It’s been a while since I’ve posted (babbled incoherently for paragraphs on end, because that’s the beauty of the internet), but I’m back! (Obviously). One of the numerous reasons (excuses) I’ve been away is because I’ve been focusing on my poetry. My God, that sounded just as ostentatious as someone telling you they’ve taken time off to “develop their sound,” didn’t it? Well, ostentatious or not, it’s true. I’ve dropped my keyboard in favor of my pen and I haven’t regretted it for a second. Poetic venting amazingly is just as satisfying as blog venting.
In case you didn’t know–and I’m guessing unless you are an avid part of the library or writing scene or your teacher/professor forced you to write a haiku this month, you didn’t know–April is National Poetry Month. For a while, I’ve been hesitant about sharing any of my poetry over my blog for many reasons, but since it’s taken over my life for the last six months or so and in the spirit of National Poetry Month, I’ve decided to share some with you all.
I know poetry isn’t a lot of people’s thing, so if that includes you, feel free to ignore this post! Or if you don’t want to read on for fear my poetry will be so utterly atrocious you won’t be able to look me in the eyes again, so be it! For the rest of you, enjoy!
I littered the floor with stars as I entered,
my costume trailing glitter and sequins
in my wake. We greeted each other as old friends,
but later, as a girl bobbed her bunny ears
to some nonexistent rhythm, my face leaned
against his, my mask on his mask. We pressed
closer on the couch, not quite fitting
between the cushions and the backrest, my awkward angles
with his. Later, he laid me on the mattress and I noticed
for the first time a window above his bed,
where the stars shone through.
I Placed in a Letter
I placed in a letter, five pages, front
and back, scrawled in five different shades
of ink. I filled it with the naivety of a melancholic
seventeen year old who lived
in a different world than you died from.
I watered tears along the satin
lining, and your willow-green chiffon dress.
But I couldn’t put in the memory of you
sitting in your hand-painted rocking chair,
sipping coffee out of the clouded porcelain
cup. Or the way you could give a full laugh
with just your eyes. I couldn’t set my love
in beside you, or my heartbreak. I wanted
to take the sunlight that colored my shoulders
through the stained glass and fill the casket
with it, so when the lid closed
you wouldn’t be in darkness.
My Grandmother’s 83rd Birthday
Even when the candle flames nipped her nose,
she just watched the columns of fire sway
with a blank expression, and bleated
softly like a ewe looking for its mother.
The rest of the evening she stood by
the front door with her purse slung over
her shoulder and a photograph of her
parents in one hand, staring through
the frosted glass. Nobody could figure
out what she wanted when she shook
the picture and pointed outside, but
I think she was waiting for her parents
to show up, walk through the front door
and swing her in circles. To say, “happy
birthday little duckling,” and take her
away to whatever home they dwell in
now—the hills of heaven or just sweet,
faded memory. Wherever it is, I know
it smells of freshly cut hay and a baking
cherry chip birthday cake. I think it sounds
a lot like the wireless rustling out requests
of “unconditional surrender” from Japan,
and feels like a swelling hope that loved
ones will finally find their way back home.
We Don’t Know the Difference
We don’t know the difference between
cranes, herons, and egrets out there
in the wild riverbanks, the beaks of our
kayaks nudging a split in the surface.
We want to feel a part of chattering grasses
and willows bending down to rinse
their hair in the water. We want to reply
to the calling birds in clear, fluent tongues.
But we don’t even know the difference
between cranes, herons, and egrets.
And they, with their snaking necks
and blackberry eyes, can spot imposters
faster than the silver fish they stalk.
Death by Dementia
When you died nobody at the cemetery
seemed to be mourning, even as they clutched
their chests and begged the hard wind
to water their eyes. They all knew those tears
had showered and dried long before, when
you lost every form of life except the gentle struggle
of your heart beating on. Even the dew had dried
already in the morning sun’s comforting presence.
Even the crows wore blue in the reflecting light.
Caught in our grief, like a child holding
their mother’s hand, racing to keep up,
is the resurging peace of mind knowing
we never have to look into your eyes again
and see nothing but our own reflections.
I Swallowed Those Three Words
I swallowed those three words with the wine—
threw them back with the pill I take every night,
letting them soak and succumb to the sweet acid.
I tucked the syllables away deep under the sheets
while you ran your fingers across my back, even though
I knew you had your own caught somewhere
between your lips and my neck. The whole night
I could feel your breaths not clouding into their sounds.
I screamed them into the storm when you
were a hundred miles away and I knew you
could not hear. Maybe I hoped you’d still feel the rumble.
They are so close to flying, but cannot
strengthen their waxen wings.
Words (i) Fail (love) Me (you).
The Intertwining of Toes
The intertwining of toes is more intimate
than the intertwining of fingers. Feet have
been where hands have not. Naked feet know
the cycling soils of the earth, its fallen
civilizations and ancient secrets. They press
side by side, against new spring grass.
They bear the pain of rusted nails and thawed gravel
left after the shrinking snow. When our heels, arches,
and toes meet, they whisper to each other
their calloused journeys and where
they hope to go from here.
Holding Words In
Holding words in is like holding
your breath—uncomfortable, it churns
your stomach and burns your lungs.
You pull the sheets in tighter
around your body to reign them in.
You pull him closer to soothe their ache.
But they long to be released and will
keep fighting until you purge them
at half past midnight
under a flickering lamp
with a pencil that is nothing
but a stub.
I thought I saw a raven staring
from the side of the road as I drove
past, his head angled toward me
in deliberate distaste. Instead,
it turned out to be a bush sprung
crooked along the sidewalk. Why
then do I still feel his presence, perched
upon the topmost library shelf,
his derisory stare scarred
into my neck as I type? In this season, when
it is always dusk, from black
to black, every hour is the same hour.
Here, the must of old knowledge
and clattering of keys do nothing
to distract from the wintry shadow
of his wings.
Keys to the Past
Two smooth wooden legs hold the Kimball piano
upright, making the instrument not technically
a Grand, but still grand in the eyes of the girl
who gently fingered its keys as a child. Middle C,
chipped in the corner like a child
with a missing tooth. Arched above
the keys is a sheet holder, blooming
with intricately engraved roses, usually hidden
by hymnals and Beethoven’s sonatas. Above
the carved garden rest tokens
of its previous owner; a backyard bird guide,
its pages torn and stained from forty years
of use, sits beside a rectangular magnifying glass—
necessary for reading the italic names of the bird species
and the hymnal lyrics—and a white coffee mug, all
remnants of a morning routine that has faded away.
A memory held in place by a distressed
wooden frame depicts the previous owner, a woman with soft
silver hair rocking a newborn in her chair. Behind
them sits the piano in its glory days—no chipped
tooth and its bench the same shining hue as its smallest
Another frame sits beside its twin
and holds a poem brimming with words of affection
and grief, written for the woman as she lay
in her hospital bed, by the baby she cradles.
That baby, now 18 years old, sits astride the bench now,
its black leather worn and greyed with age. She runs
her fingers over the splintered edge of the keyboard—
a wound received when moving the piano
to its current home in the small library. Gently,
the girl places pressure on a key, and a long, low,
mournful note rings out. The instrument is long since
out of tune, the only tune the girl ever knew. The strong
structure of maple, wires, peddles, and keys
will always sit as a melodic memory, not
technically a Grand, but a grand inheritance still.
Ice Fishing in Prior Lake
I could have stayed home sleeping
beneath the white down and refused
to stray where uninvited. Refused
to ride in a rust encrusted pick-up truck
over the low hills and shallow valleys
of snow-covered ice. I could have whispered
to myself, this is where I belong.
Then would the small kitchen, clouded
with its hot steam and cinnamon perfume,
make more sense to me when I awoke?
Would I regret not stepping through the narrow
doorway, into the frigid air of the fish house?
Would it be worth being blind
to the glares, and deaf to aren’t you dressed too fancy
to be fishing addressed toward my father’s red flannel shirt
draping my shoulders and the torn jeans above my boots.
But I went anyway.
Now I crouch in the corner of the red paneled shack,
staring into the murky depths
of brown-green water, the clear thread
of my fishing line indiscernible as it floats
down to the lake floor. Beside me the boys are laughing,
tearing jerky and gummy worms with their teeth,
barely glancing at their lines as they dare
each other to stick their heads in the water hole,
to take their chances in the portal’s
cold, quiet world.
What are you thinking, sleek-scaled sunny,
when you gaze up and see their distorted, wavering
faces through that carved window?
How do they appear through your glossy amber
eyes? Does the golden light
behind their shadowy frames look like a halo?
Do you even have time to wonder
before the sudden tug
wrenches your iridescent body
from silent water and I grasp
your slippery form in my fingers?
Do you see your wide eyes
reflected in my own, before I slip
the hook out, glance at the boys by the livewell,
and toss you back in the water?