Adventure, body, Relationships

Injured and Alone

paredes 2

The injury aligns with the breakup, a window sash in its jamb.  One smooth slide to a perfect seal.  In stays the still air.  Out there, bees and dew and all the fecund detritus of summer.

This forced meditation is only welcome because it came in with its trunk and has evaded any attempt to pin down its schedule for moving on.  All I can do is make it feel at home.  I fold myself in beside it and listen to it breathe. Continue reading “Injured and Alone”

body, Letting Go, Love, Poetry

Cooking for One

kitchen witch

my tongue craves skin, my skin
tongue.  how to eat when the only flavor
is salt? too poor for the extravagance
of a meal served to me, i recall the logic
of giving the beloved what you want
for yourself.  this woman
is her own again, my only lover
here.  In the kitchen i peel
off my clothes and wrap around my hips
an oceanic gust from the cotton bolt
i brought from Zimbabwe
half this life before
and gave to a dear one who returned to me
one yard in thanks, tiny stitches,
this skirt. heat tears through
onion silk. with the long blade
i slice gold threads of ginger. oil pops
as punjabi mc strips the carapace
and wings unfold from my hips.
roil and scrape. peanut, coconut, turmeric, cumin.
cabbage, tomato, cauliflower, honey.
masala dust clings to raw arms, ribs
sweat red clay heat. mouth gorged
with song, the feeding precedes
the eating. my tongue thrills at the naked
steam curling into its hidden cells, my skin
tilts towards the kaleidoscope
of scents. i serve my beloved
a dish and she returns to me
one  birth  in thanks, tiny bloodbeats,
this night. the only flavor
is never the only flavor. the body can taste
every texture of loss. the body can learn
to boil sugar
from the heart.


Poetry, Things I Can

71. Things I Can Let Be: Spider Brother

Fine as needles and just as quick.
But for the ants, the broom,
I say, yet the company is welcome
such as it is. A beating heart
of any size, really.

Silence outmanned Eros
and he left for the second time
today. The dog paws at the patio door,
bends her head
and tries to peel back
with her teeth the intractable pane
on which a cousin clings.
This one is fatter by degrees,
brown as the wilting marigold
stems where it tatted lace
bedclothes and sampled
from the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet
mosquitoes, midges, mites.
To the dog, this one is meat.

She eschews shadows
inside where domestic kin live,
whole families of them,
behind the woodpile, under the toy bin,
tucked below the lip
of the bathroom cabinet
where my bare toes
trouble their determined stillness.

She pivots and tries again to press
through glass. I understand
this fascination with the promise
waiting outside, even if that promise
has better things to do
than wait
or be a promise
at all.

Home, Things I Can

35. Things I Can Put Away: The Weekend’s Haul

The absence of television is my secret indulgence. The house, silent, throbs with stored energy. Even the ambient nothing is saturated with sound and light.

The night is mine to claim or spurn. I have relinquished the service of intermediaries.

Tonight, my boy wanted pupusas for dinner. I’ve never eaten one, let alone prepared one. No matter. On my lunch break today, I popped over to the supermarket for masa harina.

We weren’t 30 seconds in the door before Bug raced off on his scooter with the neighbor kids. I cranked the music and heated the skillet. Wet cormeal, caked hands, cheese, oil. Mash and spatter, the warm scent rising.

Bug came back flushed and hungry. He downed four and told me, “Pupusas are a hit.”

Now, he is in bed running the twilight battle soundtrack, fighting off sleep with jet engines and exploding artillery. I move through the house as laundry churns and dishes dry in the rack. The dog awaits her nighttime walk. The lunches are packed, the plants sated.

Next to my bed is the red bag left from Sunday. After the 5K, my Mister and I wandered through town. In the garden behind an elementary school, we parked ourselves with our compostable takeout containers of eggs and greens. Full and sunned, we strolled down the main strip. A ruckus at the library checked our progress. Crowds, umbrellas, noise. Curious for a Sunday.

The lady at the door told us the bag was $5, and it was our ticket in. We handed her a bill and she offered up a shopping tote. We could fill it. These were the weekend book sale’s all-you-can-haul final hours. We elbowed our way through hordes of neighbors and pawed through the leavings. Children’s fiction by Ursula LaGuin, The Black Stallion, one for me by the author of The Lovely Bones. An investigation of Shakespeare’s missing folios. The Golden Compass (two copies, it turns out — I must have been eager). A treatment on writing memoirs. A stack of rough-skinned novels by women, a few fat beach reads with “murder” in the title.

The spines bit at the seams and at My Mister’s back, yet everything and everyone made it home intact.

For the past five days, the sack has been sitting unsorted on the floor of my room. Tonight, as Bug winds down and a May breeze sidles through the screens, I sit on the carpet and dump my treasures. I pull from my shelves the pieces I have no need to keep. A few dimestore mysteries, a couple of salacious works of pop journalism. Those go into my backpack for campus the book drive. The new ones, I slide into the gaps left behind, righting the spines and checking that all neighbors are compatible enough to coexist at least for the short term.

The hardback volume on the voiceless boy, I set aside. It goes onto my bedside table to keep Cervantes company. It might be what carries me off to sleep tonight.

The red bag is folded now and stashed with the other grocery totes in my kitchen. The washing machine has finished clanging and spinning. The dog has settled in her crate.

In my son’s bedroom, I hear pages flutter then thump to the floor.

The house is silent.

The night is mine.

This is nothing like alone.


Warming Up

She says, We have a big family. Everyone helps.

The wall of graying oak and maple bends along the dirt drive. Low barrels of fading mums press in around an unblinking blue door. The house is as buttoned up as she is, yet chimney smoke rises. The day tumbles awake. Behind the drift and frost, a pulse.

Her boots stir up leaves that have fallen since the last rain. I imagine many hands, pink fingertips, white breath. The cracking in of a wedge, the mallet’s arcing blow. Someone bends, lifts, carries.

The wall goes up.

I pluck, dismantling it here, there. The loss is barely a shave.

More trees will fall this season. They are everywhere. Obstiant grasp, inexorable reach. They anchor the rust-gold blanket that encircles the house and extends to whatever comes next.

I pull a splinter from the crease in my finger. She takes my two twenties. I put the gloves back on and muscle the last of the logs into my trunk.

Living in the Moment, Love

Darlings of March

It should not be easy, seeing them over by the door. He is taller by a head. She nuzzles into his shoulder. The last winter gust blows through the glass doors and stops short before edging around the perfect cocoon of them. March Madness blares on screens securing the perimeter in a sort of frenzied lockdown. It is night and city but all indoors and nowhere near town. The burgers come in plastic baskets. Even the macaroni and cheese is deep fried.

The line for booths is almost out the door. A trio of children in falling-off parkas push over each other to the video games. A balding man with big hands squeezes himself into a chair at a table for four. He perches there alone and drinks a beer, eyes on the pendulous screen behind the bar. He wears no ring. He glances towards the door from time to time but no one ever comes.

The tall one dips his ear towards his beloved. She lifts her lips to it and he takes whatever she has offered with a grin. Her body quakes, shoulders to hips. Now they are both laughing. The cluster at the entrance is all parents and middle-aged couples in jeans and fleece. The men peer with narrow eyes out over the crowded seating and up to one game flashing in high definition then another, another, another.

She wraps her arms tighter around the willow of his torso. He slips a hand up beneath her hair. The taupe curtain falls around his wrist. Impossibly, she steps into him. They defy physics. They break rules.

The door opens again. Streetlights and wind, the reluctant night, they all seek respite here. A server squeezes past with chili and cornbread. The sweet potato fries are popular here.

The girl smiles smiles smiles. The boy basks. They sway around some invisible pivot to which they have twined their invisible threads. They never once glance anywhere but into each other and occasionally, with eyes slipping closed, into the safe harbor of the self anchored by some One.

It used to be hard, seeing such things.

I was hard, seeing such things.

The days are longer now. It has warmed up a bit.

Such a sweetness welcomes my gaze. For the moment, it is a soft place to land.

Choices, Outdoors

Found and Lost

In the dream, I leave Bug in the hands of a busy child care center in the city and head out for an afternoon walk. The water is close. Just a few bold steps off the unmarked edge of a road carry me down to a quiet beginning.
A river snakes along sand and volcanic stone. As I stroll along it, the buildings disappear behind me. Soon, the path opens out onto breeze-rippled silence. The sun is bright enough to blind me and I have to pull my narrow-brimmed hat low over my eyes. I pause and take in the impossible pitch of the rimed stone jutting up from the surface of the confluence. Is it ocean or river, this aquatic jewelbox? Sapphire and emerald stand shoulder-to shoulder with opal, all of it turning in luxurious circles under the glittering sun.
The riverbank calls me closer. I shed my shoes. The water is clear enough that I can peer down into the caverns below the rough stone. White sand is a warm powder massaging my soles. No one is anywhere. I want so badly to slide into the aquamarine shallows but I am alone and it could be dangerous. I do not recall where I am. Is this country home to alligators? Piranhas? No one would hear me call if a hidden barnacle sliced my skin.
Just on the other side of the large stone, a pool spills into the cool silver below. The bottom disappears into deepening dark. It could fall all the way to the center of the earth. It is not a swimming hole per se, yet it is wide enough for my body even with my arms outstretched. The hunger to immerse is powerful enough to make me quiver but caution stills my descent. It is better to be safe, yes?  I only have a few hours before I must return for my son. I settle for submerging my feet up to my ankles. The cool brine makes me shiver. I bend and splash it over my calves and shoulders. The sun is so very warm.
Footfalls behind me rend the silence. It is Tee. He is jogging, waving hello. His pink skin is flushed and he has that goofy grin on his face he so often wears. Hello! Hello!
I ask him why he is not with Bug. He tells me he stopped into the child care center for a visit but he decided to go for a run. It is my night with our son anyway. He has all the time in the world. Nearby, up a low slope of grass, the balconies of apartments overlook this riverside trail. Tee strips down naked and I remind him that people live close here. He seems surprised to find he might be exposed. He dons the shorts again but ties his shirt around his waist and makes as if to join me on my stroll.
I’d really rather walk alone.
He shrugs as I go ahead. Instead of turning back, though, he picks up the jog again and passes me. He plods on just in my line of sight along the soft and sandy path. My path. The waving reeds and sea-grass are obscured by his sunburned back. He is going in the direction of what I had thought to be my solitary exploration. Now I know I must really remember Bug because Tee will be too far ahead and cannot be relied upon to take him home if I lose my sense of direction.
The wild path is no longer wild, not with my ex pounding along it before me. I don’t want to share this with his noisy presence. I turn off and wind through the neighborhood there. It is a place with rental apartments, playgrounds, a crumbling community pool. The swimming families squeal and chatter. Women with thick thighs and thinning swimsuits snap at their children. There are so many girls. They tease in a screeching playfulness that shimmers with latent violence. The yellowish-blue does not look inviting at all. I walk on past feeling crowded, heavy, a little desperate.
When I find my way back to the water, the river has grown to a surging froth. It runs below a road bridge built high on concrete girders. A footpath descends a sharp cut of rickety stairs down to the place where a culvert spills foaming debris out into the current. There is no place to cross. I cannot make my way on foot up to the pounding, traffic-dense bridge, and anyway, it seems to go the wrong way. I have somehow come out on the side opposite where I need to be.
I am so confused. My wild place, that aquamarine pool and the waving sedge, has all given way to boat launches and drawbridges. Roaring vehicles tow rivercraft. There is nowhere to walk. I carry a small inflatable raft. It is red. It is tucked under my arm. It is too big to carry but too flimsy to use for crossing. I stand near the edge of the road where it falls into this sea. I look across the choppy black. It is far too wide for me.
Somewhere over there is the city I just left, my son, and the home I don’t yet know is my own. The place I need to be is there. This awareness is a knife in the gut. I feel miserably unsatisfied. For as long as I’ve been gone, I never took that quiet stroll on which I set out. I never did find out what grew along the edge of the wet lip of the bay. I wish now I had simply let myself in to that dangerous, lonely deep.
Had I called upon the years of swimming in mountain lakes and relied on my own strong arms to keep my head above water,  I could have immersed the whole sheath of my being in that jeweled and quiet embrace. If only I had trusted the body of this wet earth and this mighty self to hold me, I could have whetted my appetite for solitude.
Now, I have to ask for help.
A man hauling cables barks commands at drivers. I am quivering, on the verge of tears, but I do my best simply to state my need.
Can you help me get across? How does this all work?
He is brusque. All business. He points me to a dinghy. Another man clips my raft onto the bigger vessel. I pay six dollars and board. He whirs the motor and speeds across the water. None splashes on me now. It is an opaque and impossible substance. I do not look down. My eyes trace the smooth line out to the west or east, if only I knew. The open horizon has room enough but no map. I have no compass to carry me to it.
The emptiness recedes. It is so very far never to go.
The captain, if he can be called this, deposits me on the asphalt launch opposite along with the other passengers. I scrounge my raft from among the anonymous craft and make back towards the road. The city thrums in the distance. I am late. I have miles to retrace. My son is waiting.


The Seventh Life

She begins to cry sometime after midnight.
Each howl a round, dry bottle
she casts over the water
only to watch it sink.
No buoyancy at all,
just the cool ink where it fell
silent, still.
In this house of warm flesh
every door is shut. Even her nemesis
is out of reach
closing in on a doe,
a black comma
on a pallet under a coat of winter wool.

She didn’t do this before. Never in her many years
has she wandered the house, pleading,
the inflection cresting at the end of the cry
a sustained note,
a hooked interrogative
dredging my drowned body
from the depths.

I would invite her in (I claim)
but never have, not once.
She kneads the soft places
with her claws.
It doesn’t so much hurt
as scrape the edge of desperation
and beg for a way back in.

There is no vacancy
in this fallow womb.
Even though she presses her longing
against the spars,
the sea of my heart does not surge
and my breast is parched.

She will have to let the light from distant stars
in through the portholes
of her eyes
and seek refuge
in its inadequate warmth
as we all do.