Letter to a dead friend at 5am

Natalie my friend.

Because you are you know. A real friend.

Though you lie beneath your roses now and I

feel as if I lie beneath them, with you.

For I am not as alive, once, twice, three times

as you ever were

you, who were beloved in life, you, who passed too soon, too well

into the light, beyond to your garden

where those who loved you and there were many

sat cross-legged waiting for you to tell a story

make us laugh, make us smile, radiate with your old world charm

for you were one of the last ones, the best generation

reminding me of my grandmother, those fine ladies of yester year

who did not have our mistakes and our errors, the Booming Boomers, befuddled Gen X kids, lost Millennial’s who

never quite learned, how to wake up early and brush their hair, until

it gleamed.

I keep your photo, I retain your last message to me, I have a quote on my

desk you wrote

and mindful always, you told me; Listen, don’t give a shit

don’t!

People will hate you, especially if you are good

it’s the way of the world, you told me, smell the roses, don’t give a damn

and don’t forget to swear copiously …

I have forgotten many things, my rule book is sabotaged, I keep making

the same mistakes, *stop it!* (say nothing, it’s safer!) I blunder as if I were a child sometimes, unsure

of the etiquette, not able to read minds and plunge my hands into

the mass of wriggling thought, to harness something tangible

I never understood humans ever so well (why are they so cold?)

their mascinations, their secret selves, it were as if being

an only-child I watched from the outside with bemusement

(or horror) (or incomprehension) why do they survive without needing

something? Someone? More than ego? Self-satisfaction? What

urges them to action? If not something meaningful?

One minute they would be saying, they loved me and the next

turning a cold shoulder, the variations, the deceptions, the quiet

subtext I did not relate to, what ever did they mean when

they went silent and I dropped like a dying star (autism is

more honest than what we deem normal, i’m certain)

out of their orbit? How to tell? What to care about? (I am

afraid of not mattering to anyone, and everything I do being futile, I don’t

want to go my entire life as lonely as now, with that hollow

fear inside my mouth, unable to come out, lodged deep

like a burrowing moth will press itself like unbidden velvet).

Natalie – – you said; Child, don’t care so much

for nobody cares as much as they say they do

unless God is watching and even then, they would be loved

without putting forth effort, they would have worship without

knowing the feel of ground skinned beneath their knees

few will truly care, this idea you will have a devotional

following, is only for the wicked and the vain, if you are lucky

I mean — really lucky

you may have friends you can count on one hand

who truly, when the chips are down, and before dawn has come

will turn to you and rise you up

from sickness, in health, in death, who will come and pay their respects?

I recall your funeral, how we passed down the long line

many were your contemporaries, women you said used to

criticize you for swearing overly, even accused you of making it up

about your mother, (surely her life wasn’t that hard!) but that’s why I love you, you said

for you believed me straight away and with the innocence

of children we came together, I had my first seventy year old friend

staying long at the coffin, flowers on top, clouds filled with rain as

if God were waiting until we passed, to let loose his tears

I didn’t believe in God, as you did, I did believe in you and you

were faithful and hypocritical like the best of us

a flawed, imperfect, relic of a human being with

magnificent hair and a dirty laugh.

I should have come visit more often, I said,

as we all say when someone meets their grave and the

smell of dirt is in our nostrils, time being as it is, so fickle

and short, and we, who are still young, think we are far

from this hour, not so far, not so far.

You told me, listen, forget what you’ve learned about

piety and mortality, people are beasts, the world is cruel

but if you can find someone who loves you, then hold on

for dear life, and do your best to help them through

for there is nothing sadder than loneliness in a room

full of people and there is nothing better than one hand

reaching for you in a crowd

pulling you out

into fresh air, where if we were the same age

I suspect I would have stood up to those who bullied you in

your thirties and told your mother to go hang when she

said she found you a disappointment

I know how that feels Natalie, we shared the same stories

forty years apart, when you were born I was not

still feel I am not, I miss you because

you were a riddle in a lesson in a riddle in a lesson and I

don’t meet people like you very often, nor have I in a long while

stood in your garden and smelt the roses, they bloom just

before the light you said, just before it begins to dawn and

that is when I would most like to close my eyes for the last time

and sleep forever.

On that day you died, I watched out of my window

for surely there would be a sign, something of you

gathering into the ether, if I took my glasses off and squinted

maybe I could see in the unyielding darkness a little of what

you spoke about, that stirring of Gods and tempests and

humans lost on their own gloat, people who exist without

giving a damn about, each other, or the basics of care, I never

understood, even if I were well versed as you, on parents who

didn’t really want (me) (us) (you) (I) (anything).

Last night I dreamed of going braless to the store and seeing

an old lover who stared at my chest the entire time, I dreamed

of boarding a plane with nobody on it, except waving oxygen masks

I dreamed of you and I dreamed of my mother

in the dream of you, you were walking through the rose

bushes and in time you were out of sight, and music I liked was

playing through an open window and I saw you take flight

and soon you were high in the sky and my eyes could no

longer follow your trajectory and I thought – – maybe I should

let go, but I don’t want to, I never have wanted to, I can’t

it isn’t in me to let go – – – (God I wish it were!) and the dream was about my mother

and she had always been gone and wasn’t there and

I was (holding her hair brush)

and I was (stepping into a lake)

and I was (still)

left behind to take these memories of people and sustain them

as if a bomb had obliterated everything but my recollection

be it real or wrong or scattered like pollen, I don’t know

I don’t know what to do Natalie, to be loved? Be glad of shrugging

them all and living in a cabin in the woods? Or to matter, to

be of consequence, like I felt with you. Was it because you were

old or just kind or just hurt or just battered by your own mother who

you said told you she had wished she had

a boy and not a girl and not you and not you and not you.

Why do the good ones die? Why will one day I watch them

throw flowers for my mother and long then, to have had her

tightly woven around me like clay

but untouchable is untouchable and yearning is for children

(she won’t have a funeral anyway, she doesn’t believe in God

either, and she won’t invite you, no she won’t invite you least of

all to a wake without a wake).

So grow up and put your shoes on child, your feet will get muddy if

you continue to walk bare foot when it rains and the thorns

will always sting even if you are pricked countless times

there is a sharp edge to beauty you said, did you know, I was once beautiful?

I know I replied, I can tell, you still are, because a woman with

wrinkles like ships on her cheeks can smile just once and

a room is devoured by her radiance

if others can’t see that, it’s all right

I think of you now, and then and in the future

alongside my day as I work beneath the fan, it is still hot

in September, yes you said, it always was in bloody infernal Texas.

People remain alive in our memories or they are forgotten

as I am, before they die

it’s all about how much they exist and what magical

recipe keeps them real and how much glue they possess

and whether they hold on, out of sheer bloody mindedness

or just for the hell of it

or perhaps they swear a lot and eat three over-easy eggs for breakfast

when the sun rises and the day is golden

and we begin over

like fools

like humans

like lovers of people who are warm and good

Natalie, like you.

One

Out of the smallness that is me

Not you

I don’t know how you stumble through this world

Or glide, shine, explode, trip

Out of the smallness that is me

Is the only point of reference

I’m no empath

Can’t speak for you, choose colors for walls or swatch of fabric

You may stand beside me all our lives

Rubbing shoulders, sharing scraps thrown

By the hedgemony

Still I am me and you are you

You born in a family of four

Eight, three, six

Me, born in zero

A concept that is Indian

As my concept is reduced

Shrunken, made to fit a narrow lens

Just me

Till this world strokes her end

On my wick

And kissing me bon nuit

Extinguishes the tick tock tick

Out of the smallness that is me

To some an ordinary, downright boring set of genes

We are not that much more to each other than code

The man who seaks a mate types;

Pale skin need not apply

I like coffee and cream not plain vanilla

Whilst to another I am a warrior, a fighter, a courageous soul

I could have fangs and scales and they’d love me still whole

Their eyes pierce the superficial wrapping of the world and locate my root

Still

I wake from salt, I die in sod

Alone

An only child, no lessons in

Understanding concepts of siblings

I hold your hands in imaginary play

You take the razor away and hide it behind teddy

We swim underwater to the same heartbeat

Imagination has a secret back door

You stay behind whilst I am forced

Out into a single stage for ill-prepared audition

Can’t tap dance your way to inclusion

The audience are sets of Siamese twins

One yawns, the other powders her nose

He tweeks his moustache, she fidgits on the balls of her toes

A dancer without freedom

As I am given too loose a rein

Tell the child to hush and stay out of sight

You may find her gone before she’s finished

Learning her lessons from the good book

And sun comes ashen and discolored through poorly wiped glass

Yesterday’s merriment hangs like a wreath in stale air

Adults drop their heads as if pinched with regret

Just yesterday we didn’t think on it

The hiss of spectator and judge dualing on parapet

Still I am me and you are you

Longing to transcribe the distance

Tap tap of moorse code

Flash flash the lantern extinguished by high wave

No translation

I sit

At a table for one

And watch the elbows jostle and spar

Closer than twice removed and strangers can understand

A plea we have no words for

In the long sum of day

Yawning at our door

Warm and content like a cat

Who has lapped spilt milk

Before it turned sour

Out of the smallness that is me

Seven billion voices and one

Stubborn in her persistent belief

We all

Count

Third time lucky

006-alfred-eisenstaedt-theredlist

The proverb

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Was in my mind when

I chose to forgive a third time

it was easy to say “if you hurt me again”

fill in the blank

but promises only matter if the person intends

to keep them

with your borderline posed to strike

it was impossible to calculate

if I would be cast again into fire

the only chance

how I chose to see the play

sacrifice the Pawn

save the Queen

it’s not that I’m especially important

but cruelty

cruelty is perhaps the last sin

unforgiving as karma

shows you the way out

you didn’t know it was only you I forgave

the other one who scratched I cast

far into the ocean

didn’t need their infernal clamor

they, just wreckage from a bad storm

I unfortunate to pass by at the wrong time

you were different

there was always something in the depth

of your eyes and quiet strength

yes I confess

I wanted not to lose you

but I could have said the same

when my mom closed the door quietly

packed her bags and went

see, you think you have me figured

maybe you do

aside one element I keep pretty tight

I’m stronger than even I know

it’s what happens when you get used to

let-downs

when you came and went third time and said

I don’t believe in you anymore

I don’t trust you

I think you’re shit basically

in the clear light of day I could see

this wasn’t about me

this wasn’t factual

sometimes others will believe

oh you must have something to do with it

just as the shallow person who told me

you’ve got a track record of being left

tried to leave her barb

what did she with her haikus know

of patterns? she needed rules to write

I had fucking wings

now she’s just

a taste in my throat I want to spit out

I grew up then when I learned

accusations may sting

but they’re not truth and those

who are weak enough to seize upon them

are just fools

with hypocrisy in their veins instead of blood

but you were different

you were my sister of the plains

we shared French blood

I admired you

it wasn’t enough

you cannot force someone to feel

or undo the damage wrought

in their mind before you met

it’s only necessary that you know

when it’s not because of you

which can be hard if you’re prone to guilt

that’s how we grow and develop armor

perhaps we won’t even trust

the next person who comes up

palms flat

asking for succor

or perhaps we will

because to shut the door

hurts only

the one who is left standing

when you tried to blow her down

erase her

when you hated yourself so much

you had to try to destroy

the mirror image

who refused

to shatter

stubbornly she still reflects

what you hate

about yourself and

what she loves

about you

Being twenty

15541394_10202354632784646_1452891421884110148_nThinking back

being twenty wasn’t as shiny

as bronze coin swallowed by carp

when

I went to eat Chinese and made a wish

to be young again

 

at twenty

I thought my breasts already hung forlorn

much like the oak grandfather clock

my father lifted from a former nunnery

when the nuns were gone and buried with the rhododendrons

the building disarticulated stood empty

beseeching intruders

awaiting renovation into flats for rich city dwellers

whose coins were gold

my father said

it seems a shame to let these apple and plum trees

be torn up and shredded they are mature and have

earned a right

so by night we dug up their rosewood roots

hefting in my grandfather’s wheel barrow down cobbled street

planted them in the little weedy garden out back

where they endured without their crowns

 

much as I endured being twenty

thinking myself imperfect

because of the pressure

burning like a hot wire in my

fizzing young head

like tight roller skates leave indents

my father said the trees never

bore fruit after moving

because once you’re planted

you grow roots only once

 

maybe that’s like being young

you are a tumbleweed and whilst some

take to being a spirit composed of air

there is something reassuring

like a warm fire or

a steaming bath

when you know it doesn’t really matter

all the fanciful dreams you had intended to wear

the way you sucked your stomach in

when he touched you underneath your dress

that tugged uncomfortably at tight seams

because you wanted to be

as gamine as

Audrey Hepburn

Recommendations for healing from a distance

3cc304c617aef064d101cf543e95361e

I told a compassionate jurist once, the recipe for understanding the anxious at heart:

the most disturbing clamor, is that of positivities drum

it beats loudly outside their chamber

be grateful for life it proclaims

illuminating sub-text running a ticker tape parade

if you are not grateful you are a bad person

 

for we know, the anxious will always examine

the inverse and underside

as they themselves are examined and categorized

if you say well at least be glad you are not dead

they will consider all those who seek life

so desperately and why they

who remain unsure at water’s edge

do not perish instead

(take my place! take my place!) (what crimes exist within our fates!)

if you say well, it could be much worse

they will consider all the terrible things that can occur

and condemn themselves for any pain

 

it is the nature of the anxious mind to examine

things in detail

so when they’re told to be happy

go to the gym every day and wash your hair

eat right, socialize even when you feel quiet

through positive action you can get a handle on what ails you

the inverse message reads

and if you still feel sad or anxious afterward you are to blame

it is that sub-text that haunts the most

cure is the curse is the cure is the curse

maybe if it were not seen as elective

subj-text: I choose to feel this way

torn into pieces flayed by wolves

a part of me wants to live like this

how absurd

would we say that of someone with cancer?

you know you want this disease! You brought it on yourself!

 

ironically depressed and anxious souls make

good bed fellows

when they say misery loves company it is a judgement

wedged between passive and aggressive

you choose to intensify your downfall is the implication

but in truth

those who will reach for you in the darkness and say

come take my hand I will walk with you and light the way

are many times those least equipped to do it

often it will not be those who think themselves compassionate

they will stand on the fringe and shout

recommendations for healing from a distance

as if the leper who cannot be touched

must stand apart and die in a new brand of isolation

 

the divisions of the haves and have-nots

contributions to misery

like tossing a penny in a well and making a wish

is not as good as causing that wish to come true

by actions

not scolds

not rebukes

Reflecting our make

6610155a671a863124b18faa259d9037Born inheriting jaundice

from an incubator world

nobody wanted to hold

the baby with malform

forehead elongated, she held on

wishing not to be born

till calipers force the point

leaving behind viking indent

brand scaring watery soul

who dreamed still of utero

without air banishment

moonshine, her first sup

on the mustard kick of luckless child

unwanted by chain-smoking teens

seeking succor in bricked up people

climbing invisible ladders to some faraway mount

not of tablet and command

more a belief if we earn enough

we can pay away our sin

she was a ward of one

listening to water rise in radiators, surge and grow cold

before her first birthday she learned

life is a scolding pecking bird

retreat inward like sleeping charm

wait out first 18 winters

till freed of snow you take flight

cutting yourself out of smite

the unwanted will inherit their cast

dyed in river beds to wash never indigo

the hue of their regret

O to be counted

surely one more drag, one more wrought night

lying back on pillows watching stars trip beyond

their pinpointed direction never clarified

do they seek their diminishment or

have they already died?

showing their skirt tails like faint ghosts

for weary-eyed consumer of bottled night

blinking as neon sign beneath liquor store

stays on throughout retching dark

luring empty hearts toward comforting glow

we drink because we need to feel full

starve ourselves to let bidden pain flow

cut out the parts that remind us how

we came in and left without touching earth

those children of no consequence

developing thick soles and empty shadows

no wonder then we stay fissure thin

in diminished light of birth

reflecting our make

as weary moon, closes her eyes

flits behind rolling cloud

blocking out acknowledgement

like a candle can be snuffed

between a pinch and rub

you are no more than you were

the crust of you, harder to break

underneath there is a word

waiting in turn to ask

why?

must we inherit for our legacy

indifferent design?

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

Zero

267e842992bef6fb109e19c3291fe496I held her fate in my hands

I had a chance to end her sting of me

I chose instead to help her live

it does not seem an easy thing

forgiving yourself for choices

time can never recover

people who take and leave you barren

they’re the ones who will never

know their true darkness

they’re the ones who will get up fast

as if nothing much occurred

it takes a lot to wound someone

who does not have a heart

Frozen music

16003205_1833113303616542_7912161581201337846_nThe ice storm

swallowed sound

as suddenly as calm was lost

trees became music

weighed with the tongue of cold

if there is one time I should think

letting go and lying down

to bathe in clarinet wonder

it would be after ice

has swept clear our pretense

that we are in control

that our little lives are not

at best

fragile

liable to

freeze and thaw

by the whim of storm

Winter glass

24469743_c58d88ae1e_m(l.)

Winter glass

is yellowed with old sun

mottled by bird claws

resembling stained relief

a mustard bath

enclosing grief

fields are reaped clear

left to darken

shaken fallow

like wands of sadness

where once they were bright

alive with mice and voles

claiming their hidden kingdom

ears of corn straining upward

unfolding as sun shines

we forget to wipe windows clear

when clouds descend and rivers

freeze

closing off air

closing off movement

we retire in our woolen worlds

tucking our chins against brutal cold

like robins closing their red breasts

and the light that gets in

is tainted

like long left cigarette

stains thumb and forefinger

betraying a little of the smokers emotion

as she holds it

sparking in darkness

inhaling her grief

like swallowing words

goes unseen

beneath the ice of defeat

(ll.)

we who clamor without tongues

who fill our mouths with knowledge

no one is there to listen

we who close our doors at night

to the sound of hibernation

keeping out those who would

tear us from rigid postures

make scarecrows in blizzards

of our rags and scoured bones

for who knows?

how another feels behind walls

or how it feels to be touched by

dirty light letting in the reminder

we are but fields of yellow

turning brown and beginning once more

each time a little less steady

in our long walk