Monthly Archives: April 2015
This Road I Am Traveling, a prose poem
I used to think it was possible, even desirable to order the world into alphabetic categories, though I never dared cut someone open with such a blunt knife as you. The most I ever tried was harvesting a few drops of blood — they oozed through the cleanly raked skin underneath my claw like rare jewels.
You do not offer help. You are scientific, curious, high on espresso, perfumed with the thick odor of fatty, fruity soap. You tempt me to weep on your flannel jacket, though you don’t for a minute pretend to love me — or anyone. It is all part of your elaborate theory.
You ask me what it was like to watch her body go, you say you hesitate to dredge up old muck, yet you persist in an ignorant, wheedling way, pulling the raw edges of the wound farther in your fretful passion to get at the truth. I can’t believe a word you say.
Death is foreign to you. Open your eyes! See mine, clouded with the desire to cause your enlightenment. Yes, I recall a hundred details: the way a hand is not any longer a hand after that last breath, just a heavy piece of meat. I remember the stiffening of flesh, the way heat emanates in nearly visible waves from the stilled body. Though as you observe, time has continued to flow, my thoughts have not yet moved on — you are deluding yourself to think they ever will. Shut up! Your sympathies are worth nothing.
There are a million out there who know what I know — until you have allowed the fleeting soul of the one you love to pass through you, risking the internal injuries, the scarring from radiation, you can forget trying to follow for your own amusement.
This road I am traveling is ice — I have been skating with my silvery feet for more than ten years, and though it grows ever wider, I can see no end. I grow tired, but there is nowhere to stop. Living is grieving — sooner or later, only grief survives. Once you learn to skate down memory lane, it’s something you never forget. Though my legs ache, I have to keep them pushing. Still, the bare trees arch gracefully overhead. This cold air burns, yet cleanses.
The First Time I Met My Father, a very, very short story.
The first time I saw him, I was not dazzled. He was too tall and wiry, and he had too much red hair, flying off his head like an unmown hayfield. His eyes were too chilly, a piercing blue that made me feel like an insect on a pin. He was brimful of himself, but at the same time tried to project a false humility. When he found out I was trying out for cheerleading, he tried to talk me out of it. He’d only met me for the first time and hadn’t even met my friends, but somehow he’d already found them incomplete, just because they weren’t political radicals. “Why do you want to be a cheerleader?” he asked, chewing on the straw of his soda while he squinted.
“Because it’s fun,” I said. I shook my head, throwing my bangs back out of my eyes to glare at him. “Because it’s good exercise.”
“Do you know that the players will feel like it’s their right to sleep with you?” he asked.
“I’m not sleeping with anybody,” I said.
“I hope not.”
“You think anybody’s going to be able to talk me into something I don’t want to do?”
The arrogance he displayed made me want to slap him, punch him, kick him, or at least knock a couple teeth out.
Pregnancy, a poem
(after Alice Neel’s painting, Margaret Evans Pregnant)
Puffy hands clutch the seat
of the ruffled boudoir stool
to keep the woman from tumbling
to the floor, injuring
more than dignity;
her cumbersome belly bulges
taut, looms over the
like a great question mark.
Around her delicate knees
are small white dimples;
the pulse in the blue vein
revealed within a pale breast’s
taps in dreamy rhythm and
though her hair is unkempt,
her eyes gleam with gentle
confidence, patient sureness
that she will pass through
the coming ordeal of body
unharmed, spirit intact; that
everything in the world,
all the movement both inside and
outside her flesh, will emerge
from its hiding place at last….
Living On The Moon, a poem
I remember all she had, stockpiled
in a child’s Easter basket. Necklaces
of ivory, turquoise and amber beads —
hopelessly broken and tangled. Cheap
metal pins, plastic bracelets, a dozen
stilled watches. Dried-out jars
of skin cream, mangled greeting cards,
portraits of her sisters. Often,
I allowed her to caress my face with
her trembling, soiled hands. On the pillow,
my head next to hers, pretending
I was a small child, and she my beloved
mother. Afterward, I scrubbed myself pink
with harsh soap. In a moment captured
years ago, Brandy, her tiny poodle,
dances on his hind legs, his pink toenails
scrabbling against her tanned,
scrawny calves, a rhinestone collar
tight around his limber ashen neck.
She tempts him to please her with a bit
of bacon — herself very plump around
the middle, silver hair teased and
sprayed, a perfect bouffant. You
would never guess then she was fated
to end up living on the surface of the moon,
by herself, without shame, without desire.
I must restring the beads, drape them over
a mirror, say a few words to her picture.
She will appear in my dreams nightly, dancing
with a small white dog, twirling her brittle
bones around and around until they catch fire.
She will sparkle like cut glass; gulping for air.