Heirloom

Her cheeks had withered,

Then –

No longer

Cherry-red,

Or swollen,

Rouged,

And pert,

But sagging,

Now,

Prostrate toward the dirt;

Wilting

On the vine,

Flesh puckered,

Brushing soil,

Like caterpillars lured to a bloom.

 

Her hair was not her hair –

Long gone,

The gleaming coils

That crowned

Her regal head

In sepia glamor.

Her hands were gnarled,

Now,

No manicure

In summer scarlet;

Liver spots,

And bulging veins,

Striate

The muscles

Beneath.

 

Tension,

And strain;

Loop,

And knot –

The click

Of the needle

Against her brittle nails:

 

This is what I leave you.

 

Loop,

And knot,

Clatter,

And clip –

Down-soft yarn

For miles and miles.

 

 

He Was So Dead in His Dying That He May Well Never Have Lived

I trudge home singing a song that ended a decade ago,
The burden upon my back a blessing, like angel’s wings
Lifting me toward God on the briefest of updrafts,
And, for a moment, I can see myself as others see:
Too old to be a schoolgirl; her body is ripe with womanhood –
Two tits like melons rest upon the pumpkin stomach
That squashes her plump and juicy thighs.

My heart is deep-fried.

Bruised from stretching as it longs, and blackened, neglected in the pot,
It has been sapped of all of its substance –
It is a nod to miracles that an organ so charred can still find the strength to beat.

As I march toward home, I realize that I haven’t one –
That it is the presence, rather than the place,
That separates home and hell.
That house is empty, and this block, a boneyard.
I dread going in.

Seraph-me, lost in thought, recalls
Another time I halted at the threshold,
Knowing that to open that door would mean to face the lion’s wrath:
The king of the jungle, with his frantic, grizzled mane, awaited,
Prowling at the top of the stairs.

I would take that agony sweetly, now,
If only to lay eyes upon his face –
Creased in rage, lined in worry,
Staring murderously down at the spindly young male
Who had dared to defile his cub,
Hunched lustily,
thrusting awkwardly over the gear knob of a cramped Geo Metro.

If only I had known the love in his anger,
I never would have played that Ace –
Chucking it savagely with the hand of a born cardsharp,
Straight into his face to wound him.
I cursed his name, and I threatened to go;
I swore I would slam that door behind me and never look back.

To call him a lion is lying –
He was ever just a man,
Broken, and ailing, and alone.

He tried desperately to keep her –
Jewelry, tenderness, Viagra.
Every gift he gave her, she eschewed –
Ever the haughty queen –
And one day she left completely.
Like a snake, only her skin remained to haunt him.
Three petulant imps scorned the tragedy.

In the midnight of her departure, my sister used to wake, crying –
I pretended not to hear –
And he would hold her, and murmur,
“I’m right here; I’ll never leave.”

His words are leaves, now, scuttling past upon cold, autumn pavement,
And my tears, the soft snowflakes that bury them.

You Don’t Deal With Death; You Just Endure Its Company.

I hitched a ride to the bus stop yesterday
From my next-door neighbor.
Her name is Heather – it whispers like the wind.
But she never whispers; her voice is boisterous,
Blustering, like the breezes that stir the sludgy,
Softening snow in which she watched me slip.
“You look so pretty!” She said,
Her compliment cloaked in condescension,
As if she spoke to a kindergartener,
Rather than a woman.
“I’m twenty-seven,” I wanted to reply,
“And yes, I’m pretty – pretty sick of this shit.”

She means well,
As she sighs, and offers up her tribute:
Her condolences for the recent loss of my father.
Her throat constricts with emotion as she soliloquizes –
“He was such a good man,” she says,
“And he suffered for so long. We all knew it was going to happen – “
And it happens.
I stop listening.

It was news to me
To see my dad –
A burly bear of a man –
Supine upon that rigid hospital bed,
His ferocious muscles entombed in fat,
Covered only by a slip of a hospital gown,
With tubes crammed down his throat, and up his nose;
With needles piercing his skin –
So thin,
Papery,
And bruised from every brush against the sofa.

This afternoon, I stood precariously beneath the eaves
Overhanging the back porch as I sucked down a cigarette.
I smoke too much, these days, and write too little,
But when the words come rushing in, I’m never near to a pen.
Looking out over the weathered balustrade,
I glimpse my dad’s pipe dream –
A boat, battered and tattered,
Its sodden seats piled high with snow.
“It was a good deal,” he told me,
The day he brought it home.
“Only $500. Just needs a new motor.”

Well, Dad,
You just needed a new motor, too.

The words waft through my head, soft, and sorrowful;
Susurrations of sadness simply unexpressed. I watch a squirrel
Scamper across the rickety spine of our six-foot fence,
As syllables slink upward
With the cinereous arabesques of my smouldering smoke –
Up unto God,
And I hope He chokes.

Jesus and I are having some issues, these days.

It was Christmas Day, at 4:05,
The sky outside decked in blackest mourning.
I held his hand; clutched that tired,
Fulsome fist
As I sobbed, and sobbed,
Unable to stop.

This was the closest my mother and I have ever been
As she pried my hand from the hand of a cooling corpse
That lay supine upon that rigid hospital bed
Where once my father had been.

I Sit Upon a Cresting Wave

I’ve been busy with my second quarter of school. I’ve been struggling. Academic writing is frustratingly formulaic, and the way the portfolio committee grades our papers renders creativity an impossibility. As the quarter draws to a close, I am utterly frustrated – the efficiency of modern American culture, the brusque, businesslike expectations of first-year collegiate academia, the manner in which art has been supplanted by efficiency … it is choking me.

On the long bus ride home from class, I read poetry. These are the only moments I have to myself, and I use them to pursue the one thing that is dearest to my heart. It has been a long, long time since I have had time or occasion to write anything more than research papers or literature analysis, and that swelling desire, coupled with my anxiety and irritation, inspired a number of my own verses during my commute. Unfortunately, many of these musings were lost as I walked home, bereft of any way to record them, but what I could remember was cobbled together into this poem, which describes my take on modern life – its coldness, its aggression, its rapidity, its enraging lack of appreciation for literary arts that were, in the days before abominations like Snooki and Honey Boo Boo, more widely treasured.

Knowing all too well how literally everything is taken, these days, let me state that this is not a suicide note. It is catharsis.

“I Sit Upon a Cresting Wave”

I sit upon a cresting wave.
This swelling sea shall be my grave –
Let no one say I ne’er lived well,
For words were writ; my tale to tell.
No joy is found in meter and rhyme
As oceans flow, and whitecaps climb,
The world clips past in all its grime –
The fervent rush of killing time.

The fervent rush of killing time!
Each hour’s breath scrubbed out with lime
Till not a trace of art nor glee
Is glimpsed beneath cacophony –
The sordid sounds of earth now twirling
Through skies indiff’rent; stars set whirling
‘Neath brackish tides of the algid void –
This speck of dust; God-damned ast’roid!
That drenched and barren, yet teeming with life,
Rollicks, and tumbles – a maelstrom of strife
That scurries past with nary a care –
Or too much care, with so little to hold it there!

I sit upon a cresting wave.
This swelling sea shall be my grave –
Let no one say that I lived ill,
For yet, I live – I flourish still,
My words alive in ev’ry heart
Of literate men endeavored to start
To breathe in the lime that rinses their sins,
And their glories, their sorrows, their animal whims
From the floorboards of fathomless, forsaken days
That gallop and trample these forgotten ways –
Where we reveled in reveries, for all their worth,
And in memory’s elegies found our rebirth.

Depressing free-verse poetry, just in time for World Goth Day!

It is not as though you have gone.
You linger,
And there is so much I could say to you.
But your silence speaks more forcefully
Than ever your words were able —
A terrible, ringing emptiness
To punctuate the blow.
The stony quiet looms as a monument to your presence;
It is the testament of your enduring scorn.
Your sullen back makes a baleful muse,
And my sorrow is a grim exordium
To our sparse epitaph.

The End of All Things

What a brilliant heart
Led me forth from the dark
To bring me out into the grey,
To a place where the light
Lingers just out of sight —
The soft end,
Or the dawn of a day;
Discreet,
Bittersweet —
This hollow, twilit melancholy.

Dying trees hold the sway
O’er our halcyon days,
We waltz ‘mongst their spindly limbs
Stiff and gnarled with stress;
Each rough, wooden caress
Leads us further away from the whims
That, queer,
Brought us here
To this hollow, twilit melancholy.

Now we stand upon the shore,
To part our ways forevermore.
Our fingers linger; hesitate —
We slow our allegretto gait —
While out to sea, a tempest swells,
And waves crash soundly as the bells
Ring out the funereal knell
To our sweet, melancholy dream.

Then I watched as that heart
Succumbed swift to the dark;
Swallowed whole by the ravaging tide.
Let me drown in the mists
Where once love’s tender kisses
Birthed wishes
That now must subside to greet —
Bittersweet —
A vacant void where melancholy’d been.

Well, if you didn’t like it, maybe you shouldn’t have given me McDonald’s.

In a middle-class neighbourhood, in a split-level house rife with all of the appalling hallmarks of cheap 1970s architecture, a mother was helping her two daughters to prepare for their first synchronized swimming meet. The girls were aged eleven and nine, both short of stature, and both possessed of the plump figures that are a defining characteristic of children from families in which soda and sweets have replaced the affection of busy parents. The older girl, whose long, pitch black hair rippled down her back with all the grace and allure of fine silk, was affected by such corpulence as to nearly double her sister in size, but she carried herself with jovial confidence, so blissfully unaware of this physical flaw that it was oftentimes easy for others to disregard it in kind.

Like heaven itself — that bastion of joyous ignorance — she was made up of spheres. Her face was round, and boasted wide, lively brown eyes, beneath which a pair of chipmunk cheeks sat cheerfully. Her complexion, though tanned by the summer sun, was marked by a smattering of freckles that trailed over the bridge of her button nose, and the full lips that rested above her two soft, circular chins were often split in an infectious smile. She had been cursed with a short neck and broad shoulders, but two protrusions the size of ripe lemons already sat proudly upon her chest, resting against the generous belly that swelled to overshadow her thickening hips and thighs. Broad feet with tiny, grape-like toes completed her frame, matching perfectly her small hands, with their short, pudgy fingers.

They stood there naked. Though on the cusp of puberty, both ripe as the Apple of Eve, they were still too innocent to feel shame. Nudity had never been taboo in their home, and as a result, they had both been afforded comfort in their bodies — a precious luxury which few people will ever be so blessed as to experience, and one for which they would pay dearly. Outside the window, the sun was sinking low behind the treetops, tainting the azure of late September with the ochre haze of an autumn evening. It was as if the very warmth of the world was kissing that place goodbye; its lips pressed flush against the mouth of the condemned for one torrid, fleeting moment. As daylight stepped tearfully away, the executioner released the lever, and the guillotine fell upon puerile happiness.

As the older girl bent to step into her swimsuit, a noise of disgust was elicited from her mother. That guttural expression of disapproval was enough to stop the girl in her tracks, her hands still gripping the sable lycra as she listened, in disbelief, to her mother’s admonition.

“Ugh!” the woman cried. “When did you get so fat?”

The pain was hard, frigid, and surreal. The older girl could do nothing but stare in disbelief as the woman who was obligated to protect her thrust the metaphorical knife firmly between her ribs. The girl struggled to find her breath, groping for words for which she had never before been at a loss. Her defense, when finally it came, was feeble. The blow had been fatal; she was moribund. The minutes ticked away in silence.

“No I’m not!” the girl finally exclaimed, but the seeds of doubt, haphazardly planted by cruel classmates over the course of years, had been nourished by her mother’s words. Vines of uncertainty sprung up from deep within the girl’s psyche, choking off her defiance with the strength and indifference of a ravenous python. Tears welled within her wide, brown eyes, but she blinked them away. Be strong, she thought, recalling what her grandmother had once told her. Don’t let them see how much they’ve hurt you.

I don’t think Grandma had considered this. A small voice in the back of her mind contradicted, And even if she did, you can’t ask her in the Waterford. In that moment, the girl felt completely alone. The knife twisted, sharp and savage. Et tu, Mater?

“Yes you are!” her mother replied, breaking her daughter’s reverie with tones burdened by accusation. “Look at you; you can’t even see your beaver!” Shaking her head in disappointment, her mother continued, “Hurry up. Get that suit on. We’re going to be late.”

The girl lingered, the swimsuit limp around her ankles as she stood there, slowly bleeding to death.