You ask if your grandchildren
Will ever know you,
And I wonder the same of me-
Can it be done?
To know what color is the thing
Ever changing colors,
What reflection in the funhouse
Is facing the reality,
What signature of veracity
Is buried in the novel,
And what in my childhood
Isn’t boogeymen and butterflies?
And I’m angry because loving you
Is watching you kill yourself
Over and over and over and over
And one day you might die
The way that you lived.
That day may be upon us,
And you desperately tell more stories
In the hope they outlive the paper truths
But you’ve woven decades of mistrust
In manipulations, in preemptive accusations,
And wild recriminations
At the slightest intervention,
Yet we gather, we intend to help,
For the sake of the broken child in you,
Past all the sins that twisted your history,
Which you cannot remember, nor recognize,
And do not understand, and
Because you have no one left
To sacrifice for your stories:
There is no poetry
For such senseless tragedy.
You reared us in a mirage
Of plausible deniability,
And I cannot remember
If the ground was ever solid
Beneath our tiny feet.
I know you by our experiences,
Some gut understanding
That surpasses the tales
We both may tell-
We all tell, or keep to ourselves
Because of the fog you planted
That grew taller than oaks,
Taller than redwoods,
Taller than the tiny tots in your care.
You should have named us
Smoke, and Mirrors,
But am I being unkind?
What drives me crazy
Is that I cannot tell if I love you dearly,
Or if I love a story I retell,
I cannot know if I despised our times,
Or let you become the ogre you played
On at least some days-
You prided yourself on living a life
Beyond the mundane
For better or worse-
We signed those checks,
Sometimes we cashed them,
And spent them quickly.
I don’t know where that leaves me.
I fight to stay boring.
You spin fables of grandeur,
And I don’t bring the kids
Because children believe in fairy tales
Which may be why you want them to come.
Monthly Archives: January 2020
She Loves Me; She Loves Me Not
You ask if your grandchildren
Time Leaves with Whom She Came
I affirmed part of your affliction
As a form of cognitive dissonance,
Now I’m sifting through my existence
For the identical resistance
Using the same standard of measure
Contradictions fall in line
Beneath the surface of being, of time,
Of the manifold truths we indwell
Yet I sense in me a sudden groundswell:
A concrete contradiction.
You praise me now, even when I confront,
Because you’re alone, suffering the brunt
Assault of age, and neglect, and the distortion
That’s thrown half your decades out of proportion:
So you give me allowance.
But in your childlike gaiety, your eager mirth,
Your reassessment of my worth
In newfound patience and admiration
Your words recall aged condemnation:
I brace for the familiar snarling face
And I wait. But the stakes are higher
For us both, you defend against the liar,
When I do not accuse- it is no lie if you believe;
Though it may be wrong, you don’t deceive
To speak as you are convicted.
And herein, my dissonance abides:
In the reflection of my face in your eyes
I learned the visage of my countenance
The vast heap of disappointments;
The praise for values I didn’t possess.
And now you show forth a foreign reflection
Heightened assumptions and affections,
And I feel artificially lifted, poised above the precipice
Of the inevitable descent and maleficence
Into the twisted told-you-so’s.
Your unexpected approval spins on the head
Of the thinnest dime- the life you led
Lasted longer than my mine thus far-
You were wed sixteen years before
It all collapsed.
So in a sense, we wait for the decline
Revealing I’m yours, you’re mine,
Our intertwined fates await the indication,
Your snarling vindication
For years of prophecies about my future
But I want to believe the contrary view:
All your prophecies were just you.
My girls and I can have a different narrative
Than the lineage of our heritage
Mother to mother to mother.
You hate your departed mother so dearly.
I never knew her; but there is clearly
A family resemblance in the line
My precious daughters committed no crime
And deserve a better inheritance than we give.
Perhaps for this alone, I embrace the risk
The tender exposure to the mental tricks
That once crippled my childlike hope-
For them I can cope
Or try my hardest to cope
With the dissonance of who I am,
Who I have been,
Who I may still be:
Your darling little unloveable failure.
The Estate of Affairs
I have stared down the creature,
In its ivory fangs and chameleon scales,
For another day, so far as I can see,
I have lived to tell the tale
Under rolling breath, the stench of salt and blood,
That selfsame insatiable beast,
Sulfurous, seething, scheming foe,
Who began, before my birth, the feast.
Who wears my mother’s youthful skin:
Her ageless hair, and heart, and hide,
As an ill-fitting dinner coat
Within which she resides.
She stands at the edge of the entryway
To the roving, rotting den
Beckoning me draw near, draw clambering
Over whitewashed bones again
In familiar reticence, I approach
Holding my breath
Against the smell of trauma and tragedy, and
The excrement of death.
In tender, youthful laughter, taking a hand
She leads me to the inner sanctum
To tend to her own torn flesh,
Victim to victim, the wounds are the symptom
Of the foul creature who waits,
Snorting and hissing
While my mother embraces me,
Weeping and kissing
From the lonely lair she cannot leave.
She’s in love with the beast she hates,
But she cannot see beyond
The ability to feed and dominate,
Nor the clawed wingspan she takes for her own
So she begs to all, come and dine
She shows me trinkets from the beast
While nearby, it reclines
And I lift a finger towards its frame
More than my mother can bear:
To name a nameless thing.
To cast light on what cannot be there.
Yet offerings must be sacrificed.
Every fanged beast demands blood.
We were birthed in the congealed river,
Baby hair matted from the flood
Washing us downstream in time,
To settlements, wayfaring lands
That need not see where we come from:
What blood has stained our hands.
And now, returned, within the lair
I wonder that I could traverse
The barriers from here to there,
The allegiances she won’t reverse
Fearful risks and mortal terrors-
To sit so close I feel its heat,
As lips snarl above jagged pearls,
I offer scraps at horned feet
To appease- to belay a meal.
Shaken by the sense of Other-
Speaking around the third-
The beast is not my mother:
Not the girl formed in the womb,
Merely the one she serves.
And the beast is not the greater,
Merely the one who usurps.
Yet she moves, a walking sacrifice-
All lost! And tending to her needs
Only heightens the understanding
She may be eaten at the next feed.
Time is all the gulf she’s had,
And time, the fickle friend,
Rarely announces in advance
When it will come to end.
Were it not for fearful foe,
How eagerly, her wounds redressed,
With all forgiven, almost forgotten,
Cradled again, to call her blessed
But the worship she so greatly craves,
The addiction of the ancient foes
Who slurp the poison to the dregs
With murderous interpose
Drives her hands deep in the side
Of her personal beast and foe,
And drinking her own poison,
She refuses to let go.
But for short hours in between,
We sit on grassy banks
And laugh at all the years we’ve seen,
Together giving thanks.
We both must know the days appointed,
The waxen seal is sulfer-tinged
Facing down cold malice and hot evil,
Madness and pride and revenge,
I sieve the moments in the dark.
I look to make emends,
But if I can climb to visit evil,
Can evil thus descend?
Innocence giggles on my return,
In a realm of fragrances fair-
What manner of creature may, at will,
Move freely between village and lair?
Can looking into evil
Allow evil to return the gaze?
Am I marked by my birth-
Numbered in my days?
All night, along my pilgrimage home,
The breath of the beast clung to my clothes
Whispers dissolved around my ears
“Did you think you could belong to those?”
Whispers that my origin is my destination,
And all the beauty in between the horror
Will one day be devoured
By the ever advancing tomorrow-
The only reprieve is to end today
Before I become what devastates
Protect them all from the monster,
From the lugubrious fates-
But it seems to me,
Listening to these
Only feeds the beast I hate.
A Million Labored Breaths
Accustomed I’ve grown
To the pain, the hobbled step,
The duality of fatigued breaking,
And advancing ever intrepid
Amidst the chaotic spasms
The fevers, the ringing in my ears,
Gripping any surface for stability,
Aloof to the passing tears
My chest fills with molten lead,
My brain burns with molten thought,
My spine is a shuffled deck
That cannot move as it ought.
My hip cries out, as I imagine
Jacob’s birthright pangs
Have I spent my life half-crippled
By all these physical pains?
Yet all the same, I’ve run the race
At times, I’ve taken flight;
And it is underneath these grindings
I have gained my sight.
And I am even grateful for all these.
Remember me in kindness
Oh Faithful God of Jacob.
You’ve put down the charges
I could no longer take up
You’ve delivered me
so I may sing Your praises
as I did in my weakness today
lauding Your ways as
triumph over our rebellion
Because You alone are worthy.
I stepped out trembling,
and You upheld, sturdy
in the belly of the beast.
Thank You again.
You stayed my hand, my heart
Shuddering with aftershocks
I couldn’t understand the part
Where nothing can be fixed,
But we show up anyway
You’ve hidden some secret power
In the decision to stay,
To pull closer, or to refuse to run away.
Taxiing down this pavement runway
Two hours past my destination
Turned around again and running
My years wear all their incarnations
My thoughts fly to Bolivia, to
Concrete changes wrought in me,
And the conversation I am having
With the spare parts I can be-
It seems appropriate to grieve
Inside our common language
Though I’m no longer flooded out
By the inherent anguish
All in context, but I was found
Inside this people
Given no escape, no sanctuary
Hidden in the steeple
Fluency in these dialects
Is my only heirloom
No one in the camp adopted me,
Shouldn’t I live as groomed?
Proclaim in broken melodies?
Or do these streets resurrect
The misplaced genuflect?
Am I running in retrospect?
I know that You are King of all
and I tremble before Your office
but right now I’m off the reservation,
and I need to speak to You
off the record,
I need a sidebar
from the one who’s walked sideways with me
in bare feet down briared streets
I need my friend, my confidant,
who does whatever it takes
to shake me free
to forgive me
and get me back on my broken feet
after You’ve made them well
You’ve been for me
the hidden partner
the silent comrade
who will not leave
even when I grieve You
and tonight I need You
again and always
In this near-forgotten place,
I feel too weak to stand.
I’m holding these cigarettes
In my shaking hands
And for this moment
I’m the one more singed.
These growing reminders
Leave all the doors unhinged.
Some call it backsliding.
Some call it relapse.
But I’m the same old me
Curled up in Your lap
Tearfully pleading for
A beautiful resolution.
Grinding Sorrow from Joy
What tender sparks of warmth
Can I remember?
You canned in the summer.
You baked in December.
We built fires in the stove.
When snow fell, you drank tea hot
And read to us from ancient books
Like the leather bound Curiosity Shop.
Your affection burned like a finished fuse,
And your expectation echoed a bottomless abyss
I learned to thank you for what little I could do,
And to apologize for the myriad of ways I’m remiss.
You became the opposite of God to me:
A gnashing mouth set to chew,
But surely there was tenderness once,
And would I know Him if not for you?
I sit here cut in two as they cut into you,
And here I cannot sleep.
My grief picks up a painted brush
But the sorrow makes me weep.
And shall I drive the many miles
To stand beside your pestle tongue,
Can any gestures now we make
Unring what we have rung
And if that bell tolls for thee,
Is this the way our story runs?
To be ever incomplete, but forever done?