We smoked secret cigarettes,
gulped puffs of smoke and caffeine
instead of calories: I bent
like cattails on the summer lake,
a shiver of fuzz frozen by sunlight,
but she grew to be a wispy fairy child
fed with open hands and hearty spoons.
I am sure they cajoled her
using their best customer service voice
please, thank you,
we are not responsible for assembly,
are you home on Saturday?
Endless rows of numbers merging,
tracking numbers, shipping numbers,
numbers in lists, numbers on scales,
bloated zeros, hourglass eights,
all punched into various logs
until it suddenly comes to a standstill
and who knows why an eight,
lying down, eats its own tail
or why something so fragile
also resembles eternity.
Take a hammer to my form and chisel away until I am the perfect ivory curve you envisioned— Forget that I am water, not a river to be straightened and confined, that like slow-churning rapids I erode your careless vacancies. When you were a gentle breeze, I was spring. Now I am no longer muse but the blood of heathen Gods, am the creation of myself, multiplied, transformed and adapted to your attempt at owning me.
I There are heavy tremors when his eyes stroke me like the most precious thing. Who will be first, the world or me? Poised on a volcano, there is no question: something must explode. II Only three words separate Artemis from Concubine. Three small words teaching the virgin of hunger. III He throws golden apples while his women squabble. Nobody enjoys low-hanging fruit, but the ripe, round tumble down the milky fig-tree is victory trumpets no less. IV The ghostly threads on the Mulberry grow cold in moonlight. What is a yarn that is not spun? V Sometimes the ocean carries polished gems to shore. Faith is renewed: Poseidon yet commands the tides, and somewhere in the twilight Orpheus still remembers how to pluck his gilded lute’s strings.
She sits alone in a crowded room, motionless amidst the invisible bloom of sparkling waves breaking against her soft knees like hungry Leviathans aching for heavy gold keys. She no longer knows if she dreams the monsters, or if the monsters dream her. Outside, the world spins like lovers on a Ferris wheel blur. She would lock fingers with sartyrs, mermen, and fauns, would count orange dusks and endless violet dawns, but the unseen’s cold cage always lingers. She is like a pearl hidden inside a tightly clamped shell. To prise it open would mean to incur a debt that can’t be repaid before it’s too late so she locks the metaphorical gate as Life travels by like depressed animals on fragile, surrealist stilts and the sound of happiness wilts as the sunny half-year is rung like a bell and Hades drags her back to a more familiar, much more comfortable hell.
They want us to write about things small and big
a massive or a miniscule fig
it’s not inspirational
and hardly vocational
I think I am done with this jig.
I read the writing prompts in the morning, so that maybe as I go about my day, inspiration will strike, or words will form, or magically time will manifest to work on a proper poem. I thought yesterday: “Why write about a big thing, why not a small one?” – and since today’s prompt is a small thing, and neither prompt got my creative juices flowing, I’ll offer this silly thing instead. I have some time off next week, and will hopefully be able to write something slightly more polished and thoughtful then. Until then, I will just keep telling myself that silly words are better than no words…the struggle is real this year, and I have literally nothing left in my draft folder that I could use to cheat a little!
You look at me
like delicate, dark things,
in a sub-aquatic, rocky cave.
Surely, you must see the skulls
propped on my doorstep,
the bloodstained omens,
the dusty glyphs urging
lost travellers to flee.
But look at me, unblinking
with ruthless gentleness,
infinite want to possess and protect.
Your love is magnetic.
It draws from me coiled supernovas,
and I would dissolve into colour
were it not for your almost weightless hand
keeping me still, grounding me
as we fall through time and space.
“Stop leading with the good leg,” she says as she straps me to the treadmill. It is not the fun type of bondage, but it keeps the limbs straight where the body tries to fold around itself, curls around space and time, that place where vision and sensation no longer agree. To hydraulic huffs and puffs I shuffle along dutifully, elegant like a rotisserie chicken, step, cloud, step, cloud, step, cloud, good foot, pillow, good foot, prickly pear. Once upon a time, there was an uncontrolled ballerina. Her knowledge of careless pirouettes lingers as she tries to put her worst foot forward so that she can learn to spin again.
Sirens and gulls. They couldn’t tame you.
You know as well as they: to be
a dove is to bear the falcon
at your breast, your nights, your seas.
(Lorna Dee Cervantes, “Love of My Flesh, Living Death”)
It is lonely, the mute expanse of black, subterranean tides. Waves grate and roar on sandstone cliffs, salt crystals glimmer in moonlight and on the rusty singsong of habit, a dutiful melody indebted to darkness and the solitary schooner passing the horizon unseen, too seldom revealing the tattered sail of a daring explorer commandeering the crew: Sirens and gulls. They couldn’t tame you. There is desire and shadow in the susurrus of water and wind, in the raspy voices of Sirens straining to carry the currents to meet you before they have sinned, to meet the untameable with greater demand and superior need to be heard, loved, embraced, making you see softness beneath their fish scales and hunger, the beauty of the quiet depths under the sea. You know as well as they: to be a Siren means death if the call is not heeded, the compass rewound or the ship turned to safe harbours. Unheard songs drop to the trenches like anchors, where they enchant only the cotton-stuffed ears of deftly drowned felons who no longer speak. Full of sound and fury are the sailors’ lost souls. Sirens shoulder this undeserved cross glossing honour, strength, doubt. They know that to be a dove is to bear the falcon that claws at the heart of betrayal, to be a feathered predator that equally yearns to be prey. Perhaps it is undeniable instinct for ocean beasts to covet the flutter of wings, to strive to become the stiff breeze in your sails instead of watching you flee across the foam-spewing rapids, to cocoon you in magic lagoons with their pleas endlessly lulling, eternally aimed at your mercy, at your breast, your nights, your seas.
They have grown, these birches, from bendy, wispy dryads into something suppler, sturdier, something more erect, something flexible in an unexpected, sap-filled way. There is a disconnect between the smooth surface of youth and the rougher exterior of time, the trees being catapults to laughter and skies and shelter from prying people’s eyes. Tomorrow, yesterday, death and rebirth: it all bleeds together like aquarelle paint on the leaf-littered canvas of heavy, wet earth. It is everything, all, nothing distinct, an idle finger tracing pollen patterned damp skin, wordless locutions in endless refrain, sudden suns bursting, avoiding restraint, and always, forever, the scent of fresh rain.
Sometimes, when I lie awake
I picture your face as you touch me, smiling
your metal-tray smile while you explain
that there is not enough love, not for you
and I; Sunday was purple and hazy
and the birds started humming a tune
which had nothing to do with my hand
in the gray fur of your belly or your staccato
moans as I came over you with the force
of a Japanese ocean. I am certain you think
you had me pinned down like my wrists
on the single mattress above my head
but truly your presence in me
is like the one of a weapon, sleepy and sheathed.