february 2010

ghost boy, part one

walk straight and tall and elegant,
syllables straight and eloquent
never broken, nor sharp enough
to tattoo your essence on the flesh of
your judges as you stand, lofty, on trial each day
until you’re not only the color of oak trees–
you possess their gnarled hides as well.

you will rise amid the soft shadow whispers
of this legal forest amid pale birches,
coating your skin with their satin powder
praying to be cut down,
to be spared the infamy of your greater height–

you will meander testimonial rivers clearer than your own
in hopes of shedding layers of gypsum and calcite clothing
but chalk is known for its adhesion to dark surfaces
and your body is but its moving canvas,
testament to an art lauded by circles of writing instruments
and lamented by paper forsaken for your skin;

sea or forest floor, your courtroom is the same.
your trial ends in a guilty verdict
and you will be marched out of that room
under the righteous, watchful eyes of jurors
who saw nothing at all.

mea culpa

it’s my fault, though. i know it. you aren’t to blame
when conversation transitions from the brimming rippling surface
of tea in a trembling china cup,
shaking itself almost orgasmically to dregs
like mud soiling the porcelain,
drained of any potential;

when my eyes begin to gauge the curve of your shoulder
to determine whether it is fit to leap over into whatever depth lies beyond,

it isn’t your fault. i promise.

you are not guilty of sculpting me as a figure
too large and ungainly to balance on marble bases,
too angular to sit pleasantly at home
in a gallery of smooth small shapes–

i should have been constructed of granite, made tough enough
to scrape the gentle palms of passing purveyors.
i don’t blame you for any of this

it is only that you are cool, clean,
soft like the green things in the garden beneath your fingers, so tender,
stroking life into their cells–
you are content here on the ground in your paradise
while i struggle capricious and flighty toward sky.

it’s my fault that i can’t be still and gaze upward
without reaching to grasp what i see.
i’m sorry.

grammama

on each wrinkled, spotted page of my memory
turning with the heavy, fluttering sound of wings not used to flight,
there are pictures of you:

tugging a comb through my tangled hair, oblivious to my cries/

standing before a pot of gumbo on the stove/

beside me at the sink, washing dishes
and handing them to me to dry as you sang otis redding/

screaming in fury because uncle brandon and i
(is he with you?) kept fighting/

speeding down streets in your old car
with the paint chipping off and the roof peeling
to reveal rusted metal over my head/

asleep, with me curled up atop your stomach and giggling
each time i heard water sloshing inside it.

and as i trace these images, smooth my fingers
over the buckling paper and let them linger on a smile,
on a lock of your ever-changing hair (just like mine now),
on our hands clasped together as you spoke your strange words of advice to me
amid snide comments about men and their one-track minds,

i keep wondering: was there something that i missed in these pictures?
should i have guessed, as young as i was?

i don’t suppose i could have–
i was only an infant/two/five/ten/eleven (the last year)–
but sitting in psychology classrooms, poring over pages
shaped like the keys to unlock my confusion,
the thought plagues me:

how could i have never known
that your mind was not your own?

steele

i thought you should know:
i fucking hate youtube,
but i click every link you post.

and you should know that my attention
is rarely kept for long and that’s why
i don’t watch videos anymore; maybe
it’s a symptom of the times and the technology
but i like to think of it as being hard to please;
i listen to every single song you suggest,
from start to finish

and then i sit there to let it sink in
and sometimes i listen to it again.
i close my eyes and let it move over me
and imagine you doing the same thing,
being so buffeted and whipped and cradled
by the currents of these sounds
that you had to share them with the rest of the world,
including me.

sharing music, to me, is just like
what it meant in ireland a jillion years ago
to share an apple with a young girl.
(if you don’t understand that you might want to google it.)

and i just wanted to thank you for it–
for loving everyone, including me, enough for the moment
to send us three and five and ten minutes of yourself.

i’ll keep them close, and any time i want to know more about you
i’ll listen to them again and mouth the words
as if i’m pressing kisses into your skin,
so that i’ll sleep with your taste in music on my lips,
and your love held in the shells of my ears.

a million miles

i am learning to swallow this burning
you place on my tongue
in polite, silent gulps,
never once licking my lips to taste the aftersting
because it is improper etiquette.

i let the last drops trace faint lines into my skin
as they sear toward my throat
and by biting my lip most alluringly
i am able to force back the scream
i have been waiting for years to fling at you
with the force of poisoned arrows.

i flutter my lashes sweetly. no one guesses
that the dams of my blood vessels are straining
with the need to take aim,
to shoot you with these guilt bullets
you left lodged in my ribcage.

and if i keel over in the kickback, thrown off kilter
by the weight of your words in my twisting stomach,
i hope the end is slow enough to grant me the chance
to loose every shout you choked off,
every cry you cut short without using scissors–

forsaking dignity at long last i’d hope to give in
to my fondest wish: to open my mouth, to scream so that
my body shakes with the effort–
to stand with open eyes and mouth and scream
until i collapse, unable to think or breathe,
quiet at last.

egypt, hips, a glass of wine

along a quiet road at the beginning of time
i happened upon her: a poem
in the shape of human bones,
of flesh colored like a morning tumble in warm sand
touched to clear amber in her eyes.

i had walked miles in another man’s shoes by then
and forgotten who i might have become,
but it didn’t matter
because when she rose before me in newborn copper hues
and brown sugar,
i knew everything that i would never be,
and that is all that i have thought of since.

(i have broken every mirror between here and my soul.)