Poem 13

The way my father’s eyes changed colours
Greenbluegrey and all the admixtures
How alexandrite shifts from bluegreen
To purple as the light flickers
Or how dichroic glass breaks into small rainbows
The word a poet gave me ~
Chatoyance

prompt #15, hour 12 ~ erasure

See the way I have of growing?
November.
I find myself pausing
before funerals.
Prevent me stepping into the sea.
This is a philosophical flourish
nothing surprising.
All men cherish the ocean.

prompt 14, hour 11 ~ Dear Britton

Dear Britton, who is trying to have children ~

They will come. I promise.
Two gloriously rowdy sons, unlike the daughters
you expected. Nothing like the sisters you grew
up with. You will learn that feminism contends
with biology. Neither will play with the dolls
you buy them, and they will create guns
despite your reluctance. They will also learn
to cook, and discover that men can discuss feelings.

It will be hard. All your choices from the first
birth will spin around them like the moon
orbits the earth, the earth her sun. They
will be your center, even before their father.
Where you live, how you live, making a living in general…
all of this dependent on two small boys, their eyes
so much like all who came before them. You will trace
your roots upon their small bodies as they grow.

It will get harder. They will test you beyond
imagining. Death & danger stalk each separately,
the heavy weight of empty futures your recurring nightmare.
Nothing will ever be the same. Not your body, not your life,
not the love of your life. Certainly not all you know & learn.
Somewhere along the way, they will cease to be
sons. They will become friends, confidantes, tellers
of their own tales. Their travels, their own children,
will become blocks & stitches in whatever life quilt
you piece. And through it all, you will remember:
This is what you wanted. This is what you are.
It is more than enough.

prompt #13, hour 10 ~ 2 a.m.

2 a.m.
The moon so bright that moonbeams
become beacons, illuminate the dock
until an abandoned steel canteen
glitters like forgotten treasure

Beneath a looming Douglas fir
a shelf of rock the colour of weak coffee
juts over the water’s surface
Fog spirals from the hushed water

Here no damn concrete     no 21st
century bling, no detritus to remind us
that we are transients.  only the rock
knows time, and the water that carves it

prompt 11/12, hour 9 ~ against forgetting

Against Forgetting ~

It might have been the car’s fault, she told me
this when she lost her way home.
Or possibly I gave her the wrong directions.
To the house we shared??
Perhaps the names of plants she once knew
like those of her four daughters
whom she would lose as well
shook loose with overuse.
Never mind, I reassured her, it’s all okay.
But it wasn’t.

It might have been bad luck, of course:
the kind that seems so much worse befalling
those we love. I knocked on all the woods
I saw, and looked for four-leaf clovers.
It didn’t help.
Nothing did, certainly not time.

Days soon became nameless, as faces lost
context. The names she thought she knew
so well faded into then. And even though
I was against all forgetting, my name
too slipped through the cracks within her.
Until all that remained were the cracks
almost smooth from finger tracing.
A writing that might yet make sense.
Except it never did.

And now, like a softly ticking bomb,
I am still. Against forgetting.

prompt #10, hour 7 ~ sevenling

Sevenling

My father was a complex man:
Honourable, wounded, dark of wit & mind
Not always good with children.

These things he also gave into my hand:
Myth & legend, healing, the books I read of every kind,
Family to pass down to children.

I am as contradictory as he was.

prompt #9, hour 7 ~ resurrection fern (unfinished)

Bloodlines (revised last stanza)

It took a move east to resurrect
my Southern roots. To remind me
of the Kentucky in my bloodline
the racists I know well. How they
flourish in the fertile hatred of today.
Always there are reasons. So they tell me.

It took the familiarity of mountains
I had never seen their hazy blue ridges
to heal my seared wounds. Allow me grief.
Worn tops softened by water, these
are the mountains my grandmother
who would not watch a black newscaster
crossed to Oklahoma. They are my bones.

And now the children of her children’s
children’s children mingle black brown white
like the soft silt beneath the resurrection fern.
They paint the landscape with their laughter
in the bright languages of love. Far away from then.

Here among the spruce and fir, hawthorns
berry after dogwood. Tulip poplars reach out
above the ridgelines of the old houses beneath.
A man in Roanoke writes the stories of nooses
and the men & women who hung from them.
Time is a river that erodes the shores of memory.

This is not the state where my young lover
fled a car that ran him over, driver laughing.
Nor is this the state where a friend was warned
Don’t be caught here after the dark you resemble.
That South too is a thread in my mother’s cord.

I have fed from the bloody hands of ‘good people.’
I have noted the excuses for their hatreds, all
in the name of some white god. Perhaps the god
of my grandmother, but not her children’s
children’s children. It took a move east
for me to remember this.

Something more than blood lives within these hills
Something resurrected not from the bones of hate
but from the ashes of forgiveness, that warmed
the coloured mud we grew from. Like the grief I hold
within me, grief I cannot give a name to.
Like the nameless Southern colours neither black
nor white. Like the soft blue mountains
that have seen it all before. Like memory
returning home.

prompt 8, hour 6 ~ locked out

That Monday in Algiers

The door would not unlock.
No key in my pocket. No cell phone
so many years ago to call my white knight

I knocked ~ timid, tentative, as if the knock
spoke another unlearned language, not even
my resurrected Français ~ on the silent door next

Pantomine & speaking hands, fingers turning
imaginary keys in invisible locks. My neighbor
nodded, swung the wood and iron door open

She led me through the two small rooms
to a balcony, once more miming: climb over
she showed me, my nextdoor balcony open.

A small crowd of ragged boys my audience
I swung one leg over wrought iron filigree
another to where I belonged. Inside.

Safe within, I thought of doors & locks & keys.
Of language. Of how so little but so much separates us
wondering still how to unlock these heavy doors

prompt #6, dream of flight

Icarus ~

they were always at my heels
which dangled just above their heads
only sometimes out of reach

some nights they were faces I knew
some nights they were ominous anonymous
some nights I escaped them

the nights they clawed me back to earth
I struggled, overcome by hands like talons
my wings flailing, thrashing against gravity

and whatever earthbound means ~ its own
gravity of inner landscape, the ways ordinary
struggles to clip the primaries of flight ~

their clutching hands wore those meanings
like golden manacles      wore them proudly
secure in their rejection of the sky above them

always they reached from the earth below
minor demons in some avian morality play
while I fought my solitary darkling battle

this, I told myself, is what pride does
what it means to work to learn thermals
& the language of the wind

to tumble every night like Icarus lost
a covert of feathers caught in a wayward breeze
remiges and rectrices in the hands of strangers.

Prompt 5 (hour 4) star image ~

 

The nights you call to me

you have to see this

your face as bright as Venus

that star we know is love

and here: in the garden

on the patio     outside the door

not laying on a table for discovery

by some medical student

promised your remains

‘just in case it all goes wrong’

 

The stars almost as bright as fireflies

which cluster like incandescent grapes

within the sheltering branches

of the tulip poplar next door

or those: the fireflies Morse coding

some unfathomable message I know

only because you are here

beckoning me to join you

alive    breathing

as bright as starlight

but closer

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