Vacancies

I

Instead of sleep,
I watch words drop
from the gaping mouth
of night.
I cannot close my eyes.
The witch will ride me
like your absence.

II

I struck a deal
with a crossroad demon.
Here is a list of things
I no longer own:
my thoughts, my breath,
my words, my bones.

III

I bleed sounds
into the ocean of your
silence


beyond it all,
the sea hisses
and roars.

Hush [the past has ears]

That spring
you told stories of mermaids
and sailors, kissed my neck
while your honeycomb voice
blossomed full-figured
on the apple trees.

Now, you only speak
from the folds of echoes,
only sing with voices hushed–

Do you fear the past might hear?

Do I?

You are gone,
yet still too close at night.
Moonlit, my scars are pale
and I rub them, ritualistically,
the ones on the soul
and the one on my palm
from that day
when you pushed, and I fell
into the collapsing shards
of our love:

it was a sting,
a swift sting
more comfortable
than the memory
of you.

Medusa

The Gorgon was made out of the terror,
not the terror out of the Gorgon

Subterranean creature,
in your salt-crusted, crystalline cave
deep under aeons of ocean:
man exiles what he cannot possess.

Knowledge is power,
but such power is death:

Now your head lies
discarded on the limy mud,
and from your blood
grows coral and calcified,
serpentine seaweed
no longer pulsing in the tides.

Emboldened, the ignorant hero
rides your offspring to the sun.
There are no tears and no elegies,
only the timeless sighs of the flood.

How could you have resisted
the daunting and dazzling reflection,
how lived to learn
that such are the dangers of being un-seen?

Phonetics

The way he pronounces my name,
expanding the vowels with gusto,
the near palpable veneration
of a sommelier tasting a fine Bordeaux,
or a mountain lion salivating
over the sight of an inattentive hare.

Maybe I should fight or take flight
but the way he inflects bends me,
binds me rather willingly
to the place
where all the dark seductions live.

Inventory

A man.
A sailor on the same odyssey.
We meet at full tide under the moon.
He breathes poems into my hair,
uses my body as easel,
paints me in sienna, henna,
iridescent blues.
I describe to him a tree,
the same tree,
over and over again.

A woman.
She always looks a little scared.
When the world does not listen,
I call her bambi, bunny, kitty-cat.
I like her softness, the way she bends
under my touch like reed in the wind
but I always yearn for something more solid,
something hard I can soften,
something that will not allow me to flow
back into the choppy ocean
or to evaporate in the stratosphere
like technicolour rainbows.

There is a quiet these days,
an absence that feels leaden and rusty
and tangible.

Last spring, I planted something eternal
but it never quite bloomed.
In the mornings I hear chattering
robins and sparrows and crows.
I look at the tree, always the same tree
and think of the names for green:
olive, sage, emerald, chartreuse.
I imagine verdant, lush things
while I ponder if beyond the plague
there is a man, the same or another.

My grandmother used to store seeds
in the basement.
Black currant, tulips, potatoes, and peas.
They keep forever, she said.
Nothing that won’t grow
with a little help
of a little water and a little sunlight
and a little tender care.

I hope she was right.

The Vast Structure of Recollection

once, under a red star
I was stung by a bee; you

laughed. It is a panacea,
you said, a remembrance

of life. Then, you were happy,
full-cheeked like the moon.

It upsets me that the smell
of magnolias makes me think

of death. There must have been
a storm, torrential rain

something to justify debris
and spines broken before fall

but there is only a stillness,
and me being stung

by a bee, once, under a red star
while you laughed.

The Dull and the Hollow

Men love me,
before the parting.
They come and go
with the light of day
and I drink, curl
my toes, pluck
poems from my breast
and feed the night
with words like a pelican
spitting blood into the mouths
of her hungry young–

Sometimes, I remember
a less oppressive dark,
an invasion fully desired
but memory is hollow
and empty men
dim the lights
at dusk
and my world ends
again
with a whimper
[not a howl].

The Cruellest Month

You call me cruel when I just am
a fickle thing, soon soft
soon vehement, adorned
with snowflakes on my icy skin
while my feet – sunny and bare
breed primrose, violets, celandine
in their refreshing wake.

Me, cruel? No.
Willful maybe, a sprite
who rises from the barren earth
at morning flowers, and at night
empties her cups of rain
to rouse fresh life
under the still sleepy soil
and on your freckled, red-cheeked face.