Silence

Silence

Silence

a series of dotted lines
that never converge

an elliptical cadence
of a conversation dropped
due to a bad connection.

Speech impediments run in families.
We stutter our apologies
Always, we say, I’m sorry
but never really mean it.

Silence is the understudy for such platitudes.

The things we want to say
but can’t
means it’s all in our heads.

Second guessing ourselves
is an automatic safety feature for our mouths

no hazard shall arise from
having not said
what we can’t take back

means having too much to lose
and too much at stake

is the inability to speak on command
therefore
forever holding our peace
of mind
lost…

is the ability to sit on command
to bark only when called.
It means ‘good doggy.’

****

Silence does as it pleases.

It never checks in
and always assumes no
really means go.

It is the sound of
a dial tone
a slamming door
a key turning in the lock

It is
a shrug
walking away
waiting for others to step in

It is decidedly not my problem.

A grunt
a huff
an eye roll
an inaudible sound of an inward sigh

this too is silence.

****

Silence is the sound
of elevator music
on a crisis hotline….
I am left on hold
for so long
I hang up.

Silence swaggers in with a smile
after a long spell of sadness

giving away possessions
they are better off without
me
when I say goodbye without warning.

Silence is leaping into the sky
and never coming down

it is concealing a bad habit
and a deadly weapon.

****

Silence is the violence
dried in the creases of your knuckles
when you promise me
it won’t happen again.

It is that lull
between a clap of thunder
and the power going out

It is the dawn
creeping under our blinds
after a very long night.

The silence that follows
means I meant everything I said

with a seasick fluttering in my chest
fireworks going off in our heads
the gun going off in your dreams.

Silence is premeditated.

Me, saying I’m fine
even as I sob, and
you
responding with
that’s good
when you ask me how my day went
is silence

is radioactive waste
buried many miles
under the ground.

****

Silence is something we do
when we have no words to describe
why we do what we do.

It is a smokescreen
an elephant performing tricks
to make us laugh

the clown inside us all
who fills our heads
with caramel corn
and cotton candy
to hide our fears and
keep us distracted

It is the bystander inside us all
who wants no part of it

the gaslighter inside us all
who insists that the sun
is rising in the west.

Silence is a certain style of breathing

Sucking it up
and holding it in

never letting out or
letting it show

all alone
together

we subsist
on spoonfuls of air

even as we suffocate

Blessing After the Election

Blessing After the Election

Blessing After the Election

Not to bless, but

desiccate instead

the hot spit

on lips shaping hate

suddenly at center.

The confused backing away,

backs now together wanting

a blessing on pins & posts,

the placards & uncertain plans,

questions, answers, the demands.

Yes, a blessing on a shaking heart breaking

seeing other hearts wanting and thirsty. Yes, a blessing

for the thirsty, for all those with lips cracking, who know now a longing,

yes, a blessing for all those who need water – yes, water – because of this fire.

It So Happens I am Tired of Being a Woman 3

It So Happens I am Tired of Being a Woman

It So Happens I am Tired of Being a Woman 3

(after Pablo Neruda)

and it happens that I am tired
of beauty shops. The smell of hair dye
makes me break into hives, a sort of hysteria.
Hysteria is an old-fashioned,
Freudian word. Freud is out-of-fashion,
and that is a relief. I want fashion
to be out-of-fashion. I want to lie
in uncut grass with uncut hair
in the world of Whitman. His extravagant world
of ecstatic words. I want no more text messages,
plastic surgery, lotions, wrinkle removers.
I am sick of magazine articles on organizing closets.
I have come to dislike the fashion of feng shui,
although why should I? Harmony is good.
It’s also a good idea to thank your old sweaters,
then kiss them good bye. I am afraid

of my face looking like the bark of an old tree.
At the same time, I am tired
of being deferential to a mirror.
I am tired of being outgoing.

I want to be shy, to float like a cloud
in the blue sky, grow black with rain,
fall every day, on parched earth,
give myself to trees.

Birds, come dip your feathers
in the jaunty fountains,
for I will be a thousand drops of water.
The beauty shops will dissolve,
join fossils and elephant bones.
Fleshy, spore-bearing fruit of fungus
will spread its thready network
forever underground.
Enchanted circles swill spring up.

Comtemplations

Contemplations

Comtemplations

We are working in boxes stacked up on wire, pulling our eyes closer together.
I’m writing you to confess to my failures as I brew in the cracked tea pot on the window sill,
Teetering between the snow and a steamy room with two moon faces.
Let’s have a carpet rolled out between us, a buffer on life, glimpses of gypsies and mice with feet balled up and stuck.
Today wasn’t a strain on our skin, but instead a wander into bogs and still brooks and connections made on limp string, wrapped and wound so tight around our fingers that they’ve begun to blend in with the melting sky.

Wasps

Wasps

Wasps

Sticky July – wasps
in the greenhouse.
We dragged out the vacuum
and sucked up
their hard dark bodies;
stuffed a rag in
to the nozzle,
so they would not crawl back
out.

See them, covered
in dust, climbing over each other
in darkness.

I dreamt they escaped
while we were sleeping and swarmed
on the children – I woke again
and again
standing in the hallway clutching
the blue quilt in my arms,
shivering with sweat.

In the dark, it took
a long time

to know which way
the truth lie,
and I had to go
and touch
their chests,
wait
for the breathy up
and down,
it was a long
time

Hunting Season

Hunting Season

Hunting Season
I gather elderberries
by the river.
Last year, these purple-black fruits rotted
on my counter – I
was in the ER, clenched
with pain and cold
under ten blankets and by the time
they opened me
there was a liter of blood to take,
one slender branch
and the fertilized egg
that had split it open.
You

came later,
after hours waiting
for diagnosis, refusing morphine
while the nurses rolled their eyes,
after Sarah called my parents, after
they lifted me onto the operating table
and I told myself don’t look, you’ll
wake up from this , you
walked in after I woke up.

Yes,
you drove me home at three am
and slept beside me,
and I didn’t tell you
that when I lay on my side, I
could feel my insides slide into a hollow
that was not there before.
Yes, you cooked me soup
and stayed
that first day,
tell me

where you went after that
and never fully returned,
it was no mistake
when I met you and wrote
the teeth of the lion
on the throat of the deer, I knew you
from the start, if

you have forgotten
what we harvested, here
are the scars
that can be seen,
I will show you again
the path of the knife.

The Salt

The Salt

The Salt

A terrible blessing –
to be laid open to the bone,
where the marrow trembles
and sings
with all the griefs,
known and unknown,
mine and yours.

I have wanted a field
where animals could graze,
where I could lay down
in the long grasses.

If this careful work
will be nothing,
if these words will not
fit snugly together like bricks
to form a path, at least

let me have a field,
let me have the bread, the salt.

Suppose You Do Change Your Life

Suppose You Do Change Your Life

Suppose You Do Change Your Life

            In conversation with Rilke and Ocean Vuong

What if getting old is traveling backward,
regaining your first eyes,

your portion of blood and bone
no longer scaled with wound. Suppose

you awake without your skin, all your senses
felled by sleep. The girl you were

is gone. So you breathe in the moon,
rebuild yourself in the shadow of its light

until your torso is the translucent cascade
of your breath and you see, through the lens

of your last hour, the instant you first opened
to earth’s color and earth’s air.

In the act of going forward and back
all your borders explode into sky,

and there is no time you cannot be.

Forest from the Night Before 2

Forest from the Night Before

Forest from the Night Before 2

                                     for Les

The wood is entered from a settled place,
its darkness a murmur that hangs
like threads of time, vines indescribably local
yet never seen before. A pond, perhaps vernal,
seems to hold everything I do not know.
Nearby, an old dwelling without
its history, simply speaking of itself now,
its rotten boards evolving as the trees evolve,
growing purposeful, always dying.
I could live here, I think,
in this mysterious expression of myself
where he and I have already assembled
a lifetime, something consonant
with the untold depth of the pond,
with what filters through the canopy
alive with that dappled hint
of the light we both know
we have always been made of.

El Paso 1

El Paso

El Paso 1

Cowpokes spun lasso diction
across a white girl’s youth.
Storefronts seemed larger
than they were just as
what I presented was flat.
A mustache on one man’s lip
stood for passion, on another’s
meant death. What was I to do
with the heavy weight of skirts?
A horse was a loved thing,
its eye-lashed eye the place
I could disappear to,
but not one day passed
that softened my face,
everything being as it was
choked by a west Texas wind.
Only the light held me, its grave
distance making me weep.
The air itself was brash,
and at dusk mestizo blood
colored the dirt with trouble.
A woman fast becomes a man
when the pressures are right,
but now, lifetimes later,
it’s the horse’s eye I remember.

Irresistable

Irresistable

Irresistable

Cool
like the Virginia waterfalls
his eyes undressed her and
yet, his stiff smile
demanded such reverence
from her.

Rust-gold
like the hawkweeds of summer,
his eyelashes, cast fringed shadows on his cheeks
whenever he closed his eyes…
freckles floating
like nutmeg
on his creamed complexion.

His touch
caused the downy ringlets
on her neck
to stand rigid, the way
static electricity did
whenever they came together

their affair
far from the reach of others.

His ownership of her
confused her since
ownership of anything was
something she’d never understood

never having owned anything herself
material wealth
ties
not even an identity.

Her ownership of him
lasted all of one hour
of each day

of each week
the months
stretching into years
or however long it took semen rivulets
to carve shame
into his flaccid
forty-year-old flesh

to erode history
from the face
of Mount Rushmore

that stiff smile
still commanding such reverence

while
she lay prone
frown forming
an indentation
in the shape
of a question mark
on his pillow,
blood on satin sheets leaving
a period
on the end
of a lifelong sentence.

****

When she was eight
her petticoat had been
spotted red
from his daughter’s rage

fueled by displacement
blurred boundaries
and lost lineages.

He’d taught her not to cry
no matter how deep the wound
handkerchief pressed to her temple.

He’d taught her everything
she knew about life―
everything: plants, animals, music, culture.

She’d learned to tie her own shoes
to smile
and keep going.

This, she’d learned
with a pat on the head
his hands, the color of powdered wigs,
soft like the feather of a quill pen.

These days’ll never end…

She’d assumed, wanting
what he’d been to her
what she’d been to him
to remain as it was
always.

****

But her spidery countenance
had begun to plumpen
and curve

to strain
against every seam
of every garment…

beauty bursting at all angles
had filled the gaps
of a self-effacing smile
where once there’d been baby teeth.

Her siren good looks
had sealed that once
respectable distance
between master and minion
where the ragged edges of adolescence
once reigned…

and, one day
while serving tea
her supple silhouette
had splashed
upon the sunlit floor
of his chamber
her eyes
green-flecked pools
of liquid amber, shimmering
in the fading light…

gave way to
buttons popped
his smooth, soap-like hands
unlacing the ribbons
on the fine gowns he bought her….

Irresistible

and so she was, and
he was
all she had―
would ever have.

Confusion
over this new way
in which he regarded her
drove her to please

to hold on
in the confusing way
she knew how

and though
her actions said yes
she felt certain
she meant to tell him
no.

Rain

Rain

Rain

It was our third date, today,

we dated, I think it was a date,

we had lunch, we talked,

we argued. I thought about

falling in love with you,

considered that you might

 

never fall for me, ordered

bacon and eggs on croissant,

the same as you and knowingly

sipped water as you spoke

about Villon. I know that you

are French. Is this why

 

we do not understand each other?

I thought the French were only

rude in France. To your credit,

you handled English well,

almost expertly, as if your visa

weren’t about to expire. Still,

 

it felt like we were butting

heads; I do not mean to imply

the birthmark on your forehead,

I could surely love it one day.

I even said our talk was like

poking each other in the eye.

 

You understand eyes and how

I looked away when you spoke.

It was not as if Court Street

was so intriguing that I just

had to look out the window.

No. I listened to your voice

 

and pictured someone else

I’d like to know, reading me love

poems over coffee and juice.

No luck. I looked back and

found you staring at your plate.

 

It cheered me up. Later,

we walked in circles enjoying

the sunlight after so many

days of rain. The rain

was better; it was a wise hand

that kept us apart.