Monday, September 27, 2010

Milk and Moon

A woman is one kind of creature
in the coolness of the porch
another species in the kettle steam
the brown heat of the kitchen
and a third in the dimly lit bedroom
You have many names for these changes
still she thrusts
her chin up
for the many layers, peels, phases,
cocentric circles, lunar cycles, spheres, spaces,
dirty sinew, ripped laces, mixed metals, bloody rags, cut bread,
old snow, rusty leaves, powdered shadows, wide ranges.

--Dedicated to Stacey Cope

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Potato Grace

Poetry comes to me through the potatoes.
My head grows sane with each stroke
of the knife
through the rough, pulling skin,
translucent white tuber.

I pour the salt and think of God,
asking him to close every door
and let me be alone
at the cutting board:

A place
where there is no insecurity
no fear
no jealousy

Just a small task,
and peace in that.

Marge Piercy

Now I get coarse when abstract nouns start flashing.
I go out to the kitchen to talk cabbages and habits.
I try hard to remember to watch what people do.

-- "In the Men's Room(s)"

Pregnancy Test

You loved him as his mother always told him
he deserved to be loved.
Now love yourself.

Her round belly withers, whittled
dry down to the roots,
and less than a life
lies beneath cold mud.

She smears cold butter on sourdough.
As his truck pulls away,
she is comforted by the absence of a stranger
and eats breakfast alone.

Words can steal dreams
from underneath the moon.
She will curse the day
his fingers opened wide
the sweetness, like a snow-cone,
left to melt,
now - polluted, salty as the sea.

After pulling on thin jeans
and washing her face in the dirty sink,
she leaves guilt -small, plastic, and negative-
on the table
and is gone forever.

Until the periods
between death
and resurrection
she will dream
- slowly -
of growing back
as sleek and fat,
an aloe plant.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Recipe: for sisters

Sister: You have two claws
and a beak where there used to be a mouth
-- black beady eyes and a red nose.
You want to slit open his guts
with the sharp edge
of each word.

Sister: You have a popped
blood vessel in your right eye
and your head in a ceramic bowl.
You're far away from us
and drowsy, head drooping
like a small child sitting
too long in the sun.

Sister: You are stuck in the middle
of someone else's crusted-black lung,
your problems like flies
around your glorious crown.

Sister: You have a bare brown arm in the moonlight,
and you hear a soft echo--
Do you miss it?
Creeping slowly into your bed
is a memory of bird noises made in the kitchen.
Closed eyes block out the silence
and a confession that was stuck, I'm sure, on the tip of a tongue --
but you left that love on the porch.

By the pure power of our imagination we:
dreamed all evil men good
thought bad things about our bodies
and supposed we could save lost souls.

We were trapped
in the seedy under-belly
of the bible belt.

But now, quietly waging a war to be free,
we slip out of town
one by one,
and our soft, scarred arms
as we put down the weights.

This is the grit that grinds the pearl.
This is the wind that waxes the world.
This is the worm that undoes the fact.

[dedicated to Cassidy Sickmen]


My brother and I found the edge of the world.

The wind was blowing hot that day and sand flecks were getting stuck on my lips. I pushed my sunglasses close to my face because the sun was glaring, and I felt a sensation that told me my cheeks were beginning to burn. I looked over at my brother and saw that his shoulders were red and sweat was dripping out of his hairline. The white fluffy beach was tough to walk through, so we moved down to the water line and let our feet track in the waves. I stepped on seashells and felt them crack beneath the arch of my feet; I was scared they would cut through my skin.

My mind was trying to take in the atmosphere around me. The round searing orange and white sun, the crispy blue sky, the salty taste, it was too much at once. The farther we walked along the beach the less people were around. The wind began to blow so hard against us we had to lean into it to keep walking forward. The water was not rolling. The waves came up into very triangular, crashing waves onto the beach. Each torrent of water that pushed itself onto the shore looked like a glass wall, and then it shattered across the grainy flecks of sand with a roar that filled the whole coastline.

We came upon a sign that commanded us to walk no further. I was tired and a little bit scared. We sat down in the sand, right next to the sign that said stop. We were on the very tip of the beach and the shoreline, no matter how hard it tried, could reach no further. The waves came from the left side of the sky and the right side of the sky, colliding right in front of us, they knocked each other down. The edges of the sea came right up and underneath our toes. On the other side of the sign we saw wild horses galloping hard across the sand. Their hooves pounded so hard that the sound almost drowned out the growling of the waves.

I asked my brother “Where are we?” He laughed and said he didn’t really know. I laughed too, and then I began to cry. I told my brother I was sorry about how he almost lost his first son. I told him I was sorry about the pain I knew he would have to carry for the rest of his life. He was quiet for a minute and then very quietly he said “Wouldn’t it be funny if I lassoed one of those wild horses and rode it down the beach with a white oxford shirt, unbuttoned?” He knew that would make me laugh. I turned my eyes back to the water and let the wind dry out my face. I saw muddy clouds in the distance; they were on the way to give Florida its four o’clock rain shower. My brother stood up. Quietly, we walked back to the car, the warm thick air pressed into us and the hot wind was to our backs.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Aiming For the Feast

During communion I wonder:

How would the man without any arms
hold the bread?

You have to feel it tear.

How would the lady with shut-blinded eyes
see the wine?

You have to know that it is red.

To drop off salvation's shelf --
just wasn't in their plans.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Too Alone

A poem by Rilke, Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy:

I'm too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy.
I'm too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing -
just as it is.

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones -
or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.

I would describe myself
like a landscape I've studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I'm coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother's face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Finding Your Place

Unexpected Home

Addicts, alcoholics, cockroaches, broken refrigerators everywhere, a half-finished fire pit, and PBR cans in the parking lot, I never wanted to move here. I certainly didn’t plan on staying. Somehow, though, this crumbling brick building has become the sweetest home I’ve ever had.

During the worst three months of my life, this small kitchen has held me tightly in her arms. The porch has rested faithfully beneath my broken body, my broken mind, and my cigarette butts. Here I took my final blows from God, others, and myself before I finally fell, face sobbing into the bathroom floor. August ended sweetly, and in her last moments, she woke me up at 4:43 a.m. and told me “That’s enough.”

[Healing] Even though I had lost everything, the next morning still came, and there were eggs. Salted eggs and coffee. And later that day there were beautiful people in the chairs next to me. [Quiet]

You will find your place when you sit still enough to see, when you sit so still the moon can’t find you, when you notice the sweetness of the sidewalk and the stupid cat, when you see the people around you so closely you hear their hearts breaking and the words that they are saying, when you pause to hold their hands, to wash their feet, and pass one minute at a time.

You will find your place when you let go just long enough to let the place you’re in hold you. Let it cultivate your heart. Even if it’s just one small plant. The Virginian has sowed a small cherry tomato plant in my heart, I think.

The first fruit, it came at summer’s end.

I know this won’t be my place forever, but I will always believe that I belonged to these bricks, for a time. In her dying days, I hope The Virginian will remember me.

The days here were drenched with significance, and they will be until I close the patio door, pack my coffee pot, and leave to find another kitchen.