Saying No (Unmentionables, 22)

“Consider the duty of saying No; to what we should say No;
and the difficulty and examples of saying it.”

But I did say no. I did. Or did I?

“No peace, no excellence, no safety, without being able to say No.”

When he pounded on the door, I said,
no, I’m sleeping, go away.

“Even inferior creatures have this power of saying No.”

When he said let me in, I said
it’s too late, go away.

“Saying No grows easier every time you do it.”

When he said he was thirsty, he’d been out running for miles,
when he dripped sweat and asked for a glass of water,
I said get real, let me go back to sleep, I’m not a water fountain,
go somewhere else.

“A saying No to them deliberately, honestly, and finally.”

When he said it was too late,
all the bars were closed,
I said then go home.

“But stop your ears, — refuse the thoughts and urgencies, — say No”

When he said home was too far away, I said
he should have thought of that sooner.

“This ‘saying-No’ and ‘saying-Yes’ is in his case
a veritable Paraphasia vesana, or insane language”

When he said, just a glass of water, just one glass of water, I said,

“But have we this power to say No?”

You promise? One glass of water, and you’ll leave?

“Lose no time by saying No, Let us to the green woods go.”

And then it really was too late.

“Whereas, if you say Yes, yes, you open the bulwark,
and it is like the letting in of water,
hard to stop, and always increasing.”


NOTE: Quotes mostly from:
Milne, John. “When and How to Say No.” Christian Treasury, December 1, 1868, v.24, pp.565-567.

Grace and Lace (Unmentionables, 21)

A pause. Interject grace.
Insert beauty. Because
this is not beautiful.
Because this had no grace,
no gratitude. There was
a window. A small one,
its curtain made of lace.
The lace was light, and pale
as cream, pale as my skin.
I’d made the lace myself,
with my own two hands, with
a crochet hook so thin
and sharp it could have been
a needle, a weapon.
It could slide into silk
and hook a single thread.
It could tie knots in one
solitary hair. It
could slip sharp in my skin,
and I’d hiss at the red
welling from the spot. I
wish I’d been crocheting
when he came. Instead of
sleeping. Being woken.
The lace was light. The lace
was full of holes. The holes
were dark. Dark and light, dark
and bright. After midnight.
Even later. After
the bars close. Full of holes.
The lace cascades from hole
to hole. Liquid. Frozen.
He moved so fast. Oh, yes,
that’s right. I’d forgotten.
There was grace and beauty.
In his flushed skin, thick beard,
the arc of his muscles,
the graceful way he moved
(like a dangerous beast).
It was what he did next
with his muscles that was
ugly.

The Seduction Sonnet (Unmentionables, 20)

It began with Fritos, Cheetos, something
like that. It began with a helium
balloon in the shape of a dance, floating
barely above grass, the dangling string numb.
It began with a girl who thought she was
an egg. Her cracked shell was invisible,
fractured edges shivering just because
they flinched whenever touched. “Nibble, nibble,
little mouse, who’s that nibbling at my house?”
It began with, “How are you?” So simply.
It began, “Who’s that nibbling at my blouse?”
It began with a promise. And a lie.
“No one should ever be hurt like you were,”
he said. Eyes wide, she shivered her sleek fur.

Faces (Unmentionables, 19)

* 1977 *

There must have been some sound, a noise
I don’t remember. Why else look?
The face at the basement window

seems blurred, out of focus. Cream lace
makes a real world pixelation,
In the dark, I can’t see the hair,

the beard that erodes the edges
of the white, what must be the face.
The only parts visible are

the dark within the light, yin yang
of the face, blurred black dots against
the white: two dark eyes, huge; nostrils,

stretched and strange; mouth partly open,
breathing harsh and eager, then gone.
He moves so fast, so fast. Was it

even seconds later the fist
on my door made me jerk into
a startle-scream choked back in breath?

* 2007 *

The face at my nether regions
seems blurred and distorted. A mask
muffles the mumbling mouth, obscures

the light curses. Dali-esque, the eyes
warp into something inhuman,
or so it seems to my drugged mind.

What’s wrong with his eyes? I don’t know —
glasses? A visor? Whatever
it might be aside from surreal.

The eyes seem to twist while I look
at them, my eyes feel the twisting
in the looking. Not the arms, though.

They are crisp and focused. The white
cotton jacket-like gown, the cuffs
cinched in at his pale bone-thin wrists,

the surgical gloves. Other ghosts
move around and behind the man
hunched on the stool between my legs.

He moves so fast, so fast. It hurts
each time he moves. Tug and jerk hurt.
Twist and pull hurt. Ow, I cry, stop.

Breaking of the Bread (Unmentionables, 18)

Some bread is in the freezer,
hard as a brick. The stale bread
is on the table. It needs
to be used up. Or to be
sliced, cut, cubed, dried, or crumbled.
Why waste it? It cost money,
just like all the rest of the food.

We aren’t butterflies, sipping
at sleep. We aren’t warriors
breaking open a casket
of sake before battle.
Mangoes are on sale right now.
Rice is cheap. Is there something
we could do with that? Sweet rice.

No one asked me if I was
hungry. It’s embarrassing
to beg for a dozen eggs.
My office mate cleaned cupboards,
brought in what she wouldn’t eat.
Past the expiration date,
strange beans. Oh, thank you, I said.

Ragdoll (Unmentionables, 17)

My finger is loose. Just a little bit.
The joints stretched out. Knuckles aren’t bones
anymore, they’ve been surgically replaced

with giggles. Loosey goosey giggles.
Fingers become a hand, spine, arms & legs.
My hips are loose, too. They were made that way.

When the ambulance went by, there were wings
behind it, angels (I believe), tethered
in the wind as if by ribbons. That’s me,

now, how I feel. As if I have been tied
together, loosely, with pretty ribbons,
satin ribbons, tangling in a tight twist.

Loose joints. Loose in body. Loose in mind. Loose
in time. Time to pause. Everything pauses.
Time is stretched out. Freeze. Frame. Stop. Motion. Yes.

It’s not a breaking, just disconnection.
The sentence of my body has become
a paragraph. The words of my bones stretch

apart, away from each other, only
loosely associated. Commas choke
down into periods, the same words

but separate, and somehow still something
that belongs together. Almost. My mind
stutters. The giggles vaguely remember

aching, injured into numbness. Thoughts, too.
Sound reaches me through silence, so slowly.
Sensation, too. Floating. Hammer, anchor,

stirrup disconnect. When I walk, the cloud –
the cloud I have become jostles,
jostles all the jumbled bits leisurely

along. Run. Running is impossible.
When I turn, it is little by little.
Like dancing in outer space, or something

heavy suspended in a tornado.
Graceful, beautiful, awkwardly lovely.
Pieces moving in the same direction

only because when they began moving
they were all together. When the wind stops,
when gravity begins, what will happen?

Untitled (Unmentionables, 16)

Memories so long silent
now clamor at me. They want
attention; jump up and down
behind my eyes; try to climb
right out of my locked-down mouth
with their dirty feet, ashes
cascading down and crumbling.
They want to be said, and seen.

My tongue is a glassy hill,
slippery and silent. They
are like a crowd of suitors
rushing for a promised bride.
Sparks fly from their horses’ hooves.
They all want to be transformed,
to be made over into
something precious and worthy.

Links of chainmail, glinting light,
golden and gleeful. Leaping
effortlessly upwards, waves
travel outward, curious
and free, each a glassy arc
that climbs and crests and crashes,
and is reborn. Let them climb,
and dissolve into lumens.