4’33”

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I’ve learnt to love silence; to wait for the pause
That signals change, the turn
And turn about of the days in their form
But they’re really nothing you can count
On, those moments when everything is laid out, figure
One, figure two, pause, turn, damn.

It’s heady, that moment when the swing stops and you think, damn
I could hang forever in this pause
Between breaths. I have the time to figure
Out who I am, who I’ll turn
Into when I grow up, if I grow up, you can’t count
On that, as a matter of form.

After the caesura, the form
Of the poem sloughs its cocoon, reaches its damn
Wings out, and holds them to dry for a five-count
Then forsaking that pause
Begins to swoop and turn
Describing itself in aerial figure

My feet follow, blindly, the figure
I have memorized, the form
And structure of the beat and turn
A part of my blood, and damn
You if you think I will pause
And wait for your call and count

So it’s one, two three and four I count
My steps, one hand on your figure
And the other held up, a pause
While I wait for your fingers to settle, to finish the form
So I know whether to damn
My timidity or temerity; a linguistic turn

Who do you turn
To when the lights are out; who do you count
On to rescue you from the damn
Things under the bed, each claw scrawling a figure
On the floor, each shadowed form
Moving until the candle gives it pause

Wherever I turn, your body is a figure
Of speech; I count the words in your form
Damn the envoi- I want to hold your breath in this pause

Masks

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The fashion on Vega-Five involves beaded gloves, the patterns indicating the wearer’s family, affiliations and wealth but the beading itself making the gloves cumbersome and difficult to hold a wineglass with. On Cygnus-Three, or Eir as the settlers had begun to call it, haute couture requires yards and yards of stiffened lace, hand-built ruffs that scratch at the neck and wrists and speak of hours of labor with tiny threads and bobbins – machined lace is considered gauche. Continue reading

The walnut tree

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Come down to the backyard, where the old tire swing
Hangs in the tree, where I used to swing until my yellow
Dress flew up in a billowing cloud. On the ground, one shoe.

The grass was green, then, and my other shoe
Was wedged in the fork of the plum tree, where the green plums still swing
Ripening into succulence, handfuls of golden yellow

But the yard-grass is yellow
And crackles lately beneath my shoe
The ropes fray on the swing.

Come, swing with me, you in your yellow boots and I in my one shoe.

Cairns

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Do not go among the temples
or among the houses of the many.
Do not pass where the black
stones rise and the high spire
of the pinnacle strikes blood
from the sky; daughter, promise me this.

All of our learning has come to this:
We have built books into the walls of our temples
seen the iron and gold in our blood
made from one, many.
Copernicus sits on his spire
gazing into the black.

The rainbow from ultraviolet to black
can be seen on this
fluoroscope; each spire
a color invisible; between your temples
neurons fire, forcing your heartbeat forward in the many
tangled impulses carried by your blood.

We collect these words for blood:
red, rust, iron, black,
and from among the many
we choose our favorites; this
is the mortar for our temples.
This is the foundation of our spire

But in the fields beyond the spire
where the wild cats strike blood
from rushing gazelles, where temples
lie in ruins, unbuilt by time into black
stones. Do not go there; on this
plain the monsters are many.

Do not go to the plain, among the many
beasts; stay in sight of the spire
of the cathedral. Promise me this,
daughter, blood of my blood.
Do not go among the black
stones of the lonely temples

We are no longer many, and our temples
stand forgotten, each spire broken in the black
soil; we have sown this land with our blood.

The Fate of Two White Dwarf Stars in Cetus

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If pen and paper could write
themselves (when the wine drinks itself when the skull speaks) the dying
would go easier; the slain
could tell their stories from memory
and every book, a page or two
in, would tell the story of you

because you (yes you)
when you speak, eat, dance, write
make the stories. And if one or two
idiots think different, I hope they don’t mind dying
in a fire, in the sea, where no memory
is made; their voices slain

you refuse every day to be slain
to lie down and let them walk on you
to let them tread on so much as a memory
no, instead you write
and your words burn like dying
stars on the paper: system SDSS J010657.39–100003.3, where two

stars are dying right now, slowly, in a binary system, two
stars coming together at the speed of light, slain
by their love for each other and dying
to make a third star out of the words you
find in the space between stars and write
in ink black as their own birth-memory

I’m never sure if it’s a story or a memory
or something else entirely; the two
become tangled and conflated, like that binary star. I write
it down anyway, force it onto a page bleeding ink, slain
by its own inception but you,
you winnow living words from dying

and hand me back the rest, insisting they are not dying
but worthy of memory
and because it was you
that said it, I listen and pluck out the two
lines and half a word that I have not slain
and I sit me down to write

Thought and memory are not two
birds, picking at you among the slain
these are not the voices of the dying, but the living: write.

Lily

I guess I don’t much care, she said, if there’s an afterlife for humans. We live a long time, and we outlive our loves. But if there’s nothing for dogs, after, that seems unfair. I guess I need that to be true.

Women’s Work

I did not weave the linen where you lie;
I did not gather flax nor spin this thread,
but I will sew the sheet up and I’ll tie
a different knot to keep you in my bed.
And I will wash your hands and your cold feet
as once I washed the shirt upon your back;
And I will make the stitches small and neat
that mend you in this shroud, your sleeping-sack.
I’ll sing to you a lullaby of screams;
I’ll cry ochón instead of tura’lu
to send you on your way into the dreams
you dream without me, and I, without you.
I wear the cloth you taught me how to weave:
it’s women’s work to sew, to mend, to grieve.

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