Tokens

Today I drive
Fast enough to make
The air a vacuum
Or ghost fingers reach down to
Steal breath. I thought

The radio would be just what I needed,
But someone is pressing
Pressing the accelerator,
Thieving sound and
All I’ve heard is the rush
Of my own ears. I find myself

Taking a razor to each individual
Hair tangling with the wind.
I will feed the cyclones
Silken strands
Each slice a small tribute.
When I am
Cold, bald and smooth,

I will give you all these tokens
Of my former self.

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Why I have planted a tree for every anniversary

She said she found her calling stronger
Dancing on attic rafters.
I asked, once, who would catch her
While she conducted pirouettes
On the top branches of the felled pine in my backyard.

She spun
and spun
Harnessing nothing but wind
To court my advances and framings.

Once, we’d talked about
Flying or reaching heights together.
I wanted nothing more than to see her soar higher.

When things went south, I took an ax
And brought branches within grasp.
She frowned,
And said nothing could be a gift when it took away life.

A pointed look at the pastor.

He would shuffle uncomfortably,
His spirituality stealing with an awkward lack of grace
The side-steps you mastered with ease.

Nothing was easy after that.

Today, I ride the bus alone
To a job selected solely for its ability
To steal my creativity.
I have put my wand away and I conduct no movements
Since you were whirled beyond reach.

Each day I return home
To treads in the attic dust,
I find your threads on rafters
And hang them in the front yard for the wind to tangle.

Growing

When you potted light
To replace
The dying and wilted red fern on my back porch,
You told me it would grow strong
And fight shadows out of my corners like
Dragons out of caves.
You told me to
Let it wear the weather
Like a cloak and said
A glimmer of sun would always bring it
Back to life after the rain.

I asked where the roots and
Stems and leaves and
Birds singing in the branches were,
But you smiled,
Knowingly,
Said they’d show up one day.

For years it stayed,
Growing stalwartly through the changing seasons.
I cleaned out snow drifts and autumn leaf bits
And exercised the fledgling tendrils of sun
By letting them weave dances around my fingers.

I was singing the other day,
When you appeared, hand outstretched.
I returned your planter with a smile,
Light pouring through the cracks in my teeth.

(untitled)

The humid air let you
Carve figurines out of the heat.
You always did like to mold,
To form and bend and shape and
Sway
Until you were the haze blurring out my windshield,
Trying to wave edges like the summer sun.

Water will ghost-whisper your name, talking
Through the flashes of white from street-lamps and
Through static in my ear from using headphones in the rain.
The fleeting reflection of headlights on wet pavement,
Dances ahead, skirting the branches of trees
And courting the cracks of lawn between bushes.

I read the tapping silhouette of your body beside mine
a Morse transience like
The flashes of red reflectors
Saying
“You drive on the wrong side of the interstate.”
You have always carved safe havens out of danger.

So drown your engines down
Down below the water and I will follow you in.
Keep your fists clenched and white
As you pull me under,
and I will follow you in.

When humidity crashes like waves,
You are the space and I am the haven.
I am the space and you are the haven.

Why I Stopped Reading the Newspaper

I
haven’t written you in years
Since you eased the barrel
from my lips.
In passing, I’d promised
Monthly letters to showcase
Our travel plans and
To tell you I was alive.
I am, but I’m not sure
I was then.

You were warm to me,
like spring, or melted better
Reminding me of my mother’s cooking.
I kept you in
Stacked cases and storage containers,
Sealed places built to hold on to
Things not meant to last.

I read the other day that
You had followed my footsteps
a little too closely,
Successfully kissing
Round metal barrels and flirting
with steel. You always thought
Your red lipstick could save you.

A week later I found a box
Under my doormat.
Inside it, a suitcase containing
Souvenirs from places we’d planned to travel.
I’d promised to write, but you
Said everything with
The brand new Mary Kay
At the bottom of the pile.

Brother

When we were young
We’d raise such a storm
Raking leaves the wind
Pulled down last night

We’d take turns on the
Giant blue tarp,
Laughing, dragging each other down
The hill in the back yard
Somehow missing every pacing stone
Mama fretted about.

It wasn’t until I turned 13
That I started worrying
About how the puffy purple coat I wore
Clashed with the blue
and the red and orange and gold of
Leave fading to brown.
and I watched mom pulling you
Slowly down the hill, avoiding rocks.
Your laughs were never as loud,
but I was too proud of once
Catching the neighbor boy’s eye
before he moved on, and before I wanted that back.

I wish I could say I got better,
but I turned into a bitch and a liar
Fighting for 10-odd years
Against you representing everything
I know I was but continued to run from.
Your laugh was as warm as ever
When I finally came home
and I only cherish family dinners now
because I didn’t have them for a while.

If you had told me 10 months ago
That the best step forward
was back,
I would not have understood. But,
Somehow,
I remembered how leaves felt stuck in my hair.

I tried on that damn purple marshmallow
The other day, and
You just laughed at me and
Handed me a rake.

Because you would never dance with me

circa winter 2012

I find you everywhere,
Settled amid flour or soap cracks
During wine baths serving threads
Of actions long gone by.
There is never any room,
But wound into cracks
and crannies, you have stolen your fit.

There is balance in the space of living-
Rhythm and cadence and building
to forever combat breaking.
I would search for peace
Somewhere if you’d let me,
By dancing on headstones to
Juxtapose the sadness of goodbye.

I find you in cold snow
Between my toes and while
Holding live coals to fight the dark.
“Why say yes when you can say no?”
And I watched with baited breath
As you blew out the light.

I swore I would wait out your
Spliters and half pieces
And replace your cells with
New holes of my own.
Daily I keep cutting parts
And mending threads to make a whole,
You will find me dancing
Some winter on a gravestone
And won’t be able to sing along.