She said last month,
after knowing her 50 years,
that she cried on my behalf
every weekend after I graced the porch,
which smelled sweet from petunias,
with my crumpled paper-bag luggage.
I didn’t tell her that I cried too,
with downcast eyes
and contracted shoulders,
from terrifying locusts
singing in the trees.
Or when the sweet sour-cherry jam
was replaced with
twenty-nine cent tacos and
I was left to shake
my dirty clothes
into a pile on the grimy floor.
I never told her about
the nights alone,
when I couldn’t close my eyes against the moon
because suffocating dark amplified
ghosts of angry voices,
those nights, when I couldn’t find the stars.
She said, last month,
that she should have bought me a suitcase.
I just laughed, because the paper bag didn’t hurt
but with a tightening chest I knew
that was code for
our kindred shame.
This woman who gave my father his eyes, two generations removed,
who once wore an army uniform,
knew to hand me a sewing needle or a ball of yarn,
to make me sit in the green-smell of Friday dusk
as she dumped my just-packed clothes into the white Kenmore
then dabbed scraped knees and elbows with Bactine.
After all this time, I don’t call her enough,
as she reaches for ninety-six years
I’m sure she knows sour-cherry is my favorite
and purple petunias smell the sweetest in the morning
because somehow, she had known all the other things,
my 10-year-old self didn't have words to describe.
We’ve shaken hands, apathy, and me. A friendship born from observing the parade-float procession of bloated title-balloons, flown like flags of a conquering country. Kinship found by the kissing of weary bones. –Headlines say greatness is changing, but my friend and I wait in the dark for undisputable evidence tied up with triumph. Paying swollen bills with the martyr’s hand that perpetually wipes counters and toilets. Scratching out words one letter and six second-guesses at a time knowing each one is not. quite. right. — Her whispers of uninspired-forget-not enough-never- time is up-imperfect black the stars until quitting tastes tempting while red coat shame hangs in the doorway as a shield from the cold.
There are days,
when rage plucks
the breath from tight lungs,
a bite of thick oatmeal offered from a fork,
choking all sound.
Mid-chest, halfway hardened,
sheltered by the growing space
of antecedent grievance
First-paycheck time disappeared
overrun by unfathomable
weight of carried
Mammoth anchor burden drags
momentum to a full and
Never Things accumulate
Rising stacked, built from blueprints
of a hoarder’s house- worries pressed
between newsprint that once spoke of promise
now, dusty fodder for moths and mites
The shadows that live to the left of the light
wait, cloaked, in the cold
as dogs for their dinner.
Hands of the day
let loose their grasp
sun slides aside in utter surrender.
One measured step
a sigh, a reprieve,
weight of the luminous has been released
and I join my kind in the gray of the margins,
to dance for no eyes--
no judgments, no pardons.
when a being,
is a matchless
fatigue won’t be
from white lights
It’s been raining for eons.
Frigid steel pins drill into the warm earth
back-lit by gray haze.
Growling skies vibrate and roll
shaking unprepared chest muscles with their quake.
Incessant beats drumming the empty house murmur unrest.
I wonder if you’re cold.
The scent of lemon lingers
It took three days to find the strength
to scrub the remnants of your struggle
from the worn floorboards.
And tired eyes strain from the effort of scanning for
your shadow among the yard litter at twilight.
Swirling acid of Advil and coffee dampens
the echo of your retreating voice along with warming light,
that used to occupy space before dinner.
Arms disconnected with unsettled lightness become mechanical in duties
untethered from your grounding weight.
We’ve laid you in a quiet spot
visible from the barren bedroom window
but the rain started.
chilling your unbleached bones
under a canopy of cold dirt.
Yesterday, it seems, but maybe years ago,
We sat hand-in-hand
blinded by blue and lust
absent for northern latitudes.
On a black night, scented
with tequila and Frangipani
Our taxi driver whispered as I left the car,
she is very beautiful, pausing, in halting Spanish,
you whispered back words not for my ears—si. Si ella es
We stayed, long enough for breasts and legs
to brown like copper,
long enough to cement our
attachment to the moment, the sun– to the sea
to define the meaning of summer.
But the rush of the airport ruined the spell,
the easy rhythm broke
fear grew larger than lust
without the incantation
of the omniscient taxi driver
We forgot the color of blue
and the warmth of radiating body heat.
Cool winds blew over the dark water of the Northern Pacific
and we became absent,
once again, in the northern latitudes.
The smells of baked
hot tempered breeze
and warm pine
rise from asphalt; too early for sagging,
I haul myself by the patch of grass
damp with fishy ditch water
evaporating in waves.
One foot slapping behind the other.
It smells like summer,
another season slipping
away without a flag
on the horizon
to look towards,
Slumping in the office chair
wrapped in the
of air conditioning
desiccating in the manufactured cold,
because I’ve forgotten how to rise, or
perhaps, just live.
The smooth edge of the
oatmeal spoon bites
into the worry spot
into my right upper-lip
and my skin looks
Hunger, persistent and
nagging, pokes from beneath
skin with urgency
to plant a flag on the horizon.
But, I’ve forgotten everything
but the biting spoon
the unexpected summer cold.
Greedy brows of paper, creased and folded,
peer toward the horizon
searching–with habitual acuity
for any sparkle of promise,
any star to burn thin skin
and blister away
The third stream notes of Sketches
hang just out of reach
an audible representation of a time
before a world of yesterdays.
A place where the slight air slants,
a quarter to return to
time and again
when the lyrical settles
beyond eager fingertips
and the thin lip of crystal
neglects to discharge
the disquiet of the day.
Proud with vigor,
a symbol of fertility within
this sterile house,
she flaunted fecundity
–as it should be.
Though the reminder of my failures
Both golden and dark
as the day tilted to her routine
governed by the sliding seasons
Age not marked with lines and wrinkles,
but in reverence
–as it should be.
Though some days the sound
of her easy laugh was provoking.
My chest was not prepared
to feel her kaleidoscope of color
dampened to a dark mass.
Eyes wet and throat tight
I touched a silky wing remembering down
while the evening tilted an apology at the indignity of death
–as it should.
The tide rolls in
bliss, eyes closed
soaking up white hot
through the curved windshield.
She is present.
Words to Rocket Man escape
in breathy sighs
antithetical to Elton John’s
The moment has been repeated
a thousand times,
uncountable, in her memory.
The word seared in her brain
“burning out his fuse up here alone”
Closest to out-of-body she gets
The heat and the words
opening the gates.
There is beauty here, in her ekistics,
how she’s made a place.
From above she sees the tide rolls out,
and her moment cools and slips
behind the waiting clouds.
In unfamiliar quiet,
the refrigerator hums
its cicada song from dusty coils.
Bone weary and worn
perhaps tomorrow rattles
in time to the rhythm.
Do you know?
Do you know it takes
one thousand three hundred and twelve
One thousand three hundred and twelve yards or
forty seven thousand two hundred and thirty two
of spun wool
to knit a sweater,
to knit a sweater that serves as daily armor for tender skin.
One thousand three hundred and twelve yards
of spun wool
and roughly forty-two hours
of meticulous stitches
designed to keep the cold air
from shocking raw nerves.
The human body
can feel over ninety thousand miles
Ninety thousand miles or
five billion seven hundred two million four hundred thousand inches
in one body.
wrapped in thin wool
to keep from feeling,
a bit too much.
Do you know
only five minutes?
Five minutes or
three hundred seconds
to unravel a knit sweater if
from the right place?
Five minutes of pulling from the right place
to make the armor
for ninety thousand miles of feeling
in one human body
NaPoWriMo, Day 30. Today’s Prompt: And for our final (optional) prompt, I’d like you to take your cue from Borges, and write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact. It could be an odd piece of history, an unusual bit of art trivia, or something just plain weird. While I cannot vouch for the actual accuracy of any of the facts presented at the links above (or any other facts you might use as inspiration!), I can tell you that there are definitely some poetic ideas here, just waiting for someone to use them.
Black duck egg green surrounded by blush
displayed like a medal of valor
from the weight of her body on cement
In the fissure of night,
stars draw at the edges of black
a waypoint on which the universe twists
An instant of black
the forewarning of rage
crosses his eyes.
The mind shuts, bath water advances
self-reflection becomes shrouded
by the retreat of the moon.
NaPoWriMo, Day 29 (one day to go)
Prompt: Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem based on the Plath Poetry Project’s calendar. Simply pick a poem from the calendar, and then write a poem that responds or engages with your chosen Plath poem in some way.
Contusion, by Sylvia Plath
Color floods to the spot, dull purple.
The rest of the body is all washed-out,
The color of pearl.
In a pit of a rock
The sea sucks obsessively,
One hollow thw whole sea’s pivot.
The size of a fly,
The doom mark
Crawls down the wall.
The heart shuts,
The sea slides back,
The mirrors are sheeted.
Dogs pat around the ordinary kitchen chair. Sounds of morning
push into the growing day where black coffee, steaming and bitter, transports me to uncountable sweet cappuccini and soft summer warmth; my hand in yours, glowing in the bloom of light– firm bodies, firm skin, firm resolve. From that cheap Roman hotel with blue linens, I scribbled a billet-doux on fine florentine stationary, the color of the sea, the sky, the color of your eyes, while he hovered like a warden over my shoulder– I was asking you to wait–Handing my sky-colored affection to the clerk, I said your name like an incantation, the warden’s mouth tightened with envy and mine with resentment, eyes hardened with enmity.
The bite of black coffee, unsoftened with foam.
In an ordinary drawer, on an ordinary morning, in my ordinary house, there’s a half-used box of fine florentine stationary, the color of the sea and sky, the color of your eyes, the color of my– dissent, waiting.
A reluctant servant to extraneity,
eschewing my place,
eyes raised toward the horizon,
pen pointing towards dirt,
I look to bright reflections
and secrets I can’t speak,
to craft some holy meaning
and borrowed light.
NaPoWriMo Prompt, Day Twenty-Seven: Following Lauren Hunter’s practice of relying on tarot cards to generate ideas for poems, we challenge you to pick a card (any card) from this online guide to the tarot, and then to write a poem inspired either by the card or by the images or ideas that are associated with it.
Acrid cold pushes the limits of patience,
pink nostrils flair, linings stinging
with each labored breath,
squint against the wind
heavy soles with a quickened pace
recoil, echoing against icy pavement–
A small thread of resolve remains
To remember a different place where golden motes ride
invisible currents in oblique light–
Where heat settles
on all sides, a husk,
offering no escape through
Where fingers are limber,
where skin pushes back with rills of sweat
sweeping warmth away in drop after trickle.
just for a moment,
cursing aching fingers,
Push forward —
into a fog
of green water and salt,
of cheap cloying sunscreen, of wet cement
whose shadows cling to frigid nerves.
Toes spread with muscle memory
in fine heated dust–
red grit settles in a film
defining tender curves on each ankle.
The air slows, with
of the weight of air on skin
the second before he reaches.
pulling her back
into the biting cold
Dismantling with it,
the moment before the flavor of flint and salt–
The heartbeat before
the flavor of dust
that had settled on the sheen of his flushed skin–
filled her mouth.
NaPoWriMo Prompt, Day Twenty-six: “Taking our cue from today’s craft resource, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that includes images that engage all five senses. Try to be as concrete and exact as possible with the “feel” of what the poem invites the reader to see, smell, touch, taste and hear”.
Warning: For use by qualified personnel only. Unit is sensitive to environmental noise. Crunching, mouth breathing, and gum snapping will result in unit emissions of negative cosmic rays that have yet to be tested in the laboratory for safety; electrical shock hazard may occur. Unit was not designed to function in low fuel mode, continued operation during low-fuel warnings has been known to create erratic results. The unit is comprised of many precise and carefully arranged parts and is detailed and elaborate in design; dissection, either literal or figurative is not suggested. Do not touch unit without express permission. Though, unit has been thoroughly tested for compatibility with alcohol, more than twelve ounces of French wine can result in laughter, which has been observed to devolve into incessant giggling and inappropriate language use. Unit has been known to irritate sensibilities with nattering about poetry, horses, and nihilism. The reset button can be found on the pelt of a friendly dog or at the bottom of an empty wine glass. Use at your own risk. The manufacturer assumes no liability for injury or harm caused by misuse as all claims have been discharged due to parent company’s moral bankruptcy. A complete list of known issues can be found by reading the unit’s middle finger, when in the upright position.
I can’t remember the exact moment
when I saw you last,
perhaps, it was in the chrome light of a spring,
or maybe it was summer,
or perhaps your silhouette was driving away
in an orange MG,
whose top wouldn’t fasten in the rain–
Or perhaps it was in dappled light
of an open breezeway, sunburned and salt kissed–
a quick hug goodbye
with plans for tomorrow.
That’s the thing with fate.
We don’t get
to mark the exact moment.
like a snapshot
is moment we first kissed in the
chrome light of the California afternoon–
with horses and clouds for a backdrop.
But, you left that summer
with bigger future plans that eclipsed kissing.
with a military regulation haircut
framing blue eyes.
Grown into your limbs–
but your beauty wasn’t clear to me
through the fog of awkward bluster,
I marked that moment with exasperation.
I marked the moment,
at the gas station,
when I handed you the only helmet.
Two-wheels, a short drive, sun-burnt,
I am vain.
I also marked the sickening sound
of helmet hitting steel.
After thirty-two years,
I can hear the reverberation through my chest–
I feel the heat-driven adrenaline and unforgiving pavement.
I marked the fear on your face
as we picked each other up off the road.
Hopeful for your encouragement,
I marked the moment,
bleary-eyed that I anticipated
your eyes, your knock,
with running shoes in hand.
Breezeway plans were waiting–
They still wait.
I marked the moment of that call,
later in the day,
dialed from a baby-blue push-button phone.
That moment ending in the sound of grief,
reverberating through my chest,
a sound my sixteen-years had never made–
a sound whose repetition I still dread.
I wonder when you made that leap,
If you marked the moment?
Did you know I’d be waiting running-shoes in hand?
Did you think of our first kiss,
or the moments cleared of fog
that could have been–
with horses and clouds as a backdrop?
Now, I mark each moment, small and big–
with allegiance to a name I cannot speak,
still ever wishing for your encouragement.
You taught me to look through the fog for beauty,
to be generous to a fault, and that sometimes duty eclipses kissing.
You taught me to be better, and
that we don’t always get a second chance.
See, that’s the thing with fate–
pearl earrings on
with stiff and thickening fingers
in the morning chill after dressing
a safe choice,
without flash, without imagination, without risk,
whispering endearments to the cat
and reaching for a second cup of coffee.
with muscle memory
know the size and shape
of these pearls,
they can pick them up blindly,
and fasten them into position.
A force of habit,
they are the repetition of knowing
the feel of your arm when we sleep
warm linen and me.
smart with movement
almost picked up different earrings today,
they are offended with the safety
they are appalled
with the alien pearl they found
on the aching left rib, that’s been protesting
the routine of dressing each day
whispering endearments to the cat
and you and me.
As water-colored orange fades into the
ink of twilight,
the stars rearrange themselves in the sky,
to expose their true selves
My beauty isn’t yours to take
bankrupt with avarice.
My voice is not dependent
on what you seek to hear,
nor are the pieces
of my ear
My beauty is
by my face, my breasts, my age.
in a voice
only I can hear
the relaxed laughter of
eyes glowing in twilight
only I can offer
as a dog stretches down
the arc of my back
It exists within.
Do other people think these thoughts,
decide on shoes,
Do other people
observe and note?
How do other people get from
A to B?
I am scared to make mistakes–
think of other people
parallel or incongruent?
How do people decide
how much to spend on shoes,
Do they, too, practice
ethnography of self-preservation
to note, observe, and think,
scared to make mistakes.
Let me be clear,
I cannot decide,
I cannot decide how much to spend.
To be clear
even with the right shoes,
parallel or incongruent
I am scared, I make mistakes.
Day 19 prompt via. Na/GloPoWriMo (link below):
Erasure/word banks can allow for compelling repetitive effects. Today we challenge you to write a paragraph that briefly recounts a story, describes the scene outside your window, or even gives directions from your house to the grocery store. Now try erasing words from this paragraph to create a poem or, alternatively, use the words of your paragraph to build a new poem.
Source paragraph: Do other people think these thoughts? How do other people get from thought A to thought B? How do people decide how much to spend on shoes? It seems like I devote an inordinate amount of time thinking of how people move through life, parallel or incongruent, where they get the right shoes to move through life, and how they manage to comprehend moving through life. This process is what I call ethnography of self-preservation. I observe and note and think and learn and go back to observation. I think I do this because I am scared to make mistakes. I’m pretty sure it started when I was young… Also, let me be clear, this method does not work. I have made many mistakes.
My mother has married
during my lifetime
or maybe seven.
Maybe seven men?
I don’t recall them all, but I see snapshots
in the back of my brain, faded Polaroids,
a disappearing Instagram feed
that refreshes too often to
remember all the names
of the seven men.
Of course, there were
other men too.
Men she didn’t marry,
men I cannot quantify.
Men who vaguely occupy
the edges of my consciousness.
Before the six men,
or was it seven?
I’m told there was
the perfect man.
The perfect man died too young
in a plane in a war where we shouldn’t have been.
Does that make is eight?
We shouldn’t be counting
At least, that’s what I’m told.
I’m also told, today I should
support politics and wars where I think we shouldn’t be
though, perfect men are dying.
Perhaps the number’s too large
and she can’t recall
the perfect man?
The perfect man who died too young
in a plane in a war
where we shouldn’t have been.
She married my father
after the lost perfect man.
He makes nine, I think.
She married him
to keep him from the war
where we shouldn’t have been,
The war that
birthed her heartache,
who’s twin which she supports
though it cost nine men
and the heart of a child.
It begins with a bow,
front-end deep and low,
a-wagging a greeting hello.
Then maybe a bark, or a snort, or
a snerf, and a circle of dogs
pile high in the turf.
Though it may look like chaos
to humans, so stiff,
there are strict rules enforced
that commence with a sniff.
The game doesn’t matter
all is takes is a shoe,
or a stick, or ball, or a rope
built for two, or
a ripe piece of garbage
retrieved without care.
Dog games are magic,
they’re beyond all compare.
One silly entry for day 16 of #NaPoWriMo
Diomedes, savage hawk, with the legacy of war boiling
from agnatic veins,
could be gentled to dormancy with
the measured step of a
Four strong, in his stable,
A loving father in his worst
manger chains of bronze and
brilliant hours swimming
in the Black Sea.
Prowess, personified, in
racing circles in fresh pastures,
throwing her sleek body
into the wind,
Intelligence reflected in
in dark soft eyes,
light bouncing from
her glowing pelt
spun from godly bronze.
A kings wealth was
who softly called at dusk,
to her kindred, the setting sun,
while standing watch until
her other sister, Dawn,
His favorite, was
answering to Id,
storm wild, teeth gnashing lead mare
confidence unrivaled and
devoid of deference,
even to him.
Daily, comb in hand,
eternal devotion on kingly lips
a song of everlasting care.
and mortals both
to keep them
near his breast.
In the end, the gods,
held him to his words.
in brutal rule,
he’d fed them,
not grain or grass
but human brawn.
So in his death,
he became not stallion,
but a mare
as they consumed his regal flesh
and begat a wild line of Id,
devoid of deference.
To dream of a
is a bitter draught.
on the tip of a wagging tongue,
where tannin depletes
To dream of a
is a cloying swallow.
in a heart stuck stagnant
where treacle reduces
To dream of a
is a diluted solution.
Action arrested in tepid intent
where ambivalence dominates
desire to persist
in full warm vitality
of life and
The smell of steel hangs
as dust, so dry,
squeaks beneath the rubber tread.
Fragile green beneath brittle
for hanging draft release
Leaden darkness builds
prairie’s pregnant swell.
rivulets fall black
heat evaporates water
before it alights
Over a shoulder,
reflected in the
of an aged
the reflection of
corrupt with the froth
feeding the brute
Once fiery words
diluted with the
fat of time
A spoon of
with effort to turn
in cobalt air
and blinding sky,
Rhythm, one–andtwo, one–andtwo echoing from the vacuum,
scattering dogs and dust in the wake of its voice.
One. hour. eight. minutes. on Sunday mornings.
my voice hums along, choking on errant debris and resentment.
Tallying time in my head.
one. hour. eight. minutes. times 52 weeks is fifty-six hours and sixteen minutes. one–andtwo, one–andtwo echoing from the vacuum, more time than I take for vacation in a year.
Mopping makes a different cadence, onetwo, onetwo, onetwo.
much quicker. splash-wring, quiet, swish
erasing history from the week written on the floors.
onetwo, onetwo is condensed to forty-one minutes.
The mop propels me forward, into what should be rather than is.
Searching nooks and crannies for hiding dirt and memories
of my mother doing housework. onetwo, onetwo
Too much effort. Back to math. One hour, forty-nine-minutes
times 52 weeks. Two times nine carry the one…
seventy seven hours 48 minutes times 10 years, divided by 24 hours
thirty-two full days and seven hours rounding up. Lost.
Picking up the dust rag and banishing the math
I know I can expect at least three more hours of work,
before he arrives home from golf with the cursory questions
of what’s for dinner and how was my day.
And I will lose the words, and math, that form the rhythm of my Sunday
and tuck away, until next week,
the ninety-seven days, or three and a quarter months,
I have spent scrubbing, to remove the detritus that bitters our daily lives.
Spiritual gospel folk
harmony melody meter,
it matters not
from a mouth by rote
as you would say,
Resonance arrangement accompaniment
her clear voice
calls the river
borne of suffering
to travel deeper
through ears mind heart,
it matters not
as you would say,
Calla Lilies used to grow
from the light within her eyes
but fast-moving clouds swallowed the sun,
In their place,
in dark heavy groves,
demanding and dense.
Where, water is sparse,
remaining patches of
barren soil cry, with pain,
abraded by daily wind.
But there are days,
where the moon
Peering from windows,
blurred with hot steam
from pots thick soup and children’s’ breath,
she can see
the specter of lilies
emerge from icy ground
surrounded by towers
of sugared evergreen.
In that brief moment
they all feel a shift,
and for one small second,
the sun is restored.
I had the drowning dream again.
Black tepid water,
lung-aching, eye-bulging, head-crushing
until the very
The rush of cold air,
as I sit up startled clawing for light,
hits my body
psychic water or terror
In the logic of the morning
why the shock of hitting water
never wakes my
act of swallowing
my last breath
fatigue, unshakable, unliftable,
staunch. Is how
fathomless grief borne
by a familiar
Jeering and disorderly, adolescent words tumble about in incoherence; ambivalent, they care not about the exertion it takes to groom them into orderly thoughts. They are strong enough to stand alone, unlike me, as the added value of expanded meaning is only peripheral to their existence.
Well-behaved numbers march across
the screen day-after-day
in boxes, in rows, in columns, in lines,
conjuring the impossible.
In their daily parade,
it’s a longing
for the comfort of discipline
this ordered alchemy to the
churning, chaotic, disheveled state
of my very ordinary being.
and warm, sometimes sticky,
used to puzzle-piece fit
into my palm with ease.
Large exploring eyes
looked to me
for obscure answers to the
difficult question of
But hothouse flowers
in the hot prairie sun
hand and eyes.
early summer pumpkin vine
to create green
outside my repertoire of answers.
electric with dread,
a forced conversation
each week, for eternity,
by a sinking heart.
I carry a wrap of stars
and mask of indifference
You pretend to be big,
you surround yourself
with a guise
But the universe
is divulged, without fail,
into the cosmos.
After we speak.
My morning commute…