Sunday, July 19, 2009

To Dogma

O my Dogma,
How I miss you! nights
when the clock keeps me awake,
blinking through the shade of my lids.

Your embrace was so sure,
I thought it was for life.
You were the pins in my bones
holding me together, tight.

When I found myself,
simply a cold steel trap,
one by one I pulled the pins,
I loosed the jaws, unclapped the lips.

Now I rattle around,
a skeleton drunk
with a contented smile,
a gun called Apathy at my hip.

Miss May Grows Older

After Margaret Atwood's "Miss July Grows Older"

How much longer can I be this hot?

I hate men who call me "hot"
and mourn for a time when men cooed
to a woman, "You're lovely, beautiful,
radiant, gorgeous," or when they simply stopped,
stared, and were left speechless.

But back to the question at hand...
How much longer can this go on?
The moisturizer, foundation, concealer,
blush, lipstick, eyeliner, brow liner, mascara,
eye-shadow, tweezing here and there...

Not to mention the waxing, veeting, shaving,
lotioning, painting. And don't get me started
on the plasti-boobs. Only for special occasions,
I assure you. I do wonder who I am doing it for.
Don't get me wrong: I love the feel of putty,
Man-putty in my hands. But, O God, how I tire of it all.

When I was out on the ocean, riding my raft,
I had this moment, just a moment, mind you,
of peace. All the mascara had washed away,
my damp hair was matted to my head,
I lay there, free of underwires and spandex,

And I swear, it felt so good to not be "hot."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Favorite Poems (ever evolving)

1. Seamus Heaney, "Punishment"
2. Elizabeth Bishop "One Art"
3. Gary Snyder "The Wild Edge"
4. Patrick Rosal, "On the First Meeting of Your Father & Your Mother on a Train in Australia"
5. Robert Hass, "Meditation on Lagunitas"
6. Adrienne Rich, "Diving Into the Wreck" & "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning"
7. Pablo Neruda, "The Fable of the Mermaids and the Drunks"
8. Sylvia Plath, "Fever 103degrees"
9. Robert Hayden, "Those Winter Sundays"
10. Anne Sexton, "Her Kind"
11. Robert Lowell, "Dolphin"
12. Robert Duncan, "Passage Over Water"
13. May Swenson, "In Love Made Visible"
14. Kenneth Koch, "To Marina"

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Amateur Widow

There was a certain reverberating quality to the doorbell that morning. It had called to her from far away, and she swam slowly to the surface, taking deep breaths to reassure herself. She always left behind her dreams with relief and marveled at the sanity of conscious thought. Her dreams were always the same: dreams of lonely men, the lonely women they'd left behind, and the children who weren't yet aware of their loneliness.
The doorbell sounded again as she pulled on her white bathrobe. She staggered toward the door, glancing at the digital: 5:58 AM. Oh, my God. It hit her with a breath-strangling certainty. This is it. It's happening. To me. Nobody else would come this early in the morning.
The stairs felt strange; she'd heard of vertigo, but now she knew what people meant. Things were shifting, and she could see now, through the beveled-glass on the front door: men in uniform. Each step felt forced, long and exaggerated. She reached, fumbling, for the handle and cracked open the door, peering into morning darkness; the one with the cross over his name advanced...

As she passed her son's room she saw him sleeping through the cracked door, his blond hair tousled sweetly, pouty lips slack. She couldn't stop now, she had to keep moving. Movement meant something. She reached her bathroom with its large mirror-paneled walls; three sides, three ways to view one's self. She let the robe fall off her shoulders and surveyed her body. Her profile, her back, the 360 degrees the world viewed her in. She saw from the back view her imperfect thighs; she stared reproachfully at her stretch marks. She felt for the first time she was really seeing herself under this florescence. She'd spent so much time with her face pressed close to the mirror, examining microscopic flaws, applying mascara, tissueing mistakes. It occurred to her that she'd never seen the person he had loved. Had loved. Loved. No longer loved.

The two weeks he'd spent at home on leave seemed a distant memory. Instead of a second honeymoon in the Virgin Islands, they'd spent it trying to patch up all the little holes leaking air out of their marriage. They'd married young, were high school sweethearts and the harsher realities of life had taken awhile to set in. Marriage counseling with the battalion chaplain made her feel like an exposed organism in a petri dish. Under the microscope they had become the poster children for all that was wrong with Army life. They'd been given strategies for communication in their sessions but strategies seemed unequal to the task of long-distance communication. There had been blackouts, when she didn't hear from him for a week. She'd spent those days running up credit card bills at the mall, trying to forget her fears.
It seemed strange that she was thinking of herself at a time like this. She felt guilty for how much she'd thought about herself and how little she'd dwelled on his daily routines. But she was alive. Not dead.

The sound of gunfire fell, muted and distant on her ears. Crows scattered to the sky, strange and near. She pulled her black three-inch heels out of the sod again and tried to stand up straighter as the man with the flag approached. She knew how she should appear at this moment: there should be dignity in her bearing, pride shining through her tears. Instead she felt unsure of her appearance, intensely aware of the valium in her system, so ashamed of her need of it. There was the vague pressure of her mother's arm, and there was an awareness of how cold March felt. She thought how ugly Mount Pisgah cemetary was in early Spring; the sky grey and blank except for crows; the trees were bare and empty of brighter birds. The phrase "Sorry for your loss" kept striking her face cold as the wind as she received the mourners. Michael, the 38-year-old single cardiologist, hugged her familiarly and told her he was available if she needed anything at all. She felt her mother's approval and it turned over in her stomach. The skin on Michael's neck was already starting to sag and it bothered her to think what he would look like on the other side of 40. But she reminded herself that he represented money and security and things her son needed. She supposed it wasn't so bad to be 25 and attractive if one had to be a widow. Good thing he doesn't know how things look underneath the pantyhose.

Her lighter flamed and ate the end of her cigarette as she drew in a little too deeply. Oh, but it felt good: to hide away by the creek and flee the oppressive sentiments of her relatives. She smiled a little to herself as she thought about them all sharing macaroni and cheese, wheelhouse salad and KFC. She could just see her 93-year-old great-grandmother rocking in the corner, mumbling in her deranged fashion, "There's a lot of muddy water under that bridge...whole lotta muddy water." Great-Grandma always spat out "muddy" like it was a bitter secret. It had almost frightened her when Grandma turned and gazed at her and repeated those words, "Whole lotta muddy water." She felt the bitterness biting into her own spirit.
She stared down under the small footbridge into the creek water, reflecting the old light of stars. She drew in clarity as she relaxed with her cigarette. The house had made her feel anxious, claustrophobic with people eyeing her; she could feel them wondering about her future. She lit a second cigarette and thought how her throat would hurt the next day if she kept on going. But she would not deny herself these small pleasures any longer.
She cocked her head to the side, and viewed the planks, 13 of them, from a horizontal angle. Things were shifting again, coming into focus now. The dead grass on the banks of the creek was long and unmowed. She reached for a clump and lit it, watched it flame up and felt it embrace her face with its momentary warmth. She grabbed more grass and lit it.
She built up a small tepee of fire on the rotting planks, and gazed with satisfaction as the flames burned tall and mesmerizing. She reached into her ski jacket and removed the lump next to her heart. She gazed at the stripes and then placed the triangle-folded flag atop the flaming planks.
She walked off into the dark night toward her grandmother's porchlights.


You and I
And Grandmother
Dance to this drum

We turn our bodies
Fringe and ribbons
Blowing into cold wind

We mirror each other's steps

They speak of blood brothers,
But you and I and my mother
Have a deeper bond

I felt you, little fish,
Swimming in my womb
And when the time came

My mother held my arms fast
As I squatted and pressed
You downstream

There was the smell of blood
And the comfort of my mother's eyes

And there you were, little fish:
My blood daughter.


My children have these beautiful legs
I don't know where they came from
(They are a mystery of consummation)

I wake each morning to these
Exquisite limbs crawling me
And wonder how they came to be

When did their eyes grow so blue,
Their legs stretch out so long?
Who are these magnificent creatures?

I didn't know! at twenty-three
That you could crawl from my womb
And grow into my life: Fixed,
Rooted, our legs entwined.


"And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question..."
- T.S. Eliot

It's Springtime now,
Or near enough --
And cherry blossoms are falling at your feet,
She is engulfing you in her cherries sweet,
She is keeping watch for the hatching hour.

You waited for her
long, those cold years cracked dawn
and you felt the early stirring
of the crocus, yearning
flashing, yearning.

And here it is:
The moment has come
for that fateful stroll, the one where
questions that matter will be asked,
Revelations will be addressed.

Do you burn when she says the words?

I think not.
For I am Sun-set,
latent fire crackling, stirring --
a different yearning.

I am the burning bush of your desire
flaming up with my own incandescence
bidding you come and singe your wings,
The soul-scorched Siren
singing things I can never mean.

Version: Virgin

She's a version of virgin
The original faded,
But she likes the patina
She feels safe in her skin shawl,
Though the threads are wearing thin
And holes begin to form within.

She wants to thaw
And feel the spring,
Or a version of it, a facet
To emit the blue fire within,
To love the Virgin and the Son
To believe in old miracles again.

But versions of scripture
Tell her diverse things,
One prophet says "Avoid the storm,"
Another, "Let him clothe you in white."
And one says, "Virgin? Not at all."
Candlefire? Blessings? Miracles? Not tonight.


I opened my door a hair
To find myself invaded
You swam in, oily,
Regaled me with testimony,
Falsified results.
Ma'am I assure you,
You won't be disappointed
Your Rainbow will be the envy
Of this lovely subdivision.

A few sweeps of my rug
And I was hooked.
After all, you want
Baby to breathe clean air!

I sat in your pew weekly
To endure your assaults
Your intonations, intimations
About what I should be
And how I should give
Close your eyes and bow your head
Reach deep into your heart
And ask yourself this question:
What would the LORD have me give?

You offered, I drank the kool-aid
You commanded, I scribbled the check.
Truly I say to you: It is hard for a rich man
To enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

You made your way in
You Worm with your sins
With sleight of hand,
Glamour, illusion, levity
You held me fast, Mesmer.
I love you and would never leave
For better, for worse
You can trust me,
Till death us do part.

When I woke from hypnosis
The naked aspect I wore.
Now I will snap my fingers,
And you will remember Nothing.

The Unfinished Woman

She sits alone at the piano
Her face in shadows,

She writes the lyrics
No one will hear,
She breathes her fire,
Then scales it back

She doesn't finish her songs
Doesn't record her fears.

Life is like that you know,
A chord progression
That doesn't feel right.

She sits alone at the piano,
Her bird doesn't take flight,
Her step is out of rhythm,
Her heart out of tune.

If I could tell her,
Face in shadows,
We're all unfinished
Our ink is blurred

But somehow, alright.