Honor

Maybe it was the work
at the refineries
breathing crude
so we could drive
to get milk down the street

Maybe it was the exposure
upon exposure
they swore it was safe
because nuclear power plants
are critical for…

Maybe it was the
underwater welding
on Navy ships, valiant,
for the war effort
(don’t forget your patriotism, kids)

Maybe it was the agent orange
three years in Vietnam
Uncle Sam admits now, oops
but hey, we’ll bury you
for free

Maybe it was the 40 years of nicotine
the 20 years of whiskey
to function, to forget
both fought, both defeated

Or maybe it was
the pre-dawn fishing trips
with sons he adored

Or the calloused fingers from
hard work and guitar strings

Or barbecues, or laughter, or toys
or being surrounded by
every neighborhood kid in
a three-block radius

Or the hugs from his grandchildren,
his treasures, his prizes
for all he battled
all he endured
right up to the skeletal end

Never absent
a burst of a smile,
eyes as bright and sparkling,
deep as the Pacific

I trace tendons
on his hand, bones
prominent, eyebrows absent
he sleeps and sleeps

Maybe it was everything, nothing
and just a heart so full
of joy, of love
that he survived all that came
before.


Sight of Self

So long
I have missed you
pushed inside, barred
behind skin tight armor,
spoken of only in vagueness,
indirectly, the violent upheaval,
the flash floods, the rapids
slamming of salty
tears, wailing turmoil

your armor falls
away, piece by piece and
now emerges
a bloody, bedraggled,
wide-eyed, startled woman
shaking, squinting in the light,
wobbly as the wide river slows,
looping and eerie calm

toes in the muddy shore,
I stare as you float
in an eddy, dead still,
a flinch, a suggestion of
an advance, a tremble of
a need to get closer

you and I, we
mourn one another


Year, end.

Dear 2013,

Mouth bloody
from biting my tongue
so hard for so long, my heart
can’t even speak through
my pen.

For every tear shed
in grief, in panic,
in excruciating isolation,
in doubt, in self-loathing and
in guilt

I open my eyes.

2013, you are the Year of Chaos
and of Silence.
I’m too tired. Battle-weary.
Worn skinny, exhausted
down to the dust inside my bones.
Too everything to explain
so you just have to believe that

There were hundreds of moments, 2013,
gifts, I might bitterly say, when
my heart would
flinch,
feeling like I was a crane fly held
by my wings and
some curious child was plucking my legs off
one at a time, studying
how it made my body silently writhe,

Moments that will scatter across
my coming years in a clatter of
marbles dropped
from the roof and settle into
my wrinkles as Experience,
Wisdom, Witty Anecdote.

But not this year, 2013.
You don’t get credit for any of
those future trophies.
You don’t get credit for
the scars that have yet to form.

I get credit for arriving,
shattered and staggering,
at the last hour
of the last day
of this hellish year.

Fuck you, 2013. I win.
Me.


Rusty Pen

Cease…
less, words
abandoned in a rusty
boneyard

Halted,
mid-task, a stumbling
rush, backed up,
pressure, pressure
threat but
only an exhale, empty

Stuttering, shuddering
pause…
Where. Are. The.
Words?!

Blocked,
a trickle,

fumbling,
I just can’t

Speak


Undone

Squeeze my eyes shut
tightly, against
the image in my mind
of you
with her
sliding, sweating
grasping, moaning

It’s too late
I see it
it can’t be
undone

Squeeze my eyes shut
tell myself
I’m different; we’re more
our love
our hearts
pulsing, longing
protecting, promising

Whisper to me, dear
of devotion
reassurance
till it snakes through
my soul
in a coiling embrace

Tell me, love
over and
again


Before I Splintered

I don’t have time for catharsis
a dam, high pressure, my heart
chokes my cries and
bursts, right here
busy parking lot, impersonal storefronts
shoppers oblivious to my world
breaking apart
tears hanging from my lashes
like faceted chandeliers
blinding me in the cold
January sun
again
we gave me bad dreams
so I left
but I won’t make time
for catharsis.


Moving Days

Moving, keep moving or she’ll catch me
mud beneath her claws
sensing weakness, a snag
in defenses
trauma rises
what happened to her–
not me–to HER…

Red saltwater blooms against pale skin
swelled with her life
pulled roses from her cheeks, petals
fell to the floor, so pretty, they’re
so pretty
wouldn’t it be nice to lie there and
rest, just a moment, so tired,
very tired.

And still it came,
a trickle, a stream,
like someone pulled out her cork
to let her breathe
but let her bleed
instead
till she felt heat leave her veins
black walls closed in
and late gray lips hung.

So cold and too tired to fight
the moment came
and left
ashen lips kissed the last breath.

The lights went out and she was
alone and bloody
more on the floor than in she.
A second, an hour, a second,
a year
awakened
to the words over her shoulder
“Get up”
on the back of her neck
“Getupgetup”
bossy and insistent, “You have to get up”
knowing “or else…” but no time to say it.

She saw
disassembled parts–a hand
with shaking fingers clutch the counter
“Get up. Get out”.
Legs like liquid lead sank
pulled her under, but no,
“Get up. Get out”.
Ears screamed; vision pinched
skin moved through air denser
than the most humid day.

Momentum, a push from behind
as legs melted, chest pressed flat against
the door–a block, a barrier, the other side
unknown
but Death was here
other-than-death must be
there.
Doorknob, how does
the doorknob turn?

Pushed across the threshold
face to the floor
and Death slammed the door behind me.