Dying Magnolia Tree

Image is my own
The magnolia tree is dead or dying
Said the experts at the nursery
Which planted it.
No green leaves hang upon it,
Only these brittle, brown things
Cling to its limbs still.

The experts give me two things,
Free of charge of course,
To try to resuscitate my magnolia.
The experts tell me everything to do
Over the next eight weeks,
But not to worry, if it all doesn’t work,
The tree will be replaced.  It’s guaranteed.

A guarantee I never thought I’d need.
I did everything right:
Watering and fertilizing,
Watering and fertilizing,
Factoring in all the rain—
Yet here it stands dead or dying
In this place you never knew.

Like with you, in the place you knew,
I did everything I knew to do—
Replace the cooking pots and pans with stainless,
Only organic foods, red wine the only alcohol,
Broke all the cigarettes in two,
Quit my job to care for you—
Until—

Until the fourth time it returned,
Spread to the lungs and liver,
You wanted your cigarettes and alcohol back.
How could I argue?  Say no to that?
Yet even then—
I found you cigarettes with no additives, organic tobacco too.

Until January, our magnolia bloomed as you lay dying,
When at midnight a storm blew through,
Minutes later, you died 
And the magnolia shed its blooms.	

So here now, in this new place,
I planted a magnolia in memory
     Of what was, what was not,
     Of what could have been, should have been,
     Of what would have been
If I possessed the magic to shape shift
Into the one you most wanted.

And now, this tree in this new place
Stands dead or dying.

But I will do as the experts say:
     Spray from top to bottom for disease,
     Shock the roots every other week
Until mid- November, hoping to bring it back,
Bring it back from the edge of death.

If I can’t, the nursery will replace it
With another magnolia tree.

Yet I must think on that.
In this place, in this soil, perhaps
A magnolia is not meant to be.

I may ask them to replace it
With a different tree.
For it could be,
That here and now,
Magnolias are no longer meant for me.


An Autumnal Baptism

Image is my own

Caught in the evening downpour,
I am washed clean of summer.
Summer’s red rock, red dirt dreams
Sluiced from me with this autumnal drenching.

Morning greets me with a cool hand
Of sunshine upon my brow.
Autumn whispers of a harvest
Under skies of bluest topaz.

A clear, clean, honest reaping
In days yet to be had.

July

Image courtesy of O’Conner Mortuary

 

I’d nail all the windows in that month shut.

Board the place completely up.

All closed and shuttered,

Leaving it to the dust and rot.

July—the only summer month

I’d abandon

The month forced me to abandon you—

How is a starving  child forced to leave

A mother who sold herself

So the child could eat?

Thus, I cared for you

Until I had to reach out and close your eyes—

Then I dreamed

Dreamed–

I nailed the windows in every room shut

And I boarded up every room.

I took a hammer to that floor to ceiling avocado green tile

Of the kitchen tomb,

Shattering every single inch

Of mirror green shine.

I brought the garden hose in

And hosed down all our scars

Until yours and mine

Nearly disappeared.

Then I woke

And buried you

Under roses

In hot, steamy July

Shuttering you away

Until I thought there’d

Be nothing left of you.

But you are always here.

I pick the good of you

From the rubble,

See little bits of you

In each of your grandchildren.

I see bits of you in my daughter,

And our legacy is not only

One of scars.

Fractured Twilight

Image is my own

https://amanpan.com/2021/07/01/eugis-weekly-prompt-twilight-july-1-2021/

Walking in fractured twilight

Is the smoothest time of light and mind–

A wish made–

To braid reality, this curve of light, with sweetest memory

Thus, so entwined

One begins to hope,

Believing in miracles once again

To spite all fractures made of years.

The Itch

Image courtesy of Egypttoday.com

https://godoggocafe.com/2021/06/08/tuesday-writing-prompt-challenge-tuesday-june-8-2021/

Today’s prompt: Write a poem that uses the words “weary”, “nails”, and “mind control”

I weary.

Weary of the white noise

Spitting out layers

Striated stone

Of itching mind control,

Of mica and gypsum

Rough, itchy flakes

Others carved out for me

To keep me in what they

Saw as my place.

My nails worn down, bloody raw

To relieve the itch from time to time

The itch that speaks the words

I know are not true

But still have the power

Of stone to crush the ribs

Of my soul with the weight

Of their damnable tonnage

That I am not enough of anything

Not smart enough

Not pretty enough

Not thin enough

Not good enough

For anything or anyone

Yes, I know—

None of it is true—

The stone skin

I’ve worn down

Over all these years,

The itch rarely there.

But sometimes—

Sometimes—

The itch returns—

Vicious, relentless

Until my nails,

Bloody and raw,

Leave me weary.

Yet still,

Still, I now create

My own place.

Washed

At the Beach – Image by KL Caley

https://new2writing.wordpress.com/2021/06/03/writephoto-beach/#like-5743

( An older poem written in 2015 while in Provincetown, MA.  Revised for this week’s writephoto challenge.)

At sunrise over water,

        Remembering as if in a dream  

The child and you and me

As we stood by a sea

Half a world away.

Both of you now baptized differently by my tears.

 

And for and from you,

I am left with things neither given

Nor felt in years,

 Linked by all the fears

To form over a decade of a life

Lived like a stranger

In my own shrinking skin.

 

I have stood

Since the dawn

At this ocean’s edge

Waiting, waiting.

And now at noon

The rain begins.

Fierce pelting blows

Washing me clean

Of all I know

Or dare to dream.

 

For living continues

Within my own skin

 

All Things New

Image courtesy of Dreamtime

Storm clouds rode in

Upon a sky soaked in sunset red.

Wildflowers bowed their heads

Down on either side

As I drove by

Smiling, thinking of all things new.

Once home, I stood in the yard,

Arms akimbo, welcoming the new—

What the storm, the wind, the rains

Would bring—

As gently as their nature could—

All things new, clean, green

With spring.

Scars of Hope

Image is my own

I gather hardened scars of loss and damage
Braided into keloid beauty
That are not blossoms of bitterness,
But fragrant beauties
That make me who I am.
Even the bars of your barren garden
Called love could not steal away
The essence of my hope.
Instead, the black, barrenness
within sugar syrup words
Of one never able to love
Contain no acid
To eat away
My skin of hope.

Baltimore

Image courtesy of Johns Hopkins Medicine

Pulled my anchor from this harbor
Years ago.
Yet the current pulls me back,
Some irritant speck,
Yet to yield a pearl,
In the soul,
Some rough edged
Needless need chafes away
Until confession is made
And a pilgrimage to graves
Must be paid—

There is no why to this–
This steel wrought laundry list
To be run down and checked through

A visit, a meal eaten
At the landmark restaurant,
Where new owners chiseled hieroglyphics
over a history of years when
the landmark lived across
A narrow brick paved street
And my family lived upstairs,
Erasing my mother’s sacrifice
Of bloody fetal tissue,
My fraternal twin,
On the bathroom floor there
While I hung on to be born.
But such bloody sacrifice
Doesn’t sell cheeseburgers,
Greek salads, and over easy eggs,
A fairytale of family ownership-
Sells well and makes for spots
On reality television shows.

A drive by the childhood home,
Sentimentality at its highest,
Revisit the torture chamber
It became—
A wooden yardstick and when it broke,
A metal one I had to buy to be taken
Across my back by a drunken mother
Until the skin broke open to bleed.
.
Why the drive by?
Who the hell knows?
When all I’d like to see
Is it all disappear—

Then the statue of Christ
In Hopkins Hospital lobby, a must see.
Where I stood as a teen
Confessing the darkest
Thing upon my soul—
A part of me wishing
My mother had died
In that surgery of fifteen hours
The other part thanking Jesus
she had lived.

Then the graves,
To place some flowers,
Talk a bit to the air,
Turn my soul inside out
To find it dusty and dirty again.
We can think our souls clean
Until turning them inside out—
That is where we find the grime
Of all the living done.

I visit my brothers,
The man who was my real father,
Then on to the man I thought was,
And then my mother,
The saint she was,
The monster she became.
At her grave, my soul aches the most,
Tweezing thorns left from her old rose bushes and my own,
Turning itself inside out,
Leaving all the grime and dirt behind,
Or so it feels.

Then on to visit with what is left of the living.
And though, I love the living,
There is little, so little–
To charm me into staying.
But the currents, the tides
Of some blood element,
Like an ancient memory,
Bring me back
From time to time.

This is Baltimore—
for me.

 

Periphery

Image is my own. Taken at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

VJ’s Weekly Challenge: peripheral – One Woman’s Quest II (onewomansquest.org)

Periphery

The whitest teeth

Of one brother’s smile.

Hair so black

The curls shine blue,

My mother’s hair

A forehead with a line

Of slicked back black hair,

My real father.

Clark Kent glasses,

The frames of the coke

Bottle bottom glasses,

My other brother.

The whisper of an accent

mingles with scent of Old Spice cologne,

the man I thought was my father–

Fleeting things—

Such imagery captured briefly

In the corner of the senses

Some strange trick of heart and mind—

The mind’s empty, missing parts perhaps

Playing the trickster

With edges of the senses,

So we think we see, hear, smell

The seeds of things we grieve.

Images of the dead

Cannot be real.

Such things as ghosts

Do not exist.

These ephemeral flashes

Of the senses share no breath,

No grace of God gives life

To them as they melt away

Before a half breath

Can be taken.

So, I stood

Still

Afraid to breathe

Afraid to blink

Or let the tears

That gathered fall

When I saw

A lion’s mane of hair

As you tilted your head back

To smile—

For six years—

I had not seen you

Felt you

At all–

Until

I stood

Gazing at Van Gogh’s

Field with Irises near Arles–

Your favorite flower—

Irises–

and art you loved—

the first time

in six years,

I feel you nearby—

I am stilled—

Until

Someone else moves

Beside me,

A distraction,

And you are gone.

But you linger with me

Like a wonderful and strong

perfume