Dead Reckoning

They say birds always find their way back home
but home is a nowhere – a memory; a never was.

Do wings remember spaces in the air
the way we might a place? A cathedral square?

How do you fly back to that? Away from
a tomb of fears, this place yearning for you…

Some years ago, I lay bright flowers on
my father’s grave. Years later, I saw

my grandfather’s ashes taken by the
roots of roses.

I am not myself nor have I ever been
something apprehending the sun

and other bright celestial objects
thinking: this is a tapestry in orbit

around me. I am completely convinced that
we may have been the last creatures to discover

how to be in the world. My heart grows wild.
My future children brush past me in the darkness.

Their chattering voices fill my ears and
then my chest and I cannot hold it in.

I am always coming home.

Warm Up

Imagine that you are chewing a piece of gum. Chew it. Focus on the thought of it. You might chew it on one side of your mouth, then the other. Now the gum is expanding. Really work on it. The thought of it. The gum of the thought. Now the gum is made of hope. Focus on the thought of the gum of the thought. The hope is heavy, it’s scratching at the roof of your mouth. It’s as if there are ventricles in the gum. Heart ventricles. Chew it. Now the gum is made of a muscle. You might feel an aorta complaining against one side of your mouth, then the other. Now the gum is a heart. Focus on the thought of it. There might be blood. The heart might want to burst, and you can let it, just keep chewing. Really work on it. Now the heart is expanding. Your jaw muscles should be good and warm now. Spit out the heart. Think about what you’ve done.

Do We All Have Someone

the hours with you cradling your belly
in my hands

your face level                     with my neck
my neck level       with your mouth

almost like     being a teenager again
almost like            a giving in

when you put your hand on my face
I do not move                your eyes are closed

the only thing speaking is your hand
the slow circle of your fingers

do we all have an ex we can’t forget
not the one               that got away
but the one who left
not the one               that left for good
but the one who stays just out of reach
your thumb circling my jaw
can you feel my body humming
underneath your fingers
I know I know             that’s just me
romanticising you again

I know your patterns
I know how this goes

maybe we have nothing
to talk about anymore

do we all have someone        we can’t forgive
your hands
your hands in the night.

Our Whole Life

Our whole life a translation
the permissible fibs

and now a knot of lies
eating at itself to get undone

Words bitten thru words

meanings burnt-off like paint
under the blowtorch

All those dead letters
rendered into the oppressor’s language

Trying to tell the doctor where it hurts

like the Algerian
who has walked from his village, burning

his whole body a cloud of pain
and there are no words for this

except himself

– Adrienne Rich

Crawl Space

I am the man with cheeks covered up and
with my heart nailed down
crying silently on my father’s lap
of course I wake with a start in the
peeling bedroom
enmeshed in the indigo field
in a cacophonous pool of memories
of things I never wanted to learn

the moon sways over me whitely
too quickly
bordered by the jungle
overgrowing outside the stable where I live

strange feelings overcame me when she left
like the cracking old image of a wave framing a lighthouse
like an octopus crawling on land

she was a goddess in her blood thirst
looking out of the window, a pre-ghost
I know the look of someone newly self-murdered
the moon’s trailing over me too quickly

outside the window, roofs darkly mask the sky
the sky the thatched colour of jeans
evening coming down like hair snipped over shoulders
everything in place for our inflatable vegan dinner
we sat courteously as adults, haloed by stained glass

efforts to understand me were lost
like music reverberating under water or a hammock pinged at one end
my safe word couldn’t reach her whilst her dishonesty
beat me into the crawl space
I nearly broke myself to be with her
(she got there first)
this was not outside my character

Not even a question of lying

‘Why do we feel slightly crazy when we realise we have been lied to in a relationship?

We take so much of the universe on trust. You tell me: “In 1950 I lived on the north side of Beacon Street in Somerville”. You tell me: “She and I were lovers, but for months now we have only been good friends”. You tell me: “It is seventy degrees outside and the sun is shining”. Because I love you, because there is not even a question of lying between us, I take these accounts of the universe on trust: your address twenty-five years ago, your relationship with someone I know only on sight, this morning’s weather. I fling unconscious tendrils of belief, like slender green threads, across statements such as these, statements made so unequivocally, which have no tone or shadow of tentativeness. I build them into the mosaic of my world. I allow my universe to change in minute, significant ways, on the basis of things you have said to me, of my trust in you.

I also have faith that you are telling me things it is important I should know; that you do not conceal facts from me in an effort to spare me, or yourself, pain.

Or, at the very least, that you will say, “There are things I am not telling you”.

When we discover that someone we trusted can be trusted no longer, it forces us to reexamine the universe, to question the whole instinct and concept of trust. For awhile, we are thrust back onto some bleak, jutting edge, in a dark pierced by sheets of fire, swept by sheets of rain, in a world before kinship, or naming, or tenderness exist; we are brought close to formlessness.’

For many years now, these words, by Adrienne Rich, have echoed and resonated in my life in the most painful ways. And, each time I start a new chapter I hope against hope that these words will be burned away by the light of trust, honesty and transparency about those things that are important. Each time I ask the universe and myself, ‘Will this be the one. Will the echo of these words finally leave me at last’. And each time the answer is, ‘No. Not yet. Not yet.’

I am tired of looking back and reexamining the mosaic of my world only to discover that my experience and my life was changed in both minute and significant ways on the basis of lies. I am weary of the bickering drama of them.

But now, still, there is hope. I can see it, just over there on the horizon. A glimmer. It is driving toward me from across the plains of Andalucia perhaps. The faint scent of the orange gardens in Seville joining and swirling in the tendrils of light as they make their long way to the echo chambers of my heart. It is just a glimmer. But it is enough. I am ready. I am ready.

Promenade

Openly wanting something
like the opened up lungs of a singer.
I walk by the carriage of the river
and the vinegar wind assaults.
Is this an age of promise? I blush
to want. If I were walking with you,
arm-in-arm, along some
iron promenade, you could fill me up
with hope, you could push back
my stiffened hair with want. I’ll just lie down,
my ribs opened up in the old town square
and let the pigs root through my chest.

The Indigo Field

Two bees hang
around a severed horse’s head
forgetting that they’re supposed to
pollinate
flowers instead of
the roughly opened gland
of a mammal.
Black pennies
with cow faces
down a black well.
You stood no chance
of finding the hope you longed for
I tell myself,
as the sea cannibalises.
It manages to forgive itself
every day, without visions
of the girl
making her way towards me
across the indigo field.

Franz Marc’s Blue Horses

I step into the painting of the four blue horses.
I am not even surprised that I can do this.

One of the horses walks toward me.
His blue nose noses me lightly. I put my arm
over his blue mane, not holding on, just
commingling.
He allows me my pleasure.
Franz Marc died a young man, shrapnel in his brain.
I would rather die than explain to the blue horses
what war is.
They would either faint in horror, or simply
find it impossible to believe.
I do not know how to thank you, Franz Marc.
Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us.
Now all four horses have come closer,
are bending their faces toward me
as if they have secrets to tell.
I don’t expect them to speak, and they don’t.
If being so beautiful isn’t enough, what
could they possibly say?

– Mary Oliver

What We Want

What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names–
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don’t remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.

– Linda Pastan

Love Poem

I want to write you
a love poem as headlong
as our creek
after thaw
when we stand
on its dangerous
banks and watch it carry
with it every twig
every dry leaf and branch
in its path
every scruple
when we see it
so swollen
with runoff
that even as we watch
we must grab
each other
and step back
we must grab each
other or
get our shoes
soaked we must
grab each other

– Linda Pastan