The shape of things to come

If you reap what you sew

if karma is real

if we get back what we give

if you make your bed and lie in it

then the heavy chain around my neck

is my own making

and the silence

is my doing

and the absence

is my creation

my dead babies dance with my ageing cat

whom I brought when I immigrated

we both came over in cages

though his was short term

and mine I did not pee in

tending the gravesites of my sins

lost loves, light candles

music gets me stoned and turned on

I think of you taking me in your arms

know you never will

that for a wordsmith

words when they have no power

are murdered

you left the knife in as you

walked away with your indifference

I slipped beneath water

clutching pocketful of rocks

I’d shown you my true self

you said it wasn’t enough

because I’d gotten old being loyal

you’d gotten old not keeping your word

now words are buried

along with portions of disguised anger

and my ability to trust

I can’t start over because I’m still

tied up, now I like it

it’s the perversion of the prisoner

of love

to want change and

in no way seek it

we have lost our fancy moves

I can’t fit into the illusion

we used to run in so well

so I take a step back

watch my slow motion fall

into frigid waters and slit wrists

where the only thing to touch me

is a memory of your words

meaning what they say

as you gather me like a bunch of roses

and get lost in my petals

before they loose

fall to the ground

the shape

of things to come

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And that someone was you

Most of my life I had a steadfast rule:

only date people capable of love

who have the courage to show you their heart

preferably girls who wear glasses, have larger hands, broader shoulders

it was a thing you see …

to stop me feeling like a beast

I had been told repeatedly when little

you’re a damn ungainly child

look at your monstrous Frankenstein shoulders

see your long white witches fingers

myopic squinting from behind trees

coke bottle glasses, badly cut hair, missing front teeth

that’s what I see, when I look in the mirror now

the girl with a fistful of neglect and a dragon tail.

I felt like a freak from the get-go

patch over one eye because it was lazy

wetting the bed into double-digits

work on your personality child it’s the only damn thing you’ll have

I was the girl who lived in a coal filled basement

eating would-be-diamonds in French

going out at night picking flowers before they saw sun, turning them into moon shine

then you broke all my rules

in that way you have, that’s unapologetic, visceral and bittersweet

you with your California tan and your miniature temper

you with your indigent words about love and how

some of us just don’t go there

I’d been hiding in my coal mine most of my life

my mouth was blackened from eating rocks, my teeth all broken

you shone a light on me and said

how about being something different tonight?

what would it feel like if you didn’t need promises

what did they bequeath you anyway?

egalitarian, aiming in the same direction all the time

repeat the pattern, more the fool

how would it be, if you left your rule book at home

tripped the light fantastic with me?

I’d built up my arguments for everything

they hung in rows like early Danish tulips

I didn’t want to be an ungainly laughing-stock

didn’t want to be the spectacled girl people rejected

don’t want to be told I was no good anymore

you showed me; if you stop having expectations

just let go, then you’re free

I’d spent my life reacting to what I’d seen

my handsome father sleeping around, my mother’s absence

promises broken, lovers lying, the torture of romance

now I realized, it’s not cute anymore, to keep repeating bad patterns

how about you do what you want for a change?

I wanted you

as much as I’d wanted anything

I wanted this moment

not tomorrow or yesterday

but now

I wanted your cocksure attitude and

the relief of your certainty, things don’t last

I wanted the sell by date and the last dance of the evening

because I’d be the one taking you home

and you, you were fresh-faced and confident

like only a girl who is sure of herself can be

with your straight back and your ballerina’s neck

it took this long to find out; I’d just been following ghosts

not letting myself out of my own trap

to feel the circumference and shine of life, without fear

find in my escape from self-hate, a world outside rules and confinement

something real and

that someone was you

for 24 hours or a year

suddenly time didn’t matter or what people avowed

you see, nobody knows, and nothing is real

except now

you and me

a girl with dragon tail and penchant for seeing

the glitter of sweat on your thin collarbone

Wisteria

fb3902489d3e4867927e2e3a9fa2e998Older people used to tell me how time goes faster for every year

I think it is more that we let time go on, doing nothing to change our course

where before we would have done more to reach the point, we were seeking

what causes this I don’t know, maybe youth is intense, more packed into a year

maybe we stop believing we can change, or get lazy, or preoccupied or led by fear

I wasn’t very old when I learned fear can stop the neediest heart and leave her all alone

staring at walls in a black dress

eventually a day comes we see we have spent a long time watching for ships

as years passed by and we got into a rut of our own invention

it stuns me we can stay still for so long, neglecting our wants, our needs

as if they do not exist, pushing them down, hiding their force

just as we deny their existence, they surface and it’s like no time has passed

we are the same passionate creature we were before we forgot how

only older without much wisdom, just the feeling we didn’t do enough

for some of that may be vanity, our finite lives, the idea of a beginning and end

some of it may be true, who we thought we would be, or never considered

I envy those people who set a straight arrow and shoot and never seem to miss

not all of us are that precise or insightful or calculated

I drifted, partly because of distractions, partly out of inertia or sadness or a feeling of loss before I gained

acting like I had all the time in the world, that things would come still come my way

when everyone knows as you get older it gets harder

to generate that spark, that kindling, that damn irresistible flame

I’m also guilty of trying to assuage fear and you cannot live for such things

you must be bold or if not, pretend you are, for nothing, nothing was ever found by a coward

I have been afraid a long time, I have not trusted myself or my ability to survive without safety nets and hesitation

there was this picture in my mind of me

old and alone in poverty and I ran from that as if it were the cross

so much so I didn’t consider if my choices were really mine

or I was just responding to anxiety about something that may never come to pass

and you

the attention I gave you

all these years

were not spent wisely

for when it ended, I got nothing in return

nothing at all to show

it was in that way, a real error on my part

nobody likes to pour themselves inside out for someone

only to find it all goes up in smoke

I can’t say you were my undoing because

we have choices, but I definitely wasted myself on you

who could cut me out of your world like I was a paper doll

all the emotion I had, that was wasted too

there is nothing worse than feeling you gave everything and still it wasn’t enough

so forgive me if I feel bitter about that.

When we stand still, we calcify but don’t always turn hard

I still remember the feeling of dancing and wanting and longing

I remember thinking maybe life doesn’t have to be so beige

and un-passionate, that it can be wisteria

maybe life can be the way I feel now at this exact moment

imagining what it would feel like kissing you until our lips grew sore

despite so many people in this world it is not easy

to stare across a room and find

your familiar, the one who moves your blood

but I thought I found it in you, from the very first

Probably I was mistaken, it seems like risks are only suited to certain players

but tell me, if I was wrong, then why do I hold such indelible feelings?

why do I not walk away when it seems, the logical thing to do

when I close my eyes I see your face

I long to hold your hand and feel the light pulse in your small wrist

except if things were meant to be

they’d fit and you’d feel the same way, not be unmoved by chemistry

perhaps it is the story of my life

to find it so hard to fall and when I do, land on my face

perhaps I am not meant to be in someone’s arms

held, worshiped and adored, as you once said

was that a brush-off or just the truth?

who knows anymore it almost doesn’t matter

because I have tasted disregard many times in my life

to the point of knowing all the flavors it comes in

and if you don’t share my feelings

if I don’t make you want to jump up and run to me

if you don’t stay awake at night, your heart thundering

then I am not going to try to woo you

and I don’t want to be the girl, who has to try twice as hard

not when it comes to emotions, they either exist or they don’t

it just seems an irony, I pluck up courage and make a fool of myself

I was once told I should go find someone who’d be crazy about me

if that were possible maybe I would

but you’d be surprised what exists

and what does not

in this funny world of

lonely hearts

What they have to learn

The teacher hadn’t enjoyed teaching in a long while

ever since her notions and reality rubbed against one another

exploding the myth she held in teaching college, of making a difference

her students

whom the administrators asked her to refer to as clients

wanted to pay for a degree, not to learn

we don’t have time to study they lamented

we are too busy with everything else which is, so much more important

the students

did not respect her because she earned less than

they believed they would earn in a few years time

she wanted to say DREAM ON but it was no longer acceptable

to tell the truth

especially with college administrators

(who were paid well, to shuffle papers from desk to desk)

watching in the wings

she recalled why

she had wanted to be a teacher

at eight she’d been sent to a foster home

where the ‘father’ decided to show and tell

using his fingers in wrong positions

she ran away and lived

underneath a bridge for the night

listening to the stars wink on and off

and the weave and fall of the world

the next day they found her, dirty and lost

spanked her for making up lies about being abused

and sent her to another foster home

this time the mother

starved her lean

told her she was fat and ugly

when she hardly weighed in

got her to clean and cook and scrub

she preferred that kind of reality

it didn’t involve lies it was honest in its

taste of cruel

when summer was over and she returned to school

a new teacher had begun work

she had the faraway eyes of a dreamer

and her voice was soft like bird song

without saying a word she knew the children who

had been neglected and abused

she’d encourage them often and whisper in their ears

this may seem like this is all there is

but there’s so much more!

one day you will be free to escape your confines

you can shrug off your sadness and become

anything you want

so when the time came for her to age out of the system

she didn’t bring flowers and a card for her foster-mother

instead she packed her single bag and left before

morning showed in the sky

the room was bare and emptied but somehow

it didn’t look so different to when she’d lain there

trying to take up the smallest space

funny that we can inhabit a place for so many years and

when we leave it’s like we were never there

a wraith who didn’t get heard or couldn’t

break out of her little mincing trap of potted meat

she hated the flabby jowls and empty eyes

of those who pretended to keep

her safe

being old enough now to look after herself she

enrolled in teaching college hoping one day

she could reach a child who sat at the back of class

with dirty socks and a mouth full of regret

but time moves on and things change even as they stay the same

kids become hardened, demanding, insolent

hurry up, please it’s time!

parents throw expectations like rocks and call educators

pathetic losers who can’t do, so they teach

she wondered

is cruelty a vein, like in a rock

inherited over time to savage and destabilize

our yearning for safety?

standing there, in her cheap hose and one good pair of shoes

the scuff blacked out by polishing

she saw in the sassing faces of her classroom

a loss of care for changing the world

her own longing to reach through time and alter

one person’s trajectory lost

in the hustle bustle of uncaring formula

spitting out diplomas and marching forward

not thinking at all

about what they have to learn

Written for World Teacher Day. In appreciation of teachers.

And burn their house down

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Her legs were her best feature

so they told her

pinching her bum as she climbed shag carpeted stairs

hauling more baggage than they’d ever have

oh and your throat of course

chuckle, chuckle isn’t that funny?

deep throat, get it?

no … not really

too polite to declare (curtsy)

but what if you did? Respond as you would if

truth led you by the mouth, clip, clop

neigh brey shake your tail paw the ground with hoof

sore and gaping and verbose in mauve and yellow

like a gypsy sacked from her tent

runs like a red brand through black and white trees

will she end up raped by the side of the road?

eventually selling herself by the truck-load

with eyes glazed over from too many mouthfuls

there’s only so much you can take

a tipping point lives inside everyone

like a secret metronome

ticking away, ticking down, ticking sideways, an itch never relieved

until earth and sod and mud and weeds land heavy and wet

on wood (four coffin bearers, bow their heads)

she hears them making a fuss downstairs

(the sound track is The Moody Blues)

who will go first?

me! first is best! the little one says

he’s got a big mouth that one and a small …

well no surprise there (audience laugh)

yeah but you can warm her up for me!

the one who enjoys pain reveals

when do I get a turn? says the last one

who is always too fast too soon too distracted to …

see her staring at the ceiling counting down

tick toc tick toc goes her life blood

here the vein here the slice here the fall

blue is the marigold dipped in the ocean

why does she bled so? When did she stop being closed?

She was never really shut, she was open all hours

flung wide by the longing of the sky to see her enact a star

spread white and glowing she longed for black skies to swallow whole

every last molecule

there’s blood in the bathroom! they all cry (exit stage left)

where could she have gone?

how did she survive the loss of so much blood? The little one said

roll over roll over so they all rolled over and one fell out

there were two in the bed and the next one said …

you see her now

she’s that motion in the corner of your eye, a cataract in full bloom

dropping by the highway like a midnight flower

speeding cars track her fade but they cannot see for their faces are made

of metal and plastic and rubber and gasoline

and she is made of earth

and she is gone to earth

and she is in the earth

away from the three little pigs

who kindle themselves into a fury

and burn their house

down though it is made

of brick