The last

250px-Scared_Child_at_NighttimeNothing is always a hard and fast rule or outcome

we cannot predict as well as we might think

divining over two sticks to find the source

I know this as I know my own heartbeat

for myself and many others

not having children makes you hold onto yourself too much

you value the debris and memories and fixtures of your past

with emotional microscope, unable to grow beyond reflection

as if they were your child’s blanket, your child’s first tooth

you look at self portraits

feeling the emotion a little less of love approximating love

self-love isn’t always narcissism

it reduces however like a sauce

until there is less than more

while loving another expands

until it lifts us off our feet and sends us into the air

that kind of love frees us from preoccupation

obsessing and writing ourselves over and over

this is my life, this is my dog, this is how I am, look at me!

your gaze shifts to another, you learn how little you matter

how to open yourself up, love someone else without end

suddenly you are not important and unconditional is

 

it is funny to imagine my mother knowing this more than I

it is sad to think she was a mother and we do not have that in common

she has walked where I will never walk

and though it was hard for her to accept

she knows more from having been than I ever will

I who still hold onto, my own memories of me

the only child who wasn’t meant to thrive

living up to her proportion

not obsession or self-love but a lack of other

diminishment in legacy

there will be no follow-up

no future after I am dust

the line will simply close

like it was cauterised and sealed, never having existed

 

at times I feel I owe those in the past

something more than quiet death

or history forgotten and emptied

dressing corpses with semblance

but I have nothing more to offer

no search for fame or history

I am simply myself

who at the close of day will inherit the sum

all who came before, all who will not carry on

an envelope licked and sealed

sent away to the dead letter depot

 

I look at my hands they are empty and long

I think they look wistful as the feeling inside of me does

if I could stop considering myself

hording small memories in tight boxes

holding on because if I let go

there is just an empty glass

neither half full nor half emptied

gone is the liquid of the future

I am it … this is all

now

and it feels disquieting

wrong at times

to be the last of my kind

I think of how it will only grow stronger

as they die and I remain

watching memories like old films damaged by time

 

this may seem bleak but if you stand solitary

watching the entire world play out their multiplication

like a concert with different scenes and costumes

you feel yourself evaporating knowing there is nothing more

no heaven for the empty. no hell for the sinner

and purgatory

is here on earth surely

I suppose that’s why I do what I can

now

sometimes that is not possible because

my heart is wrapped in butchers paper and thick with sorrow

a doom perhaps, just a shadow of future

when I am strong enough I stir and reach

when I am weak I stay so still air is louder than me

at times I do not exist though I live

I am just a poor transfer

a smudge of a fingerprint left on glass in an empty house

vanquished of plan

 

what will I do when they depart?

how will I cope being the last?

it was my intention to gather other lives around me

a blanket of DNA my home-grown spun family

nature didn’t permit such outcome, possibly

with our inheritance this was less cruel

than leaving children to grow into

miniature versions of disease’s burden

the curse and the lightning of uncertainty

mental illness heating mercury

like fevered flag

 

some would say, abuse ends

when there are no more left to collect

it is a relief to think of sleeping undisturbed

unaware of beginning and end

but at night I admit

sometimes that terrible fear curls around my neck

and I remember being a child

alone in the dark

knowing one day

it will be

permanent

as I am

the last

Is this you?

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Portrait of man and two women in orchard --- Image by © Robert Recker/Corbis

Is it you?

the girl who knows lustful eyes are on her back

is it you?

talking to your female friends

when a man enters

you reveal your choice every time

the man comes first

women only afterward

is it you?

thinking they don’t notice

when your eyes drift

from female conversation

to a man’s deeper tone

as if attention were garnered toward

the male of the species alone

don’t you see? you put down women

with every favor you give a man over

she

and whilst you may say

no that’s not true I am an equal opportunist

an observer will note

the change and variance of your attention 

you are a creature of men

owned by their regard

choosing them first in every scenario

sadly undermining

the worth of women

it is surely what lets us down most

the value we place on each other

being less than the other gender

call me an old embittered dyke

biased in her choice

if you need to

but truth speaks

louder than worship

and I must ask

is this you?

Nude

she

never removed her clothes in the light

or

posed for the flash

glaring at all the lines

shaping her make

she never

showed you the way in

to the deepest part

nor left behind a key

beneath the mat

she

kept herself tightly wound

measuring time in metronome

within a book within a comb within

a ball of yarn

played with but never

unwound

she

didn’t tell you the truth when you asked her

to reveal secrets

she told you of the stars and moon sprung apart in divinity

and let you believe

she’d told you who

she was

and when

you saw her cut her hair

scythe slicing history in swath

long tresses falling like fingers down a drain

following the passage of tears and footsteps

taken to stand here

you asked her

why?

and she looked at you

with her shorn face and her

sharp eyes smudged with doubt

and said

didn’t you see my nudity?

didn’t you see me crying?

behind my hair all these years?

From the outside who would know?

Manon_1Born unhealthy

never bruised

from the outside who would know?

the script runs, ticker tape without parade

bleeds over page

paper makers who grind words flat

pinch their rabbinical noses and laugh

huffing ink turning to night’s best epitaph

words words words

what if no language were taught?

gesticulating without benefit of lamp

deaf to injury, blind to plight

what if I shut you in a box and told you

start over, be something else

when your cocoon matured and sticky with life you reemerged

what would you choose?

if not language then

how to describe the pounding of our skinned hearts

pummeled by trespassing probiscus

or fear or loss or something beyond vowel and verse

such as it is

greatest emotion has only, a mark within person

no color no lines no regular interpretation

I put your citrus fingers on my shoulder

stay the curve, feel the hurt and rhubarb joy

rising and falling collapsing bestowing

levitated notions buried and choking

no accent no ethnicity we come from no place

we are no one

in a world sucking through graceless cherry straw

the fervor of acquisition and absurdity

our stage unheated flat and spartan

we learn no lines no mantra, no soliloquy

the actor stands and reveals himself

without pretense, wig and powder

shining underneath a hot summer pulse

blue raven turns his glassy eye

in shuttered shift of crimson cloud

toward cloth moon and catches hare’s quiet

spring

into infinitum and beyond boundary

speak to me

speak to me

speak to me

use what you have within

 

 

Iris Chang (part of the #unsung heroes series)

Iris-Chang-264x400

Why must the insightful carry the greatest weight?

in their teeth like a bit crunching down until they break

teeth all over the place, white against the dark

enamel lasts long after we are gone

your words are never broken Iris

the love others held for you cannot be undone

by spectacle or ire, you are immune now

as beautiful as you were in life your memory not forgotten

eulogized in statues and prophecy, courage in bronze

such is the legacy of those who live to help others

you shone a light where no light had been shone

perhaps it invited unbidden demons and the silk worm

perhaps it made you mad and rageful in Louisville

who can say what fuse is lit, how long it burns or

whether others haunt us to our fatal choice?

but who would not feel horror when unveiled

the gruesome atrocity of what humans are capable

your Nanking chronicles, bravely revealed

blowing your silver whistle over lies

whether secret hands held you down

commanding, speak not, no more truth released

or you became absorbed in the tragedy you wrote

my hope is you gaze down, aware of the love held

your beautiful face gracing the cover of your mom’s book

a legacy unfurling, one step, two, ever more

you will always rise higher than you thought

such is the way of the guide

needing sometimes to turn from her gift back to the world

to see the beauty held in their own

reflection

 

“The woman who could not forget: Iris Chang before and beyond The Rape of Nanking by Ying-Ying Chang (mom) and The Rape of Nanking, by Iris Chang.”

part of the hash-tag #unsung (heroes) series.

Phantoms of the brain

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Diana

didn’t intend to develop schizophrenia

which masticated within her brain regardless

of her want

inking pathways and dissecting certainty

a railway of colors lost in submersion

until Capgras Delusion bloomed

the moth of dissociation a star

sewn grossly on her shoulder

branding in disorder

 

Diana

didn’t mean to

self mutilate

causing a bald spot on her scalp to form

like paper becoming chinese lotus

a whirl of follicles perfectly circular

she wholeheartedly believed men made exact copies of people

“screens” that mimicked reality but were not

there were two screens of herself

one evil, one good

 

the good Diana

presented her doctor with a plea for help

I don’t want to be consumed by the whirl she said

biting her nails with reddened lips

the evil Diana considered if

she could reach the pencil and sink it in

to his rotten false arm

you’re obviously a fake she wanted to scream

I can see you! I can see your falseness!

like tar on the beach you wash up dead and stinking!

 

the good Diana kept quiet

this takes time to prove, she thought

sheltered behind her bamboo mask

tight and affixed with unknown glue

where once in a while she’d peer out

tongue lolling against wood

limbic system walking with disabled emotion

feeling like she was looking out of someone else

phosphorous haunting versions or a lighthouse

void of lamp

never finding her way back from cliffs edge

into phantom self

 

(Thank you to Vilayanur S. Ramachandran for his inspiring paper of the same name)

No iron

If you said

I am cold

stitch me something to wear

out of moments

choose the pieces with inside pockets

we can lean closest to

before we let go

bidding adieu

those memories

treasured pieces

lain flat and held

by tremulous hand

one swathe for our life

cut down like barley lying golden

he made his absolution

arching windows cast the tiles mirage of eastern colors against stucco

fabric whispers a song

furnishing breath

as two red throttled birds

will roost

their ease

filling silence

with comfort

everyone sees him through your eyes now

astonishing

a kind of mosaic peace

two minutes

stretching like feeble light

can reach further than possibility

they say you marry your father

my father thinks of himself and fits what he can next to him

in a boat for one purpose

alone

and I see

how many times that was echoed

where I wondered at the empty feeling in my hands

after you made no effect

and expectation became a sore word

lost in tumble-dryer

set to spin on

no iron