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?

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.

Image source

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.

 

image source/pixabay

The Door

Image source

An edge borders time on which thrush plagues a fallen wren,

Small fright fringed in imperceptive tremulous fever.

No one intuits the thin cry.

Where’s the door?

She coughs up her last lap.

They’ll come now. Now that it’s almost done.

Funny, you can outsource love but not death.

No more false starts.

This one’s true.

…the door?

In Golem’s eyes


Among sky-kissed tellurian vines, 

strewn bramble, 

half lit yellowed leaves grasping the source in vain, walks

me, a mere golem, 

unawakened, 

tossed together as fruit of the earth, 

loins of my father, 

breast of my mother, 

soulless moving matter, sleep-walk, 

intoning the roots. 

Truth burns above my brows.

Song of my song, 

word of my word, 

cants mutely to the calving herds ruminating 

bovine stares, 

chewing the cud’s omnipotent gold.

When beast holds dominion, 

Adam mows fields with his teeth, 

shorn of heart, 

his nostrils flared low inside the earth, 

while Lilith shrieks pious, 

loveless laughter, 

her vacant urge hung limp like gilt pocket watches 

seeping through barren tree limbs.

Ten times ten thousand vowels howl endlessly, 

lies whistling through carrion clean picked skulls, 

empty as before,

 when flesh adorned hollow garments, 

animus sans luminous sight–no reason, no right.

Day is Done: Ten for Today

Death is a symbol. People stand in for other people, incarnation after incarnation.
 
My father comes in my room late one night earlier this week. “Al died.” His face is pale; he collapses to sitting on my bed, head bowed as he cries into his hands. Only he raises harrowed eyes to warn me, popping out through fear’s door where the pain gripped his voice,
 
“Be prepared. I’m next. And mom. I haven’t been feeling too good. I didn’t tell you but…”
 
And he sinks back into despair.
I try to hug him but his body and mine are too long-limbed, his back too rounded, mine too straight, and we clash. I never fasten my arms firmly to his shoulders. Maybe he resisted. The torment had him.
 
At the funeral, he told jokes, said inappropriate things that suggested the man he knew nearly all his life–his only sister’s husband–was not the best friend he appeared to be. There were hurt feelings, slights in the last ten years. And he learned early to protect his sister.
 
“I’m here for my sister.”
 
We drove five hours there in morning traffic after dropping our younger off at the airport to begin her college visit. Her flight left at 6 a.m. for Boston, Newark first. We had to get her there by 4:30, and then took to the road, sailing in to the Veterans Cemetery by 9:30 and thirty minutes to spare. This honored last rite in exchange for a leg he left in Korea.
 
And I cried. For the man, for his children and wife, for my father and mother, for my daughters, all the endings and beginnings swirling inside the belled mouth of a trumpet, steady-sweet, singing taps to signal day is done. As if we didn’t know it with our guts sunk into the intoning rabbi’s throaty prayers.
 

Fall of Us


That familiar hum inside and out. 

The thrumming TV static-snow blustering my brain 

like when I slid down a steep mountain backward on my ass, 

the board strapped to my boots kicking up torrents of snow 

coating my eyes and nose as I plummeted blindly 

facing only where I came from. 

That happened then for this very day–teleported.

Today’s that cold-faced day.

 

The snap-to-it chill smacks mightily, 

your face-skin taut with expectation, 

braced to ward off the front, 

the sting of knowing you could trip, 

lose your step and your knees buckle, 

your bones splinter and your ankle crack. 

Something tragically foretold unbeknownst to you, 

the usual chaos lurking out there along your life’s line. 

To feel that approaching crisis is to live.

 

But only on days like these, 

wedged between enough and not enough 

and itch and scratched. 

Our clothes are fresh but our visions stale, our breath coffee rotten. 

These days smell like winter kill. 

But it’s only the dying fall when crockpot lamb-stew and mulch 

pepper muddy moods built for cutting, 

crying into dust and hanging amulets.

 

Her neck exposes naked-ruddy latticed vines, 

burnt and creased in spider legs enfolded, 

smothered and feathered like aortic-bony leaves, 

en-sleeving jugular flush–

as if the world pumped incessantly 

in syncopated gurgles, 

muffled to the dull roaring hum.