Hour Twelve: Nine Lives

Nine lives to live, a tree’d cat mews;

I climb up high to rescue Boots,

the calico con artist

Cheshire smile peeking through

leaf clusters, hiding

protracted claws

awaiting hands

reaching out

to scratch

me.

 

 

 

 

Hour Eleven: Pandemic Play

Paint a portrait.

A sunflower splash.

No azaleas for the spring.

Daisy do, I dream of you.

No where to go

to play when the sickness

is here to stay, so

I color my pods’

chords, in fresh foray

in the summer time, too,

when winter cools

the pastels blue, I wait

the icy days through

till robins chirp a tune

the blue of trampled masks

in the gutter strewn.

Let’s play an afternoon away,

splashing color to a song

to frame the lonely long

year, electronically sung

through organ pipe soot,

dusty choir echoes, I put

my ear to the ground,

where once the sound of

children played, dancing

sun beams in the garden–

but not today.

We play.

Hour Ten: Connect the Dots

“Oh, don’t even try to connect the dots,”

he said.

It’s true.

The space inside and the one above

the cosmos of you and me,

no way to comprehend.

Particulate matter we are,

no less starburst than shredded skin,

chutes and ladders,

helix twist,

the cellular merry-go-round

that tells tales of why

you lie to me and I lie back.

We’ve grown accustomed to the fable.

New aliens and a nearby planetary commune,

where we respond in airwaves,

traveling to when the earth,

long gone up in flame,

reaches and touches

the vibrations they are.

He laughed when I said,

“Let’s have a drink and test the vibe.”

I meant it.

I, as matter, feel your integrity,

just as you feel my heat.

The light in me bows to the light in you.

A stuttering twinkling of time and we connect

the stars with fated fingers.

No body survives.

Hour Nine: This Too…

We were pen pals.

First, we were friends.

Then, we went to college,

she up north, I down south.

So, we bought stationery,

envelopes, and fine point pens.

The mailbox held word-gifts,

much awaited,

and, in return, smiles

at the little red flag at rest–

the letter box surprise.

We once lived together,

the three of us,

in apartment 3G,

like the comic strip

no one remembers.

Only two parking spots,

one of us running

to safely make it home

from across the street

of a shady neighborhood.

After, she lived with me,

in the circle, a house

we could not afford so

rented every square inch

to pay the mortgage.

Holly’s room, the queen

suite, suited her.

Her royal touch,

like the fingers she lay

on my shoulder, as

she leaned over

from the arm of the couch,

as if we’d always known

each other, as if we’d

been in mid-conversation.

“I’ve got these spots on my arm.

What do you think they could be?”

I was mortified.

Who dared speak to me, hiding

out in the back room, away

from the party’s throbbing center,

avoiding people?

And she captured me.

Somehow, she gathered my ease.

So, when I penned my words

on a neat square of yellow flowers,

a half dozen years later,

and sent it north, the red flag up,

she responded:

“He won’t leave you.

And if he does, it will hurt

until it doesn’t.

This too shall pass.”

It did.

She returned.

We toured the states

in celebration of college degrees.

Drove a Volkswagen Bug

her boyfriend’s friend rebuilt

cross country, losing parts

along the way,

swollen tires in Tacoma,

loud muffler in Yellowstone,

and ball bearings in Ohio,

and yet,

we made it to DC.

I took an Amtrak to New York,

where everything changed,

including a reason to be there.

Thirty years later,

I hugged her as she cried,

tears of shame and remembrance,

as I called her my “forever friend.”

My palms cupping her cheeks,

thick from stuffing grief,

I spoke her words,

“This too shall pass.”

And she did.

Hour Eight: The Battle

A warrior who declines to fight

needs counsel.

So, he confides in his friend, his trusted charioteer.

“Tell me what I should do?

I see my family, friends, and rulers before me.

My job calls me to slaughter them.

My calling is to love my neighbors,

love my father, brothers, cousins, and mothers.”

The blue one regards his champion,

index finger to chin,

consternation narrowing his eyes.

“Your calling is to fight when there is battle.

You are not God.”

But the warrior was not convinced.

“How can I know God’s will in this war?”

And so the purple one turned his insides out,

vomited all time and space, evil and divine,

like a carnival house of mirrors,

showing the truth, the unknown,

and the couldn’t possibly be known.

After, the warrior fell to his knees,

nauseous,

afraid,

beaten,

shaken, and

persuaded.

“I will fight.”

And it was bloody but for the best.

Hour Seven: What’s Normal?

I normally don’t use the word.

I mean, how could I?

Whose standards, yours or mine?

Whose conventions, society’s or family’s?

Definitions slide off a palm like silken scarves,

the meaning lost in context.

Two years ago, we hugged,

two years later, I peered at you,

searching your eyes,

fearing the demons within.

Once, if you loved too much,

you went to jail.

Now, your hate prison corners you.

And truth your mother taught you

turn lies to the spring winds,

shifting, like the dying fall leaves.

Chameleon, snakeskin shed,

twist of fate, kiss of death,

what do you call it?

It’s the new new, old as time.

What’s normal?

 

 

Hour Six: Rush

Rush, rush, out the door,

trip on the mat, urging,

“Hope you brought wine,”

then hurl yourself across the street,

open the car door,

hit the gas,

speed through town,

hit the brakes,

open the car door,

trip on the curb, impediment

to the pace of the next gig,

flying by,

screaming at the back of your neck,

run, run, run for your life,

as if you could,

as if the hurt never touched

down in your cells,

fueling a body on the move,

a mind at odds with feet

that rush, rush,

out the door

avoiding

evading

eluding

coming home.

 

 

Hour Five: Manhearted

No nonsense, no bitter and tease, no games for he

who knows how to sit in ease, soaking his bones in a tub full of tunes,

eager to please the senses, not hers but his, alone in his cocoon,

his lair of potions and scents, smiling to his core, through a heart’s lens.

Manhearted he is, easy to see, plain sight, no need to believe

an explanation for every cause, an analysis for every disease.

He’s hard around the edges, tender to the bone, and mean

when it matters, telling it like it is or should be, without making a scene.

No drama, dilemma, duress, or domineering desires to be yours,

he’s content where is, what he knows, and how he keeps score, for

what is a man but his mood, manner, and masculine mimicry, one

more father, son, uncle, brother, nephew, pal and bearded chum.

Blissful fullness, he steams in his own juices, a masterpiece in tile,

mosaic of a man, centuries stained in porcelain, skin of his brethren

swirling about him like bath salt silk and scum, floating atop the womb.

He’s a man from his wrinkled toes to his shit-eating grin, a y to her x,

not a performance, like the band playing in his head, but still play, effects

drilled into the cerebral cortex, the veins of desire, a man-hearted display.

 

 

Hour Four: Could the Truth be so simple? so Terrible?

“Could the Truth be so simple? So terrible?” Tim O’Brien asks,

finally, and the answer is a foregone conclusion, no secrets to hide.

Did he whisk her away to the lake of the woods or in it?

She was his world, he admits. So how could she vanish at his hands,

on his watch when no one was watching, secluded as they were?

She peeled back the veil, her first mistake, and the last of her seen.

 

It could have been the war, the memories, the love, the lost babies,

bayonet babies hanging on the clothes line in a weaver’s yard.

O’Brien’s tale, a mosaic of mown down wives and children in heat,

asks us to remember what he himself cannot forget, wants to dream

away in the river of Lethe, where souls drift loosed from lives lived.

The Sorcerer only giggled at the legions of corpses lining field streams.

Where is he now? Where is she then?  In the Lake of the Woods.

Hour Three: Had I Known

Had I known what I knew then,

I would have done it all the same,

hit the roof, flown the coop, kicked the bucket,

but not without a fight, without a last stand.

You don’t finish last if you quit the race.

 

Starting is the hardest part, when

your feet won’t go and your heart beats fast.

Had I known what I knew then,

I would have done it all the same.

Nevertheless, I’d have taken it slower.

 

When the going gets tough, then you soften

the pace to a crawl, belly down, back to the wall.

They can only keep your head under water so long.

Still, had I known what I knew then,

I would have done it all the same.

 

Regrets never pinned me like a voodoo doll,

and wishes fall into the well like a dull thud

in a distant hollow: what I know now, what I knew then,

It’s all the same, what I do now, will never be again,

Yet, it never mattered to any of us anyhow.

 

A drum beats blindly, pulse-passes on to the next one in line,

and the baton passes from your hands to mine and mine to theirs.

I give them nothing more; they earn nothing less.

Time trims the sun’s beams shorter, molds the sky round,

and I if I ever knew it then, I know I know it now the same.

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