Call It Moving On

She’s been dead a couple of years,
my soul mate. Lots of people’s soul mate.
That was her gift. She belonged to everybody
and nobody at all. She was very much
her own woman or the Goddess’ woman
or at least a powerful woman; no less
nor more than I, myself; but still.

We are stratified into more subtle layers
than most people care to discover,
a bit of fairy dust really, and yet.
It matters less and less only we did
understand one another, and upon death,
suddenly our work comes more alive.
People are searching for answers.
Our passing reminds them of this.

I keep wondering if I ought to be shaking
bits of her out of my body, but where
then do I put the pieces? I who am
daily reminded of footprints and planets,
the excesses of my own species. And still
I am reluctant to see those remnants go.

It’s not that I cannot let her progress,
she is doing that splendidly, even now;
and images come alive in heartbeats
out in the garden by the clove tree
which could never cast those memories
into fires of forgetfulness, knowing deep
as sap the need for proliferation of kindred,
her now-forgotten mace and nutmeg.

Only Human

What can be grasped in the depth of one’s gaze
peering mysteriously through curtains
of illusion, how to ever truly comprehend;
I sit gazing at that image now, the one of you
and me on the water, snow-crested Mauna Kea
backdrop, you in your element and me
in mine, I suppose;

Presentation unfailingly graceful, care ever
in the details, radiance beaming clear through,
and yet tortuous as life was to you anyway,
it ended. Just like that.

Wincing at your self proclaimed ugliness,
shaming parental voices never stilled,
and more beautiful a being I have rarely met
(choice of verb flipping flash card ‘known,’
rejected out of hand).

Impossible to fully intimate another we bar
no hold on the ego’s livery, while I carry
on perceiving shadows and crevices furrowed
deeper than appearances. You harbored
no guile, yet all I could glimpse
in those luminous dark eyes was wisdom
and experience; timber solid as trees
and just as vulnerable to the axe.

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photo: Hipstamatic rendering of guava leaf – Pololu Valley trail, 2015

Iconic Irony

All we know of another
may be only what our illusions support;
if we want a savior, they become that
in our minds, even our cells;
if we need a lover, a mother,
a brother, best friend, they become that
as well, until, exhausted from the weight
of the world’s expectations,
a pin is pulled, the makeup slides off,
holy garments slip from slumped shoulders
and the beloved appears, just like us,
in their naked humanity.

If I barely know myself,
how is it I suppose I can know another,
save for my own projections;
we are complex, we are selfish,
the most noble among us gets angry,
even cruel in our way, and we jump
back stunned, barely able to witness
what materializes before astonished eyes;
we observe, questioning, not them
if we are lucky, but our own
perceptual distortions.

photo: bj, ‘Through the Looking Glass’ 2015

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not like Mona Lisa

who seems too pious for the picking
and more like Vermeer’s Girl,
something suggested only
as if she knows she’s goddess,
while the other is bent toward God;

I am not one of those who
harbors yearning for the unresponsive,
though I understand the predilection.
Still, to whet one’s appetite
for what’s authentic conjures
in one another the deities
of which we speak, asking more
of what lies dormant within;
and even then, we dally.

Ah, to awaken the most wondrous spirit,
to imagine the fullness of existence
and embrace eternity in this moment.
To do this with another.
We are ecstatic in the dance,
we are living the dream.

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Cast

Desirous of returning, perhaps,
furtive glances at the young couple, hands
never far from one another, stroking gently
and they know, these manatee women,
how it changes, that touch,
first a small betrayal, feelings far out
of proportion to events peculiar
to youth they would gladly recapture,
if only wisdom would imbue it;

Then follow the children contemplated
even now, his building a sand belly
and photographing, sending to envious friends
because they say so, faking is funny, oh,
the irony, biological urges blurring senses,
morning passion play marking faces,
masks one sees through, if attentive;

Elder gestures now revealing,
impressing far more than the telling,
(youth’s perception terms it envy,
oversimplifying complexities developing,
years left in the making);

Still, the mind casts to and fro,
fly fisher’s line not quite settling on the waters
of imagination, back and forth encores,
brains sharp as once they were,
bodies standing stock still,
melting candle legs supporting
burgeoned bellies, gravity drawing them inexorably
back to point of origin;
bargain made, body borrowed,
innocence hearkening to a time
they, too, were blissfully unafraid.
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D’Alliance

Have you ever thought to yourself,
if only this person would see my heart,
if blame and fear were set aside,
we might forge truer bonds?

It is always surprising when another
remains unwilling to own their part,
especially when friends drop
like dominoes, again and again.

Surely it is not always the other’s fault?

When a well-trod higher road proves insufficient,
an exasperated distance gains last resort.
Humans have feelings, after all.

While it is difficult to stop blaming oneself
for actions beyond understanding,
it might be equally onerous for another
to stop offloading personal responsibility
onto others.

Life is the great teacher,
may we learn well.
Open to learning, one must realize
humility has many recalcitrant students.
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Streets

How can it be in this land of plenitude,
our fellows spilling out now
into city streets, smearing pristine glare
of glossy retail windows
with the crime of their insanity?

I walk and talk with open heart,
not from a place where vacant stares
meet hollow eyes;
hear his story, however true,
offer a meal he declines,
proud he is employed, no longer able
to dig holes, he says,
since someone crushed the back
of his skull with a rock.

Live long enough and it all seems plausible,
as we stroll along, talking unselfconsciously
in a throng of iPhone-toting trust fund youth,
oblivious to the suffering their lack of empathy
stamps securely on a world they inherit.

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Spooky

The weeds in the road mounded, rambling over the cracked pavement strewn with bits of roadside flotsam and into the unkempt cemetery plot of Orange Mann. Nobody planned it really, things just unravel as they will, if one is not attentive.

The graves had been there since the Civil War. Many times she thought of unearthing the coffins, simply to crack a capsule to those bygone days. But a friend mentioned viruses that live indeterminate lives; TB among them. She dared not broach that invisible line, though her conscience was clear in the event she changed her mind. All spirits move on at some point, or so she thought.

The grass splintered into fractals in the early morning light. Oak and maple leaves cast dappled silhouettes, and it was easy to lose oneself in patterns impressed upon mulch underfoot. Blue skies and puffy clouds were visible only from the road. A few steps into the woods and the crowns of giant deciduous trees obscured all but snatches of the heavens. She could be forgiven, then, for the misstep that precipitated the fall.

Memories filter through in broken mirror fragments, and she still can’t be sure if the devil himself grabbed her feet that day, toppling her clumsily onto the headstone that took her speech away. Silence has conferred an unexpected boon, for where she travels in her mind, no other may follow. And each time she strolls past the cemetery, a knowing smile creeps over her face like the tattooed shadow cast upon the decomposed remains of Orange Mann.

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(Note: In the spirit of the season, I wrote this spooky tale. It is a work of fiction, though I’ve actually been to Orange Mann’s grave in Maine. It was located close to where I lived for many years.)

 

WORKER

Laughter alchemizing leaden to light,
a child’s eyes lit up from inside a man
not yet shrouded in decorum.

Search for the Buddha all you will
while life continues in ordinaries;
teachers everywhere
from leaf mold to lovers.

Only the mind waxing preferential,
maroon robes over honest sweat,
the endless weaving of spiders;
brown hands untangling violaceous spines
twined ’round saffron squash blossoms
amidst fields of possibilities.

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GYPSY

The old woman clasps worn cards wearily to grizzled chin,

vertical lines set deep as piercing black eyes etched

into an apple doll face.

Sweeping swollen arthritic fingers over lined forehead,

drumming now, listening to the hollow sound

of bony digits echoing against her skull.

 

Tapping, tapping flat cards to thrust of jaw

ever so gently yet persistently knowing,

as she did,

the message contained within the deck’s images

cast long ago from a stranger’s mind onto paper.

 

Fear arises, wells up inside her throat,

recalling faces beyond memory

castigating, infiltrating, immolating,

angry as the fires of hell that she knew

more accurately than themselves

their own path unfolding.

 

What the men wanted and what they got,

whether from her pack or between her sheets,

seldom elicited gratitude;

rather envy and scorn surged

from the recesses of dull minds

expecting picture-book angels,

unready and unwilling to accept

the too-human answer to their prayers.

 

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