On the Heath: Poem 13

Alone on the Heath, a purple flower
where there once was dry reedy sand,
you, friend, rode the train to dusty plains
with me–and slept through shifting tides
along California beaches, we two, strangers
to this land, and no less to each other.

I watched your sleeping breast rise and settle,
like the rhythm of our first freedom days, lazed
into adulthood, we seekers of flame, depths
of our soulful hearts, walking poetry, youth
alluring to each other–comrades–and evil too.

I saw you leave that day, through cloudy eyes,
music, sand and weed drifting us alongside
our own nature, me, cautious and calculating,
ready to loosen within my comfortable shoes, and
you, riddle’s answer to: What is freer than free?

Air.

Who has stolen your breath, my flower?

Sleep.

Your forever frozen face stills time in its place.

 

In Praise of Praise: Poem 9

Not a participation trophy fan, still, I believe in praise–fair props.

Praise the days, praise the nights, praise the accident that is us,

Our planet, our time, our space, our separate solitary worlds,

together and apart, unable to perceive reality let alone truth,

less a word than a gurgling gut full of sense and the sensible.

 

We commend, we lionize, we sing songs to the laudable, those

who earn their accolades in tributes, panegyrics and eulogies.

But who among us have not suffered the humiliating red ribbon 

Or the diagnosis despite healthy choices, good living, and grace?

Bits of luck, shame, misfortune, health and love–praise chaos.

 

Through the singeing piss soaked stain of soiled panties, sobbing,

Sitting beside the third grade boy crush and plum of my notice,

Shame burns indelibly, but the blush of recognition, heart-pump pride

in mastering a job well done, earned in doubt and fear, curtained hope,

A+, raise, high 5, and fist bump, all winking nod to gratitude’s birthright.

You Want Fruit?

  
“You want fruit? I’ve got all kinds of fruit. I’ve got apples, pears, watermelon, grapes and bananas.”

It’s the same every day. R and I smirk at each other and silently mouth the words as they are spoken with our eyes rolled up. 

R says quietly to me, “It will be his epitaph.”

The old man talks banana, fish, ice cream, Snickers bars, BK hamburgers, pizza and spaghetti and meatballs, the gustatory language of care: communing in eating words.

On any given day, each member of the family undergoes the same interrogation upon first notice or first entering the house:

“You hungry? I’ll get you something to eat. What do you want?

“No thanks, I just ate.”

“No, really, it’s no problem. It won’t take me long. I can go right now. What do you want?”

“No thanks, I just ate.”

“Are you sure? You’ll be hungry later. You want me to get you something for later?”

“No thanks.”

“You’re going to be hungry later, you know.”

“No thanks.”

Like a song on repeat, he echoes an unstoppable refrain, worse than an ear worm. The first words of the litany dull my brain and my mood instantly. Even if I am hungry, I reactively reject the offer out of sheer negation, the will to make it stop, and discourage the behavior.

But I breathe, blink and behave: he only knows this way. He means well, and even if he doesn’t, he just does this, utters these syllables like a tic, an eye twitch or knee jerk when the rubber mallet hits the reflexive sweet spot. 

Because we will laugh at his eulogy reciting a thousand and one inanities, even as we cry the quiet of the house into our eyes, awaiting the ticking off the names of fallen fruit.

The Ache of Decay: a Eulogy for a Friend

  

Though you have softly haunted me in the last 37 years,
your disappearance a mystery and logical consequence 
at the same time, last night you pulled me aground to you
reaching out with a bony grasp I could not escape to run
just as you did on your very last day when evil found you
a fair haired lovely of kind eyes and dulled senses drifting.


Why did no one know your name to pin a tag to your toe?
Where were your broken hearted mother and brothers?
The 70s dichotomy, full of marauding psychotics and love
free spirits and walking malignant tumorous contagion too.
I had seen you last on Venice Beach sidling ocean waves
from a distance as we smoked and sang a freedom song.


All was light then and love searching, seeking–a dreaming.
No one could hold you down but what roots had you then?
Did you have a father and did your mother try to keep you?
I barely knew you as a latecomer to my hey day pre-parting.
Part of my flowering teenage society in full bloom just then,
I had to leave for another coast and on a whim you did too.


I remember you cooked enchiladas in a pan for us one day
and I had never eaten anything called Mexican food before.
My mouth burned, tentative tongue swimming in odd spices.
You brought the sun and a recipe home from your California.
You, who wore brown suede moccasin boots fringed in love,
a traveling spirit of unleashed, unending desire to live freely.


Restless and fiercely unleashed you were locked in impulse
and the lull of hazy high of whatever was passed your way.
No trace of fear or caution, you were a stretch for my wary.
You sat down to pilot life and enjoyed the height of clouds
while I was the lip biting pumping hearted passenger blind.
Like the wind you caught to fly, you passed on through me.


But today you seep in my bones and pinch my thoughts dry.
It could have been me or my daughters or sisters strangled
the hands of murderous savagery abysmally wide tentacled.
Insatiable lust for life you had matched his in mass murders.
A rover like you searching, seeking and finding youth’s sins
road-songs of impenetrable lightness against a dark’s deep.  


No one completes you, a part of the composite space-time.
A forever child will never know the truth of scarred wisdom
the full compendium peace of surrender that is not defeat
like we thought it was burning out not burning through it all.
A chip of the cosmos, all we ever were and will be for now
I know you sign the silent words to me in my restless sleep.


Your human traces tattoo synaptic sheathed memory’s skin
recombinatory particulate ossified bone and detrital kindred
melding in minds where curiosity, fear and mortal angst sit.
Those who carry you bouyant as your spirit ever was and is
float a child’s bay abutting the seas of misfortune and strife
smiling liberation song’s perpetually moving feet of hunger.    


Remains do not matter, mere material remnants of a body,
a shell symbol of connection to a race of radical reactivity.
Bury you deep in soil of your mother that earth never held;
no soul or idea chained you to the moment of your making.
No touch of a hand or kiss on the nape of your neck stilled
spirit so wildly untethered attached only to windless decay.


Held in a life loss unspoken, unnamed too long unknown,
torch carrying family and friends, acquainted to a tragedy,
oh murderous mistress memory mine let her flee binding;
devotional clinging was never hers to believe such perqs.
Only mask rivulet stain of stony faces crusted in creases
wipe ache from ears of those who never heard her cries.