself?’ when FVR and spending the last few months working hard to establish and maintain the platforms I have, has taught me the value of genuine connections with like-minded people. Sharing the work of others not only makes you feel good but it draws connections between yourself and others. I’ve found through putting the work of others forward, I’ve benefitted in a way which feels organic and true. In regards to this community, I may or may not be considering an FVR anthology on the suggestion of a regular contributor.

Candice: What inspires you the most in this life and why? Do you find more in darker emotions or lighter or is there some other force that lights your pen?

Kristiana: Inspiration definitely tumbles, falls and surges like waves. Sometimes darker emotions fuel my words and sometimes it’s a love for my partner or simply the slow movement of the Earth. It truly varies. I very much tap into myself as a source whenever I sit down to write. I think this is why I struggle with set metre and form. My work is more often than not an outpouring of a feeling or a moment or memory and thus I write freely rather than write to a pre-defined structure. I suppose in this sense I lack a certain discipline. Poetry is something I seek in order to not feel tied down.

Candice: I agree and feel similarly about meter and form for exactly the same reason(s) although I think it’s good to understand how to do it, then you have a choice, much like Picasso did when he decided to do less realistic (cubist) work, he knew all the forms and chose what worked for him. Would you consider Flowers on the Wall similar to your first collection, Between the Trees, or would you consider it a departure? Why?

Kristiana: The treatment of nature in Flowers on the Wall definitely echoes pieces in Between the Trees. Certain images reappear like a wheat field, meadows, the sky and the ocean. Yet, I would consider Flowers on the Wall a departure too. Between the Trees was the documentation of a journey from depression to acceptance. Although, I still very much experience bouts of depression and healing, Flowers on the Wall is what I would consider a poetry collection. This collection says more about me as a poet rather than a person. It has a maturity I was only just beginning to grasp with Between the Trees.

Candice: Both of your collections are self-published, can you describe this experience and share any advice you might have with those who are considering the self-publishing route?

Kristiana: Self-publishing can feel like quite a lonely journey. Unless you have the pennies to spare, you’re often your own formatter, cover designer, editor, agent, and, of course, publisher. Not forgetting the marketing which follows. But, this also means it can be incredibly rewarding. I have learned so much about editing, designing and formatting through the process of creating and releasing two collections. It means I am perhaps prouder of them because I know how much of myself I have put into them beyond the written words. My advice would be to research every element of the process, speak to as many people as you can who have experience, map out exactly what you wish to achieve and steps one and two should help you achieve this. Stay open-minded and be realistic; you will be constrained by how well you are able to do something so plans will change.

Flowers on the wall – is available NOW via Amazon. (click link) Kristianas first book Between the Trees is for sale on Amazon now.

For the foreword written by Candice Daquin for this gorgeous book please go to Kristiana’s brilliant page on WordPress My Screaming Twenties

https://linktr.ee/KristianaReed

My Screaming Twenties

The refugee heart

gratitude
Todd Davidson/Illustration Works/Corbis

Before hard faced words and tightened bouquets of spite,

came silence

The child swirled in embryo, unscathed by adult cast of hate

Yet unknowing we inhabit cruelty, like a brand in darkness will

light no way but vengeance, reflecting shadows of lost conscience

against petroglyph walls

stories dissipated in forgetting what is true.

This child who once had temerity and self-worth clad about her, the vestige

of some right to exist, perhaps.

An instinct, as weeds will thrive in exhaust and skinny cats climb insurmountable

to glut on that thrashing impulse, called survival

words now scarred, like badly bandaged souls do not forget the echo

of a tender heart turned wicked, nor that merciless piercing

through skin thought impenetrable, to embrace hot metal

as if it did not catch our very soul on fire.

Once, we all wished for, love, pure and unfettered, blooming as night rose

carrying her scent against warm air, inhaling vetiver magic, aware then, of all things

our cache of hope, restless in the waves, we yield, undulate and count

moon peal across black water, spinning youth into gossamer

too fine to hold us securely.

Those burnt coals raked certain, beneath the old impulse to run

mindful of how we grow, the thirst for something real remains

tantalizingly distant

against the roar of white waves, crashing tirelessly to shore

reducing our ankles frigid with the climb, a vaunted capture

of sea — receding against open hands to places beyond

our feeble reach.

As it grows light, the footsteps of those who walked ahead

finding debris of promises washed to shore, frozen by their spent fuse

and silvery starlight echoing her distant mockery of possessing any

certainty

those, who for some reason remain here, despite themselves

hollow in the want for familiar arms to gather them up whole

pressed to a beating heart, the murmur of security bound in

crescent sky.

A reddening brings the dream, she swoops low and achingly,

casting silvered birds from their reverie

that we not succumb to our collective despair

finding the drawers and cupboards of truth ransacked and emptied

by unseen robber

and instead, wait by the edge, long in the rising sear of sun

blackening our backs with shadow

for the sound of her footfall, across the dunes, sunk in splendor.

Her journey long, she made it anyway, even in the worst heat

of midday, when insects burrow against the burn and her mouth

opened in an O for the drink of your love

a beacon on a jutting rock, watching seagulls mock the air

with white foamy lift

wanting only for you to need

in equaled measure.

SMITTEN was a Finalist in the National Indie Excellent Awards

Today I got some very good news I wanted to share with all the SMITTEN crew who made the anthology of women who love women poetry – – SMITTEN so incredible. SMITTEN was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards! For an LGBTQ anthology of poetry this is a huge achievement and I wanted to thank everyone who was involved in SMITTEN for their incredible work! Indie Blue & Christabelle Ray & Kindra Austin for publishing SMITTEN & featuring their work in it & Mitch Green for its amazing cover. Well done everyone! BE PROUD! SMITTEN AUTHORS GROUP
CONGRATULATIONS!

It is our great pleasure to inform you that you are a Finalist in the 14th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards. Your book embodies the standards of excellence that this award was created to celebrate. We salute your talents and our jurors truly respect each of the final works that are honored this year.

The lists of Winners and Finalists are proudly showcased on our website, please visit www.indieexcellence.com and click on the 14th Annual Finalists tab to see your book cover, name, and info highlighted for the world to see (click through to your website if provided). Awards are available for both download and purchase on our website including cover stickers, certificates, and medals. The 14th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards Press Release is distributed to an array of news and media outlets and it is also on our website as a download for your use. Please share it widely–this honor should be used to promote and garner attention for your amazing product!

The entire team at the National Indie Excellence® Awards sincerely hope your participation in our contest will serve you well in your ongoing success. We thank you for your patience during this challenging year as we all deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Sending you and yours our deepest congratulations.

Warmly,

Everyone at the National Indie Excellence Awards

WELL DONE to everyone involved in this project! I am ordering stickers of our achievement, if you want one, let me know and you can put it on your copy of SMITTEN and be proud of how well SMITTEN has done. Typically LGBTQ books do not succeed like this and I always knew, with the incredible writers we had in SMITTEN we’d break that glass ceiling.

 

Thank you to everyone involved in SMITTEN: Christine Ray. (Indie Blu(e)) Kindra Austin. (Indie Blu(e)) Mitch Green. (Designer) Avital Abraham. Didi Artier. Kim D. Bailey. Sonia Beauchamp. Henri Bensussen. Sarah Bigham. Susi Bocks. Elmear Catherine Bourke. Dani Bowes. Ruth Bowley. Cassandra Bumford. Lynne Burnett. Amie Campbell. Tara Caribou. Jennifer Carr. Laura Elizabeth Casey. Olivia Chachinsky. Teresa Chappell. Clementine. Kai Coggin. Carrie Lee Connel. Susan Conway. Selene Crosier. Emily Alica DeCicco. Katherine DeGillo. Liz DeGregorio. Grace Desmarais. Rachel M. McCayhey. Sean Heather K. McGraw. Lindz McLeod. Cristina DeSouza. Hoda Abdulqadir Essa. Melissa Fadul. Kirsten Fedorowicz. Rachel Finch. Susie Fought. Renee Furlow. Nadia G. Wandeka Gayle. Milena M. Gil. Rebecca Ruth Gould. Manda Grathwohl. Maria Gray. Maranda Greenwood. Carrie Groebner. V. Hamilton. Kim Harvey. Sophia Healy. HOKIS. Kelsey Hontz. P. M. Houghton Harjo. Tia M. Hudson. Hallelujuah R. Huston. Rachael Iikins. M. Duckett Ireland. Sarah Ito. Jessica Jacobs. Paula Jellis. Carol Jewel. Kelly Girl Johnson. Emily R. Jones. Sarah Kacala. Sarah Karowski. Nick Kay. Destiny Killan. Erin King. Crystal Kinistino. A. Lawler. Jill Lee. Aviva Lilith. Tre. L. Loadholt. Katherine Love. Carolyn Martin. Jennifer Mathews. Alexandria Moore. Charity M. Muse. Skye Myers. Nayana Nair. Jack Neece. Jesica Nordarse. Michelle Paige. Alison Palmer. Marie Prichard. Georgia Park. S. A. Quinox. Talia Rizzo. Samantha Renee. Dr. Sneha Rooh. Rachel Roth. Maranda Russell. Millie Saint James. Rebecca Sanchez. SATU. T. M. Servin. Kay Shamblin. Tan Shivers. Alexandra Short. Izabell Joraas Skoogh. Jamie L. Smith. Janis Sommers. Megha Sood. Alicia Sophia. A. Staley. Wil Staley. Alison Stone. Tekla Taylor. Shraddhanvita Tiwari. Carla Toney. Piper Michelle Townsend. Charlene Trolinder. Erin Van Vuren. Sarah Vermillion. Marvlyn Vincent. Isabel J. Wallace. Angie Waters. Milly Webster. Vanessa Rowan Whitfield. Karissa R. Whitson. C. E. Wing.

To all but I

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To all but I

this thickly guarded auburn sky

muted by restless wing

shocking in tight formation

this wonder of unseen & witnessed

edging crimson filigree against invading night

I am wrought in your divining spell

one word & we molt

episodes of grief shedding their fur coats

at our warm door way

how you haunt the periphery

of day, glossed over by time’s measured fold

it does nothing but stick firm &

intractable, a welt of bleating remembrance

turning up at the edges

you reduce me to ash

& I go to bed alone

touching the gloaming dark

with my hot fingertips like braille

reader might

possess the inveigling of

pure understanding.

I need your touch like

wood resists flame & then hungry

she tears herself nude of life

& burns for the glory &

actuating sate.  I want

your red mouth fevered, tongues

pushing inward, little fearing

& pain between my legs at

the exquisite wait you

torment me with as mercy

strokes me laughing, relishing in your

cruel game.

Such redress of norms

lose their ravishing clothes

dropping like forgotten prayer

& mislaid intentions

pretty jewels in ravens beak

my passioned abandon is found

against the long relief of your arms

supporting

us both in strength &

urge — Oh! What

infinite color you make beneath

me, one cheek turned rosy, the

other lost in cry & what dissolving

hour passes over us, conjoined

by similarity & difference

your dark eyes watching my

gilded reaching til cresting on

thundering waves we reunite

sore from our shout &

the varied cascade of joy

shining bright as youth’s

best cherry

heavy on Summer’s

day. It is this vapor of

your presence, indented in

my heart, sweet with redolence

& her sisters of undressed moments

crashing to shore, urging me

closer, losing myself readied to your

invite & the warm supper

we feast upon, as others will

find remedy in owning the world

& all her riches, we have discovered

in each other the best place

to live & die.

To all but I

this sonorous song resting on

rushing humid air shall chase your

fleeing gathered form till reunited

again, alchemy beneath

beating heart-blood

of two

told souls

with nothing

but all

to lose in

the other.

Suddenly it is midnight on the water

close up of couple holding hands
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I leave a stain on my letter to you, with the tinny ring of my mug

tea left cold when you called and I ran out

following your voice like a siren, heedless of consequence

you are the devour of my hesitation, I hesitate never when you call

side-stepping consequence like a brothel, seeking your presence as a sinner

looks for absolution and a saint kneels until it hurts, my ache is so

deeply laid it could not be recovered, even if they brought chains

here, streets bleed violet in shuttered neon blink

nights deepest scold rests

we take the ferry out into pelagic wake

afloat on silence, illumination veiled

your forearms, muscular against thin wrists

beneath sturgeon moon we shift like light

particulate drawn by shivering lodestone

less tender than impassioned

time, her death-and-gloried face

far flung from our observance, no more

liturgy of unspoken entreaties

there are no other words for your mouth

it is placed on your face like a torment, a

famine to touch, never stop craving, its perfect

shape

suddenly it is midnight on the water, my body

sore from your touch, we watch in hush

dark silhouettes take on life

their grave countenance

caught briefly by moon peel

as glossy as the pearl of your face

incandescent as we pass by

our hands entwined

we may be invisible compared to

the rest, but here, here we

exist.

 

Natural state of being

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They don’t want to hear about you

you’re not their kind

color, height, smell and gait

sets you apart, making you unpalatable

cast out from something you never belonged to

your back is curved before you hit the ground

sans parachute

cowing in utero to the inevitability of rejection

this is you, yellow girl, jaundiced before birth

you enter the world with a cigarette in one gnarled hand

the other high in protest

Gloria Steinem. could learn a thing or two about

your resolve

while she grew up in affluence and chose her metal

you were given nothing but inherited disease and

a penchant for purposing

all this in the time when women were

supposed to cross their legs in polite company

and open them for their husbands every whim

it disgusted you, the hypocrisy of hate

people at your Baptist church crowing gospel

calling you sinner when they caused more harm

than any so-called pervert

sent to camp to straighten out, you

fell for your coach and she for you

making out behind the outdoor toilets

confirmation of bias in the unhooking

of her clumsy sixties bra

feeling the first areola and you were lost

to any other kind of conversion

I wish I’d known you then, when eyes bright

despite the infernal din, you struck out against

the norm, trying daily not to let that

milk of magnesia asking that you straighten out

cause shame

it’s hard isn’t it? When even those pretending to

‘understand’ leave you out of invitations and the like

because you’re different, you’re not looking for a penis

not putting up posters of James Dean but Farrah Fawcett was okay, nor

waxing your legs for Friday nights

you didn’t like what every other girl in the changing rooms

coveted and so, they turned their tanned backs to you

and left you alone

to think of why you had more in common with

Billie Jean King and Radcliffe Hall

than cheerleaders with pom poms of scorn

and football players who would rape you to show

what you were missing

was it really such a sin to want to love

another woman? What was it about how you felt

scared them into loathing? And why when they knew

did it seem such a sport to exclude you?

Until you wrote pain on the insides of your wrists

a dowry of teenage repudiation

ending up in a mental hospital where the nurses

were all secret dykes and you fingered each other

at midnight, hiding your disappointment behind

seventies lino

this wasn’t love either, anymore than lying beneath

a grunting boy, at 14, hoping to fuck out the

feelings people said were evil, though

his use of you, seemed far more abhorrent

than the dreams you had of girls

not just any girl either, not just a writhing

creche of women parts, but one startling woman

you hoped to meet, among the girls who would be boys

and the girls who would be bi on dark and cheap drink weekends

gay bars were undoubtedly

some of the saddest places in the entire world

you neither excelled at pool or darts, you couldn’t

join in anymore there with cunnilingus against bathroom stalls

graffiti the tired penitent of fallen souls

with strangers who reminded you of boys in make up

you didn’t want to be with a girl who hated being a woman

dressing more like a man than your father

you wanted to love another woman with all

her madness and her fluxes, the rise of her lace covered breasts

how her thighs were not muscled but soft and her lips

pillows for your fevered whispers

no such woman seemed to exist back then

when gay venues were often raided by bored

knee-jerk religious police seeking to molest a girl in

baggy trousers and flattened chest on Friday night

shame after all, is a universal weapon and you

had tasted its liquored lash many times by then

watching your friends beaten with sticks by

heady boys in pick-ups waiting outside bars, high on local beer

and blood lust

you were too small to protect anyone, but witnessed

with grief so sharp it left marks in your eyes to think

of how the strongest girls rushed to defend the weakest

struck down by weapons wielded by the ‘righteous’ oh! Texas!

You were such a loathing state and things haven’t really

changed so very much

they still close their doors

they still tell their daughters

“don’t play with her, she’s queer that one”

and as grown up as you are, the pain is twice folded

for you wished by now things would be different

with laws and blood spilled surely paving a way forward

you forgot, for every step, there is one backwards

still just as you resolved to go without

you found me and still I found you

among the carnage, and our own wrecked self-destruction

still we laid in darkness sharing our stories

I tracing the scars on your arms and thighs

like Sanskrit of former muzzled lives

when I looked in your tired eyes I saw

how long you had been watching

this cruel world destroy her rainbow

heavy children

sometimes the greatest love comes

from broken people

too late in their August lives

to kick up chipped heals

they find solace in the depths

of their much labored, chambered heart

for as much as they punish us for existing

we keep returning, generation after generation

unbidden, unwanted, labeled abominations

or just silent dismay

carrying our quelled pain in beseechment

the whole world unsure of how to treat us

often resorting to ignoring

for who knows what to do

with something different? I still

don’t hold your ink stained hand in public very often

fearing I suppose our heads being bashed in

or someone cutting silence with ugly laughter

I think I could handle my own

abasing but never yours

you’ve worn the brand long enough my love

I now aim to remove it, defend you

as you saw the bloodshed longer than most

young men mowed down by AIDS sucking

their last breath through second-hand

straws, emaciated by the squander of

their worth, by a society intent on

blaming someone., anyone, in their aimless pointing

Reagan in the office doing nothing

beneath his hollow cross

even Obama had to ‘evolve’ his

opinion of gay-marriage like it was a

right that should be earned rather than

possessed naturally

but after all we are not

considered very natural

are we? Funny really …

as being with you

is the only natural

state of being I have ever

felt.

To all but I

Two naked women - I am author of this imageThat silence you hold around you like a mink

is just a stuffed head with loose teeth

meant to rattle on long voyages

if you had the guts to take them.

Do not go beyond, to that infernal

evocation where haunted,

camouflaged people trade real glass

for plastic and suck deeply on

the opiate pipe.

Stay here, pealing as we are, beneath onslaught

Et je fus plein alors de cette vérité

possessing real in hyssop, amaryllis and anise

you say it’s getting late, I say it’s still

early enough

people fall away like pealing clementines

at Christmas, tossing orange skirts on

low fire, see them eaten by flame, till

blackened over, their pride is absorbed.

You climb winding steps away, concertinaed

in your certainly we are ruled by time

reducing from me in sleep

tucking the parts of you filled with shame

like moths will beat and beat and beat

herself against electric light.

I cannot show you the tinder of my heart

convince you of my worth or your

premature funeral for us

lying next to you, as you curl outstretched from me

further into your onyx shell, you

learn to inhale holding your breath

underwater.

Would I were, more courageous I’d

pry your fury into edible squares, pick

them off one by one, scabs and

scars you press dearly, leaving marks

of harm against molested hope.

In our fight, we share an appetite

to return through time to a past

emptied of doubt and pain, if I

were able I’d take you there, a

reminder of solaces discovered in each

other’s dusk and shape birthing music

in forests, surely you remember?

How can it have wiped you clear

of trust? Of knowledge, in trying to

shut yourself, squeeze into a box

tie the string, send it anonymously,

some far place without me, will you

find yourself again, when you arrive?

A stranger to touch you as I once did, with

boldness, there are only so many times

before rejection builds walls, disbursing

bitterness like jasmine growing wild

will perfume even the smell of death.

Disguising ourselves as other people

we step from the ledge, falling into dishonesty

like the fools we become, scoring wood

with our determination to undo crimes

past, often brings empty places at the table

we are removed as we are staying still.

In your mind a stranger takes you violently

against a wall, on our bed, through this unlatched window

into sweet void, you fly clasping your climax

to yourself with embarrassment, for

there is only strangeness in the fantasy

of others, surely as they will sup on your

verge, claiming purity with a red arrow

now lost, now loosened from our fold.

I have called your name until my throat

is raw and scolded with rejoinder, you

are not coming home, she echoes, this body

no longer mine to behold, we are now

photos in a frame, gathering dust

for future inspection, or forgotten entirely

to be crushed beneath footfall

how can such intensity fade? And

turning a page, become no more than

whispers against encroaching sea

lending her wrath and depths to

flood, even the gentlest memory.

Ah, you in my arms, my fingers beneath

your back holding you close, we arc and

move together, inside each other, tongues

salted with exploration, urging for

summit, we climb as one, reaching

mountain top, viewing our world

douce maistresse touche, pour soulage mon ma

just to tumble, slow and sure, clasping

damp skin, sticky hair, hands entwined

the lure and melting red possession

and with one slam of insolent door

you are emptied of such tight intimacy

as if it were nothing less than

a skirt to be discarded. Left behind

worn and used, torn by prior

dance, now abandoned in

savage hollow, to turn no more

in softened movement

hitching up, riding against

my skin, your arms crying out for purchase

eclipsing each other in thrust and

joining, meeting only to burn, lost, lost then

do not go, do not change

yet in this sounding evocation

that is exactly

who we were together

no more, a fable

may-hap children

shall recall in

skipping to

some primal

chant made

insensible by

the drawing of

years in chalk

and pattern lost

to all but I.