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

Encroachment

You saw your disintegration

In the shrouded reflection of a store window

Already losing custom

And for years prior

Women adjusted hose and children’s grubby faces wiped

In that smeared glass

It held

Decades

Like high cheekbones

Will shore up time in a beautiful face

I saw my eyes fail me

In the encroachment

Of some uninvited color

As if the sun

Greedy for attention

Had left a permanent marker
The doctor

With his accentless voice

And starched finger tips

Probing my retina

For answers like a tarot card reader

Will shuffle and cut her deck

Declared me blemished

Stained by time

Imperfect

Possibly going blind, wrapped in news print

And I laughed

The same laugh my grandma had

When terrible news was delivered

Along with cold dishes and

Empty seats where once our ancestors sat

Filling the roost of our quaking bones

Marking time and Advent

She would raise a thin lipped glass

Of “this n’ that”

To Gods and Monsters

To Plato, Communism and Woody Allen (before we knew we was a paedophile)

There should be a preface to every memory

She said; toasting velvetine shadows

Swilling away the horror

Like a rinsed mouth will always be

More kissable

And come New Year’s Eve

We’ll forget our enemies and join shoulders

Kicking our long legs into space to the chime of twelve

Not yet knowing

What will become if those flung into the future

To forge ahead alone

Unsupported in ancestry

Just the sound of voices

A snatch of tune

The smell of half finished dinner, paused forks suspended in song

Stewing pears over cheap white wine

Her hands red like mine

From scrubbing too hard

That blemish

It won’t come out

So it sinks

Orange streaks of sunlight beneath green orbit

And a stranger in a bar once remarked;

You have gorgeous eyes like they came from the depth of sea

All green and lost

And I think of loss

A stray button, a missed appointment

Maybe I won’t return

To the doctor who found my stigmata

Bleeding like a fish cut on rocks

Into the very bones of earth

See? I don’t anymore, my eyes look inward

In the old days we toasted with pink cut glass

It was all anyone could afford

And I remind my American friends of this

Poverty after the war

A tendency to never feel

Safe

Like city foxes

Scour

Empty streets

For scraps

And squint

At the harsh glare of street lamps

Attracting insects

Bleached yellow

By the piercing quality

Of their intent

Her own thirsty heart

photo of two women
Photo by Mahrael Boutros on Pexels.com

But I am divided. In a way that is hard to shape into words.

For women who love women are often the rarest night birds.

Theirs is a love that does not come easily and for this reason, it takes a great deal to stay

Sure and certain on the rainbow path.

Sometimes I understand my bisexual sisters, who having had their love affair with the curves and softness of a woman

Return to their husbands in droves or pick out that wedding dress and let the man

carry them over the threshold.

For a woman to be loved by a woman may feel natural but many times it is a struggle

we have no rule book, we may both want to have the other carry us or hold us when

fear besets

and men are so good at being heroes

and women are taught to be saved and rescued.

I understand then, the desire for a woman and the longing for less strife

where if you have children it is sometimes impossible to find a way to describe

why you leave daddy for a second mommy and how

fractures in emotions are not easily translated for young minds.

Had I children, who is to say I would have been brave enough? Equally it is part why

I never did.

My sacrifice came because I saw no other way

for it was never as it felt in the arms of someone of the same gender

and in that I am unusual and possibly 1 or 2 percent of the entire world

though it will seem more during Gay Pride and other events

where everyone holds a rainbow and joins in.

Only the days when we are not celebrating, we may be struggling

to fit in with even each other, strange as we may be, these women who

in various guise and costume

fall in love with other women.

I don’t get on well I admit, with those who believe the only true lesbian

is one who shaves her head and dons mens clothes.

It is not that I cannot see their point, or how many years before

it may have been the only choice

but I did not fight this hard to dress as a man and love a woman

who is also dressed as a man.

I would rather pick a full cheeked feminine boy with long hair

and pretend he had nothing between his legs than sell out my own idea

that love of a woman is as feminine as it gets

and we shall share each others’ dresses.

Our history has been unkind and as such, we do not trust very easily

if at all and when we do, we are liable to judge or leave out and exclude many of our tribe

just as women have done for millennia in their pursuit of men

hated other women for existing and challenging that thin mesh of safety.

It saddens me then, to be ostracized when I walk into a gay bar

and do not fit in, or feel judged by my sisters whom I want to

take into my arms and feel less lonely by.

This is but one aspect of the kalidoscope of being the L in the LGBTQ and

few of your G’s and B’s and T’s and Q’s will rush to your defense

we are co-opted in a group who really knows little of the other

for we are as disparate and different as it gets and often we walk

alone, despite our legal rights and our social acceptance (some of the time).

Alone because we cannot befriend a straight woman for she may

wonder if we would fall in love with her (and quite possibly might)

nor a gay woman for her girlfriend will begrudge us, nor a gay man

as they have often hated women and especially those who forsake

men, there is nothing in common there, and straight men will

try to tell us we just need a good f**king and we’ll soon change our

ways so who is left?  In the great wide world to be close to and share?

Those fears and our desires, the very stories of our lives

for whom 98 percent of the world cares not, they have their

1.5 children and ideas of normalcy and we don’t fit well enough.

Sometimes, how much I want to tell someone

of the love I have for a woman and the stillness of night

when we move together and how I catch my breath as

she turns like a thimble in my hands, silver against moonlight.

So quiet instead we are, often falling in love and unable

to share this or speak of it, for it is forbidden. No one will

listen, or be interested, they do not understand our strange ways.

Still in this day and this time we are shadows within

light and light within shadows picking our way through

mostly eaten strawberry fields, dreaming of a girl

who may like ourselves be wandering, looking for

a girl like herself who has only ever wanted to be

held tightly and hear the slow beat of a girls heart feel

the rise and fall of her soft breasts and know

she is where she belongs and needed every bit

as much as her own thirsty heart longs

in the early hours and late at night like the lonely

wolf who by himself will climb to highest point

in futile search of another’s call.

For Halo

My debt rests in your fur

as they light it

and it burns

and your form shrinks

from this world

your black and white paw limp against my clutching

fingers wishing you here

those images are cookie cut into my mind

called intrusive thoughts and flash-backs

I know them well

they are not my friend as you were my friend

I imagine what you feel and then recall

you no longer feel anything

though that does not seem right

without religion I am left unknowing

where you land next or if you will

awaken in paradise or remain slumbering

whether sleep or a void, if we can truly leave

and have nothing of ourselves remain

but ash and debris

it seems impossible that you were once

jumping onto the table and making me laugh

with your antics

only to be nowhere and gone eternal

I may not possess sufficient faith

to build castles in the sky but

your energy stays like stillness in

this empty house and from the corner of my eye

I still see your shadow slink just as

my grandmother’s voice is pitch perfect in my head

is that imagination or wishful?

Or do ghosts haunt us willing supplicants?

A bouquet of delusion to soothe our empty

arms or

will you live forever within me? And when I take

my turn at the Ferris wheel

our nothingness will reside near one another

I like the idea, all I have loved will

mingle as returned starlight in the ether

and touch one another with reminder

for being alone or worm food is

a cold dinner companion I wish not

to believe in

even if God turns his head from me and always has

for his man-made lack of female

and my rib is long and sticks into my gut

reminding me I am ever every man’s equal

and will never lay down to those dull prescriptions

of what constitutes truth from a man’s tongue.

Your fur was thicker than all the cats here

who grew up hot and listless on porches

you came with me in a pink plastic box

obscene in its garishness we laughed

putting it through customs

the harried lady at flight desk remarked

well there he goes as you were taken

hand delivered, to the pit of the plane

and I worried because I wanted you to be

on my knee but no madam, I’m afraid for long haul

he has to ride in cargo and don’t worry

few of them get upset, as if she were crouched among you knowing this

this seemed false as so many things do

when big decisions linger like absent friends

at the periphery of moments

too quick, too big, for staying still

briefly I wondered; Should I really be moving?

to this strange country I do not yet know and

burning this bridge indefinitely

it felt as wrong as right ever was and I stood

in the airport watching the thin man take you

behind a curtain and then as you were on your way

so was I.

You see …

I took my cue from you

quite often

and of the two of us when we landed

I think you looked less bedraggled

whilst I fought with immigration because one of my papers

was not ‘just so’ and they called and fussed because

immigrants are not very welcome in any country

and annoy those whose jobs it is to ensure

smooth sailing

and when we reunited

on different soil with the sound of cicadas or crickets

I was not sure in those days

you were hot against my grandmothers blanket

and had peed because they don’t let animals

out to the bathroom at 30,000 feet

which was exactly how I felt, hot and wet and stinking

at the same time, in this odd place where

people were outgoing and spurned shyness or other

attributes we both possessed

with aplom

following our dreams or maybe just mine

as your dreams were about mice or pigeons and later

lizards and snakes

as you learned the ways of the desert

and perhaps the tenor of your meow changed

to reflect the inflection of your adopted country.

It may seem easier but it is not easy for any of us

who come by boat, plane or smuggle, to

lands not our own, we each bring with us

that belly full of ache

and you were always able to

soothe mine with your purr and ever

reminder of our start beneath colder skies and

smaller streets with littler houses and narrow

rooms where we knew our place and here

we could only speculate or clumsily test

our sea legs against

the strangeness of being

with mistake and estrangement

our sole friends quite a while.

Unable even to drive I walked you down the road

for your first vet check and people gaped

from their large cars at the floundering Europeans

walking where no-one walks and everyone uses

big trucks to go one mile and purchase a giant

sippy cup and some Ding Dongs, things with

names that sound fun and 40 additives

my kind of humor and banter lost against

surge of habit, the vet seemed surprised I

had carried you rather than driven and tut-tutted

at your lack of dental hygiene

but remarked how beautiful your thick fur was

and how cats in these parts tend to have

snake skin, we all laughed at that, even you

cast a fish eye his direction like you

possessed the real secrets.

I remember those exploits and driving to Canada on another

exodus when stateless we began again

another groove in our fitful recording

the deep snow and your paw prints leading

me nearer and further

like ice fish we swam in our odd circumstance

always together, staring out stranger windows like

spectators at our own fair ground

in cold you slept beside me and purred

in your sleep to the sound of icicles

warming and falling into snow the

sky a heavy weight holding its breath

eventually we returned to the place of infernal heat

and sizzling side walks where no one but us

and straggly weeds dared to step and the years wound like

lost yarn beneath our odd foray

until you were old and fragile

and I barely noticing because I did not want to

believe you could quit being the little cat

in the pink plastic box glad to see me at the

first airport in our new world.

It was naive or immature of me to forget

cats lives do not echo ours and mine seemed

suddenly far too long and yours bitterly short

a terrible echo of inequality I did not

have the strength to imagine losing you

when together we always were.

Even people who wrote said; ‘Dear Candy, Dear Halo’

as if they could see the join of your fur and my

burning skin against the other

I told myself I would be there when they

sent you to that place I could not follow

despite knowing in my mind the terrible pictures

would roam long and unbidden for many years

to look into your eyes and remind you how much you mean

to me and always how I will look for you

until we are reunited and then I expect

all this will be mere bad dreams and

again we can go forward, or side ways or

whatever direction the after world takes us

but please together, is all I want

for with you gone, I wait without watch

an absence greater than anguish

for you were my best friend in this lonely world

assuaging the hard edges and frayed corners

we came here together and still I am

more lost without you than when I arrived

for your bright eyes and happy tail

gave me courage Halo and ever shall I

look for you coming into the kitchen in

the morning with your half howl of greeting

starting my day and ending it with

putting you to your bed

never once thinking there could be a time

when you were not and I still went on.

Aristotle said it best; a relationship is

two bodies one soul

that is real love

and we are floundering when absent from one another

like the ice fish when it warms up

and water is all but gone.

SweptAway

10585_Shadow-iPhone-Photos-26_w1120Here in the quiet room

you can fool yourself for a moment

joy has returned

her skin like oranges left in sun

narrow feet catching dust, turning in their little arc

you want to tell her you notice everything

as if it were your job to record the very sum

using nothing but words and build from alphabet

exact reasons you still

catch your breath

yet for all the music beneath her skin

a familiar yet unfamiliar person within

she has been long gone just as she remains

a shadow against a wall elongated

like places you once lived in

turn strange

taking one more look around

before you leave

key on the mantle

watching tulips breathe

their redolent mystery

as the color of her eyes

was never a word to capture

something free then

flying

out of the window she left ajar

that day she stopped being herself

and you could return in a 100 years

just for the smell clinging to her neck

how she feels beneath her clothes

places you know like a hidden map

joy solved in one tightly held hand

like a sailor lost at sea

when she is far and away

diving for pearls in hope

one will be as black and magical

as her iris caught by car light

watching you, seeing nothing

even the whispers of who she once was

swept away

the room now bare and empty

readying for new people

running your fingers along the memory

heart in throat

seeing her turn

that beautiful smile

before she climbs

the narrow stairs

We cried a long time ago. We don’t cry anymore.

AR-180119488

A warbling, holding, green glass pain

Like joined hands make paper cut

Invisible like girl in crowd, falls

Deep as ink without light

Stinging with clamoring cymbal

Tears almost bare themselves as first night lovers, tremorous

Retreat beyond the naked streets

It is not brutal gnashing strength

But soft lipped resignation

And a little elipsing hope

For bare faced ceasement

Lain like prayers and rushes and thrown flowers wetting paving stones

No ceremony. Only, black cars devoid of dust

A trail without salt. They bent lower to seek. Not yet.

It’s hard to say it. The wind chokes words. Before.

We walk on. Omphalos in fatigued lament

Toward reprieve, illuminate in muted tempest.