Family photo

Draw a line in sand

She’s the border of one side and the other

At times unteathered

Without prediction

There’s a mystique to change if it’s bidden

And if not …

Galloping down flights of stairs in Wellington boots

Doors unlatched, bodies surge toward the wild

Leaving behind tables of cups and saucers

A black current stain on her dress, she didn’t

Care what others thought

Letting little boys see her private parts, beneath the weeping willow

Hers was the reaction

A swinging, uncovered, naked lightbulb

Denied its right to be switched off, to sleep without searching hand

She learned, the way of obedience, had a sharp taste in her throat

Better climb out, scale the walls, tear your hands than

Be mounted with his collection on a pinkering wall

To dessicate and lose color, for each pulse of his filthy yen

A gamble necessary to quit and never look back

Running on bare feet with feathers in her mouth

If she left the earth would she sink or float?

Going over the edge, empty-handed and savage

Yet .. children survive

Incomplete and clean of doubt

Their enemy known, in the family photo

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The road

At first the road seemed seemed impassable

Such a long distance with no sighted end

90 pounds was

A hollow eyed effigy, struggling not to drown

100 pounds was

A sickened mouth, forcing itself to swallow and chew

110 pounds was

A hunger to gain lost appetite, swill of food laying heavy with each urged step

120 pounds growing muscle

Punching the fuck out of weakness and despair

125 the goal, she fought, her joints bloody and plastered together

When she arrived, her body, her mind, her vibrating soul, she stood and cried

At the distance she’d travelled, cracked knuckles captured in dried clay

Stretching like bad memories, bleached by unrelenting sun

In spite of this, still, a flower is able to bloom

Random cruelty

Her mouth

Had a tremor

Just beneath the surface

It spoke

Of the repression of horror

If she let it out

That creature would

Climb to the highest point

And start screaming, needful not of words.

She wrapped her arms around her chest

Feeling the absence of one breast

Her mom used to say

You forgot to grow into a woman, flat chested sparrow chick

Her boyfriend liked her angularity

It’s not very Latino, her sister decried

Shaking her own ample swelling bossom

She favored simple necklines and no bra, catching soft balls with callused hand

Then why she wondered

Did my breast betray me?

I never demanded anything of her

My children did not

Tug with hungry mouths on her unduly

Nor a lover, bite unkindly deep

She felt the tight, smooth scar

Like a flat knife lain on her chest, like unwanted medal

It seemed to hotly whisper

The curling, metal irony of us all

Without sufficient power to stave

Fate’s random cruelty

(For all women)

Endure

Along with recovery

I had wished

For one neighbor’s heart to heal, as he tried to mend a leak

Another, to survive the scouge of sudden cancer

For the little bird to find her red box

Fill it with branches and lay her eggs

Nestled blue against the hope of frail humans

For rebirth and warmer days

When the winds were the only thing to die

And maybe the scold in a voice, twisting the knife

Yes, wish it away, along with traces of fear

You have survived the winter, you are still here

The same curled toes and cold fingers, clinging on

If you don’t die, you live, and that’s what you find

As false friends fall and new are born

As spring gathers her skirts and grass turns from brown to hopeful green

As your neighbor touches your hand and his eyes speak

Of the simple gratitude of caring

You didn’t receive it where you thought it would be

There are branches higher up than you can see

Maybe the little bird right now is looking for her nesting

And just like you, she seeks the comfort of knowing

If you make your home warm and secure

They can huff and puff

But you will

Endure

I said no and you said yes

I said no and you said yes

The first time was before I can remember

adults do not have dominion over children’s souls

but that’s what happens when you touch a child and cause her to be unwhole

the second time was in nursery school so I suppose your foray of my body had begun

as I emulated what was done

in the back of a toy caravan with my pretend boyfriend and he liked it a lot

made me feel dirty though, I did not know what that meant at the time

seeded a doubt in the core of my person, like a rod of copper slowly turning green

the third time I lay face down on a dirty carpet and three boys played marbles across my back

they got the idea from a porno mag their father hadn’t hidden very well

and their kid sister watched from the doorway, and I told her with my eyes, go to your room or you will be next

I said no and you said yes

it became as normal as something bad can be, I wanted to see her, so I had to cross the gauntlet and you were the gatekeeper

nobody believes you when it is easier to disbelieve and go on thinking respectable people don’t lie

you taught me to hate games shows as they were our background noise

and grandma would come in laughing and I’d see the guilt in her eyes

sacrifice the daughter, sacrifice the child, sweep the dirt underneath the bruises of generations

at nine I fell in love for the first time with a boy who wiggled above me but he of all, respected my desire to be unmolested and we hung upside down from the monkey puzzle tree holding hands

I said no and you said yes

James Brown was your name like the singer, and you didn’t take no for an answer

you climbed my bunk bed and pulled down your pants and if the door bell hadn’t rung you would have got your way

I wonder who came after me and if they were saved by the bell?

I said no and you said yes

yes yes yes you know you want this

no no no I really don’t

but you asked for it, you tempted me, you flirted, you caused me to have a hard-on, this is YOUR FAULT

I kissed a boy in the garages outside school and it felt dirty and wrong because it reminded me of what others had done

before I made decisions of my own

I said no and you said yes

I felt guilty about touching myself because of the Jahovah witnesses and the Mormons and the teacher who stapled my confession together and said we won’t talk of it

when I tried to tell her, this is what happened to me

and you didn’t feel guilty about playing yatzee and karatee on your father’s bed with the nylon sheets and the little bobbles they made when you made a tent and put your fingers in

and you didn’t feel badly when you lied and said you would only touch and instead you went too far and before I knew you were pinning me against a table

I said no and you said yes

children who are violated don’t always know what’s best for them

they are broken and they are scattered and they are stomped on and they hate how they look when the light is on

but they want to fit in and they want to be normal and sometimes in trying they get it all wrong

the neighbor told my parents; your little girl is using bad words and teaching my boys how to curse

and I said fucking hell what does it matter?

but it did, it mattered a lot, to stay in the confine of childhood and not grow up

because growing up meant it was real and you had to deal with it and whilst you were a child

nobody believed it could happen anyway so you could pretend it did not

I said no and you said yes

yes yes yes I know you want to

no no no I really don’t

and my second boyfriend said he wouldn’t go too far

but he did and he did and he did

and I ran through the streets holding myself up and I shouted to the trees that had fallen because of the high wind

why do people pretend? because I didn’t understand and it was a language impenetrable

but I was not … impenetrable

I was just a place of conquer

I wanted to find a lock and keep myself closed

but they kept battering down the door one after the other

because patterns are sometimes all we have to show

for the cycle of abuse

I said no and you said yes

the last time was in a public street

dragged off and soon the roads diminished and the woods were thick

he moved like a silver fish cutting his way into my secrets

I lay staring at the knife

he told me, I won’t cut you if you are nice

I was very, very nice

no no no

yes yes yes

the policeman said; I have to ask, it’s my job, did you want to have sex with this homeless man?

and I pulled up my torn skirt and my ripped hose and my shredded blouse and my dismembered bra and my bloody underwear and I said

if you can even ask that question

you will not recognize justice if it comes

no no no

I said no and you said yes

the last time and the first time and all the rest

when children become girls, become women, become less

than the worth that is owed them

yes yes yes !

Fortune cookie

A girl who used to look forward to dinner and a movie

The simple pleasure of walking hand in hand with stillness and a harvest moon

was handed a poisoned fortune cookie

caught a virus, and that virus crawled into her stomach, like a ray gun

it changed the waves until, her stomach like arrythmia of the heart

was fitful and lurched

she was instantly sickened, from a person of health she turned

green

her body shut down and said

no, I don’t want to eat

dimly she remembered the days

she would lust and long for food

her appetite completely gone, the acidic growl of her stomach

held all dominion

she was slave to nausea 24/7

like a merciless dictator it left her no peace

even in the lingering hours of night

she woke bathed in sweat

her stomach somersaulting in wicked mirth

such a terrible feeling of imbalance and sickness

her hands gripped the sides of the toilet

she prayed until her head ached

for nothing could have prepared her

nothing assuaged the constant torture

every day of every day

she began to imagine

her death

fondly like a fantasy

and then when she realized what she was doing

she would cry until the crying

made her sicker and she had to stop

bottle all the anquish up

but there was nowhere to throw it, or store it or let it free

it built higher like a fortress

locking her out of life

days, weeks, months went by

she was captured between glass

unable to eat or drink without throwing up

or wishing she never had to try to chew, force food in green bilious mouth

perhaps it was punishment for a former life

where she was greedy and ate too much

or tormented the Fates with the heal of her shoe

it seemed definitely karmic punishment

just as her will to live, ran thin and irregular

sometimes imperceptable

like arrythmia pulses below the surface

that would not quiet or return to normal

disturbing former calm we take for granted

a girl who used to look forward to dinner

sits at a quayside cafe, drinking empty glasses

eating plates without food

staring at turbulent water rise and fall

waves crashing without sequence, into wet wood

holding back or pushing forward, who knows?

one day either the sea will admit defeat, or erode everything

and that is how I will be free, she says

to carefree birds overhead, yet to be struck down

they know not their good fortune

Within us

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Love is a drowsy hand

held beneath quilt

and long after it has gone

you remember

the familiar warmth

and though the day is raw and filled with white clouds

you walk the dog through the uncut grass

remembering how it felt

to touch.

 

Love is a pain, sharp between your ribs

as if blunted knife has found purchase

to imagine one moment in this world, without you

and yet, so often

love is a terrible morning, waking in disbelief

you no longer walk beside me.

 

Then love is all you have

to hold onto, when the day swells and charges

emptiness spitting her spite in your face

your only recourse, to reclaim, that drowned memory

of when you were both without suffering

no worn streaks of tears tracing your jaw

nor the wink of life fitful, in the candle of your eyes

stillness, in yet unbroken reverie

stretching forever, because we do not think

of what it is to love on the other side of life

or how in love we choose a certain fate

and even if we had …

young then and without knowledge

been challenged with some slip of truth

many years down a well traversed road

I know your answer would be as mine.

 

even if love is fleeting, never captured long enough

even if, as first leaves budding on bare trees

are the most frail

they herald the coming of a new season

courageous enough to live briefest

yet with the glory of an entire summer

never fretting over loss, for it is not present in that moment

we loved for always

unbroken in a circle of flowers emerging

from frozen earth come such wonders

as fragile as petals we hold

each, within ourselves