Truth or dare

I’m sorry I didn’t tell you

about the real me

she’s not happy with her subtefuge

it cost her heavily

the weight of deception has always

sat like curdled cream in a bowl

waiting to be thrown away

or consumed and in so doing

poison truth from her hiding place

she’d be forthright if

it didn’t cost more

than she had in her purse

purchased inexpensively

in a local artisan’s market

that closed years ago

when creativity waned

and people hoped their kids

would go to Business School.

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.

Something about her

There is something

about you

they said

and they were right

in that way that isn’t universal

she did have something about her

and then she gave it to you

and you had

something about her

locked around your neck.

When you whistled

only she heard your call

came running time and again

hands powdered with flour

losing each time

something about her

because that is what happens when

girls give it away

without thought

as if it, and themselves, were

a paper boat let loose to rent

how then to remain whole?

they have to have it

to be

something

about

them

or they stay as tinsel in corners

gathering misapprehensions dust

no one remembered to take down

after the celebration was over

as hollow as old marzipan

left to suck up dry cupboard air

when placed for safe keeping by soft hearted child

leaching color onto old towels

still smelling of beach and sand

Combustion

What does one do in order to feel?

Not the safe kind, sanitized by Clorox wipe

left to garner in sun until just right temperature

palatable and convivial like a well heeled aunt.

No, I mean the bloody kind

coming at night, knocking your flippin socks off

just as you got used to living in a box, neat beige walls

knowing how you felt because you didn’t let it out

to crawl around and get dirty, muddy, sodden, feral

where feelings elongate into shadows and back again

tripping us up, as we shuffle to the bathroom for midnight piss.

Those feelings, the ones hammering your heart shut

as you open windows in the morning, anguish

and agonies unnamed, pour out into sore tongued dawn

you can’t even speak it, you can’t get the lump to dislodge

from your tightening throat, it’s like a scream has purchased

hooks and they’re pulling them out, fileting your senses.

The sheer ravage of it

makes you want to turn and run like a red gash

except … it’s everywhere, in your pores, your veins, the very

sentence structure of survival

how you make eye contact, which hand you use

to wipe yourself

feelings lie in the hems of your dress, the arch of your shoes

they crawl up your inner thighs and birth your secrets

with wild fingers and loose tongues

spilling afterbirth like unwanted punctuation.

For all your running in place, you’re growing tired

the careful structure of denial, unknitting itself

in a parody of lovemaking you come undone

till one day sitting at a coffee shop

someone asks you if you have the time

and it reminds you

suddenly, a cut the length of a sword

nobody asks the time anymore

and you begin to scream

rooms emptying

people looking backward

at the woman who

unfolds her horror

like a thin Japanese fan

to keep herself

from combusting.

Dear

Often I imagine, when you open someone up, peal away their layers, inside you find this pomegranate, bright in the way only nature can create. So many people have these rich lives; children, grandchildren, homes, adventures, careers, compassion. Beauty and abundance of life in so many forms. Social media exemplifies this which is why I need to limit myself, a bit like eating a box of chocolates. If I indulge too much, I feel overstimulated, lost in the sari’s of color from so many lives, people, worlds, thoughts. It’s not even the emotions, those I can relate to, it’s the living in technicolor.

When I think of what resides in my inner most self I see my old worn much loved penguin and little ted, I see me running into my grandmother’s arms. It is as if I am possessed by the past and not even present.

We are taught to live in the now or for the future. But never the past. Why? Because living in the past isn’t living, it’s remembering, it’s regressing. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t honor the past. But we must also move on from it.

If there were a house fire, it would not be the expensive things I’d seek to save. It would be my green Kermit The Frog, the pressed flower from the meadow my grandmother and I walked. It would be trying to save the past from flames, even as they climb nearer.

Occasionally I wish to lose it all, so I would be forced to start over. Without the weight of the past on my shoulders. Some people say we’d be better off if we didn’t recall the past, we’d be free of it, and able to be whomever we wanted.

The funny thing is, if I were a blank slate, I think I’d go out and start looking for much cuddled toy penguins circa late 1970s and patchy, lost fur little teds and green frogs with crayon on their eyes. I think I would climb right back where I came from. Because nothing since, has ever, ever been as dear.

Highway 101

This is what I’d say
If we were speaking

If cellos played ambrosial
If those who said they were alone actually knew what alone meant
This is what I’d say
To the ancestors with sepia faces
To the full family tables I could never navigate
The empty drive, unfilled road, the lack of fake
I’d say
I can’t do pretense

Or big events
broken pipes
yellow light

Or changing people

False words
Mislaid purpose

I would say I couldn’t get on with you
We fought like siblings
Though both were singletons
The vibration of only children with no children
I would say I became angry when you lied
When you faked who you were
When you got suckered by people stupider than you
When you lived in your pretend world
Whilst I ate and feasted on blisters
I would say those from wealth and those from basalt cannot understand

The empire
Of emptiness

A track road with lisping night creatures
And desert burning into mirage
I would say it seems at times
Futile to try to get close

to anyone

But I felt serried to you
That’s likely why I got so churlish
Why I stopped talking

Said nothing

Because betrayal comes unconsciously for most of us
In the voluble let downs and unseen affronts
Like a storm threatening, then retreating

Electricity in verging air
Reminding us of bigger purpose

Points of tangency and points of equilibrium

The hour until we ease into contiguous dying
The way you assumed I’d believe what you believed
I never did
I carry a heart with wormholes in it
The rain lets out
You get out
I drive on
In the mirror of oil on the road
I see you understand

I would say we were the same
Not even at different ends
Just burning with curved impulses

That quench the other
As I look in your eyes

I see myself

And it hurts and unsettles me

Worse than my own reflection

Conveyer belt love

Conveyer belt love

You nearly ruined me

In the shallows, near the swamp

Where if it didn’t work out?

You dumped and moved on

What a horrible way to live

Nothing redeeming, nothing eternal

I was told; you’re born three centuries too late

For nowadays people are impatient and demanding

They throw away more than they earn

We’re The Plastic Generation … hell we’ll be buried in plastic urns

In this fettered landscape, it’s no easy thing to find

Something left beating, whole and strong.

Conveyer belt love began to make sense

A logical response to an unfeeling era

Where being let down could be replaced by a clone

If you are lonely, buy yourself a Japanese doll

When you are sad, blow something up, or put batteries in

TV for the masses, turn on, tune out, get an i-phone

Be tracked by faux Politicians and told how to vote

Go to sleep with unconscious messages trying to sell you more

Who cares about love, it’s a sham, a fait accompli, an overgrown child

All notions thrown out, along with 24/7 Porn

Your husband is jacking off as you think you’re meeting for your anniversary brunch

Your wife is screwing your boss, even the dog doesn’t love you, it’s all programming

Pavlov will surely tell you that and what about Skinner and his box?

Aren’t we all lab rats in fancy colored clothes?

Maybe the thing to do is join in and stop wanting real

Because real hurts when it turns out to be false

And plastic outlasts us, polluting the oceans it stands sinful testimony

On the beaches in India you find Starbucks straws and CocaCola bottles

We’re international now, the big conglomerates boast.

Conveyer belt love

You nearly ruined me

In the shallows, near the swamp

Still I think about ideals once in a while and imagine

What if, it were all different and we found our way back?

Would Cathy let in Heathcliff? Would Anna Karenina still jump?

And Diane Keaton in Ms Soffel? Would anyone be alive to understand?

Why we lived once for love and it meant the world

Even as it was so often an empty house of cards

What if

We got the Queen of Hearts?

I inhaled the knife

You didn’t encourage me to write or let me know I could do it

you told me; you can’t spell

you don’t speak any language well

you have split ends and are at times

manic like a dervish without charm

but you’re always on time, good at lifting heavy things

maybe you should organize talented people’s lives

because you don’t have any of your own …

talent that is.

I didn’t listen. Not because I didn’t believe you

Oh I did. I inhaled the knife.

Sometimes the road will hurt like a thousand feet

trodden on your back, weighing your down

but what can you lose? 

Still not speaking any language perfectly

you may hate me … but I?

I send you love and I send you love

because that’s all I have.

I remember the year

I found a rabbit on my window ledge

celebrating six months of not wetting the bed

I had peed into nightmares wondering

if you would ever return, but you never did

though you may be surprised

I gained strength through that pain

even when you think I am weak in my ways

I see the courage in being able to feel

the toughness it takes to love when you are not loved in return

because I still can’t spell and you laughed at me and said

what writer can you be if you don’t know

your pronouns from your iambic pentameter?

Hemmingway. Austin. Oh I can name a hundred … 

But I learned anyway and by then it didn’t matter

because you’d already made your pronouncement and left

your wet umbrella still propped by the door.

I thought of all those souls like me

who were not taught words of light

instead the dark shroud of incessant criticism

who did not learn how to believe in themselves

recalling all the reasons you gave

for why I will always be a failure and a disappointment

then I wrote it down

poured myself onto a page

not always perfectly groomed 

with the savagery of one who has

felt so much and loved so hard

in the glaring halo of afternoon

where yellow turns to indigo

suffusing everything 

momentarily incandescent