the fall air, too humid still, sticks to my skin
and my hand opens, palming the quarters off
to the starbucks barista. i am 34 years old and
still pay with change for my coffee, for my ikea
lingonberry drink, for my cigarettes. i hate
the smell of the money on my fingers,
that metallic residue that carries with it
the hands of countless unknown others,
the scent of leather wallets, pocketbooks,
the soft flimsy material that is supposed to
pass for pockets in womens jeans, barely
large enough to fit my hand at all. the bills
are bad enough, that dingy green paper,
but the coins are the worst, and i can’t
wait to get wherever it is that i’m going,
to rid myself of the sticky fingerprints,
to erase the reek of metal from flesh,
to wash the smell of blood off my hands.
We were locked out of the gate
but we didn’t mind, and settled
for our mediocre jobs and childless
houses. Our wombs were not empty
so much as inaccessible, a sign hung
on the outside that read NO ENTRANCE
like a section of the museum they had
been renovating. People come and peek
past the red velvet rope, wondering
when the new exhibit would open,
not knowing the museum director
had already fled, saddled up her horse
and rode herself off into the sunset,
grinning as she flew past the crows.
i wait for the ear plug to expand in my canal
after the first time, it’s hard to get a good seal.
my shoulders ache despite morning yoga
like rubbing your belly and patting your head
i can either breathe, or i can move,
but not both, not at the same time.
the ear plugs are for when i can’t bear
the whoosh of the air conditioner
the phone with its digital ringtone
the tin-can radios, talk-show droning,
cowboy twanging, disney theme songs.
i take a step towards the doorway,
pause and breathe, then take another step
lock myself in the bathroom for an hour,
staring at my face in the tiny round mirror
that is hung too high. a disembodied head
with shadows under half-lidded eyes,
compressed purple foam in my ears
–it fills an empty space for now.
i am tired of lessons
tired of the stillborn
tired of incurable young kids
tired of the smell of death
on the highway
where they haven’t moved
the corpse of an animal
for six days
i am told they are teaching souls,
the ones who die young.
what kind of lesson
am i supposed to learn
from a dead baby deer
on the side of the road
what kind of lesson
am i supposed to learn
from a baby blue with
an umbilical cord
wrapped around its neck
things that get the life taken from them
before they can even open their eyes
maybe it’s just my birthday
coming up in my throat
the palpable feeling of decay
that everyone walks around with
and tries to ignore
maybe it doesn’t mean anything.
maybe it’s trying to tell me
that i’m better off.
i’m not sure which is worse.
my mind is a denizen of the sky–
when i try to inhabit my body i am
disgusted. my head is a reference
for my mind. when i inhabit my head
it splits open with thought, not being.
i am ungrounded yet still tethered,
my heart beats but does not make
a sound. i bury it in salt each night
to keep it intact. when the light comes,
i am under the sheets and shivering
a dead butterfly caught in my throat.
a spider tries to follow, and i swallow.
i would say to the stars, give me wisdom
or give me death, but they are already
dead, and their ghosts laugh as they
shine down on my emptiness.
some days i can’t keep my head atop
my shoulders, and let it roll off, into
the weed-choked ditch. it simmers
beneath the summer sun, and my
mouth is full of mud from which no
lotus will grow. i want the world to
take me from myself, and i want
my self to be taken back to the sky.
the clouded landscape will take my
pain, and i will be released as vapor,
to rain down on the earth again.
the healer herself is damaged
which brings into question
if it lessens her ability to heal
if her own lack of self-acceptance
hinders the gift of healing
when she does not breathe
she cannot heal others
when she does not channel
she cannot heal others
when she doubts Divinity
she cannot heal herself.
if your heart is a votive, mine is a structure fire
how i yearn for that sweet incineration that burns
away all memory, blackening out all the dark hours
of loneliness until they turn to ash and blow away.
when we lose everything we are free, i am told,
but i am unable to cut these tendrils of feelings
attached to the cigarette embers that were there
for me when no one else was, or could be.
help me forget. i have experienced madness, love,
rage, and sorrow, and it is only late afternoon.
i go wandering into that wet dusk gathering air
like a stamen gathers pollen, high with the fever
of being alive, stringing the stars that make
themselves apparent around my neck, a string
of colored beads. the moon wanes but my love
never does, and everything is a circle to me in
front of my eyes and inside me, my molten heart
is beating fierce, you can see the pulsing beneath
my skin. the trees that have gone to sleep as
shadows are draping their limbs over my head
and i let myself go into the undertow of night,
pulling my yolk around me so that i might be
birthed again in the morning, fresh as grace.
pluck ingots of tears from my eyes
and polish them in the lake until they shine
in this green land i am shorn of my grief
and my heart is a moon-blooming flower.
here the notes of song from voice and chord
echo beyond the line of sea and sky
here they listen not only with their ears,
here the curve of a shoulder is grace.
inside a ring of trees i am held until my pulse
steadies and the moss grows over my feet.
atop a mountain of creased limestone,
i swear the horizon is closer than ever before.
i swim deeply immersed in an ancient tone
and you are with me and i am never alone.
cherish what you have
you could wake up one morning
and find shattered shadow pieces,
the dynamic destroyed, words wrung
from your darkness until all is irreparable
and there is no forgiveness, pulling up
from the well a bucket of ash,
some bits of fabric gone so threadbare
that there is no mending.
some people will never forgive you–
and for that, you’ll never forgive yourself.
a man who used to know me said that
i am not worldly, as i once claimed.
even if i add up all the empty moments,
it still leaves a taste, a richness in my mouth
like the cake i will not eat because i am
terrified of gaining weight, so i stuff down
cigarettes to stave off my hunger, but
the hunger goes deeper and deeper still.
i didn’t fall from heaven. i grew from the
earth beneath the pavement, in cracks
and voids, pushing through, just to see
a bit of sunlight. my hands often have
scrapes and cuts on them and i don’t
remember where they came from–
it is with this same kind of carelessness
that i leave the front door unlocked, but
am not nervous about anyone entering.
and should i be. what will come, will
come, through windows and broken
screens that flap in the breeze in the
hall of my heart. i would devote myself
to the sky but i’m not sure if it would
matter. i am not your angel, and i proved
it to you by leaving, as i have left every-
one before, before they could leave me.
i do these things out of a fear i can’t
pinpoint, out of a vulnerability that i
must cover with earth before anyone
sees what may fruit. these pills are
supposed to balance my brain, but i
am already upside-down and gone
before you even knew i was there.
the forecast is partly cloudy and chance of kisses 50%
but these lips have flown from my mouth, and the dry
season is coming upon us. some days i just don’t feel
like reading any self-help books, when i am very far away
from myself, a shadow with a cigarette. my edges start
to mingle with the atmosphere and i long for the sea
to help me remember infinity, because the myth of the
horizon has been already been revealed. these vaporous
tendencies don’t mean i contradict myself, and though
the words vanish in the air i can feel them still hanging
like earrings from my earlobes. there is truth to be
found even in the dissipation of half-hearted promises
and i don’t lie to you, the birds overhead, or myself,
i just change my mind often and life isn’t to be filled in
with one neat little bubble per question. the blood
inside me ebbs and flows, that inner tide that carries
with it the questions that nobody can answer but
myself, and as my shadow lengthens i feel myself blur,
and go softly into the stillness there.
why does the rush and torrent of the soul
so seldom break out from beneath our skin
we’ve got trigger hair tempers and mistaken ire
carrying the carcass of truth in our hands
obscuring the light, that although never fading,
can dim until we can no longer see in the dark.
blindly we reach with our hands and will grasp
anything near, even the necks of our beloved,
desperate to keep the old adages true,
that we are flawed and broken-winged
that the lines in our paper hands can never be
unfolded or uncreased, that the ink that dries
beneath our fingernails will never fade.
go soak your hands in the salty ocean,
knowing to move when the tide comes in,
betraying not a single grain of sand with
your footprints because we are carried
forward by the wind, and we leave no trace–
not even the sun will recognize us at dawn,
unmade and spotless in the light.
the seed has been planted
the willow will wave
the redwood will tower
and the oak will be strong
against your back
this is how you learn
how to lose anger
how to keep sadness spacious
that space within the heart
that knows its own death
pour yourself like water into clear glasses
let them drink from you
and see their own reflections
and know who they are
the glass is most beautiful
right as it slips from your hand
right before it hits the floor
right when it shatters
not everything broken
begs to be fixed.
where were you when the clouds hazed over the moon
when the most acute longings boiled to the surface like a sea on fire
i have waited an eternity for just a few moments to rest
a few minutes to sit and catch my breath in a field of marigolds
swallowing petals like poultices for my lungs that are weary of breathing
i am a curtain filling with light as the dawn breaks over the line of the sea
the billowing wind that carries with it the sense of treason against dreams
and the singular thought that i might never get to do what i was meant to
here in this incarnation where i gasp as i run towards the shoreline
that would let me give myself to that primordial rush
that swells beneath my skin battered by memory,
that would forgive me of my mistakes plentiful as rain,
that would finally let me unyolk myself, and be free.
she is cloud-eater, destroyer of perfection
that illusion that held us so deep in prayer
how predictable our heartbeats are
how the things we can count on
so often drag us into the ground.
she rubs the temples she sits within,
entrenched in the memory that binds her,
a red-eyed heaviness that is not reflected in the mirror
but still penetrates and pervades.
the sluice of the present becomes the past
and she cannot tell where one ends and begins
a glistening fish that evades her severed hands.
midnight drips from the sky, a ruined canvas at most
she brings a palm to her mouth to taste the salt
that will bury her yet before this eviction of ghosts
if this is where i must find you
a ruined footpath in the woods
the edge of a shadow against a
wall of water, a salt-stained shaft
of driftwood, endlessly drifting,
then this is where i will find you,
aggressive as a bird even in dreams.
there was one piper, a clutch of
ducklings that spun apart like a
clove of garlic beneath the thwack
of the blunt edge of the knife, in
a kitchen where the roots were
baking and i did not know how,
i could not tell you why, i never
gave you a copy of that poem.
if this is where i must find you,
then let me find you dead and cold,
with only the feather of the piper
between your palms, on a shore
where i lay scattered as broken
shells, denuded and ever-quenched
in your memory.
this is how we change–nautilus chamber, spokes of a wheel
some passion i don’t speak about. i see the growth curl, i see
it siphoning water and glory, i see its breath as it breaks through
the gutter and reaches towards the sky–my waist expands rotted
wood and i feel tendrils of myself steadying, then sinking, then
sinking. peat-moss fingers on me–i kiss them as i would the muzzle
of my lover’s gun and dose myself just to be sure–hazy smoke-filled
thought these days leaves me nostalgic for the past and angry about
what happened then, all those wrongs adding, multiplying, staggering
the numbers–just when i think i will tear you key from key you hit
depressed ivory notes and i can feel the terror in them, the quiet
hatred and the laughing crow and the white egret and the great
blue heron all become one sinuous figure in my mind, a summation
of all the greatest parts of my life–a raindrop staining a window that
you turn from when you hear someone call your name down a hall
in a house that is torn bit by ragged bit from my memory, until all
the edges are worn–i remember who has died and who has remained
and wonder who is the better for it. the sunglint is too much–it blinds
me with its radiant angle, its disastrous glare in the rearview of my
youth, and the sparksun becomes a single point of light–i press it
into your hand, then scatter.
returning is not an option. the tide has gone out
and taken all the sea glass that i might draw across
my wrists again and again, singing the song of
not-knowing, the worst of all fears.
the dye runs off my tongue and stains your skin
you look towards the rain-washed window
and i instinctively turn my head,
gazing back at myself, naked as a fresh page
that which will survive, only time can see
that seer indifferent to all the little catastrophes
that make up my heartbeats, my breath–
even the trees will eventually shake me loose.
i have come to this place because i am
no longer the one i once was,
because it is only in dream-space that we
might reveal ourselves and the stars
would not rage in jealousy.
this is where i tell the truth
for the first time in my life.
i was raised by the earth
cast out by the earth
and now am dead
wandering the earth
gathering silt and loam
the crushed abalone
and the green stems
that grow in the furrows
that run along the highway
all thumbs point north–
no, all thumbs point to the sky
and i am sun-blind and weary
with a dessicated dream under my arm.
we were all asymmetrical desire
the earth remembers me not
and i have come to the city
to revoke the rights of those
who haunt me
to return again to the tide
of human flesh
to bring you my brackish words,
so that you, too, might remember
who you tried so hard to be.