I AM A TOTEM OF MY OWN BRANDING

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I’ve been told I’m a chronic pain in the ass

after all, it’s easy to destroy a child in an adult’s body

with past-tense words

and now in the time I’m meant to be at my strongest

chronic has visited me and stayed a long while

on a good day I think; This will not be forever

but temporary has always been a long way off

the doctors love to tell us; It’s incurable, get used to

living like this, hostage to something unknown and strange

as if that’s a normal thing to do

but if enough of us live with chronic illness, it will become normal

and that is not a good thing.

Before this …

I took chances, because you think

I’m invulnerable, sometimes I can fly

health, you take for granted

though I truly convinced myself, I had checked the boxes

right weight, exercise, organic, vegetables, no pre-made meals

(well, this is what I told my doctor, sometimes a couch counts as exercise, right?)

if I ate a slice of pizza, it was a treat with friends

though I like root beer, I never drank it

maybe making up for cigarettes, smoked in my twenties

but I thought if I keep jogging, if I keep living healthily

I won’t be felled, because you ARE WHAT YOU EAT.

A few months before I got sick, I recall

feeling strong, climbing through snow drifts and laughing

boundless energy, working long hours, feeling intensely alive

people saying; you look so healthy, your skin is radiant!

Those are not things people say now, unless

I apply a lot of make-up, to camouflage my fraying edges

instead it is me, who declines invitations

I am sorry I cannot go with you to eat, even though eating out

is the number one leisure activity where I live

because my stomach is ruined and I cannot digest much

I live plain and simple (and boring), like a nun and I am numbed

to the pleasures of wine and sauces and garlic, spices and oils

not recognizing my bloated mid section in the mirror

from the girl who once was told

she had an hour-glass figure, with a wasp waist

could run for buses and catch them in three-inch heals.

I know everyone has their burden

but when you get sick and it doesn’t go away

life becomes a series of scolds and let downs

you find out who really loves you and who harbored an anger

used the opportunity of your downfall, to insert a knife

it is the cowards way of course, but freedom of sorts

for none of us need, that kind of negativity in our lives

there is a blessing in disguise, when you find your tribe

the people who care and know the real you

not wanting to tear you apart, because it’s easy to kick you when you’re down.

But blessings do not salvage, the hours you spend sickening

remembering how you were rarely felled in past years

strong of body, sound of mind, juicing and walking ten miles

everything is turned upside down, inside out when you find

a burnt fuse, at the end of your outstretched arm.

There is no cure, there is no future

when you live, in a jar for the jarring

for a long while, I blamed myself

maybe in part, because someone I trusted told me;

“It is your fault, you must have somehow caused it”

easy to throw stones, at glass houses

I was a glass house, with many windows

break one and I cannot repair it

the wind will come in and make of my space

chaos

the sun will come in and make of my peace

madness.

Those things that brought me joy, were gone

instead, the regiment of illness strode in and stood firm

you cannot feel passion, when you are sick

ageing in hours, rather than decades, trying to stay above water

it is hard to feel hope

you rely upon the kindness of others

which is hard to do, if you are not used to it

and when they lift you to the light, you promise

if I can recover, I will try ever so hard to never be ungrateful

but with every mercy, is a dark day in hell

those days take it all out of you, like a scourge

the sickening can age you, more than a nightmare

one minute you recognize yourself, the next you are unknown

vulnerability, of not being able to take care of yourself

the expense and fear

your world crumbling around you.

These are things you get used to and when you have fallen

to the bottom and can no longer get up

that is where the truth lies

that is where you can find

your true self and the end of fear.

They tried to tell you that you were insane

making it up, all in your head, something’s wrong with that

crazy lady who pounds her fluttering chest in vain

tries to catch the eyes of doctors, with beseeching side-glance

SEE ME! HEAL ME! SAVE ME! WHAT IS WRONG?

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME? WHY DID I WAKE UP ONE DAY

SICK AND IT NEVER WENT AWAY?

And yes ! Something was wrong with me and still is

not my doing, not my causing, not my dreaming

despite you saying; You bothered us, when you called and were upset

no mercy, no mercy, no mercy, that is not love.

Helped me let go. Don’t hold on to negativity.

Oh doctor, get it outt!

and if you can’t, then give me the key, the saw, the pick

so I may survive myself and somehow continue on.

Am I to label myself chronically ill, or in recovery?

Surviving or dying or all of the above?

how do you define what doesn’t go and doesn’t kill?

Spending all your money on alternative treatments that

don’t even know what they pretend to cure

how do you describe one good day, followed by one in hell?

others won’t understand, because they are well

what I would give to return, to that safe water place

but even if I did, I would not be the same

you live years with a loaded gun to your head, everything changes.

I am not me anymore

I cannot see out of my left eye

I cannot lift heavy things, with my weak foreign arms

I can walk ten miles and not break a sweat despite this and be told

by friends and foes; OH YOU DON’T LOOK SICK

I am an apparent scar of contradictions and pain

I hurt every day, my stomach feels like

something is eating me from the inside out

it convulses and retorts and shouts

“you will never win, you will bathe in pain the rest of your life”

but I will still try

because I don’t know how to give in to enemies, I cannot see

and even as I cannot eat normal food

one day I am good, the next I am dying green

even as nausea, has become my constant companion

and bottles of pills and vitamins rattle in my pit

even as I fight to be gracious in the eye of the storm

and those I thought would stand by me, try to drown me instead

I know there is still a moment

I am well enough to remember who I am

never to find that peace of mind again

but maybe recover to another state of being.

I wake in the night covered in sweat and the disinterested doctor says

“get used to not sleeping, get used to all of this, it is what you must suffer and many others do”

as if it is normal to be like this, as if it is something we should not mention

I will never think it is normal to be hijacked!

I jog into the forest, because it reminds me I am still living, my feet still work

I fight with wilted hands, when they tell me there is no hope

that I should just consign my former glories to a picture album and put

my feet up for a fifty year occupation of sofas and couches and day time oblivion

because THE POWER OF ME can overcome the power of negativity and this I believe

as I see in the mirror a girl who doubts but stares back unblinking.

I have lost my will at times

I do not write as much,  I have less energy

the last time I had a romantic dinner was in a dream and I

sleep with a heating pad on my stomach every night instead of a lover

but I still pay my own way and my own bills

I have a pride in pushing back against status quo

DEFYING the prescription of HOPELESSNESS.

they tell me go on disability. Just give up

I am not going anywhere, but to the finish line

I learned

by losing everything and having nothing but

the sheer will and dim light of my existence

I can do this without those I thought I had in my corner

because I am stronger than I realized

and this grieves me, as well as reassures me

but I come from a long line of stoic, strong women

and it seems sicker than I am, that we should hate each other

because life, surely we have found out, is fragile

and love is all that makes sense

but even without love I will continue and not

let the flame go out.

Sometimes I ask myself why?

why not just give in? Take the knife, swallow the pill

to oblivion or some non-sign-posted destination

I don’t have children to protect

it would be easy to slip out of this world and its sword edge of pain

but somehow I feel I should protect myself

maybe because others did not

maybe because you defend yourself in the end

when everything else is fallen and you are still

somehow, standing.

I am weak and tired and prematurely aged into

a hunched over version of myself

hair greying with shock, skin is sloughing off and my

body is tied to the rhythm of a sickness that purges and gluts

I was told this kind of disorder was permanent

but nothing I have found, is ever guaranteed

so I have chosen to ignore this and believe

we can all fight and overcome

anything

even a death sentence

even betrayal

even silence

and when we know this

when we are strong for our weakness

realize our tears are just water and salt

burning the frustration of our visiting menace

then, we know nothing can hurt us, more than it already has

and we are free to dream

of a future without so much pain

where death stands to the side and lets us regain

some of our former dignity

for there is nothing dignified in sickness

and you don’t know me when you said I was glamorous

that is the last thing I am

I am beautiful for my courage

beautiful for my fear

beautiful for my survival

beautiful for my defeat

beautiful for my mercy of those who have no mercy for me.

And life is a wax and a wane

life is a torture and a friend

I am the totem of my own branding

I may live in a time where nobody else of my kith and kin remain

and once that would have filled me with pain

now I know you cannot rely upon

labels of safety

it is only by looking into the hearts of those

who stayed by your side when the storm hit

even if it is one, even if it is naught

you remain behind

the tempest cannot roar forever

eventually even agony ceases.

I wish now, to be everything you were not

to love others unconditionally

care for those who are in need

be the change I want to see

I want to find myself

at the end of all of this

I want to tell you, sickness

you do not win

you are just a miasma

I am a spirit with a soul

I will endure you

the me, of me, will remain

long after, to remember her worth.

Before this all began and through it, learned

only the fierce remain

only those willing to FEEL

and not those who run from feeling

with the ease of the damned.

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Lace

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On the outside

I button up well

zip my mouth in pink

comb my hair with calico

hold my faux ostrich skin purse close to chest

the powdered lady at the department store said;

yes, you will need to throw out your old bras and buy new ones

plumping her glossy lips as she showed me

a larger cup size and I

drank from my own, the last dregs of eleven am coffee

I couldn’t tell her

each one has a story, especially those broken

they smell of you still

their color is that of emotions I felt

when you unhooked them and took into your mouth

my wandering need

instead then, I nod acquiescent and purchase

three new bras for a stranger who is not me

black for night

white for day

violet for the hour

you again

lay your claim in my dreams

as I walk out, she waves and says;

you’ll be much more comfortable now

happy she’s done her job

dressing women with empty eyes in fine lace

she doesn’t know

for me, comfort is an emotion I have no need of

I like to feel your sharp ivory teeth

run across my skin and break

me open

spilling my seeds, red and glittering on the wet cotton

of our writhing impression

it’s more than bra size that cuts deep

leaving lines and circles of indigo and purple

colors for the bruises blooming inside

a field of damsons fallen from tree unpicked

for who now knows, how to make such wine?

I think of the times you tore

and rent and split

that wire artifice from my trembling frame

I remember the taste of blood on my lips

as I bit down in want and fire

for your fingers to beckon and curl

within the flexing circle of me

and that girl was smaller and opaque

like japanese lily she grew swollen with water

shedding her kimono stain beneath surface

swimming without need of air

to bend and contort like alabaster crane

between you and within you

her tongue no longer using words

to sate her impulse and your

hungering claim.

As I wait for the elevator

my head ever bowed in recollection

holding desultory purchase like fly swatter

I cross my neat legs and watch my shiny high heels

click together in tight voiceless longing

I am seen by all, as a demure, well-dressed woman

shopping without thought, her lips slightly open in musing

the mine of my mind is burning

for your take of me

and the memories

contained in

a crushed piece

of lace

The affiliate of memory

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Die is cast

thrown and tumbled

woman is born a girl

girl is born a woman

when she is young, learning to tie bows in sensible brown shoes

spit and shine, tighten pigtail, don’t get your bobby socks dirty

what does she know of her future?

when then, what hour marks, her turning, her awareness?

the tempora fragility of her succulent heart

will she be like her grandmother, a blubbering mess?

able to condone slithered evil in the hands of her husband?

look the other way, for her choices are meager

will she be like her mother, a loyal lover?

seeking a man willing to hold her closer to the sun

melt Icarus, melt, till you can stand the radiance no longer

but what of your child? The one you think is poison and deadly nightshade

what will she be like? In that wicked knowing?

when after-birth is dried and shell chewed to starlight

and she stands tall and unversed like a question mark

when she wants to scream out;

whydontyoufeellikeido?

whydontyouwanttoscreamwheneveryoneelseislaughing?

she’s the burnt slice of toast grown cold on countertop

everyone else is easy in the sun like white wheat and blackcurrant

they shine in their shingled merge

children thread their way through oboe chair-backs like grass snakes

the meadow flowers droop in her sweaty palm

she’d gift her indigo heart if it were taken or sensical

learning many years ago

don’t lend, what you can’t live without

she has enough air to fake it for fifteen minutes, then she’s out

caught in the idling headlamps of smoky cars

no destination

just drive

far

to escape those pitch eyes, drained of regard

the ease with which you are

the ease with which you are

in the loosening of your need

an affiliate of memory

put in glass jars along with sugar

watching you lean now, so evenly

toward tomorrow’s sun

By one who feels

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for indifference is the sharpest

knife of the set

worse than anger which requires some care

and love that turns on her heel constantly

like a feathered Cuban girl in 1930s Havana

smiling, til her cheeks ache with sheer

marvelous spectacle

it’s been some years since I danced for you

from shadows to light and back again

fooling myself into beauty, rendering

moments stamped in both our minds

for the joy of the unbound

my feet hennaed like an Indian wedding bride

your fingers possessed of music and silver rings

we wove our limbs together as plaited bread

baked in the glory of that unbroken hour

before ochre sun’s urgent assent and chime

of other people began lowing in impatient light

there is something about darkness I have always

felt contained magic and even if others do not see

I taste it on my tongue

I run my hands along

its quiet shining surface

much like a lake swallowing

a stone when thrown

with all the violence known

by one who feels

everything

First & last

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“Everybody’s talkin bout it
Only the echoes of their mind                                                                                                           I’m going where the sun keeps shining. Through the pouring rain”                                               Nilsson (from the incredible film, Midnight Cowboy)

 

The ghosts

in blue mountain mist

when early morning

without mask of sleep

hiking the trail

moss, lichen, turning with seasons

from brown to red

snails leave their silver lines

bugs shed wings and legs

all becomes humus and is recycled

air remains still, days elongated

the stone in the field

is in the memories of many

who use it as their gravitation

where they first kissed, sitting atop the world

thinking themselves the only ones

when it is the stone, smooth with wear

coarse with textures varied

who gives them their fantasies

pearlescent when wet, like the moon

nestled in long grass

its reflection held against sky

I hear birds waking

crying to an unforgiving bird god

their beaked woes and delights

and the worm waits for false patter

to rise and be consumed

a ritual, as anything

the dust of ceremony, rising and falling

jewels encrusted in boulders

black earth laying deep and gaping

as open-mouthed children

stare at bewitching cloud formation

and wish to inherit the future

as their parents

dream of retracing

the lowing

of their former lots

The ghosts

in blue mountain mist

when early morning

without mask of sleep

I feel your absence like

blunt knife run along my spine

in the fallow chapbook of my heart

quivering her spent arrows

as I strain my neck in search

of ways to forget

the goats and sheep remain

black and white finger paint against

yellowed grass coarse as raw silk

a sharp outline of grief blurs

the edges of what I see

where you have all

gone

your lives full

and mine empty with echo

I think if I can ever reach the feeling

maybe I’ll join you

where it glitters and preens

like a girl catching herself

in shining mirror of

first times

Grace

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If I am anything at all

I am yours

as the sun seeks the center of day to roar her rays

and sake world in golden waves

as earth breaks apart and mountains form

beneath water like temples surge

as your eyes hold me in their sway

the black of them, the holy place

as life lives beneath my skin

only when you seem to exist

there are times

captured and lost

never truly revealed

beyond our understanding

a chime of circumstance and gods

you are the priest to my implore

a song sung in aching hour

the fingers I let loose my soul

you are my gravity

you with your violet and your indigo

soul

there are places so beautiful my breath is stole

yet nothing, nothing, nothing I have beheld

can take the place of you in my heart

you are the missing part

you are the beginning and the circumference

even as I feel your knife

I cleave that much closer

it is my ritual to seek only

that place I call home within your own

we came from the same place in time

I was born of your need to be eternal

without proof of life

I exist and I perish

upon your word

you, the one I turn

you, the birth of me

you, the missing link

you, the key I wear

around my being

let me or deny me

I seek despite myself just one

who will never diminish nor could be

equalled in my heart

for some of us are old fashioned in devotion

a thorn could not penetrate more

that sea within me carrying your salt

if stained glass were more radiant

if storms could pulse with pinkening lore

if the world could find words for such things

I would still be

bare foot running the long mile separating now and then

then when you were my everything

now in the absence of peace

hither no meaning made itself known

for only in your arms I know

that steady belief and spiritual home

strike me dead the day I quit my faith

you are my goodness, you are

my grace

Turkish delight

alexander-yakovlev-dancers-everythingwithatwist-17I didn’t have time to un-knot my hair or brush it down

it used to hang to my thighs and I had to cut it

when the sickness came and I was green with bile

all those years I held my hair as my calling card

for I had nothing else

so when you see me this way you know

I’m not pretending anything anymore, this is me

this is the girl you once loved

I remember thinking I was old back then

what a laugh

and time is a cordial of horrors and trickery

what we need to know is, it’s all in the eye of the beholder

so if I feel tired and beat up now, remember, I tell myself

in ten years I will rue the day I forgot to dance

I dance now

bare footed with dirty soles

to the memories of

our liquid union

and planes do not fall out of the sky

the day is quiet

despite the tornado in my mind

I would let you in and not let you out

shut inside me like a favorite book

chapter marked by the sinew of my want

clasp you tightly with my muscular need to belong

within your kaleidoscope, a star in your universe

behind these accoutrements and forbids  I burn electric

you never get too old for longing

I want you to take me in your arms

crush me into sugared pieces

eat each one and never spit me out

I want to become you and stay

inside your candied warmth

where amber things are less real

set in time to wait out storm

but you care about them more

as part of your compass, to set your destination

I was born of your desire

I am now without wing

soon I will fade into pieces

and nobody will pick them up to eat