Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Middle Ground Is Life

The Middle Ground Is Life
Thursday, August 24, 2017
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Close-up of Tea Light Candle Against Black Background

Kristin doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

Because before November we talked about other things — her nieces, her music, the dress she was sewing from a pattern she’d found online, the man she was leaving behind to find the woman hiding within.

Then November came and 70 million people crashed into a ceiling made of glass.

Kristin said maybe it’s a good thing; it opens a dialogue – and I agreed.

But how many days has it been and still we find shards of glass inside wounds open and bleeding. Kristin says I’ve never been so aware of my blackness and I understand what she means because every day is a headline dividing her life from mine even though our likes align almost perfectly.

Surely, I think, there is a middle ground between being “woke” and fast asleep; somewhere where I can ask her, did you ever finish that dress?

The middleground was certainly not in Charlottesville last weekend with lit torches raised to the dry August moon pouring down white light into white skin yelling “blood and soil” with the gods of war listening, and metal crashed into flesh and bones cracked over pavement, and red spilt from white and from black –

Maybe the middleground is just that. Build a wall or burn a torch, pass a law or speak from hate – in the end we are all end up in the same place, waving the same pale flag of death.

But Kristin doesn’t want to talk about it.

She took her nieces to a pottery café over the weekend and she shows me pictures of that day – a giddy, beautiful young girl painting a smiling figurine in different shades of red, blue, and green. “This is the best day ever,” her niece had said, and for a moment Kristin could see the world through her niece’s eyes – colors uniting over one still, smiling eye, and the joy of being alive found simply in its very creation.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

To London, on Her 13th Birthday

To London, on Her 13th Birthday
Sunday, July 23, 2017
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She’s a city by the Strand.

On Christmas Eve she promised me Berlin
tied up with a perfect bow,
“Just as soon as I conquer the world.”
She was twelve then.

A page turns. Adolescence rears its ugly head,
The tides roll back against the sand,
Swapping water for blood.

She’s a city under attack.

Saxons pillage her.
Vikings set her ablaze.
Pubescent boys in soccer shorts knock at her gate.
"A huff and a puff and I’ll blow your house down!"
But surrender, and the terrorists win.

She’s a city between beach and shore.

She pinches skin and calls it fat,
And wears the war paint of other girls.
“It’s easier just to blend in,” she says.
She no longer promises Berlin.

She is thirteen now and night is setting in,
But the waves still crash against the cliffs,
And with one ear pressed against the moon,
Her battle cry rings loud and clear:

“London, London, city by the Strand,
Look ahead; this turmoil will pass,
And you will carve your own path,
Like the many fortresses of women before you.”
Saturday, April 8, 2017

We Haven't Spoken In Almost a Year

We Haven't Spoken In Almost a Year
Saturday, April 8, 2017
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There are those people you begrudgingly have something in common with,

Because you work with them or your kids are the same age,

Or you live next door and can see into their living room blinds

When the sun pisses down the right amount of shine.

There are those people you’re sexually compatible with,

Because the kiss right after the sharp whiskey and before the hard wine

Tastes just right, because their chilled tongue touches your chilled tongue

And the table where you sit becomes soft like the edge of a mattress,

And the morning after doesn’t make you want to spit.

There are those people you bond with because your childhoods were similarly horrible

Or you favorite the same White Stripes song, or your eyes meet at just

The right time when the country curves and there’s a bill in Congress and your

Thoughts echo the same protest signs.

Then there are those people who set your world on fire,

Who you melt with, where your laughter any time after

Colors with their stain, and joy and madness

Both and the same are spelled with their name.

Those are always the people you have to leave behind so you can live again,

Even if saying goodbye means death to the only part of yourself

That ever knew a world worth living.

Inauguration Day: January 21st, 2009

Inauguration Day: January 21st, 2009

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One day you will see yourself as you saw yourself then,

Back when your addiction felt like the cure,

One-hundred and fifteen pounds

Of unfed bones and fake baked skin,

Six months before your hospital stay,

The sole heir to a genetic mutation that appeared

On your thirtieth birthday like a Halloween monster

To take you under, transform you to surface beautiful,

Letting the good inside go ugly deep.

One day you will see yourself as you saw yourself then,

Saturated by transient men and janitors, intercom calling

Sisters, suitcases stacked by chairs, coffee spilling at the brim,

A mundane sun slipping its tongue into a sliver of window,

There you sit, a blonde by the bar on the way to a city

Where it snows in a state the President reigned

When he wasn’t President, when he was a candidate

On a ballot that you checked but your lover didn’t,

But your husband did and your children couldn’t.

We appoint our kings on Eastern Time, in mornings,

Central timers suck caffeine, eyes glued to the TV,

Waking as the newly knighted is sworn in,

And the red travelers stop and swear at him, fists enraged,

Stopping the passing on the way to planes,

And clapping donkeys reflect in the ice-clinking glass,

A bit of contrast, you rotate to the right and the faces pinch,

To the left again and there's hope, but the monster laughs:

"It will take more than hope to save you."

One day you will see yourself as you saw yourself then,

Ice melting faster than your luggage can pack,

The corpse of your marriage heavy around your neck,

And the pound of a phone in your purse

That made remembering history a chore--

Made everything a chore, even loving your children.

Its loud, insufferable silence a war, and warring it stayed,

Bloodthirsty even when the bones were fed,

Then rotted away for years until you finally buried it.

Lonely Spinster Cat Lady Mourns

Lonely Spinster Cat Lady Mourns

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I. Insomniac Blues
This poem means sleeplessness.

You went. Where?

II. Not Even a Hint
We watched shows about the dead, you curled upon my lap.

“That will be me one day,” I said. “That will be you.”

Death and taxes, the two inevitables.

You wisely said nothing, as cats often do. Still. You could have hinted.

Any action to suggest, “True, I will die, and sooner than you.”

But you were just a cat, and could not speak, and

I, a human, should have known, knowing

What I know—my heart beats slow,

Your heart beats fast, fast like paws pounding pavement,

Fast like freedom, no room needed for air,

No air needed to speak.

III. Charlotte Is Here
Charlotte is here, under my feet.

Another long day awaits; days six, seven, eight—

Yes, and the hours too—those termites.

But do not worry.

I have not changed.

I am not going anywhere.

The same music plays, Vampire Weekend, and I

Wear the same hair, strawberry blond,

Behind the same pointed ears.

I speak with the same overbite, and stare

With the same vacant eyes and their familiar bags underneath,

The same loose skin, the same late hours, the same sickness,

The same sleeping disease.

What has changed is few. For instance, the ashtray is full.

The couch has moved. The mailman came.

The food was replaced.

But I have not changed.

I am not going anywhere.

IV. Birds
Birds chirping, rejoicing!

Predator-less, they take the kids out of hiding.

Out on the town, they go,

Milkshakes made of seeds, wet disco at the water fountain.

Chirp, splash, chirp!
“Fuck to you, and good day!” they say to the cat

Who can no longer hear them.

V. Rebirth, Why Not?
Hope nose dives, cracks the glass. Summer’s come,

Beer pong, long days, moonless stars, and

Charlotte’s never been more pleased. Her

Competitive streak has outworn its use.

Archaic cream, milk of mimosas,

Balloons fall, the networks call it. Let it begin—

The reign of the Insane, the Sleepy-eyed Wizard princess

Perched upon her puddle of pee.

Slow blink, success, sleep.

Tabby brown. Eyes, green.

Her twelfth year, age one-hundred,

She is the victor. A one-party party system

Of her own since last week.

(I cannot help but hate her.)

VI. No, No, No
Has it only been a week?

Has it been a week already?

Where did the time go?

Why does it stay?

What can’t it linger?

Why won’t it leave me alone forever?

VII. Coping
Hammer me, nail.

I have not changed. Not in the least.

Dirt buries you, work buries me. We pick our suffering,

But I slug it out. Unwind with wine and flat teeth,

Pea pods, yogurt, home tributes, the like—

Name it, sister, and I’ve tried it! Tried everything.

(But I have not changed.

I have not gone anywhere.)

Distractions, bat caves, ice cream,

Fourth of July Parades, alone or

With friends, organized or sporadic.

And God damn it but yes, much more.

I have gone lower, and failed with the worst. You name it.

Cheap gauze strips. Generic anti-germ gels,

Reality TV, blogs about surrendering,

That moldy bagel in the trashbin I put back on the plate,

And ate, until I was certain anything spoiled

Could never be ripe again.

Because, why not? If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try again. Try until you cannot take it. Try until

You almost make it, try until you can fake it, and when

That camera is flashing, smile like you don’t hate it.

When they say they’re sorry, shrug and say, resolved,

“Thank you, but she was just a cat.”

VIII. Sometimes
Sometimes I need my mother.

Other times I need a man. But mostly

I need sleep. A refrain from

My waking life. Puckered Benadryl, cylinder lips,

Blue shrapnel, a glass of water to swallow the sorrow.

Pitch blackness, please.

Slip it to me, my prescribed child,

Peace by any means—peace by postcard,

Peace by muscled hand, peace by pillowcase, flower-shaped,

Peace with an unhealthy tan,

“A dark glow to go, thanks!”

IX. Sappy
Remember how you slept by my feet? Or by my head?

You eyed Charlotte. She’s mine!

And to prove it—fur in mass exodus.

Rough on my cheek, your sandpaper tongue.

I shook my face. “Needy!” I cried, not unhappily.

And I scratched your neck.

(That may have been it. That may have been the last time.)

X. Morning
Orange unfolds. Lavender pinks.

I gather my bones, I pour mint tea,

Red-eyed I go, porch-bound, where

The warm outdoors awaits.

I eye the sky for an apology.

Hello, Murderous Month! Hello, July, hello!

You sucked my kitty up.

You hung my happiness to dry.

Oh, enough.

I sit my bones, I sip my tea,

I watch the sun, I watch the birds,

I watch their wings beat back across the sky,

Across this thimble of time, and

Across birth, across decay,

With a tune that says yes,

We’ll all die someday.

(But not soon enough.)

So here it is, another day,

And this music, the tapping—it plays.

It plays in rhythm with my heart,

My burdensome, beating heart.



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She's got one of those faces

I always wanted.

Heart shaped, chin pointed

Like the mouth of a tear.

I'll be an androgynous lion

Of liquid film creeping closer,

Closer until I suck

The blood of her pretty.

Unlined, untimed, I'll be

The girl again I never was.

Drinks free, men leaning in.

The scar on my temple torched.

Other scars running scared too.

Inward, outward, I'll appear

The lack of everything I've been.

Beauty like a blunt pin,

Beating back, pain free again,

Unmutilated, bring me in.
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