Orchard Bees (Gargoyle)
They compassed me about like bees;
they are quenched as the fire of thorns:
for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them." Psalms 18:12
The afternoon sun was a rain of bees
my hair full of wings.
It was the afternoon you left me.
We were in the orchard.
You began to speak Claudius-slow
then faster as I sat up to listen.
You'd never wanted that second child.
I asked for a drink. The light was clouds.
I couldn't see through the air darkening
around three in the afternoon filling
with your words. I wanted shade water.
There was none. You towering over me.
Created a thin black line across the grass
like a falling spear nothing like a canopy
nothing like shelter and then the bees began
thick afternoon air already word damaged.
I wanted to kill you you said.
Before you were born. While you
were still jellyfish I wanted you dead.
And still Esau I wish you dead.
Every day I regret. You spat on the ground
and the bees rose in a swarm and descended
on my round girl's body new breastsstomach full of green apples.
My hands stained purple with wildflowers
my clothes torn the new shoes you'd bought me
broken down my whole tangled self
a welter of scratches and bruises.
The bee cloud descended like rain
stinging whispering fighting each other
for a piece of me. They gave their lives
to ruin my pale flesh.
I rose and began to walk my eyes swollen blood
oozing from my pores my whole body a bruise
I could not speak to you Mother.
Clouds covered the sun and you moved away.
I called to you from swollen lips.
It is finished. I thirst. The afternoon sun
was a rain of bees and my mouth was full of vinegar
the day you left me in the orchard.
Every Place Nowhere (Poetry Flash)
Here are needles laid out for some
vast and curious purpose. Quiet.
Later music shaking up the curtains.
Filthy talk, Grandma would say. Sluts.
It's a party, a shakedown rumble.
The smoke alive and drifting. Skirts.
Panties, thongs, boxers, bra straps,
tattoos, tongues, thighs all. Showing.
This is brief happiness. Or what passes
these days for fun. Or what passes. These days.
In an unquiet world where the self is blurry
against the backdrop. Of things.
It's things that define us. And places
we've been. The tile in our houses. Counter tops.
Trips we've taken. To parts of Europe
where you haven't been. But we have. So there.
Conversations empty as air after broom passes
through crushing back nonsense. Empty.
What we don't talk about. So it doesn't exist.
Loneliness. Our time alone. Ourselves alone. Nobody.
This time. Quiet as shadows. Not even my lover.
Just my secret self against nothing. Breathing.
Speaking elephant language. No one to translate.
Words would float until leaf caught. Then vanish.
Later, the Moon Died (Poems and Plays)
I'd like to remember it as it really happened. I'd like to remember it. I'd like to remember. It never happened.
A memory. Not a fact. He never tore my. He never tore. He never. He. Never. I can't remember. I'm losing my mind.
There are discrepancies in your story. Discrepancies. A story. Just a story. Only a story. Forget about it. Forget. About. It. What? Now we're talking.
I still remember. Let's go over this again, shall we? Do you or do you not want to see light again? Do you want to eat again? Do you want to out of here?
In my life? I'm only ten. Of course I do. I'm only ten. I'm ten years old. You can't imprison me in this room the rest of my life.
Pop goes the weasel. The result is sperm and egg meeting at the Rusty Bar for a drink. The child grows.
You can't imprison me your whole life. My whole life.
I can, and I will. Brick by brick. Layer by layer. I'll brick you in, you little whining, crying Kathy. You'll be in there with the cask forever and ever. No one will hear your cries.
But you will. You'll hear me.
You'll know I'm crying. You'll hear.
I'll keep bricking if it takes my whole life. It's my life's work. It's called growing up.
Call it any name you want. It's murder.
No, murder means you kill a person. You were never a child. Not really a child. Never properly a child. Shut up. Your face abuses the light. You're a smudge on the landscape of perfectly formed deliberate snow drifts. I've created a snow angel here and here. You're outside the picture. There's nothing to forget. You. You little ten year old screamer, you never happened.
Shura (Poems and Plays)
It wasn't a face any more. A broken thing.
Opened wide by time and cavernous washes of memory.
Waves of what might have been.
My sister's face is empty of all light and shadow.
Time rushed in leaving stains only of itself.
All hollows and blank fields where iridescent sunshine
glances off, goes its own way. Search for eyes shining.
Nothing. Huge dark spaces. Lips that move randomly
around parroted word shapes. A face like leaf shards buried.
What used to be alive pieces floating around
just under the surface, you see them giving way to decay.
Used to hold water and sunlight, echo sky even.
Now darkness. A face once. Surely a face.
Echo Light (Black Clock)
What Helen of Troy and the cheerleaders
have in common is that there were myths
and they almost believed them.
I’m sorry, but you aren’t. You aren’t.
The shadows are your skirts. The space
between your eyes where light does not fall.
Your mouth fails to gather or connect happiness.
Your face moves down hallways like a piece of string.
When were you a solid object? Long ago.
They had fights over you. You believed the myths
about the way light falls, spins, bundles.
That light would curve over your shoulders forever.
At any time you could have loosened
the shadows from your hair like a scarf in wind.
You could have, but you did not.
You ate clouds of silence,
breath of breath, blood of your blood,
the sound of your skin, shadows, grief.
Dangerous Blood IV (Rattle)
It didn't take even a drink to wet open her.
Untie her face so words stepped in.
Talc all over the floor of Grandmother's kitchen.
It's what her grandmother wore to bed.
Grandpa loved it. You mixed flour, salt,
baking powder, made biscuits.
Then tea. It was while they were hot,
buttery that the unlacing began.
Usually she preferred women
who would not bruise open her.
Men. Clumsy hands. Grunts. A face looming
over hers twisted into an indecent mask of pleasure.
The face heavy-lidded almost angry
with ecstasy. She wanted safe.
Her girls weren't boot laced, all teeth and appendages,
leathered like the smart things in bars.
Hers were fresh open, limp legged.
Now she, astride this male had to answer
his groans with her own, bite back.
She tore along his belly like she never
dared to tear the fevered females in dark on satin.
Out loud she screamed. Certainly the curtains were open.
The scream carried along on the night winds. Badgers
in their dens snuffled approval, animal sounds at night.
The Storm Drain (The Georgia Review)
Liquid canopy descending sky.
It’s dark inside the storm drain but you took me here.
Tongue slow lips open hands lightly under.
When I’m eighty no one will crawl with me
in a storm drain to hold my breasts
while the sky is falling.
I lean into corrugated metal. Rust.
Age. Wet. My back into all that.
All that Summer Air (Eclipse)
We come home from Mozart. He pours me brandy. Anxiety on the tongue crawls to anger. The way he walks around the kitchen. At the concert, men had stopped to watch my legs. That was something. He should have appreciated. But failed. A sentence in itself. To see the good in anything. Me or the kid. The one who flunked PE last year. Stayed up 'till midnight. Sucking cell phone waves. Me because. Wives are invisible to their husbands like floating seed pods on a June day. You sense the light mist of them falling. Inconsequential in the summer heat. But new leaves you'd notice. The brandy. Light moving through me. Him. Bathing. Hoping my moon will rise like bubbles, popping, effervescent. I open the window. The cat enters. Is fascinated with itself. When you least expect it. The curtain opens. All that summer air entering and entering, the room swathed in vacant moon heat. There's a moment. Late summer night. Brandy after Mozart. The moth wings of fate moving his way. I want the desire of first night but it's late. I'm not twenty, and the brandy is fine.
Killing the Almost Jew (Eclipse)
She says, You’re almost—not quite—a Jew.
I keep digging. She says, You would have been
had I been Jewish, the mother must be a Jew.
Your father was a neurotic, a Jew.
What’s your excuse, Mother? I say.
Just dig. And shut up, once.
I don’t harbor neuroses, I say.
I strangle them with my bare hands.
She reaches for me. Hands off my sweet neck.
Your evil neck, half Jew. I dig
till the hole is large enough to lie down,
let Mother fill it in with a shovel till I am buried.
It cheers her every time, killing the almost Jew.
She sings afterward. For a second, when the burial
is complete, I lie still underneath while the dust settles
and hear her, a mad scream of joy, very high and clear.
Poker Players (Valparaiso Poetry Review)
Poker players eat corn relish on hotdogs.
Sing out of key. Hum classic rock.
Tangential conversations that stop, start.
Rooms full of chair scraping.
The devil sat down to play poker opposite
the blue-eyed woman in grey. She said, I bet
my husband’s sink. Not my own. I need it
to wash my face and hands.
The poker players drank smoke and smelled
of shoe leather. The ache and fever of the game,
the rain mixed with the devil’s whistle. The voice
of God never reached her. She knew better
than to get up from her chair. When the clock struck five,
the ceiling glowed red. She held up the cards.
A good hand. She smiled. The devil laughed,
all teeth and wild hair.
She held her cards like her husband’s face.
Both were her winnings.
Hers to lay down. Hers to pick up.
The City (Oberon)
The city where I fell into you
wasn't so much a city as the idea of a city.
You weren't real. You were following me.
I claimed the earth between us. You jumped.
I climbed a thorn tree. You flew.
I had never understood the ring. The token.
I wanted distance between me and the other side
where you see into the hole with no light.
It's a well. One tiny figure at the bottom.
Faults obvious even from your immense height.
You stomping. Clenching and unclenching your hands.
Severed life pieces you couldn’t retrieve. Shards.
As a child, they told me if you gnash your teeth at night
you're guilty. If you dream, you're a liar.
If you fall asleep immediately, it's to hide your sins,
if you sleep in trees, you sleep with the devil.
I fell asleep immediately in trees,
gnashed my teeth and cried.
I had grown. Then it was morning
and there were no more tears.
Savior (Poetic Dialogue at Bowling Green State Univ, OH)
It isn't true that there was nothing.
That there was no love.
If there was love, I did not find it.
Surely a failure on my part.
It isn't true that I wanted love
and it did not find me.
I did not know love, would not
have recognized it coming or going.
What I remember.
Great darkness and stars.
The smell of beets steaming, vinegar.
Tomatoes, broccoli, salt.
There was cornbread.
Water to drink. And sleep.
The floor hard, but sleep still.
Entering another world.
I can enter it anywhere, escape.
In cars, riverbanks, offices, planes.
I am cocooned against winter.
Story-safe. Every night I tell me.
Stories. The least of which
is love. My stories are the same story.
Not love. Rescuer, dragon slayer, Joan of Arc.
Not quite. I am, it is true the hero.
Dangerous as lightning and as fast.
I save myself and one more person from certain death.
The savior wears sandals, eats fruit,
sleeps on rocks. Is curiously powerful.
We saviours lean over bridges, climb windmills.
Splinters of ourselves go tumbling.
We speak a secret language.
Wind carries our smiles
Double Journey (Paterson Literary Review 39)
A double journey conscious seeing.
Open faced dreaming.
The sky undressed to the ankles.
Down came the hair, the blouse, the skirt.
In pictures, I look like a round apple.
Are you a part-time waitress?
I’m not part-time anything.
Everything I do is full time.
Mostly, I’m a full time flounder.
Floundering through my life.
It was all a rage of white-washed memory.
It was all a lie. The light is fading.
There are no trees in the house.
We put them in the backyard.
The outside creeps them out, the trees.
The trees would like the sky
to themselves, their phallic tips
into all that blue white cloudscape.
If you have your way with the sky,
the orgasm is enormous.
It was all open faced dreaming. In pictures
I looked like a nomad with a round belly.
Brown face and legs, everything else very pale.
There’s blue rising and underneath a round table.
The pillars no longer hold up the sky.
It must float unfastened from the air.
The round table seats eight who came down
from the boat with camels. Why not just sky?
There are no birds. Only cockroaches. Chickens.
The last table. The last sky.
Coroner’s Office (Cimarron Review)
They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Lies and visions.
Because blood isn't shed for others.
It runs out onto an unblinking pavement
where rose petals wither.
They'll say he killed her.
Or she died of overwork.
Too much. In the tiny airless room.
An empty crib. The answer. Under a mattress.
She tried to get this child to stay a child.
He moved to Tacoma. Saved trees.
They'll say she died or he killed her.
Both stories true or false.
Depending on the tilt of the Ferris wheel.
For her, it has always been partway down.
The Great Divorce (Cimarron Review)
for C.S. Lewis and the fragile women of Los Angeles
You can't talk to me like this.
I told you. Or somebody told you.
Somebody ought to have told you.
I've suffered terribly. I'm fragile.
And therefore. You mustn't. No.
You don't see. I've had to pick myself up.
Hold it all together.
I've been raped by pretty much
every male I've ever met.
A sort of rape anyway.
Something I would characterize as rape.
You can't imagine.
You really have no idea. Don't start.
Let me stop you. Let me pour myself a quick shot
of Hennessy and stop you.
No, I don't want to go to therapy. Don't you see?
This is who I am. That's the problem with most people.
They don't actually see you.
They see it. This thing you hold in front of your face
to keep them out. To keep them from knowing anything
they can hold against you, and they will.