Of being

c62At twenty

when most young people

have such inner light they need

no tanning

I stood in the Pre-Raphaelite section

of the foreign museum

where prisms of light gathered

in tepees over head

born with an exaggerated self-consciousness

it felt as if all the disinterested

milling around staring at art

with their mouths open and crumbs from croissants

smearing their lapels

were disapproving

it wasn’t self aggrandized

I knew then as I know now

I am just one of a million million

but the glare of the crowd

was like a purse being pulled inward

gathering her fret

I’d been inspected too closely, too frequently

as a child prone to blunder and freedom

reined by yoke of adults disapprobation and neglect

now it felt like every stare

was a leach on my skin

sucking for marrow

I wondered

at the girls who posed for masters

in cold bathtubs of water

approximating Ophelia’s death throes

or imagined when they

lay quiet in their grave

mouths still stained with laudanum

life plucked by the need for art

art approximating life and not

artifice struck me then

unable like the fawn colored girl beside me

to walk with certitude

she was only a few inches taller

though her neck was more a swan than cat

she held little more potential

yet held the world by its umbilical

whilst I sought out back doors

to any exhibit of youth

it didn’t sit well on my angular shoulders to

flaunt or even preen unaware

I had never known how to un-know

the unbearable lightness of being

(last line and title from Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí by Milan Kundera)

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Stigmata

 

093c3ac60161fdab3e0a048f7e5ccf6cThe day they pricked paint into her back

permanent and violet

she grew a lotus mandala

lending a little stigmata wisdom

to the thin bones of her grow

for she didn’t know that year

whether to follow sharp train tracks and disappear

into the woods not to be discovered

or walk into winter blizzard

feeling her way through to

imposing red bricked hospital

sagging against its frame like

an auburn flame caught in globe

shaken from foothold

placing her wet gloves on chaffing radiator

tell the patient man behind his mahogany desk

littered with prescriptives for disease of the mind

I am not well I am not well I am not well

you must take me from my freedom and tie me up

in a satin bow atop a new gift of hope

somewhere I cannot think or pass

in my mouth the marble and coinage

of my jailer

 

if she had let herself fall then

with his regard whiskering her lament

and plummet like a fire consumed comet

for the first time without control just

the ember of her flaming skirt searing

a series of interrupted tap dances

spanning shortened  life

in the direction of diminishing

sticky mouthfuls of sweet jam taken in dark

tap tap tap tap

braille, wittled cane, white and wooden

hers was the fear of generations

her grandmother, her grandfather

laid to rest in sweet meadow of

Mont-Ventoux, beyond lavender fields

where their metallurgic table of elements

could rest from unquenched desire to end

take your medicine

euthanize the unrest

let the sleep of the dead

usher silence in prayer robe

when he died

holding his dry paintbrush

when she died

clutching her wet scripture

when their loss mixed in formula

writing her DNA prophecy

she learned to lace up her unease

absenting breath needing not to breathe

not today doctor

not ever

these houses for the poor of heart

medicated, inviscerated, shuffle in

do not come out

 

she left her gloves on the radiator

followed her tracks back through virgin snow

easier when you cannot really see where you go

somehow standing amidst the roar

sea on dry land, oceans in desert flowers

it might take defying your legacy to survive

it might take not wishing to be the next pin to escape

bowled over by shared cross-stitched disease

even the empty

even the weak

 

she got a tattoo of a lotus

on the small of her back

where men had whispered hot and slow

you are slender like a branch

I want to bend you in two as green willow

will not snap

supple in bow, play me never

this girl has forged her symphony war

out of rising in morning, ready to give up

she survived percolating tendency

and the ones who thought her lean

pressing her against shiny coffee tables

unbuckling their murmuring distaste

for respect

thinking her a orfice, a receptacle, alabaster secret

and not a girl capable of swallowing fire

 

they did not believe in signs and wonders

nor warriors who wear no armor

she stands in her diluted ink

she is the beginning, the circular, the ending

of ways we are forced to be

a stain lies on her skin

it feels like an angels imprint

lending courage for the quiet

of soul, who gathers the leftovers

surviving beyond her welt

she is merciful to the meek

as a storm gathering in force, swells against

shore, building momentum

turning the raw belly of sky

monochrome

La femme du tigre

6a0105356c398f970c0133ed4b470b970b-piA woman

may forget she is a woman

tear into another woman

becoming an ivory toothed tiger

when she has supped too long on the notion

she is without force unless she bites or rips the entrails

of those who may attack her first

and this woman

she does not understand yet

the color of doves and their cresting message

nor the many mistakes leading her to believe

she is a tiger in need of feeding on her sisters

those girls who should be under her awning

defiant beneath banded join

she forgets because she is afraid

she omits because she is scared

her time will come and others …

women who are also tigers

will eat her in juicy pieces with succulent delight

I tell this striped woman

put away your magnificent teeth

come and hold me high

together we are taller

we can clamber on each other’s shoulders

teach the other women who think they are tigers

who must bite and stifle our journey

it is better for women who are tigers

to earn our stripes by supporting the world

paw by paw

for we only keep ourselves down in fear and confusion

when we snap at the truth

we are as free as we want to be

the chains we think exist are our own

no man owns a woman

no woman can ruin another woman

if we promise to respect each other

if we hold back permission for cruelty

lower our arching back and offer

come ride with me I will see you to safety

it is just a short way over the mountain

we can make it if we ride there

together

The clamor of our substance

woman-roaring

Go with the swallows

in last leaving light

submerging beneath

ancient vowels aching to

disperse into stars

surely as we stare

into knowing skies

seeing reflections of ourselves

incantations of former lives

where our shouts are heard

by the starling and the night birds

roosting beneath our dreams

surely, as we reach

to learn the meaning of such things

urged by the wistful lingering

adrenalin beneath our felt

stirring such courage to bear

another day, another question

cruelty may linger her long face

set against the timer like a watchful

scold may taunt the slower chase

still she has but fleeting power

when in another day another place

we rise

thundering on our heels

toward the mouth

where our claims are heard

on the itch of truth

scattering us wide

we are invisible

until woken

when we stride

wide and fruitful

the clamor of our substance

revealing in each birth

another head to count

one more female willing

to set her flame on high

and stir

in quiet formation

the centrifuge of life

in the shape of us