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,
I do not care if my daughter
forgets all my empty stories
of blank cityscapes,
of colorless times,
of limping struggles.
My daughter must remember–
remember, keep alive
stories of her grandmother,
stories of lineage, of place, of era,
of strength in women, in family,
of struggle containing meaning
like Jacob’s struggle by the river—
stories living in her DNA,
strengthening the helix of her history.
She must remember,
pass on to her progeny with pride
in her spirit living, not here in this place,
in this dusty Lonestar state,
but among those mountains
bathed in stained glass colors
at sunrise and sunset,
or smeared gauzy blue at noon,
or at times, shrouded in grieving fog.
So many times, I have watched my daughter sleeping,
a toddler she seems still at twenty-three–
I marvel at how that can be–
Her lips parted just a bit, slightly swollen in sleep,
her lashes long, thick, and dark against her cheek,
so like her grandmother’s lashes,
a trait I did not inherit,
her breathing whispers youthful innocence,
her tousled hair that of a child wearied from play–
And I— I believe I see some ghost umbilical cord stretching
from her, leaving the house, and could I travel it,
follow it—I know where it should lead me–
a black cinder block house on stilts somewhere
miles outside Charleston, West Virginia—
so far up into the mountains
that as we drove the one time I saw it
I felt tilted back as if for
a rocket take off to some distant star—
my aunt’s eyes send a flood down the valleys of her face,
my mother gasping at sight of that tall cinder block house,
narrow and black with four small windows in the front,
unfriendly and uninviting it appears to me,
as it stands in the dirt yard
with a single clothesline, tires,
some chickens pecking the dirt around the stilts,
contrasting the lush green mountain top
touching the sky behind it.
My recalcitrant 13-year-old self thinks–
How the fuck does someone build
a cinder block house on stilts like that?
And black? Why black?
This is where the ghost umbilical cord
leaving my daughter leads me,
this place, this link to the earth—
to the spirit within this earth
where her grandmother,
my mother grew,
nurtured by the dirt, the green mountain tops,
the harshness of poverty in harsh times,
coal mines and cave ins, winter fevers,
spring forest escapes from ideas
of death and survival.
Where I too am linked,
bound even as I struggled
to free myself for so many years.
Now, at this age, I know it was this spirit, this link,
that poured its strength into me
when I needed it though my youth
scrubbed me of the wisdom to recognize it.
My daughter must know her grandmother’s stories,
of how hope lived in an election during the Great Depression,
her great-grandfather forbid even his wife to take a switch
to of one his children on the day of FDR’s election,
of how death can be heard walking the floors of empty rooms
when the family gathers round a dying toddler,
of how potato sack dresses itch,
of how her great-grandfather built the cinder block house
after a snow melt flood washed away the wood house
and nearly killing himself thinking he had lost his family,
of how to hunt rabbits and skin them,
of how squirrel tastes better than possum,
of how to hold your head when you
ask the company store man for credit,
of how grief over the death of twin toddlers
can turn your mother silent
of how your father explains the death of children
kills a mother’s heart,
of how an orange for Christmas is the greatest of all treasure,
of how it is tedious work to darn socks,
of how joyful it feels to go without shoes in the summer,
of how rich and important you can feel
when new shoes arrive in the fall,
of how when a boy asks to escort you home from church,
you better not walk more than six feet in front of your mother,
of how to watch for your shoeless mother walking home
in the snow from the Post Office in Charleston because
you know she only wears her shoes to church to keep them good,
and how to warm her feet so she doesn’t lose anymore toes—
All these stories and more,
my daughter must know
breathe and bleed life
in the telling of them to her children
for they are woven, a tapestry,
double helix patterned within us,
our earthen souls.
Each new year brings Now this garden grief Nourished by regret Each year, this day, here— Standing, kneeling, sitting—I Spend tears, words, wishes All meaningless now, In the barren garden grief Flowers never bloom Seven years gone now-- Nothing roots, though it has tried, In the garden grief inside
First published in Pinecone Review’s Be Proud With Pride edition
The woman lied to herself. Said life is not had without hope, Believing hope resided within her chest Just under the bones, As she remembered the taste Of fresh apricots, The sweetness of their juices Bursting in her mouth, The texture of their pulp Playing against her tongue— She remembered— Fresh apricots During the weeks of summer In the year the earth awoke, Stretching and yawning, Turning as if To bring sunrises closer And hold sunsets dear— That summer the girl, Holding beating hope, Emerged from the cracks forming In the left side Of the woman’s chest. Thus, the woman who lied About holding onto hope, Crumpled and died, Shriveled like the over-ripened apricots On the ground beneath the tree in your yard. The girl, holding hope, emerged Laughing with joy at all the smiling Universe seemed for once to offer up In the taste of apricot flesh And the sweet juice that quenched thirst After years of waiting want. The earth tilted back, turning once again, Withdrawing from sunrise and sunset. Then the apricots were gone. Picked, fallen to the ground, Nibbled by birds and squirrels. The girl, who held hope, Shrank down, curling into a fetal position, Within the dead woman who lied About having hope and who Was now revived, resuscitated, Like a cannibal feeding off a beaten enemy Of faith, of pain, of living hope, By the now shrunken head like girl, Who had held beating hope That could beat no longer As the revived woman remembered Always— The taste, the feel of the flesh of fresh apricots.
Originally written for Sammi Scribbles Weekend Writing Challenge- Using Question in exactly 84 words but I didn’t get back to edit it down until today.
Questions hang in the air Like heavy coastal fog On cool autumn mornings Eternal questions of humanity: All the whys, the wonderings-- Never answered prayers-- Laying pressed between the Pages of a book like brown, Dried flowers—forgotten, Having lost their sentiment. Speak the differences Among roses, weeds, wildflowers— Inconsequential answers For inconsequential questions. Could sense of counting Out the hours be sliced Like blood, blooming meat To find truth absolute Like high priestesses of old, Scry the answer In a blood filled bowl?
With ramshackle shards Of heart, soul, self Falling away like the browned petals Of a long-wilted bouquet, We create a riotous noise In ramshackle attempts To find some connection. Lumbering, awkward attempts At reaching out to touch once again, To replace, to freshen The brown wilted and missing parts With new bouquets of spring Whose stems sit in eternally Fresh, clean waters. We dream of a life lived No longer ramshackle, With no long-wilted bouquets Of a past to haunt with falling petals, But a life returning whole, To move without noise Through the world once again.
to feel that glow,
let it flow within
and know in peace,
the truth held within it,
rolling slow warmth
like the sun in springtime–
that glow, that warmth—
nearly, yes nearly extinct,
such a rarity to be found
though some try incandescent tricks
in mocking mimicry
its rarity rivals the hunt for new alabaster,
which always served a cold master
and there are no dreams glowing still
of truth to be held within the fragile
beaks of hummingbirds forever
searching the lush gardens of Babylon
for a heady nectar that does not exist
I am unsure how this happened, but the stone grew, encasing me, protective and cold, a walking grave of comfort for many years. Now, having grown moss over the passing of so many seasons and used to the weight of stone I carry into the calm of night, blossoms burst forth from this tonnage of comforting cold stone, this grave of a home I have known. I would like to twist, turn away from such blossoms, yet find I cannot. I cannot gather dust to me, creating stone again. Cannot piece shards together for there are not enough left in this remaining dust. As I rest in this place, I will tuck these blooms away-- Until they bear ripened fruit, Readied for picking. Fragrant blossoms that they may only be for now.
I swore never to give my words away like blossoms in the spring.
Yet, I marvel at all the words I’d gather,
arrange for you in artful, elegant bouquets.
I’ve keloid locks where my words are stored.
I possess not the oils to soften those locks,
Trapping my words deep in their vault,
My words may never know freedom.
Yet, I find myself streaming petals of words for you
In hazy, lazy patterns,
Knowing you have the wisdom, the soul
To read my words much like braille—
A code of sorts–
So you can hear and know,
All my words bestow.
In the long ago
Stripping down fates
Of ruined selves
Where someplace we lost
The spare threads
To stitch everything back together
And could never touch another
As we once touched the other,
Letting go dreams
Sprinkled with desires
That only served to choke
The future we swallowed
In gulped decades
While watching dreams
Drift and float like the blown off
Heads of dandelions
Until settling into the
Drudgery of what must be done
In the day to day—
No answers exist when
The only answer is
There be no magic here,
No fairytales, no giants,
No forever’s or an eternity
Yet there be no lies,
No castles built on air,
No innocent beings with wings to rip away
In devilish delight,
No trust found broken
In garbage cans.
And so it goes.
And so it goes,
Neither was what
The other really wanted
Resentments the wooden
Puzzle pieces of a child’s game
Tumbled down over us
In crushing weight
Until only the dust
Of us was left
To be swept away.