Poetry

 

Then comes Gretel,

such a girl, a swirl

of disheveled hair

 

and, starving though

she is, sits at my feet,

her eyes soft like fields

 

of winsome wheat.

She bathes my frayed-

grayed skin, a kindness

 

I have never known.

I do not see what she sees in me.         

        You must be weary, Mother, all alone in the woods.

 

Her voice like cherries

glistening on the branch,

she calls me Mother.

 

The daughter I never had,

who would love me?  

I cannot end her life

 

now that she’s fatted

as the cow. I suck my tongue…

but I cannot.

 

Better to say I will not,

nor her brother Hansel,

for that would pain her.

 

You see, I am changed.

Gretel’s sighs and scent

have kindled the dwindled joy. 

 

I tread the curse of eternal

life with moldy voice,

a crimped and useless leg

 

man-hairs on my face.

I see scratch, no lean

when fear is crooked

 

on a child’s tongue.

How they taunt me, still,

have always tainted my life.

 

Yes daughter, I am weary

of playing the rogue

in this moon-whipped

 

forest with no simple joy. 

Picking babies’ bones

from my teeth. So today

 

I hatched a plan, clever

witch clever as I am, 

I hatched a plan

 

and told the children 

I must eat them by

the earthly light of dawn,

 

(it can be no other

way—ahh, wretched curse),

but tonight we will rejoice.  

 

I will instruct my Gretel 

to warm the fire to cook

the meal and this child, 

 

her eyes deep with wisdom 

will know when I lean in…

when I lean into the oven  

 

so very far, she will push…

Sparks will rise through the night

lighting Gretel’s way home.

The heavens sing (a daughter weeps) for Noble Perseus, son of Zeus,

Bestowed with the gifts of Olympia, he climbs

Gold wing clad feet, from swift Hermes

A sword of sun drenched bronze, from crafty Hephaestus

Platinum bejeweled shield–­­mirrored and all seeing–from lawful Athena.

Such noble (vile) gifts (sickness) meant for one purpose

To slay (murder) vile (noble) Medusa.

 

The monster’s cave gapes before him, a blackened maw, swallower of men.

A tongue of wine water froths forth

A throat of crushed stones, encrusted with skulls, all slain heroes (pigs) fallen to the task (we asked not for invaders)

A belly (a home) where the monster (mother) coils her serpent (sisters) brood

 

Enough serpent, speak no more

(Enough human, your tongue carves out only lies)

One cannot drown out the mighty chorus for heroic Perseus

(One must speak for headless, voiceless Medusa)

There are no voices for monsters (mothers) only swords to kiss scale (emerald) throats

 

Silence ophidian daughter, stone seductress

When Perseus’s blade sang, embracing Gorgon’s snake entwined necklace.

Just a wyrm you were, wiggling amidst the azure slush of your birthplace

(Just a daughter)

A wyrm

(Living)

Existing

(Innocent)

Shush now, there is no room for Helen’s Bane,

You lie far from the apple curves of women.

Not blessed, not welcome within the orchard of femininity.

The lush branches of beauty are barren with your kind,

You are discarded, a rotten core,

Never to be plucked from the soil choked ground

Forever ignored.

(To toil in the underworld)

An appropriate fate.

(The scorched, molten hallways of Hades discriminate against no one, poet)

Only death can embrace you.

(And so it will embrace you too)

 

Had you been a true apple.

(I am what I am)

Golden silk skin

(As tarnished as your heroes)

Not cobalt carmine scale

(As brilliant as tanzanite)

Beauty to save you, blooming woman

(Beauty to blind you, cock sodden men)

Perhaps Perseus’s lips, you would have kissed,

Rather than the pulping heel of his boot

 

But a glorious marriage (rape)

Awaits not the wyrms of the world

(There are no tongues for our voices, no muses to sing our poems)

Heroes get tales, monsters get swords.

 

Weep now, daughter wyrm.

Weep tears of stone.

Rivers of ash.

The eyes of Medusa rust away.

Your whore mother shall encrust no more men with her onyx embrace.

(But do not all heroes seek immortality?)

 

 

One drop of water

or rustle of wind

makes the whole web listen.

 

And there she is in her

long white gown

refastening its corners

to the edges of the world.

 

Every memory and dream

ever ignited or lost

is alive in the intricate grid

of her finely woven Universe.

 

Pieces always come undone,

broken

with someone or

something left feeling

disconnected from their lineage.

 

So she mends,

eterernally,

one sticky strand at a time.

Inseminated by the race of Cain,
mere-mother suckled a monster.
Her only son smothered into rage,
walker alone in the wetlands,
in the mead hall of Hrothgar drinking thanes.

She waited for him in the cold current
of the hell cave, rummaged the bone pile,
chewed marrow until he came,
matted her fur red with the gore of men.

They made a trophy of his arm in Heorot,
sang songs of glory. Their sounds enraged her.
She claimed back the hand that once held hers,
cradled it through the night until the cave stank.

Clawing her shriveled breasts, she searches
her reflection in the stagnant pool
for the face of Beowulf.

 

The Archangel Michael lays down his fiery sword.

He rests beside the Gate, chin cradled

on slender fingers, eyes black with pity.

Go on, he nods, then churns the pale air,

monstrous ivory wings pulling skyward

and away, his eternal station moot

before my solitary return.  Then I

pass through, entering the garden of her absence.

 

This is the realm between Lillith and Eve, between

Eve and the one who must follow – Not even

God has shown His face here since the Fall.

Whoever thought I’d be back – complaining again

about a woman?  You really blew it

this time, I’d like to say, and not

hear the Old Man’s niggling, It was

your rib, as I recall.  You taught

 

Her everything she knows – As if

that explained something – As if

having shared so intimate a bonding

made clear betrayals, justified her storms

of leavings, lies, of crying outs old Moses

will never bother to record.  As if

Know Thyself were not three thousand years

from being spoken, let alone observed.

 

It’s autumn in the garden of her absence.

The Tree of Knowledge, Good and Evil, weeps

blood that swirls around me like a whisper

of her name.  Those Pagans no one mentions

kindly in these times are pounding drums

across the Outer Darkness, leaping fires,

calling up ghosts.  I sense her touch

upon my shoulder, turn, find only God,

 

His countenance more hot than shining.  Here

I am, home again, alone again,

pockets empty, hands out to Daddy.

Where’s your friend?  As if He hadn’t seen it

written in the dust He gave His breath

in molding me, predicted in the bones

He rolled to bring her forth – our bitterness

like apples out of season falling not

 

So far from Abba’s tree.  One has to wonder

a triune God, three faces wholly male –

What ghostly woman stirs His hand?  What memory

long denied seeps cold into the clay

of His every creation?  Love, then loss,

then loneliness, repeating like a song –

What Goddess’ voice enchants Him from Her distance,

rebounding like an echo to His sons?

 

The Tree of Life sighs weary of its burden.

From Gate to wall, this orchard of neglect

groans beneath the weight of fruit gone ripe

to bursting on the branch, the season turning

its clock behind His back. I sense her hiding,

I answer, finally, there beyond the sun,

behind the trees, beneath the grass Perhaps

there in your robes…  The old magician turns,

 

Plucks from my side a rabbit, golden coins

rain from my ears, an endless stream of scarves

flow from my sleeves, lifted by twin doves

who once had been mere buttons.  I would like

to be impressed, as I was in my youth,

by tricks whose secrets I once hoped to guess,

when innocence was newly lost, and trembling

rage and flaming swords left their mark

 

On memory, those days when she was all

the miracle I needed to believe

in every gaff and sleight, in every card

He guessed, to let Him think He got it right,

when gratitude came easy, and her face

made casting out a trivial affair,

when all the God-forsaken world was ours

to shape as children sculpt the night in dreams;

 

But tricks lead like a circle to this garden.

God’s sweating as He shovels from the earth

a woman’s shape.  His beaded brow inspires

in me only grief.  For all His showman’s

dazzle, huffing this one into life,

all I see, with each turn of the trowel:

the vacant grave emerging in its wake.

Should I spurn this golem, would His heart

 

Follow my descent into that dark

tomb, her name a torch upon my tongue?

Or if I lay my earthen body heavy

atop the mound He’s building, beg the rains

to wash this repetition back to mud –

will His throat take up the prayer I’m singing

for Him, for me, to some more ancient God

of Harvest to reclaim this land, some Goddess,

 

Circling in the ever-faithful moon,

to touch us both as hidden streams of water

secretly feed deserts?  Somewhere blooming

beyond this fallen landscape there must lie

a garden of Her presence, golden apples,

pregnant with the promises of youth,

crowning loyal fingertips, still raising

Her shameless question to our wounded mouths.

 

Invisibles tryst in bayou elms, this place is at the cross

roads. A cabin inn of canoe ruins sunken along a bedlam

of Spanish moss, where undead Mysteres unfurl the indigo

of dragonfly skin & ebony. Loa belles’ brothel dyes their

boudoir drapery of mist. Branches sweep into a loom of

lanterns strung over cypress tree knees cemetery. A cycle,

as the Devourers tend to drums, the will-o-wisp flames’

sway drinks rum with peppered roosters. They are loud,

they are rude, the obscenities shouted all lewd: Howling:

Their guardian’s tale: Roux ga Roux comes: 3 in 1

 

Their guardian’s tale: Roux ga Roux comes: 3 in 1

La Lune slit in two devilled eggs, slips in the Swamp of

Nightfall. Moon-mad maiden: Feet turn to hooves, her talons’

tendrils tread waters. Croons encircle antlers as veins protrude,

robed in angora upon the jackal head’s bone skin hollow ribs.

Scar tissue lips spit silver forked tongue; rose hips flicks fifolet

candelabra. Phosphorus as a Saint, Brigitte breaks seven years

of Lent. Fallen: skin sheds like voodoo. Bathes her curse in

sin’s crimson aureole weds mass spirits, aglow; blanches lilies

in garnet rue, red jasper, mildew. The poetry patroness lost in

the woodsy carnival of wolfish Little Red cards set on the table.

 

the woodsy carnival of wolfish Little Red cards set on the table.

Roux Ga Roux sips a cigar in a garish three piece suit. So, who

dealt the poor beast in? Stitched in lithe limbs, the blamed virgin

of the Loa’s jack-o-lantern keep fell to the psychopomps’ baron

boatmen who anointed the scarlet womyn in chili rum. Hooded,

riding the unknown, she bred writhing canine caribou, O Christ!

The Roux ga Roux, eyeless she-wolf reborn. Threefold

 

The Roux ga Roux, eyeless she-wolf reborn. Threefold

night traveling cartomancer, weeps herself a bloody cloak, prowls

in the bogtrees. Mademoiselle crossed over to a new world to hunt

grandmother, the witch trickster who summoned her from the dead.

Still; the howling Lycan will be, an abbess, lost to sumptuous velocity.

 

I saw my friend, wrapped in gold and pink,
on the Ides of March,
slumbering in a halo of silk,
her honeyed skin smooth and sea-salt pure.

As if youth, beauty, and devotion
could escape the Hindu and Jain mourners,
adorned in white, and chanting mantras.
Her husband, a doctor who wrote music,
played a shivering Pink Floyd-style lament
in eerie disassociation.

At the end of the receiving line,
petals through tears,
I wondered why her hair was light brown tinged with blond
–It was supposed to be black.

I kneeled at her mother’s feet,
a pool of silk jade,
Devi and Demeter, suddenly white-haired,
she held my hand tight
–What part of the world would receive her daughter upon return?

Once there was apple-flavored Chardonnay
at the market in Rittenhouse Square.
Today, the revelers of Saint Patrick,
juxtaposed the lanes
in a sea of inebriated green and clover,
celebrating their martyr as I swam past.

Under the Bridge

 

is a Troll. It’s the same Troll it always was, with
chicken-of-the-woods face, ears like green-necked
rutabagas, and morning breath from getting by
on lumpers with late blight. It still has to hide from
sunlight, hunt when it won’t be seen.  It used to do
all right, but that was when there were plenty of goats
in Gotham.  Now the goats are gone, so are the wagons,
and children don’t wander by in the night.

 

But the bridge – the bridge is not the same at all.
The whole time they were putting New Bridge up,
Troll had to hide in a culvert.  New Bridge is big,
concrete, good for sleeping under by day, but Troll
can’t catch a proper meal.  Nothing trip-traps over
great, grey New Bridge.  Instead, giant metal dragons
roar over with their white eyes.  Troll is so hungry,
sometimes it tries to snatch a smallish dragon, then
quivers under New Bridge, whimpering and sucking
on its broken paws.

 

 

Penelope, what are you going to do

with that body? You’ve laid it

out in the kitchen and waited

for the ants to

come, and they’ve come

 

and carried him away in ticks

and brushstrokes, a crumb of color,

a coin, a thread

from a funeral veil you can’t

hold together.

 

He’s coming back, salt-preserved

imposter to his own

memory—Penelope, what

are you going to do

with that body?

You summon me, the Night,

in my demesne to pierce my heart of darkness!

In prism-dewdrop time, you warm me,

tenderly, with phosphorescent blues

with sirens from the sea; you radiate

melodies in a conspiratorial game and

I am your prey like stupid Mercutio –

you make worms’ meat of me.

 

You kiss me like Judas with lustrous lips

while Nyx looks on paralyzed by your

renewed charms, by your silken hair,

and your radiant eyes. Oh, how I hate you!

What a fool I am! I am like black vinyl

skipping and spinning the same track

under your nail, but your scratch

feels so good on my back as I reenter

 

Your chariot to feel its red velvet seats

bespattered with blackberry mucilage

from prior nocturnal retreats. The roses

you spread at my feet are laden with thorns,

a medieval trap pressed against my knees.

I am a caged beast, a mere pet in your delicate hands,

hands that raise the dawn like Lazarus whilst

I briefly rest inside your soporific snare.                            

 

 

 

 

I should have fashioned a giant paper airplane

or hitched a ride on the back of a kite

or swung a rope over a pelican,

if I could just crouch small enough

to wrap my arms around his neck

instead of choosing Icarus with all of his

doomed plans, wax and dreaming.

 

Icarus looks over his shoulder at me, frantically

reapplying wax as sweat runs down his face,

and grins, sure that all errors are forgivable.

Jealous pelicans and seagulls will not peck us

into the ocean where great fish, extinct for centuries now,

simply laugh at us for raising ourselves above them,

for not recognizing how sensible the ocean is

and sure footed land is with its trails and trees

hanging with fruit that the winged ones,

foolish in their endless circling and diving

often miss in their aim or far too greedy grasping.

 

 

And this time
Hera leaves Zeus,
leaves him angry and fuming;
but as she walks away
she smiles, flicking her hair
behind her shoulder.
And this time,
Hera does not steal away
Lamia’s children in a sudden,
passionate jealousy.
She stands by Lamia’s side
and helps raise them,
and Lamia never looks at
another child in envy.
And this time
Hera learns to love herself,
she starts to heal the bruises
which come from men
who are heavy handed
and lack respect
for those around them.
And this time
Hera teaches Leda how to be
strong again, how to hold her
head high and look the world
directly in the eye.
And this time
Hera plants flowers with Demeter
and refuses to let her previous
jealousy stand in their way.
And this time
Hera helps Persephone recover;
holds her tight in an
embrace and rocks her slowly.
And this time
Hera understands to whom her
hatred should have been towards
how her anger and her passion
was always misdirected.
And so this time
Hera put her well-practiced wrath
in the path of her ex-husband.

 Think how it was the seventh day,

and the tenth, the twentieth—

how people must have said

it couldn’t rain like that forever.

And then it did, at least all of forever

they would know, time becoming tide.

 

We recite those ancient stories,

mythic explanations: Pangaea

breaking up, runoff from one Ice Age

or another. Unless it all

goes back to how, by accident

or on a bet, we crawled up

 

from the salt wash onto shore,

propped our finny elbows

in the sand and caught our breath,

no ark but the deep hull

of our consciousness, the place

we first put two and two together.