Sentiment

two women kissingPause

take note

before wishing adieu

consider those rushing years

how they go

girls in wide skirts with brown elbows

flaring in pluming circles, colors of earth and sky

feet tripping over movement, making hexagons of their desire

look back … oh look back

those long years that lay like the junk drawer in your house

untouched by thought or query

ransack shelves you have long forgotten

a hair band from her, 2006 I think, the texture of caught wisps changed so much.

Every room carries the souls of every person who inhabited them

a ring made of silver paper, from the inside of a cigarette box as we sat

in a dark bar on the edge of town, knocking back whiskey and birch

playing footsie beneath sticky tables, with shoes off, bare toes searching

photos of people lost, people found, people who no longer exist lost in circles

the force of life remains inexplicable.

Times past, fast and hot like racing cars revving their engines as soon as dusk

settles like a woman’s gloves on the sorrowful face of the world

for years you rushed around, paying no heed to silent pieces of life you accumulated

halogen lamps stand like cupie dolls with radiant faces

stuffing them in boxes, tying with ribbons, preserving for what day?

There’s lavender from my grandmothers farm, her old best silver spoon, a dog

tag from my father’s first, the smell of grass and good doggie sweat still adheres

an old stone mill and my cousins would drink from tadpole ridden water

and I am the one who grew up to outlast, everyone.

All the people in this photo are gone, still they remain on unsettled periphery

what would they tell me? Get rid of her, she chokes you like

late wine that has corked, she takes and gives nothing back but ingratitude

it’s never enough, it will never be enough, you are not seeing clearly

and the memories of velvet as soft as snow haunt like miniature heart

attacks caught in disused webs.

in jars there are stars and in skies there are words, for everything existing here

is upside down

I write about you until my fingers bruise, I remember the little things

you long cast aside as of no use, like me, like us, like this, once and lost

your memory is a cruel sieve with no regard for history or effort

only the smelt of immediacy and present day full exposure

I have long been your past, just as we have

become junk in drawers, lost to further inspection

when words run dry and even letters stay unopened

your cough sweets, when you ran a high fever and I made soup

the times I took, the hours, the moments,

caught in nets in your mind, to be drowned even deeper

crabbing pots without capture, no dinner tonight you sustain

yourself on bitterness and temerity.

When i am gone, tied in forgetfulnesses bow, you will not recollect

the cards I hand made, how I stitched your favorite sweater

three times till the moths had their eventual dinner

when you were lonely, the words we spoke in the dark

those comforts that are lost in the past,  never to be unearthed

I built a life time and you forgot the shopping list

and driving into the sun, lost your desire for remembering.

Here in this place, I keep the momentos of lost walks

the day you whispered to me, I was the one, how we

climbed and fell together, like gradual waterfall

here is the photo of us laughing

here is a snapshot of us ending

still there are always rubber bands and pins at the bottom of a drawer

to snap and prick you back, to caring about something other than yourself

where we lay beneath cherry blossom, because you said you always wanted

to eat sandwiches and drink wine beneath Spring trees

my hair growing below my waist, the pizza they gave us

when one was not enough, drinking coffee on tindered street

wishing we could still smoke, being well behaved, havoc resting

the copper light of that room, how it smelt of patchouli and wine

even as we left.

I still fit into those days

they fit me like old clothes made new with sentiment’s stitch

climbing from the silence of today into

a divining bell and sinking beneath perpetual hurt

till music swells and covers my consciousness with

buttered fingers

they slip into me as you dove

deep and never released

your breath, my swimmer, my underwater love.

I still see you there

telling me to trust, when I am walking on our ash

here the trees are taller than those we grew to

know and there are no cactus or flowers of the desert

to go with that favorite tune.

I climb California hills with Barney and he hands me

a piece of advice,  a white flag

don’t look back, do what it takes

life is an arrow, cast it wide, cast it careful.

Pink is a damn sunrise slung over beautiful shoulders

running rest of the way home, past the old mental hospital

where secrets are wrapped in files never read, like mosquito nets in Alaska

I go back to my Canadian house and the closed feel of doors

watch snow fall and think of tattoos

over 30 and how time is like unconsciousness

you feel it in another part of you

searching for a way to unite the two.

Slow jazz playing on a malnutritioned needle

here the fair comes promptly in June

they all rush outdoors, so grateful for sun

I tell them, where I came from it never relented.

And I wonder, are you still there? Waiting for me

on the one day of rain? As we kissed goodbye

beneath lampposts, driving separately off, blind in downpour

each aware of time ticking further apart

long arms flung like an acrobat in green ocean

flips ever more easily, than we on land

shall inherit perhaps these fitful musings

of things left behind

unsaid

undone

withdrawn.

The fence between us

you hammered in

you uncoiled and made

tall and hard to

climb.

The Late Colonialist

rochaMany years ago when her ancestors wore

petticoats

white skinned women like herself were considered

in shallow groups of weak-chinned groups

the ultimate prize.

She recalls the stories she’s read

racism tied with a daggered bow

servants without souls or so

they liked to judge and damn

whilst still they raped and plundered behind

their wives fine china sets

the ‘help’ though slavery is more accurate a term

for no choice was made nor proffered.

Years ago and still present

people swerve away from black men

in hooded tops

when really they ought to be looking at

white men in high rise buildings making

corporate decisions

as the enemy of us all.

She looks in the tall mirror, her hand on a DNA report

the wonders of 21st century finding out too much

seeing her ancestors gallop

through the thick red wine of French blood

how much do they have on their hands?

What side on the Revolution did they stand?

She sees how fair skin is more prone

to stretch marks and ageing

she carries hereditary thrombosis throbbing in

her thin veins and the genes of her light colored

eyes have cataracts to look forward to.

At least she doesn’t have Celiac Disease

roiling in her belly, rebelling against

the abundant wheat field

instead she realizes

she is alive in the wrong colored body, in a too late era

to matter much anymore

where now women of ebony and brown and russet

conquer the rhetoric in their claim

finally the prize after decades of denial and she

ordinary, flab, drab, pale, wane, yesterday’s news

they say it really isn’t about that

when they pass her over for someone from

Uganda or Iran but she knows better

Kardashian or Iman Bowie

she knows the enticement of dark eyed girls

their thick hair and beautiful skin

she is just a late magnolia weeping

waxy and left too long on the branch

maybe she is paying for what ancestral harm

was done

back then and still now, depending on what

part of town.

Men tell her; I like your slim ankles

you look fetching in that blue dress

but their eyes betray their digression

it is not her they will ever want

she has nothing of the difference they crave

imbued with rainbow continent

spiced with unknowns and becomings

the raven always the raven, ever the ebon bird

who with her glorious chiseled features

captures their unfurling lust.

She is relieved in a way

nobody comes calling for her

existing behind glass in her pressed skirts

although still young, she feels she has

lived too long and it is better

in the vapor of silence

watching her reflection get lost

in the setting of the sun

over Africa’s

weeping trees whispering karma

to turquoise and orange

land.

Isolation in the time of Covid 19 – published by Indolent Books

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Perhaps you dreamed of me

kissingA few people said / write something succinct / shorter than your usual / elaborated rhetoric / don’t you know how to / edit and be precise in your / measurement of words / good writers don’t need / verbal diarrhea / they can mold meaning / certain as bending copper / to light.

She thought it over

Knowing it was possible

After all she’d written some very

Shaved and glutted poems

Once.

 

(It wasn’t her way and if you are not true to your way

then you may as well be another lemming / willing to leap / from cliffs edge

of course this precludes learning which is / a value immeasurable

sometimes you can learn everything and still / go back to drawing unrealistically).

 

Finding something – – – perhaps it’s not a poem or a form but a short story

In the elongation and manipulation of reality and precision. Imprecise then. Deliberately.

 

Long ago she had no words because she couldn’t spell well enough to write. So she drew. For hours. Reels of paper. Stories by picture. Things she needed to say. To no one listening.

When she saw Woman In A Red Armchair hanging in a burgundy room / the silence palpable aside / rain hammering outside / mercilessly / like a hundred mouths clamoring

she tried not to stare at the line that made the woman / female

but was drawn to it as she might have been / a real breathing woman

something exquisite and desirable / she longed to see a live flesh and blood girl

to touch her with her empty hands and run them over her / quivering flesh

until those colors swelled up / and she cried out / for the sheer torment and beauty

but

no girls existed / save those who / liked boys / there were plenty of them

why were they all heterosexual?

why wasn’t she?

In America she heard / there are entire schools / devoted or a byproduct perhaps / lesbians / and only-girls-schools / well don’t start on them …

living in the city / you’d think but you’d be wrong / a few pinches / mostly shorn / forlorn

empty eyed / emulating men / less female than / those who wanted to lie beneath them.

Where existed that / judge not / beauty / with /dark eyes

the missing / beat / savor / prosper / sail

to her / soul.

If she could have / found her all along / not searching years but moments / glimpsed

sight and immediately / both knew / this bond before / words spoken

even at 13

even before she were born

perhaps you dreamed of me

created in the stillness of your loneliness / that which you did not have / filling emptiness with yearning / I am born to be / the wet ink on your skin / a permanence / no longer waiting / arms outstretched / for dreams unnecessary / now we / are.

Never quite together / torn asunder / this year the blackcurrents come later / as if they knew / what wonders and nightmares / store / waiting behind the pitch / to come rushing / we tried / we failed / the frailty of emotion / it bleeds easily / like thin skin / gone a-blackberrying / on a listless day / no clouds nor movement / sky dim / with unspent rain / the longing stored up / causing pain.

Perhaps you dreamed of me.

I stood — uncertain — proud backed —

against the light

where shape can be outlined

most acutely

if then you’d looked — ephemeral — something unstated

in muted expression

what we do not say — what we hold inside — contains the greatest

message.

Return to me. Though you are gone. Through the shroud. Time be gentle. Time be cruel.

Different and the same. Recollecting nothing. There is the proof. Stained on our table. Where you cut yourself. On a sharp knife of desire. And I opened to you. Ballet within music. Rapture closed us together. Forgotten. How do you not remember.

That long night we ran barefoot?

Flowers close their drowsy heads. Against night. Sleep. An eternity. Wakening. We are

strangers. Again.

Loss. A pressed red petal against Italian paper. Seeking its watering. I am so thirsty for your return. My love.

For you are

the-guest-bedroom-art-of-sappho-canvas-print

In simmering evening glow

beheld in jewel

moon, its pearlescent oval

hushes barking day

quiet.

For you are

held in my long hand

a heart engraved

rapture slavishly wound

about my making

as roses grow

thick in fragrance

nearer their petals

touch.

For you are

a sound etched in dark

slung over time, carried far

played years later

still we hear

the raw crocus

of your emergence

from stillness.

In unfolded stymen

this pollen we bequeath

each other

wordlessly with

oiled grace

are songs

unsung by

felted lovers.

For you are

my undoing

this life rented out

if you, indigo bird

solace in sweet brine

did not exist

nothing bearable

should survive.

In the marbled cave of our

entreaty, we

pour together till

stiff with purpose

a stalagmite to

behold the

ambering of

our union.

For you are

without comparison

touching that center

blazing and forgotten

sweeping landscape where

birds fill low trees with

their heavy cries

I catch my own voice

beneath your

urging form, we

merge together

softness a dream

to float upon.

In all the days spent

making sense of emptiness

the curve of your jaw

meeting high cheeks

eyes darker than ink

nothing replaced this

urgency to never

leave your side.

For you are

tasted between

consuming sweetness

against

the mellow fruiting

of

my

only

love.

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.”

The Opal

I think of you

My heart clenches

In the carousel of seconds it takes to form a moment, yet I managed to witness a lifetime

How did you come to be

A vowel, a constellation, a rhyme in my mind

Days are bare, unpainted walls

Thinking of you I find color

Music

Can’t imagine a world with only one of you in it

I want to breathe you in

Molecules and seconds

Making up days spent together, pieces of paper forming a page

Marbles inside the other

Flowers retaining pigment as they dry

Death and life, striding side by side

Dancing beneath raw bulb, open sky

The pulse in your throat the clench of your thigh

Sweetness in a certain, slow agony

Instrument run over temperate string

The cry of unseen things in the dark

Listen, listen, closer, I bend my head

You tell me everything in one pearlized glance

If there were a creature able to step from shell, made flesh

I think she’d be you, you with your untouchable countenance

The regal surity of your long sloping neckline

How cheek bones become canvas, become art, become song

Your thin chest against mine, just once, like a film played forward and backwards

I see the embrace, an ackwardness, then I’m wearing my best dress, nearly spent, bare feet on dirty street roads, because I wore heals to look like your fantasy and one broke clean in half

You can take things like that as omens

I’ll continue to believe where there are feelings, there are destinations

Electricity above us in the heavens, sprung to earth

Lines in sand, in skin, in the consoling sky at night

Across your sleeping skin, when I want you to dream like I

Building on fantasy, stories come fully real

Only in others lives it seems, you swim ever further away

Until a shadow, a mirage, just the sound of your escape

Sometimes you strangle the moment, with accident or heavy hand

Intensity not meant for now, should take its time to build

I gave you no time, in my world you had long been its center

A flower within flowers, mandala tattooed on the small of my back in purple, calling

I think of you

My heart clenches

In the carousel of seconds it takes to form a moment, yet I managed to witness a lifetime

Before the end there was a beginning, unsung, untested, disused, sythed baren

Leaving nothing in its scatter but wistfulness

Like a memory without basis, not existing, just as real

The feel of your reddened lips, goodbye, never touched, still here

In the unfolding of time, you flicker closer, then far, then in, then

Out

Like an Opal on my finger

Luminous, unforgettable, the night air charged with its curse.