In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"


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We Witness (for the Poetry Patroness)


Insurmountable: to palm someone’s blinding grief in your hands 

to show her–the griever– 

the terrifying, sublimity in bottomless agony. 

You can’t help her picture that pure, petrified stance on the bridge 

mid-way between his suffering and her own, textured so distinctly, 

galaxies apart in their partnered struggle,

his fraught with the tortured, focused fight against pain, and hers, 

witness, empath, limb, mother, wife, married to his suffering. 

Her body pours static breath into his mad-gnashing vortex.

 
Where does one end and the other begin? 

At the point of internal harrowing, razing cells that scream 

in hysterical, frenzied death and reproduction, 

death and reproduction, 

with no end in sight, for these crazed, cracked-out enucleate disks don’t quit, 

bear no mind but to destroy in their very giving–as if human.

 
I’ll show you the petals of the wide-blooming, morning rose, 

heady as your bejeweled wedding day,

the dewy, pale, opalescent-translucence of redolent, velvety dalliance, 

stained rust-dry at the edges–

a picture of blossoming, ordered DNA

perfectly-formed, fragile as your first-born’s, infant fingernail– 

carrying its own prescient death at the borders.

 
She’s beautiful, 

not as a symbol, not as obedient structure, 

but as herself, fragrant joy bleeding. 

I’ll cup her in my gardening hands to grow a path between us–

sorely aggrieved and floundering shadow, 

clumsily consoling your fear and mine, 

both corraling an other’s-brother’s-father’s-husband’s-son’s fluxing end. 

Could you crawl outside a minute to see?


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Corpse Pose

I lie in corpse pose, tracing my breath from belly upward, 

The rise and sinking of life’s fill while my mother dies in

The next room, eroded to the bone, life struggling to breathe.

The disassociation drifts from front room to back, cold to warm.

The back room, where my mother lies, nearly inert, heats up

The temperature rising with the sun and falling just so too, 

While the front room, where I lie as faux corpse, posing, is

Cold as the window faces the backyard, which stays sunless.

Her blood runs colder now, though she always felt the chill of

An early morning, her time, or after dusk, when she’d wish us

To bed, free her to herself, what mothers do as children sleep.

Now, the cold doesn’t penetrate, her defenses gone with decay

Just as I gain the weight I never had, she always had, in our 

Twisted turn of events that find her at the head, me at the back,

She never behind, always the leader, me the child, now the mom,

Oh, it’s all wrong as a matter of right, bad timing for an ending.

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Sacrifice

Elton John

It’s a human sign
When things go wrong
When the scent of her lingers
And temptation’s strong

Into the boundary
Of each married man
Sweet deceit comes calling
And negativity lands

Cold, cold heart
Hard done by you
Some things look better, baby
Just passing through

And it’s no sacrifice
Just a simple word
It’s two hearts living
In two separate worlds
But it’s no sacrifice
No sacrifice
It’s no sacrifice at all

Mutual misunderstanding
After the fact
Sensitivity builds a prison
In the final act

We lose direction
No stone unturned
No tears to damn you
When jealousy burns

Cold, cold heart
Hard done by you
Some things look better, baby
Just passing through

And it’s no sacrifice
Just a simple word
It’s two hearts living
In two separate worlds
But it’s no sacrifice
No sacrifice
It’s no sacrifice at all

Cold, cold heart
Hard done by you
Some things look better, baby
Just passing through

And it’s no sacrifice
Just a simple word
It’s two hearts living
In two separate worlds
But it’s no sacrifice
No sacrifice
It’s no sacrifice at all

No sacrifice at all
No sacrifice at all
No sacrifice at all
No sacrifice at all


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Two Children


 
Two children live here, now straddling the yard’s fence,

one she calls “my pet,” and the other “peeved.”

Why peeved? What injustice writhes in the willows today–

a bird-pecked worm, a spider-spun gnat, or perhaps, a rattler

gargling rat blood? Yes, you bemoan those victimized but what

of the black widow’s guillotine or the Venus’ trap door teeth, do you, 

oh peeved? Does she, my pet?

We recognize her, the way her head tilts to catch the sun’s

catered rays to the swan of her neck, the hint of heather on 

her breath, chamomile in her hair.

Dawn loves her perfect poise and light; there she’s her 

element. Why argue with nature, my pet peeved? She’s

who we are. Be sweet now, love and comfort smile us happy.
 

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Zero-sum waiting game


 
They say a watched pot never boils. And pasta doesn’t cook in the 8 minutes they say it does on the box. Forget about my oven. Add a half hour or more to every cooking time mentioned in a recipe, any recipe.
 
My oven is old as is the rest of my house and the inhabitants in it. My children are now 21 and 18 (in a matter of days)–older children, not grade schoolers any more. And their parents’ late fifties make them older parents. And my parents, who had me when they were in their early twenties, are old. My father will turn 83 in a month, and my mother won’t live out the month. Though younger than my father by four years, she’s older than us all. Her demented body attacked her and made her old.
 
I’m awaiting her death. She breathes laboriously, with her whole body. Her lungs can’t do it alone any more. She needs to breathe with her belly, once ballooned with sweets now shrunken down into her spine. The hospice nurse says this belly barely breathing is yet another sign of her “transitioning.” I tell the caretaker to give her morphine. She doesn’t look like she suffers but just in case. She’s tired of living.
 
I wait. I watch her chest rise and fall. She doesn’t open her eyes any more. Her hands have begun to swell, turning her fingertips purple. Weak kidney function. Soon, maybe tomorrow, she’ll forego all food and water, her body turning on itself for a little peace, just a last bit of peace, for fuck’s sake, mercy, mercy, please peace. She’s waiting–and we too wait, watching her wait.

 

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