Category Archives: Poetry

Embracing the Calling

The stones have drunk her

footprints, and in the manner

 

of a proper uninhibited stupor,

they have smattered errantly

 

on a clear moonlit path, her red

robe supplies the wind with

 

buoyancy, floating behind her

like a supine shadow. The smaller

 

flowers cower in their buds

while the prouder ones stand

 

chest-front against the distanced

howling of a possible night

 

watchdog, but Red knows the woods

are an enticement:

 

the path of deathlessness.

 

If the desire to live counted as a sin,

she was the Cain of gluttony

 

for want of immortality. Her basket

of sweet cakes is laid at the centre

 

of a chalk drawn circle, she holds

a lighted candle to the cumulating

 

grey clouds, the silence holds its

breath in fear of being heard;

 

her pink lips tonight shall receive

their first kiss;

 

she shakes the hood off her head

letting her golden mane shine

 

brighter than the fireflies, she waits

till the clouds have undressed

 

the moon, the stars curl up

like truant seasons, she howls

 

back to the moaning woods.

 

Apples: By Their Fruit

 

It is, after all, the flesh that matters:

The crisp juicy flesh in your mouth,

 

Sweet nectar in your throat. Not

The fruit growing on the tree,

 

Not the serpent talking about the fruit,

Not Eve fingering its smooth skin,

 

Nor even her plucking it from the tree—

But the eating of it.

 

And the offering of the fruit to Adam

And his eating it.

 

Of course, Genesis does not say it was an apple.

(Do apples even grow in Mesopotamia?)

 

But we don’t need to know if the garden was indeed

In the cradle of the Tigris-Euphrates

 

Or whether the climate was right for apples

To know: it was truly an apple

 

That hung temptingly in the center of that triangle

Of serpent and tree and God.

 

ii.

 

And when we bite into the flesh of the apple,

It is more than the apple that we consume.

 

We eat pistils and stamens, pink petals of blossoms,

Gnarled bark, and green rasping leaves—

 

The skin a globe around the soil and sun, insects and sap.

When we eat, we eat the pie, and the flag, bytes, Snow White,

 

And the Chevy truck, too.

We eat the apples arranged in piles in the bins at Save-A-Lot,  

 

Green Granny Smith spinning on the record label,

Apple polished and centered neatly on the third grade teacher’s desk.

 

And even when we eat the apple down to its papery core

And toss away the skeletal remains,

 

The apple still tumbles down the hillside; still teeters

On the pale blond head of the boy who prays, eyes clenched,

 

For his father’s steady hand; still travels downward, falling,

Ever falling toward the head of the scientist

 

Who sits beneath the apple tree; still trembles, skin vibrating,

In the hand of the woman in the garden.

 

And at the very moment teeth penetrate into flesh

Begins the longest fall.

 

iii.

 

And though we tumble,

Head over bent legs, slowly downward,

 

Tumble through generations and epochs,

Through fairy tales and legends—

 

Still the apples are pared and baked, strudeled and sauced,

Are carried by hand to the doorsteps of stepdaughters,

 

Are gathered and counted, bobbed for and tossed.

Still the seeds jostle in the buckskin bag of the man who plants orchards.

 

Apples are yet polished and carameled, sliced and fermented.

Still they bloom cloud-like each spring,

 

Swell to the hard green berries of June,

And hang heavy and red ripe in the autumn orchards.

 

Still one apple dangles from a branch of a tree in every garden,

Waiting again for the hand that will pluck it,

 

For the mouth that will partake.

 

Sisyphus Ponders Escape

It’s not as if I’m dead. OK, technically, I am dead,

but not dead dead like the shades that wander Elysium’s borders.

 

I’m as alive as you. I have thoughts. Beliefs. As in, I don’t believe

this is my end or yours. Nothing is fated.

 

A guy gave me a good offer for my rock. That’s a problem

with the delusional dead: thinking they have control.

 

He wandered off, looking for something more. Left me

a working knowledge of his smart phone. Cell

 

signals flow everywhere on my trek. But who to call?

What’s worth more than my rock? Freedom? Sunlight?

 

Nothing that he offered.  Recharging isn’t needed, though I sleep

a little longer each day. If this is a day. I repeat myself,

 

the rock grows broader, my arms shorter. I’ve many ideas

how to wriggle out of my fate.  If dead, I wouldn’t have

 

ideas, wouldn’t believe the Fates themselves can be bribed.

Nose, tooth, eye. They could clip Hades’ thread if they wanted.

 

By the time this riot was back in order, I’d be gone. Dead,

if I don’t exist elsewhere. Why stay where nothing’s gained?

 

You know, Fate isn’t three crones, just harbors the hatred of three.

I’m not using my appendix, bowels, don’t need all my digits.

 

Like old furniture, they take up space. She could have them.

So bloodthirsty, I suppose she’d throw them to Cerberus.

 

Wait.  I could do that myself. Hold that bargain, Fate.

Medusa

Medusa was promiscuous.
She would flutter her eyelashes
and twirl a dark curl around
her finger tips, which later men
grabbed on to when they fucked her.
Medusa loved saying yes,
but when she said ‘no’ she wasn’t believed.
So the dark eyes which had lured men in,
made them stumble in lust,
were given the power to turn
men to stone.
The hair men loved to clutch
was turned to snakes,
ready to hiss at men when they touched
without permission.
Medusa had been promiscuous.
But when her ‘no’s were taken for ‘yes’s
she was granted a defence.

Then society called her a monster,
they hated her, feared her,
challenged “heroic men” to kill her
because now her ‘no’s had power.
She had been the victim,
forced to defend herself,
but they called her the monster,
severed her head and paraded it.
The girl who had gained better protection
than keys between her fingers,
pepper sprays or rape whistles
was deemed a monster by men
who could no longer fuck her.

Cottonmouth, Loose; Woman on a Grand Piano

Medusa’ s suede pudding of taupe toffee
coils thrive in odalisque sighs, echo.
Minor keys, toothily stain with coffee.
Garter gilded thighs open, art deco.

Her sparse brows, tawny bridges, drawn in thin
crayon. Burnt, burgundy gallows crowned
the cartouche of gamblin glyphs, houses gin
slingin’ gorgon-courtesans. Venom bound

to the wicker; bewitching wrists, sylvan
Pianist’ s rosewood saloon. Nude, muse-sick:
in a desert. Hideously; she grins,
riding bare back to her snake-bitten clique:

Raccoon spirited show girls of Old West
taken in boots. Chokers disguise Eve’s pain
-ted stone ladies’ shed molt ruffled bodice.
Statuesque, forgets severed dreams of reign.

Cottonmouth, looks over her cold shoulder.
Cottonmouth has the deadliest smolder.

Rosa Roja

The balloon animals wilting in the city’s

only zoo remind me. When I turn

circus, I wear more than costume. I wear

 

my sister, Nieve. White as snow.

Girl whose mama locks

herself inside for days. Girl

 

whose claustrophobic potions

fail her, fingers muddying

leaves & earthworms.

 

Mama out of focus

with her heft & weight

her cold tortillas.

 

She calls me cochina. Pig child.

I tug at my basalt-

black hair, woven

 

with ribbons like myth

Mama fixes each morning to soothe

her nerves, combing & brushing

 

me smooth. When she’s angry

she leaves on my cheeks

hand-shaped splotches redder

 

than the birthmark on my neck

where she says

I was kissed by God.

 

I wonder what ice-cream tastes like

in heaven. I wonder if the growl of

mountain lions is real (Why are you here, child?)

 

& the answer is Nieve.

Sleeping Heroes

A cave like bone, bowed stone under brittle stone,
Hides behind a labyrinth of vines,
With slow sleepers lapped in a promise of design.
The names change with the sun’s shadow,
Arthur, Ogier, Charlemagne, all heroes
Waiting to reclaim presence, retouch legend.
But the suffering peasant never offers enough:
Muffles the morning bell, fumbles the unheard horn,
Forgets the sword to cut time’s web of beard.
The sleepers stir into summer, their hunters’
Eyes blind from blood’s bright lust; then,
Their solemn slumber clutches them again.
So sleep grows thicker with sweet autumn colors;
Piled white with winters as the glacier passes,
The ice is all that in their hearts still marches,
While a last star’s glitter spatters frozen faces
And darkness flows out from their secret places.

Dr. Guinevere and Mrs. Vak

Her face is presented to her. It approaches on tall heels, squeezed into the world. It grins easily; feels no qualms, little loyalty.

She apes indifference.

They circle each other, hungry and parched. They arm themselves with the cool, careful sidesteps of convention; but leaks have become breaks, the dam is rushing down.

They exchange pleasantries. They exchange horror stories of weather in a vacuum. Their fingers twitch, they itch, but there is such a little large distance.

It’s a taut distance, a string of tension; a piano string hollow vibrating to light tap, tap, tap. It’s a barrier. It’s thoughtless, violent, crass. They yearn for it and hate it as they yearn for and hate the other of each other.

Gradually the string twists– it draws them in. It draws their circle into a smaller and smaller circumference; it spirals in until they pant into each other’s mouths, until they bare their teeth, until they can no longer twitch and itch but must rip.

They rip into each other’s skin– they’re so hungry, so starved. They cut up each other’s clits, rip each other into strips, they suck each other dry to slake their thirsts and

eat–

eat–

eat.

They’re sated.

Stumble and slur into a single form. Precarious, uneasy, but drunk, drunk on the capability of anything–

and stare out from two gouged-out eyes, into a world of mundane impossibilities.

Paradise Lost

The first week,

a new world.

The song of flight:

music of life anew.

 

I worked with clay,

but only then.

Critters crawled,

humans walked.

 

They called me a god,

made my name sacred,

put my words in stone.

 

How could they say

my deeds were godly

when my mercy was a fallacy?

 

Blood spilled,

raped in my name.

Family feuds.

War’s unholy cry.

 

Who am I

to claim the skies,

own the seas?

 

Depravity, jealousy…

I have made them

after my own image,

in my own likeness.

 

My history is murky,

my words ambiguous,

used as swords.

 

I carry on.

My command, your sin.

 

And so, I long

for those first days.

For paradise.

Persephone & the Blood

They say that if it rains while the Sun is shining, the devil must be beating his wife.

The devil’s wife says,

This saying must have come from a man. Men are all so afraid of a little pain. But no one falls into the devil’s lap on happy accident. I went willingly. Open heart. Open arms. And yes, open legs. I chose the devil as my lover.

But all he could see was a woman, mortal-shaped, fragile, breakable, his queen and his wife but not his equal. Even with his fingers snaking into my hair like temptation, even when I could smell the blood on his hands, even when I clawed the skin from his back, he held my braids like kite string.

Men are all so afraid of a little blood. Women aren’t. Women have been beaten their whole lives for their bleeding sex. Choosing the beating now doesn’t make me a victim, because I want it. Not the way a bad girl knows how to take a punch, or the way a woman who has been lied to can grow to believe that she deserves the back of her lover’s hand. I want him to hit me with the same fire he kisses me awake with in the morning.

Don’t tell me a story about being trapped or tricked. Don’t tell me how I fell from grace and into love with him. I carry the Grace with me always, and give it to him, piece by piece, and no matter how it burns, he begs for more.

Hit me, like the sound of the doors to Olympus or heaven closing behind you. Hit me. Like the last time you felt the sun on your skin. Like I have never been less lost than I am right now. Hit me, like the voice of God. Hit me like I am a monster worth taming because I am. Show me the making of an perfect angel or god from my scarred ruin of a lover, red devil, horned thing, hit me like you are the devil and I am your wife and the sun is shining but the clouds are pregnant and wet with wanting and it has to rain sometime if you want to see spring.

Imposter Syndrome

 

There is an imposter in my home

and yet, not quite

and no one will speak of it

but everyone knows,

the chill in the November air creeping into hearth and home and heart and head.

 

There is an imposter in my home

this is not my kin

and yet, in a certain slant of late afternoon winter sun

even I would be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

 

There is an imposter in my home,

sitting at our table just slightly out of place

not quite understanding our tales and jokes and customs

a beat too slow on the uptake

everyone notices, and no amount of heat from the Christmas stew can warm us.

 

There is an imposter in my home

her giddiness is forced

and yet, not laced with enough sadness to make her real,

to make her one of us,

And yet, whoever placed her here made her so carefully, so lovingly, and just for me

I never had such a gift in all my years

Is there warmth creeping into my heart in the depth of midwinter?

 

There is an imposter in my home

wrong, yes, but sweet in her own way

and she tries so hard to be what she is not

and yet no one else sees the effort, only the blank January spaces

where once our kin resided.

 

There is an imposter in my home

and yet, she is not unknown to me

my kin is beyond my grasp

But her imposter tugs at my skirt, my arms, my heart

There is an imposter in my home,

and yet, there is not.

I look this changeling in the eye

and accept her at my breast

 

My child is home.

 

Nagini by the shore

Nagini by the shore

Queen amidst the rocks,
underwater companion of the sea,
blue silk-skinned and breathless,
she crouches forward.

She descends, a serene siren,
winding in her trance-like dance
to touch a human life, break a heart,
consume another.

In the waters, icy and beholden,
the people traipse unaware,
The passengers and fisher folk miss her,
blended with the the green sapphire forest
and she retracts to her mossy home.

She steals a piece of you from the ocean floor,
Her lips redden like peppers on a sun-baked terrace,
as she sells her elixir of immortality.

The promise dismissed in haste by most,
except for one would-be king,
who shaded her from the sun-glare
to stop the heat from melting her scales.

Serpentine she seems, every Saturday,
her secret exposed to her loved one,
as she bathes in the tide pools.
Gliding on the stones,
he doesn’t know she can only stay a while.

Her lashes shut, and she’s on the go
in bird-like transformation, a missing link,
legs transforming to tail,
the crown tilting heavily against her head.

Sisters conflicted over roles

 

(This interview has been edited for clarity and length)

Ismene? The youngest one?

Now there’s a piece of work I love.             

 

A foil? Of course! She obeys, I resist.

Deliberates to my impulsiveness.

Calls me obstinate

when I go for brave.

It’s a major story line:

my world is never hers;         

hers is never mine.

 

She wants what? Center stage?

Can you hear it now?

The chorus sings: Too weak …

untragic flaws … can’t bear

the weight of her father’s curse

or some such things.

Not the stuff of heroines!

 

Of course she’s swept aside.

What’s a stronger sister for?

Look. Here’s the bottom line:

in this doomed world

prophets come to taunt the great.

We’ve known this all our lives.

She’s better hiding in the dust

than waiting for the cue to die.

Enough. Let’s go back. You asked

about my father’s final days.