Notes of a common waiting room

The woman with one breast is friendly
She jokes about feeling lighter
We nod grimly

Gallows humor
Palpable energy shift from 20 year old gamer wearing graffiti hi-tops, and 60 year old with deflation in her eyes
The ravage of time and effect, painted on women of different shapes, scars like badges of honor except when they’re not


The old lady is marked by a blue gown to our uniform pink
She exudes weariment without lifting her head from its downcast slump
Her limbs look like they have been pickled and left in hot Texan sun
She has an old ring on her wedding finger
I want to say something
But the lump in my throat and her shuttered aspect stay my hand

Instead I nod to the New Yorker and tell her there’s a free seat
Nobody really wants to sit

They want to run
Be anywhere else
Anyone else
I miss the days they just told you that you could go
Says the tall woman with a burgundy hair band
The woman cooked in black garb might belong to a cult
She had an accent and glowers

She says she drove from Eagle Pass because they don’t have good medicine there

Simmering rage in her balled lacquered fists
The hiss of some impossibly expensive machine out of sight

everyone meets eyes over masks, the unsaid being
Is this good medicine?

We play occidental musical chairs

The magazines are gone because of the virus, we hide our faces behind our fabric hoping for modesty that has long fled

Nurses walk their daily steps in the shiny lino corridor, their hair gleams like peacock feathers, they are harried but kind eyed

I get a young woman tech who has quiet jazz
She talks of wanting children. Her brother is sterile. She’s afraid to get tested.

I urge her to try. Thinking of how not long ago I stood in her slightly less comfortable shoes
Imaging a future

How they unfurl and then dry up and close, ready for the rush hour drive back
Mascara lines running like train tracks on masks of horror

A scrawny woman with platinum hair asked me how to do something on her phone
etiquette is said to save us
Not in the time of Covid, I think

A high school had blossomed in the pit of the waiting room
Some have been here two hours
They divide solemnly into temporary allegiances
Some like the loud mouth
Others roll at the waiting and click their dry tongues
It reminds me of paper flowers put in water

Her grandchildren are visiting. The mute girl in the corner looks young enough to be one

I ache for her fledgling fear
Knowing

None of us are safe
From the words
Come and discuss your findings with the specialist

Never tamed

Oh love

death is a transition

just as life is a bird

who interupted, will startle

leaving a smudge of indigo

against stark whitewashed sky

the shush-shush of neighors raking leaves

whose auburn crepe bows in protest

for they wish to lay still with the grass

turn seasons over in their golden hours

this artificial need

to tidy, put away, is but one method

of seizing a control far from reach

I fold in your arms, light gloaming through shutters

out of the corner of my eye I see marks on my skin

the furlough of time and suffering, chaffs against endurance

your eyes look oriental as you age

their downturn makes you smile even in pain

lends you a kindness strangers respond to

quiet is infused with our collected breathing

in this moment we live

sheltering from portent

I see the neighbor’s son helping his mother

he’s grown thin and reaching like the trees

not yet aware of diminishment

or why his mother holds back tears

when the sun paints day dark and shadows roam

casting their memories, as we did once with a torch and our hands

your shape lasts in my mind, a totem

I’ve carried an ache so deep in me for so long

it seems to exist independently

a Golem of my own creation

perhaps he will bend and lift me up, when next I fall

weighted by emptiness and disappointment

maybe he will spin me around in browning leaves

escapees of the neighbors rake

flung in unfettered defiance

a string of thoughts

stirred

never

ever

tamed

Ecstasy

When labels were collars around necks

ruffled, feathered, leather, yoke

you were either ‘gay‘ or you weren’t

I was. And I fell for a man.

Boy really. Once. Only time.

Hips smaller than mine, delving into my bones

like cream poured through coffee we burned calcium

our former labels damp at the door.

The value of a woman is in her smell

the rustle of her soul, how gentle and tough

merge together into womanhood

he was none of these

acrid, funny tasting (masculine?) Sinewy arms wrapping around

like a lost bear it didn’t feel ‘right‘ it didn’t feel ‘wrong

we were very young, his mind on fire trying to figure out the world

popping little tabs like they could pause time

because God, someone had to.

In Winter’s loose ends, we holed up at his brother’s flat

half-Thai eyes and burnt toast skin, along with the tang of marijuana

it’s hard not to fall for genius’s and sexual beings with magnetism in their lips

we lay in the dark, he emulated a girl and then became a boy

shadows on the wall, male, female, something more

I clung to him through torrent, it didn’t feel ‘wrong‘ it didn’t feel ‘right

night stretched out in submission, he loved me being a woman

in ways maybe another woman never has

joined we were, hard to separate, laughter, solace, grief, shards of joy

his body sleek like a girls, hard to accept the difference, I looked away

feeling him move inside me like a word

aching for punctuation.

I felt like a woman, a woman, a woman

contrast, a figure of eight in reflection

kinder than any girl I knew, smarter than any other human

a girl will touch your breasts with knowing, then ask you to find her bra

he brought me gypsy guitar and red wine and sucked until I screamed.

Dancers, we, danced in detail, scratching out labels defining

what this was, who, what?

I didn’t love him, no. Love an underdeveloped muscle

in a closed box, only women and their sharpness can pick

he searched my face, my breasts, my thighs, for signs

of relenting, wanting to bury himself within, become one

stay together, two cusps, why not? Be mine. Marriage

some papered form of devotion. Not ownership, just need.

I wanted to give him a child then, birth it

right there on the futon, beneath moon, hollering; “eat me until

I become glutted on your goodness,” We shook together

a ritual, procession into silvered ore earth’s center

letting go, the child came, bidden, quickening, like opening

your mouth and accepting change, drink me down

between my legs, the writhe of us, male/female/female/male

losing edges, the blurred outline of pretense.

We woke when the light came

to an empty room

nothing left of us to consume

just condom wrapper

unused by the bedside

and life in my belly rounding music

he wore my silver ring

I told him, don’t cut your hair

remember nothing

we walked in opposite directions

he took a bus

I, a train

he never knew I took him too

in my belly, quiet and full.

reminding themselves they can still fly

Only so much can be said of birds, or landscapes

yet grief? Grief is a world incapsulated in a tear

held to the sun and magnified, its kaleidoscope of color

without end

and while you may see me sitting at this table

with dried flowers catching wan Winter sun

my face a careful study of emotion beneath surface

I am actually at this very moment

lying on the unwashed floor

feeling cold tile invade my pores

just like the virus who crept into my stomach

changing everything like zealous house cleaner

see, on the floor I can curl up like I did as a child

pretend I am a dragon again, where ageing and its horrors

or just the spite of unbidden sickness

will not come for me, because I am no longer real.

The sun light will fade and with it, shadows come

reminders of our ephemerality

a dance with what is and what is no longer

the ghosts of my grandparents waltz beneath pear trees

their necks bent to dark skies, mouths slack with amusement

I thought then, nothing could disturb the fabric of the world

because youth told me so

and lies were easy to sew

delusion, such a merry friend

now it is not as easy and like them, my mask grows weary

often wishing to climb into bed and read

stories of others who have lived and died

sitting at tables, lying on floors, looking upward, open mouthed

finding ways to express the horror and brief respite

of coping with pain

I so admire those souls who laugh

though I suspect sometimes they simply do not think

of how things really sit

and that’s all right

because there’s no one way

of getting through this

the birds, maybe they know other means

perhaps that is why they migrate and it is has

less to do with warmth and more to do with

reminding themselves

they can still fly

(Expecting To Fly, by Buffalo Springfield, one of the best songs of the era https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzMl0-bhNcM&t=25s)

Tempera

Query feels like a brand though it comes with veil

the doctors say, phantom pain becomes step mother

to fragile veins

first one to freeze come a cold snap

ready for tindering a bristling fire

at noon I want to eat warm eggs from your palm

touch your vermillion paint brush to my own face

feel the render of tempera against parchment

without any contempt for you, I wish you gone

but ink dries fast in the cold, it’s a myth it takes a warm day

to run a bath and slit your wrists

they never ask why, only how

the fire trucks blink like fallen damsons on melting streets

it was your enemy knocked on the door, broke it down, carried you out

not laughing at your slack form, the way your hair when wet

thins into dismal life line

the bequeath of surprise leaves us wordless

I with my bandages, you with your newly found soul

the sweetness of sharing this clementine center almost makes us forget our mutual hatred

to burn in respective votive, prayed to by sinners, also cherishing the role of loathing

dying is a slow storm, coming in squall, lost to its own menace

we leave the phone off the hook and become masks affixed to unpainted wall

maybe the next inhabitants will lift them gently from their nail

and remark before painting

that they left no shadow

The woman in the moon

and we said

try with all your might

to hold yourself up in this world

should you fall, do so quietly, lest

you disturb this delicate status-quo

do not be loud, do not make a fuss

these are things only rude people do

like those who talk on phones loudly

in confined spaces

penguins with plastic attached to their beaks

yak yak yak they go

but nobody seems to tell them to

shut it

and the propriety of life

misses a stitch

a heart beat

a compassionate rinse

through the annals of time

thinking of how we have always

stifled valuable voices

in favor of noise

putting up with the yak and not

the desperate drum beat of a woman

unraveling

she has spun her loom

throughout the city and its artifices

with alacrity and the sweat of female

labor, she has borne her children and

created a field of poppies, that threaten

to dazzle the very sun

she has grown her hair long and matted, until

it is thick enough to reach the moon

where she sits

howling

at the ravages of life

permitted at last

to possess

a voice

The rhyme of girls who skin their knees

She always knew she was a girl

by the way older women treated her

their higher standards expected

than if she were a boy

for boys … could climb trees and expose their underwear

while she was scolded and told not to be ‘a little harlot’

boys came barreling in full of spunk and fury

exhibiting their mirth with muddy feet

to ladies who smiled indulgently and patted their

ruffled heads

glancing over at her, with disapproving eyes

and a tut of the chin which said; “I hope you are not

going to track that mud into the kitchen and if you do

be prepared to clean it up. What kind of girl climbs

trees and gets herself full of dirt?

The unspoken and the spoken

those days she sought sympathy when her heart

felt like bursting

responses varying from; “maybe you didn’t ‘try hard

enough, you should apply yourself next time” to “don’t

go on about your problems so much, we all have problems

you are not the only one!” While they fretted and discussed

the poor boy whose horrible girlfriend left him

how grief stricken he was afterward, they could do nothing

it was so hard to watch

not difficult at all to watch her fall

almost amusing

almost delightful

female expectations a bar far too high

even for a gymnast

whilst boys ran beneath it

in spastic freedom

from the quiet exceptionalism of their gender

through the eyes of a woman

she learned early on

to keep her thoughts and wishes to herself

for each vulnerability would be handled roughly

turned against her like a shard of glass

piercing deep

she learned, to do for herself as the boys

were fed, dressed, coveted, admired, flattered

and grew fat and indulgent on it

rather like farm yard pigs

she grew strong in that way pain lends

a thin weed

trying to survive by the side of a busy road

filled with fumes and cars belching their poison

yet she knew if she wanted to survive

she could not walk along that road

by herself, taking short cut

through fields, because that’s where

women were raped

among thorny bushes, hands reaching out

grasping for them, hungry and snarling

she was told it was her fault if she

succumbed and her fault if she died from

fighting them off and her fault if she was

there when she shouldn’t have been

but nobody said it was their fault

or asked them to explain

why after being fed, clothed, petted and cossetted

by women

they chose

to make women their victim

no, that nobody had an answer for

maybe if they did, they would say

women did this to them, poor dears

it’s not the fault of a man! He was spoilt

and that’s a woman’s fault! She didn’t

teach him correctly, he had no choice!

And all the women who gave her

cross looks when she came in with her knees

scuffed from climbing a wall or when she ran

ungainly across the lawn and they chided her

for being ‘unladylike’

smiled at the fattened calf and said

oh my daughter would be so lucky

to marry a man like him! If only she

tried, a little harder.”

Entrance by default

Maybe it’s time to stop wearing

a dead woman’s perfume

find my own

smell

be my own

woman

I met her when I was 11

looked up to her in that tinkering way

I have continually become besotted

with older women

those who knew more than I

all the secret clubs they belonged to

giving me entrance by default

knock, knock, admittance, change your coat

alter your mind, don another mask

take a turn at the carousel, the diamond

cut of your eyes as you churn out living

into the willing mouths of babes

go on lap it up …

drink yourself into thinking you’re not you

comfortable with anything but

your own skin

the smell of your life clinging to my escape

like a day old glass of wine

just drinkable, a little bitter

redolent in mid-day sun

as soft as fur

I think I’m old enough

to be myself now

which means

your smell

in that white bottle

that I can only buy in rare perfume shops

because it was long ago discontined

much as it reminds me

of being a young girl

trying to understand why

she had feelings for older women

(that were definitely not about seeking a mother)

those days are over

I’m old enough now to have had

my own children

and while I still

have a thing for older women

I’m not going to smell of you

and the memories

anymore

Misleading light

You’re not leaving yet are you?

Girl with mango skin, every direction she turns

a kalidoscope of hopefulness in her smile

I notice how she wears her rings on her fingers like mine

that is because she is me

lost to time, a pull in a favorite knit top

the burgundy losing its focus as

it gathers holes

this is because she is me

bound to gravity and her weighty entreaty

toward inexorable end

a time away, yes, yes,

and nearer now than ever before

the steal of youth cloying on her dry hands

people slip her sweets and say: You are a doll

and she knows if she were a doll she’d be

able to affix the grimace all day and probably say

mama if you tipped her upside down

which is what she cannot say now

anymore than: I hurt, I cry, I feel

for she is passed that invisible line in the sand

where confession is pretty

she’s on the side of adulting

among the oaks and bulbs promising

fertility in Spring

but maybe they will be too tired

to show much of their lustrous potential

isn’t potential for under 25’s? She

read that somewhere in one of those

damaging women’s magazines before

they were transplanted to a screen

where weary eyed, prematurely hunched

poor postured youth eat their life’s golden ticket

like it is a salty snack at bedtime.

For sleep, for retreat, into the veiling woods

the silence unfolding like a veil, mist disgusing

her disappointment, even love doesn’t always

fill in where that ends, fickle in ways

you only learn when it’s exhausting

to find alternate routes, still she finds herself

thinking of the mango girl, the weight of the future

bowing her head like a shy dancer in the wings

of some hot lit theater

how then it was overwhelming in an entirely different way

the touch of a stranger, electricity firing her magic

quills into ether and those nights of no sleep

spent creating, describing, entire worlds

the future, a glittering prize, a lover, a friend

perhaps

perhaps

perhaps

it is time for her to leave

her skin shed in parts like impatient lizard of the desert

indigo handprints leading into arroyo

the scars of her like points of light

shining through

perpetual dark

as we mistake a falling star

when it is ignis fatuus

mere oxidation of phosphine

causing us to believe

remarkably and with some relief

in fairies again