The nadir of naught

It’s very difficult to write

when you are depressed

when you know depression

isn’t fleeting

isn’t because something happened

but the same as

a piece of string

will get affixed to tree limbs sometimes

and despite all effort

not be able to get

free

O

I envy (you’re not supposed to envy, but I do)

those without this malady

the world would call them stronger

they may blush slightly and say

aw shucks it’s a lottery isn’t it?

I could be just as glum as you if

my dog died, if my car broke down

and in those instances I want

so much to say

nononono

that’s not it

at all

it’s crying on your wedding day

from pain not joy

it’s feeling strong at a funeral because

the wires in your head don’t fire right

it’s understanding you’re going to have to try ten times harder

just to stand and be counted

and even then

you may wish

not to be counted

because perversity

is the twin

of sadness

she breaks you into shards

snickering as you

flail to put things back

It’s very difficult to write

when you are depressed

when you know depression

isn’t something you can push through

like your MFA teacher bid

one night when you contemplated

cutting your wrists with broken pottery

almost on a lark when hearing; try to work smarter!

desperation surging unbidden

fast and dark like unfiltered coffee

always leaves its gritty mark

on the ennui of fileted souls.

(This is for all those who were ever shamed for being depressed and having depressive symptoms, for feeling they were ‘less than’ because they could not function seamlessly as others appeared to. I see you. You are counted).

trethevy quoit

Stand here

moss washing over rock

hands in time

I think of all who have passed through

their atoms blessing sky

if you were here with me

your Irish bones and Welsh soul

how many years will I wish

you were with me

this girl of shifting blood

drawn to the pasture lands of Cornwall

more than any purposing Chaîne des Puys can evoke

the Sioule wrapping herself between empty valleys

or the sorrow of les Pyrénées, a gentle horror

languishing in Cathar country

their ghosts stumbling between worlds

I never belonged in those spaces

memory an acerbic ¿Cómo se dice

*as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods

just as I do not now, own a home

in the barren tumbleweed of Texas

unattached, they call it ‘winged pigweed’

even as we sneeze it away to carry on

lonely pilgrimage amongst spoiled tarmac

perhaps it wasn’t even trethevy quoit

but you, and your pure love

filling me with a peace

I have not possessed since

(*line taken from King Lear, Shakespeare).

I join you, though I am not you

Your smell stayed like a red hand print

Trying to grow in spaces that do not fit

I join you, though I am not you

Lingering in the periphery

Feeling a hard pain in the bones of my chest

Knocking like persistent woodpecker

a wick of red against gray

Combustion

What does one do in order to feel?

Not the safe kind, sanitized by Clorox wipe

left to garner in sun until just right temperature

palatable and convivial like a well heeled aunt.

No, I mean the bloody kind

coming at night, knocking your flippin socks off

just as you got used to living in a box, neat beige walls

knowing how you felt because you didn’t let it out

to crawl around and get dirty, muddy, sodden, feral

where feelings elongate into shadows and back again

tripping us up, as we shuffle to the bathroom for midnight piss.

Those feelings, the ones hammering your heart shut

as you open windows in the morning, anguish

and agonies unnamed, pour out into sore tongued dawn

you can’t even speak it, you can’t get the lump to dislodge

from your tightening throat, it’s like a scream has purchased

hooks and they’re pulling them out, fileting your senses.

The sheer ravage of it

makes you want to turn and run like a red gash

except … it’s everywhere, in your pores, your veins, the very

sentence structure of survival

how you make eye contact, which hand you use

to wipe yourself

feelings lie in the hems of your dress, the arch of your shoes

they crawl up your inner thighs and birth your secrets

with wild fingers and loose tongues

spilling afterbirth like unwanted punctuation.

For all your running in place, you’re growing tired

the careful structure of denial, unknitting itself

in a parody of lovemaking you come undone

till one day sitting at a coffee shop

someone asks you if you have the time

and it reminds you

suddenly, a cut the length of a sword

nobody asks the time anymore

and you begin to scream

rooms emptying

people looking backward

at the woman who

unfolds her horror

like a thin Japanese fan

to keep herself

from combusting.

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)

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

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).

Misleading light

You’re not leaving yet are you?

Girl with mango skin, every direction she turns

a kalidoscope of hopefulness in her smile

I notice how she wears her rings on her fingers like mine

that is because she is me

lost to time, a pull in a favorite knit top

the burgundy losing its focus as

it gathers holes

this is because she is me

bound to gravity and her weighty entreaty

toward inexorable end

a time away, yes, yes,

and nearer now than ever before

the steal of youth cloying on her dry hands

people slip her sweets and say: You are a doll

and she knows if she were a doll she’d be

able to affix the grimace all day and probably say

mama if you tipped her upside down

which is what she cannot say now

anymore than: I hurt, I cry, I feel

for she is passed that invisible line in the sand

where confession is pretty

she’s on the side of adulting

among the oaks and bulbs promising

fertility in Spring

but maybe they will be too tired

to show much of their lustrous potential

isn’t potential for under 25’s? She

read that somewhere in one of those

damaging women’s magazines before

they were transplanted to a screen

where weary eyed, prematurely hunched

poor postured youth eat their life’s golden ticket

like it is a salty snack at bedtime.

For sleep, for retreat, into the veiling woods

the silence unfolding like a veil, mist disgusing

her disappointment, even love doesn’t always

fill in where that ends, fickle in ways

you only learn when it’s exhausting

to find alternate routes, still she finds herself

thinking of the mango girl, the weight of the future

bowing her head like a shy dancer in the wings

of some hot lit theater

how then it was overwhelming in an entirely different way

the touch of a stranger, electricity firing her magic

quills into ether and those nights of no sleep

spent creating, describing, entire worlds

the future, a glittering prize, a lover, a friend

perhaps

perhaps

perhaps

it is time for her to leave

her skin shed in parts like impatient lizard of the desert

indigo handprints leading into arroyo

the scars of her like points of light

shining through

perpetual dark

as we mistake a falling star

when it is ignis fatuus

mere oxidation of phosphine

causing us to believe

remarkably and with some relief

in fairies again

Les terreurs d’une nuit

In the dark when you cannot see well

and squint futile

shadows take on recollection

you are, again, that child

wide-eyed and awake in night

seeing monsters configure themselves

at the foot of your bed

and maybe

climb on in.

Time is definitely female

a circle and not a line

she curves backward

like a hungry snake

devouring her tail

she dives forward

impulsively, unknowingly

as if she too

is unseeing.

Though decades pass

we speak still in the dark

in the voice of a child

surging from within us

bile, relief, sweet, salty, sticky fingers

eating the last of childhood

forbidden to those who

no longer grow upward

only inward, if they are

lucky.

I have lain in many beds

with lovers, sometimes alone

standing in, for absent friends

memory like a scar, whispers

near and far, recollection a drumbeat

solace in stillness, the cliff you walk to

without seeing its drop.

It always scared me to hear

the sounds of night dance around me

in abandonment

though more than anything I wished

to join in

their unseeing merriment

as if by releasing my fear I could

inhabit a deeper rest.

Two opposite ends of the same breakage

I a child

asked her, an adult

what does it take? To be merciful?

How much effort? Will it hurt much? Why

doesn’t the whole world

try?

And she, an adult

fiddling with her rings, two on each finger,

because she had run out of places

to exhibit her finery, her sophistication,

she, thought of where she would go

when she left our run-down, poky house

and did not return for supper

and what she would do

when she wasn’t weighed down

with runny nosed children and yellowed aprons.

She, who has the mind of three bright men

and a heart that did not really hold space

for people who could not spell, or those who were

slow, ones who did not impress, their light not bright

but stuck in amber, she said naught,

for she liked fine things

over much

and that did not include

wellington boots and children’s well played with toys

dragged through muddy pathway, leading to small houses

where there is life, oh laughing, gainful life, but raw with

the knuckles of everyday, up to their elbows in greese

and the machinations of surviving.

I, a child

asked her, an adult

what does it take? To be merciful?

watching the baby bird, turn to bone and feather

beneath the great conker tree, its crimson roots

like great yawns beneath moss, reaching through

heavy clouds with the hands of imploring worship

and life

so harsh and unwilling, to include ‘fairness’

would steal away humanities belief in kind deeds with its

brutal parsing

which is why , my grandmother, sitting on our stoop, paring apples,

with a sharp knife inherited from her father

told me once

(and she could never spell, for she left

school early to work in poorly paid factories

only once managing to get through

The Communist Manifesto).

Child, we must be good, we must be kind.

For nothing else knows how to be, they simply

act upon their instinct to survive. Like

the lambing season, when a new lamb is

born and the mother dies, we turn our eyes

heavenward but there is no tenderness, only

the brutal knot of nature, felling her herd

till balance is restored. Our human hearts

with our aching over suffering, fit poorly

with the callous hand of nature, she must

cull with her sythe irrespective of who deservse,

there is no mercy as we know it, in this

whittling of life. Only those who survive

and those who do not, dying in bleached

bones by the thoroughfare of our journey.

I thought then of you, with your

fine clothes and your well trained mind

and empty rooms filled with piano playing ghosts

how you were

much like the nature I saw around me

beautiful, wild, out for your own gain,

surviving at any cost

and I

the strange flux of humanity and terror

seeking to be merciful

among the debris of our eternal battle

with light and dark.

I knew then, why you despised me

why I loved you

it is like the fable of the scorpion and the frog

it is your nature

to sink deep into the foaming earth

showing only your glacial tip

as it is mine

to seek mercy, in unyielding hearts,

two opposite ends of the same breakage.

If we always run from being stung, in Summertime

sometimes we miss out on dawn

thus we must permit

the risk to gain, a possible reward

high in silvering trees

where the sleepy bears

hide their honey.