I knew a girl
who ran away with the moon,
her hair a shining ribbon behind her,
so bright the stars looked to it
to guide them across the sky
and exclaimed amongst themselves
that a princess had come,
leaving a heaven’s road of light
in her wake.
I knew a girl
who jumped naked into chilly streams,
stiff-nippled and daring the trees
to try to hide her from the world.
Quietly they leaned away from her,
letting the night drink her,
letting the moon touch her
while she laughed and screamed
and floated along.
I knew a girl
who created caverns beneath her feet
with every step across the world,
created life with every tear
that found soil, created universes
with every word that dripped from her lips.
She never asked for any of it—
she couldn’t help the things she bore
but her bones were aching tired.
I knew a girl
who bareback rode the time-eating wolves
and howled her past into the dark,
wanting only for it to be torn from her—
but the ghost of her Apollo followed her
and every skin she shed, he gathered.
All she was when the moon went new
was a skeleton in a hollow,
and in the silence, she found sleep.
I don’t remember when it was
that I got so, so old.
My bones are grandchildren-weary
from hugging future ghosts.
I wonder why the time has gone—
I know the where, you see,
it’s all over everything.
My favorite trees are Nowhere trees
and the buildings that rolled by
the rear window, quick shots
like vintage postcards—
I watch old kid movies
just to feel sunny again,
just to feel skinned-knee again,
just to feel immortal again.
If I’m careful,
I still have another 60 years
of watching everything fade to dusk
to look forward to.
I want to destroy something beautiful
in one sweet, simple stroke
and watch it fall
like a ring of little girls
who don’t understand the song on their lips.
I want to smash tiny castles
made of white sand and other dreams
before they’re ripped away on the tide
that cradled me before
while I added a little salt to its swell.
I want to tear apart dewy spiderwebs
glinting in the sun—
you know the ones—
and when I break enough homes to earn
a pair of silk gloves
maybe I will sleep again.
I’ve got Jesus on my wall.
He used to freshen up the place.
Now he just stares with his halo,
a faded vanilla Christ
hanging from a nail
in a rundown trailer—
but this guy gets around.
Just the other day I saw him
at a bar on a cell phone,
another day on a jacket—
I guess he and Ed Hardy are buddies—
$187 but you can’t put a price
even if it’s neon.
Is this a sacred thing,
the way your lips feel
smiling against mine?
How ancient I feel
naked, in your eyes
with your fingers tangled in my curls—
how primal, with your teeth
in my shoulder.
The walls turn to gold around us—
ah, a thousand eyes reaching in
to be near our nearness,
to meet god on our heels
and bathe in the eternal youth of our sweat.
Is this sacred,
this heat, desert heat, crying heat
closing around my lungs
until I am panting like a temple dog
All I know is the pulse in your veins.
I feel it in my own
when your hands pin my wrists
to the pillow
and the ceiling has faded to constellations
who have found their old places
in the sky.
We built towers here,
aligned them with the stars
and when the night is cold
we have places to hide,
sunlight monuments, Orion faces
to protect our molten bodies—
yes, this must be the very definition
Sometimes time cries wolf
while you’re sitting around
waiting for something to happen
and someday you won’t wait
for magic moments
but every so often
one will catch you.
You’ll stop at a red light
and switch off the radio
and the people in the next car
will roll up the window,
muting their laughter—
all this, all at once—
a bird will fly by
and you will hear
the soft beating of its wings
like velvet on velvet
and swear you feel the breeze
in its wake
and you’ll understand
in that moment
why it was you waited
all those times before.
When we’ve gone
into the black
out of this life
floating in space
traveling through dreams
whispering across the void
fragments returning to a whole
eternal memories fading
love, my love, my love
when we are one again
and the pieces of our souls
dance across the stars
I promise I won’t forget the eyes
that almost carried me there
and if we are reborn
in new flesh or old
I will find you again
because there is no reality
that can exist
Do you think this is spring?
We’ve learned to accept it over time
that spring is a cold, gray thing
a dirty, wet road
branches still naked and
flowers still dead
but it’s March
and something in the air says it’s here
I feel it, some shifting—
it is spring after all
it’s laying there, underneath
waiting to happen, and thank god—
I thought it wouldn’t come this time.
Every year winter gets longer.
One day I’ll wake up
and look out into the white
that has been there for a decade
and think wistfully about these springs,
the ugly, dirty springs
that kept me going.
It turns out the world
was just a shell
barely containing the dark
from touching the stars
in their secret spaces
and tainting them—
I felt the quaking, saw the cracks
that ripped through the land
in deep, angry ruts
I ran my fingers over
the ragged edges where the dark
slipped out, quiet and constant
but I still wasn’t ready
when it happened—
now the crumbling pieces
held tight to my chest
with their unrecognizable scapes
are no comfort to the stars
as they are engulfed.
morning or midnight—
it doesn’t matter
what the numbers in the car
everything looks more
or less the same
in a blur to the left
and my stomach dropping
because I feel my body
and its place in the world
is pretty much ok
and expected now
when there’s music to sing to
you would think
it could drown out
the things that unravel
inside a head
but I guess I can multi-task.
I still prefer it—
being on the way
always feels better
and finding you’re nowhere
Oh god I feel it—
I’m hanging up the stray notes on bare branches
to turn and rot and fall with the snow.
I build walls of ice that I pretend to chip through,
wiping my brow like I’m trying
and I still cry when I get nowhere and that—
that’s real enough
and I feel something inside clawing at my ribs
but I’ve trapped it with complacency
and I wave it away when it gets too close to escaping,
a flick and a word and I send it off
and I watch it curl up and wait.
I can see its eyes—
god, they are blazing.
Will they still burn when we are old
and it has shriveled and I am weak
or will I let it out today, now,
and hunt down my dreams
through a heady uncertainty?
You had me, on that little wooden bridge
over the creek
You held me at moonpoint
up aganst the rail.
In the light of that glowing cradle
I knew I was a goner.
I walk next to the river,
follow it through the woods—
A cloud of moths
flies into my mouth,
up to my brain
like a fish on a hook
I am pulled into
the tall velvet, through the blue—
everything is alive
everything has a glow
my fingertips split open
and light spills out,
pouring into the river
flowing to the ocean.
Feed the night.
I open my lips
and notes are ripped from my throat
by the wind,
a hollow, hopeful song
echoes off the trees
echoes in the little lungs of birds
tender cages release—
and now I’m floating down
the ecstasy is ebbing
I fall on the ground
and as I choke out the last
of the sweet wings
I crawl to the bank and drink.
Encumbered - I think the word often,
but I feel it even more.
What am I heavy with today?
The sky is too thick and gray
and I feel the earth suffocating
when it’s insulated from the
clear dark of space.
The wet snow grabs at me
(cold fingers of damned souls)
when I’m trudging toward the door—
I know if I run I will be pulled down, deep.
Layers of skin and fat and muscle
hug and stick to my skeleton
and my bones rattle with the ache
for release, for lightness.
Days like this the air is woolen,
my mind has a rash, my heart is sweating.
Sometimes life just has me surrounded
and I don’t even have the strength
to put my hands up
and all the white flags are made of lead.
These girls with ancient eyes
and narrow hips, still children but not,
pubescent springs, swells,
swaying walks down busy streets—
they dream of touching but they don’t know.
Spread over their skin are little red lines
that lead like roads on a map to a wonderland,
secret aching highways waiting for a driver
to hit all the landmarks,
the little forests, the geysers, the
delicate bridges that are prone to quaking.
Pretty meat. Tender meat.
Some will be fine, never knowing
the thoughts of monsters, but others—
one day they will be hollowed out,
scraped and raw as a jack-o-lantern
waiting for winter.
I would kiss you
until my lips were bloody
if you let me
and when I’d had my fill
of all the fluids
our mouths have to offer
I would kiss you again
The butterflies are fine,
lovely to see a flash of orange
wobbling through the air
(jesus doesn’t anyone else see
how awkward they are in their new bodies)
or maybe blue, some summers
but I much prefer the moths,
plain and powdered, glowing
gently and hanging around my porch light
like it’s their savior - who knows
what promises it speaks to them
in its low humming - so I turn it off
and watch them scatter
and I feel like some great liberator
unmasking a prophet of false light
setting loose these women with unmade faces,
watching them find themselves in the dark.
Holding hands with my shadow
even as she falls away
even as I grow out and she dies gracefully—
the cement is full of faded
dirty words in chalk
but here I’m innocent again.
The sky is blue
and the wind picks up
and the trees shudder from withdrawal
because nobody will climb them anymore.
Everything is creaking but I’m holding it together.
I lay on the ground
and feel the slow trip around the sun
and the pebbles digging into my back
while everything turns red.
Spread out like this - a starfish
thrown out of the sea like an intruder -
I hope no one will come along to collect me just yet.
When the mosquitoes come I hold out my arms
and say, “Yes. Take it all.”
It is my offering on this childhood altar.
Trace my body and when I’m lifted out
you’ll find the word “fucked” smeared under my head.
When I’m Sphinx-style on the bed,
my face eternally impassive
and you, explorer, searching
with your hot skin—
I wonder why I’m here
and how my fingers came to dig into this mattress
and not some other
I can’t see the future anymore and I don’t know if I want to
but I can’t resist the urge to try,
squinting while sand motes dance in my eyes
and whisper that it’s time to burn,
to put the endless days to rest—
but I won’t do it, I can’t bear the
idea of a fading sky in the west.
I’ll show you my secret passages.
I’ll let you get lost.
All the riddles are inside
and none of the answers.
When I was little
I pushed my fingers into my eyelids, hard
until I saw stars and lightning.
Sometimes I would stay in space for several minutes
and my eyes would have to fight to readjust to life
but when I wanted to escape
what better place than behind my own vision?
I felt close to some great truth,
some floating, some ending—
but I was young, so I only looked and never touched.
Beauty is what hangs in the morning before you even
wipe the sleep from your eyes
so everything glitters and blurs
shimmering through the window like heat
blinding you, warming you.
It’s the way your lover looks on the bed next to you
through this grimy, glowing halo
and the rhythmic rise and fall of the chest
where you lay your head and heart.
It’s the secret drinking in of every angle and curve
and the smell of sweat on the pillows.
It’s the whispered I-love-yous into unhearing ears
and the ray of sun falling onto lips
that beg to be awakened with your kiss.
Before you hear anything, believe
your eyes and hands and tongue and lips
chase the heart of the matter
drink up smoke up why live forever
why not see, paint, play for all you’re worth
in the grand scheme of things you may find out
it’s not much and you may not care or maybe
you will but what can you do
when you’re the only one who thinks
the only one in your head
the only line of communication to any world,
any reality - but you are alone.
It won’t take long.
Just a prick, a pinch, a flash of discomfort and it’s over and you are just a
fading memory of a fleeting pain on the arm of the universe.
He was so little and mighty
with a ribcage of glass and a heart of dried flowers
all wild and delicate and eternal.
His mouth was always full of song
and his hands were always reaching,
turning up rocks and mushrooms, rusted nails
and broken plastic, boy-treasures stored
in a tin box beneath his bed.
Every night he fell asleep under a glow-in-the-dark universe,
wishing on a cracked star for his mother to love him enough
to tumble back down to Earth
for just a few more years
while the plush menagerie at the foot of his bed
whispered his sadness to the sky.
Oh, he was a shitkicker, alright—
a regular riot, this Wild Boy
who numbered only one
All full of eleven years then, an age
of infinite wisdom and arrogance.
His father doesn’t know him but
the trees do, the streams do, the
winds speak even now of his spirit,
aching and bone-tired as it was.
When loneliness is loud, you can’t hear it as well.
Stolen kisses from fake strawberry lips, chemical
against cracked and dry and bleeding
He discovered a taste for shame and in it redemption
and in that, freedom
and it rang and he answered, met it at a lovers’ lane
or The Old Oak Tree, or wherever underaged petting is best secreted
pearls of dishonesty and breathlessness washed ashore,
torn from their dark safety.
When he finally shook the last of the mothdust from his heels,
when he waved goodbye to quiet graves
and careful rosebuds, a tip of the hat
to his husked out father and off, off, out—
alone in a new way in a new place
his heartbeat slowed to a humdrum
morning, noon and night came on time every time
beard, shave, drink, sleep, work, drink, drink, drink
He considered the notion that he might be lost and
not lost like in the woods at home where he always found
the way out even as he prayed to stay gone but
that in an ocean of nothing, he added nothing
and floated along anyway.
Now he sits at his window
and breathes in the past that blows through.
We build beautiful statues of men
marble, bronze, cold—
Insert a small crack inside
either to make them fall apart completely
or to allow a seeping, slow.
These are the ones that lead,
and power - that is easy.
They are full on the dreams of the many,
fat on the thick tears of labor.
They are fed, and they feed, and so on
into the highest echelon of flesh.
These few serve no one and eat all.
We built them and perfected them
until control was all, but
the crack that has been filled
is still a crack
so bring out your chisels and your
Soon the work begins.
Salutations, tumblr. Yeah, I leave for years and one day return arbitrarily as if nothing happened. What about it?
I followed you, bare,
the snow turned my feet red
and the rocks cut
and when I could reach I grabbed you
ripping out a handful of feathers
and as I cradled you and swallowed
each silky one,
I mourned you, stroked you—
how did you escape?
You never should have
that cage was organic
I watched it pulse and grow
into your skin
merging with your bones, anchoring deep
I watch my hands recede and ask myself
if I’m dreaming
before the balloons can carry them
all the way to Saturn,
I clap them to my ears to block out
my own howls
(it’s baying, I’m baying)
they are too big and clumsy and
full of holes
and now these receivers on my head
listen to my voice
and my murmurs are full of static
I can only decode if I yell
but I want to stop yelling
I want to whisper joyously
through clenched teeth
while I bend over and present my back,
allowing my soul to be borne.
I looked around and wondered where I was. There were so many people crammed tightly into their seats, neat little rows like a cabbage patch. The air was suffocating, and I thought that maybe I wouldn’t be able to breathe much longer when I felt a blast of cool air by my knees. I leaned down to let it wash over my face, but I was lurched forward and hit my head on the back of the seat in front of me. We were moving. A smiling man stood up and began to talk. I looked left out the dirty window at the way the sun was burning the ground. I leaned my head against the glass and closed my eyes.
When I opened them again, I saw a desert. I could hear the man’s voice in my head, but I couldn’t understand. I only caught pieces—irrigation in the Sonoran Desert can give you cancer irradiation in bones splintering and has produced many fertile, agricultural areas like the molding spots inside your head, brain shrubbery…
I decided to tune him out and focus on the landscape. It wasn’t as red or white as people who don’t know deserts might expect. There is so much life, green, but it’s more like an ocean floor than a forest. The sun was shining in such a way as to backlight the cacti, creating halos of light and exposing their coral-like shapes to anyone who might care to notice. That sun, it glinted off something – maybe a rock – and into my eyes, and I thought about my song, the one Mom sang to me when I got upset. I sang it under my breath—
“Heeeyyy, my sun-eyed giiirll, heeyyy, my sun-eyed gii-ii-irl…”
Joey tried to tell me once that it was cyanide girl, but of course he was wrong, because I was a sun-eyed girl just like Mom said, just like the sun was telling me now, I could feel a million years of light and hydrogen behind my eyes waiting to supernova and when it did he’d know that I was right and he was just jealous that Mom never sang to him. I was made of stars and he was made of dirt.
The bus jolted forward, stopped, jolted, stopped. People began to whisper and crane their necks, like maybe if they could just learn to turn their heads a full 180 degrees they might understand everything, could be wise like owls, could fly away and cough up mouse bones and know the shape of the universe. I heard the air brakes release their pressure as we came to a complete stop and the smiling man, no longer smiling, turned to talk to the driver. When we were stopped like this, sitting in the hot, stagnant air that was threatening to crush me, I knew if I could just move again, pass it by and leave it here, then I would be okay. The smiling man, smiling again, turned back to us and said that the bus had run out of gas. He suggested we all step outside and stretch while the driver filled the tank with the reserve gas cans and, not to worry, we’d be back on the road in no time.
I filed through the rear door with the others and began walking out, into the desert, away, away from these people who aren’t people, who aren’t owls, who are made of dirt and whose particles I did not want tainting my starstuff. I walked fast so I could pass the air – maybe I was even running. I heard dirt voices behind me, coming at me, but I didn’t stop until the sun was setting and my side ached. I lay down in a patch of poppies and I remembered that poem, In Flanders Fields, that I had read in one of Mom’s books, where all the dead bodies from the war made all these poppies spring up, and they were red like blood. These ones were yellow, like the sun had splattered the ground with its own life force, and as I closed my eyes and began to drift, I wondered if the poppies that would grow out of my body would be yellow, too.
meteor showers shoot through
the insides of my eyelids
I could make wishes every day
if I wanted
sparkling, flesh colored
there’s a whole universe in here
it can get lonely
floating through space
At night, I close my eyes
and pretend the sun
is searing through
sunset, the sky is pink
veins are clouds
an aneurysm or a storm.
Can you catch your own shining tail?
stars and wishes and dreams and -
and all that -
I get stuck sitting
at a window
with the curtains drawn
I catch glimpses and gain shadows
I stretch my synapses
to touch dead air.
Ah, sir. It was I who was deprived. :-) Many thanks, and I look forward to your entries on my dash.
I’ve got these - headlights.
I’d like you to get caught in them—
it might leave me enough time
to jump out and strip you
of your antlers.
If I leave you naked and crying
on the side of the road,
remember that it could be worse.
If I fashion your lost manhood
into a jaunty bit of headgear
and wear it out to the bar,
tap it, wink and smile at your friends
while your jaw slackens, well—
what is there to do?
They fit me, after all.
Now I’m the cock of the walk.
Hey chief. Hey buddy. Hey guy.
Not all endings are happy ones.
I don’t even take them off to sleep anymore—
the lush brown velvet is so becoming.
I fall asleep stroking it and thinking of you.
I wake up stroking it and thinking of you.
Your new deficit must be troubling
in the mirror.
Do you touch your bandaged stumps
and cry, I wonder?
So sad, so sad.
If you feel vengeance boiling up in your throat,
choke it down.
Remember, you were asking for it.
Your wide wet eyes said please—
the way you walked, the way you
Oh my poor, sweet dear—
not all endings can be happy ones.
For my Gram.
Every day I walk by photographs of you
with scarcely a thought of our past.
The fixed smile is so unlike your
the glass covers provide
a false twinkle in your eyes.
They were the clearest green.
Unthinking I pass your face every day—
here you are at sixteen,
a second-place beauty queen
(you said the girl who won
knew the judges)
dulled by the monochrome film
but still so bright.
Here you are in your fifties,
just after you quit smoking for good.
You haven’t lost your best qualities.
Intelligence and a love of life,
flash in your eyes
and lay etched into your skin.
Here you are at seventy-four.
The eyes, still beautiful
but flecked now with uncertainty—
you still haven’t lost
your best qualities.
The oxygen being fed into your lungs
through the tubes in your nostrils
is silent now, but I remember.
I remember wanting
to hug you but you
were too fragile,
like a tiny teacup
I might have given to my daughter
without reservation, knowing
it could easily be replaced—
what did I know
There are no photographs of you after this.
Only months later I visited you, again
in a hospital bed—
Tears slid down your cheeks without meaning.
I whispered into your deaf ears
how sorry I was for how seldom I came to see you
when I could have.
These photos - they’re so abstract,
instants I might otherwise forget
but that I don’t need—
the time surrounding them
was so much more precious.
I just pass them by.
Instead I open up your worn,
black umbrella on rainy days
and hold it close
on walks like we used to take
I tie your blue silk scarf
around my head when
the wind kicks up
and feel it whip my cheek
I open your jewelry box
and look at each piece,
cradling them in my palm
until I feel them go warm.
I wish you had been buried,
that I had a place to
lay my tears into a stone
that bears your name,
into grass that you help to grow,
smaller than your old garden
but the more beautiful for your bones.