Detach from it all,
All that held her down,
Sandbags of what others wanted,
Needed, expected her to be.
Cutting loose and through
Tentacles of veins and arteries,
Strangling ropes of memories.
The things she could never be-
Mary, The Mother, to wash you clean
Before placing you in your tomb;
A variant of some second coming
To cure you and cleanse you of sins;
The perpetual penitent
To beg forgiveness from you:
All these she will not be.
From these things you wanted her to be,
She detaches, though she wears
The scars of the floggings given her
By those who accuse her, blame her
For not being enough—
The scars waxen now melt
In the warmth of her detachment.
Though you call her cold, emotionless,
When she detaches from those who
Bleed her life away,
When she rises
From beneath the ton of stones
You place upon her chest
To stop her breath,
Freed from the stone,
Marshal forces Of the earth, moon, orbits of planets, Laws of time, All we hold mighty and true, Stop everything in its tracks, Turn it all back Before the start of any of it, Falling away, Marshaled from memory.
I first wrote this a few years ago after reading Elizabeth Bishop’s work once again. Well, after revisiting Mary Oliver and gaining familiarity with Pablo Neruda this summer, I once again returned to Bishop’s work and then had to re-watch Reaching for the Moon. So I decided to dig this one out and tweak it and revise.
In this thing called losing, Bishop said we become masters And that losing isn’t a disaster. No, not a disaster. Losing socks and such stuff. I’ve lost earrings, bracelets, Expensive ones too, didn’t care Beyond maybe a minute or two, And never was it a disaster. And no pain beyond a stab of nostalgia Did I have upon saying goodbye To three houses and two cities, And never did I feel it a disaster. And yes, it was no disaster To bury my mother, A father who really wasn’t, The man who really was, First one brother, then the other, Then lastly, a wife. With each, my body and soul Savaged by a catastrophic hurricane, yes. But no, no disaster. No disaster is it, I’ll admit, For a tiny bit of soul to erode As I buried each. But nothing, nothing did I ever master. Except, maybe this— I did not look for them- Looking to forget them Since they were gone, Emptied of this earth. No, I did not look to forget While driving home In darkness under a full moon Lighted with regret Of a new unfamiliar scent. Yet the swirling of this sad scent Is no, no real disaster. No real disaster is it— That I look to forget A lost return now. A return to life Captured, fleeting, lost-- Filled with a scent Of hope or a fool’s thought— Matters not but now lost. And in this thing Called losing, In which I am well-schooled, As are we all, I have tried to make an art, To make an art of all this loss. Yes, this may be no real disaster, But Bishop lied. There is no art in losing, No art at all, That I can find to master.
When the prowess of early morn
And the touch of dawn’s fingertips
Overwhelm my heart and soul,
I am reminded of some story
I heard somewhere as a child—
From a book or cartoon
Or some sitter’s wild
Imagination of bedtime tales,
The story of the gargoyle
Who was beckoned
To a place in heaven
By an angel fair.
And there the gargoyle stayed
For a day or three or more
Or maybe a week or three.
For a moment,
The gargoyle knew sweetness and joy,
Thinking, perhaps, for once, just this once,
The universe had smiled down
Upon one of the gargoyle race,
And felt the cracking of stone begin.
But the gargoyle, being a gargoyle,
A somewhat silent, stony creature,
Soon bored the angel who withdrew,
Having angel business to attend too.
The gargoyle knew. Knew from the start too,
But had hoped it was not to be held true–
That angel and gargoyle were not a pairing to be made.
Such creatures being out of each other’s realm
Cannot last but a season or two.
So, the gargoyle fell to earth again
To crouch forever upon a building,
Keeping watch upon the city and the sky.
The gargoyle knew this was the nature of things
And thought itself blessed for ever having known
The sweetness of an angel.
For what angel had ever doted upon a gargoyle?
The gargoyle asked.
For years, the gargoyle crouched,
Watching the city and the sky,
Remembering, reliving the sweetness
Known of an angel.
Yet wishing such sweetness had never been tasted,
Never been touched,
Forever was too long to remember
The memories encased in stone
Where wind and rain would never touch,
Would never wear them away.
Thus, the gargoyle paid the price
For allowing stone to crack.
Winds and rains came today.
I tried to follow the trail
But on this first day of May,
I was not strong enough–
To let the wind take me,
To allow pelting rain to abrade away
All my accumulated grime.
No freedom could I find
Within this day of winds and rains.
Endless mantra of your obsessive need–
Recited daily, hourly, till a rope twined,
Weaving a noose around me.
So very willingly,
I placed my head into danger’s toothy mouth
When I climbed the Pilgrim’s stairs–
Until dizzy from the height,
And the steepness of the effort–
All done to look upon
A pure crystalline blue sky
Caressing a sapphire sea—
A fantasy of need.
Serrated edges of your secrets
Sliced open my chest long ago.
Yet, I carried those secrets
Across the borders of decades.
I guarded those secrets like gemstones.
I wore them as talismans,
Good luck charms, rubbing each
Like burnished bronze of ages old.
Why have I kept them so?
I do not know.
This is the lesson of you,
Oh, the things you do teach–
Wearing your blue mantle
Lined in blackness
With your crooked fingers
Tipped in painted red do you reach
Ripping out hearts
Adding to a collection
You keep in a box.
Until the day of the dead,
When you light your fake fires
And scented candles,
Spread your blanket
For the time to admire
All hearts in the box of your collection,
Chant your incantations and prayers
To La Muerte for protection
From the evil you spread
And La Llorona for aid
Searching for the newest victim
From whom your red tipped claws long to rip a heart.
In this day and age
We ought to be able to be wired
Wired for anything, everything–
Wired for it all and more
Wired for an add on room
In the heart when we’ve run out–
For expansion of sound inside
When we’ve come to love the buzz of silence.
For blood that doesn’t run dry,
Doesn’t clot to clog the works up.
Wired so we always have just one more try
Inside souls always filled
With the romantic dreams of youth.
Wired so there are stairs always to climb.
Wired so no wounds ever cut so deep
Blood runs out, runs dry.
Wired so we can learn
Yet pain be erased.
Wired, just wired,
Plugged in with a soul of shiny copper wire.