Urging to be loosed

Before generic

we toiled

with well made heavy tools

to survive

thinking less, I suspect

of the quality of that living

whether we were ‘happy’

nor having time for slight or scold

to injure us

sheer brevity of our toil

overwhelming higher thought

which at times I believe

may be as fitful and ill-fitting

as apple eaten from forbidden tree

it is that knowledge of ourselves

sends us into quiet turmoil

perpetuated by hours to muse

on the fix and drip of life

we taste despair in our abundant imaginings

for all we learn, we grow further

from that seat of quiet peace found

in hard labor and less thought

for every Sunday where I get to lie in

watching snow fall outside my safe insulated house

I wonder at the wisdom of this progress

whether

like the man I know who

lives in the woods

gathering water by stream

keeping warm at fireplace

his rough shod life is

that much gladder

than mine, able to turn

thoughts around in my head

like blue flies

urging to be loosed

Tempera

Query feels like a brand though it comes with veil

the doctors say, phantom pain becomes step mother

to fragile veins

first one to freeze come a cold snap

ready for tindering a bristling fire

at noon I want to eat warm eggs from your palm

touch your vermillion paint brush to my own face

feel the render of tempera against parchment

without any contempt for you, I wish you gone

but ink dries fast in the cold, it’s a myth it takes a warm day

to run a bath and slit your wrists

they never ask why, only how

the fire trucks blink like fallen damsons on melting streets

it was your enemy knocked on the door, broke it down, carried you out

not laughing at your slack form, the way your hair when wet

thins into dismal life line

the bequeath of surprise leaves us wordless

I with my bandages, you with your newly found soul

the sweetness of sharing this clementine center almost makes us forget our mutual hatred

to burn in respective votive, prayed to by sinners, also cherishing the role of loathing

dying is a slow storm, coming in squall, lost to its own menace

we leave the phone off the hook and become masks affixed to unpainted wall

maybe the next inhabitants will lift them gently from their nail

and remark before painting

that they left no shadow

The woman in the moon

and we said

try with all your might

to hold yourself up in this world

should you fall, do so quietly, lest

you disturb this delicate status-quo

do not be loud, do not make a fuss

these are things only rude people do

like those who talk on phones loudly

in confined spaces

penguins with plastic attached to their beaks

yak yak yak they go

but nobody seems to tell them to

shut it

and the propriety of life

misses a stitch

a heart beat

a compassionate rinse

through the annals of time

thinking of how we have always

stifled valuable voices

in favor of noise

putting up with the yak and not

the desperate drum beat of a woman

unraveling

she has spun her loom

throughout the city and its artifices

with alacrity and the sweat of female

labor, she has borne her children and

created a field of poppies, that threaten

to dazzle the very sun

she has grown her hair long and matted, until

it is thick enough to reach the moon

where she sits

howling

at the ravages of life

permitted at last

to possess

a voice

blue black hours

you exhaust me

with your perpetual need

you who is I, I who is me

this hungering for solace

rubbed like frankincense

on pulse points

used to be said, a woman’s evocation

was found in the thread of her blood

tasting her, found, a salt and an admonishment

for knowing mystery is not permitted

you exhaust me

with your perpetual need

you who is I, I who is me

attempting free fall, finding balance in

tender pretend, the chime and rounding of days

a music without orchestra, still she sings

heal me from the want

expunge that holy desire for more

give me a reflecting glass

that I might climb through

touch my limbs as they break into fire sticks

combusting in torrent, the woman, the girl

the crone

she sits with sun on her face

careless of time

she has put aside her duty

listening instead

to the song of a bird

whose feathers remind her

of blue black hours

Absence bound in absentia

I’m fading, lover

day old bread thrown to wild birds

their wink gleaning

our false rise

lover … I’m fading

in and out

washed by time and exposure

old camera, old film

new development

the blink of an eye and we’re

gathering hats for our funeral

see, there’s a swatch within

me

wild and unfettered

the brush of red in the hedgerow

uncatchable

redolent with longing

to be more than yours

greater than this

dusty shelf

empty bed

absence bound in absentia

The rhyme of girls who skin their knees

She always knew she was a girl

by the way older women treated her

their higher standards expected

than if she were a boy

for boys … could climb trees and expose their underwear

while she was scolded and told not to be ‘a little harlot’

boys came barreling in full of spunk and fury

exhibiting their mirth with muddy feet

to ladies who smiled indulgently and patted their

ruffled heads

glancing over at her, with disapproving eyes

and a tut of the chin which said; “I hope you are not

going to track that mud into the kitchen and if you do

be prepared to clean it up. What kind of girl climbs

trees and gets herself full of dirt?

The unspoken and the spoken

those days she sought sympathy when her heart

felt like bursting

responses varying from; “maybe you didn’t ‘try hard

enough, you should apply yourself next time” to “don’t

go on about your problems so much, we all have problems

you are not the only one!” While they fretted and discussed

the poor boy whose horrible girlfriend left him

how grief stricken he was afterward, they could do nothing

it was so hard to watch

not difficult at all to watch her fall

almost amusing

almost delightful

female expectations a bar far too high

even for a gymnast

whilst boys ran beneath it

in spastic freedom

from the quiet exceptionalism of their gender

through the eyes of a woman

she learned early on

to keep her thoughts and wishes to herself

for each vulnerability would be handled roughly

turned against her like a shard of glass

piercing deep

she learned, to do for herself as the boys

were fed, dressed, coveted, admired, flattered

and grew fat and indulgent on it

rather like farm yard pigs

she grew strong in that way pain lends

a thin weed

trying to survive by the side of a busy road

filled with fumes and cars belching their poison

yet she knew if she wanted to survive

she could not walk along that road

by herself, taking short cut

through fields, because that’s where

women were raped

among thorny bushes, hands reaching out

grasping for them, hungry and snarling

she was told it was her fault if she

succumbed and her fault if she died from

fighting them off and her fault if she was

there when she shouldn’t have been

but nobody said it was their fault

or asked them to explain

why after being fed, clothed, petted and cossetted

by women

they chose

to make women their victim

no, that nobody had an answer for

maybe if they did, they would say

women did this to them, poor dears

it’s not the fault of a man! He was spoilt

and that’s a woman’s fault! She didn’t

teach him correctly, he had no choice!

And all the women who gave her

cross looks when she came in with her knees

scuffed from climbing a wall or when she ran

ungainly across the lawn and they chided her

for being ‘unladylike’

smiled at the fattened calf and said

oh my daughter would be so lucky

to marry a man like him! If only she

tried, a little harder.”

Of life itself

We side step desire

like the adroit dancers

we once were

light-footed, thin-ankled

defying gravity

in our keening

and still

that furnace

despite our neglect

consuming itself

continues to blaze

waking us at night

when the house is full of memories

and cold corners are no solace anymore

we roam halls bareheaded

fleet of foot

dancing in our sleep

to the urging wick of desire

for there is no remorse for people like us

we live only because we are struck

by an unsteady hand

igniting emotions like

all unsaid things

thrown on restless bonfire

will cast illumination and spectacle

among bare branches of old trees

if we could put words to

why we’d flung our very lives away

just for one night together

we’d be pulled back from the brink

the edge of everything

where all who are struck, reach

naked in their disregard for sanity

only hoping

in this feeling

lies the very thimble

of life itself

How’s it taste?

In the olden days

they mined towns for their ore

like men drank youth from the

neck of local girls

until everything became brittle

time fled ahead

to something unrecognizable and sour

then we looked up from our tasks

seeing a familiar chink of light in day

years falling away, yellowed pages

surprising us with how many

collected at our feet

how could, all this time have gathered, and

dust in our hair, as we sat, hunched over

our endeavors like hungering cats

without respite?

Without children, our marking

of the passages of life, mislaid somewhere

a half mended cardigan

no longer fitting right

we skipped from pursuit to distraction

thinking it possible to always return

to that hour we woke

our heads wet with the burnished zeal

of awareness

now, now we have slept

without knowing our slumbering

the turn of years into decades

our prodigious output, a heavy weight

on the bare necked sap of youth

staring into the mirror seeing lines

that have crept unbidden in afterglow

like thieves, we still believe ourselves

that youth

with shiny hair and bright intentions

where have they found themselves? Lost

among conifer trees, flitting in and out

like an optical illusion, solitary birch

burying fears of

going blind and birthing cancers

instead of placentas beneath the mother tree

stifling truth

for one of ‘maturity’ and ‘reliability’

ironed sleek on fists of thawed rebuke

though every night as indigo infuses sky

there remains a longing with the starlings to scream

fermenting anguish out into the humus

where nobody, save the desolate lost

might respond to entreaty

and return, by pull of thread

tug of color through dark

that vital spirit cherished

when all else went to rot

amidst the berserker of youth

thirsting on its short straw

determined to drink it all

before we, parched and fragile

in garnishment, got to share

a little of life, just a glance

backward to the days spent dancing

lost in sound, the writhe of

bodies about, surging in a sea

of shared rebuke

of this cold world

where water in the morning on your face

scolds

your vast, lovely, unspoken

dreams

Entrance by default

Maybe it’s time to stop wearing

a dead woman’s perfume

find my own

smell

be my own

woman

I met her when I was 11

looked up to her in that tinkering way

I have continually become besotted

with older women

those who knew more than I

all the secret clubs they belonged to

giving me entrance by default

knock, knock, admittance, change your coat

alter your mind, don another mask

take a turn at the carousel, the diamond

cut of your eyes as you churn out living

into the willing mouths of babes

go on lap it up …

drink yourself into thinking you’re not you

comfortable with anything but

your own skin

the smell of your life clinging to my escape

like a day old glass of wine

just drinkable, a little bitter

redolent in mid-day sun

as soft as fur

I think I’m old enough

to be myself now

which means

your smell

in that white bottle

that I can only buy in rare perfume shops

because it was long ago discontined

much as it reminds me

of being a young girl

trying to understand why

she had feelings for older women

(that were definitely not about seeking a mother)

those days are over

I’m old enough now to have had

my own children

and while I still

have a thing for older women

I’m not going to smell of you

and the memories

anymore