Category: Poetry

You and Us

The love in my body doesn’t understand the white bees, dark stars, and ships of hyacinths that Neruda knew. My love doesn’t understand his metaphors of twilight shadows, lavender kisses, and sea foam. My love has chosen, instead, the bloodied half of the moon. The visceral side of the soul: bile, breath, bowels. Very occasionally, emanating from the breast: blossoms.

There’s no beauty here, in these feelings for you, trapped and droning like house flies. I think of how little I deserve your virtue, your hands that are as guileless as the wind moving over fields. Forgive me. My love doesn’t live in the real world. Honestly, it builds nothing of purpose. The perversion of the empire of my love by the coast, made from mist, muscle, and magnolias. It exists half a mirage away from collapsing into the saltwater.

Did you ever suspect that I hid so much dominating energy within this body? Neruda would have recoiled at how much I desire–so shamefully–to see you sob each time I leave. He would have warned me against this decadence. This gambling of suffering, paid for with your purity. But there is still time, isn’t there? So much time, yet, to dream thoughtlessly, and to inflict those wounds that can be cured only by nakedness.

Oarsman

The perfect plum sits in the palm of the hand like a flushed cloud
during sunrise, or a bowling ball of decadent purple hardwood.
Sliced into half-moons, the meat, fibrous and dense like pork,
starts a deep red, lightening into a blend of rose, orange, and bronze,
before finally pooling into a core of soft blonde. The skin pulls off easily
with teeth, thin as lily petals but firm, and its taste fills the mouth
with brine that recalls the sea, with the final promise of sweetness.

The perfect boy drags me into the intimacy of a dark place, and his hips move
over me like the revving of a engine running on blood. In a blazing corner
of my mind, a rifle goes off. The shot strikes Eve in the heart and returns
her, instantly, to dust. Later, he tells me I touched him as though begging.
Both too tender and too calloused, this body, both too ashamed and too
proud; how to describe the violet shadow that’s beaded over me, like sweat, seeds
of pearl, the reminder that summer’s heat will make maggots of chopped plums?

Symphonie Fantastique (10 Minute Pseudo-Sonnets)

THE PAIN OF PRINCESSES
Every three hundred years a wolf is born
half hologram, limned in that breed of light
that is searing, and shameless, and adorned
with blood; a wolf with hands, and nails, and bite.

The king’s daughters wasted the finest days
of youth in the hunt, training bionic
eyes and moon faces from castle to highway,
but they caught not a stitch of furred onyx.

Sebas, the youngest, and our heroine,
knew the proof of value lay in killing,
but she loved that wolf, the adrenaline
in preternatural night. Not willing

to expose to malice something so rare —
She lived obscuring its scent in the air.

ANGLERFISH
Nelumbo, goddess of cybernetics
is at her laptop, furrowing her brow.
She’s lambasting the Internet critics
who poison the good-natured Wikihow.

Meanwhile, in the data stream, binary
code is working to mediate between
the heirs of the digital dynasty.
The cyberspace sea, blue and bottle green,

cries out in glum mourning at their quarrel.
Why fight like this when information lies
at their fingertips, tactile as coral?
Nelumbo answers: humans agonize

as easily, tenderly, as they love.
Been this way since from the ship left the dove.

Body natural, body politic, body electric

Five hundred million years ago nature could only dream
of the kind of life that you are. Back then love existed in
dissolution. Smokestacks of ozone. Topaz trilobites squatted

in prayer. A generation of gods later, you appear. In hands,
and a voice wanton as deserts in spate. In eyes that own
all that they touch. A personal punishment for the planet

that bred original sin. My dearest killing blow, you are so
far but it’s inconsequential: I notice you imbued in
the deepest sinews of atoms. A presence as permanent

as this flesh is delicate. Did you know the full moon sweats
in terror at your beauty? To adore you is to challenge
every single eternal, universal falsehood. Every syndrome

of creation. I don’t wonder, anymore, if cloud forests long
for dust storms. I know they do, and I know you do. Please
know there is strength here that could devour the divine.

More things in heaven and earth

On the bus I read A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The day moves
like silk through the windows, in vertical sheets cast in graphite
and indigo. My mind has leapt from my body; it floats
above and around me, in gentle circular motions, like a great

white shark, aglow, bloodied. The angel of the ocean. The
Shakespearean recipe: “Love-in-idleness,” plummy and dripping,
applied to the eyelids,  and — moon as my witness — a man wakes
flooded in infatuation. How fatuous. And how delectable, how tempting,

to wield love like this: Cupid pricked by his own arrow. My mind, taking
this opportunity to be unkind, precipitates down to my ear and says:
you’re more yourself than ever, but love still riddles you like stigmata.
I sigh and reply: love, or the lack thereof, you mean?

While in line at the CVS, in matted hair and rose pink sneakers,
I think of the honeybees. They have been gone for months, bred now in
Valhalla’s scalloped terrains, but we still talk to each other as they did.
In tones, and memories, rather than honesty. Would you tell me

what you’re feeling? Not since Eve have there been eyes so evasive. There’s
a stillness to you, like a blistered chunk of flint, of basalt, a year
with no spring, the ribbed shadow between moon and tide. The
particular pain of a ghost’s homecoming, a figure tender and trembling

but exiled forever. The debt of the heart: a payment to emotion,
who in my dreams arrives as a jean-jacketed millennial
Mephistopheles. You liar, he says, from the stoop of my rental home.
He’s looking for the soul I promised him, but chose, instead, to leave with you.

Calyx

When I fell in love with you I lost my appetite for seven days.
My arms and legs ached, dully, tenderly. Along my throat, and beside my breasts,
lymph, oval-shaped, milky white, swelled like new peaches: Emotion, a pathology, pathos of.
The needs of a body silenced by the greed of the soul; my senses so changed
just walking to the convenience store in the suburbs I smelled the sea.

You’ve never even touched me. What would I do if you did —
Every nerve ending would dissolve into blossom.
The little death darkening my blood to hematite.
The largeness of love, the demands it places on pride,
would either cure or impoverish me permanently.
I don’t know if I could survive that fire.

This feeling has never been gentle to me, and fear lies
like a fragile gem in my skeleton: too tremulous
to touch, a breath away from rupturing
into a cloud of gold. The mortality of love,
its half-life a night in Pyrrhic, pellucid springtime,
is a lesson I have learned over and over again,
but never managed to commit to memory.

What does it even matter. Oh, it is not as though
I would dare think of forever. But I do
still remember the Yamanote line at six in the morning,
the train hanging suspended by a single thread
as I put my hand on your shoulder. The purity of
that instant like heroin. Like Mount Sinai.
My heart so changed when the doors opened there was lavender filling the air.

The God of Kerosene

I was born in love, mired in it; in the mud of a woman’s blood. This is a letter. This is a letter, printed on the air above the Atlantic, to the only two who would remember my infant eyes.

Twist the verdict like a bottle cap, until the virtue and the venom spill, staining our necks and fingers with a pink both soft and bitter. Take your medicine. Wade out into the blue ocean between your throat and shoulder. Rest from this. No more pain.

We float on opposite ends of the still water; someone watches from the shore.

How do you explain to your mother that you still love her abuser?

The serpent used to sing to Eve. A lullaby from a kingdom of salt, where white flowers that lived through the winter grew into doves, and scarring on the body, colored sweet as cotton and sea foam, was left there only by choice.

No pain here, Eve.

God would beat the animal for this song. God would beat the animal until it was blinded, its eyes and spine broken into blossom. In the dust, it wept. But it still sang: No more

Even as her hand reached up into the branches, while He soaked the garden in kerosene: still.

pain.The angels with their swords; Eve’s hand, small as a new plum. The serpent sang: No

How do you explain to your father that he is an abuser, and you love him?

pain. The kingdom by the sea; Eve’s hand, opening.

This is an attempt.

I was born in love, buried in it; from snake to woman, from flower to ocean, from god to kerosene. Rest. Take your medicine. Forgive me. Find it in your doves and scars, in your blood and belly, to love me, still. Please,

no pain. 

Somewhere, Paradise is burning.

Big Mermaid

It’s easy to get lost in these worlds, where the waters begin and end, and the shore is a thin layer of gold, sinking where my feet are, like the mattress dipping under your weight.

If they made boats as solid as your hands, if they made oars as gentle as your hands, if they made sails as tender as your hands; I’d never leave the salt sea.

Pull apart the clouds forming above the dinner table with your fingers. These days are spread like lace, intricate, delicate; these days are made of telephone wires, with your voice at all ends.

A body, a sound, a breath, a belief. Wipe off the yellow desert spread like butter over your walls. Remember me, when you are in pain. Remember me, when you are in pain.

Not everything is made of circles, not everything has a center, not everything is provable, reducible, soluble. But your magic has made me believe I could pour the oceans into a sauce pan and boil them down into a blend of syrup, fossil, and glass.

If they had made my heart as solid as your hands, if they had made my heart as gentle as your hands, if they had made my heart as tender as your hands; you’d be drowned, and I’d.

The curtains are down, and all compasses are pointing here, to your bedroom at the top of the stairs. Your room, with its clouds and deserts, and you in the center, in a velvet-lined chair, knees pulled to your chest.

Not everything is full, not everything is whole, not everything is soluble. But my youth is still yours to use. The moons in my mouth, the seas in my sauce pans: I sold them for bus fare here, from water to land, from room to room.

Remember me, because I am in pain. You are asleep in your chair; wake, find me here. Look at how badly I have broken myself, only to see you again.

Walls, water; Rib, eyes

You are not the cooking pot in the yellow linoleum kitchen. You are not the carp, not the bowl, not the honeydew, not the tortoiseshell comb. You are not the phone pressed to the ear, not the slowly blooming rose. You are not the light, not the supermarket parking lot, not the shirt sleeves. You are not the bow, not the arrow.

You are not the exit to the maze, you are its walls. You are not the walls in this well, you are the rising water. You are buried, dug up, buried, dug up. You are not the door, not the window. You are insoluble in vinegar, in mercury, in gold.

When it is daytime in the Midwestern United States, it is nighttime in your garden. When there is time for the heel of my hand, there is no space in the silk of your arms. When there is space in your heart, there is no time in mine; when there is space for my heart, there is no time for yours. I am sitting outside, on the steps, and you are in my swimming pool. You are not the sugar, not the smoke. You are not the house, not the fire.

You are not the paradise, you are the rib. You are not the rib of this body, you are the eyes. You are shot, reborn, shot, reborn. You are not the gun, not the flower. When there is no space, and no time, for either of us, there is always the yellow linoleum kitchen, where you stand, mitts over hands, watching the steam rise from the cooking pot.

WHAT KIND OF PERSON

What kind of atom string, wrapped around what kind of carbon core, what kind of beating brain and nebulous heart, what kind of moral code, what kind of mantelpiece photograph, what kind of flower in the desert, what kind of desert in flower, what kind of person are you?

I’m the kind that can’t be taken anywhere, not with all the tankfuls of gas, not with all the love letters. I should have been a vegetable garden, this life, drinking in sugars from the soil; instead I am the kind that won’t call her mother back, the kind of Persephone that has to teach herself to love pomegranate. This life, I should have been a tankful, a letter, siphoned out and measured, sent somewhere; instead I am the kind that keeps her eyes open, and hides her burning hands.

You’re just a nasty person, he says, and I laugh and answer, easily, painlessly, did you just find that out now? What kind of promise, what kind of practice, what kind of purpose?

What kind of death, the kind that dries out, sweet-smelling, on the windowsill or the kind that is taken out back, and pressed into the surface of the river, what kind of morning in bed, what kind of alarm, those four bars of a love song, or your mother crying, what kind of kind, kindness, what kind of person are you?

I’m the kind that has been yelling come here. I’m the kind in warm clothes, at the side of the lake. I should have been the first, the second, the third; I should have been the third, the second, the first. This life, I should have been the kind of person that is a room: open the door, set down your bags, come here, come here. Instead I am the kind whose hands are still burning.