In sight of land

IMG_0923.JPGMercy is an unexpected hand, steadying

Mercy feels like rain

Mercy hurts as laughter will, the first time you smile again

Mercy is a series of white flowers, forging out of bleached, dry grass

Mercy is a silver arrow, piercing resistance

Mercy is the face you need to claim, before all air is lost

Mercy is the final flood, a lost song, a forgotten book, page 456, line 34

Mercy is your imperfectly knit blanket over my shoulders, smelling of bonfire wood, shivering against wolf pelt, in necklace of thorns

We pull and we pull

Our teeth, our reach, our ankles

Until dearticulated and reborn, pass on our baton of water

Mercy is a legacy

A line in land, seen from air

The silken scar, cut across suntanned throat

Mercy is hearing them again, whether a moment or year since, beholding under solvent skies

The memory of love, held too tight, between clenched fingers

Mercy is the separation between, what we let go and what we keep afloat

When darkness dissolves resolve

Mercy lends hope

Inherit their voice

2012610_1809dSat facing away from the sun

an old man wipes years from his eyes

drawn over with cataract like milky bath water

he strains to see the outline of motion

 

where are all the old men? He thinks

once so barrel chested and neatly trimmed

with mustaches and shiny hair like Cover Girl teens

where are all the eighties queers who painted beaches

with tight abs and tiny shorts in tropical shades?

 

now half empty, the beach longs for color

only rotund women with bristly chins

unkempt hair chopped without thought

some with children or children’s children

placing sensible shades and thick UV factor 50

on slow-moving parts of themselves

 

in previous years you could

reach out and paint a rainbow

in their courage of being twenty

though lesbians and gay men do not

always a palate make

such contrasts in their expression

these women without restraint

mopping the brows of dying beautiful boys

unwilling nurses drawn to duty

by suffering ignored

 

some judged, as is human’s wont

even those judged themselves

learning in pious pews the curses afflicted upon

the sinner

their ingrained prejudices wondered;

Why so many striken did not stop frequenting steam rooms

smelling of bleach and pleasure and illness

looking for strangers with no way to tell

if death stood beside them?

 

perhaps; time old division of the sexes

rather than, one bad, one good

men will find a hole, stick it in without regard

this is not a homosexual thing but

the nature of a penis

gay men acted upon that unrestrained impulse

all men share, save those who learn greater depth

than the hand, the orifice, the gag reflex

then disease clasped them in a death grip

chewing away at fragile worn tendencies

soon no beautiful boys remained

hot in steam rooms to blink their doe eyes

fringed with fear

 

some divisions are economic

lesbians with babies, lesbians without brawn

unable to act upon their natural instinct

remained married, starched at home, dying in place

whilst young men, fed on corn and barley, took good

California jobs and soon the boom grew teats

 

educated baby dykes today do not know loss of freedom

or the true price of salt

they can rack up bed notches in reckless abandon

imitation not always the greatest flattery

but back then …

all so new and unsanctioned

people didn’t have road maps or internet

to gauge behavior by

and in the dirty rim of a third glass of whiskey

courage and terror would sometimes blind

best intention

 

girls today repeat the worst inventions

of boys without purpose

those early days of the movement

can a life be a movement?

they died weekly and by the hour

in shabby rooms without succor or sense

strangled by disease, shamed by the ‘told you so’s’

just coming out

only to climb into a coffin and be carried

jeers and spit and hate to their graves

where few wept, for they too shared death

mottled with kaposi’s sarcoma

some haters slinging mud shouted;

you depraved souls! You reap what you sow!

is this the word of Mohamed & Jesus?

or cruelty with nothing more than hate to grow?

 

now gays think they are safe

over the hump, socially acceptable

on TV, in your face, sitting next to you, earning more

painting their rooms mauve, their wallets thick

HIV can be lived past, no more automatic death sentence

adoption is legal, and marriage, a thriving business

do they even remember how many fell?

before they could inherit this tenuous hour?

 

the old man was one of fifty

the last survivor of his generation

depleted by silent war

struck down by AIDS and her harpies

over time even medication failing hope

or bodies, tired from their walk

collapsing on scalding streets without

the kindness of stranger

 

the old man, he cannot say to today’s youth

this is how it was, learn from the past

because they do not care, it is their time now

and if they knew it would not matter

only the hour of their immediacy

compelling them forward to their own history

one day past them and in reverse

they may share his loneliness then

too late

 

the old man

who used to be a beautiful boy

with golden skin and hazel eyes

a thick swath of black hair hanging like a wave

he looks at his gnarled hands and sagging arms

with their scars and their ragged hurt

and he wants to be as loud as the young

and shout out;

 

where have they gone?

the beautiful boys of my time?

why must I outlive them all and see in my decline

the loss of their right, to be recalled!

for whom among us, shall pick up the mantle

and say their names, once we are all

beneath earth?

an entire generation cut down

and smoothed over like asphalt

 

do we ever think of that?

in our perpetual urge to be present, in the moment?

those who have gone before

stand now like ghosts around him

an entire era

strangled before they ever could

inherit their voice

 

(This is my contribution to Pride Month. I want to remember those who are not here with us, because they died when they could have lived, if they had not been forgotten and repulsed. During and afterward, Africa was equally rejected, neglected, ignored, and millions died. Worldwide HIV/AIDS is still a death-sentence, make no mistake. Those with power decide who lives and dies, whose life has worth, whose does not, decisions are not made out of mercy they are made coldly with calculation and lack of compassion. All the rest is froth on a daydream. Our memories are sometimes the only thing keeping us from repeating history). #neverforget

 

Stillborn

thFrom Germany to Australia your parents fled

the brush of taint

your mother a beauty

your father with only enough room in his heart

for singular devotion

when she died, cut down by trolley car in front of you

aged six, catching the splatter of her broken skull

he took you into his bed to make up for her absence

you grew wan on divulgence of sin

til neighbors found out and your doors were broken

three men in uniform standing around the bed

get out they said

the smear of their inferred condemnation thick in your ears

like river mud swallowing you up among grubs and slugs

who blames a child for her abuse?

those who know nothing of truth, shining their finery with glass

you walked the line all the way to a foster home with metal teeth

thrown out at 17 for falling in love and shaming their Baptist ideals

as you and he prepared to marry he rode his bike in the night to pick up

his mother’s narrow ring

skidding on freak ice on the way back his head caved in like an exploding star

you stood at the altar alone waiting

impatient clock showing

he will not attend

afterward with nothing, there was no reason to stay

someone said like they do before you pass 20

let’s go to India

so you packed up your emptiness, put your leather sandals on

high in the Himalayas you caught the fever and nuns with tight wrapped mouths

whirled with lines and decay

nursed you as you slipped in and out of consciousness

liquid and sorrow pouring from you in bucket loads

a miracle! they announced when clawed your way back

what did you have to live for? being the whispered irony

and there, in the desolation of knowing nothing you walked

kept on walking until your feet blistered and your soul took flight

in the low hanging mangrove trees

where at night the shadows looked like an epiphany and you decided

I will return to my native land, the one of my ancestors

you wrote a distant aunt, she replied; come to the black forest we have

mud that will cleanse you of your sorrow and broad-shouldered men

Germany with its fairy tale castles and starched people rolling their own

you clambered over your wreckage, beginning again as only the young can

a flutist falling in love with your dark eyes and shiny thick Germanic hair

a marriage led to loneliness, he toured, you waited, touching his absence

with lightest fingertip

until it seemed being without him, would fill you more than staying put

traveling to Greece alone, you burned and burned and burned

turning yourself into oak

a waiter slept in your bed and kept you cool

against the battering murmur of sea tapping at french windows

life grew inside of you

when you took your first real job in London’s garish metropolis

heaving with anticipation and empty suitcases of hope

your daughter gave you the first peace you ever knew

a perfect child with a little mouth and large eyes

your Greek baby she lay in the curve of your hips smiling

and you breathed, deeply, and slow

like a long traveled bird finds purchase and easement

on empty shore

she, with her little tiny fingers and little feet

died of crib death just as

a match can be blown out never to

be re-lit

feeling like she hadn’t existed and she couldn’t be gone

here was your second decade of sorrow

etched between your fine eyes and deep clavicle

WHY? was not a word you used

absent of all

living only because your chest deemed it necessary to rise and fall

in time to your still-born ache framed

in reluctant silver requiring continual polish

you wanted to hurl yourself out of existence

yet you flourished as if life had said

we have taken and now we nourish

you grew successful, wealthy, every night you tucked yourself up

alone in a singletons bed

until the smell of the sea on the shores of Australia called you

it’s been eighteen years and it’s time

to come home

passing over Sydney Opera House you saw

the curve of sky and water meet

something within you released

he seemed to be waiting in the first corner you turned

as if always there, just ready to reveal

his promise to stay

with time they say pain subsides

which you know isn’t quite true

though love can keep together broken halves

by its stubborn hold on people who

would otherwise fracture and become

light on water skimming surface

it was not fair,  it was not right

now you are back in your homeland where

you began and will draw to a close

I hope

with the knowledge that even lives

built on pyres can hold

depths we release like night birds

flying unseen

overhead

Joanna

56akpbgJoanna

I never knew your last name

Benjamin wanted you more

than he ever wanted me

for your madeline face and framing water fall

of black hair

Joanna

as thin as if you only ate thought

your knees could not hold together you

came apart like a dearticulate doll

everyone felt so sorry for your ragged sorrow

though no one knew why

looking perpetually like you would cry

a Picasso blue girl of faraway gaze

Joanna

if I had not envied you the heart of a boy

who had bewitched my own, or felt your ability

to balance upside down on monkey bars

making you superior in the rules of horse chestnuts and marbles

I may have seen the threadbare grief in your eyes

how from the hollows came the cry

it is apparent now in a way a child refuses

blowing her rage with swollen cheeks

as if temper lost her place in a world of shut doors

why wasn’t I kinder to you?

why did I try to compete when all you wanted

was respite from the terror of being

Joanna

Being

women-looking-out-window-pic-courtesy-of-google.jpgwhen pain

is your only weapon and you put it down and say

turn the sharp on me

does it mean you are filled with hatred?

or the ecstasy of being?

The bottle

the-birds-cage-avihai-cohenFar away

or near

a roar

is heard

and not

answered

for after a while

what can you say?

it is the way of pain

to rage in quiet ire

with tongue numb of speech

most do not hear

most walk on

thinking of themselves

and the roar

tries to find

the sea

within

the bottle

redemption

freja-beha-erichsen-hedi-slimane-fashiontography-3history said

Go back

years ago

Go back

you are not wanted here

this is not where you belong

walking behind yourself

catching the depth of your tread

hang up your effort

string failure to dry

you leave your hope here

take one bag

get on a train

without a ticket

without windows

and in your musty closet

transform

to the dark bird you were

before you knew to fly

to the passenger who came with outstretched arms

seeking relief and quantity of blood to let

so all that nourished from you could

fling you away once done

the fille cruel said …

if I could plunge you head first

into the brink and keep you there

until you swallowed your dreams

amidst river water

I would have done so

but I am paying the price of karma

for destroying you I must suffer

though I claim to be a woman of God

pressing my palms together as tight as they go

all this that comes now to nail me shut

the consequence of my cruelty

you may lose your way

you may be set out without light

holding an empty bag told

again

go you are not welcome

but I shall die first and certain

without anyone to witness

for those who seek to harm

pay the longest price

for their one-way ticket

the survivor said …

when I learned to dance

at first my feet hurt

they did not fit narrow confine

bleeding through satin

staining effort

blistering I rose and challenged

the nails the stones

dancing over hurt and beyond

you cannot harm what you do

not understand

the broken will rise

taking their music sheets to far corners

letting go of caged songs

fed by the nourishment of your need

to damage and quench them

their feet shall defy the pain legacies in wood

long the sound of blood shall fall

after they have moved the world

turning in time to the beat of

desire inhabiting the stage

go on, further than possible

entering hallowed ground

where all who stumble climb back

toward the master who believes inviolate

his dreary manacle

made unsteady by their motion

they are

you are

no more than breath left behind

when the dance is done

and lights dimmed for tomorrow

we shall again begin

without you

such is our dream

woven throughout movement

in swaths of redemption

May pole

th_cherokee_woman_1942_ap421130056

A fever

came like a dream

stealing what was thought to be real

for a time inhabiting that uneasy place

between what we know and what we are unsure of

swapping masks

changing faces

like wolves chewing through

fabric of the known and the illusion

we usually pay heed to

until a strong wind

blows us from familiar

back to our cradles

we began here and will close once more

like a book of our life

were it known

could start and finish

with the same

set of words

returning like childhood

we chase our tails

around the may pole

catching dappled sunlight

on our shoulders

Mirage

487516_925887807519322_6991693440780088237_n

If you could purchase

a weight for

my heart

it would

bankrupt

the world

for heavier

than lead

and any ore

it remains

broken in

places too

deep for

light

too

shallow

to retain

sufficient

water

we will

die thirsting

as the

mirage of

longing shows

its humor

over horizon

 

Drown by weight

c92d59155b01b6e40b01bdf6db68c5b2Why

didn’t you walk the other way?

when you knew you’d flay me with your tortured need?

and why

didn’t I see ahead of time

to the days where laughter was silenced

and only sadness took the oar

out into the middle of the river

where you said

jump

it’s for the best

there’s no one here for you

anymore

I grew up thinking

loyalty and devotion would see me right

if I had just known

the more you give, the more is taken

leaving you too empty

to drown by weight