ONCE

I’ve heard sometimes
the only way out is through
where there are no safe places
but outside your head and
you wanna be brave
because you wanna be known
because you don’t wanna be scared
that all the faces will never come off

Touch him
Tell him it’s not him
Name him
Silence wakes into a bass drum
slow and smooth and hard
He names you too
He touches you
Transparent sets of hands
maybe that kind
reaches you finally-
dropping out with a voice this time
leave it up to me this time

Let’s be beautiful once

a shared vacancy
is all I can ask for

and even then that’s not enough

Is it

to keep away the sleep

This is the damage you
have to swallow

Weren’t we beautiful once

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Kinda Sounds Like Love

My notions of love-

I thought you had to do

something to get it,

borrow it and

give it back-swallow

it whole until

it finishes

and leaves you.

I named this hunger.

It sounds something kinda

like love;

I can see my reflection

in mirrors and rivers and

moving things–

for the first time.

I had to be my own

first witness

after and even during

the burning of becoming,

the burning of relaxing

my fists to palms,

giving away definitions

of self love.

Look at her

look at me

in the wings

and

on the stage,

giving away

old love notes

and hand grenades.

Something to Be Said

Before I began to heal,

I wasn’t angry–

no, I couldn’t touch that

because that required will

and a kind of passion

to move.

You gotta outsmart

your wounds

and that is where

I began burning.

Trauma doesn’t run

its course and

return you.

You don’t bloom from it.

You bloom in spite of it.

And there is something to be said about a body that keeps moving.

Are You Somewhere?

for Isaac

 

I’m sending
a homeless
man with a
shopping cart
poems about emptiness.

“Are you somewhere
warm?”

“On the outside.
I’m crying and you’re
sending me yellow faces.”

I am somewhere at odd hours
Listening to the furnace kick
And a coffee pot
gurgle and hiss.
Warm?
Isn’t that our difference-

I carry hope like a young
heart does heat.
And you dropped
yours in a gutter,  knowing better.

Drops

and it comes back down

to the same thing

every time I remember to look,

habit heavy in my chest,

searching for the left over words

of old familiar songs

but most things feel pretty foreign,

lovers and loves and friends long gone.

 

I’ll circle all around you,

give you what I got, that’s fine

but I let and let it’s suffocating

when I’m quiet all the time.

 

These bones feel like water.

I want that stone anchored in the sea.

I want to scoop it up and touch

its skin, my own burns

too much these days.

 

 

 

(artwork found on Pinterest…)

Let and Let and Let

 

It is just you. And a pulse. And breath.

 

-Jung said to be alone

to find what supports you

when you can no longer

support yourself

can give you an

indestructible foundation.-

 

Love doesn’t exist

when it cannot get in or out-

this much I know.

There are degrees of loss and a kind of

bottoming out

when you give too much

take from yourself too much

let too much

cowering from yet hovering over

your gutted pearl–your silence

a shell in the ocean

you try to fill. Read More

Noise Pulled into Notes

“Still, we ignite anyway,
becoming love in
a time of fire, almost
touching our lost
fingers in a collapsing
swirl of sparks—”

–from Brendan’s poem “Love in a Time of Fire”

I’ve been sitting on these words, so many words, and I have been lost on them and yet breathing them for too many seasons. Brendan’s poem above unblocked me, so here goes a start to what I am centering around:

 

 

It’s Just You. And a Pulse. And breath.

 

Carl Jung said

“The highest and most decisive experience of all…to be alone with one’s own self…whatever you choose to call the objectivity of the psyche…the patient must be alone if he is to find out what it is that supports him when he can no longer support himself. Only this experience can give him an indestructible foundation.”

I have been spending the last several months to maybe even since last winter when I wrote an essay about a little black flower, Papa Hemingway, and the circles we center around and travel and leave lost footsteps around. Here’s a clip:

“…Walcott’s old and tired voice deep in my own chest it seemed as he read: ‘I broke my own heart too. It’s broken and gone…you were my little black flower…’   And just like that, breathing was suddenly harder to do. My throat hurt, my eyes stung. I stopped walking. I stood there on the sidewalk staring into a sort of what I call a “shiver” of what was keeping me—a glimpse. Emotions rolled to the surface and my heart continued a forgotten ache. That line, that one line (I bit my glove off and replayed the audio) “I broke my own heart, my little black flower…”  The tears were a relief and I walked home with a hole in my chest. I replayed it over and over, pacing the warm wood floors, an eagerness growing in my body….”

Later in the essay I wrote “love doesn’t exist when it cannot get in or out-what keeps you are the black petals surrounding your center–and those petals are what you had left out of all that you had and lost , that kept you going.” –They are the pieces of you you spent your life giving away, letting, and taking from, cowering from yet hovering over your gutted pearl someone took from you and threw into the ocean, leaving you the shell sucking up silence like the ocean–an emptiness you would forever try to fill, your identity and worth words others use freely towards their own foundation.  You spend a lot of time losing yourself in what you thought you would be versus what you had become, and then that black flower dies and blooms again wild and new, into what you are becoming–constantly becoming. I am my own Black Flower. We all are.

I thought I had to find love from someone to fix this. To be the something that would pull the noise I am into notes. But love never belonged to me as my own, so I put it in a box-designed, painted, framed and absolute–so absolute that I couldn’t fit inside it right–loose in all that room. I thought love meant something was wanted from me that I couldn’t part with because there were so few pieces left. I was too small for what I Read More

Apartment B around Back

Here’s a poem for Jody Kennedy’s photo for the Ekphrasis Challenge at Rattle :

(sharing with the Tuesday Platform at the fantastic and much missed by me Imaginary Garden with Real Toads poetry blog):

 

img_8011
Jody Kennedy Photography

Apartment B Around Back

 

 

On brighter blue Fall mornings

Agnes’s emptiness lays itself

out across the shitty sofa, inhales a Newport

with the bald sun coming in bloating the smoke

into still clouds striated by the blinds,

and tells her to go fuck herself.

There is laundry to do.

 

Always laundromats on stale, sexless mornings

leafless dead branches all thin and lonely

fencing in how small the world is

across the blue sky like gates;

always laundromats for these days-brown and shitty

7/11-salmon el Caminos parked on pale asphalt,

everything bleached out. The kind of day

where her emptiness usually gets up and

follows her in a stiff pea coat down the sidewalk

on the other side of the street, matching her steps,

never looking at her.
Agnes shifts out of her blue wool sweater

she scored at Vinny’s on the third of the month,

peels down the leggings with

the hole in the crotch

and can’t recall opening any condom hours before. Read More

I’m Burning I’m Becoming

Self Exam in the Mirror Down the Hall

All I wanted was the shadow

of your fingers

and cold eyes to kind of soften as

I gather my wounds in this tulip

and with you I would say

here

here

enter and close me up

 

I waited in your room

like this, folding and unfolding

my fingers over my palms as if it were

the tulip opening and closing,

bearing witness to my wounds

you know so much about,

and each time I closed them, I saw

a sort of smooth scar spreading

over old hacksaw stitches.

 

The clock ticking as it

pushed into impossible hours.

You are not coming, love.

And I swear I saw out the window an old comet

disappearing behind the horizon of the place

I fear this kind of shit goes—this intimacy, or the

promise of budding in Spring in this town

that never grows–just mud and dead-ends

and bent telephone poles.

 

This morning I have too much coffee

because my chest hurts.  The bright

rooms feel vacant, even disturbed somehow,

as if they have spent the night with me and woken up

hung over and filmed, my old whore petticoats

dimmed and faded blushes.

 

I look down into my hands and cup

them and close them and imagine little

black tulips hiding their centers,

not from me, but from the world.

From love. Rejection does this.

 

And I keep waking up at odd hours

in a box made out of black flowers that press

panic down into me

–an old panic, the kind that happens

when people leave.

 

And there’s his voice

repeating in my head

speaking in another language
and then nothing,

the silence plucking

sadness from me like grapes.

 

The chest pain I allow;

I switch to black tea

and cigarettes; to looking

into myself in the quiet noon saying

here

here I am

enter and close me.

 

You can’t cut a heart out of someone

if you’re not holding it.

 

Forget Your Personal Tragedy

 

Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it–don’t cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist–but don’t think anything is of any importance because it happens to you or anyone belonging to you.

-Hemingway

Tell Me Where Did You Sleep Last Night

The Wolf

I first saw him when I painted the library black. Space Black” from Sherwinn Williams. Black lamps, black shades, black shelves, black desk and chair, black frames, black pictures. Radiohead’s A Wolf at Your Door” was playing. The only song I couldn’t stop playing. I was manic, keeping myself awake with speed and caffeine because when I shut my eyes the voices came. And when I shut my eyes during the day there was the black creature with a red eye behind my dead grandmother’s armchair long ago given away, house sold. But it was there, on that brown carpet behind the green back, watching near the outlet in the wall. Just a flash. But a flash is enough when it comes to that shit. He was hungry in my paint brush. He was angry. He was at the apex of his prowl.

Or maybe it was before that. Yes. On the rooftop in a bigger city, high on Ecstasy.
Alisha spinning around me in her magenta-red hair and Dropkick Murphy’s t-shirt, singing her love for me. The stars had heartbeats. She kissed my lips. I giggled to hide my terror of the existential leap I was imagining myself taking to the sidewalk. Still wet with cum from the guitar player, rocking on the rough shingles of the roof. This was my third trip and this time my chest was beating wild, my body electric, hers far away and too fucked up to save me.
Then after the painting extravaganza, years after the nights in the mental ward squeezing my sweaty sheets in my fists and praying the Hail Mary” over and over as fast as I could, in case that might work. In case that might save me.
And for years the beast slept. He hibernated as I read my way through brain disorders and chemistry, how-to books and my own pen scratching out my secrets on napkins and notebooks. I had all this energy building, and it came in the ink, it came in the walks I forced myself to take, the dreams I forced myself to forget, the memories I forces myself to accept.
He stirred.

I stirred.

As I started touching the world again with new fingers, something fierce swelled in my chest like a tight balloon. I adjusted and I made more space for it, and it filled my body. I saw the eyes in the mirror–mine–but his.

I met him in the form of a man constructed of straight lines, code, discipline, and the beauty of geometric figures. Cold. Ruthless. Aggressive. Wild. I saw my nature in his words. Just words but all these eloquent words, I gained my nerve, my own sharpness came into focus, my body singing alive, my brain all electric. He had become my 8-Ball. I stretched him across my chest and let myself come through it. And there I was. A woman. He had to go then. I had what I needed–validation that I was of substance.

The wolf follows my heart. My fucked up, dirty, clean, curious, submissive, dominant, angry, wild heart. I thought those things were nouns and I had to live them. I thought I was the stained bed sheets. I thought I was only the experience of leaping off the levee into the waters. I thought I was a creature giving my vulnerability in exchange for release and power. I thought I was the pills I swallowed. I thought I was the diagnosis in the bin. I thought I was an anger. I thought I was the rain that fell on my chucks when I searched for peace in the woods. I thought I was the den to the very wolf I was.
We are creatures–our geometry bottled and shaken. I am a mess. I am in love with the world in my teeth. I will keep my fangs and my instincts about me.

“My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me, tell me where did you sleep last night. In the pines, in the pines, where the sun don’t ever shine, I will shiver the whole night through…”


Self-Exam

All I wanted was the shadow

of your fingers

and cool eyes to kind of soften as

I gather my wounds in this tulip

and with you I would say

here

here

enter and close me up

 

I waited in your room

like this, folding and unfolding

my fingers over my palms as if it were

the tulip opening and closing,

bearing witness to my wounds

you know so much about, and then each time I

closed them, I saw a sort of smooth scar spreading

over old stitches, and the new ones

blended so well in these new petals.

Read More

I Know About Love

“I broke my own heart too. It’s broken and gone. Everything I believed in and everything I cared about I left for you because you were so wonderful and you loved me so much that love was all that mattered. Love was the greatest thing, wasn’t it? Love was what we had likeabossHemingwaythat no one else had or could ever have and you were a genius and I was your whole life. I was your partner and your little black flower. Slop. Love is just another dirty lie. Love is ergoapiol pills to make me come around because you were afraid to have a baby. Love is quinine and quinine and quinine until I’m deaf with it. Love is that dirty aborting horror that you took me to. Love is my insides all messed up. It’s half catheters and half whirling douches. I know about love. Love always hangs behind the bathroom door. It smells like Lysol. To hell with love. Love is you making me happy and then going off to sleep with your mouth open while I lie awake all night afraid to say my prayers even because I know I have no right to any more. Love is all the dirty little tricks you taught me that you probably got out of some book. All right. I’m through with you and I’m through with love. Your kind of pick-nose love. You writer.”

–from Hemingway for his first love; read by Derek Walcott at New York Public Library (“Hemingway and the Caribbean“)–well worth the listen. This part was my favorite thought. It sorta choked me up one winter morning when I was walking.

With Wild Wolves Around You

“Petals”

A Memoir Excerpt Published Here at Two Drops of Ink

Note: This is a vignette from my memoir-in-progress, Small Parts. This piece is part of a chapter early on in the memoir-a scene of myself with my biological father before I left for another city with my mother and abusive stepfather. That abuse resulted in suffering from Complex Trauma/Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder and dissociation for a large part of my life. A loss of the self, and the rebuilding of a woman. The memoir is in vignettes and disordered prose, mirroring how my mind works.

 BY AMY SPRAGUE

 

 I fish for the knife in the pocket of my dirty overalls and slice at Barbie’s pretty blue eyes, so they open. I sit and poke little holes where her pupils are, and then I saw at her ratty hair. I lick my bottom lip, almost got it. A pleasure fills me.

“Amy!” Nikki dashes out of the white hamper of a farmhouse, the screen door slamming shut. I throw the doll, stash the knife in my pocket, and leap out of the lilacs in time to see her break across the dirt driveway for the grass. I know she is heading for the apple trees.  The swing.

Lunch must be over because Gramma Helen walks out after, pressing her wrist to her lower back, her heavy arms tan against the white apron she always wears.

“Amy Jo, I know you was out here in them flowers again,” but I have no time for her, it’s my turn for the swing.

“Daddy John says he’ll push you now!” Nikki squeaks with excitement. I can hear the zip-zip of her corduroy pant legs racing ahead of me, but I know she’ll save it for me even if she wins.

The swing is made out of a splintered, soft wood with thinning yellowed ropes knotted beneath it, reaching up to the boughs of the crab apple tree. It creeks when I swing and the pink apple blossoms shake down like snow to
the green grass my bare feet dangle over. I pick at the unraveling cords and notice the fresh grass stains on my knees around a medium-sized hole I had managed to make in the pant leg. I want to pretend it’s not there, that it will go unnoticed at home. Read More

La Loba

 

My mother collected the pieces

one by one

in the desert, the sand and skulls

cutting at her feet.

The Bone Mother, they call her,

La Loba

La Que Sabe

the Wild Woman.

Piece by piece she collected

the bones of the wolf,

her ratty cloak sweeping the dunes

behind her, her weathered fingers

clutching those indestructible pieces,

never resting until each one was accounted for.

Patience, she’d whisper to me at night

My love, you’re going to need patience

as I lost count of the scars

as I lost another piece slipping

out the window toward the moon.

Once she found the very last bone, the paw,

she’d take them to a fire, lay them

in place, raise her arms, and sing. Read More

If Death Were a Woman

poetry for and inspired by Imaginary Garden with Real Toads

–free-write, first draft, just going for what I see…

 


IF DEATH WERE A WOMAN


 

She will come for me

like words do when they wake

me from dreams, printed

in my mind’s eye, an inkblot of

the perfect image, the perfect metaphor,

the perfect motif, the perfect theme,

the clearest point.

 

She will wear a black dress

that moves like it’s in oil, her figure

slight and round and complete;

her dark eyes will summon me

outside, to a garden, so dark the night

will be that it is almost purple.

 

The moonlight will reflect on one thing–

an orchid tall and splendid

and she’ll take me by her warm, bony hand

and lead me on in front of her,

“touch it” her deep, quiet voice will command.

 

Death will know herself.

Death will be confident, with the grace

only aged women know.

 

I will feel like Alice through the looking glass,

and I’ll tiptoe up to it, my white nightgown

clinging to my naked frame--had I been sick? I’ll wonder.

I’ll feel the sweat trickle down my neck

like some heat-maddened moth, and I’ll

suddenly be anxious and afraid.

 

Death, permeating

everything fine, will tip up my chin

when I turn, and her eyes will

have yellow flecks like mine,

we share a scar beneath the left brow.

 

“Touch it.”

 

My nature has always been

not to disappoint, but this time

I am not willing to please-

and Death knows this, so her presence

will embolden me to embody

my own grace

and I will move my pale fingers

into the moon beam

and touch the orchid’s round center,

down into its curving dip.

 

“What do you wish to say?” Death will ask.

 

I will look to her again.

The orchid’s reflection glowing in her

irises–I will be bewitched. And see

she has smudged eyeliner on, and

her lips are fading.

Her dress that had moved like oil

will be disappearing into a white shift that seems

transparent but slowly

filling. The wrinkles that had been there

will start to trickle

and run down her face like

ink,

 

and I suddenly will remember

the words that had woken me

all those nights out of all those

nightmares and dreams–I’ll see

them in the ink of her tears

 

“What do you wish to say, Amy?”

her low voice is not asking,

only guiding

 

I will turn back and step closer

to the flower, the moon’s light

blinding on my shift that

will seem to be fading

into something dark, something

beautiful–black, somehow, moving as if in oil.

 

My words will be printed on its petals;

a fine script emerging as I bend nearer

there they will be–the point.

 

The clearest point.

 

 

(*wow, where the hell did that come from? Interesting write, Real Toads!!)

Reinvent Yourself Endlessly

Every time a professor asked me or my peers what my poems meant–I never quite knew how to answer. They’re comments led me around and around the center of how I always felt about it but couldn’t word,  I just acted like I already knew. That’s why it was written–those were the words to what it was, what the truth to me was. It’s not that I didn’t know but that my body or mind seems to piece things together with words and images before I can catch up. My first poem I ever wrote was Vapor in 2005. And I’ve held onto it. It’s even been published. That poem still holds true–it’s some kind of core belief I have but I didn’t have a rope down into that well to truly grasp it. I am writing to you guys tonight because this is happening again in a way–I don’t know what I am thinking until I write it down; I have to write to a someone, and I hold you guys with affection, because I am not willing to write to just myself. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my honest attempt to stop escaping myself. Because I try to be as honest as I can on nights like these. I’m so tired, but I can’t stop feeling words that are coming that I am trying to prepare for. I’m not eating, I’m not sleeping. This is what happens every time before something real is written, and I don’t know what it is but I know my fingers will type it out for me.

Everything I have written so far–planning my grand, tragic memoir–is/was really, I am realizing, a desperately structured narrative so I could validate it the events, find order in the chaos, and so I could actually feel for the girl in the story because I have a hard time doing that for myself. Or I did. That’s changing. I am changing, and everything I’ve written–none of it is going into whatever it is that I am compelled and pulled to write. What pulls at me has been pulling for almost a decade, but it’s even stronger now, the words waiting, because I have been watching it unfold and the words only gradually come.  Call those vignettes, that attempted narrative structure, a healing process, call it a coping mechanism, call it a perceived truth (as all truths seem to really be), it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because how I write it and how I remember it has been two different worlds. The memories and images, feelings (mostly physical, body feelings, frozen emotional states of the past, etc.) and events of course are as true to myself as I can be. But my life is not a linear, chronological tale-it is a history of flashes out of order. And the flashes are what I look to when I write, involving my one fail-safe–my senses and body memories. I’m more tied to the smell of lilacs, tractor oil, Old Spice, the weeds along the path to the baseball games I went to all summer when I was a girl, the milkweed, trains, the iron ore at the dock, old books, the perfume I wore when I was being abused, the feel of water and wet skin on me, physical alarms and instinct, than I am tied to actual happenings or events. And that is a blunt truth: dissociating your whole life–you live in fragments, just like how I remember it. And I have changed and do so constantly into something that makes me feel alive–and I never really felt alive before, not for this long of a period. I am in love with the simplest things like blue, deaf mornings in the winter, the way the telephone wires reflect in puddles, the smell of a storm coming, white seagulls on dark clouds Read More

And Your Face, in the Mirror?

This is a poem structure of Louise Gluck’s, I copied the italics and answered the questions my way, and in this new draft, I am contrasting my old perspective when I wrote this with my perspective now. It has changed drastically-since the first draft of this poem two years ago. You can read the first, old draft here, from when I was in that dark space. Now for the new one:

 

“Are you healed or do you only think you’re healed?”

I told myself it is

terrible and beautiful

to survive.

Believing it might make me so,

with whatever limitations I

guided myself by.

 

 

“But can you love anyone yet?”

I slipped across mirrors,

always mirrors.

I was only yet learning

my reflection, a face

I didn’t know.

 

 

“But will you touch anyone?”

 

I told myself

if I have nothing,

that’s what comes back.

I touched my body

in the mirror,

examined its rounds

and edges, the skin

an …other. Read More

Constant State of Flux

A hot summer evening, hot enough

to lay my tireless, unending head

on the pillow for its coolness;

thunder cracking down

my avenue

and the rain slanting in sideways, wetting

the paisley curtains.

Somewhere out in that dark the pine

that surrounds me soaks.

 

These nights I am not climbing up

the roots of forgotten things,

I am not clawing

for something solid to breathe my air into,

the old familiar ache of

wanting to feel through my own skin so hard

that I push through like a broken bone

 

because I am here, in a

constant state

of awakening, sometimes only to another dream

only to wake up again

and I stand in the mirror across the room,

and the lightning

floods the black kitchen

and I see a flash of my eyes in the reflection

–my image, so alive that it’s white

heat snags the clouds in a jolt.

There is a calm that never seems to tire,

embedded in my veins, the blood flowing

and I wait

for my mind to revert towards the habits

of self negligence and fear

 

but I am a cyclical rhythm

that sustains itself

and I know a small part in me believes

that I have won something with

my own two hands and tampered mind

when I had had no hands to grip with–

a blind privacy and a last call out to the only thing left

 

my will

 

I had left for dead in the gutter,  camouflaged in an alley

as elegant graffiti, crumbling brick, a broken phone booth–

the shards of glass scattered out across the pavement

and potholes–

    “did you see the moon? in the pieces of glass?”   my will asks me

“I wasn’t looking down,”     I reply

      “so then you looked up and saw the moon instead, love?”  my will is relentless

“No, I tired of dreaming. Hold it up to my face, the glass, and see if I shake,”

         My will  smiles, “straight ahead then, love, beaten and brighter…”

 

And my daughter is asleep tucked away

in the corner of the house;

the coffee is off,

and the flowers I just planted

out in the window-box

are getting beaten but maybe brighter;

it is enough to have these nights.

 

We are not born with a religion in our mind.

We are not born with a narrative or a script.

Tell me you have the courage

to scrawl across your own body

the tattoo of your story,

and would you let someone read it?

 

 

 

*image Noell Oszvald

The Gray Areas

 d550914740a6da1814e934fe173e16b7

My post after considering “Kerry’s Word Family Post” at Real Toads.

I am going to run with this idea because there are two things I want to write about (and each one is a prompt from someone or someplace else).  I am going with an ambiguous scene between two potential lovers, also using the word family of “Ambiguous.”

here goes, not sure what I’m going to do ….first draft :

We are in that grey area aren’t we, I am asking. In the beginning it was easy-applying the hard fact of you to a tender space in my toughened gut, not as a salve, but as if it had belonged, all along. And I question now if what had belonged all along is really only the part of me you brought out, and I hadn’t seen it. And to resemble what is in your eyes–that is something.

Calculated and cool, punctual and all equations, coming through the theater doors up the aisle from me, I see your dark silhouette from this empty stage with the curtains left open for you  –the dancer sitting at the lip of the stage, shoes off, hair undone, audience dispersed, incandescent lighting turned to the stark overheads that show every blemish, every wrinkle. You see me this way and I hold my breath, the ever-present fear a lover will see nothing and you have made up an illusion, a self-evident pill you must swallow that you may have stopped being honest with yourself. It happens, when you depend on someone to charm you–as you age the real charm is the ambiguity and complexity of being an honest, real, flawed, disordered, loud, quiet self.

I see myself clearly through your eyes, and as I am only learning to love and appreciate what I have become by my hand’s design, you, though have I never admitted, have rendered me speechless and swelling when
you value my worth in comments you do not realize you are making–as if you know deeply that I already know these things–that I am smart, that I understand, that I …am maybe beautiful. We do not question each other, but challenge only ourselves. To be better.

You move toward the stage and then it is not a stage but we are on a steady plane and no one else is there, dropping my notions of romance and love long ago, I merely want to be seen as an equal, exposing every scar, every embarrassment, every vulnerability, every secret of a strength to you. Not for you. To you. And that is the difference–your reactions are yours and I am not to be measured by them. I am not asking you to accept me, I am saying this is me, these are the facts, these are the equivocations of all I’ve been through, all I’ve felt, and beneath those there is much more, as the evidence cannot lie, and maybe

maybe,

maybe you’d like to see what happens within a mind and body when it decides what to do with all these fragments and parts that make up my mind and heart. Maybe you are curious how I love. You missed the recital. But maybe.

I’ve watched you watch me for a while now. And we still circle the arena, perhaps both a little too cautious for something that feels far too good.  And this distance, and stance, I find I am not pulling myself together because myself is this solid thing now, sutured together at the many people I thought I was. And you’re the first person that sees me. You see me. And it’s enough to catch my breath, knowing I am not invisible. That I am somebody.

And the dance of words begins, every secret we tell is behind the letters–hidden in word placement in the sentence, in the alliteration and roots, in the tone of voice, in the cadence, in the best words not chosen so as not to reveal too much.

I cannot tell where these conversations stop and I start; I cannot tell if you worded my mind into collective adjectives or if I want to kiss you.

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Baba Marta

For Brendan’s prompt at Real Toads.  It took me awhile to really chew on this one. Good one, Brendan! I chose an interesting combo of Plath and the Slavic goddess/demon Morana:

I inhabit the wax image of myself, a

Doll’s body. Sickness begins here; I am

A dartboard for witches.

–Sylvia Plath

 


BABA MARTA

 

They burned dolls of Morana, Baba Marta,

tired of

her winter

her death

her nightmares she breathed into the children

pressing their chests and stealing their breath,

crippling their faith, their little bodies–

her dark hair spreading

around their beds like night.

 

 

I burn her in such winters-

a landscape of old-whore petticoats,

my many faces. My many bodies.

She haunted me in mirrors with her

cracked face, cackling and blinking eyes–

waxen lashes sweeping.

 

Morana in my dreams, bringing a kind of death

to an old part of me, where sickness began

and pressed my chest.

A sleeping winter she taunts.

 

 

Baba Marta doesn’t know

I have passed the fear of broken faces,

waxen doll limbs and pulled out hair.

I saw her in the mirrors and creeks

I used to hide in.

Baba Marta doesn’t know

I let her do it now

so she doesn’t feel bad.

 

The dartboard for witches

has become a board I write poetry on,

my black ink bleeding her away

from this body I have become.

morenaslavic

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pages

This body’s breath
caught sharp and held

I hold it and like water
it escapes my fingers and spills
over my toes
when I am thirsty
asking too much from my body
when I am not enough

I give it tea and fruit and poisons
I exhale the fumes of the vices
herbal or smoky and fine
licking at these wet fingers
that let a pen scratch
let a word be plucked
from a curl of steam

this body’s breath
will learn it can’t hold what is borrowed

and maybe then stop
cupping and drinking
hold and take nothing
it’s enough just to breathe

let the vices unthread from the seams
of the spine into origami wings
taking flight in paper vees
and leave me in the water
enough

 

 

 

Real Toad’s Saturday prompt on “Remains”

Beyond the Border/Hamsa

(published in Frigg Magazine 2014)

HAMSA

The pop and snap of prescription pill bottles,

swallow, light, inhale, scrape of the chair,

cluster of tap-tap-taps on the keys, a silence—

beyond this room, beyond this wall

I can almost hear you—the soil

sifting, seeds spreading out, dry in your palm;

folds of light robes around you like

birds’ wings—your child

asleep on your warm back,

your sky a sea, an earth, a breath

 

because you’re there I’m less anxious

(as I palm another pill) because I rely

on sedated time I sit in my chair,

lost somewhere before the border,

where I see myself later—aged and worn away—

walking to you, palms up.

 

“Here, here I am…” only you aren’t waiting

for me, time is something else to you—

so I see I don’t have to tell you

where I’ve been or why I am here

but that I’ve arrived

out of the cement tomb.

I see there are no distractions in the sky;

the rise and fall of my chest is all,

seas of breath and I am.

 

I know the scent of your skin,

the feel of your warm, bent back

beneath my body, I know necessity.

 

I will arrive

when I am not so afraid of myself.

When I am not so sick.

I will cross into the motherland.

I will go home.

I will leave what I’ve built behind and

I will take my place

among the living.

 

I can hear you beyond this room.

 

 

 

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Healing

Before I began to heal,

I wasn’t angry

I couldn’t touch it

because that required will

and a kind of

passion to move.

You gotta outsmart

your wounds

and that’s where I started

burning.

Trauma doesn’t

run its course

and return you.

You don’t bloom from it.

You do inspite of it.

And there is something

to be said about a body

that keeps moving.

Mood

October

Nikki and Jodie today’s always a bit rough. Love you guys. “yous girls”
For my sisters. 
Sometimes I wonder if, 

Besides your features

And your hands, 

I inherited other things

From you –

Like how sometimes I’m shyly afraid, 

Like how sometimes I escape myself

Like how I love spring and apple blossoms 

Like how maybe I’m afraid of rejection too. 
I wonder if at your funeral

I cried for myself instead

Not the beer tabs and pennies 

Found in your empty house,

Tears I didn’t mean to cry. 
I guess I think about how

I’d be different 

How I would’ve kept myself 

Instead of losing things. 

The entire act of sorrow-

I cry for myself again-

Because it hits like parts

Of my past without you

That are best forgotten 

But also traced over scars

That mean I made it. 
It’s the anniversary of you dying

Like leaves
If you were here would I be different 

Would I be braver

And a little stronger,

Little bit healthier 

Little more ok
I’m alright dad,

I found what I lost. 

But in October 

I wonder how it’d feel

To see your hands I see

When I look at my own

Maybe holding me for a sec. 
In some kind of different season

The act of sorrow 

I remember as your life 

Was maybe easier when you disappeared. 

I wonder if that’s how forgiveness works –

Not an end of grief

But a slipping away in early

Morning hours

And my own return to you

In my own early morning hours 

When I Remeber you.