Weather vane

Before they laid bricks on her and called her a place

not a thing of flesh and light

before she lost her ability to mimic cat

and jump unheard

out of open windows

before her arms lost their ache to

live unbridled unburdened in

the clear surround

of joy

she was a light footed creature

listening to no scold

obedient to no rule

her father called her willful

her mother, spirited

her grandmother covered her face with faux shame

though she hid a smile

cousins were told to mind themselves

around her urging sprint

lest she rub off

some of her mercury

some of her wild saffron

the thing compelling her shine

when all seemed still and lifeless

a hurtling progress to wholeness

they forecast her early demise

said nothing, nobody could subsist

as fevered as her run

Zola Bud without shoes

temerity pulling her strings

as if puppetmasters were sea sprites

fashioning their dreams on tierra

with undomesticated weather vane

bound tight to wildest storm

Felis catus

I didn’t care as much as the blood on the snow implied

it was after all just a horror show

you, with your nimble ways of

poking holes in my armor

you, with your kind smile and sharp knife

twisting screw

letting good drain out with bad

till meaning held no color.

I didn’t blame you at first

it’s a fact … some bite

they are taught to by pain

it’s a refuge, a coping mechanism, a

twist and writhe in slim net

of sanity and pathology

that’s all they know

the feral in their fur

if you try to be kind

they will purr

then go ahead and bite you.

I took my bleeding hand

stuck it in my mouth

to prevent saying the things I wanted to

Then I remembered all the little ways

you’d been before, the bare indifference

how I’d tried. Why had I kept on trying?

What possesses us to be kind

to broken things whose disapointment

in themselves turns to savagery?

At least it gave you an opportunity

to use that tenderness against me

I did feel a fool until I realized, yeah …

maybe you were my enemy all along

in that slow icing way you left me feeling emptied

which may say something about me

and how I should learn to try less

I’m sure you’d say; “nobody else can make you feel bad

without giving your permission.”

But I think I will disagree

that’s a passive-aggressive crock … Psych101

it’s your fault … no one else’s

with your holier-than-thou certainty

convinced you’re above us all

I walked away from the snow and the blood

a little cross at myself for not remembering

you can’t hand feed

wild cats.

The Borderline’s Bride

Nuptial rites at midnight

espousal gently prodded for life

sleep walkers into union they

wake to find promises in dark fulfilled

she wore her matrimony patiently

believing any escape better than remaining still

but time plays tricks like a young child

what we thought then, changing like old glass

will gather yellow reflection within its make

until thrown out for being discolored

or broken half deliberately, the mind thinking it no great loss

is this the fate of age? Bequeath a lessening

value over years, ruin slipping her knot

through stooped shoulder blades with expertise

of well worn harbinger ?

What appeared so intoxicating at 19

shows itself, pickled and cloudy, parody of spectacle

aghast at her own self, the indulgence of emotion

losing reason for the oily climb of bodies urging

their mischief upon the other with that slick beat of youth

no surely not, people cannot

be this blind, not her, who has always

prized insight, could she have become

the Borderline’s Bride?

Her lover, in absentia is fickle, for her

butchery is not written down or photographed

but presented in myriad glass cases for dissecting

so slowly, almost lost to time, the gradual

rise and fall of things, until one or the other

is sullen ash

then she knows, really knows, in that

concrete unyielding way tragedy presents

its litany of excuses for why you mistook

the garland of betrayal and tenderizing

your own mouth, placed the fish hook

deep where wedged against sense it pulled

hanging your best intentions by their easy mockery

for years cannot be recovered

mistakes undone, still not repaired

they lie like unsent letters

beneath the pillows of

those unmoving in wedlock

a fox somewhere screams

redolent and full

a sudden horror piercing night

startling the most stalwort

to sit up in

terror

Below zero

Snow I have always

been thankful for your expunging

whiteout

how you take dirt

and suffocate it

beneath insistent layers

the wild and untame methods of your

settling, blown like befuddled

birds in all direction, swirling in

lost echo, falling eventually to

sugar-coat the dim world brighter

as pipes fail, their fragile egg shells

bloated with trapped water

a parallel I think

to our own shuttered lives

When I was a child I would

be told

do not go out in the snow for long

you will catch your death

and I hoped

very much

that were true

for to sleep

a red rose in bosom of white

I could fancy in my child’s mind

no greater perishment

though fancy and its

myriad ways of suggesting

death

grow less appealing

the older we get

Now I avoid slipping on ice

for fear of crushing my elbow into

shards like my father did

I see in the distance

my grandmother’s dog

he is trying to eat snow flakes

and puzzled when they melt

barks into whiskering storm

I think he speaks for us all

in this grand illusion

half wanting to be

taken off by encompassing whorls

carried to ice palace

where surely the meaning of

everything can be found

along with my mittens I lost

in tenth grade

stooping down to place

the cherry in

my snow robins

breast

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

The night I went out without shoes on

Wasn’t it a miracle?

Neither of us died trying to get to the meeting place

all the lights in the world seemed out that night

I had only known how to drive a few months

you were an old hat who routinely broke laws

with bottles wedged between your legs, a

cigarette burning ash down your fingers

there had always been a desire in me

for brokenness, as if I recognized in those

souls, something in myself

or a freedom in people who abandoned ettiquette

and discarding it, became suddenly free

I liked the wild, I liked women with untamed eyes

and dirty minds

the moon was full that night and we watched owls

gather themselves in flight and swoop

cloudy restaurant lights flickering in and out on the side

of the empty high way

I had watched films about a life like this

I said to you, films like Gas Food Lodgings or Paris Texas

where the greatest landscape was the tarmac

and the wide abundant merciless sky

where people sheltered in shadow and night creatures

crawled unseen and women met by closed restaurants

the flicker of their 24 hour advertising, sizzling against blackness

you were strange looking as if you had

deliberately tried to destroy yourself and I

forgot to wear shoes, my feet hot against still baked

soil, biting fiends flying in humid air, thick with ‘unspoken

entreaties

I wanted you to slam me there and then against

the unresisting brake of my car

leaving a bruise the size of texas clouds

I wanted to break apart like rocks with gem stones

inside, find something in both of us

bigger than the sky, deeper than weary darkness

but I was too young then and fear wrapped herself

like a blanket of stars and pulled me back

into the world, into doing what is right, into being careful

and sitting up straight when you eat at the table

all these years later, I still think

if we had set the car on automatic and just ridden

away

down that empty highway, into hushed, blooming night

we might have found the part of us

still lacking

every day we wake up

wash our face, comb our hair

and look too long in the mirror

searching for the lost parts

of our dark dreams

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.

Unfettered liberate

lesbian picThere’s a place in me

despite it all

where contentment lies

fragile

a guttural home

of solace and loathing both

for joy

not found where others

locate easement and meaning

you will not discover me

spearing a whale or

circumferencing your fattened

demand to chain my needs

for more than this routine of

sorrow.

Indeed it will be likely,

on Tuesday you find me

supping with strangers

libation undulating in my wine

blotting out focus

lighting humor’s wick

on Thursday just as likely

the ledge and its cold

grey slate, quivering beneath

my teetering weight

as I rinse myself beneath falling rain

and the impulse to let go.

This is the clatter of a discontent soul

made such from before recollection

no excuse, no explanation,

sometimes in mendacity

surviving without living, only

able to get that far, past and future

not present tense, as if vaporized

an empty window with no view

the back handed slap

a ruined chemise in your teeth

for whom of us really knows?

How discontent works into the marrow

the trickery of sorrow leaching

satisfaction as silent hemorrhage

I could point to bad habits

reeking of gluttony and a switch of

madness or else

modern world’s awareness

calcifying our retinas with

24/7 neon lights

nudegirlsnudegirlsnudegirls

I peal my sins off one by one

leaning into you with regrets bosom

and suffocate the very spit from your lip

until you are blue and unmoving adjective

like my fucking heart.

Maybe it is the torrent of rejections

piled like sawed off limbs

miniaturized in pill boxes

for Ash Wednesday’s cross

I may expect too much out of poor, dear life

rickety wooden hope almost burnt to a char

but what fancy isn’t ecstatic joy?

Indulge me, or write me off as

vagabond hedonist, but never

was a math class or week sitting at

office desk, an ounce the pleasured

meaning found between your oiled legs

and that as they say

is the naked truth.

you can condemn me a coarse, vacuous being

malcontent and ululate, and you’d probably be right

especially on Friday nights

when displeasures wick burns low and

all hallowed souls gather to

seal their profligate covenant

to dance flung mad beneath kilowatt moonshine

arms outstretched in varied postures

of abandon and short half-life glee

sticky with fevered imprint, they

shuck off adornments and expectations

grown over with moss

and when it comes to lapsing daylight

dive nude and fluid like seals

into the sea’s very throat and its briny acceptance

of traitors and rebels and girls with

too many bed fellows

where all but the sheer furtive birth of freedom

glimpsing off unencumbered skin

chewing the skies

with effervescent glow, is sate

as if mermaids were beseeching

tender men and women of houses

and diaries, book weights, lapsed vibrators and bottled ointments

leave your rules and your sadist alarm clocks

set for 6am

abandon the car you upgrade every three years

before it’s lost its new smell

to impress neighbors who give you no heed

retreat, retreat, retreat

past scraped plates of burnt lasagna

fox tails, lube and licked spoons

to this emptied isle of underwater

solace and lay your wretched superlative

disappointment in our laps

that we may render you

lost

and because of that

unfettered liberate,

eternally

blushingly

free

Gentle & low

Robert MapplethorpeTruth hinted at

there’s a ghost in the machine

that’s me

she’s climbing out of her past, survived the worst

they hold up mirrors and shout

let it out, let it out

the she who is me

spread eagle, violate

who will she need to please to be free?

I watch her as I would a

lover who coming close is further apart

the darkness of hurt

a chocolate center to emptiness

her breasts are hard and warm like

lost thoughts in my hair

we weave a strangeness over one another

her fingers inside me and then

words perfumed in the air

promises were said and broken

the bed lays untouched and I would wish I’d been

so lucky

bruises act like kisses and kisses are too deep

your tongue goads my sleep

when I said no you took and ate

your fill, then with moonlight cutting

curtains blind in silver

I see the outline of sin and pleasure

how pain is curled in little leisure

the first strike, sharp lines, leather belt

hands around my neck and down my throat

marks left on marks, growing roses in darkness

you make a hand print of the child lost

blood in water, sheets and cries

who will clean the absolution and who will

witness the last time?

I gave you what I could, it wasn’t

full it wasn’t even good

that was all there was

empty roads, night time rain, ebony on asphalt

lay me down on thorns

paint me a picture of torment

here’s my proffer, my scorn

for not being able to keep a secret

pluck a pin, suck it in, there it sprouts

savage love, ruins the innocent

pain comes in snatches like dreaming

you relish the way I collapse after you’ve taken

this last suspense, rinse out, leave her ready

for the next punch, a wound so loud

her breath has vocals

I’ve been gone a long time now

only the sound of the past plays

on repeat

gentle and low

as violence ebbs her sharp tongue

licking the wounded with happy sorrow

I wish I had been with you whilst you wandered around town alone in the rain today

I wish like

when we were girls

joined at the hip

possessing no cushion

to walk in your stead

same shoes, same size, different spread

yours narrow and delicate

mine bashed and mangled from running

we were used to walking alone in the rain

until we showed up for each other

I recall

how your neck always seemed long even as

neither of us are tall

perhaps the slope of your shoulders or the arch of your clavical

there are illusions and striations even in similars

this we discovered

you could roll a better joint in the dark

and I could stand on my hands and walk – unguided

the carnival rat and the singing mermaid

we grew up on French movies, smoking in the back seats

oblivious to the risk

of feeling everything

and now you are in another country, as am I

two foreign girls without roots trying to get by

I think of you as I think of my reflection and

if I had a sister, if I had a wife, if I had a child

all those emotions and more, embroiled in your fur

like the fox in the dawn

barking sharp and clear

I see you – a red flash – a dart of color against fog

thinking of all the songs we heard and made our own

you possess the key to my memories and my home

as if you were a bee, building a wax nest in a clarinet

you are 17 and your legs remind me of a colt

lean and muscled with no fat, you stand sharp against the ocean

spinning stories of Irish and Welsh, dreams in technicolor

something about your eyes

something in the way you fight without fighting

a strength beneath the quiet

like waves over waves over mouths

I cycled to your flat and we read feminist literature by candle light

those were the times when everything began

and now again we stop and start

clocks without hands without purpose

sometimes it feels like

there’s only the part where we wind and wind up

to no future

and then it begins over

the dance and the memories

unwinding like skirts of sand and ocean

I think of all the places you have seen without me

and how building a life apart we drift like sea weed

I don’t want to lose the link

the key, the way you fit in my heart like

a shell and I can

always hear the sound of waves

in your skirts as you bow your head

and we trip over ourselves to find

that moment of joy

among all the hurt

that’s how you know when you have

an imprint of someone else in your soul

carried on my back, in my chest

like a favorite toy or something deeper

a chant, a eulogy, a suspension of reality

that fusing of one with another over space and creation

when did it begin and when did it become

the stallegmite within me

with your hands encircled

I hear your voice as my own

sister, lover, mother, daughter, woman

the girl with sea in her eyes

I yearn for you

crossing places alone

walking streets without

my heart hurts to think

of us apart, separate, living despite

some of us should be together

I hear you say

yes

like she would say

like the song of songs

and you know, yes,

you have always

known