Poem 12: An Oasis

An Oasis

 

Cool Water played on our living room stereo like a distant

desert breeze while we roughhoused and did acrobatics

with Dad. He lifted us up into the air one at a time, our bellies

pressed into his feet while he lay on the carpet on his back.

We held our arms and legs out stiff as we flew. I wondered

how it would feel to go a whole day without the taste of water,

cool water. My brother and I take turns soaring my dad’s legs

above that dry barren land. I know the album by heart.

It’s one of only four or five we had, and it warned us

there’s a devil not a man who wants to hurt us and a desert

where men in white shirts and khakis crawl in their own sweat

toward the minty promise of water. My father lifts me

out of harm’s way, the cells in our mouths bulky with moisture.

I am seven and am learning how to pencil my wants

in a diary. I didn’t know one day I’d have to learn

how to let go of this man who taught me how to fly.

Poem 11: To Look at Flowers That Are Blue

To Look at Flowers That Are Blue,

 

and not pink or red, is one of the only ways

to peer into sky’s own eye. To breathe song

 

into lungs, skip the forecast and the night

show, skip the fear of memory, and why not?

 

Don’t pet the old man to death

by thinking only of mercy and balm

 

on the answering machine, and

if you do anyway, think about what the nurse told you

 

about death: that’s a long song he holds in his mouth.

Poem 10: Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart 

 

We wake to the songbirds painting their warbles and trills

on the morning canvas, we listen to their fluted songs

from our bed, or after breakfast when we take our coffee

like a salvation ritual on the deck. You say you’re glad

the chicken hawks have gone away at last, you’d been considering

buying a pellet gun to pick them off one by one, like a kid

with a bb gun shoots bullfrogs at a summer pond. We’ve

never owned a gun, but when I picked up the binoculars that last time

my dad was here to see if it was a squirrel calling from a nearest tree

I saw a chicken hawk close up ripping the chest out of a little brown bird,

and I wanted the hawk dead. The hawks eat the bird’s heart

and chest and lets the head and feathers fall to the ground.

Before that, I thought a heap of feathers on the path

in the wild wooded part of our yard spelled a cat. I tell you

 

the songbirds’ return feels like a fairy tale, the village mice

have come out of hiding, they’re celebrating the bad wolf’s death.

What I don’t tell you is I’m relieved each morning your body is warm

and you’re breathing. I’m glad you can roll out of bed and head

for the kitchen. I’m glad when I reached for you this morning

I did not touch a cold clay shell of a man. I know how that feels.

I don’t remember my dreams, but I’ll bet I dream of the morning

ten years ago, your chest gripped by thistles robbing your breath,

my 911 call, the six men with heavy gear rushing in minutes later,

carrying you from the top of the split entry stairs where you waited

like a schoolboy to the living room then out the door

to Sacred Heart. You carried my sacred heart to the ER.

I followed dumbly behind you down Grand in the dark

early morning, thinking I might not ever see you again.

Poem 9: Another Breath Poem

Another Breath Poem

 

First breath takes in spring winds blowing down slopes

of the Rockies over lilies of the valley and lilacs to new me.

 

My first mingled breath with a brown-haired boy named Darrel

as we stood nervous in a shack with a Black Widow near.

 

Summer breath mingled with wild clover and mustard,

freshly mowed hay, dank aromas of rich earth in the air.

 

New breath of yucca blossoms tinged with hot sands

from winds blowing across a desert I did not yet love.

 

Later, when I breathed in the cloven leaves of creosote

after a rain, my lungs grow fingers to stroke the air’s hair.

 

New breath now mingles grass and maple leaves and pine

that becomes a pool I want lie in, suspended, and gaze at the sky.

Poem 8: Self-Portrait as a Flip Flop

Self-Portrait as a Flip Flop

 

I’m poised and ready for this confession:

I prefer to be barefoot. In summers, I’m often

searching the house for my sandals, like some do for keys –

I kick them off the second I come to a standstill. That’s why

I am a flip flop. I’m as close to being a barefoot gypsy

dancing circles on the grass around a campfire as can

legally be done in the 48 contiguous states.

I remember being turned away from a night club

in Western Australia because I lacked a back strap. This

from the folk who go barefoot in grocery stores and pharmacies

(where my cousins can be purchased in a variety of colors

and styles for a reasonable price). I don’t want to be separated

from the earth beyond one slim layer of suede or a cushiony

ethylene vinyl acetate yoga mat insole with arch support. Truth is,

I wanted to be dolphin, to feel water cascading off my slick back

the way air slides off us when breaking a wave into air.

I got the short end of that stick and was designated

to be footwear. No worries. I make the most of what comes my way.

Or I make the least, in my case. I want to be the least encumbered

shoe I can be. I provide the largest area of the feet I protect

to be caressed by sun and air, even puddles, if we’re lucky

and get rain. When I was in grade school, we kids learned

a bunch of new songs each year that we sang in a program

for our folks, all lined up in bleachers on the stage. One year

for the grand finale, we sang “Don’t Fence Me In,” and

boy howdy did all seventy of us kids belt that one out

from the soles of our feet straight out through our lungs.

That’s me. I can’t stand to be fenced in. I let my dogs

be as close to unshod as can be and still technically be “shoes.”

Poem 7: Ruminations on Breath

Ruminations on Breath

 

Breath is a shoe lined with moleskin

holding my foot in its soft hand.

Breath carries liquid crystals to my blood

filling my head with full spectrum light.

Breath wants to be a fighting beta from the pet store

with more colors than any one eye can contain.

Breath dreams of a cabin in the woods filled with the

casings of pine smoke and musty old cots.

Breath wants to be held like a baby cocooned

in flannel blankets and carried through the snow.

Breath thirsts for a muddled mojito

to wear with pink fuzzy house slippers.

Breath grows into a sequined jazz singer

in a smoky nightclub who wants all eyes on her.

Breath has a packed suitcase by the front door

ready to blow out of here first chance she gets.

 

 

Poem 6: Misfits

Misfits

          Researchers Examining Medieval Skeletons Find Really Bad Bunions

          –NPR, June 11, 2021

 

I look to my sandals basket and choose a pair to wear.

It’s summer, my feet won’t know socks or shoes until fall.

I want my feet to be like coyotes – free and roaming fields

colored by wildflower crayons. That’s why I won’t

buy shoes unless they feel like slippers on my feet.

A librarian at the college where I work confessed to me

her fetish for footwear. She loves their stylish looks,

though she never goes barefoot anymore because her feet

are messed up wearing these senseless shoes. That’s

what we can call them, yes? The flipside of “sensible shoes”

that support and don’t harm? Earlier this month, NPR

reported that researchers examined 700-year-old skeletons

to discover gross degeneration of the bones

in their feet – painful bunions they got from wearing

the popular pointy shoes in medieval Britain. Like a foot

can fit properly into a baguette. Come on, people —

wise up! Bones repeatedly abused turn into bruised knobs, some

turn gangrene, damaged from the pressure and scrapes. I want

my pups to thrive like coyotes and bears roaming in fields.

 

 

Poem 5: ABBA and Shawshank, Revisited

ABBA and Shawshank, Revisited

The woman in my dream last night told me

she wants to give her husband away. Not on loan,

mind you, but for good. They have such different

tastes in food. She loves to eat dumplings

steamed in a pot of chicken soup simmering all morning,

she wants to drink mojitos all afternoon, the mint and lime

adding zing to her mouth. Who doesn’t want extra zing

in their mouths? She said she hasn’t figured out

what to do with her hands. So when she’s

on the road and comes to a stoplight,

she finger-dances to Abba blaring on the radio:

Ooh, you can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life,

the index finger on both hands kicking a can-can.

The mistake she made is the light turned green

and she stayed there dancing her hands without

gunning the gas and got rear-ended. Now the cop

(dressed neatly with no food stains on his lapel)

wants to know her reason for not moving. She tells him:

Ooh, see that girl, watch that scene, digging the dancing queen,

her fingers kicking in time to the beat, so he

handcuffs her and takes her to the pokey, and

as a lover of irony, she teachers her cellmates

to do the Hokey Pokey. But they only serve slop to inmates,

and she wants more (don’t we all?), so she takes the plastic spoon

and starts scraping in the wall. She figures if Andy and Red

could break out of Shawshank, she can break out

of county lock up. Protect the right for us to bear

dumplings, protect our homes with dough

boiled for 10 minutes, cover on. Anything will plump up

and blossom with steam and enough time. All she had

was an overnight, and it was back to the streets for her,

dancing with her fingers at every intersection, red or green

light shining their bright color on her like a Rothko.

Poem 4: Snow White AF

Snow White AF

I wonder what choice she would have made

if she had a say. Surely that damned apple would top

her list of things to set out by the curb for Goodwill.

That apple messed her up as bad as an apple

bruised Eve and all the women since. I’m betting she preferred

to stay under that blanket, sleep for decades, growing

old with no eyes to notice when her skin grows crapey.

She must have known people prefer smooth young skin

to old, pale and free from the sun’s rays. Her one-woman

tribe of dreams is absent of all the little men

scuttling around her with their needs on display,

demanding her attention, like vampires sucking

the lifeblood right out of her porcelain neck,

not yet sagging to turkey neck, for then

she would hardly have been the Fairest in the Land.

Give the dear gal a carnation to pin next to her flawless

neck, the one red spark of life blossoming in her care.

Her home was her comfortable fort, but it’s been overrun

by seven little guys with odd names. Don’t get me started

on that scoundrel Prince Charming. What’s so charming

about being woken from the best damn sleep she’s had in years,

stirred from a dream where she’s the empress of her castle,

humble as it is with hand hewn furniture suitable for kids.

Oh, and wait till the Prince learns she doesn’t want kids.

What a whale of net he’ll be caught in. Ms. Snow daydreams

of having her own place, with no one for her to tend to but

her own desires to make beautiful objects and sleep.

Poem 3: Missing Tools

Missing Tools

This is why women who’ve been hurt hoard the gauzy memories

in fields near their homes. They wait for the new moon

to bury those pains pell-mell near trees because trees

have strong hides that contain quantities of sap drumming

just beneath the surface, the way their own skin holds

volumes of lava inside. Their bodies are private chapels

filled with sinners, or their bodies have grown

into closets for storing lumps that reek like sponges of vinegar

when pried to the surface. Do the clouds in the sky

remind them of their own mothers? What kind of rain

do they need? Their mothers haven’t owned the battered goblets

their daughters hold, never had reason to shout

to the heavens: why did you let him get near me?

Their mothers were sold their own bag of goods, sent

home with samples of formula to feed their babies.

How can a woman be made to believe her own milk

is no good? These mothers could not teach their daughters

how to nurse, so how could they teach them to get out

of the way of the hailstones, how to get away

from the dented, broken cups their men were,

men whose fathers didn’t know how to teach them

to play fair and be nice and not hit. Sometimes

crowbars are the best tools to excise the lumps

creaking up just under their skin, or to fend off

more blows, those white sparks igniting

in their skulls from a fist or a knee battering them

like a crazed horny goat who’s come up to them

on the mountainside of a marriage that failed from the word go.