Art, Family, Poetry

The Age We Are

standing on shoulders

“Toss the word rain to her,” he says.
I do and she catches it
on the chin. Drenched, she climbs aboard
his shoulders and returns six drops
to the sky. A boy cheers
as his dog digs in the sand
for a smell long severed
from its host. Wild-eyed,
the two wear matching
grins on faces bright
enough to kill
or ignite
or like us
both. We try on hats
now that we see
we could have worn them
all along. Felt
and ribbon and feather, like the grandfathers
of other people whose everyday
days are like our holidays.
Our patriarchs wiped sweat
from their wrists with stained handkerchiefs
before their fingers slipped.
Some had one arm
from forgetting this. Some left our mothers
orphans even after returning intact
from war. We never hear the ones still here
say, It comes to this?
That’s some sick joke

because they only whisper such things
to a sagging ceiling, the most sympathetic ear
for miles. I toss the word blindness
next time
but no one sees it land.

Image: Justin Brown Durand, “careful now, don’t let me fall”

Love, Poetry

T for the Tillerman

Under the mast of sleep, night breathes
through weave, teasing down
in spots and whispers
on heel, bow, on back of knee. His agile hands
press lids and lash
the barrel stays, these ribs
a sturdy frame
that hasn’t buckled yet. Just above
the place my spine
draws across ocean’s verge
a horizon line, the cumulus parts. Stars consolidate
and then disperse making constellations
of text we feign to understand
as we flounder in the dark.

He fixes our place with sextant and connects
the dots. Contours on the map
of me begin to align, his fingertips
hinting at sentience. Order. At something more.
He marks the way
in code and my skin stirs
as it recognizes an R
or perhaps a D.
Where did I drift? Is that a V?
I missed a passage, I want to say. Go back.

The tide is strong. It drowns
out speech and weighs down my cheek
with sand. I don’t yet trust his touch
to chart our course and so in hush I try
to decipher the braille he makes
on me. That shape feels
like an eel trace. A silent S?
Eight? Infinity? He could tip us
over the edge of a forever
Mobius strip
yet I give way
because sleep ties its rigging
to my eyes and draws the knots
in tight. He writes on

the starboard side as I list
roughly north. Strokes across
a restive sea
shape incantation in argot I may have known
before the paired mitochondria
we were
parted ways. 43 million years we have skimmed
the planet’s skin seeking
a lost shape and song, seeking
the only tongue

to the task of whispering tattered lyrics
back together. An erasure
now, a rumble like mirth. From my lumbus
he wipes away
a what? Mistake? A risk
reconsidered? Still, he writes on.
Rough beams of me
soft from so long in salt
air give way to the press of his stylus
and bear the name
he carves
as if it has always been
mine and I
his. His spelling
casts me off into current. I unfurl
and ferry the rare cargo
over fathoms
and night.


Who Never Grew Up

Memory is a cruel mistress
Who comes bearing the old bones
You buried in a corner of the yard.
She demands proper rites, a recognition
Of the sacred refuse.
She makes a reliquary of your shame,
Polishes it to catch the light.
Memory is a puppeteer
Twining her limbs around the skeleton
And shrouding it in flesh as if
New before returning the departed one to
Your embrace
Where you can feel the mass
Pressing again
And again
Against your living heart.
She pulls the string
At its back to play a phrase you know,
As if vibrations from a throat to your ears
As if real
(Was that his voice in the corridor?)
Is it any wonder we believe in ghosts?
Nimble is the hand of memory,
Steering the doll’s feathered fingers
To trace the arch of your lips,
Willing you to hunger
Then feeding you on what’s left
When the thread frays:
Colored light
And air,
The feast of lost boys.