In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"


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Bullies, Terrorists, and Congressmen: Ten for Today


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My head aches with the world, swollen with the chaos and calamity of it. No salve of good will and transcendent detachment patches the soreness, the inflammation, and the throbbing anger.

When I reactively shout at him, my father’s happy. Negative attention is better than none. I’ve raised my children, done my job outmaneuvering ration-less beasts. Why do they appear in full grown men’s bodies now? I’m mad that I can’t return to my former childless self—be the child and not the parent.

And then that runaround with the country of Kaiser. Institutions are built to crush people who pay for them, give them their existence. Medicine is meant to be waved before the eyes of the sick, taunting, “Catch me if you can.” I hated when boys stole a poor unsuspecting victim’s wool hat and played keep away, tossing it just above the desperately grabbing hands reaching for it.

I’m not alone in this now perceived defect, empathy. Yet, it drains the very peace from me, feeling it all, the hands of every eternally colonized American—women, children, people of color, and the poor—with raised hands clutching at their wool hats—respect, pay, opportunity, voice, healthcare, food, dignity—just out of reach by bullies gleefully foaming at the mouth as they expand their world by shrinking others’.

Always a zero sum game to psychotics, paranoids, terrorists, and congressmen.


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Wheat germ and almonds: Ten for Today


 That girl at the party sitting in a chair, plastered from too many beers slurred, “You smell like wheat germ and almonds.” I wasn’t sure whose scent she was describing, but I was the only one close enough to be inhaled and registered.
 
I remember thinking then, almost thirty years ago, what an amazingly precise olfactory perception for a nearly senseless drunk. I laughed after she said it, but she didn’t seem to mind, not taking it as ridicule anyhow. It wasn’t. The weirdness of her image drew a laugh to fill the gap that most certainly emerges after a statement like that.
 
She brought on the chuckle because she used the word wheat germ. Back then, who at this Bruce Springsteen-blaring keg party would know such a thing? Not me. And then I worried about how I smelled. I didn’t know whether wheat germ smelled foul or fragrant. I wrenched my neck to sniff my pits. I still can’t smell myself.
 
Almonds? What do they smell like raw? Nothing. Roasted and chopped, they smell heavenly, like earth and sun. If a lover ever told me my aroma was nothing lovelier than freshly roasted and chopped almonds, I’d blush with the flattery.
 
But here was this inebriated partygoer unconsciously tossing out poetry as if no one was listening or worrying about body odor. She might have been talking to herself, but my youthful narcissistic self felt besieged with momentary muse-filled doubt.
 
A few days later I asked my mother what wheat germ smelled like. And without a second’s notice of the question’s oddness, she replied, “How the hell should I know?”


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Friday’s Ten

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You give me ten, I said to her, and I’ll show you blue corn stalks 

bent at the waist spying on wet larvae writhing in raw earth bleeding mud, 

conjure up emerald-studded Gucci sunglasses’ shattered templates along the highway. 

I’ll paint the vines growing over sacrificial ruins in Tenochtitlan 

where snakes gulp pigs in jaws detached at the hinges. 

Ever see the black ice that skids mango school buses with barely a wheel’s turn? 

It grows atop lanes frayed at the edges with stony tar, rusty nails, and powdered glass. 

Don’t fall in a ditch, or the black rats’ll strangle you purple 

I heard the old man tell the boy on his knee. 

Quick sand isn’t a movie myth carved of convenient climax. 

And cornflowers dot the meadow almost azure not the Iowan June-wheat sun’s tapestry. 

It’s only when she’s waved goodbye and disappears through the gates 

do I smell the clinging scent of honey oil dipped in sea float above 

the rippling hem of my cotton laced wrap. 

She taps my shoulders at an arm’s reach to say, “Hey.”


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Tweet That

Sparrow beaks tweet ticket-ee tee tee tee

Yer mate tweets back, “Impeach the dude”

And all the kerfluffle of sham and shatter

Nattering a morning’s cuppa jo unsweetened

Enough to make you hate your neighbor or

Honk your horn at a red light to waken her, 

Lap-staring, brown-haired comatose waif.

 
But I read somewhere that choice cuts the

Day in two, yours and mine, theirs often 2

Late 2 make 2 more light seconds matter.


Close your eyes, blink twice, and it’s over

By the next exhale’s end, paused like ice

As you draw the next breath inward ho and

So it goes, so it goes and so it go, go goes.


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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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