Weigh Scale

Do you hear it?

Relief sounds like

a girl’s slip

a bird’s wing

your eye lashes fluttering

against your blushing cheek

Do you hear it?

Suffering sounds like

cloth pulled by stick across dirt floor

chalk pressed violent into board

fingers opening blouses raggedly

your chest bone protrudes

more than the year before

Do you hear it?

Notes of a common waiting room

The woman with one breast is friendly
She jokes about feeling lighter
We nod grimly

Gallows humor
Palpable energy shift from 20 year old gamer wearing graffiti hi-tops, and 60 year old with deflation in her eyes
The ravage of time and effect, painted on women of different shapes, scars like badges of honor except when they’re not


The old lady is marked by a blue gown to our uniform pink
She exudes weariment without lifting her head from its downcast slump
Her limbs look like they have been pickled and left in hot Texan sun
She has an old ring on her wedding finger
I want to say something
But the lump in my throat and her shuttered aspect stay my hand

Instead I nod to the New Yorker and tell her there’s a free seat
Nobody really wants to sit

They want to run
Be anywhere else
Anyone else
I miss the days they just told you that you could go
Says the tall woman with a burgundy hair band
The woman cooked in black garb might belong to a cult
She had an accent and glowers

She says she drove from Eagle Pass because they don’t have good medicine there

Simmering rage in her balled lacquered fists
The hiss of some impossibly expensive machine out of sight

everyone meets eyes over masks, the unsaid being
Is this good medicine?

We play occidental musical chairs

The magazines are gone because of the virus, we hide our faces behind our fabric hoping for modesty that has long fled

Nurses walk their daily steps in the shiny lino corridor, their hair gleams like peacock feathers, they are harried but kind eyed

I get a young woman tech who has quiet jazz
She talks of wanting children. Her brother is sterile. She’s afraid to get tested.

I urge her to try. Thinking of how not long ago I stood in her slightly less comfortable shoes
Imaging a future

How they unfurl and then dry up and close, ready for the rush hour drive back
Mascara lines running like train tracks on masks of horror

A scrawny woman with platinum hair asked me how to do something on her phone
etiquette is said to save us
Not in the time of Covid, I think

A high school had blossomed in the pit of the waiting room
Some have been here two hours
They divide solemnly into temporary allegiances
Some like the loud mouth
Others roll at the waiting and click their dry tongues
It reminds me of paper flowers put in water

Her grandchildren are visiting. The mute girl in the corner looks young enough to be one

I ache for her fledgling fear
Knowing

None of us are safe
From the words
Come and discuss your findings with the specialist

Highway 101

This is what I’d say
If we were speaking

If cellos played ambrosial
If those who said they were alone actually knew what alone meant
This is what I’d say
To the ancestors with sepia faces
To the full family tables I could never navigate
The empty drive, unfilled road, the lack of fake
I’d say
I can’t do pretense

Or big events
broken pipes
yellow light

Or changing people

False words
Mislaid purpose

I would say I couldn’t get on with you
We fought like siblings
Though both were singletons
The vibration of only children with no children
I would say I became angry when you lied
When you faked who you were
When you got suckered by people stupider than you
When you lived in your pretend world
Whilst I ate and feasted on blisters
I would say those from wealth and those from basalt cannot understand

The empire
Of emptiness

A track road with lisping night creatures
And desert burning into mirage
I would say it seems at times
Futile to try to get close

to anyone

But I felt serried to you
That’s likely why I got so churlish
Why I stopped talking

Said nothing

Because betrayal comes unconsciously for most of us
In the voluble let downs and unseen affronts
Like a storm threatening, then retreating

Electricity in verging air
Reminding us of bigger purpose

Points of tangency and points of equilibrium

The hour until we ease into contiguous dying
The way you assumed I’d believe what you believed
I never did
I carry a heart with wormholes in it
The rain lets out
You get out
I drive on
In the mirror of oil on the road
I see you understand

I would say we were the same
Not even at different ends
Just burning with curved impulses

That quench the other
As I look in your eyes

I see myself

And it hurts and unsettles me

Worse than my own reflection

Conveyer belt love

Conveyer belt love

You nearly ruined me

In the shallows, near the swamp

Where if it didn’t work out?

You dumped and moved on

What a horrible way to live

Nothing redeeming, nothing eternal

I was told; you’re born three centuries too late

For nowadays people are impatient and demanding

They throw away more than they earn

We’re The Plastic Generation … hell we’ll be buried in plastic urns

In this fettered landscape, it’s no easy thing to find

Something left beating, whole and strong.

Conveyer belt love began to make sense

A logical response to an unfeeling era

Where being let down could be replaced by a clone

If you are lonely, buy yourself a Japanese doll

When you are sad, blow something up, or put batteries in

TV for the masses, turn on, tune out, get an i-phone

Be tracked by faux Politicians and told how to vote

Go to sleep with unconscious messages trying to sell you more

Who cares about love, it’s a sham, a fait accompli, an overgrown child

All notions thrown out, along with 24/7 Porn

Your husband is jacking off as you think you’re meeting for your anniversary brunch

Your wife is screwing your boss, even the dog doesn’t love you, it’s all programming

Pavlov will surely tell you that and what about Skinner and his box?

Aren’t we all lab rats in fancy colored clothes?

Maybe the thing to do is join in and stop wanting real

Because real hurts when it turns out to be false

And plastic outlasts us, polluting the oceans it stands sinful testimony

On the beaches in India you find Starbucks straws and CocaCola bottles

We’re international now, the big conglomerates boast.

Conveyer belt love

You nearly ruined me

In the shallows, near the swamp

Still I think about ideals once in a while and imagine

What if, it were all different and we found our way back?

Would Cathy let in Heathcliff? Would Anna Karenina still jump?

And Diane Keaton in Ms Soffel? Would anyone be alive to understand?

Why we lived once for love and it meant the world

Even as it was so often an empty house of cards

What if

We got the Queen of Hearts?

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.

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

Not a lot

Some of the forgotten towns

circling big cities, lone wolves

warming fur against bright lights

wear their bleakness like a flag

the emptied streets at night where

no merriment is found, kids have

climbed aboard their bikes and motored

through snow if necessary, to escape

into the cold clutches of wine and euro-pop.

The touring people who do not live in these towns

glamorize by proxy

their little steeples, the preserve of history

how charming graffiti looks in a foreign language

they do not see behind the doors

into a teen world of preparedness

all who will flee when time comes

somehow, make their empty pocketed way

to bigger cities, offering the solace of

24 hour misery

surely it beats

sleeping in your childhood cot

listening to your parents snore

inching closer to a local grave plot

they put their heads in bags of glue

just to feel like they are from somewhere else

finding it a marvelous irony

when their frigid mountain town is named

‘best hidden tourist spot’

by those who are also in their own ways

trying to escape

their stifled lot

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

Blooding

I made myself a promise I can’t keep

to stay steady, even in times of grief

not obey my gut and flee, bare-foot

into thick forest where birds

never rebuke

not to climb from shaking boat

wet wood and mold, scarred paint and

many gentle hands

cupping despair in her once tree lined womb

ever tempted to fling off effort

abandon the temple of people and their

admonishments

those truthful kindnesses flung back in reproach

by those who have no use of you

standing like husks by the road

waiting to snag your heart to shreds.

The woman across the road lifts her shirt

stuck slightly with glue from hospital monitors

a strange gel they affix electrodes to

when they’re getting ready to cut

she fills her chest with the congestion of the late hour

burning in filament

like fire birds finding song in dark

her dream is to be whole again

not lopsided, scarred in rivet and rent flesh

by hands that delved into her bones.

All my life I have observed

cruelty and condemnation in

its varied shadow forms

and marveled at how, little we pay attention to

the necessity and sincerity of kindness

instead we humiliate it

as if we were telling a child;

stop crying, stop being a blubber mouth, grow up

get some backbone, stand up for yourself, fight back!

Mistrusting those who stoop

to pick up your fallen groceries,

ask how you are, give what they can

though it be imperfect, irritating to

the red welt of anger surging in

collective consciousness, waiting to strike

who needs gaslighting? When we have

a veritable volcano, ready to turn

hearts into stone.

I knew a child once, who

fought well, she wore split lips like this seasons color

and her eyes saw in the dark

wishing to change the indifference she observed

when adults stepped on toys and did not

mend their breakage

that same child grew up into a flawed but kind adult

who wished many times

she wore a thicker armor

for the chill of strangers

has never borne fruit nor become easier,

as if you wore

sewn neatly to your chest

a scarlet letter

made of nothing more than

the dye of words

that look so very much

like blooding

(blood•ing (blud′ing), n. [Chiefly Brit.] British Terms (in fox hunting) an informal initiation ceremony in which the face of a novice is smeared with the blood of the first fox that person has seen killed).