Zeus

In our old house

Flicking on the bathroom light

In the night

The rooster crows

From his small red house down the hill.

I think of how his little brain

Knows but its one job.

How his slick green feathers

Ripple as he darts from across the yard.

The red slippers on my feet

Angry and threatening.

I kick him away

bones beneath the feathers

And the thin skin.

I still like him.


Before

The women in my family

Have their babies young.

That’s how I knew my great grandmother

For so many years

Until that one summer

In her big house

Where she lived alone with all the remnants of a long life.

Quilts, and christmas ornaments

And a needle point of some arctic seal pups

Which my young mind fixed upon,

Their white bodies pressed up against one another,

in a world of ice.

We went through the things,

Small pieces of tape with names.

My mother complained, but she listened

To the woman in the twin bed,

Bible on the bedside table,

Who just wanted to make sure everything

Had somewhere to go.


50

Perhaps in fifty years, someone will buy a photo of us.

Old and worn, for very little, and scrawl a sentence or two on the back

And stick it in the mail, as I have done for you.

Who are these smiling faces staring out from the park bench in their Sunday best?

I think their lives aren’t much different from ours: plagued by

A different government scandal, immune to cries of the end of the world, hopeful.

She’s not living the life she thought she would be, not yet held in the arms of her imagination.

He’s wondering if this is how it will always feel, like waiting for the curtains to draw back

And the orchestra to strike up the first chords.

Perhaps they too lay in bed at night, staring out past each others’ skin, resting in their own weight,

thinking about fifty years.

By then we’ll have fallen asleep in other peoples’ arms.

Isn’t it beautiful, to think of all this life stretched out ahead of us, and how good it already is?


Origins, In That Garden

I remember a dream

Being swallowed over and over.

It was more grotesque than a fear of death alone.

It was a child’s fear of original sin.

And the worst part was, I had to do it to myself,

Climb in that mouth

Which stretched and swallowed up my body.

My stomach filled with sick

It tastes

Of your tongue in my mouth.

Your wetness. My lips.

I taste you for a long time.

After.

And I wonder where the wound is. Another mystery

Not unlike the bruises that speckle my legs.

Us girls, we laugh at the not-knowing.

How they always seem to show up without reason.

But some nights I feel it

That original wound

A thousand hands picking at the scab.


Birth

Unbearable, she says,

The two of us perched on the edge of the red couch.

Her baby is in the other room,

And his small noises float through the open doorway.

She’s smiling, but my body is still

Held fast by the grip in her gaze.


Out in the yard, another lamb is being born.

The farmer stands off to one side

Watching the taught belly of the ewe rise and fall,

Reading the redness painted on her skin.

This ewe is young, and her cries grow.

He moves in, shifting the pain, twisting the small black body.

I envy those so willing

to dirty their hands in the slick waters of discomfort.


We walk out into the yard

eyes only for the tongue licking wet curls.

“Oh, mama,” she sighs, “Good job.”

Her husband wraps his arm around her shoulders,

Pulling her soft body into his,

chin on her head.


Generosity

This season brings with it all the overdone zeal of blossoms tumbling from their leafy cocoons. I find myself wearing red, painting my lips and letting my hair fall over my shoulders in the warm sun.

My heart too pours out. I’ve seen plum trees bear so much fruit that their limbs crack and fall to the earth. I watch the bright petals dull and wilt to the hum of the bees.

When you love like that, there is no loss. Let all your softness fall to the soil, and find there the worms, ready to send it back up in the green shoots. Reaching.

Weight

I carry you with me in my mind.

Do you know all the conversations we’ve had?

When I stoke the soft coals, I want to turn

And find your body there next to me

looking into the flames.

I want to ask you to hand me the water bottle,

My one hand on the steering wheel,

leading us down old roads, your music

Playing over the white noise of air passing through cracked windows.

 

There is a sour  hope in these imaginings.

Something in me knows. But the rest of me is tired,

Dragged along, cotton threads pulling,

I never knew I had a freedom

Till I lost it to the wanting.

 

I see you in the dark trees on the drive home

I want to shake you from my memory

Dusty rug over the railing

Beaten steadily

Till the hairs rise up in a fresh reaching

Towards something else.

Direction

Here I am, living my simple life.

Walking home through the light rain to a chorus of frogs.

The days are growing longer now

And the world screams out: “Decisions, decisions!”

 

And what if I don’t know?

Can I be the thistle, who casts her thousand seeds to the wind

There you are, that’s all I have to give.

 

I lie in bed, having opened the window,

Trying to pick out an answer in the humming of the rain.


 

Advice from an Old Poet

I tell him, my eyes wide and clutching at the air.

“I’ve been writing poetry,” and he looks to me,

my youth-smooth hands clutched around the proverbial black notebook.

Perhaps he’s seen the crack that has spread down my chest,

Where it’s dripping out, wet and steaming.

One word slips through his knowing smile: “Careful.”

For Chloe

They’ve already become golden memories,

those days

In the heat of Summer.

We walked

In comfortable silence.

Distance makes it sweeter.

Let’s do it again ol’ buddy.

Feet kicked up

Drinking in the days.

All I Know

I can’t know when the narcissus will pop their heads out from the damp earth, but it happens, every spring, seemingly overnight, and I wonder how I didn’t notice their green bodies rising. I drive down these old roads laced with a new perfume. I take some into my room, and make the white linens of my bed. I open the window once the sun hits it at mid morning, let the world breathe into this space which held us in darkness.

All I know is that it feels good to hold you. My hand finds the warmth of your chest and wants to stay there. Two bodies reaching out. Stumbling, laughing. Stretching our wings.

Love, Observed

All I want is to love

And be loved

To rest my nose in a warm shoulder

And breath in all that the world holds there

See, I know what it feels like.

I’ve woken to tuck in the dog

On a crisp winter’s night

And felt her breath on my cheek.

I’ve held the weeping child

Who accepted this stranger’s warmth

And folded into it with the same soft knowing.

I look for it on the skin of men

But I haven’t found it there yet.

If I Have a Child

If I have a child,

She will know the sanctity of her body.

She will understand it blooms not because she is untouched

But rather

Because she has been caressed with love from her first moments of life.

She will see the worn shoe and the patched knee

And she will know of work and grit and the labor of love.

She will know the heart is a muscle, strengthened by use.

 

If I have a child,

He will follow me into the garden.

I will press our hands together into the soil, and bring my nose to the ground with closed eyes.

He will see the brown moons of dirt under his nails, and know beauty.

He will taste the life in a freshly dug carrot, and he will know that all life

Comes from other life. He will witness the mites crawl from the body of the song sparrow

On the front porch, its feet curled in offering.

 

If I have a child,

I shall give them real spoons. I shall fill their pockets with rocks and sticks,

And offer them the pencils from my bag. I want my children to understand that value

Is something we give, and that nothing is more precious than the sun on your upturned face

or the sound of someone you love, breathing in their little life.

Coyote

I saw a coyote today.

Standing in the field that bumps up against my road.

I pulled over to sit awhile, and watch him,

But he had disappeared into the tall brush,

and all that was left was a small parting of the long fronds

of February’s growth.

Still, I waited, hoping he might poke his head out

stare into my eyes with his brown ones

and give me something to write home about.

Alas, he stood still, enveloped in that brush.

I called to him. Just once or twice.

My high, untrained voice ringing out in the empty afternoon sky.

It brushed against the trees, and I saw them shake.

There was no answer. The skies did not part to welcome a beaming ray of light down

onto my lonesome life.

Instead I heard my own voice.

Beckoning.

 

Green Valley Road

I remember so many days like that one

Us pulling ticks off the dog in the backseat,

Tossing their little bodies out the cracked window.

The sun lay low in the sky

Shone through the driver’s side window

Catching on the dust that hung in the air.

A red blanket lay on the seat,

And I’m sure we were singing.

I never thought it would be those days.

So inconsequential, they seemed.

I am foolish to give so much power to grand ceremonies,

crisp white awards.

What I’m really looking for in this life

Is that back-seat childhood feeling.

Nothing to do but enjoy the ride home.

 

Prayer

I think I’m religious.

Perhaps that’s what some would call it

This trust, deepening within me

This gentle leaning, into the cradle of the world

So precarious, this life

And yet, I walk the length of the felled redwood

My feet finding the soft bark easily

I swim in the churning sea

All the while, laughing.

My kind of church

The pews are boulders strewn on the shore.

Visitors stop in, a woman rests her head in a man’s lap.

Other’s light up, strum a guitar.

Their sweet smoke floats on the breeze.

The devout rocks face the sea,

Hang on her every breath.

I too sit. Saltwater finds my skin.

This is my body, this is my blood.

The Stain

I held out that book

the crisp jacket red from my marked fingers.

and my body knew that shame.

Long before I bled on the loveseat at that dinner party,

the darkness reminding us all where we come from,

where we are headed.

Why then, didn’t anyone want to look?

 

Diffusion

To have blood steadily drip from my body,

honey spun from the delicate walls of a hive,

is to forget barriers. Surrender.

I mix with the universe.

These cells are not my own.