THE FebrUARY, 2024 30/30 PROJECT PAGE

Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.

The volunteer poets for January 2024 are Randi Clemens, Hannah Fenster, Cammie Fuller, Alani Hicks-Bartlett, Naomi Knight, Christi Krug, Ava Love, Marie Soffy Saint Fort. Read their full bios here.

Day 24 / Poem 24

I’ve chewed my nails
down to nothing, checked
the stove, and touched
every lock. I’ve pulled
hairs and stayed awake
for days. I’m a spinning
top, a dizziness, a light
switch on, and off, and
on again. I’ve twitched
all night in my sleep,
and I am dreaming of
running, and forgetting,
and losing my teeth.

LOCATION: in the lower fields between the pearling ridges and past the stones. TIME: dusk. ATMOSPHERE: bleaker than before. CONDITIONS: heavier and more deeply sorrowing.

* * 

look how straight he stands, your discerning lash and your slashing brow offer, he is SEPTENTRIONAL, he is SEPTENTRIONAL, he shoots towards the sky. he is so like the man i took for my own. it is the smooth crest of your cheek that communes with us now, it is almost downy, almost downy, you are golden and ferocious, you are blue and perfect, you are red and ablaze, you are almost a goose, you are a leader, you are loyal and careful with your ROYAL words. you are bovine and beautiful, bovine and perfected with the crown of thorns and the poet’s DECLINING LEAVES you traded for a DIADEM. but old Cesar’s chaplet means NOTHING, this coronal of laurel leaves, NOTHING, these golden lines, NOTHING, these priceless empires, NOTHING, those SCATTERED RHYMES, NOTHING. those smoldering, scattered ashes, nothing. it is all incomparable. it all means nothing to you, NOTHING, nothing to you. i have always known how tightly you wrap my skein of sorrows and all these WHIRLING SOULS around me. how tightly you cling to shadows that are long, long, and so long gone.

* *

LOCATION: terrible fields between the ridges, around the bend, past the stones. TIME: dusk. ATMOSPHERE: bleaker. (even bleaker than the bleaker of before). PRIOR CONDITIONS: heavy and sorrowing. PAST CONDITIONS: voracious and blazing. CURRENT CONDITIONS: fragile and ailing. FUTURE CONDITONS….  leonine? immobile? imperial? desperate and wheeling? 

Ekphrastic for artwork by Walter Gordonier

A thousand arrows, brittle and broken, have thwacked my sides, back,
chest, throat. I’m bleary with greyed vision, beseeching;
all my limbs at odd angles as I fumble toward the horizon.

I need these wooden clubhouse crosses, this criss-crossing—
something to swear by. I’m speckled and sandy with the fresh
whitewash of hope, as stark as the whites of my stretched-wide eyes.

Can’t slow down. Ever. Hearing the nock of another arrow; it
hisses past my ear.

Slap some paint on, keep going; nevermind the teeter
of this lean-to, this monkey organ, medicine box,
puppet stage. It’s the only chariot I have, and I can’t stop now.

*

Water puts you in direct relation to the source.
Is this the sound of god?

Say the name softly or repeat it in your mind.
The white ink river turns back breathless.

Is this the sound of god?
Say the name softly or repeat it in your mind.

The white ink river turns back breathless.
Your hand in mine.

Say the name softly or repeat it in your mind.
Milk of the mother, we are word spells. 

Your hand in mine.
Moths who burn themselves in this kind of light.

Milk of the mother, we are word spells. 
Is this the sound of god?

Moths who burn themselves in this kind of light.
Water puts you in direct relation to the source.

*

Day 23 / Poem 23

I am sick
of myself.

And the way
I want too much.

I am a watering can,
endlessly dripping.

I am the coated candy, hard
shelled, melted on the inside.

I am sick
of living on everyone
else’s tongues.

            And the way
            I quench thirsts,
            never my own.

I am your
Valentine, bouquet-
sweet.

            I am cavities, tooth
            ache, a hole
            in your mouth.

I’m prime. 
It rains 
steady. 
I drive through
wash dishes 
take 
a shower
put my bathing 
suit on. 
Over for laps 
and later 
bath.
No telling 
what is 
growing
from all 
this 
motion.
Only water 
divisible by water 
divisible by water divisible 
by water divisible by 
water.

I have met those who craved
the definition of love. To tear its layers
like lemon rind, rip open the pulp,
assess and drain
the center.
They searched passages of the Bible
for words that harnessed a space for love
but love is the skin
in which we were born,
the skin from which we were born,
the skin formed of earth and sky
from water and fire.
Let me be all of this. The longing landscape,
the fitful sky, the ever-present insouciant water
and the flame that desires to kiss
heaven. All of this
at once.
I have known those who said love is the sum,
the value of one plus the value of another,
but love is in the body of each number just as it is in the roots
of the trees and the forest
before each branch was counted. Before
the stripping bark was given a source.
Be all of it.
The place of safety for love that is consumed
by righteousness, by the deconstruction of the heart,
as one breaks apart a meal into protein
and grain, one cannot break love, despite
distaste.
Love is in the place where boulders broke
and tumbled into the steep trenches of the mountain
still hard and timeless,
now soft with moss.
Love holds inside the waver,
in the handle with which we release the bound.
Let it be bewildering.
Let it bewilder.

do not mistake THE DISSIPATING SMOKE OF YOUR THOUGHTS and your crystalline or scabbarded words for any wasting, for any scattering or fading away. 

ETERNAL, YOU RESIST all of these things, YOU RESIST all of these things.

you resist all these things, your fist like the one legendary man’s golden throat, TIGHTENING, TIGHTENING, TIGHTENING, as we carry out your will and try to meet your CONSIDERED thoughts before you think them, before you MAKE them, before the alchemy of thoughts to words, to thoughts again.

Eternity=my cries
I idle, out of time and space
Sighing, I wait
Call answered, “Thank you for calling us, we are experiencing extremely high demand and call wait times
are extended. You have been placed into the queue and a customer service representative will be with you
shortly.”
Dear familiar gods: liturgy, prima materia and opus
Assign work to the new hire
My indifference echoes in the workroom
The hold music is interrupted: “Thank you for holding. You have moved up in the queue, a customer service representative
will be with you shortly.”
Thirsty, I drink and fill him in, on
Our marble work, stretching across life spans
Safe from ploughs, a glimpse into the stone.
Distilled in the wine, our thirst quenched by
Poisoned wine.
The hold music breaks off, and a voice intones:
” Thank you for holding; your call is important to us.
You are now number 3 in the queue”
Nobler than
Our opus was imaginative work.
An alchemy of prima materia – us
Giant oaks, deeply rooted
In our silence, we thought of happiness.
The artificial voice intoned:
“You have moved up in the queue, you are now number 1…”
Grown tall, lifted up were we
Seizing rainbows and relieving laborious
Misfortunes
We pilfered the alchemy.
Silence echoed, then the voice,
“thank you for holding, you are the next caller in the queue.”
Sinking, the sea is silent
A mirage of deceit
Sun dried work boots and sandals lie
at our feet
Work made ordinary; liturgy
Life’s procession of diligent joy.
The hold music clicks off, a voice speaks,
“Thank you for waiting, how may I help you?”

I sigh taking a breath to speak
“Yes, thank ????
Dial tone. Call cancelled.
Contrary to liturgy, misalignment with
Values: soul and otherwise
These ordinary workers majestically march
Out of time and across unstable ground
Too tired to speak, they droop
Forever hungry, always thirsty.

Lines drawn from: BTS, Jim Daniels, Elizabeth Gilbert, Kahlil Gibran, Thomas Moore, Mary Sarton, and any call
centre for retail, financial or government service.

I’m following the river to the sea
in my new yellow rubber boots
which leave no pattern on the sand;
just outlines, like faceless companions.

Mid-tide, the river pools into curls
and crevices of sand, preparing
to ravish the shore again, close-
hug the driftwood log that
marks the campground path.

Sometimes the water tells a
story; today it sloshes, reminding
of flings it has had in my life.

The drip

drip drip      and then
    drop-
drip, and

 drop-drip, and drop-

 drop-drop-drop,

and then

drip-
dribble-dribble-
drop.

Why the change? What did it
know? Who pushed it?

Yesterday my
cousin texted. We
lost touch fourteen thousand
six hundred tides ago.
She asks, what happened
to your marriage?
So many conversations
I’ve let ebb because
I didn’t know what to say.

Come, I’ll tell her.
Walk with me.
Let’s listen to the water drops.

*

What is the most beautiful 
thing you can imagine?

Remember this when death comes.
Then, let it go.

 Repeat the hundred word mantra daily.
Choose your own words. Then, let go.

How do you abandon desire?
Escape from the woods. 

Stamp out the fire.  Pour milk 
on the effigies of gods.  

Stop even the desire 
for your own breath.

 Imagine the pure snow,
to produce no conditions

of future development,
desire no destiny to bear fruit.

Does water hold on to anything?
Does it want to take hold of everything

it touches?  Even gravity has desire,
let go. To have a luminous mind,

leave offerings for birds,
but do not save gifts they bring.

Water takes the form of any container
you provide.

If we spin round and round
letting the tails of our skirts

wrap around us like the pink morning light
as she wraps herself around tall trees

would we find out then what divinity means?

*

Day 22 / Poem 22

I am holding binoculars
up to my face, twisting
myself around like a
kaleidoscope, lighthouses
and lapping waves multiplying
in my eyes. I am turning
greens to blues, trading
soil for snow. I am
the cartographer drawing
hills when I only ever learned
valleys. I am sleeping
with a compass under
my pillow, and leaving
sand everywhere I go.

Eventually, on my birthday, all four poached eggs 
tuck into their own pockets. 
Hollandaise separates 
and reconstitutes, with help from a yolk.
Along pottery’s perimeter, 
little souls appear
to rise up in glazed clusters of beige, 
pockmarked faces.
Mom says, you’re there 
when they’re born, then you trust 
that someone else will be there 
at the end. If it goes 
how you want it to.
I was born in a blizzard. Patti couldn’t sleep,
parked on the street.
Paula and Deirdre made it
in the afternoon to sit and sing and pray, 
and so Mom could pass on 
notes on how to keep class running. 
Tonight, someone kept walking over
my future grave, and when I shivered,
everyone laughed.

I pull,
and 10,000 years of women’s laughter
breaks open.
We’ve been at this a long time.
Your great grandmother was an independent soul.
She didn’t want to wear dresses.
Your mother seared the world with intelligence,
…I tug,
and the laughter rolls.
We’ve been overflowing.
We’ve been silenced.
We’ve stood at the helm of ships
and known the way by the taste of the wind.
And each thread
moves back comes to me.

We only leave threadbare
those who’ve tried to keep
us down.

at the diner / a new love

in the love / a conversation

in the conversation / a matchbook

in a match / a made-up-word

in the made-up word / a river

along the river / a cattail

through the cattails / a mule deer

beneath the mule deer / a floodland

in the flood / your Volkswagen

in your Volkswagen / a coffee mug

under the mug  / a ladybug

for the ladybug / a prayer

after the prayer  / a pastry chef

with the pastry chef / an herbalist

in the herbalist / wistfulness

in the wistfulness / a rain shower

in the rain shower / a salamander

in the salamander  / mischief

in the mischief / a fur-lined boot

beneath the boot / a snowflake

in the melting  / a regret

for the regret  / carrot raisin salad

in the carrot tops / an eager spring

beneath the spring / a hammer dulcimer

in the melody / a teasing

for our laughter / a shared ice cream soda

*

Dark creatures emerge from dark canyons.
The mouths of mollusks

open and close. The sea shakes and shivers.
My skirt catches on tall grasses.

Dark creatures emerge from dark canyons.
Snow quiet as fingerprints on glass.

I am jade wrapped around the wrists
of this poem.  Please remain ageless.

We melt like snowflakes,
like glaciers filling the sea

with more water, more water,
what happens when the water

starts to rise? Keeps rising until we
can’t stand.  Should we build

a boat, should we consider Buddhism,
should we memorize more Shakespeare?

Should we clutch together ourselves
come closer and hold each other, together,

ourselves because the rains are coming.  
The seas are rising. Tell me your stories,

and I’ll tell you mine. We will record them
in flutes and violins.  We will dance 

in our red shoes until the morning
comes, we will rise like seabirds.

We will be the naming, the birthing
of new things. The way this snowflake

is never the same twice.  Love stares
with intention from the center of the page.

Dark creatures emerge from dark canyons.
We are as quiet as snow melting on glass.

*

Day 21 / Poem 21

I was trying to start a fire
without matches, spinning
my tires, and turning myself
the wrong way around
a compass. I lost every
star at night when I refused
to open my eyes. I was
wood grain running under
your fingers, your lantern,
a mosquito full of blood.
The water was trickling
softly, but you were the sound
of an axe swinging, metal
meeting bone, metal carving
our initials. I was lying,
and lying in the dirt, searching,
a flashlight flickering. But
there wasn’t anything to find.
The map that you left me, it
turns out, lied too. I was
the firefly, no, the glow
of a firefly smeared along
all of your windows.

a full page of tulsi basil,
hand-drawn, cups,
and cups again,
tomato sauce, on cue,
a text to schedule a call,
that zine: I invite myself
to lose myself,
my naked body
on that old postcard,
the old-new sweater that feels
like me, the minibike waiting
in the shed, handwriting I know
waiting in the manual, the residue
of A’s thoughts on innocence,
T’s long email
about craft, the text
about the map,
the postcard of Glen Brittle,
the tiny accordion that says made
for each other
always in my pocket,
the memory of reading it aloud,
on the floor,
the Valentine’s poem I didn’t
see coming, all the unfinished
sewing keeping Ms. Fran alive,
L’s voice,
18 leftover yarn necklaces,
the blended head and heart lines
I carry around,
the amethyst around
my neck, 21 days now,
charging up

The knuckles of the willow
still wear the dash
where the catkin connected

and the girl
became my friend long after
she rode in the trunk

with her mother and brother 
interlaced like chicken bones
across the border.

We trimmed the long branches 
early morning before either of us 
had learned to drink coffee.

Her hands were quick
and red where the mark of rose thorns
crossed her like unwanted kisses.

She left the fields where the roses
were grown. Plucked from round bushes 
and sent to America. The land she received 

the same blooms she saved.
And still they lacked perfume. 

Bur the knuckles of the willow
stripped by winter, cold winds forcing 
them to sway,

catkins protruding soft in their mimicry
of newborn babes, of eloquence,
The willow did not betray.

but lo!
and lo and lo!
any lionhearted fool with his strange appetites
has already sniffed out your particular brand of strength
the strength that you call conviction or desire, 
and that we all cower from, or try to turn against, 
calling it “oath,” or “spell,” or “mortal wound.”

but because the sighing, gargantuan god hurling pestilence has set us here,
against the cavern of your heart, your thoughts, your eye, 
the “mortal injury” drags us back from the cliffs, back from the grave,
back from dreams of freedom and escape past these churning waters,
past that dangerous bend. it drags us back from even the dead, 
back from the axial expanse, back from the tumult of thundering wings,
heralds we know too well. 

but lo! because dark, divine thoughts have poisonously prodded us forward,
here we are, internal, seething, and unquittably bound to your savage heart,
to your barbing muscle’s beating chants of expiry and mortal ends, 
unavailable, unwilling, always bent on laws and rage and glory.
unavailable, unwilling, always bent on laws and rage and glory,
the olympian flare of your eye, likewise flaming, assailing, redirecting.

so why does the world remain unhelped by you?
what yet remains of your misspent and misdirected fortunes?
the unequal fortunes, we mean, not just your lofty heifers, no.
not just the crevasses teeming full of all your avid men, 
ravenous, dreaming, craving desecration and a thousand gilded stratagems, 
as their falchion sing weird songs of suppliants woe and embattlement. 

so why does the world continue to pursue its course,
its trembling decline to a ponderous, weighty slumber?
while, made a terrible, thundering whirlwind of oppositions and fury, 
you fling yourself towards the death-promising swords and arrows,
following all of the dusky, different ways he fled, having left your arms behind.
there is no flighty laurel. no hymn. no votive devotions for a god. no pen.
none of the baldric prayers or grief-studded envies we might have wanted to quell.

with our unquenchable thirsts, we have scarcely what we want and need.
we have just the fears of those fauns there, huddled together for succor or warmth.
just the fears of the small oiselets, who live and die as food for hawks, 
bestial birds with surveying eyes, only morsels for the dumb monarchs as well. 
their relentless wings that paper the sky before the fatal catch—
but lo! and lo! why were you of all women plucked from the ground,
like a sickly root of a man, tubercular, tumescent, gleaming?

Jump
                         head                      FIRST
                                      in
                                                 &
                                     out.

Sad places
                         and
                                       model faces.

Instead of quiet words
Sea like Rhythms
                                                              or
                                       a
                                                                           quiet
                                            cup
                                                                       of
                                                              Tea

Wagging tongues
                                     Sing
                                            Wordless tunes.

Streets of common faces
                                            Hail
                                            Mighty Survivors
                                            Of
                                            Hell.

Drills hurry

                                     Have you
                                            Done enough?
                                     Red-eyed
                                            Shadows

                                            L
                                     O
                                            O
                                            M
                                     On
the
                                     Cliff’s

Edge.

Embroidering
Center sky

                                     a
                                            ray
                                                     of
                                                            light

Jump
                         head                      FIRST
                                      in
                                                 &
                                     out.

Sad places
                         and
                                       model faces.

Instead of quiet words
Sea like Rhythms
                                                              or
                                       a
                                                                           quiet
                                            cup
                                                                       of
                                                              Tea

Wagging tongues
                                     Sing
                                            Wordless tunes.

Streets of common faces
                                            Hail
                                            Mighty Survivors
                                            Of
                                            Hell.

Drills hurry

                                     Have you
                                            Done enough?
                                     Red-eyed
                                            Shadows

                                            L
                                     O
                                            O
                                            M
                                     On
the
                                     Cliff’s

Edge.

Embroidering
Center sky

                                     a
                                            ray
                                                     of
                                                            light

Jump
                         head                      FIRST
                                      in
                                                 &
                                     out.

Sad places
                         and
                                       model faces.

Instead of quiet words
Sea like Rhythms
                                                              or
                                       a
                                                                           quiet
                                            cup
                                                                       of
                                                              Tea

Wagging tongues
                                     Sing
                                            Wordless tunes.

Streets of common faces
                                            Hail
                                            Mighty Survivors
                                            Of
                                            Hell.

Drills hurry

                                     Have you
                                            Done enough?
                                     Red-eyed
                                            Shadows

                                            L
                                     O
                                            O
                                            M
                                     On
the
                                     Cliff’s

Edge.

Embroidering
Center sky

                                     a
                                            ray
                                                     of
                                                            light

                                            transfigures
                                     the clay of despair, greed and envy.

Released
                  from
                             the
                                     workbox

                                                              Belief:
                                            Perching feathers
                                                               i
                                            Starshine
                                                                & moonlight
                                                 A whole Galaxy
                                                              In
                                                 Your mind.

Lines drawn from: BTS, Magic Shop, Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickson, J-Hope, J-Hope x J.Cole, Ha Jin,
Henry Lawson, Marge Piercy                                                              

She’s made the crossing                             so many times                             in this sketch, that
drill, this scenario all hypothetical.           but when              she finally          comes to it, the
river has      dried up.                   Grass bunches along a path              as thick as a fox’s tail
straight down the ravine. The bridge, no longer used, creaks and totters slick with algae.
She doesn’t notice any of this—not until mid-crossing, when her booted heels skid on the
slimy planks. She’s put                                                                                           in considerable
time organizing her 8-                                                                                            pound day pack
down to the                                                                                                             last dot bandage
in her 300-piece                                                                                                      first aid kit in its
own royal navy                                                                                                       blue nylon pouch.
She has studied                                                                                                   all the maps, mem-
orized the mileage                                                                                            and topography of
what awaits on the                                                                                               other side. She
resolves to keep go-                                                                                          ing; besides, she
isn’t wearing her                                                                                                   mountain boots
just her medium-soled                                                                                         bridge-crossers.
She slips, stumbles                                                                                                and so although
she has crossed this                                                                                          bridge before she
came to it she plum                                                                                           mets to the rocks
below and won’t be                                                                                          making any more
plans let alone                                                                                                        snap decisions.

Found poem with words from composer’s Hania Rani’s song titles and words from Julian Assange about the current state of the Internet

*

I dance with ghosts.

I’ll never find your soul.

Glass, come back home,

F-major, perceptions of who 

we are, nest, eden, mirror, 

glass, come back home.

D-minor, I’ll never find your soul,

come back home, now run, 

whispering house, thin lines,

the boat, the beach from which I never cry,

thin lines, wildfires, 

I dance with ghosts.

Come back home. The beach 

from which I never cry, 

preludium, knots 

in all this heavy blue.

We cease to exist, it has ceased

to have never existed, pages 

not found, dictum controlling present

controls the past, the record of mankind.

The record of who we are,

a day in never, lost flowers

in a book, collapse

into a new world.

This boat fills with pairs of flowers.

Two by two, are we drowning or living?

We are whispering houses, the lightning 

of words, come home.

*

Day 20 / Poem 20

It’s strawberries picked right
from the plant, smashed
into sugary jam. It’s tall grass,
and ice cubes spinning in
a glass of lemonade. And it’s
cliché how the sun is sweltering
too, and it’s bare feet on pavement,
and the ice cream truck is probably
playing that tune. And it’s me,
laying on the lawn, staring up
into the sky, burning my
retinas, skin turning pinker.
It’s a scrape on my knee,
and plastic wheels grinding
against the concrete. It’s
sunscreen, and salt, and sidewalk
chalk. It’s the water from
the garden hose and a bite
into a sno-cone. It is
the lightning bug, the gravel
in my teeth, and the way
an umbrella tips in the wind.

She wanted everyone to come all together

                                                                but also separate to see the flecks in their eyes

in late February She thought dinner

                                                                sounded nice at 6 but also at 7

She had some things to say about her friend’s

                                                                first date but not too many She had been tired

at the meeting but also present She wasn’t

                                                                direct as she was leaving but followed up

later on to center clarity

                                                                At dinner she felt both antsy

and sluggish, wanting

                                                                to both hurry

and deepen the conversation

                                                                Her response to the skepticism

she thought reasonable

                                                                but it wasn’t mild and it wasn’t contained

and it was highly detailed in its explanation           

                                                                 which smacked hollandaise-like in both corners of her mouth

feverish in the glow of the stovetop clock

                                                                She tore pimento bun after white pimento bun

the recipe’s specific

                                                                nausea of region

lips in a vacuum of function 

I’ve come to the root of sorrow,
that all hearts do not heal.
I’ve poured through the words of poets,
kept their lines like prayers and steal.

I’ve come to the root of sorrow,
that not every heart can heal.

I’ve traced the paths of forest dwellers,
clipped vines that choked out trees,
I’ve clambered over starless mountains,
fallen prey to the sting of need.

I’ve lost my way in rice fields,
I’ve held vigil for an owl,
I’ve stood stone-still in a snowstorm,
silent wingspan, song of power.

I’ve held the hand of suffering,
bent knuckles for a fight,
I’ve begged the heavens to relieve your soul,
stood fearless in the face of might.

I’ve felt your heart inside my own,
It’s methodic palpitation.
The irregular beat inside your breast
conflating sorrow with elation.

I’ve come to know the root of loss,
the cotton and the feathers,
the nest that empties, the wings that falter
the sky in docile weather.

I’ve poured through the words of poets,

I’ve seen beauty as the cure.
Soil clinging to the root of sorrow,
not every heart endures.

the baird’s beaked whale has endless containers for its sorrow, but you have just these four containers for your grief. 
 
for the DEBRIS of your grief, for the remnants left here: rumen, reticulum, omasum, abomasum.eyes splayed wide, portals to nowhere, she marvels, when she pricks me with her golden needle, that i bleed. eyes splayed wide, cast to the rocky towers, she says we are married to the wings and the wind from above.
 
 as we leap back, back, back, and down, and down. air-bound, no, not you, not i. we, even with our feathers and our impermeable skins, even with the mammalian, marine way we parse the denticles of our sonic cliffs and sonoric swells and pearlescent tumbles through the deep, our dips and eddies, our overwheeling precision as we slice through the cloying waters. these cloying, gelid, waters, these gelid, algid waters we believe to be our own.
 
we are heavy and primeval, heavy and thunderous, heavy and untraceable as we return to being bracken by gravity reclaimed. yes, gravity reclaims even us! the maw of the ORB reclaims even us! the earth’s marble tomb reaches for even us! the gelid, polar waters thirst even for us! the final, RAVENOUS maw at the white-hot center of the earth swallows even us, desires even us! 
 
the GRAVE CAVE yearns even for us, us us, it seeks even us, it craves even us, and the skin and breasts and leaves we hold here! the enormous, teeming heart of ours and of our bleating pod, the young who suckle real, fresh milk and sip equally from water and from air, from water and from air! the spines and the limbed regard we hold here! the dorsal fin we still exhibit here! the dorsal fin our bracken turns to imperfectible, unyielding stone!

The Earl made you grey,
Stirringly saying,
                             Come off it, man, let every babbler be!

Sipping chrysanthemum flowers
He sagely said,

The false worm with foul lips
Maliciously branded the house:
A den of thieves, a house divided
Throwing dark suspicion on the innocent
Who offered the worm a home.

Enjoining secrecy,
He confidently spoke

Malicious tongues tell rumours of
Intimate feasts, magic bindings and tales of fairies.
How secret people dared awful crimes, and
Fixated on the unseen monk
he passed out wearing
Your Honor’s crown.

Distant networks scheme;
Gossips proudly babble, immortalising guilt
Speaking rude words
Neither of truth nor trust.

He said

A word is dead, when it is said, and
What is seen is not the Truth.
Life’s secret lives in silence
Treasure is found when you
Lend a hand or listen to the rain.
When your soul hears music
In breaths of whales, sees sunshine in sorrow
And silence is made visible as you
labour lovingly through work
Then, a deeper eternal truth triumphs:

Mustard is important to society
Then he quietly sipped his tea.

Lines drawn from: Aeschylus, Louisa May Alcott, Anonymous, Tiffany Atkinson, Basho, Jean Blewett, Emily Dickinson, Kahlil
Gibran, Colfax Burgoyne Harman, Kabir, Orhan Veli Kanik, Octavio Paz, Jo Shapcott, Anais Vionet, Pema Yonub

After Antonio Machado,
“Last Night as I Was Sleeping”

I swore never to dream again. 
Oh my sweetness, how I
bind and gag the sleepwalking
child, so she won’t make a
disturbance in the dark, her
ears buzzing with under-
burrow languages.

There’s an invitation to
hobnob with the hive-who-
knows, to thrum warm
with delight. See what spills
hidden in hollows: wind-
fall, treefall, gloryfall. Unself-
conscious industry hovering,
huddling, heaping, packing,
wing-warming; thinking
chamber walls with gold dust.

Breathe your ragged racket,
and I’ll fling wide my
cupboards overspilling with
catastrophes; I’ll air my 
errors. Perhaps all my blind-
nesses were necessary for
closing my eyes at last,
letting the vision take.

Found Poem from the words of Hania Rani, composer

*

The house itself 
is whispering.

This pretty object who hides
all my secrets.

Glass, empty spaces, 
elusive characters pass

my way.  Soaking the track
with choirs and vocal lines,

corridors and hallways,
following intuition in time.

I pass between worlds.
I’ll never find your soul.

Give me room for listening.
The house itself is the one

who is whispering.

Day 19 / Poem 19

I am juicy pear jelly
beans, and cherry cola,
the color yellow. I think
I am in love. I am feathers,
and sequins, and wearing
sneakers with my prom dress.
I am afraid of everything,
and nothing all at once.
I am driving my Jeep
with the top down in circles
around town. I am burning
CDs. And spending nights
on trampolines looking up
at the stars.                  I am a moth searching for
                                       brightness, I am a moth
                                       with its wing torn. I am made
                                       of sugar, and the worst
                                       person alive. I am a skeleton,
                                       hollow, but I am licking
                                       my lips. I am hungry,
                                       and starved, and ripping
                                       at the seams. I am perforated,
                                       one slip away. I get everything
                                       I want, and I cry when I want
                                       nothing at all. I am watermelon
                                       bubblegum sticking to shoes.

Ask: what about the voices of other people?
Choose one who sounds right for you, from the fields.
Remember a field outside any Iowa town, free from schedule,
and fresh in desire for yourself. There is no rush.
When the unknown, inevitably, appears, who knows 
what will become possible, or if you will stay too watery
and not clinical and shapely enough in your rendering.
Ask: what makes desire legible?
Someone loved this place, said T, about the hotel lobby,
in the gleam of 1931 art deco after 75 years of indoor smoking.
If you needed it, here, he would probably add 
a conversation that meets your goal, 
a multi-person one, where each person speaks
actively, at regular intervals. 
A conversation can dwarf you with its longevity 
and staying power. Ask: for great gentleness.
Approach what carries it – beast, or machine – 
eye to eye, and speak actively into its mouth.
Speak only the abstractions that you enjoy 
observing from all angles.
Such as sufficiency. Warmth. At home. 
The absolute commitment to being down.
Remember how at the concert, right before 
the final wild, bright knot of sound,
the mixer went silent. All that potential
and none too much to ask.

The checklist seems thorough:
2 onions unpeeled and cold
3 large cloves of garlic
Your family history of depression
1 vine-ripened tomato

                I’ve been sorting through
                your mood swings,
                and the pages of poetry
                left in their path.

One whole spatchcocked chicken
A pinch of saffron
if available, but who can summon white crocus
then lie in a garden patch
pinching stigmas?
Unless you meant the stigma of childhood?
It wasn’t clear unfortunately.

                I have tried to make clear
                I’d like to love you.
                I have tried to make clear
                I’m not capable of love.

2 gallons of water, spring fed from an Alpine stream.

If you want to know me,
and I you, it’s best to start
with plenty of water.
I’m not in this to die.

Furthermore, I’d swap all of it for a pinch of salt.
Flavor.
Recall it was you who said you’d drain the ocean
just for the taste.

But I’m sure there must be something left
in the shaker.

it ALL started with the aiding end, the aiding end: a whisper, a confession, the incensed vastness, the incensed eyes. 

she said the darkness PULSED with her attendant heart, she said the darkness PULSED with her attendant heart, without shutters, without blinds, without netting. 

she said the darkness PULSED with her attendant heart, in free fall, without shutters, without blinds, without netting, 

then CALM AGAIN. 

then calm again.

So here we are, Somewhere ages hence
Funny how so close can feel so far.
Waking up in the town Come and Help Yourself,
in the Rough and Ready land
the pale full moon disappears in the morning light
This country matters its infinite majesty
marching in life’s procession.
Beauty with edges hang
Diverging in the wood, yellow leaves turn
Black and white.
Apathetic wealthy men: pigmies sleepwalking
Through mists of errors, wrongs and lies
Lost proud gods submit.
Giraffe: high on vision
Streams nightly into the loving nowhere.
Two worlds of graves knowledgeably
lean out-in
Absorbing work.
All hail, the mighty survivor
A peekaboo, now ticketed
Short on perspective the crooked lawyer asserts
“You’re right”
“Its grand to be a democrat
And toady to the mob.”
At the close of the day, with the sin of memory
and an absence of memory;
The bathtub is filled with ice.
Fettered to a cairn of intention, he says goodbye,
“No more questions. This interview is over”
Listening with total attention, the gods
Wonder:
What was walled in, walled out?

 Lines drawn from: J Cole, Robert Frost, Kahlil Gibran, Henry Lawson
Yan Lian (trans Arthur Sze), Audre Lorde, Andrew Mansbach, Banjo Patterson, Adrienne
Rich, Ed Robertson, Muriel Rukeyser, Rumi, Warson Shire, Walt Whitman.

After Paulann Petersen, “Why the World isn’t Flat”

If the world were flat there’d be no need. For the starfields. For the skyways. For the slow, nervous, swallow of the throat. No need. Take the thing by its edges and shake it like a tea tray; even out the sand lumps as with a Zen garden. Level worlds don’t hitch your breath and slingshot your heart into the pit of your stomach. They don’t jangle roller-coaster bangles. Where there is no need, no wonder. Flat, nothing to dare, and I wouldn’t be measuring my backpack for flight carry-on dimensions; wouldn’t be trying new boots, lining up airbnbs, steeling myself for that first fuzzy foreign muzzy morning of airport arrival, the sleep-deprived brain forced to translate, decipher, navigate, schlep, and orienteer from terminal to subway to transport to train, city to village. When I’m self-satisfied, I’m a stagnant pond, too sluggish and horizontal for fish. When I’m not moving, the mare’s tail thickens and clogs, while the naturalized nutria slosh, devouring tendernesses that no longer thrive. A swamp miasma rises. It happens gradually. I never meant to lie and seep and slowly dry up, here, where I need for nothing.

*

Spilled river of milk, 

backbone of the night,

composer of nocturnes, 

salt path, way of the birds,  

snake of the skies, heaven’s river, 

channel of reflection, path of souls,

road of scattered straw, winter’s way,  

deer’s leap,  river of light,  road of warriors, 

cow’s path, serenade of sugar, great fence 

of the stars, dragon’s river, cloud eating sea, 

the shepherd’s road, elixir of the moon, 

milk road,  field of stars, way of the white elephant, 

silver-haired creek, trail of fire embers, 

halo of gas and dust,  mirror 

made of water, sky, and hope-

Luminous ribbons for my hair.

My milchstrasse.  My electric valentine. 

This is how I find you.

*

Day 18 / Poem 18

I must be silver, never
gold, a coin flipping.
A dog running wild
in the yard, the wood
splintering. I am painting
my face, a portrait, in
oil, and licking the brush
to a point, too. I have
swallowed the potions
and tasted nothing. I keep
getting stuck under the
skin. I am something to
search for. Use a knife
to cut me out.

is it wane or wax in scum zone?
how ravenous are mine own aims?
am i now omnivore, or was i? or more?
mucus or venom, on sores?

marie, own environ can move, no?
even oceans win sonar times. 
sin rise means mace near. 
suvs cruise in vain. no one mass scores.

am i worn, or is no zone vers?
come on. im no one-or-none,
woman or no:
no-vow marie, no name on me.

In the scrawl of your pencil,
is the bitter root of pain,
the particulate of storms,
the play for power that starves a soul,
the testimony of promise,
the
truth.
Do not ask for more. The hillside surrounding the fallen tree
roots uplifted,
filled with crocus. Unbidden. Purple
in a rolling crash of sunlight.

in the subdued city, in the indistinct cities, in the most indistinct of cities or in these cities forever rendered indistinct there is nothing that gleams or surges in the darkness, in the dark, felted darkness, dark and deep. only the wrecked balustrade, thebroken scepters, only the shattered scepters, only the fragmented scepters of the drunken kings shine. the scepters and that glossy moonlit stone. scepter, stone, and that GREATEST horn of the better forked flame, of the most forked and PIERCING of flames has been SWALLOWED, has been CHOKED DOWN by the thrashing waves. leaving us, unaided, in this gradated darkness.

the waters have been surging for epochs, dark and deep, dark and closer now. always darker and deeper and always closer.you stand next to me, i stand next to you and to our shadows, our backs against the final shards of the ruined balustrade. i tremble and tremble again as you calmly, calmly and almost coolly, calmly and almost placidlyalmost serenely, watch the waves, the swallowing waves, the waves melding with the inky sky, melding with the shadows, BREAKING THEMSELVES, and breaking themselves the both—shadows and waves, shadows and waves, thrashing, seething, roaring against the pierceable coast. 

In the place of semi-colon: I come
A ray of light left in the box.
A cup of tea,
A thing of feathers
A quiet center between starshine and clay.

Jump head-first into the work,
On the chillest land and on
The strangest sea
In common rhythm,
Food in and fire out
As always, for us
The faces on the street

I believe your galaxy
Where you can do what you can do
Celebrate the tune without words
A lasting friend
They call me –
Hope.

 Lines drawn from from: BTS, Magic Shop
Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickson, J-Hope, Pandora’s Box, J-Hope x J.Cole, On the Street, Ha Jin, Henry Lawson,
Marge Piercy. 

Worse than coming un-
glued, there’s none to
begin with. I’m not
sticky; the late winter
wind could hurl into
the forest my body, a
scrap to be trod by deer
or carried by rain-fed
current of stream
against the beaver dam,
where I will shudder
in the ripples and sticks.

A valentine curving from
reclaimed red file-
folder lies disassembled,
cut-out collage words splayed
senseless. I’m hoping
to make meaning. How
much meaning can I make
when you already mean
the world to me? I never
made it so.

Off the back deck,
a strapping spruce
flaunts broad
branches, close
needles. When we
arrived, it was
a seedling. It reached
and bobbled, eager
and tender-crisp, new
green like stir fry bok-
choy. Month by month
became a leggy, thin-
limbed teenager.
The tree had sowed itself.
We did not interfere. 

When you volunteered
our beginning, I
held the seed, easy.
The awe and hush
were far better than a
sealing, a sticking-to.

I refuse to break
the morning’s still-
ness with a trip to the
office supply. No glue,
tape, or staple will
secure the light-
as-air gift. You’ll
hold it gently, as
you always do; and
if by chance it falls,
we can rearrange
it into something we
like even better.

*

We are signs and symbols,

music of wind through orange 

blossoms, trumpets of honeysuckle 

waiting for song.  We are the wet

hands of rivers, tea leaves cast

in the form of haiku, murmurations 

of starlings, obscured wisdom

in soundscapes, the meaning

of ribboning, your heart,

like leaves, the spring,

desire to take refuge, in the forest 

where everything moves towards any sun,

where everything is outlined

in light

*

Day 17 / Poem 17

I’m watering the grass

to make it greener, skipping

stones on the lake. I’m breaking

a wishbone, whispering into

the wind. I am conjuring

sunshine, and lightbulbs, and

flames on candles. I am licking

my finger, holding it up to

the breeze. I put my ear

to the sand, hear my own

voice speak back to me. 

I am burning all of my sharpest

knives in the backyard. I am

tracing the veins in leaves,

and polishing the crystal.

We are talking about Industrialized 
Christ Production, not about 
tshirts made in factories nor plastic 
bottles of nutritionless beverage, 
but the one that implicates 
our family line– we sat in church in mass-
produced pews, severed in identical ways from logs, 
the word of God shrink-wrapped with logos– 
we talk about the priest holding 
the body of Christ, 
how it was made, the wafers 
produced a thousand at a time,
adjoining of the human and divine, 
by a machine at steady pace.
8 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
The whistle starts, 
god is churned out. Whistle again, 
machines to be cleaned. 
The priest is just 
the final touch

They cleaned her,
lifting thick honey
from her abdomen,
releasing the crinkled folds of her wing.
I sense the too-close nibble of the hoards,
today they save their queen, tomorrow
they gnaw at the forest’s underbelly.
It may sound beautiful. I watch 
in horror.

They don’t consume this goddess of honey.
They cluster around and peel away her cage.
Released she locates flowers, as before,
but now the pollen is kissed in freedom,
now gold keeps the dust of pain.

sweeping, sweeping, sweeping, and bent on destination, enduring, sweeping, sweeping, he will not look for ROME or for any fallen man. he will not pass through expansive RHODES, with its tricksy coins and poolings hung by hippodamus, with its flair for convergence and departure, with its ordered orthogonal spaces teaming with golden men of firmer means and calculus. he will not return to TROY or to the glittering bauble that the other-tongued men call FLORENCE, that other men with real eyes and real lives and real attachmentsto the earth call a lucky, blossoming place. no, no, no, no, he will not look for any HERO’S TRAPPINGS or any of the thousand, seething affronts that could remove a spine, remove a tongue. bent on destination: enduring, bent on fulfilment: persisting, bent on satisfaction: committing, he looks only for HER and to HER, and to the flowing, rolling wake that ribbons from her barque. from her barque! he looks to and for the curving, undulating pulse that garlands her barque and then ribbons out in a vaster, sinuous proposition of depth and eternal advantage. he looks to the smooth, flowing ribbons that lace together the space — THE VAST EXPANSE, THE ETERNAL SPACE, HELL AND THE HEAVENS, HELL AND THE HEAVENS, AND THEN THE ROCKY, RATIONAL TERRAIN that cedes and desists before the APPALING DEEP, THE HORRIBLE OCEAN, THE SHADOWY DEEP, THE IMMEMORIAL MOORING of the thunderous, booming space — the space that bends and curves and ebbs — and careens! — around her PRECIOUS IMPERIAL BODY, that wheels and clarifies around her imperfectible body. oh, lonely navigator! oh, astral steersman of the seas! consider all of this! consider all of this!: the space that swells and folds around her, embellishing, concealing; the space that swallows and cleaves around her, tripping, cloying; the space that rises and falls, rises and falls, soars and plummets before her INCALCULABLE IMPERIAL BODY, her PRECIOUS IMPERIAL BODY, the THUNDERING MATTER of her body, to chart — to attempt to chart, to attempt to chart, to only begin the attempt to chart, to endlessly continue failing to chart! — how the ROARING MAGNITUDE of her IMPERIAL FORM once governed the contours, governed the darkness. how the MEGALITH of her unmovable, moving body once governed the contours, governed the expanse, governed the frame. he cannot be the originator of this concept. he cannot be the organizer of this space. oh celestial, sidereal man, you cannot be the charting arranger of this space. oh planetary voyager, you cannot unconsider how her unmovable, moving body still governs these contours, this expanse, that depth, this frame. 

My eyes are dry. I cannot cry
I’m weary, very weary of the Faces in the Street
And here you come, with a cup of tea
A hot crimson rage fills my heart
This is no country for old men worn and grey
Who vainly amaze themselves
This the last of lands, the emptiest.
My semi-colon comes with the strength of the living day
A vagabonding love of change
Green Thoughts in Green Shade
My small wisdom, mocked by her vast design.
And had we but World enough, and Time
But it’s been thirty-eight minutes already
I pray you f**king asleep.

Lines drawn from Alec Derwent Hope, Henry Lawson, Adam Mansbach, Go the F**k to Sleep, Andrew Marvell, Sylvia Path, Banjo Patterson ,William Butler Yeats

I’ve been here long as you remember.

Wasn’t there for the fall down the steps,
couldn’t cry when blood gushed
onto Peter Pan collar, dribbled onto
saddle shoes. I got there soon as I could.

I’m a keloid, raised, couldn’t react
quick enough to stretch, nor supply
the elastic for seamless poise, a
repair smooth and cool. I gathered
to the site more collagen than needed—
I wanted to be sure to do the job.
Who said I’d do it perfectly?
My first time, after all.

My white racetrack skidded
from nostril to philtrum, a creamy
ridge shining like mucus. I made
you look like a snotty-nosed kid.
You were six when you realized others
didn’t have that mark. Well-meaning
teachers offered tissues. You learned
not to see me when you looked in the
mirror. Still, you were irked when
you touched my sinewy footprint.

I’m a byproduct of healing. Every wound
has one. I’ve held this power over you.
Did you ever think I meant to bless?
Could you welcome memory of loving
hands that washed the wound?

Now, other lines crisscross lips,
forehead, eyes: face-stars competing
for attention. Look around. See my
kindred in that boy on the bus—the
slash at temple; recognize me
on the shoulder of the yoga teacher,
the hand of the barista. Under-
stand I linger beneath garments
of those who seem never to have
known pain.

Here you are with my mark
upon you. Perhaps you can listen to
all this scar wants to say. Dear-
heart, healing was never
meant to shame.

*

Am I not the sound

the sunrise makes?

Ripening sound of deities

greening leaves, greening

that which animates 

first bloom.  The huntress

and the hunted, capture the spirit 

in the body,  these words like wind

pushing a bell. 

Listen.

*

Day 16 / Poem 16

When you’re talking in your
sleep, I am running in slow
motion. Turning in the sheets
and in scenes that don’t make sense.

Last night, you dreamt of
me, and I dreamt of standing
on the edge of a mountain.
I am screaming without sound
like a tv with the volume
all the way down.

In the morning, you wake
with ease while I am still
searching for slumber,
rubbing my eyes until
they are worn.

I am tired. And I am slipping
into something cyclical. Crashing
like waves and dreaming of dreaming,
praying at bedtime for the clock
to stop spinning.

We were in and out. 
Two-story rusted steel wheels
propped against one wall. Silence buzzy 
as a dozen welders
before they paused to wave my child-self hello, 
fifteen years ago.
Ken’s hand goes up a little, and over, while he walks.
You know that one, that’s his design.
The coils are still taller than me, the teeth massive,
and a row of circles, vacant eyes, whose sight I’ve, for myself, denied.

Then we’re in the office.
It only takes us a minute. Small stack of frames on the filing cabinet.
I flip through. 
There he is with everyone, arms and arms. There with just Juanita and Scott. There receiving an award, but someone’s hand 
blocks the text on the plaque. I take a few. I’m not sure where I’ll put them. 
This place kept him alive,
and I’m heading home for dinner. 
Coils and teeth sift shrimp from shell in New Orleans. In Mexico City, they flatten 
the body of Christ.

 
 

We stood by the water
and I asked you to write it.
“Write what?” you asked.
“What you see,” I answered.
But you walked away.

I see the pond.
The shallow water skipping peaks
in the breeze. I see you.
Hands stuffed in pockets,
kicking dry, winter grass.
I see the sun sketching the ridgeline of the mountains.
I see it spill into the fields and slide
across the water to me where it says, “I see you.”
“Of course you do,” I answer, “you’re the sun.”

You find a fence post to lean on.
A piece of grass between your fingers.
The pond will bloom with algae when summer heat comes.
A green film
across the water, starving the life beneath.
I look at the sun, it’s outline singed with purple.The fence isn’t strong enough to hold out the cows
so they walk in the water to cool their bodies. I would too
if I was them.
Overhead a flock of geese pull stitches through the sky.
Instinctively I count. Seven. So I know loss
has touched
at least one.

“Write what you see,” I say.
Your shoulders have grown broad these past months.
“It won’t be good,” you answer,
“what’s the point of that?”

I see you. Defeat like a net across your features.
Your defiance like a noose.

I see the pond,
the way it conceals. It is no longer
good at sustaining life.

I look across your shoulder
at the old wooden dock, in pieces
since the Paulownia tree consumed it in a storm.
Purple cone-shaped blossoms
sinking beneath the rain.
I shudder in the cold and the sun, nearly finished
with its flash and fever, rushes to press into my cheeks.
“I’ll just be cold again when you go,” I hiss.

And tell me son, what’s the point of that?

i wonder if, i wonder if, wonder if what you said to me during THURSDAY’S DREAM about YOUR FEAR OF DROWINING AND INDELIBLE SHADOWS is that same secret sorrow you keep trying to choke down? that same STINKING sorrow you have tried to swallow but can’t? that same and truly sorrowful sorrow that you have tried to keep away from me or from yourself these many years. lo these many years! 
 
so hard, so hard it was when you were just a tiny, FRACTURED SEED in the wind-parched desert, a miniscule seed, a shuddering tremblement, so hard when you were just a terrible MILLENIAL PUNISHMENT making your stern mother sterner, making your sterner mother even sterner, making the unending BOULDER of that maternal mountain its sternest yet, UNSCALABLE, UNSCALABLE, unendingly resistant
 
so hard when you were just a MOLDERING THOUGHT in the imperial ledger, just a fetid frond, a failing ear of corn, a forgotten cow’s hoof against the gully. gushing water, churning water, only usable track gullied by the centennial rain. so hard, so hard it was. so hard it was then and so hard it remains. so hard it remains to swallow these ghastly forced and forcing things that TRICK AN ANGRY heart, that TEASE and TEMPT the poor child crying in the fields, the poor child crying in the fields, in the endless, failing fields.
 
SORROWING, sorrowing, always sorrowing as you WEEP and CRY and QUAKE in the failing, spinning fields, try not to be GULLIED by these forced and forcing things that TRICK and betray you, that TRICK and SPLAY your mottled, precious body, that PLUCK AND PULL your natal down, that seethe and claw at the thundering core of you, at the THUMPING, pooling core of you, that betray our conquered and conquering appetites again and again. again, and again. again, and again, and again.

Everyday my heart shatters again. Thousands of tiny pieces shrouded in the thick dust of sorrow.

I want to believe that the golden vein of our collective hope and love can kintsugi the hearts and minds of our refugee brothers and sisters. 

But how? When mortars every punctuate every minute of the day. And no stranger anymore death claims past, present and future.

Gone are the homes lined with books where furnishings were made by hand and sweet-smelling kitchens pulsated with the bustling energy of family caretakers feeding bellies and souls.  

Even more images arrive, twisted steel wrecks crushed flat, blood-stained concrete and squared kilometres of craters silently scream. Playground swings bent and twisted lay upside down, a metaphor for the future lives of little people who survive.

Oppression in all its forms is now unmasked. Land grabs, desecration of faith, no civil destructions of society or mistaken genocide. Intentionality guides the human faces of hate as they create an assortment of false consciousnesses; anesthetics to desensitize allowing for an ever dominant discourse promoting hegemony and self-interest. 

I struggle to find what meaningful action I can take: petition signing, letter writing and financial donations -and then I am reminded of the responsibility that comes with our fundamental human rights.

I bear witness to your pain, I will not look away. And when your spirit is broken, I will carry you. Your eyes look back at me, I see no difference; you are my heart, mind and soul, anywhere and everywhere. 

Our collective hope rests on our shared belief that through this chrysalis of unending pain, our suffering will grow wings, to fly, free, to be. 

an erasure poem from Elementary Practical Physics, 1896,

pages 142, 143

pencil               

                thin white

                                                  lines     more

wide

                                                On

red          blue

blue  Bend

right                                                       stand

supplied               prism                                                     place

upright                                                                                                 turned towards

              the face

looking through

                red                                                         notice

                                                                                                                red

now                                                                                                                                       see

blue                                       important

                while                                                                                     seen

left

                                                                of

the eye

 deviated                                                                                               passage                                               

                                                                in your notebook                                                             

                                                                                                                sketch           the arrange-

ment

            exercise                                                  given                                     ray

                                                                                                                investigated                                                                              

simply

paper                  

uppermost

                     pin

                         point                               

                                                                                                                Remove

                                                                                entering

thick                                                               

                                           O

*

Mountain. Red earth. 
Circumambulate verb, 

adjective, we are
vortexes. Sonic

vibrations, gyrations
of rotating suns and moons.

Listen to the red earth,
summon spirits,

we are turning wheels 
spreading words like seeds,

delicate, fragrant,
intersecting repetitions,

the open mouths yellow flowers
in yellow fields, summoning

spirits, murmurations, blue of birds 
intersecting, spreading seeds

on the mountain, the still-point, 
where heaven meets earth,

and spreads her shiny locks
to sea, we are keepsakes,

rivers who are altars of everything 
who turn themselves towards meaning.

Heliotropes. Shape-shifters.
Your pointer finger on two merging planets,

we are the rising and falling
of seabirds, the center point

where heaven meets earth.

*

Day 15 / Poem 15

I hate biting into
apples, the way the skin
splits and sticks between
my teeth. The grittiness
coinciding with the sweet.

How they bruise so easily,
become bad when you aren’t
looking. I am precise, I cut
slices in the kitchen, avoid
the core, the seeds.

Don’t think about it
too long, but imagine
the worm, halved, writhing.
And your stomach is aching.

I’m in the kitchen, and I’m
slicing an apple, and thinking
of worms, and how hungry
I am. And how they simply
must be hungry, too.

O stone, 
take 
my gaze.
So this body 
settles, 
which –
only then.
Take,
o stone, 
all gazes.
Settle us with fingers 
tracing faces.
Shale, 
o stone, 
you broach 
so textured. 
Is it you, 
who knows
no owning 
in darkening’s name?

There is no poem
on my tongue. But upstairs
heartache seeps through the floorboards.

I haven’t got the energy
to finagle meaning from the pages
that spilled from me this morning.

                the sargassum to the sea
                my heart to the water
                and the water to me

There is no poem
here late into the night
so I listen and wait for the call of an owl

and when it comes
this wild heart, this one soul spilling what it cannot contain,
will not write a poem but sleep.

And I’ll sleep with the haunting call
of the water to me
of what it says
of the land and the sea.

There is no poem
Tonight, for me.

POOR, WINGED CHILD, where and how do you turn? 
what dampened heart, or what bright, ill-bred desire 
moves the leaves and woods around you? 
oh, poor child, WHERE AND HOW do you turn? and to whom?
where do you spill that secret behind your brow?
WHAT CAN YOU DECRY? what can you resist and refuse? 

REFUSE to acknowledge all of these bends and tears 
Resist all of those splinters of time that CLAW AND CLUTCH
AND EAT us. REFUSE to see how the love 
from which we purged all impediments and hinges still falters: 
like a flaming root, like a beating HEART, and in our ALTERED SPACE
we cannot grasp it. we cannot grasp it. you cannot see from your height.

and how could you know any DIFFERENT? how could you be anyone else?
boggy woods, crack-vined balustrade, seeping foundation, sand-filled wind:
how could we be anything other than we are, than who they made us become?
we have gone WEEKS WITHOUT WATER. we have gone WEEKS 
without the whispering sun, without hope, without the dying fire.

no, you say? there is no human remedy? silly feathered child,
YOU ARE UNLIKE THEM, WE ARE UNLIKE THEM. do not let them cling 
to your fragile mooring, or weigh you down in the thickening tar
steel your barbules and refuse! REFUSE! REFUSE!

The highly educated pom-pom sits.
Atop an endless pot of tea
Four generations, seen and heard
Nothing new under the sun.

Everyday, good china used
Each cup extraordinary in an ordinary way
Lovingly poured, free from
Doctrine or liturgy.

The teapot sits and thinks, while
The pom pom solo dances the rhumba.
Too many days pass and service is forgotten
Her warm hands long since cold
No longer pours love for the soul.

Never a collector’s piece
It was made for use.
Gleaming from
Diligent joy,
The pot no longer
reflects and pours the tea.

She didn’t work, she stayed at home.
Cooking and baking, she fed an army.
Pouring endless cups of tea, she managed
births, deaths and marriages.

Always on the time clock
She slept with one eye open
Ever fearful; who, what, when and where?
The why’s never mattered, for they were rarely true.

Tea for the soul, cake for the heart
No counting calories or fasting fads
She knew the gnawing snakes of hunger.

Her work made visible love
Connection and belonging
A cup of Bushell's and a biscuit
A temperate prescription for all ills.

“. . . from the rivers where you drifted without worry.”
—Michael Magee, Cinders of My Better Angels

Once I floated in a lazy but
stalwart trust in the pull of life.
This sweet rule-follower rested
her paddles; she threw down
the torn, mayo-stained map,
and let it crumple in the wet
belly of the boat.
She drifted.

Now I’ve forgotten
forgetting. Hyper-
vigilant landlubber
lugging supplies
compartmentalized,
memorized, my watertight
backpack strapped at waist
and sternum. Here’s a
handy extra strap across
my larynx.

Unspeakable. That I am not
captain of my voyage,
don’t understand the ex-
pedition, wasn’t commissioned.
Not a navigable feeling.
Look busy.

Ordering my way.
Circumspect, prepared,
and so damn safe. Hauling
extra weight. (Worry isn’t one
of the ten essentials.) In
the clear.

Let me stumble in under-
brush with tingly feet
over snapping, flailing
moss and branch. Get
me to the carrying places,
the rivers that know
for me.

Fresh currents fattened
by rain call for a day-
sleep, a partnership
with unknowing. Get

in the boat. Sail out,
swallowed by dark depths.
Only then may I
become unmoored.

*

Sing or be recognized.
Your yellow fingers 

burst into spring.
Sous le dôme épais,

desire for a pervasive presence,
return the bright lanterns, 

duet of the flower goddess,
current of ascending 

soprano, mezzo-soprano,
her dress made of fire 

and memory, the current 
lifts me up-

My feet in the tide 
long past morning.

*

Day 14 / Poem 14

I am driving into
the winter of myself, moving
further and further from
the surface of the sun.

But I’m not really driving,
I’m walking, barefoot,
my soles burning against
the icy ground.

If only I could put on
my shoes, turn myself
the other direction, feel
the warmth of the rays.

But this is not about hope, this
is me waking, not up, but out.
This is about the stickiness,
the clock moving in slow motion.

I guess you could say, I don’t
even believe in the sun anymore.
I am freezing, and frozen, do you
know what I mean?

I ran into J and R, who are a major reason I now work with E, because E’s sister L frequently
works with J and R, and J attended L’s son’s bar mitzvah, which E also attended. 

We kissed like we were French and I introduced them to T, whom E and I had just met, 
and together we watched M, who is famous, circle around the bar, meeting people. 

Though M was famous I felt less excited about meeting her than about meeting up with S, 
who had felt familiar when I first met her many years ago at a meeting with E. 

It turns out that S, who continued to feel familiar to me, had attended 
a book club at J and R’s store when I lived around the corner, in a different part of the country. 

So S and I both attended book clubs at this store, which met on adjacent nights 
led by people we both knew. At the time S worked at a bar I frequented with my few friends,

which bore an international name despite its tiny-town locale, and more recently, 
S is the voice that accompanies me on my drives to and from swim team,

narrating an audiobook where a famous writer describes mundane serendipities
with enough wryness to make them strange.

Part of my experience of this book is the dilemma of whether I am bored 
by this book, and though S’s voice ensures I will never cross over to boredom fully, 

the intensity of the reactive internal drama indicates that I am wary of becoming
someone bored by serendipity, and I am encouraged when J boasts this very quality 

as a proud component of her daily carriage, yet another quality of hers worth emulating, 
instead of spending my days going hard on orchestration, and too focused on stuffing

serendipity into inelastic narratives, which end up poking me as I try to self-fashion. 
As C said to me yesterday in a dream, lots of people can give you these ringed stones.

 
 
Of the thousands of first
responders to the attacks on 9-11,
modalities of healing were offered and studied
and the touch of hands,
the massage of tissue,
was the modality reported most
successful.  
I slept. 
There was a moment in the coconut-laden
jungle when my mother bent forward,
hinged at the waist, hands reaching for the electric red
blossom to breathe in its scent
but instead she felt the first
stab. As though the thornless
flower suddenly sprouted fingers
and reached through her bones,
“you could have died Lady,” it would say.
I slept.  
The second time she was twisting
her leg to the left, her torso to the right
the yoga master gently nudging suggesting
“pain is wisdom” and mom could feel 
it spreading, a wildfire released, the years
of her life kindled and reaching up her spine
to where she divided the sigh with exhalation.
I slept.
You see what happened there? The body
held the history before the mind
had learned to read it and the heart of the first
responders lifted when they were touched. I place
my fingers to my jawline and press 
once, twice like keys 
typing, telling myself
what I do not yet know.
You see I was asleep.  Her jaw was open
like a song and I was holding each breath
as my own, breathing with her
through the night, the force of inhalation like water
held back ready
to burst and I touched each pore on her skin
brushing devotion into her sleep
but when she caught it 
she rode with it like she was the last salmon
jumping upstream and landing
in the pool where life
and the cycle
and the gift
begin.
And I was asleep,
right there
in the underbelly where one breath
ends and the next
 
Did it pass like I dreamed? In feather touch across my skin?
Like all the while she is just there
waiting for the flutter of water
and the fry, and the long journey,
and the sea.

trippingly, and shockingly lightly, you float past the saline intimacy of the limestone that would otherwise have eaten you, you, like a bird suspended by the current of westerly air, you, hung there in the sky, but moving, moving, almost always imperceptibly moving, moving like a movable cloud, a movable axis, a movable feast. brightly and buoyantly, you slip past the burn and chafe of that unyielding stone like a dizzy minnow in the river’s bend, dumb and dizzy, dumb and churning, here you spark flecks of silver, there, flecks of bronze and gold, as you slip away into the darkening waters, as you slip, slip, slip away into the inky deep. 

neither limestone nor bristled pine will peel and abrade your fresh-grown skin any longer. you cannot be devoured by what you refuse to claim. you are a grower, a producer, a laborer in these stinking fields, you are a brushed heifer, a burnished heifer with your everlasting cargo, you are a bruised bat with blood in your eye, you are a lone sapling turned pine, with your leafy gaze lifted towards some elysian atmosphere, towards some elysian hope for morning. you cannot be devoured by what you refuse to claim. you cannot be devoured by what you refuse to claim!

tenebrific or atramentous, you have done your best to build this land, you have given your sweat, your teeth, the thick, pasty blood from the very last chamber of your heart, you have offered your tongue like the seething wound that it is, salted and funereal at the fleshy root. you are that carapace there, this exoskeleton shed, this crumbling femur here. you were the lone wolf’s dreams, his only fetid desire when he razed maniacally through the bracken, searching for a sign, a sign, a sign of something. some message or divining, some missive that would not come for the rains, for the blizzard, for the diluvian erasure and damp crumbling thereafter. the lone, drowsy wolf, in his terrible search for something, in his verdant craving for something like a dream, came searching for you. for you! for you!

no, no, not you, but your heartbeat, the thrum of your swallowing throat, the effulgence of the light that breaks and bends and curves around your moving, moveable shadow. he came searching for the hovering, malleable form that houses your scent and all the fibers and sinews of you, he came looking for the remnants of your footstep in the spongy peat, he came looking for the luminescent bloom of your shoulder against the spider’s reflecting tapetum, he went searching for your scent, for the colonnade of baubles spining your downy neck, for the curve of your brow, and for your low, dark, flashing eyes, like translucent marbles against the ground. lean and frowzy, frowzy and lean, frowzy and starved amidst the mourning weeds, he went hunting, hunting, hunting, searching for any unfamished, unsickly dear. 

first undo the wrongs of this world,’ you wanted to shout to him and to the wheeling orb. ‘first undo the wrongs of this tumescent epoch before you feed yourself, and before you feed the dizzying, whirling maw at your bedraggled core,’ you wanted to shout from your safer, eternal anchorage underneath the parturient clouds, heavy, pendulous, heavy. ‘undo the wrongs of the world and sacrifice yourself first, before you grind and gnaw the bones of others,’ you want to say, you want to scream, you want to bellow. ‘sacrifice yourself and leave this forest to the forlorn, hurting trees that bend themselves away from your splintering, terrible incisors: everything is already departed or failing; everything you love will leave you; everything you love will leave you; everything you crave has departed or failed.’

No certainty other than
The glitter in my teacup.

Work/life, personal/political
Life with diverse faces
Betrays the war within.

Flitting, floating …
I glide.
All oneself. All one life.

Decades lost chasing golden circles
Always just beyond
Struggling to surpass
Ladies who lunch,
Mothers who bake.
]Not quite a bitch, but always a witch
Lived in sterile hallways and crowded boardrooms
24/7, everyday
Phone on:
                 Beep beep, ring, ring.

Square peg in a round hole
Gray suits didn’t fit
And different, not different enough
The world tumbled, on a wash cycle
Drip drying, I rise
Free from
The prison within.

Deep breath, sweet oxygen
Seeing beyond my sight
Sun-filled days endlessly circle
A singular grain of sand.

Now, I own my certainty
The glitter in my teacup.

cue Guitar as
Early Rays Course upon
a Watercolor Scroll
Circa 1492 revealing Piano Mel’s
Banjo Sculpting Method.
Celtic American Characters
Guide Galleries in Fingerstyle
Housing Cheap
Electric
Mythology.
What they Saw, in Theory,
was a Sketchy
Adult, Painting Clay Tenors.
Unhand the New Wood.
Book the Good Beginners.
Auction their Heritage!

*Titles on J’s coffee table include:

The New Scroll Saw Handbook
Electric Guitar Course
Circa 1492
Mel Ray’s Complete Tenor Banjo Method
Good House Cheap House
Fingerstyle Guitar
Sketch Book
Heritage Auction Galleries
Early American Wood Carving
Celtic Mythology
Watercolor Painting Techniques
Beginner’s Guide to Sculpting Characters in Clay
Basic Adult Theory Piano Book

Auspicium / Ava Love

*

Couplets coupling,
we two paired,

halved or whole,
auspicium, auspicia,

compass, binocular, 
record the sounds of birds.

We are murmurations,
migrations. Couplets. 

Call us quatrain, stripe 
of wing as it fans air. 

Call us the mirror and mirrored. 
As in heaven so it be on earth.

We are the visitations, vibrations, 
seasonal incantations, 

prophets of the rising 
sound of daybreak.

We pair together, 
we double together,

like two wings 
on the back of a saint.

*

Day 13 / Poem 13

2.3-Cavern-an-Erasure.docx

Shareable, we are told, but not necessarily.
Its gentle folds hold cream and fruit.

You need a steaknife, to bash it in, but no need
to really know the chocolate bag, or make it known.

What chocolate bags are examined in the name of knowing,
aren’t really open, not fully. We all had many bad chocolate bags

before getting to this chocolate bag; this is what we discussed.
What the two chocolate bags back home think of me

is not what they could know, if they wanted to.
They could be unmoored; I am.

You can put each chocolate bag in another bag, but not necessarily.
Here’s a bag anyway, secondarily.

Day 13
To the Old Man with the Colostomy Bag
Who Waited in Line for Food
And Could Not See

Old Man,
your hair shines like the Coca Cola,
Fanta and unidentifiable beer cans
that re-sent the sunlight upward from the roadside.
The light crowned the garbage heap
as they refused to burn, mimicking instead, the fire
of sunrise.

Old Man,
you rolled across the dirt-covered
land, your long fingers tight around the wheels
of your wheelchair, the bag vibrating as you went.
You edged expertly around holes in the path but sighed
relief when the children took over. They nearly
lost you in the ditch but you offered confidence
and they rose to the call.

Old Man,
your eyes are from the sea – 
colors found beneath the midnight
sky when the purple
light has rolled across
the horizon and landed on each tip
of every windblown
wave.

Old Man,
You waited with the patience of like a clock that doesn’t spin
while around you
horns wailed; babies wailed. Your midnight
eyes, unseeing danced with eternity,
fingers resting across your knees, gathering strength
for the slow roll home.

Old Man,
your shoulders are round,
like the blanket hung soft
across your chest,
sloping down like the shapes left in the sand
after the waves have rescinded and only bubbles
linger.

Old Man, 
may I seek you there?
Reach down with tidal force
and lift you? I’ll spend the whole day seeing you,
which feels like theft.

Old Man, it feels
like vigil.

his bulwarking body! the heft and bulk of him, oh him! oh him!

when he is lost, or as he gets lost, or as he goes losing himself, he
does stop to drink. he does drink, he does. he crouches down,
thunderous and booming, declining but firm, declining but secure in
his insistence, declining but steady in his resolve, declining his as
his body folds towards the stumbling shore. low, lower, lower still.
small avalanche of pebbles and dreams and rocks as his body settles at
the water’s sharp edge, crouched silhouette, still mountainous and
millennial against the dreary, failing sky. lips to water, lips to
crystal, brow bent on unbecoming, eyes locked shut against the
reflection he chastises and spurns.

no narcissus him, no. no vanity in this enormous man, but the same
vain and sickly love, vain and unquittable, vain and hammering its
tinned resistance around and at his heart. shudder, thud, thud. no
vanity but vanity, but futility, but emptiness. the same grasp at
shadows, the hollowed trunk, the same material loss of the imperial
woman’s form. he swallows the darkening water, smooth, slick, slick,
filling the cavernous expanse of his chest with the rush of cool
pearls: white, black, rich blue, blue, silver, black. they fill and
restore his gullet in adamantine ways. cool gems against the blazing
core of him, cool rivulets against his incendiary desire, cool balms
and salves against the combustible grief he has owned and suckled for
centuries. black, blue, silver, they fill and restore his gullet, and
restore his craw, and restore his gastral maw, but not his mind, no,
no. they make a tumble of his mind. they turn his mind into tangles
and snares, coasting, careening, freewheeling.

don’t look, don’t look! refuse to see how this precise man, this
exacting, enduring man who was once a mapmaker now totters along the
fields, he wanders dizzily through the crest and flies through any
dangerous pass without thinking, without seeing himself go by, without
any memory in his heart or brow, without any remembrance or resonance
in any thinking, seizing part of him. don’t think, don’t think about
how her titanic maternal organism will elude him, don’t think about
how the bouldery aggregate of her and all she represents in this world
and the next, in this world and the next will deftly elude his grasp.
don’t think about how all the souls he took such pains to protect
still want—will always want—some sort of justice, some sort of
rigorous justice they believe his calculating arbitrations will bring
them! he! him! the poor him we lost an aera ago.

 

Modern-day saviours
                                       They preach
Moths to sunlight
                                       They flit
Happiness angels
                                       They sing
Locusts swarm
                                       They devour
Cannibals of hope
                                       They prey

Paying disciples
For 1:1 attention
                                       Gaslighting
Dollar store wisdom
                                       Programming
Linguistic schemas
                                       Dreams of belonging
Upselling connection
                                       Like-minded tribe

They are the artless dodgers
who dream Artful
The forked tongues of doublespeak.

It starts afar, in delight.
A windup curiosity, a button-
hole of smoke, meandering
along the mighty Columbia.

Pulling six-twelve-fifteen-
don’t-interrupt-me-I’m-counting-
eighty-seven freight cars: toyful,
joyful, a tiny might

 chug chug chug

All the time in the world to
dream of vagabonds as I watch
it wend, delicate
as mitochondria, intelligent
as an ant farm, shiny as a pew-
ter cup set in a trophy case.
I can’t read the engraving

 could could could

 A needle stitching farmlands, a blue-
pinstriped engineer spreading cow-
catcher arms wide in apology;
it hustles over the bridge

oughta oughta oughta

In the middle distance, the chant,
chuff, puff, and the head-
lamp burnishing with possibility.
Graffiti tags swell, fat with color.

should should should

 My lungs clog, the air hazes
with slashes and slayings;
my eyes blur, my ears
can’t hold anymore; I want to
scream myself deaf as
this monster maims kicks
out crossarms like pirate bones.
Arrests demands worries woofs
Its cries, once-silent, shake my shoulders:

should should should
must must must
now! now! now!

*

Dust of the immortals
who wish for light.

Arrow-driven, we are frescoes
made in wet plaster,

the salt of desire,vand it’s opposite,
incantation, milk of the mother,

snow, the lovely dust 
of immortals on the feet

of yellow bees,  the yellow rising,
the mountain, tremble 

of string against finger,
against finger, 

love me, or love me not,
incantation of what is yet

to bloom. We are marigolds, 
spring of marjoram, thyme, 

and wormwood,  plant divination, 
arrow-driven, dust of the immortals,

we are hymns in super-bloom,
flowers so sweet

you would risk your life for it.

*

Day 12 / Poem 12

And there are hardly any ice
shelves on the beach. I thought
I heard birds this morning, a fly
buzzing near the window.

I’ve never known a winter
where I wished for cold. I’m turning
a snow globe over in my hands,
as the ice grows thinner under my feet.

We have been so busy looking up
at the sky, we forgot to look down
at the earth. Wash the mud from your
boots now. Kneel down in the dirt.

It is getting warmer, but somehow,
the days seem colder.

Angel of art deco, let me state 
my judgments as clarifications
of my own values. I’m eyeing watery Miranda
circling the oval bar. I wish for performance
process like that. Process with others
at all. A phone call with minimal logistics
where everyone involved wants to do
as the spirit moves us. Such as: we want to visit
the home of Kroger’s founder, Ms. Fran’s main
social outing. Down with hierarchies
of social outings. Let us, Angel, observe

without the bling of unfounded critique.
Don’t get me wrong: I want you 
to size me up, if I matter to someone you love.
Anonymize me, though, when desired. 
Maybe, someday, I will desire
the desire that interrupts 
integration. For now I drink in old fashion.
Go rogue and call past my bedtime.
For now there are the red EXITs
like carbon stars in the adjacent top floor,
my own feeble waving adding my hand 
to the constellation, unneeded as I am.

They’re gone.
All of them.
We had a few setbacks in the night as we tried
to rearrange the heavens. A preposterous
proposition for two folks unfit to straighten
picture frames.
But your work
in the sky, the way you shifted constellations,
that was art. To know how to cup and turn
something lit from within.
               “This?” the stars whispered when you touched them, “is all me.”

You knew that. Your heart as adept as your fingers
and you muttered into the darkness about our earthly cities,
               the illumination of humanity, contenders
               lining up to strut their stuff. You are stardust,
               golden, while far above the galaxies stretched deep  
               into their hollow, winding
               groans.
To be a star unseen. Self-luminous
and still unloved. It was too much
for your heart to take.

But I’m not innocent here.
               I held the ladder as you climbed,
               never allowing so much
               as a wobble. And I watched. I stared up at you
               as you worked. The hem of your blue jeans and the way
               you wound yourself into delirium
               realizing no matter how you tried
               you could not pry apart
               the composition of Aquarius.
               You had to extinguish each star. And as they went out
               humanity rejoiced, their spotlight finally, firmly
               in place.
               I began to climb.
               No one to hold me. They were all so dizzy with self-importance.
               I fought for every step until I reached you
               and it was then I discovered
               I could still see them in your eyes. The way one watches firelight
through their lover, the eye holding a deeper passage
than a doctor’s light reveals,
and as we swayed above the earth, I wondered for how long
after
they would
remain and how it could be possible this light
was
just for me. 

the man is millennial and prone to endurance. he is a booming oak of a
man, a man thick and hale, dream-besotted and mission-driven. the
millennial man is prone to endurance. he was set like a mountain
across the aortic expanse, thrumming and alive, thrumming and alive,
beating his earth-song to the celestial poles that hover over his
concerns, his every thought, his every discontent. enduring and
millennial despite his versperality, he was built into the very
fibrous cornices of the world—a world made for him and for his booming
arboreal body—but he knows that he is not everlasting. he knows that
he is not everlasting. he knows that his orb too, and what it contains
has a buried, finite end; a leaden, stunning expiration.

he sees the days numbered on their spool, the number grows and grows.
he feels the nights go by, shadowed and creeping, shadowed and darting
into the darkening, crevassed distance. he senses the weeks creak past
as they are born and die, as they swell and crash, and upend
themselves into reminiscence—oh intangible, ephemeral thing. he sees
the seasons turn and falter: first, the stifling fire; then, the
colored wasting; then, the pellicle of ice; then, the thorny rebirth;
then over again. first, the stifling fire that tears the sap out of
the trees, sizzling and bothered; then, the colored wasting, arboreal,
arboreal and somehow yet still blazing; then, the pellicle of ice that
cracks the soul straight through as it shoves the bleached, white
mountain ranges here and there against the lowness of the bleached,
white sky; then, the thorny rebirth, the loamy renaissance, something
sprouting here, there, some sort of bud, some sort of tree, some sort
of chick hatched in its felted nest, some velveted fawn grunting,
something growing, something stirring, something vibrating fully and
thinking it could live forever, something believing it could live
forever, something dreaming it would live forever; then over again.
then over again. and again, and again, and again once more as the
millennial man loses the entablatures that made him. or is it a
shedding? is it a freeing? a tearing apart? an undoing?

the man made of centuries and loathsome epochal cargos is tired of
piercing the clouds with his hemispheric shoulders, he is tired of
pulling this burden of the metamorphic earth behind him, and he has
most wearied of that unquittable, gnawing yearn in him, that
unquittable, rugged desire of him: he is drained, and sorrowful, and
tired, tired, tired of craving the imperial woman. and more exhausting
still, he is tired of the dark thought, his dark secret thought, his
conviction, his secret conviction that she is lost or fugacious, that
she is lost or fugacious, that she will only ever be lost or
fugacious. that she will only be lost to him.

a failed race against the ages, against the uncountable hours, and
centuries, and days, he has wearied of seeking her maternal moorings
in every stream and eddy, he has wearied of seeing—or thinking he
sees—a slip of her bovine breast and its alluring, fatal contours in
the shadows and reeds, in the nacreous moon, in the gleaming stream,
in the polished rock, in the black rook’s magnificent opalescent
feathers; he has wearied of seeing painted on the sky, in the leaves,
in the woods, and across the orb his very own internal dreams about
the tricky net of her hair, while knowing that net and those galloping
strands elusive or lost. knowing her beautiful bovine body elusive or
lost. he has tired of the lethan stink of the only stream from which
he dares to drink. to drink! to drink! to do such a thing! to sustain
his bulwarking body! the heft and bulk of him, oh him! oh him!

A wonder spanning time and space
It fitted in my hand
Weighty yet compact.

My handbag writhes
As 
Slithering Snakes escape.

Always on, ever ready.

I cherished her voice 
Once a week:
Thursday night at 8.

Now I can hear her
Dulcet tone anytime 
No more weekly dates.

Instead, we talk in the margins
Minutes as we can
Chained by the brick in our hands

At some point while loving
life and husband, she dis-
covered she was someone else
under her layers—the crusts like pie
baked upon her: blueberry, marion, chuckle,
lemon meringue and pumpkin—especially
pumpkin—crisp and golden brown with
a toothpick coming clean when inserted
in the middle. A person can tremble
when she hears her own voice rising
from the bottom rack of an oven, or
escaping from a cabinet no one
was thought to inhabit.

So here she was, multiple, tasty, with
plenty of flake and offers of ala mode
left and right, and she had to go spooning,
forking deep beneath the crusts and dis-
carding the edges like toppled battlements,
listening hard for that voice: the tiniest sigh,
as a person at the bottom of the Grand
Canyon might sigh, to be carried on the wind
to the junipers and crags, driven
upwards to the rim where a
tourist stands crinkling his nose

at a sound attached to someone
who doesn’t belong there, who is
feeling an emotion never before felt
in the history of the world, an amal-
gamation of wonder and distress, of
lostness and surprise, adorable as a hiccup,
wretched as the single beat of a
heart of a woman handed a
prison sentence.

She would recognize
this sigh-voice whenever she heard it
at the kitchen sink while cleaning
slimy farmer’s market onion tops
from the drain, scooping green decay like
swamp fronds, and flinging it
into the trash, when she should be
composting.

The sigh, such startlement. And she
knew she would plunge into
those pie-layers, dodging every pale red
cherry or galumphing through
chocolate pudding. She would
climb, she would rise to find
the origin of the feeling more
pungent than a hundred lemons,
truer than coconut, crunchier
than pecan.

Her new life, despite the beloved
humans gathered dearly round the crusts
or crimped at the table, their
mouths dropping as they looked
at her across the red-checked
tablecloth. No one could or would
understand whether she would cream
or fold or knead or roll or what she
would do next—
least of all did she. 

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOSH AXELROD, OVERLAY BY AVA Hu

*

We flower-breathe. 
We calm fierce animals 

by saying their names.
We are sinking ships.  

Reverse photosynthesis.
We are filled with falling snow.

Incantation, this blank space, 
we flower-breathe. 

Magnum opus, purgation,
fixation, separation, 

exuberation, exaltation,
the inhale and exhale

force of flowers push
through earth, is this

the moment we can sing?
We are word spells. 

Moths who burn 
themselves in this kind of light.

*

Day 11 / Poem 11

I have weathered winters, danced
my way through the dust. I have
collected, and calculated, and
rusted my wheels.

I’ve learned the surface is
never where you find the heart
of things. You have to dig into
the rocks, the ash, remember
how lava flows.

If I could breathe, my lungs
filling with carbon, I’d sing
about looking at the moon,
but seeing you. Do not be
sad for me.

Do not forget about the earth,
the changing of the seasons, water
running over your tongue. The dust
is suffocating. Do not forget.

It is storming,
and I am not afraid. 

Friends, I write to you from the basement of a Lithuanian church, out past the space of the little woo before the chorus in Closer to Fine, while maintaining eye contact with N while our knees bob in and out, that’s one entry to the hollow of my gut where the engines live, some of them, unless you find them tied up by the line at Marshall’s in advance of Deep Time, Friends I write to you from the memory of a 400 million year old seabed, was it shale or limestone, both, I think, I write to you from this text thread about my shoulder, a proper windup lasso attempt, in any case Friends I have chosen Empress gin purple, a real meet your heroes affirmative, to write to you about these lines on my palm, to describe to you how there’s one where two should be, or usually are, or are they for you? In the past it has also been this way, when I write, when it’s stuck in that moment of I Wanna Dance With Somebody where the bass voice says DANCE and do you remember how we stood in a circle all trying to say it, too, at the same time.

Silver gray bellies. Darting eyes.
The split revelation of light.
Sunshine slipped like a note
through the clouds.

And written between their feathers,
glints of bloom-beckoned purple.

It is overplayed, this leap from the stillness
of winter, this frenzied flash of spring. Blossom
on snow on blossom on ice.

A second flock descends,
convinced they’ve caught the scent. They pulsate
pin pricks against the sky,
and just as quickly turn to leave – marking spaces
through which to return. Spring does not come
but once a year, a thrice fruitful lover. And winters in between.
They come again.
Expand the sky.
Bloom-beckoned and weary
in the wide space of morning.

WE SCUD before the gale. WE SCUD and FLY and SPIN and SURGE before the wind began to think that it would grow. that it could move to pity or to motion such heavy, boldered beings as we are. WE UNCLEAVE ourselves from the marmoreal burden of our contours and frame before the wind BEGAN ITS WUTHERING. before it even began to shake and rattle the orb. low moan growing. low moan searing. deep painful roar of the gnashing clouds and grit-filled, silt-filled waves. we scud before the gale. 
 
HERCULEAN. HERCULEAN AND SEETHING, PANTING AND FOAMING. HERCULEAN, SEETHING and still somehow MARMOREAL, only my eyes look back. the millennial, immemorial trees have fallen. the steep crags boast no survivors. only my inked eyes look back. only my inked eyes still roll in my head.
 
we SWEEP by, one, two, three, five, seven. the steep crags tumble down behind us, nine, twelve, thirty three, in our foaming wake, our vengeful wake, our most vengeful of wakes. BARE, BARE, BARE. the sea could SWALLOW IT ALL. the sea could EAT US like pooling minnows, like purloined golden sheep, like dizzy, drunkening lemmings before the cliff. 
 
we SAIL past the darkened whirlpool, past the pit, exposed and bare. the eddying foam and palpable mist past the Gates of Gades clots above the AXIAL WORLD. it clots like treacle above the AXIAL WORLD. cause of all causes, beginning of all beginnings, body of all fathomable bodies, the heavy clotted air tiredly garlands the mount that once was ATLAS, that once was ATLAS, and chokes and spews its own sorry sorrow, melding the waves and the hot innards of the earth. the hot inner heart that BLEATS at the core of you. mournful and missing the lithe LIVING ANCHORAGE that could save it, the bleating, beating thing rends itself in two, in cleaves itself in two, spewing its sorrowing sorrow with each mouthful of the HEAVING ORB.
 
the HEAVING, ponderous orb crashes and foams and rages. it tilts on its axis, moaning and mourning, moaning and mourning. moaning and mourning. seeping and mourning, your splitting, sorry orb, your HEAVY-HEARTED HEART thuds inside of you, against the PROW and delicate cartilage of your architectural failures, it CRASHES and SPINS and THUDS against the unfathomable, impossible current hewn by our terrible, flying boat—we keep our course, we keep our course, we make our pace even more alacritous and cruel. turning, spinning, flying, piercing, we are alacritous and relentless, alacritous and thundering, as you go moaning and mourning. 

Hands dance back and forth
And the cow jumped over the moon.
Deep breathe in, hold, hold,  hold
Release.
Bounce, bounce, bounce,
The minute endlessly repeats.

Workers scurry here and there
Toiling away; unseen, unknown.
The cat in the cradle
Fed and pampered
Purrs.

It’s always nighttime somewhere
Where the minute hand bounces
And repeats. 
Endlessly.

Red lights flicker, no magic in sight
Cheap smelling bodies
Clad in artless rags
Contort: the ballet of survival.|
The silver spoon ran off with the Moon
And time stood still.

Someone smiles, someone laughs
Children thread needles full of hope 
Stitch by stitch they inch
Toward an early death.

Unconscious kings, dancing queens
Live in the repeating minute. 
Languidly oblivious to
Little boy blue
They eat and sleep
Rinse and repeat.

*after Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin

First, I want to know
what I have. I suppose name
isn’t important. Let me
become familiar with what
is rattling my drawer, as I
seek a mundane tool out
of all these oddments.

Beech-handled, tinny
tinged trap. Were you rusted
before I moved to the beach?
Orange specks now limn every
wire in my coastal kitchen.
I inspect the fox-bright
blotches: Made in Taiwan.
A place I’ve never been.

Light as a toy, rocking
like a wooden horse, perfect
play-dough utensil, something
I once would’ve tossed in a tray
for kids on a rainy Saturday. In none
of those years did I know
what a pastry cutter was:
I was not a maker of pastry.

Growing up we had the
|kind of biscuits that burst from a
can, exhaling into satisfying,
soft, ready-to-pluck conch
shells of dough. It wasn’t until
pressed to bake gluten free that
I learned what a pastry cutter
was, made my first pie crust
instead of Mrs. Smith’s frozen.

Not much of a cutter, actually.
Rather, your job is to separate the
floury parts while blending
the butter, making pea-shaped globs.
You blend and texturize. You’re a
smasher.

The great bits are lumps I can’t
press with my hot fingers: integrity
is lost. What I touch will
melt and collapse—it’s
embarrassing. But you
crumble and rock and tease

in a way that says you get
what I’m trying to do.
Of all helpers I invite
into my ingredients, I can
only hold one at a time.
You have a metal dimple
shaped for my thumb—you
help me do that thing astonishing
and tastebud-tender, without
which, I’d be baking hockey pucks.
A tool for bringing disparate
things together, in old home
or new, to hold and hope with,
as I integrate.

Photograph by Josh Axelrod

*

Mother of snow,
pray for us.

Draw us in yellow,
sunlight, pre-history,

prophecy of green
who dreams in green,

our hands are blue sky.
Fountains of insurrection,

fragrant and bold, so many people 
bending, twisting, reaching,  

stamens and pistils, we will
all soon burst forth in yellow song.

Take your heart 
out to seed.

The earth will shake us.
The earth will move 

the mountains beneath our feet.
Take the amulet

of your heart
out to seed.

The ceiling of sky pushed up 
by all this light, your brush 

on the cusp 
of immortality.

*

Day 10 / Poem 10

After Richard Siken

You are walking in the woods, and time
does not exist. You are walking in
the woods and the leaves are crunching
under your boots. A bird flies overhead
and decides a branch above you
is a good place to land. The bird sings
a song you have not heard in a long
while, and you are reminded of time
and how all of your memories revolve
around it. The bird is singing and you
don’t mean to, but you startle it away.
Let’s say this reminds you of being
free, how you too wish to fly away
when you are startled. You are the bird,
you think, and you fly too.

You are walking in the woods, and time
does not exist. You are walking in
the woods and the trees are bare. The
trees are exposed, but this is the best
way to view them. To see them
vulnerable. Isn’t it freeing to be
like the unclothed trees? The trees
are like the bird. And you are the bird
among the trees, and you don’t feel
like going home, but you move your
boots along the path anyway. Walk
home now. Imagine there is a home.

warm wear of same shirt.
weirdest return of word weasel.
onerous eye for tag, edge,
sticker, goo. brazen
bullet hole. hark, hear
angle. mastery or none,
thank empathetic mathematicians.
i miss you how
roof whistle missive.
weatherstrip fit let loose.
fluids a top away.
innards out of whack,
back. no tale, no telling.
no broadcast, no selling.
chassis mount my calamine.
on with wherewithal.
snarled hallowed be.

after Oni Buchanan, with title from Lyn Hejinian

I didn’t make it to the woods today
But a branch of fallen pine
Swayed in the window.

There were too many items on the list today
But the violets in the grass outside the shed
Popped up their heads when I drove past.

My daughter left more dishes in the sink last night
But the echo of her laughter as she danced with her friends
Replayed like music as I wove my way through town.

I’m worried about the future, new stores opening so close by
But someone said, “my happy place”, and another said, “my solace”
And I said, my only path forward is here.

tush! tush! tush!
i have given you everything, kindly and unkindly,
body and soul. i let you chisel your way to my heart 
with your exacting touch, precise and firm as a surgeon’s.
despise me or not, oh, swallowing sir, and let heaven be 
the judge of us. or just let heaven be. let heaven be.

oh behold! the mistress of our soul, of our dark eye’s bend.
oh ancient doctor, oh retiring soul, she would give you all of her lips, 
all of her tongue, all the bodied forms and speechless breath of her.
you would not be able to turn her away. you would not resist her grip.
you would have no lies to tell, no critical mystery, no praise.
is’t possible, my beloved? is’t possible, my vengeful lord?

tush! tush! tush! 
you might hear her sigh, you might hear her murmur in her sleep.
oh, what is sleep but a suckling fool’s dumb essay of death?
oh, what is sleep but a sorry prologue for your barren life?
pray you, sit, sit, come, come, breed ravenously upon yourself, 
upon your fallen will. we are sorry you are unwell. we are sorry you are ill. 

tush, tush. we have a thing for you. 
can you see the pulsations of the poisoned heart?
black and begrimed, begrimed and black, enduring in its drunkenness,
enduring in its fetidness, cleaved to its cursèd root, its thickly foregone life—
this is vengeance, this is revenge, this is the hollow, sickening monster 
that calls your name, the aspic that dances and twirls and burns to your whims.

‘yet be content,’ the tyrannous friend says, as he keeps violent pace
with your violent, stammering heart. ‘yet be the rolling, marble eye of god’
he says as well, his bloody counsel a ministering plague. ‘yet be a love,
but a false one,’ he advises, ‘to catch the minx apace. skin her alive,’
he adds, sick and seething and green, ‘to edify her wickedness.’ oh tush, tush, tush! 
you should have gone quietly, oh foolish thorn, oh fallen lord, oh monstrously begotten man!

As one group of meeting participants leaves your office to make way for the next group to file in, you
gulp a mouthful of cold coffee. Surprised that it has gone cold so quickly, your assistant only bought it for
you a little while ago; you glance at your watch to discover that it Is 3 pm. You realise you haven’t had
lunch, drunk any water, sent a dozen emails that need to be done today, or started the crucial scoping and
planning work necessary to design new services and products to be released in the next quarter. Since
you arrived in the office at 8 am, you have been dealing with crises, resolving issues within teams,
listening to the fears and anxieties of executive leaders and, more often than not, restating decisions,
strategic direction and the parameters within which individuals are empowered to make decisions and
progress business activity. Exhausted, you look around you; the faces of your employees turn towards you
– expectantly and blankly – and you realise that the rest of your day will be filled with more of the same
until you leave at 6 pm.

♦♦♦

Tossing and turning in bed, you wearily sit up. 3 am. No point attempting to go to sleep now. You lie
back down, wearily close your eyes, and give in to the thoughts rolling around your brain. You see the
faces of the staff you have disappointed, those you have disciplined, those who have been made
redundant and refused to meet your gaze in the lift. You sigh, knowing that you need to make and
communicate decisions in the morning based on the recent Board meeting. You can feel your heart rate
speed up, your breathing becomes shallow, and your emotions swirl as you realise you don’t know where
to start and there is absolutely no one you can talk to. And, you reason with yourself, even if there was
someone to talk to – could you? Would you? You ask yourself how you could say to someone that you
don’t know how to do your job anymore– you can’t. So, you pull yourself out of bed, head to the kitchen
to make coffee, fire up the laptop and start going through emails, hoping that the answers will come by
doing something.

♦♦♦

It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon; you are hosting a bunch of friends and their children. Laughter
echoes around you – an impromptu rugby match seems to be underway in the backyard, adults cluster
around nibbles and drinks, and a gaggle of toddlers seem committed to digging their way through the
sandpit to faraway lands. You return to the BBQ and smoker, a job you normally enjoy. But today, Jack
and Mara’s faces loom large in your mind as you shared new organisation priorities and timeframes at
your regular Friday afternoon senior executive meeting. Both are unhappy, stressed and frustrated and
nothing you say or do seems to lighten their burdens. You wonder whether they are experiencing issues
outside of work impacting them; you can no longer ignore whatever is happening for them – not after
Jack’s deputy requested a meeting with you and a group of Mara’s direct reports have sent you a series of
emails detailing many concerns. Lost in thought, you lose track of time until you suddenly smell burnt
sausages. You survey the BBQ – burnt everything – meat, seafood, vegetables. You can’t bring yourself
to look over at your partner and the disappointment in her eyes. The kids race up to the BBQ, literally
the starving hordes; they survey the damage and, as only teenage boys can – dismiss you outright, saying,
“Hmm, cremated sausages versus sushi … think I will go with the sushi”. In that moment, exhausted,
burnt out, angry and frustrated, you wonder if anything is worth the effort. Grabbing a beer, you head
away from the scene of your most recent failure to lose yourself in mind-numbing conversation, each
moment feeling even more disconnected from yourself, your partner and family, and your life.

♦♦♦

You look up from the email you are typing, noting the absence of the normal office noise; glancing at the
clock, you take a deep inward breath: 6.45 pm!! If you leave now, you will make it to dinner at 7.30 pm
with the family. A commitment you made to your partner when you went to bed last night before leaving
the house at 4 am to get a jump start on your day. You haven’t seen your children awake for a week, and
you can’t remember your last happy or real conversation with your partner. Instead, it has become an
exchange of scheduling information and pointed barbs about your absence. It doesn’t seem to matter
what you do; everything is a quagmire. You run through your day as the lift drops – a hard gym session,
followed by twenty minutes of meditation, two hours of email clearing, an hour’s deep thinking and
straight into a briefing session with the executive team and complex change leaders before they headed
into their agile scrums at 7.30 am (note to self: two of the teams are toxic – massively behind schedule,
lots of team conflict – need to deal with this –also the executive team seems to be lacklustre, not on top
of their game). And then, during a two-hour meeting with Jack over his CFO briefing, he is stressed and
doesn’t have my faith in what this organisational pivot will achieve – a bundle of nerves and anxiety,
which he seems to be sharing with colleagues and staff.

♦♦♦

Tossing and turning in bed, your heart races. You try some square breathing techniques. Nothing is
working. Sweat is pouring off you. You know what is causing this – the radiating toxicity from the senior
executive leadership team; it is so thick you almost need to cut breathing holes in the air before sitting
down to a meeting with them. Your stomach roils at the thought of how this cancer is cascading through
the organisation. And you know it is more infectious than COVID-19 and the flu combined. You sit up.
Suddenly, you realise for the next twelve months, your only focus has to be people: how they are feeling,
how they are interpreting change, how systems are supporting them to embrace or resist change, the level
to which they share organisational purpose and their willingness to contribute to the organisational
strategy. This was his job. Others can and should worry about counting the pennies; his primary role is to
focus on the people, their most unique resource. And he knew that to be present and engaged with
people; he needed to be calm and quiet within himself. He sighed. At that moment, he felt like the
loneliest person on the planet.

I write down the first word in a blank
book with feather-strewn
endsheets I bought at the fair
from a maker whose
fingers can’t resist making yet
another and another yet
she told me she can’t write in them;
never has a thing to say.

This handmade volume, velvet-
bound, unfurling purple and 
sea-frond blue; tossing confetti
and hullabaloo in a dizzying fanfare
of waxwing-peach and giraffe yellow.
It’s swatch size; I bring it to the swim meet of
our fifteen-year-old. Every thought
is sprayed by thunderous splashing and wallop-
ping as the top-tier bleachers shake with
shouts and slap-claps, crescendoing
with each heat, in the heat.

I’m melting, miserable, confused
which team is up, where. Groans,
claps and hollers, stragglers, skimmers,
and plungers.

A mother, a true mother, whose
love is spontaneous and unconscious
for her boy child pulls his cropped hair
into a topknot, finding length to caress
and twirl, then letting fall the impossibly
soft-looking chestnut strands. The boy
leans against her leg in the bleachers,
resting there, and when she churns her
hands as she’s talking (she’s talking;
she’s being talked to, by a father-looking man),
the boy fluffs his hair back down.
The mother absently takes
the boy’s hair again with her Barbie-pink-
nailed fingers and strokes and pulls and
wraps. None of this acknowledged,
the boy stands, jumps down without a word,
trots toward the pool cones, running
fingers through his hair to get it back to his
own. A man-child-boy.

My head is muzzy with chlorine and flour-
escence and the swimmers blur in my reading
glasses. Whistles shriek. Pennants dangle
and the lane ropes are enormous plastic
beads, crib toys for a baby giant.
What to welcome?
What to celebrate?

I look down at my blank book hoping
to capture something of this. The endsheet
feathers jiggle with one peacock eye staring
me down: who do you think you are?
Who says you can say what matters?

A white-haired wizened woman serves as time-
keeper with her clipboard. She’s trim, with a wedge
haircut and a sloping forehead. Her duster-
length hoody floats around her, angelic. She is a volunteer,
devotee, champion—a lifelong swim
enthusiast, keeping time, marking lanes.

I don’t seem to know what to do with myself.
Did I mention, I’m the stepmom?
And then he’s out of the pool, our fifteen-year-
old who could barely swim last year; his eyes
crinkle with pride as he stands with his wet
newly muscled shoulders after the
freestyle event; I return to the bleachers
with my little book, crinkle a page,
try to capture the grin over
elfin chin, the thin-stretched swim cap
with its lopsided lump where
he tucked his ponytail.

A year from now, it won’t matter how I swelt-
ered, feeling this flush rising to my face in a miasma
of get-me-out-of-here. It won’t matter my mood
or how I lugged my winter coat, or this poem I’m
thrashing in. One thing I know: they
grow up fast. It’s better to write something,
than to leave the beautiful pages blank.

Day 9 / Poem 9

I am sitting in your passenger
seat, carrying your grocery
list through the store. I am reading
your thoughts and breathing our
shared air. We are walking
the dogs in silence and washing
the laundry. I cook, and you
clean the plates. I am finding
you everywhere I look. I see you
like snow, building and building.

You are singing in the shower,
and working at your desk. You are
mowing the grass, and tightening
all of my loose screws. We are making
popcorn to go with a movie, and
brushing our teeth at the same sink.
I am sleeping without a light because I am
no longer afraid of the dark. I am waking
in the morning to the alarm of you,
and you are eggs, coffee, toast, the start
of my days.

She has no body and burlap

covers the space of it. A red string scarf binds

and binds it to her head; a nut or cap,

her head, burlap covered.

She feels soft.

She does not need

the propping stance I give her.

She has been in Kentucky, and in the wild

island beach and this is how I know

I know her. Ages and ages, she says.

The grains fall from the folds of her skirt: here

is my brother, with his empty bottle,

his open palms.

He sweeps the tiny beach to containment,

for our father; this is where

she breathes like breeze.

Loose into the breakdown, ageless

 ageless stone, in pieces and gather.

In the fall a flock of goldfinch lifted in a flurry

each time I passed on my way home.

The detail was in the speed.

Over 15 miles an hour and I’d only notice as I rolled past.

A swoop in my rearview mirror.

A single slip of gold.

Under 10 miles and I could predict each rustle.

One would emerge as the scout,

shooting straight up like a flair

and then zoot, zoot, zoot! Out they would pop

one by one in a swirl of sunlit feathers

from the decaying stump

and the froth

of untamed Virginia overgrowth.

how have i, after all these years, preserved my sense of decorum?
and how can you, human friend, preserve anything at all?
resist whenever you can, or bend just gently if they force you.
cede to pressure only when bathed in fragrant, soothing oils
or when carefully honed into submission. endure the cooperage.

breathe deeply, with your croze and your fibers saturated and throaty,
and you will not crack. don’t worry about the future. you will pass
long moments of solitude, in full saturation, or fully submerged,
if you are lucky. if you were branded, if you were scorned before your birth,
you will become the silent and dusty repository for mouldering flecks of grain.

encourage your ken for patience. these will be long years
before you are consumed by the final fire. do not fear your end,
the crackle and burn calls fissures to smart and smoke,
but it will all come to a velvety end, hung tight with smoke.
it will happen quickly, unlike the long-away eon when you began as a seedling.

behave respectfully. there are few things more loathed than an unhaulable load,
than a broken, recalcitrant barrel. if you cannot contain yourself, or
if your liquids pearl
like crying eyes, or if your staves slowly seep like a suppurating wound,
you will be eliminated, splintered, repurposed. be kind to the
children who hide behind you;
keep worshipping your galvanized hoops; be kind to your maker.

Discordant alarms
                              Incessantly sound

Efficient squeaky soles
Fitbits overrun by miles
Caring steps, aching backs, broken hearts
Sense workers, compassionate souls
21st-century frontline warriors.

Colour-coded manuals now on wheels
Consistency triumphs
                                    At what cost?

Once upon a time ….

Featherlight fingertips gauged 
                                                the pulse.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 … 
Conscious counting and assessing 
Silent questions considered, and then posed
“Are you feeling alright”
“You are very pale” 
Patient pain clocked
Subjective scales weigh
Conscious attention.
Expert care, in parallel, treats symptoms and the root
Targeted intervention 
As thankful eyes relax
                                       and breathing steadies and slows
Clenched fists release.
Conscious attention with intention 
Care with compassion.

Versus

Squeaky wheels herald 
                                    The arrival of efficiency

Slow-loading data
                                    Screen frozen
                                                            YET AGAIN.                    
Frustrated signs punctuate
                                                 Violent keystrokes

Esc, Esc, Esc, Esc, Esc, Esc …
                                             Nothing. 

Frustrated exasperation
Flurried glances at the ticking hands,
“What’s your name again”
Peeling alarms, drown out the voice
Her eyes dart,
                        Here, there,
                                            Everywhere all at once.

Trapped in an IT maze, she hurriedly states
“My travelling brain is …
     lost in translation.”

“Can I come back later” she asks.

Gone before the answer
                                        She misses …
Everything.

Curative intelligent care 
Restores and soothes 
                                       through
Curious queries 
Whole body therapy 
Performed with attentive intention.

Sense diagnosis or synthetic scrying
Budget-driven efficiencies lead to
Pyrrhic victories                                                                                                                                         
         at the cost of patient care

Future lessons to learn
Collaboration 
Without binaries
To merge travelling minds
                                          Into a
Distributed consciousness.

A symphony of attentive care
The orchestra of many
                                    Bow to
The patient conductor, who
                                         Waits. 
Breathes and smiles
     Finally, they are
Seen and heard.

an imposing knowing,
ominous and everlasting,
obliterating the soft air. Schemes,
agendas, programs vaunting
themselves, only to pry loose after ice after
thaw, after too much rain. Falling
at random, chunks thundering
onto the highway, dangerous to passersby.

I will not build upon you, despite
how solid, oh mountain, you rise,
ranging all about me, far above me.

What I know does not hold the
earth together.

I delve beneath the rock.
The cave creek throbs with earth’s
pulse, never freezing. Gently, I
kneel here in the mud
alongside my life.

*

We rivulet in florals and fresh ambers.

Blossoming, tart to taste, addictive

we are musks of white linen.  Bright hot, 

heady, woody, smoke of tobacco, 

we are reflections, the closeness

of clouds above.  Canvasses

for a dream.  We rivulet in amber,

blossoms of mouths, come together, 

the center, the old world, when two 

become the vantage point of one. 

Animus or anima, the psyche in super bloom 

across white canvases of body 

against body against the who

we are under white skies, faint scent

of vanilla, we incarnate, we 

reincarnate, we floral and flower,

we spin, and spin the wheel again.

*

Those people will never
Understand us,  Dreamers.

Leaving behind our home
To start anew
Holding only hope
That vanishes
As the wave of life crashing
At the foreign shore
Drowning our dreams
While Rescuing our nightmare.
Handing us mirrors
To glance at our brown skin
And nappy hair
Point out our differences
From our neighbors
Contemplate our limits
Until we admit
We,  dreamers, can only
Dream certain dreams
Precisely if we are daughters
Of men wrapped in darker skin tone
Or women twirling their tongue
Into a new language

Dreamers who climbed
mountains
Crossed rivers, forests, and borders
seeking
A fair chance of living
the American Dream,
A salary above
minimum wage
So, our parents

 
 do not run Registers
 at Chick-fil-A and tiptoe
 to stock the Publix shelves
Wrestling muscular pain
While raising daughters and sons
Who their dark brown eyes and hair
They rarely see.
We are dreamers fighting to belong
Work hard to be accepted
To whom napping
Massages or a vacation
 to the Maldives
Is luxury.
We are Dreamers gripping hope
Wrestling,  hustling
To project it to those we left behind
Pretending to be answers to their prayers
While we are shoulders and backaches
Swollen ankles
under the weight of our dreams
We are dreamers who fusion
other people’s dreams into our own
Until we carry a collection of dream
That only features
a fragment of our own.

Day 8 / Poem 8

              I’ve lived every version of myself
              on a stage. Deprived my body
              of what it begged for. I am moving
through water, reaching toward
the surface and sinking down
              at the same time. I’m bending
              into the next act, standing on my
              toes, waiting for a cue. Listen,

                                    fluidity is not natural. I hope for
                                    beginnings and ends, but only know
                                    the in-betweens. I am breaking
                                                my bones to make something
                                                new. The way I was made is not,
                                    and never, enough. I am a collector
                                    of bouquets, a servant, obedient.
                                    I’m magic, I tell you. Spinning

              and spinning, never learning
              the meaning of dizzying. My house
              is made of mirrors, and I am constructed
of peeling skin, polished porcelain. Wait
for my count, wait I am sleeping
              on the floor of myself. I am sticking
              my hair back, shining like silk, and blushing
              my cheeks to look warm.

It isn’t so much the presence of the falcon but the creance that tethers me to it. I ask VV, when can I cut the falcon loose? VV tells me to lighten up. She says, are you a happy person? She says the length of the creance is a kind of water I am testing. It’s true, when I was swimming last night, the bird circled above me, and dove once for each person in my lane. It missed, so it must not have been a mother this time. No embarrassment to return, talons empty, without anticipation or invention. This meant that I kept swimming, and at my own pace, pausing occasionally, blatantly and flagrantly, while the others passed. Things kept happening to me. B and I flipped concurrently. His back was so gorgeous, opulent streamline, more decadent for the private viewing. S lapped me, and I was also lapped by J. R said that’s what I’m talking about!! when I touched in. I want, I said to VV, to move away at least from the traditional method, to at least reduce the drag on the creance with the more contemporary suspended line, but that is hard with the pool, a real effort to string across twenty five meters, not to mention every other place the falcon goes with me. Stop being point b, says VV.

I’m lost to the overflow.
Each day piled with tasks,
(speaking of which, when is the last time we checked the messages?),
each transition from home to work, from work to school,
from school to grocery (speaking of which, we’re out of soy sauce),
and the water went out, just up and stopped and the heat too
on the coldest day and my son cut firewood and his face broke out in a rash
so severe he couldn’t open his eyes (speaking of which,
the doctor called) and I’m hours
behind on reviewing catalogs, and the shop needs cleaning,
(speaking of which, the vacuum has lost its oomph),
and all I can think of, is how the heart weathers storms.
The one who glistens with love maneuvers themselves from the public eye,
because hate is a national pastime or at least the sting
which lasts even as we raise our heads high. The night hours
with the moon lingering in solidarity are
just enough. (speaking of which, are they enough?)

Then we wake to see the news and the baby, the child, her white sweater
smattered in dirt and deep red blood. Her lower lip, slack,
shaking, behind her the rubble of the hospital (speaking of which,
hospitals are meant for healing)
and I can’t shake it, like her heart
has reformed in my stomach
and I’m holding her there,
keeping every cell of my body still, for her.
And when I move again I find I’ve left the world
(and here I mean all of it, the school calling yet again, the bots trolling the fb feed, the bullying, the deer that ran in front of my car, the child….) and I race like a bee
hearing the tone of a flower
and I find a moss-covered
stone, leave my shoes
beneath a rain-wet fern, and step
across the cold
blanket of earth. And
every image
(is she still shaking?)
And every cry, (the man, lost outside of Walmart)
and every broken (speaking of which, my own)
breaking heart, would dance with
me, here where my toes sink into the cushion of green,
(speaking of which, the earth needs her blanket too) because at the end
the walls are only made of stone
and stone speaks of centuries
lifetimes beyond our own
and they settle earthbound where earthworms find their way
even beneath their stones and their might
and reach just as we do
for the moon
and stars and all intertwined
beams
of light.

like a heap of garbage, spreading out, they found her floating and turning in the river like a wrinkled nectarine. she said she didn’t know how she got there after they poked her and prodded her and dug coins out of her mouth. but the boating men had seen her. with their trunk-thick arms and firm grip they unspooled their rope of cares as they shouted and called for help, as they hefted her out of the deep, as they hauled her away from the bloat and muck. the one with the dark felted eyes and the salt burn on his chin said that she didn’t jump off of the pier, she didn’t dive into the depth, she just stood there and stood there and stood. she just stood and stood and then wavered. she just turned and fell, just quivered and collapsed, just crumbled and slipped from the inky bank like a heap of garbage, spreading out.

We breathed Golden Circles 
Forgetful of time and money
We were fuelled by hope
Driven by love
We were (energy) hurricanes?

Sitting in the margins under Golden Arches
We found our sisters by choice  
Sidestepping suits, we created
Flowerful calendars brimming with hope
To track our drills.

No time for rehearsals
Rolling each other up the hill
And through the garden
We finally stood
Centre stage 
In the People’s House.

Ice cold glasses, chilled champagne
Overflowing teapots and
Stacks of receipts
Tell the story 
Of body paint to pantsuit.

Outsiders then, disrupters now
Hefty cards don’t matter; they never did
Part of the mob, down south you say
Our crowded marginalia intersect.

We dance under Flowerworks
Tempered by pain.
Tickled by bubbles, we laugh
We scream, we cry
And then we live.

after Emily Dickinson

And yes, it has feet: rose petal feet
skipping over cloud stepstones
and yes it has feathers—
seraphim wings mid-soar;
and tucked underneath, a tender
bloodfeather in downy grey

and you are just the right height
here on this red cushion, to
glimpse out the window how
it rises over the ocean; you watch it change,
no longer desperate for change,
nor fearing change.

It lights the dunes, that rolling barrage
of golden guardians, wise and tumbling
and mounding with each tide
into new disguises.

It thrills the crow passing over the roof
and the tea kettle, ecstatic on the stove.

It didn’t require renewing your
passport; you’ve been a homebody
all year. No men were
its messengers; a poet pleaded
in your voice. Everlasting longing
taught you to be a pilgrim. See:

a silken waxwing, tittering, ascends
a spruce, tilting black bill toward
twig mic as if to make the
announcement:

Morning! It’s Really Here!

Photograph by Josh Axelrod

*

Everything becomes you.
The white field, white song.

The meaning, the metaphor
of white lines, snowflakes,

offerings left for the dead.
Metaphors for heaven or earth.

We are quasars, labyrinths
zig zagged with light.

We are phoenix, resurrected
come summer, come fall. 

The bright star, the prophecy,
come fall.  Come snowflakes. 

Come, the ghost of who you were meant to be
come to life.  The metaphor, come sunrise.

Come the annunciation, no
heaven, no earth. Only white

flowers. The metaphor of snow, 
this great burst of light,

come morning.

*

Glad to know
My heart is your game
Well play
Play as much as you can
I curse the day I put on your ring
Although, even if I go back in time
I will accept to marry you again
It sucks that I love you
It sucks that I care
It sucks that I cannot let you go
Although you hurt me like hell

Day 7 / Poem 7

after Lydia Davis

Every twenty meters, utter upend.
I the calculating body knows,
and so does Coach, my glide extends too long.
Less ease for slap of feet, but then at least
a moment’s known before it’s fast unknown:
Head’s down, heart’s up.
And in the center self-created force.
An egg, when poached, is like this as it swirls,
Suspends its gauzy wings of whites in center form
and like that story (two?) about the saw-whet,
where what is heard, and misheard, and reheard,
a whole from whirling, all together make.

 So what?
Saw what?
Saw-whet?

The beaver chewed through the tree trunk,
felled it and pulled it
into the masterpiece of his lodge,
rerouted streams as he worked,
purified water by the inlaid genius
of his animal brain and disappeared.

He leaves us to ponder landscape design
and the placement of our Home Depot statues to St. Francis.

It’s nothing new, destruction being more akin to creation.
But the human family’s horror is loud,
as though they had just found their children
locked in a cycle of hard drugs and sex and all with the wrong
family names. Protective casing laid around societies, the whispering machine
plays its recording while the world marches on, trees are felled by the long teeth
of the beaver, ponds appear. The miracle of biodiversity
proliferates. The water reflects sunlight.

But the family,
elongated shadow of the woman, arms pointed,
disgusted at the way her view has been consumed. She tucks her shirt
deeper into her pants. White linen, newly laundered.
While passing her home,
the water runs clear.

both of our aeronauts cried the same immemorial songs,
as they fell like a streak of lightning, as they faded like falling stars—
but not quite like stars, exactly. not the way you might think.
gas and gas and flaming rock and fiery dust all in a short-lived trail of light, 
in a fire’s stunning blaze and snapping, flickering decrescendo.

upon impact, as our rotating orb shuddered still, and still, and still again,
pan’s reed-pipe melody waned and split, faltered and faded,
harsh, coughing, staccato, peeling. the smoking moss and peat choked us all.
look, look, an unturned orpheus sang, look, look, as he cooed his heartland melody…
look at the way their crash splintered the mourning poplar trees, the troubled pines.

see how their broken branches weep out their amber innards,
think, think of the dying deer who carefully peels ribbons of bark,
like mottled, seeping bandages, like thin strips of failing gauze,
from the hardwood trees to stave off his final, fatal hunger.
see, see how the gore-freckled nereids peel themselves away into the deep,

away from and past the refining shore, past the whirlpool and frozen pit,
away from and past the crabs with their razor-sharp claws
who crowd and hum and gnaw the spot where the river meets the bend.
avoid, avoid, how the unspooling earth, cracked toothless and wide-open
drives a fracture into the solitary lives of all those of us who loved them.

One Consciousness 
With different sets of shoes
Searches hidden maps from time now lost 

The Mind seeks determination
And decades of wisdom 
quickly loads
Creating flutes beyond compare.

Thin if single, full when complete
One orchestra, many instruments
A chrysalis of singularity 

Pragmatic distributed ecology
Revealed in liturgy and paper
Determined font
Defined file naming conventions
Articulated mission
Shared vision.

Snakeskin light slides
along creek bottom; a breeze
pries my page, gives up, and goes still. I hear
the dragonfly before I see it: wings
awhir, dipping behind jetty-
ing deadwood. I can’t get up
from this log in the sunshine where tiny
water plants are greener than the
season is known to allow. Baby-tear leaves
rise and float on thick stems.
The ocean chuffs, far off but not
too far. Miniature bicycle spokes
spin sandpaper vibrations—it’s
another dragonfly. The clouds are
scoured of imminent plans.
Atop rich, brown dreck, a water
skipper goes into reverse. I cover more
awe per square inch, than I did walking.
Let things alight on and around me—
I’m here for but a stillness.


Poem Seven: Ghost

after MOON by Josh Axelrod

*

Desire color. Desire strength 
to move through darkness. 

Desire out of focus. In focus
cross on the white road.

Cross the white snow. 
Cross of my heart.

Cross the moon, so bright.
Desire out of focus. 

Sometimes we think music
is unimportant. Sometimes

the sound of nature
is enough. The blank sound

of snowfall. Desire to be out of darkness.
Here in the white field where two roads

meet.  Where two roads diverge.
Here where two roads intersect,

dance slowly. Desire out of focus. 
In focus the blank sound of a dream 

unravelling itself in skeins of light 
across darkness, who is it, 

who am I, who 
have we become?

Cross of the moon, my heart,
unravelling itself in the white field

in the snowfall, the currency
of what lives beneath.

*

How did a night 

Turn into an affair? 

One drunk night

Then We fell under

Each other’ s spell

There were no strings

To attach us

But somehow, we’re stuck.

 We did not care

 about certain details

Now, they haunt us

How do we get back 

the night

When we did not care

About our rings colliding? 

Where we kissed 

Without caring about hearts

We were smashing?

Day 6 / Poem 6

Taylor Swift Cento for Miranda & Indigo

I’m standing on your street, running
like water, flying til the bone crush. Look
what you made me—I’m a fire burning
red, a goddamn blaze in the dark. I might be
okay, but the sun burns my heart, and I can’t
breathe. You’re still all over me—flames
on my skin, I’m the one who burned, took
your matches, went off like sirens. But I can change
everything, leak acid rain, be counterfeit. You whisper
in the dark, light me up, and I feel you forget me.
In the middle of the night, smoke billows. Darling,
everything’s on fire.

Once we were on it, full of White Castle, wipers flashing.
Once we were up, we were down, the mountain curves swung us around,
We were small; Col sprawled across the backseat and Case, springy, in the middle.
Col read; he became the man with a voice like a horn,

And when I bounced up to stretch my legs his curls flashed in the rearview
in time with my lift. Last month I was on a mountain with Col, my legs
segmented with skis. It was Day 2, which meant I was worse than Day 1,
analytic of the swerves of my knees, more aware of up and down,

the risk more threat than invitation because of how it rides,
first class, in my mind, always needing attention, begging for tempering.
I love a little risk, and my stomach turns as I whisper as I veer,
how this impulse can make me alien to myself

in the process of hurtling towards, like M saying he is, out of the blue,
experiencing a renewed appreciation for the descent.
Colin is shouting turn, turn at regular intervals, almost too fast.
I jump at the catch, his curls in view, and then he drops off

so I can sustain the unknowing, whether my foot will slip,
my hip lean too far, or my insides reach, with no apparent cause, across themselves, the risk tucked in the folds, and impossible to turn around. I hurtle down. At the bottom,
he’s there. Did he see? Mostly, he saw.

The acorn lands and bobbles,
a top for a child
to spin. To which edge of the universe
will they direct their dreams?
The silk of the shell, the cuff
of the bowl, the heart and the bones,
the mother and child,
the foolish conception of hope through
we wriggle.
The shell and the sprout,
the trunk and the limb,
a tower built through wheat fields, a highway of upturned earth,
air consumed by the lost souls of mountain coal, an ocean slick with oil.
An acorn
tossed askew,
a storm rattled sky.
It spins and points, its compass corrects to the moon
and it sews.
Itself to the soil, itself to the sky,
the tedious seam, 
the heart and the bones.

listen to the different ways that you cry and weep and mourn with your mineral, mountainous sorrow.
oh, newborn world, and world of newborn skies and axial, endless fields and freshly hewn quarries!
look at that quarry there, and remember how it once quaked to form itself as it blossomed far past birth,

how it ascended and dropped, surging and seizing with its grandiloquent internal revolution:
mountain crumbling, tumbling, brewing. you might recall how you too rocked yourself, once, thrice,
in the sliding land’s brusque silting and settling at the colossal earth’s dusty, multitudinous floor.

look at the thorny fibers that ascend and peak in the immutable, innumerable space: pine, oak, spruce,
the lumbar failure of this ridge like a spine, the falling, falling of the millennial men and their sleeping sickness,
listening to the roving, haunting, coal-filled song of the bleating mournful human animals they call their own.

after William Butler Yeats “Sailing to Bzyantium”

His knuckles bled. I never knew why. I always wondered: did he punch walls or gnaw on them like a dog with a bone? At a glance, he seemed urbane and cultured. Well-cut three-piece suits, heavy French cuffs, and understated silk ties. And yet, an aura of barely restrained violence wafted around him, intertwined with the stifling smoke from his ever-present cigar. He said very little, but one glance withered the healthiest of plants. 

I did admire his intellect, the experience and expertise he had. The power he so effortlessly wielded, manipulating and moulding the lives of others, overwhelmed me, but instinctively, I knew this was knowledge I needed if I was ever to cause positive change. So I worked hard, studying his words, actions and thoughts. 

The first time it happened, I gaslit myself.

Surely he wasn’t staring at my girls? Yep, nope, yep – he was. I felt his cold old man eyes graze my body. I struggled to articulate advice to the assembled Board of Directors. Hot flushes of shame shot through my body, red cheeks of embarrassment, and a desperate desire to hide under a rock.

The twelve male Board Directors smirked. Nothing was said; the quiet knowing of patriarchs hung in the air, clogging my pores. 

Still, I continued serving eighteen-hour days. Gritting teeth through degradations, humiliations, and the thousand cuts crisscrossing my soul, I thought I could rationalise the cost = of the acquisition of knowledge, experience and networks multiplied by the immediate need for rent money. 

Breath stinking of red wine, a bone-crushing grip on my forearm, a living nightmare.

No R U OK, nor sister solidarity. Instead, I earned thick skin, acquiring the patriarchal survival kit. The odds were never in my favour. 

Nestled within each day’s verbal abuse were the tiny kernels of insight I gobbled up: how to think, plan, influence, mould and shape data, people, and circumstances. My Frank Underwood, my chance for the keys to the kingdom at the bargain basement cost of my dignity.

I did the things they tell you to do: I sought help from senior colleagues. Mealy mouth excuses, “That’s just his way,” “Pay no attention “, “his bark is worse than his bite.” I petitioned women allies. Discovering the race to shatter the glass ceiling rendered us competitive combatants looking for any vulnerability to exploit.

Crossing the Rubicon, I sailed the seas, escaping to the People’s House: I had won. Leaving the paltry aged man behind in tatters. The promised land was mine, except it never was.

The heart of patriarchy and its minions. Fake feminists, talons dripping with their sisters’ blood. A motley crew of silver-tongued lizards and snake oil salesmen. Parasites one and all engaged in horrific displays of power, violence and harassment, their strings manipulated in a complicated dance by the puppeteer. 

And his knuckles still bled. 

Now, where did my hat get to?

It hopped off like a brown rabbit frazzled
at the eartips. It hitched and flopped
into velvet shadows seeking corners
|of the cabin where it could
be its own person, where it no longer had to
warm a skull, shield a face from sun, shelter
a neck from cold rain. It’d had
enough of your head.

It scrunch-jounced left brim
then right as material bunched into
two wrinkled felt legs shuffling across
hardwood with a huff and a hiss.
You thought it was the wind blowing
blue checkered curtains or
the cat outside in the tall dry grass
stalking a mouse.

It found a trap door, fumbled
with the handle, slinked into a hidden part
of home you had forgotten.
Who knows how long it hunkered
unbreathing in the pitch dark,
dreaming of the way it once tilted
over your brow; of rodeos and
haymows and siestas where you leaned,
drowsing in the sweltering sun.

Who knows whether it dreamed of
your stubby fingers or the hatter’s long,
slender digits or the piercing toes
of a crow that raucously protested your
presence under its nest tree.

A dream, too, is a trusty covering,
easily discarded and mislaid.
Least one can do is notice its absence,
remember the nap of it, the press
at both temples, the heft in one’s hand
when humbly apologizing.
After long years, it became part
of you, until you dropped it in the hall,
on sideboard or chair. Looking up,
you shrug and ask after it
as you should.

As if that gol’darn thing has a mind of its own.

*

I wait for the levitation.  
A string of rising yellow birds 
come morning.

We are the music of orbiting planets.
Clouds passing over big moons.

Numinous, nodding, your hands shadows 
of flying birds, of what we meant to say
come morning.

Is it possible to come back from the dead?
Love is a bird made of milk and rosewater.

Skylarks who hold back for a moment
song.  How long can heaven hold you?

We are the music of when the world was one, 
arrow and pulse of blood, of what we meant to say,
come morning.  

We are metrics of hymns, the overlap of constellating
stars, come morning.’

Can we be as green as the fields 
come April, come the waking

mouths of mountains in song?
How long can heaven hold you?

*

Hips! Whine! 
Feet! Move! 
Body! Groove! 
Let’s party through the night
 
Liver please, I wanna chill
Just a few sips ; 
just a few shots
Just one drink
I’ll be alright. 
 
My Back! Ouch! 
My wrist, my spine
Hips! Aïe, Aïe, Aïe! 
 
Feet swollen
Body aches
Never mind the party! 
I am going to bed
I hope I can sleep
 through the night. 

Day 5 / Poem 5

I don’t want to be
cliché, but I’m not sure any other
way to tell you about love, how
I am in it, and next to it, and you
are sleeping in my bed now. I want
you to know about the berries, and how
I sunk my teeth through
their chocolate coating, and I smelled
daisies the whole time. I knew then
that nothing is ever straight, an arrow
pulling back without a clear
trajectory, the potential to
snap and break at any time. I am
twirling hard candy between my
teeth even though I’ve learned
that sugar always decays. But I can’t
stop the sweetness. And that is the scariest,
most wonderful thing of all – to be
the shining mylar balloon floating
away to somewhere we can or can’t
picture. I am the heart-shaped box
waiting. The card opening, and unfolding,
and spelling your name.

for Liz, and after Liz’s art

At first, I didn’t believe the crack.
I saw the lines for what, I thought,
they were: foundational axis.
I saw the standard horizon: steady blue,
gentle smudge of cloud. The sum of angles
I viewed like I view what I believe
to be a church–geometry of awe, calculated
withholding, only a quarter of tulip visible, pistil
too intimate for exposure, door-covered,
and the key on its mundane
thread, not yet swung.
All this belief and belief, and no sight
for the deep-sea smog of a cesspool
whirling surfaceward, the red thread
clasped across the opening, and my eye,
now, on it. The simple, straight
line of it, screamed
of my grandmother’s palms,
arching to sew the stitches to make
the cash to bust
my mom into the world to fill
her mind with lines and lines
of proofs of stories; it wailed
of my great-grandma Edna,
of her confinement, her busting
out; now the line of the red
was my line, and now
I couldn’t stop, I was reaching, now
the line was opening like a church,
a busted seam with a great gust up,
pistil waving, the key’s rust a deeper
and deeper auburn while swinging
free, attached to gold.

Oxidized lobster cages 
slick beside the ocean. Green like sea monster scales 
they peel fleck by fleck from the wire. 
Oyster shells, pockets for the wind
to hurl sand, like a nest
addressing the primeval urge
to re-fathom themselves, a pearl. Around us
the smell, as though the whole beach
were covered in dead fish, consumes, inhabiting 
even the fiber of our t-shirts. It is lunchtime and we have come, 
sitting as the others do at the shack labeled 
“Lobster Roll, Clam Bellies, Fries” 
and beside our feet the dogs roam, their guttural snort 
seeking a feast. But there are no fish
on the rocky beach. Clouds roll in to contain us, pressing 
into our cheeks where we sit and wait, our hunching
forms, cold in the sea air. And when the food arrives we chew 
even as the smells pulse in the breeze and we listen
to the dogs grunting, and the cages rocking on the dock,
and the boats, the restriction of their freedom feels something like
suffocation as they bump against the soft wood planks, pressing 
barnacles into dust. 
“Don’t tether me,” I hear her say but she does not appear 
to be speaking. Her eyes inseparable from the gray blue sky, her form,
tiny now, her round head wrapped in the blue bamboo fabric we found
together at the wig shop for patients of cancer. “Let the wind sustain me,” 
I hear her again, “We are happy here together but look at all the rest…the smells, 
the corrosion, the ocean lined in plastic.”
She pops a clam belly into her mouth and as she works her jaw
the pores of her skin are already filling
with the sea. “When the time comes, 
let go the boats 
harbored to the shore. Let go the ropes bound in knots meant tohold us. 
Let me go.”

But she never did say anything. Not really.
Nothing was said, on that day or others about her passing. Though we knew it would come. 
But the sea and the way she became it,
but the sky and the way she wore it, but the words,
and how when left unspoken, they remained 
in the place she left behind, released, like one releases
birds 
and other creatures
that fly.

dulcet, crackling, honied, seething,
this is not the end of the end
but the beginning of something.
a crystalline sharded world of shards that speaks
to our sparkling desires,
calling, crowing.
they spoke about hampering and failure,
and cried that all the scattered trees
fell and sank into the boggy land,
or fell and crumbled into the arid zone,
dropped and fell, or folded back bit by bit,
into the darkened swallows around Scylla and Charybdis.
shedding a stiffened whorl of bark here, and there, 
catapulting a splintered barque here, and there,
allowing for the sacrifice and unsung blush
of the pearling, internal sap.
the krummholz chokes, they said, 
with blame and venom vining their voices,
wintering to a whisper, 
they mused that farther north there was nothing:
nothing, nothing, nothing but the large eye of the world,
nothing, nothing but the sharpest air in detracting shards,
nothing, nothing, but the final peat and poisonous moss,
and the precipice with the clearest elevation.

Distorting waves – 
      broke 
     her brain apart.

Cavorting slippery eels flashed lightning
Tick Tock: the scrum lacked agility
Zooming for three hours
Price tag: mobility, pain, coherent thought
A degenerating sheath.

Meaningless words littering her inbox
Resilient and Diverse: The Great Hypocrisy
She was invited to the party,
                                                -Just not to dance.
Inclusion results from exclusion
Revealing the superficiality of “belonging”.

To whom, for what and why? 
Questions never answered
Trapped on the Highways of Hell
Left, right, north, south, east and west
Glowing corporate billboards with white teeth
Reinforce her
                        “otherness”.

Defined by overlapping identities and intersecting worlds
Oppression Olympics* govern her life
Always gold, silver and bronze to …
The Gods of Marketing, Branding and Influence
Won by successful campaigns:
“We listen, we help, we care.”

And now, stuck yet again,
Trapped in plush carpet
Disenfranchised and disabled by
Silver-tongued lizards
She smiles politely
“Would they mind …” she asks.

I find a nook in the laundry room
of the ocean house. There’s
soul laundry to be done—
even with the utility sink empty of linens,
the floor devoid of baskets. I’m heaped
in dawn darkness on smooth cool linoleum,
opposite gleaming steel machines—

coming clean.
Wooly, writhing things rain down pell-
mell, not unpleasantly. I ride out
my spin cycle and tumble
in warm and thudding rhythms
of seclusion and preparation.
I’m in the sort-and-fold stage,

stuck on what comes after.
Wishing to be Marie Kondo/Martha
Stewart, celebrating a six-drawer confection
of three-layer garments in cakey matching
hues and crinkle-cut wrappers, in
pretty, purposeful paper parcels.

How does this lie, lie flat?
Where do I spread the long, unraveling,
appendages of memory-sweaters? Shall I
roll or square off this T-shirt, that pair of pro-
crastination socks, these leggings?

My chest of drawers stands empty,
my cupboards grieve. How to account for
my mismatches, and for what’s missing?
Clashing socks, seventeen widows.
My inner laundress clucks her tongue.

You’re not ready. You’re not real.
You have landed in a tangle and
no one
can make sense of you.

 In a perfect-me-world,

could stack myself into drawers.
Instead I tilt and chug, cycling
in and out of shame. I inhabit
a basket brimming with rumpled,
scattered parts of me.
Imperfect but clean.
Ready to hand. 

Day 4 / Poem 4

I’m standing on the shore, and the snow
is falling. I’m standing on the shore and I am
dreaming of all the ways I could be
anywhere else. The snow is falling here
and I am standing in front of a lighthouse,
but I cannot see, because the snow is falling
and I am standing on the shore of a place
which does not feel like home, and sometimes, I 
dream of seagulls above the beach. But tonight
I do not dream of the sun or of seagulls,
because I am standing on the shore in the snow
in front of a lighthouse in the night, and its beam
is blinding. And if you want to know the truth,
I think I am the lighthouse, and I don’t
really mind the snow, but I am standing on
the shore and I am the lighthouse and I am
learning that I never needed home. Because there
are seagulls, and sun, and snow is falling. But
it is night time, and I am the lighthouse, and I,
too, can be blinding.

I’ll take nothing from now, because waiting,
              these days, sustains.
                           Just the fiddle’s ache from yesterday
                                         to fill the space, the knock that got my eyes
                                                                      from the floor. My friend at the door.

We hugged, but didn’t hold. Headed out.
              Prepped our shoulders for angling.
                           When has a friendly crowd not parted,
                                         approached at this angle?
                                                                      Shoulders make you regal, make you light. I’ll take nothing

Resolute from this, since tension locks
              what moves. And nothing from the center
                           of my focus, which, even now, runs lengthwise
                                         my own obvious shoulders and all their pointed angles
                                                                      strung, and smudged, in this dense, tensile city.

How strange to be pink       I suppose my own were at first sight
but more a hue than a full-bodied pretty
pretty princess pink         And then to be at one with the mud.

They frolic      Did any of us know
about this? Five pigs on a sunny day mid-winter       Frolicking.

And they recognize you       But not me. I am the stranger
afraid to attach, knowing what is to come.

But my son, his young frame
approaches and they rejoice      This looks like light quick steps, wiggling pigtails. 
They hear his voice,
recognize his scent,
the pattern of his gate.

          And so I go late at night
when the cold winds blow
when my son is sick in bed.
I labor through the snow to carry
water         The pipes are frozen, the moon
high over head        They don’t
know me. Their eyes       Eyelashes too, curled against the iridescent fur 
of their skin      They squeal danger.

I wonder about the end
when it’s time to go if knowing the hand
is better       If trust is all we can ask for in life? If death is always
coming, if life first is the gift?        There is one who always starts the scramble
running across the field, the wild rumpus of intent        My son only dreams
of farming, so what lesson is there in my hiding?      They frolic
in patches of sunlight, pink bottoms, flat round circle snouts       And leave his heart alone
to make sense of it all. And leave their hearts alone
unseen.

LOOK! LOOK HERE, LOOK THERE. LOOK HERE, LOOK THERE, LOOK EVERYWHERE.

before everything else, before everything else, before whatever was before the thing we call now, before all the UNMOORED stones in the world, before all these early STONES that you call FOUNDATIONS and BUILDINGS and IMPERIAL FUNDAMENTS, but we call balustrades and confines and cages, there is the utopia. oh, utopia, that failed special place with its spoiled gold, its melting temporalities, the lapis lazuli, emeralds, and all the other sparkling gems held in the shining, beckoning mouths of the INEXORABLE WOMEN, with their baubles and whispered and felted charms and all their false stories of dissent in tow. all in the current’s tow. don’t you SEE? can you SEE? can you PERCEIVE?

LOOK! a blinding flash, a dazzling flash, and sharp white teeth announce the presence of a thin, febrile voice: it is a WHISPERING, WHISPERING, WHISPERING. it is a REED, it is a hollow thing, it is a poor child’s splintered flute, it is a last fainting ribbon, a last fainting ribbon of smoke: come, come, come in. enter the GLASS museum quietly. hands around your shoulders. arms around your arms. find your PLACE behind the crystal. this is the good place. this is the good place. this is the utopic spot. you will be safe. you will be splayed open, yes, but protected and preserved. you will be safe. you will be safe. can you PERCEIVE?

hands around your shoulders. arms around your arms. a wise serenity, a wise serenity. hand on your throat, hand over your frenzied heart. cool, cool lip by your brow. the voice almost purrs: store your breaking, breakable heart away, leave it for the display, leave it ON DISPLAY for the gathered masses, leave it for the hungry eyes of souls who never knew WHAT TYPE OF BREATH you took. breathe, breathe. look, look. expire, inhale. leave your one tacky shadow behind. it is stuck to you, it CLINGS TO YOU like sorrow, like a leech, like a STICKY, SICKLY WEED, the stuff of nightmares, the stuff of discord and dissent. it has cemented you in this place. it has cemented you IN YOUR MOLDING, MOLDERING FORM. but look, look here! you have an architrave, an architrave! you have a corinthian feel, a capital, and an ENTABLATURE that will not fail you. that will not fail you, can’t you SEE?

stop breathing, stop speaking, stop looking towards what shuns you. the centuries that shun you! the imperial crowd who flays you open again and again! the failing birch that shuns its bark at your feet! the dying bird that screams and screams behind your shoulder, ravenous. stop looking towards what shuns you. divorce yourself from your sinews of pain. divorce yourself from all those plaster men who will not quit you, turn instead to us, ETERNAL VOLTA, and we, we, we! WE can be the ones to take their darkened place. WE, with our warm breasts and good teeth, WE, with our good breasts and pocketed, plastic fantasies, WE, WE, WE with our elemental craving for mica and dirt and thundering limbs and the thick boreal backs that threaten to flatten us as they rove and furrow and bore. WE, WE, we can be the ones to lead you BRISKLY through the colored lens of the still-living city. WE, the ones to teach you to turn your lips into the smile that the governing men recognize. WE will teach you how to plot their undoing with the turning, smoldering pupil of your eye, that unharnassable maw that we will show you how to manage—little love, little love, little flailing love, you will see.

WE will teach you, and teach you again, and TEACH YOU AGAIN if we need to, we will teach you how to TAP DIZZILY on the pavement, in flaming, mercurial shoes, from dusk into the thick folds of THE FINAL NIGHT. eyes closed, throat on fire, borrowed heart alive. WE will teach you all this as we scalpel into your burning womb to save you. LOOK! LOOK! see how our hands can still reach you! how they can still reach EVEN YOU, EVEN YOU! even when they envelop only air. close your eyes. you can close your eyes. you can close your eyes.

(Cento poetry drawing from Kahlil Gibran)

The plume stained the pumpkin. A Halloween creation half executed, the carnage spread. Droplets fell in a line across the bright blue cutting board. The sterile stainless steel benchtops become a petri dish for pestilence as droplets of blood weave along the entire length. As a deer in headlights, their eyes watch them: a vivid red reflection pond creeps inch by inch toward plucky breasts, serenely anticipating today’s liturgy.

Inspecting the blade, their thumb feels the dullness—an edge lacking care or attention. And yet, an instrument still able to kill, maim or hurt. Circlets of blue adorn their fingers, reminders of the ascendent liturgy, the hourly whispers that turn to music.

Pondering their beautiful responsibilities, the banal becomes substantial—the liturgy, alchemy, feeding those who would eat.

I once lay on a cold wood floor
with a man who could not walk
or speak, but bobbed his head at
the bent torsos and hands-on-
knees and bowed heads
he encountered in his
particular layer of atmosphere.

A small man with straight-cropped
black hair, he wore thick glasses in a
face I couldn’t read. His lips
parted in a grimace or a grin—
I wasn’t sure which.
Fist-sized, flipper-
shaped feet in black crew
socks bounced and darted—fish fins,
dark porpoises, seeking ocean.

He had been placed on the dance
floor where he now sprawled
in a sea of unease, embracing the
vibrations that swallowed him up.

I went to lie beside him in a blare
of music and blur of why. We slid, folding,
inching, scrunching, stretching
over the floor. Together we stroked
waterless depths to swim with creaturely
fluidity as amniotic amnesia dripped
with fat echoing drops through our minds.

The man who could not walk, and I,
we two, touched heads. His solid knock-
worthy forehead reassured me. Our skulls
shivered in recognition. He smelled like
Ivory soap. Dancers around us leapt
stamped, pranced, to There is A Light
That Never Goes Out, by the Smiths.
I could step-hop-skip anytime, but here
I was at doorstop height with a partnered
pair of shoulders, shimmying.

Many of those precious minutes
were interrupted by my legs
foundering, my brain
protesting my prostrate position.
I dove, palms to floor,
head as periscope. My low soul
was meagre, malleable; my spirit footless and
strange and wondering.

What was in his mind, his world?
How could I be anything but wrong and
stupid with my giant slabs of metatarsals,
my long hinged bones, my splaying toes?
How could I not be ridiculous?
My partner didn’t judge.

I saw you, said my friend later, whose own
legs, long and functioning, had folded
into a chair at the edge of the circle.
I saw you dancing with Eric.

*

Spirit bells, sound of tambourine.

I close my eyes. Hold hands

with strangers around tables

in a dark rooms . Light

candles, look for visions,

I want to touch

the shape of your face.

You promised you would come back. 

Say it.  Say the words.

Say the magic incantation

who brings souls back 

from the dead.  I wait

for the levitation.  A string

of rising 

yellow birds 

come morning.

*

It took me only a leap of faith.
A leap that no horse can make
A jump I practiced years
To land on my feet, but
Each time, I fall on my face.
Despite all, I maintain my grace
I persevere, like a little girl
Born On February 29,
waiting on her birthday
I tiptoe around success
So my nose does not steer it away
When I mute my footsteps
My shadow on the ground,
sold me anyways
Like Sumerians sold their neighbors
to be enslaved
Without thinking, the branches
Cutting from the trees
Will drop seeds in an estranged soil
Take root, grow branches
That never feels at home.

Day 3 / Poem 3

I’m spinning a compass on paper, sloshing
liquid over the sides of glass. And it is true,
I never need the pilot light because I am
the flame, burning blue
above the earth.

Look at the stars, the moon,
tell yourself, I can’t live
where I cannot see
stars at night. I’m mathematical,
a sound wave rippling, a feather tipping
the scale.

Now is your chance to jump
into the ocean, the salt lifting
you up and up to the surface. The chemical
imbalance is something for a body
to trust. Listen, I drew a diagram of my
heart. It was small
and full of lead.

The lines of winter
give away the secrets of hives,
Of nests,
Of branches so beautiful
they beckon.
I am alone,
and my footfalls sound.
The crunch,
the pull.
I am alive,
and harsh,
and gentle.
I am the flight, and sight
of the owl.
Though in truth, I fear the darkness of a forest night.
And I cannot see with those eyes,
Or call out with those cries.
I cannot fly.
I cannot devour.
I am flesh and bone and hurt.
But I stand still, my heart in motion.
And lift.
I lift. And the shuffle of wind above me colors the lines of the winter before me.
And the hives,
and the nests
are harsh and gentle
and slathered
in the blue of day.

oh wanderer, you. it is a hardening:

the way your scabbed serpent touch stabs at my heart,

the way your tongue struggles to lick and peel away 

at this language of vapors i call my own.

it is not yours, and eludes you

i am not yours, and elude you,

and you are not even your own.

what can we own? 

you are fleeting and transitory, 

even as you cling to the boulder, 

to the rock, to the mottled pine, to the fallen rook.

and just as a whip-poor-will’s mottled plumage

flares here and there in the dramatic desert,

or along the grease-wood speckled slope

of the curved dune here, 

the patch of chaparral grass there,

there is nothing that is yours, 

there is nothing that you can catch or hold.

there is nothing that is yours, that you own.

can i even catch you?

oh you, you, you.

not ever and always you!

you are not even your own, 

and penniless, formless, amorphous,

i am just your poor shadow here,

making you real,

waiting, willing.

waiting, willing.

waiting, willing.

not ever and only you!

you in the darkness, you in the desert, 

you in the final forest before the ridge, 

you in the splintered remnants past the whirlpool,

only you, you, you, 

as i go searching for the contours, and shifts, and crags

that plummet and plume your precious, fragile body.

(cento with lines drawn from Kahlil Gibran, Daryl Hall & John Oates)
 
Out of touch
Out of mind
Life’s procession marching in majesty
Mis-
      Steps
 
Bread baked without care
Wicked problems bloom
                                   watered from ivy-covered wells 
Navy suits preach agility                                          
                                    in never-ending email threads 
Inboxes overwhelmed by
                                     dissonance
 
                                                      & apart-ness 
                     
Toxic trenches of fiefdom and control
deny 
Beautiful responsibilities.

Don’t follow the light
You’ll want to, but you can’t trust it.
It seems right ‘n all, flashing in your face,
annoying as hell. It’s just programming.

I study the flashing tool on the dash, 
a sunny little icon seeming to pound
with increased urgency, a warning,
wrenching my gaze from the road
that unfurls between forests,
the lonely country miles.
This wheeled engine my only safety,
come winter storm or flood, or stall, or nightfall.

It’s a dummy light, see?
No offense, ma’am.
You don’t look like a dummy.
What’cha wanna do is go
by this here sticker.

 Hidden by light of day
is a clear square of adhesive,
tiny print and ballpoint-penned date,
perfectly ignorable, in my window.
One corner peels in the warm
musty air of my car (whose cabin
filter the technician says I really oughtta
change). I have plenty of time, it says.
Plenty of miles.

It’s in none of the koans, ballads, or poems,
I’ve never lived it before:
to disregard the warning, let the light
blink itself silly; to charge forth
despite my conditioned reflex to
stop and check and change and fix.
Pressed to act, I—

Listen:
Don’t.
Follow.
The.
Light.

*

I am blackbird, finger-prints 

of snow on the mesa,  

the ripe presence of morning.

There is no difference between

the caller and the called.  Witness

and witnessed, the body

is an instrument.  You must

rise up.   Nodding white

blooms are so early, 

too early for spring, 

but still their white hands

make music in the cold.

There is no difference between

the worshipper and the worshipped.

There is a god who has

many faces.

*

Day 2 / Poem 2

I never learned the difference             between
acrylic             or water color, tempera dripping
down splintering camel          hairs. Though, I am golden,
a sunshine    hovering                above scribbled
sapphires.               My eyes
gleaming, peridot buttons I sew
on        straight.

I am painting,              no, stitching. You know,
a loose thread you pull & pull, but it does
not break. I require
scissors, sometimes.   I cut
paper down to slits, but when I      unfold
it, it’s   always         shaped like me.

I draw circles         in my diary because they are
unending. I want      to explain   to you
how science is             green      & math is
red, but I’ve crafted, no,                     calculated this
into an art.       I am coiling, slipping,
digging                 my fingernails into the clay
of      myself.               

In the meeting I became nervous that I was being watched; that there was not only a sacred,
pre-established confidence between the two other people in my meeting but that,
whether in an unspoken or consciously articulated way, the two of them had extended,
through this meeting, an ongoing observation, of me.

There was the draft of a pleasure principle but I’m untrained in catching admiration, so in spite
of my reach for a quality leather jess I felt the interior swoop out like the falcon it is, widespread
emissary of supervision, trained to a default of go-and-come-back, eyes dilated with noticing
and the undulations of many tiny animals.

Falcon, if your eyes and my eyes across the gauntlet betray the same exhaustion, if I have over-
manned you with the terrain of the public and the topography of certainty, I will go home to my bath
blowing whistles, all the peas rattling at once, so no one will hear your bell and know what you’ve,
to watch, gone towards.

Before I was the flower,
I was the pulse,
The steady flow of sunlight
Through veins.
Before I was the flower
I was the cushion soft landing for the ant,
the space around which
the worm wriggled.
Before I was the flower
I was the lover of the soil,
I was the drinker of its heat,
The groan of its cold.
I was the mover of the earth,
The electric shimmer of atoms, I was
I was
I was
Before I was,
The flower.

thursday was the first time she felt the smooth, slick orb crack open again since her mother died. 

But did she really die or had she just slipped away into the silvery folds strewing their tinned, reflective relics on a downward course between the cliffs? Did she really die or had she just dissolved herself to into the ether, into the smoky, fêted air the way all good, ephemeral things do? dissipating, dissipating, so smooth between the bluffs…

or, she was good, crazed, ephemeral, mesmeric, metamorphic. she flew off like a bird, to the top of the tree, to the sharp of the crag, to the jagged, second peak of the mountain, to the top of the moon, to the top of the moon, to the very top of the moon, towards something everlasting. never turning back to look down, down, down towards the low-rooted, low-feeling, poor-hearted babes we were then and still.  

or, was she not so good and not so human, more of a barque than an electric, breathing being, feeling the thunderous pull of a burden rather than the thrill of any precious cargo?

was she weighed down with her bad, heavy heart, slipping down into the dark waters, dark, dark into the thumping heart, dark into the pearled memory, into the stony remembrance, into the nostalgic gravity of it all, down into the blackened chasm, the tarry cistern, there, there turning and slipping, slipping and turning, then sinking down down, down past the muck of it all, to the silt and the sludge, the slit and the final yet always primordial sludge?

Shiny buckles
The rich smell of burgundy leather
A scholar’s satchel
 
Peep toe heels 
Reflect her nervous eyes.
 
New clothes 
Lined with store-bought creases
Perch
 
Palpable desire to succeed 
stifles
 
Taxes fall due
Payable in 
Gold And Silver
Or
Blood and soul
 
The eternal fate
Of a 
Working Girl. 

1.

I awake crouching for the light
that comes next, tensing at every crack-
le in the underbrush as the predator
wakes; as the huntress prowls, freezes,
seizes upon a thought gone wrong, a flop-
py long-tailed fear, a mouthful of abandon-
ment, a scurry of change.

I streak through the meadow,
quaver at light’s play and prowl, curl, coil.
To escape the shadow of being devoured
I run for the darkness.

2.

Darkness has but the one trick.

3.

On the fog-slashed cliff,
I am no keeper, looking for lost ships,
wrecked against dark sharp sureties
once soft as cloud.

I dodge the beacon arms
as if they won’t come around again.
They do. Everlastingly. 
The light overtakes my hiding places,
sears drudge, scours denial, sweeps clean, soaks
what is lovely, afraid, wondrous.
Makes me willing to stay.

I remember small things.
Blackbirds in thin branches, 

there are so many things
left to say.  I am 

the voice of wind in leaves. 
Can you hear me?

Incandescent river
of who I have been,

effortless, falling 
water,  the numinous, 

nodding, oceanic 
feeling, this

falling away
of the sun.

Relationships fail,  then love, the villain

Woe to the day our hands joined
I’ll never trust anyone again
I’ll cry and grieve until I
Can no longer feel the pain.
              On second thoughts,
Forget the humiliation!
Whoever died from broken hearts?

When the heart breaks
The broken pieces
become open verses
Freestyling on the rhythm of rage
Remixing by pain
produce beautiful disasters
Cursing love as we long for it
Hanging on fragmented memories
As we Dodge the painful ones
Like a soft-skinned kid jumping rope
Or a cyborg trying to win hopscotch.

We cut our feet loose, 
Cuff our mind
Such a fool
Thinking it cool
To hurt more than we should.

Nobody will dare tell us
This sweet pain
Will be to our detriment
Until we know for certain
The one who ever died from a broken heart

We will love and
hurt than
love again
Because despite relationship schools, us
It never handed us a syllabus
So far, Heartbreak or Love 101
Is not in the curriculum

Kudos to those who failed
But still confident in risking it all
Who invests despite their portfolio isn’t tempting
But love is blind
A friend told me this once
And I respectfully offer to
Buy a lens and contact
Too much at risk
To allow my heart
steers away unquestioningly.

Last time I did
My head bumped
In obstacles within my view
For a while, I thought I had died
As betrayal concussed me
Rage knocked me out
And my heart split in two.
Yet, as a phoenix
I rose from the fissure,
Scarred but somehow
Brand new
As no one ever died from
A broken- heart.

Flowers bloom beautiful petals
fragrant,  fresh, colorful;  soon
To break apart, fall, and fade.
Yet, the seeds regrow
Lovely flowers bloom and smile
On Valentine
Although most times
The joy quickly fade
From the woman’s eyes
Or might not remember the surprise
They rejoice.

They are not to blame
As our heart reraces
For the same lies
After swearing to try
We repeat the class
Toxic relationships
Unrequited love
Broken promises
Empty vow.

But it’s alright
We do not die from broken hearts.
We’re traumatized
Demonized,  scarred
Haunting love like a vengeful ghost
Trying to love another rotten soul.

Whoever died from a broken heart?
We do
Although we don’t admit
The damage we do
To those hearts, we break.

Day 1 / Poem 1

Today I am eating
cake, another grain
of sand dropping to the
bottom of glass, and there is
nothing I wish for. I’ve collected
every ribbon, bathed myself in
shades of pink, sometimes black,
coffee in my cup. But I haven’t moved
closer to waking. I’m singing
a tune I’ve heard twenty-nine times
and sleeping my way through
the next one.

Isn’t it funny how we never see
ourselves? I’ve wasted away
in front of mirrors, behind
windows, and next to shiny
objects. I am not dull, but I believe
in sharpness. The way I am the knife
slicing, splitting buttercream, staining
my pants, and my pants are shrinking.
I am growing. Down, deep down, in
my ribcage, my lungs balloon
and I am waiting for the right
moment to exhale.

If I put all my toes on the floor at the exact same time
when I get out of bed, and if the first words I think
are the bad German translation of I have two
rabbits
 and if I can hold my dream world,
the rabbit puppets in the four-story
architectural school, firmly in mind for three minutes,
and if I spend three meaningful seconds
really sensing the pill of the bathroom rug between my toes,
and in the shower turn towards the shoulder that pulls me
(not that one, the other one) to grab the soap, and if
I wait five breaths between the buzz
and the phone password, read the lamppost
on the approach to discern going left or right, if I step
fully over the crevice in the sidewalk, which shrieks
I am your life!!, if I kiss the wall five times
like I have been kissing it 
all my life, with an additional one stroke from the full right hand, 
if I do this not just in my room to say goodbye
but also in the hallway, the kitchen,
the little pocket of a living room and the stairs between it all,
which I end on my right foot, can the sum value
be added onto the magic of stairs themselves,
how they carry me between stories, or have I lost
the we of it all, yes, it was M and I
who were having this conversation. We marveled at the stairs
themselves, the miracle of brief ascension,
how they provide and provide, and how we, in the climb,
overlook the second story.

he old news is I still break easy.
The perception of something being askew,
Rattles me.
The petals, cast in a decaying web, nearly hidden amidst the flurry of blue,
Are settled in a cloud of hydrangea so buttery it spills the scent of fresh baked bread.
They are broken nonetheless.
The web, the torn edges, the crisp of sun.

It’s old news.
To see the broken pieces.
To cast the eye across the field. Discerning.
To gather the blossoms for the blushing bride
Only to hear her gasp.
It’s just the world I say, the broken world in your hand. Carry it with you, start your life together by holding on.

But that’s old news.
The bruises on a piece of fruit, the sunken spaces where a hand has clutched too tightly.
Maybe that’s it.
They broke that day.
In the grocery store,
the produce section could not hide them, the rows of apples barely shoulder-high, and here,
And here, the thumbprints.
The knuckle grip before deciding, no, not that one, it’s badly tarnished skin.

The flawed blossoms,
The fruit.
The farmer plucking from the tree, kneeling.

I sink my teeth into the pears porous flesh.
I hold its bruises.
I inhale. It’s old news that after all,
I let it nourish me anyway.

the sorrowful child crouched down beside him.
the moon was sharp like a knife in the sky,
thin and gleaming and white, and you, you, you.
you could not hear their words but knew that you

would stay there looking just to feel
absolved of your preposterous ghosts.
ridiculous ghosts! they made you want to linger
as apparitions can do. they wanted you to see

that nothing would matter any longer.
they could still breathe, still see, still talk, talk, talk.
rustling their reed-song like sparrows in the nest.

you started to feel a sudden hunger
and tried to chaunt back to them, but hot-
bodied word-songs cut louder than the rest.

And then I was gone.
All that remained were echoes:
Shadows of my accomplishments,
Reverberations of my hopes and dreams,
Fading scents of my triumphs and failures.

Lost in a continuously absorbing void
Sucked dry
A soundless scream ricochets around my mind and soul.
An existence without existence
A life confined to repeating, recycling and reiterating trauma
Forever on the knife edge of escalating hysteria
Unable to breathe
The metaphysical palette of black hues overwhelms my bravado of colour.

There is no escape.
It is what it is
I am what I am:
A thing, a body.
To be used and misused.
A teaching tool.

But when the last lesson is over
A billowing silence waits for me.

after Robert Frost*

Come to leave the routine road—
how its sameness snares, snags my boot-toe, trips
me flat on my stomach, posing
as familiar, trustworthy.
Until I wander down the rooted
bend strewn with jewels of fruit, relish-
able wonders that ask to be bitten into.
Sweet windfall crunch.

Let me walk with an open heart
that allows Holy to get me into a pickle.
Nudge me to this trickle of path, that over-
look, this summit to the left cleft
of forest bluff that takes me down
the mountain.

Let me be moved. No routine in that.
Sadness, loss, distress, rage.
Spontaneous song rising from my
well-heard heart, reaching a
wiggle of trust,
pushing through my toes.

*who famously spurned free verse

Like bees
we sleep.

A small flower, a woodwind,
in the center of your chest.

I tune into the cosmos
long past sunset.

Mind transfers
to other mind.

There is no difference between the worshipper
and worshipped.

**—-

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