On the run in the half-light

The roads are lined
with golden, open
mouths; millions of
them yawning in
the morning, calling
to their ripe tongues
the workers that will
carry their children.
They were the same

as the ones on the suit
I found you wearing in the
wood that day you
offered to serve me.
We weren’t dressed
for it—you polished,
me barefoot and wet—
but we climbed and ran
and feared looking back
until my sister took
your place. The path

softened and sweetened
and split into miles
of hexagons that
cushioned our steps.
I promised you,
no one is home, I saw
no brood or nectar
or capped winter
stores. With ears
to the wind we let
ourselves stop and
collected the marcasite
bird points we simply
couldn't leave behind.


 

Savagery, Reverence and Mercy

Your mother rocked from
side to side backing away
from the crowd. She did
not bleat or beg with you.
After a show of yellows,
blackish purple and cadmium
on fire, I watched you dive
onto the wet and ambrosial
barnyard floor. I spoke

with the man who would
end your life, the woman
who would prepare your
body, rubbing you with
salt and sacred spring.
We nodded to the heads
of your aunties set to stew
and roast in sweet hay. Still,
they love you and I am
learning. Not one piece of
you is not considered. I

think of your older sister,
her fleece that, daily, bathes
in dappled, morning light.
She I caress with the same
hands that hold a bottle
for you to drink from. This
is our savagery, reverence
and mercy.
 

A PAUSE

Later today, we will hang,
held, eggs, for a moment as
our most upright selves. A
little taller, I will see
the space in between
us. In this, the hungriest
time, we will feed each other
what is dried, made potent
by our revolution. Dry, we
will dream of watery vessels,
conjure electric air, call
up the colors we lost. I
will think ofMary spilling
her feed into a bed of green
and spiny thistle, and be
swathed by equal parts day
and night.

March 10

On Thursday, not long after
nine, I was pulled
out of my window by the
gentle smoke of long grass
and that sweet smell of wax
drawn out and worked,
so piously, by women with
no more than a matter
of weeks to live, to be filled
with the treasured wares
of the first open flowers. Through

the rectangle panes
and decades of layered paint
I sigh at the passing arrowhead
of birds, unashamed of my
ignorance to their destination,
consenting to my temporary
terrestrial and time-bound
place. Secure in the unknowable

future blowing across the stone
courtyard, past the 1930’s silos
and hay barn, shaking my desk
and the water in my glass and
stirring the piles of paper, I
resume my morning in a
warmer and brighter world.

Rose in My Room

Staring, softly, at the perfume
bottles arranged on her mirrored
tray—Paris, 1934, columns and Lalique
flasks, amber and buckwheat honey—my
Grandmother rises, a wave of heat rolling
and curling and distorting the
shapes of the June flowers behind
her. She is thick with the wilds
of beyond, refined by the pieces of
her still living a rhythm of days
and nights spinning around some sun.
She sews, as she always had, patterns,
and fine lines. She spins yards
of silk and sets them up like
flames. I watch her, she dances
for me. We are quiet, and,
mostly, I don’t cry.

Ave, Ave, Om

On a Monday we piled
up blankets and sat, legs
spread, in a room of dawn—of peaches
and moss and a silvery full moon—in
a city of cold dark night. I heard you
fight that plum pit stuck
in your throat with devout
calls. In every inhale was
another woman’s wish to
remember her happiest
self. Other people’s pining
under the roof of my mouth
traveling that vessel pathway,
stirring up the scolding centuries
of fear of longing, breaking it in
to pieces that with a flex of my
most precious muscles I spit
out in cries to Shiva or was it
Maria, ave, ave, om. The air
was sweet and hot with us.

Hanging Water and the Moon

While your boy naps,
he dreams in the garden
menagerie that knows no
Continent, latitude or
longitude, and is at home in
flocks of birds and herds
of beasts. Your hair, now
reflecting Rumi’s watery
path, is braided and piled
up in cold light. With every mystic’s
word you read, a storm of
blues is born and dances in
in the choroids of your eyes.
With each phrase a wave charges
from planted foot to finger tip
carrying a sea of gestures
that crash out of you through
hog’s hair and seasoned
hardwood. Your boy’s heart,
a gift, beats; a metronome
by which your family, a symphony
anima, turns
under the marching
phases of the moon
you painted, still, for
a moment on my wall.

Photo of a portion of a painting by Alicia Ethridge

Getting There

The ship was long
and low-ceilinged, one
seamless slab of foreign ore—
a speed-of-light leviathan chilled
by the endlessness of space. Deep
in its belly I came upon an infinitely-
faceted ember—webbed, sanguine.
It fired and hissed, crackled
and burned and called
my name. By some unsung osmosis
it took me in. Through its gentle,
fibrous walls I saw the darkness break

away; a shell cracked on the lip
of some bowl. We took on
an axis and spin as
we rocked into orbit. I knew,
then, that we had to mimic the
universe to move through it.
Where I expected stars, pins
of light unfolded revealing
petals and anthers, pollen and
stamen—the flora of our very
existence. I laughed
and cried, cradled
by suns and moons.

In Between Backwards and the Wild Forgotten

Last night I tried to find my way
back to Crescent Avenue. Only,
there were no roads—just rich, raw,
loamy earth. My landmark, the tall
green hedges with the small, utterly
oval, green leaves. I could see
where Valentina, never aging but always
old, her wiry, white hair wrapped up
in a scarf, would plant food in neat, long rows.
It wasn’t there, but
I imagined the pale, miniature donkey
that peaked from the bushes in perfect
stillness. Our house, had gone
from yellow to blue, and was now slapped
with paint that drip-dried to
a pollen color. Pina,
who was maybe my sister, or
my mother’s or Rose’s, hadn’t died—
I could tell there was still
light in her hazel eyes. So,

I dug with a spade, a trowel, my
bare hands, too. And I watched
ancient plants revive themselves
beneath tangles of weeds. I pulled
and pruned and sweated. And tried
to bring some order
to the wild forgotten. There
was no weather, no atmosphere
at all. Our family, as if
they hadn’t left us with
mere boxes of paper and cloth
and fading aromas, sat plainly
in the silver sedan that had managed
the journey without roads or air or regard
for time and space. I
could only be relieved. All
questions quieted themselves with
the opening of the car door.

Resolutions on the Pond

I spent the days leading
up to the New Year folded
in half
a paper elephant swinging
her longing
trunk, grasping at and
flipping over
stones along the shoreline.

A great mouth,
cut in the sand, swallowed
pond into ocean
and roared
a satisfied
roar to the south.

I passed through a garden
of mussels sighing amid the mud
and stopped
to listen
to them breathe
the salted,
December
air. 

My sister, silent,  bowed
to the midden pile
and scanned the water’s
edge with reverent eyes.

Somehow, I was warm,
nestled at
the bottom of a bowl of
steeped conifer. And

I wished
that I could
be like the pine—bearing
the weight of winter in
her arms and
allowing them to break
away, trusting
she would grow again as
she has for a hundred years.

And I wished
that I could
be like the moon—taking on
darkness
and light
with equal
grace.

Michael, the River and My Mind

In unison we slammed old
station wagon doors and walked
away a ways, side-
by-side and silent
underneath the arching stone bridge.

We stood in the river,
Dad. You likened it to
time: its perpetual passing,
the way it slowly wears
away at us and even at
the pictures in our minds—rock
rendered fictile and listless.
You said, sometimes we only cast once.
You did, and I felt life’s fight
at the end of the line. We
brought her up into the air,
yellow, green, gold and
spotted; opened her belly
with our hands; and prayed
our quiet prayers.

Photo by Michael Stimola

A Murder, Molecules or Dinner Together

In these three crows—
with almost orange evening pulsing
behind power lines—I see
us, a rope, a
braid of wild hair,
fireside prayer, living
works of time working
at being; sisters,
counselors, conspirators, movers,
mothers, mirrors, rearers, salt
cellars, oud and eternity; and
when wings push
the ground away, when
amber burns up into blackness,
and calls
extinguished by distance, 
we will wait
at the backs of eyelids
and meet where we
are needed next.

Land Amid the Streams

A land amid the streams. Oh, legacy
of ice, how gently tug your meadows, pull
your forests, summon so persistently
your seas–a history of whales and wool, 
plus, one or two of mine: of learning how
to swim and be alone; of growing love
inside a hollow. Take me in. Please, plow
me into cliff and clay, the soil, the cove.
I often don’t know where I should return
to. Blood and background, not to mention salt,
and all around you sea and sky, they burn.
It matters that you slow the time, exalt
the seasons, self-reliance, warm these bones.
An ever-present beacon, pointing home. 

Departure

  1. A crude bowl, collection
    of cast offs fashioned, loomless,
    by beak—only a sieve
    for the falling rain.

  2. With dagger, rope and pen
    she taught us to harness that
    celestial satellite—teller
    of time, puller of tides—and
    now, I wonder:
    Have the rains been kind
    to the banks of the Styx?,
    Will the wet wings of Nephthys
    be shelter enough?, Whose mother
    is next?

  3. That space
    between the brows
    makes room, raining
    a stillness through
    charged coils of organ,
    belly and bone—
    finally.

A Memory

I’ll meet you
in that cave, the one
you dreamed of — stone, 
cold, a memory of the sea. We
were born here, I’ll tell
you. Your eyes will climb
the walls, the
installation of time’s lapping
tongue. For a moment, 
we will worry,
but be reminded that beginnings
(or endings or both) are void
of light until that instant
we transcend; the ocean
depositing us–foam
on the shore.