reminding themselves they can still fly

Only so much can be said of birds, or landscapes

yet grief? Grief is a world incapsulated in a tear

held to the sun and magnified, its kaleidoscope of color

without end

and while you may see me sitting at this table

with dried flowers catching wan Winter sun

my face a careful study of emotion beneath surface

I am actually at this very moment

lying on the unwashed floor

feeling cold tile invade my pores

just like the virus who crept into my stomach

changing everything like zealous house cleaner

see, on the floor I can curl up like I did as a child

pretend I am a dragon again, where ageing and its horrors

or just the spite of unbidden sickness

will not come for me, because I am no longer real.

The sun light will fade and with it, shadows come

reminders of our ephemerality

a dance with what is and what is no longer

the ghosts of my grandparents waltz beneath pear trees

their necks bent to dark skies, mouths slack with amusement

I thought then, nothing could disturb the fabric of the world

because youth told me so

and lies were easy to sew

delusion, such a merry friend

now it is not as easy and like them, my mask grows weary

often wishing to climb into bed and read

stories of others who have lived and died

sitting at tables, lying on floors, looking upward, open mouthed

finding ways to express the horror and brief respite

of coping with pain

I so admire those souls who laugh

though I suspect sometimes they simply do not think

of how things really sit

and that’s all right

because there’s no one way

of getting through this

the birds, maybe they know other means

perhaps that is why they migrate and it is has

less to do with warmth and more to do with

reminding themselves

they can still fly

(Expecting To Fly, by Buffalo Springfield, one of the best songs of the era https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzMl0-bhNcM&t=25s)

Tempera

Query feels like a brand though it comes with veil

the doctors say, phantom pain becomes step mother

to fragile veins

first one to freeze come a cold snap

ready for tindering a bristling fire

at noon I want to eat warm eggs from your palm

touch your vermillion paint brush to my own face

feel the render of tempera against parchment

without any contempt for you, I wish you gone

but ink dries fast in the cold, it’s a myth it takes a warm day

to run a bath and slit your wrists

they never ask why, only how

the fire trucks blink like fallen damsons on melting streets

it was your enemy knocked on the door, broke it down, carried you out

not laughing at your slack form, the way your hair when wet

thins into dismal life line

the bequeath of surprise leaves us wordless

I with my bandages, you with your newly found soul

the sweetness of sharing this clementine center almost makes us forget our mutual hatred

to burn in respective votive, prayed to by sinners, also cherishing the role of loathing

dying is a slow storm, coming in squall, lost to its own menace

we leave the phone off the hook and become masks affixed to unpainted wall

maybe the next inhabitants will lift them gently from their nail

and remark before painting

that they left no shadow

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

ecstasy is the iris and the onyx

Oh no

don’t

dare write it

honestly, I’m warning you

don’t do it.

Haven’t you been listening?

People (that’s the noise you hear outside your cardboard box)

don’t (that’s a definite by the way)

want . to . hear. about. you.

Frankly? They’ve had it up to here

(or even higher, if you stand on a chair, but mind you don’t tip over)

with the words of women who possess

white skin, light colored eyes, a middle class background

or something approximating (after all, the middle class are dying, they are

collapsing under the weight of holding up a false fabric and you can see

the lie of it, peaking from underneath a pretend sky, yellowed with time)

you are not

in the trenches anymore, you safe, safe feminist

you are yesterday’s news wrapping up cold fish n’ chips

we read your forebearers already (sometimes I too found them depressing and self-involved)

the ones who (drowned themselves with stones in their felt pockets)

the ones who (put their heads in the oven, miraculously keeping their stockings from running and their lipstick without a smudge

the ones who (had privilege even as they thought they were dispossessed and impoverished by the stern buckle of man)

the ones who (could get a university degree, were not turned away from being served at a restaurant in Cambridge Massachusetts only last year, with #BLM on the brick wall a few streets down, what a fucking irony that was)

So until you are (a person of color on the OUTSIDE where people can decide to treat you with respect or shit on you from their delusion of superiority)

until you are (condemned, mocked, belittled, ignored, rejected, for that skin)

until you know (what it’s like to grow up without any money, security, education, safety, prospects)

we’ve heard you and we’re bored of you and we don’t want to hear anymore

click

dial tone

letter unopened

goodbye sender.

It is 2021. The worn shellac from the withering year before has

begun to buckle, we don’t know what to expect, we only know

what we can no longer tolerate, even as our ivory towers

continue to hum with the incessant, nascent buzz of egos

bathing in each other’s radiance (but they are too far away to really count)

(aren’t they?)

those left in the shadow, carrying mixed-genes in multicolor packages

drugs on the tongue, under strobes, nobody can tell where you’re from

ecstasy is the iris and the onyx

pick up their belongings and leave town for good

they are done with Pushcart trollies of people

bartering and bantering, blinkers full on

creating a better world out of the same blunt tools

we used last time to ill effect (putting people in jars, saying who is and isn’t worthy, over compensating and then rejecting those who were and now are not)

it makes them laugh and then cry, if they think on it

but they do not think on it often, they are focused instead

on walking without shoes and how, by doing so,

they feel everything

maybe even the smooth stones in Sylvia’s pocket (was it really felt? Or fur? Is fur allowed?)

as they eat their Vegan treat and rub their foreheads clean

of Athena’s damning pinprick.

Le repas

The way she cleans

puts away the day

into lopsided drawers that do not shut

well even on easy days

their contents lost in shuffle and exploit

planes over head, mornful drone, a whine

of grief as they attain height

her hands chapped from slapping herself

back to life

rivets run like zippers down her nails

a light somewhere is extinquished

another turned on, sudden furnace, shadows

vanquished, she has not drunk

all day, for the trembling in her hands

betrays the wait.

Dusk smears sky, oranges hang like

tired bosoms pressed in a woman’s dress

amidst plump leaves, blue-black birds

caw their hunger into the cavernous pitch, cats

with arched tails, disappear potently, eternally

her ankles swell with want, her thyroid

a box of treasure, alight with waiting in chocolate dusk

she dozes in her reverie, business put away

the calm of darkening, a hot bath scalding

dry air with its promise, oils filling her nostrils

pungent and wistful, infusion of sorrow

she remembers when

they lay together without fault

or breakage

the outline of their union

a mandala, with complicated lines leading back to circles

drawn in henna, indigo, cheap car paint, permanent in bare footed sprint

poured into a tattoo gun in the wild hinterlands of Canada

stabbed in little sticcatto for her eternal, sea sick

pleasure.

She lay then, thinking of

burning up

like fireworks

set alight to bloom and bloom till dry of pollen

in empty skies void of furtherment

she wanted to melt

the snow as she walked back

alone and hurting, wounded by her own loathing

a cigarette in her mouth

pressed against clenched, chipped teeth

and you? You were far off like winking lights in sea storm

and you were so far then… gone
without being gone

As is so much of life. Waiting. Closing curtains. Wrapping away disappointed hours

to bed, to claim, to screaming beneath wedged pillows

till the thankless clock in the downstairs anteroom chimes not

and without putting our heads in the oven even once

we are done
Done
Done.

Not written down in history

The lonely heart

of a girl

who liked her own

kind

is not written down in history

there are few

stories of this

quiet, often eclipsed, furtive, secret

kind of longing

less even spoke aloud or transcribed

for what could be said? Admitted?

Instead, there are, no doubt

trees growing exceptionally redolent

nourished with the grieving, private hearts

of girls throughout history

who buried their flesh

beneath tender roots of a sapling

when it became abundantly clear

their tongues served them no purpose

in speaking of a love

no-one wanted.

These girls … I wonder

about them, sometimes as I tramp

red cheeked and furious

up hill side, when sitting still and

desiring felt like cold bars of a jail cell

seeing above me the wielding kite and her

long expanse, mocking almost with her freedom

for fierce she is, unable to

be anything but predator

time lapses into a series of vignettes

childhood (unknowing/confused) adolescence (odd/ill-fitting)

youth (empty bed/scolded faces of young men who do not understand

why no matter what they do, they endear

not)

older (disappointment/scrolled dating sites, dark bars with groping

strangers, you wouldn’t share a car ride with)

a wish always

for the girl over the moors

her long black hair tumbling like a question mark

the iridescence of her eyes, startling, bold

quit of falseness, a truth enveloping us both

without need of pretense, shyness left in fog

to hold the hand of someone who understands

and wishes to pull you through

where magic still resides in ellipsis and mist.

They do not invite single women of a certain age

to celebrate. When everyone would feel

uneasy, no children to talk about

flourishing career to brag of, she is not anything more than

everything to one person, outside that

sphere, she feels lost, disjointed, unable to fit closely

the pieces of irregularity, between her own wishes

and that of everyone else. They stare at her

over coffee cups, watching as if she were

a different species, something odd and inexplicable

cut at irregular angles, spilling out of bondage

saffron infused thoughts, plastered to her wet head

like a seal exploring depths, her stockings uneven

ragged with snares, mimicking internal

conflict, why she couldn’t pose for the camera

lips pursed in obliging, skirt wrinkle free,

hands hidden beneath cardigan, their

eternal fidget repressed with the incalculable

strength of effort it takes women to remind silent

say nothing, speak not with their roaming eyes

the magnificence of their private entreaty.

Oh to reveal, peal off layers, ransack propriety

and launch, full mast, happy crew, into the ocean

where loving was loving anyone, invited equally

to christenings, thanksgiving, birthday’s

not whispered about; behind fans, fingers, computer

screens, the lascivious imagination of mild mannered

disgust, spread liberally on morning toast.

“What do they DO?” (behind closed doors)

“was she like THAT with you?” (you should be so lucky)

“are they man-haters?” (only if you join in the cacophony)

“her mother must be so disappointed” (eternally).

I’m not disappointed

with you, us, swimming upstream, lily pads, green light

breaking up mosaic thought

bring it on

bring it on

we urge in our confident hour, no longer strange in shadow

by fire, by tokens in dark, wagging their tongues

and then, weary, tired of the fight, we stop

holding hands in public, the glare, a sunburn on

our fragile necks we stay modest, interior

house plants straining for sufficient light

when they don’t invite us, when I remain

alone waiting for you, weeks upon weeks

when stigma is a brand without physical body

it stings as deep, stays as long, heals too slow

it is hard to imagine the words ‘equality’

leaving our lips, and joining the world

in red shoes and jaunty hat, tipped merrily

to the left-hand side, running for a bus

knowing you’ll just make it

if the ground isn’t slippery

if you don’t fall before you’ve got

a firm hold.

To all but I

Two naked women - I am author of this imageThat silence you hold around you like a mink

is just a stuffed head with loose teeth

meant to rattle on long voyages

if you had the guts to take them.

Do not go beyond, to that infernal

evocation where haunted,

camouflaged people trade real glass

for plastic and suck deeply on

the opiate pipe.

Stay here, pealing as we are, beneath onslaught

Et je fus plein alors de cette vérité

possessing real in hyssop, amaryllis and anise

you say it’s getting late, I say it’s still

early enough

people fall away like pealing clementines

at Christmas, tossing orange skirts on

low fire, see them eaten by flame, till

blackened over, their pride is absorbed.

You climb winding steps away, concertinaed

in your certainly we are ruled by time

reducing from me in sleep

tucking the parts of you filled with shame

like moths will beat and beat and beat

herself against electric light.

I cannot show you the tinder of my heart

convince you of my worth or your

premature funeral for us

lying next to you, as you curl outstretched from me

further into your onyx shell, you

learn to inhale holding your breath

underwater.

Would I were, more courageous I’d

pry your fury into edible squares, pick

them off one by one, scabs and

scars you press dearly, leaving marks

of harm against molested hope.

In our fight, we share an appetite

to return through time to a past

emptied of doubt and pain, if I

were able I’d take you there, a

reminder of solaces discovered in each

other’s dusk and shape birthing music

in forests, surely you remember?

How can it have wiped you clear

of trust? Of knowledge, in trying to

shut yourself, squeeze into a box

tie the string, send it anonymously,

some far place without me, will you

find yourself again, when you arrive?

A stranger to touch you as I once did, with

boldness, there are only so many times

before rejection builds walls, disbursing

bitterness like jasmine growing wild

will perfume even the smell of death.

Disguising ourselves as other people

we step from the ledge, falling into dishonesty

like the fools we become, scoring wood

with our determination to undo crimes

past, often brings empty places at the table

we are removed as we are staying still.

In your mind a stranger takes you violently

against a wall, on our bed, through this unlatched window

into sweet void, you fly clasping your climax

to yourself with embarrassment, for

there is only strangeness in the fantasy

of others, surely as they will sup on your

verge, claiming purity with a red arrow

now lost, now loosened from our fold.

I have called your name until my throat

is raw and scolded with rejoinder, you

are not coming home, she echoes, this body

no longer mine to behold, we are now

photos in a frame, gathering dust

for future inspection, or forgotten entirely

to be crushed beneath footfall

how can such intensity fade? And

turning a page, become no more than

whispers against encroaching sea

lending her wrath and depths to

flood, even the gentlest memory.

Ah, you in my arms, my fingers beneath

your back holding you close, we arc and

move together, inside each other, tongues

salted with exploration, urging for

summit, we climb as one, reaching

mountain top, viewing our world

douce maistresse touche, pour soulage mon ma

just to tumble, slow and sure, clasping

damp skin, sticky hair, hands entwined

the lure and melting red possession

and with one slam of insolent door

you are emptied of such tight intimacy

as if it were nothing less than

a skirt to be discarded. Left behind

worn and used, torn by prior

dance, now abandoned in

savage hollow, to turn no more

in softened movement

hitching up, riding against

my skin, your arms crying out for purchase

eclipsing each other in thrust and

joining, meeting only to burn, lost, lost then

do not go, do not change

yet in this sounding evocation

that is exactly

who we were together

no more, a fable

may-hap children

shall recall in

skipping to

some primal

chant made

insensible by

the drawing of

years in chalk

and pattern lost

to all but I.

The Opal

I think of you

My heart clenches

In the carousel of seconds it takes to form a moment, yet I managed to witness a lifetime

How did you come to be

A vowel, a constellation, a rhyme in my mind

Days are bare, unpainted walls

Thinking of you I find color

Music

Can’t imagine a world with only one of you in it

I want to breathe you in

Molecules and seconds

Making up days spent together, pieces of paper forming a page

Marbles inside the other

Flowers retaining pigment as they dry

Death and life, striding side by side

Dancing beneath raw bulb, open sky

The pulse in your throat the clench of your thigh

Sweetness in a certain, slow agony

Instrument run over temperate string

The cry of unseen things in the dark

Listen, listen, closer, I bend my head

You tell me everything in one pearlized glance

If there were a creature able to step from shell, made flesh

I think she’d be you, you with your untouchable countenance

The regal surity of your long sloping neckline

How cheek bones become canvas, become art, become song

Your thin chest against mine, just once, like a film played forward and backwards

I see the embrace, an ackwardness, then I’m wearing my best dress, nearly spent, bare feet on dirty street roads, because I wore heals to look like your fantasy and one broke clean in half

You can take things like that as omens

I’ll continue to believe where there are feelings, there are destinations

Electricity above us in the heavens, sprung to earth

Lines in sand, in skin, in the consoling sky at night

Across your sleeping skin, when I want you to dream like I

Building on fantasy, stories come fully real

Only in others lives it seems, you swim ever further away

Until a shadow, a mirage, just the sound of your escape

Sometimes you strangle the moment, with accident or heavy hand

Intensity not meant for now, should take its time to build

I gave you no time, in my world you had long been its center

A flower within flowers, mandala tattooed on the small of my back in purple, calling

I think of you

My heart clenches

In the carousel of seconds it takes to form a moment, yet I managed to witness a lifetime

Before the end there was a beginning, unsung, untested, disused, sythed baren

Leaving nothing in its scatter but wistfulness

Like a memory without basis, not existing, just as real

The feel of your reddened lips, goodbye, never touched, still here

In the unfolding of time, you flicker closer, then far, then in, then

Out

Like an Opal on my finger

Luminous, unforgettable, the night air charged with its curse.

Pleasure dome

I’m 24

Funny shaped tap drips without end,
birds no longer sing in this city

I tell myself, I cannot survive much longer

If my view is a saffron robed Pakistani man, hawking up phlegm at 8am, into his dying rhododendron

Despair like me, at these four walls and dirty pipes protruding from beneath singleton sink

Who ever made sinks this size? Sometimes you throw up in them. Other nights you heft your hiney and pee long and shameful

The golden shower of malcontent. I don’t like to share bathrooms with strangers or friends

Poverty and her gifts, laying each day another absence, a reminder, you are in the meat grinder of the city, she waxes her legs on your sharp disappointment

As a kid you thought you’d wrangle diamonds from street corners, the fizz and pop of bright lights luring you to the center, like a Christmas nectarine

Is always spoilt.

In the petting evening, wet lipped men come to the spindly girl upstairs

She has thin shoulders and jagged hips, her eyes are always transparent and high on pyramid crystals

These men grind their dirt into her pretend cries of ecstasy and she gets crisp and filthy notes left on her childhood dresser afterward

I fantasize about asking her, if it has to be men she admits into her sanctum

But I’ve never paid for it and I don’t want to step in their cooling semen

If she knocked on my door and offered a damson breast I may

Break that rule and risk, even in the AIDS era, even as a feminist, even if I can’t afford the powder, her hungry nostrils crave

Just to feel the rub of her emaciated hips and hard thighs against my parched skin

I’d fucking inject it if I could, to take away the feeling of savage loneliness in the big city

That sick feeling, you’re stuck, among landlords and low paying jobs, even at 24

Massaging an ancient electric meter with dirty coins, for a little light showing more dirt

The temptation to let it fade out and lie, door open, legs open, coins in your mouth until blood freezes in your veins.

Come in and pay for me then, what am I worth? What can you fill me with, I haven’t already drunk?

Strange people’s scarfs on universal banisters, the smudge of sex in screwed up foil and old bus tickets

Lift up my hips, ram it in, pay your due, switch poison for love and love for death, welcome to the pleasure dome.

The man in 4b puts his hands down his granddaughters dress but the abuse hotline just rings and rings and rings

There’s a gypsy in 5a, cries for his lost lover til dawn. There’s a 13 year old boy who turns tricks in the street, who asks for bus money and new socks

The flashing lights of the strip club opposite are flamenco pink and penetrate through my squalid curtains, wailing their synthetic dreams

How far will you travel to see the sky again? To touch sand and sea and gulp with fevered breath, the pollen of forgotten worlds, lost in your lust for noise

I think of the Pakistani man and his phlegm, growing flowers from spit

As the Eastern eyed girl sells her small fruit for a ransom and a cry

Breasts like pinches, thin ribs beneath wool, taut ride of her skirt showing little pursed mouths of bruises

Her feet are always bare andlacquered, mine are unwashed and leave imprints of desire outside her door in ring-a-rosies

She wears her tips without a bra, nipples hurting in their push, smoking cheap cigarettes before light, smell of burnt coffee and sex on her chewed neon fingernails

They pay her to keep them hard, I beg her to stay soft

The city is a searching arbor of need and want and ingratitude

At 3am people wander the street for drugs and pain and death in little sealed packets

She leans in the doorway, exhaustion a shroud, touching her bottom lip with a haloed question

I open my mouth and let her in.

To her, and all the men she brings, to 24 years and not a minute more, to the nialism and thready vibrant flowers growing from scorn

Her body is a violated temple, a bingo hall, an arcade game, with multiple slots for change

Her mouth tastes like ashtrays and night clubs and old men, skinny throat a pin cushion of bite marks

I make her sing

As light wakes the rest of the world, all the lost birds hear her call

The Pakistani man admires his flowers and thinks

How beautiful this little piece of color is, here in this metropolis where all are brushed beneath concrete

I brush my hands across her small deflated breasts

Seeing sunlight find its way in between crowded houses filled with sore tenants

Touch her violet tinged skin in patterns, warming her before she awakes.

I’m 24 and she’s 22 and an entire life time, of fag butts and misery, washed down on lines of coke and old men groping for their last fuck

Later on I’ll take her to the coffee shop with the little bell above the door, and we’ll clasp hands beneath the sticky table cloth

Blue rinse ladies in the adjacent seat will remark, on our bright eyes and shining hair

As if we too were born

From the cracks of despair

debris of the unsaid

row-boat-painting-surrealism-woman-dreaming-row-boat-in-hair-beautiful-painting-art-row-boat-in-storm-paintingOnce

the storm

predicted and prepared for

still

blew away the thatch of your house

sent water pouring like words with lament

and whilst

i was sickening

i thought I heard you row

across the expanse of us

holding your roof as umbrella

your feet bare and needy

opened my cabinet of questions

gave you a draft of why?

to which you descended beneath brackish waters

places submerged in lost question

claiming to surface

a moment where you spun in orange pekoe light

sitting stroking Gato before he

tested his claws on a tree the buyers tore down years hence

i climbed that tree in my high heels

you took a photo aping for the camera

and one fixing your sink in mini skirt

that’s my girl you said

we bathed because then you had a bath and I had heated arms to wrap you whole

the ocean of the past drawing in and receding

with it, debris of unsaid and unchained

time behind and unrecoverable

Once

i told you I was sick and couldn’t swim

you held me above waves with your will

till you decided I weighed too heavy

on the stitch of your skin to keep

we both

and neither of us

strangers and familiar

deciding and without decision

lost that year to the storm

as it set its pulse on our sundial and drank all hope in its spiraling eye

(there are many forms of love, you chose certainty over depth)

and once

i took a raft made of need and dragged the silty water

searching for what was lost

of us

who we were and were not

for you told fate you never knew me after all

an error of thinking … no more

then the storm left and all we knew was flat and broken

even trees we climbed were crushed like sad-faced dolls

as if an avalanche had glossed over the details

leaving behind a shiny surface and no more beneath

but dull reflection