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If depression were a shadow

when it is my shadow

waking me up with glass behind my eyes

replacing authentic feeling with

stifled, muffled, agonies

depression tells me; don’t get your hair cut

the hair dresser will stare too hard and you cannot

bear to be scrutinized as your father who called you

many things like plain-faced and ungainly but most of all

stocky leading to a starvation worthy

yes that father who because of his own mental defect

could not really stand long in the sun of parenthood

you’d have been better off loose and lopsided

with latch key children

to climb dog piss stained trees that barely held your weight

as they pushed through concrete with white pealing hands

as city green must

an effort make

we would chew on wild rhubarb, give ourselves stomach aches

eat dandelions and wild plums and share a precious few

hard-boiled sweets sticky in our pockets

some turned our mouths the color of tar

behind the corrugated iron where bombed out houses

stand like disfigured moments

collapsing in tombed neglect

we chased skinny wild cats and built fluttering camps

fortresses around destruction and sadness

something I learned to carry inside

when I sought to travel far from the city

its anonymous bricked faces

lending little grace

when I said goodbye to prefab family who

had their own lives

I was an appendage

needing to find my tribe

instead inheriting faulty DNA

tingeing my wake with sorrow

much as I tried

even on the warm days I wore leg warmers

pretended to be auditioning for FAME

when I ordered a hot chocolate and watched curling waves

change sequined shoreline in slow swell

though the world amassed around me

glorious and glittering like water touched by fire

as bleating sun dipped low against horizon

I could not find a way to feel unburdened

or climb aboard the impulse to slough skin

care nothing of what others would say

try hard as I could to become

laughter

that ephemeris

out of reach … thing

Afraid of heights

boy-brunette-cigarette-cool-Favim.com-1321050I always wanted to visit New Hampshire

because of John Irving’s book & the film with Rob Lowe & Natasha Kinski

who

could not act

yet their chiseled attractiveness

stood in for them, a superficial filler

as often is the case

for some that is how

life’s entirety unfolds

they don’t really choose

going with the muslin crowd

falling into things like sharpened

pencils sit neatly on a desk

ready to be taken up & blunted

I never felt easy or molded to

others surges

when the crowd hastened to rise

I would take the other pew, sit a while

watching the admonishment of wood

bending over itself in prayer

where discarded moments

buoyed a sense of artificiality strung on a line

flung into frozen lake

as melancholy as any conjured mist

for it was my curse to be a romantic

& New Hampshire is just another place

where my dreams lay a while

purring against naped fancy

it is sometimes better not to seek them out

for they will never be quite as you imagined

life is no film or book

it is a long & windy road sometimes rendered ugly by

man’s fecund print

the only dream is found

in youth or its diminishing wings

when everything is a stage

& beauty elucidates our need

to believe

the hand of ancient love

helping each other dress stiffly by creaking radiator

four knees popping with affection

I want to retrace the mortar of what beseached

me to hold castles in the air & believe

one day I would witness magic

for if my hopes were less grand

more flat and ordinary

I may not have spent so long

gazing upward at empty rafters

thinking myself an acrobat

afraid of heights

 

Anything seems possible

image002.pngEating peanut butter always reminds me of the night a gay man tried to seduce me

the irony is I never ate peanut butter until I became American

nor did I have any gay male friends

they thought me too girly with my waist-length hair, frilly frocks and high socks

an object easier for ridicule, there are status levels of coolness I didn’t care about

because I didn’t fit in with their ideas just as they were not

societies chosen children

it seemed a shame two outcasts wouldn’t bridge the gap

but Rick did, he was he said, a Bear in the gay world

what does that mean? I wanted to know

it’s a kind of look he said

there are others, like geek, school boy, father

why must you have labels when society already forces them?

maybe that’s why we do, he said and looked sad

which was an unusual thing because he laughed all the time

you know what they say about comedians and how

they make others laugh because inside they hurt

and he was left handed-too like me

maybe he did resemble a bear

 

so when I sat on his lap in the bar and he whispered

the feel of you is driving me crazy

I gave him a double-look

those words can’t be coming from you

I thought I was safe on a queer man’s knee

you’re not safe on any man’s knee in this country he said

we’re no longer in France and it’s not du rigor

all men want sex, gay men may be gay but they still

sometimes take to bed the occasional woman

I hadn’t known that

the lesbian world was more rigid with thick rule books

and tightly closed legs

it was hard enough to sleep with another woman

lesbian-bed-death and all

but men? A few who couldn’t get pregnant with turkey-basters

fell in love with their male donors

but only on a full moon

and whilst I made no habit of sitting on men’s knees usually

the bar was heaving with sweating twenty year olds

and he was gay and I was gay and everyone should be gay and do a little dance

except I was sad and lonely and Rick complained that

men down the leather bar thought 30 was old so he feared

the day when he would be irrelevant and nobody would desire

his gentle paunch and diminishing hairline

I told him that day will never come you matter to me

and we both saw how we filled each others needs

better than someone of the same-sex ever could

which seemed a painful irony

I might have drunkenly slept with him if I didn’t

already know he’d been promiscuous

and I am a responsible child of the AIDS era and

not fond of navigating awkward mornings

he might have slept with me the way a lonely boy

finds a hole in any surface

to release the places he keeps hidden

then we wouldn’t have been friends

and that would have been the last time

I’d sat on a boys knee, queer or straight

so I wouldn’t have seen you on stage performing or

your ex girlfriend staring at you with open-mouth desire

when she was supposed to be courting me

that night I learned a little about people

I would have understood less from the back of the room

forgetting the advantages of the heterosexual girl

smoking a black cigarette and knocking back my gloom

for minority status isn’t all about being different

it can be the loneliest place in the world

and even dyed in the wool queers

have fantasies about knights, princes and castles

when the room is dark and oily

and anything seems possible

Ageing

Older woman holding young maskThe grime that won’t lift from underneath fingernails

is the yellow glimmer of youth

uncaring it is messy and rigorous

when you can live unbrushed

climbing from bed to public without spending

an hour examining your face, patching scars of endurance

when did age, creep so effortlessly into expression lines?

when did light, become so certainly, a foe on certain days?

as if inhabiting mood explained itself in the creases of your skin

you may deflect, somersault and berate

after all so many years wearing your emotions within

bound to spill once the cork is sodden

those hours you thought nobody saw

burning candles between pinched fingers

rubbing sulphur on volcanos urge

how many tears and ache does it take?

to leave emotions wreckage like single moment captured in paint?

who is the photographer who knows how to unearth

our secret selves hiding in wainscoting and plaster

of the past?

I understand why women plump their gaunt hollows

filling their lips with plastic hope, to go a few more years without

showing the world their chapped inside

they seek their former selves, to feel warmth of sun

on unfreckled necks

perhaps it would not sting if love could wear age well

when you are hot faced and tear streaked

wiping in one stroke and smiling

everyone believing the dress you wear is new and unwrinkled

such is the forgiving fabric of youth

succor for the gentle hearted, sugar for the brave

now in unforgiving light you see the evidence of age

lying on your face like a lover will unwittingly expose themselves

in a flicker, in a mere blink, beauty reduced to ungainly

for what we cannot see is more intriguing than

all the dilapidated truth behind our eyes

as much as we may wish to express ourselves

not that candidly, not as if pinned by wings to cork board

spread for all to see every instant of our writhe

biographies of the years, footprints of etched grief

can’t hide the truth as you age, can’t help but reveal

if I leave now without putting on my face

combing my hair over the deepening lines

hiding behind color, clothes, artful turn of head

if I don’t literally prepare myself

like a carefully followed recipe

or posed selfie empty of truth

I will feel as if I am walking naked in public

no skin on my feelings to disguise the years

I have been trying to get well

 

tell me?

is that why contentment is much like a cake

rising beneath warm air

and disappointment a river

shallow and fast

is that why they say joy can be seen in a person’s smile?

and sadness will devour, even the best actor

looking at my fracture, I resemble every melancholy spent

like old wine will eventually revert back to sugar and sediment

settling cloudy at the bottom of a carafe

buoyed no more by light

Within the woods

thYou lost your grip on reality around the same time

my own dalliance with death disturbed the rafters

my shoulders of a man, yours of a sparrow

we danced around amber whiskey bottles

setting fire to tarmac

lifting our skirts before silver ash enveloped us

but maybe I didn’t clean my feet well enough

you began to tremble in the morning

and I found I could not move

it was as if a deer had been startled

standing quite still in dried grass

he was frozen in situ

for a time I wanted to break out

resume merriment and three penny carnival

until the feeling of falling inside

behind the bones of your face

where all emotion blanches and traces

secrets and lies

became my norm

I did not know anymore

how to stir cocktails of polite acquaintance

or make small talk trace like sleepy snails

I did not know anymore

what became of my social graces

pinned and folded beneath me like taffeta

it gave me comfort to

lose my art of conversation

the yawning maw of fraternization

I listened to words and they did not

beckon me come closer

I felt as strange as the outdoor moth

who half wishes he did not

slap against warm glass trying to

eat the light

for it is not you he seeks

but the burn and blitz of some fantastic

singeing his wings in tattoo

and I too

had always yearned for that feeling

never discovered among the feeding troughs

of social intercourse

and once or twice I left

a full and heaving party

to lift my legs for a stranger in

cramped confine

because the hard bang and knock of his

emptying wood was

more honest than all the winks and nods

whispering behind my back

words

I no longer needed to use

only three ever necessary

I love you

though now you are smudged out

by burn of cinders staining toes

gone as cold as foggy morning

selecting mute I retraced my arc

pushed myself back beneath my bones

within the temple

within the woods

where the deer finally moved

from her camouflage and

sprinted light as powder

into converging dark

There you are

15094981_1170125696413806_5262358430950260450_n

about one hundred years ago

or three years

or just yesterday

I lay in your bed

smelling the indent and the roll

of your dream life when I am not

trying to look through your eyes

into your soul

About one hundred years ago

or three years

or just yesterday

I stood over your bed

stripping the sheets

smelling where you lived and breathed

all those nights and days

we should have been making memories

now folded away

About one hundred years ago

or three years

or just yesterday

I smoothed the mattress clear

of the weight you inhabited and

little traces curled here and there

persisting to remind me

of the way the moon lit

your sleeping face

now you will always have your eyes closed

maybe now you can see

the shapes of angels

watching over you until

it is my turn and I come to find

if you have been waiting all this time

a year, a month, a day

one hour is too long

without looking into your eyes

to see what I love reflecting back

like dark diamonds capturing stars

will wink out

and there you are

For I feel

080-francoise-dorleac-theredlistTremulous ghosts must stand in patent shoes around me

for I feel their hands on my shoulders tugging at my seams

I who do not cry

weep openly with sorrow

imagining is often harder than

bearing reality

I think of when he will not stand discontented

staring out at flocking birds

I think of the time I found a starling chick

lying cold on the ground

wondering at the bitter sky

why didn’t you give them a chance?

why did you let me stay instead?

discontent

the child who knew the flavor of strawberry milkshakes

was an artifice

lies from adults, how many more?

behind closed doors and screens

I met a poet an old lady who

wrote like she was on fire

when she didn’t write for a time

I knew she had died

again I railed

why take her? why not me?

I stand disillusioned and empty

she who played castanets and sang

she who had wind-chimes and wrinkles in

her vowels

she had so far to go

I do not

I am here at the fulcrum

waiting my turn at the scythe

it strikes me living doesn’t suit

those who feel everything

like a pretty shoe

isn’t practical for walking

you can admire its form

but it will not hold you up

I ache in ways I cannot give a color

or adverb

it is a disturbance of the soul

the card reader told

you have a dark shadow on your back

she has her hands around your throat

until she dies you will wish for your own death

or you could start drinking again

that might work

sitting at the kitchen table at night

rinsing grief from my palms

strange dark sounds comforting crushing hurt

I examine the bones of my face

they feel as if they should have come unglued

reformed into a mask of ache

outside neighbors children are awake

eager for day to start

a lone dog barks at the moon

because it disturbs the pattern of his knowing

it has been long since I dreamed

when I dream I have hope

hope which is always the most painful place to go

when returning to zero you see the futility

of setting sail just as storms are predicted

you were a hurricane I let whip me up

lent me hope

now I am a milkshake that does not

resemble real strawberries

I am sweet enough for take-out

but nobody knows the sadness behind

a glass that looks full and is not

just residue remains

sticking to the sides

I am holding on

trying not to cry

at the nature of things

some known

some found afterward in epitaph

my grandmother’s hand was

blotchy and purple

still I looked away believing her well

you see

I want to believe in fairy-tales

and ever after

but I confess

it is hard when we are surrounded

by lies in

illuminated

jars