“When I come back in another life can it be
as child, not as mother?”
From “Arguments with destiny: 15” by Luisa Igloria

The space between life and death
and life again is so bright,
shivering with eloquent vowels,
songs that hover out of range
of our hearing, the braided
textures of bounding bounded

Conversations there don’t fit
into our words, minds, bodies,
or so my tiny daughter
assures me. She remembers.
She says not to worry; smiles.
What’s most important never

Her eyes streak with color like
a slow small explosion, leafed
and layered, interlaced
fibers twining together
as inverted galaxies,
first hinted at in Doptone

Around her small shape gather
half-forgotten words from stars
and planets, floating featherlike.
The cosmic conversations
she describes form a kind of
invisible aura of

dissolving memories not
permitted, treasured echoes.
In her, the words of God melt down
into an ingot of flesh
and vision. I believe her.
I can almost see the shimmer,

radiating from her birth.
I can hardly wait. But, “No!”
she says sharply. “Wait! Next time
it’s my turn to be the mommy.
You have to promise to wait
for me!” We stare. I recall

veins chained and knotted and twined
together across my chest,
as my heart stretched and grew great
to hold her, this alien
angel, this eternal ache.
I can’t argue about this. I

This was written in response to a poem by Luisa Igloria, the day after Luisa’s poem was posted, and was originally posted on the same site. You can find the original post at Via Negativa.

This is a true story in our family, and my (now adult) daughter is heartily sick of my telling this tale. I hope that this more poetic version of it will be more appealing to her.

Unmentionables (The Series)

Hi, all! It’s done. This series was titled Unmentionables as an homage to the work Susannah Fox is doing in healthcare with trying to get people talking around the institutionalized “secrets” that are impeding progress in caring for people’s health. This series is about a very old personal story that had come back to haunt me and was interfering in my own healthcare. Susannah highlighted a particular quote from PostSecret: The only difference between our secrets is whether we allow them to evolve into tales of heroism or fear.

PostSecret 2009.12.13 band

This was, in part, a personal effort to explore that liminal space between the two. I hope it wasn’t too triggering for people. I heard from some who found it healing, others who found it puzzling or confusing, others who felt empowered. For myself, I usually read poems out of sequence, dipping in here and there. You can certainly do that, but you might want to know that I wrote these with an intentional arc, to begin with a certain sensation and shift, and shift back or onward; with certain portions of the early poems that might take on new readings as one progresses through the series. I am hoping that the poems will stand both as individual pieces, and also as a series, a constructed work. To make it easier to go back and see that sequence unfold, here is a list of all of the poems

1: Preface
2: Blessed Be
3: Three Days
4: Praying in the Dark
5: Eggs
6: A Waltz
7: Cherries
8: Under
9: The Rhythm of Revelation
10: Masks
11: The Face of Mercy
12: Comfort
13: In the Night
14: Flashbacks
15: The Inoculation Theory
16: Untitled
17: Ragdoll
18: Breaking of the Bread
19: Faces
20: The Seduction Sonnet
21: Grace and Lace
22: Saying No
23: Fragments
24: Speaking in Code
25: Flashbacks, Take Two
26: Ice Woman
27: Short Stories
28: The Origins of Daisy Love
29: Click
30: Colonoscopy
31: Bowdlerized
32: The Ugly Poem
33: The Kindness of Entropy

The Kindness of Entropy (Unmentionables, 33)

Forgetting begins even as the memory is born,
compressed with some veiled biological imperative
that dissolves, discards, thins, transforms, losing nothing to mourn.

What I recall isn’t possible. (This, said with some scorn).
The telling changed the story, permuted the narrative.
Forgetting begins even as the memory is born;

unless, that is, unless at that moment, the mind is torn,
memory locked in a loop, on replay, repetitive;
not dissolved, discarded, thinned, or transformed, but reborn,

preserved like a well known prayer, with its beads polished and worn.
Words, images, run on grooves in the nerves, pleading, “Forgive.”
Forgetting begins even as the memory is born,

as the tale is told, retold, reduced to one short word: “Warn,”
and from there to shreds rather slight, slipping through a light sieve
that dissolves, discards, thins, transforms, keeping nothing to mourn.

Fragments float, transmuting. The morning fog soothes and adorns
leaves with sparkling prisms that catch the light, bright and festive.
Forgetting begins even as the memory is born,
and dissolves (discard, thin, transform), leaving nothing to mourn.

The Ugly Poem (Unmentionables, 32)

“These poems are so lovely.” “Thank you,” I say.
“It was hard to get that effect.” “But when
they are pretty it is hard to believe
they might be true.” “Oh. Do you think I need
an ugly poem? For credibility?

What do you suggest? What do you think would
convince people this is true? Should I tell
how he ripped into me and then I screamed
in pain? He thought that meant I liked it. That’s
what he told me after. Oh! I know what!

I bled from my rectum the day after,
only a little, but I still put on
a menstrual pad. How sore I was, the ache
in my body a window to the wound
in my spirit. I put on my tight jeans,

so I’d feel like something was holding me
together. What I remember most, though,
is nothing so impressive. Just sitting
in my rocking chair, on pillows, shawl-wrapped,
shrunk into myself like an old woman,

crying and crying and crying. But that
won’t convince anyone. What do you think?
I don’t know. It’s like Saint Christopher, or
the moon landing, vaccines, the Holocaust.
Those who believe, believe. Those who won’t, don’t.”

Bowdlerized (Unmentionables, 31)

This biography isn’t authorized,
still it all began when I was baptized.
But that’s old news, long past familiarized.
This is no story to anthologize,
it’s one perhaps too often sanitized,
or if not, then it’s sensationalized,
scrutinized, fictionalized, satirized,
until some (God love ’em) are scandalized.
I dread this being anatomized.
I don’t need you to editorialize.
I’ve already been compartmentalized,
civilized, cathechized, and sermonized.
I’ve been anesthetized and tranquillized.
I’ve never yet been bob-bob-bobmotized,
(and I’m no Bob-zombie, there’s no surprise).
Count my bones. See? They’ve been alphabetized.
That’s all just as it should be, I surmize.
Don’t know if I should’ve apologized
in advance, but now it’s been serialized
& rationalized. A few realized
where it’s all been going. They recognized
something in themselves. No one criticized
me for it, not yet. Some might trivialize
the story, marginalize, minimize,
dismiss. I do ‘get it.’ Don’t patronize
me now. We’ve come this far, you’ve heard the “why’s”
and you know this can’t be homogenized.
You don’t want to hear this. I’m paralyzed
by words I sure wish were fictionalized.
I’ve already been terrorized, traumatized,
brutalized, dehumanized, stigmatized,
victimized, demoralized, and despised.
Alright. Let’s get this story finalized.
Here, this: I was forcibly sodomized.
What comes next? I bet I’ll be bowdlerized.
Just wait and see. This was no folderol,
hey nonny nonny and a ho, ho, ho,
doo wop, bebop, hip hop, bop bop, bang, bang,
bangarang, yaoi kapowie, zing zang
gazowie, ku ku ka choo little song.
This was the real word, you know, poetized.

Colonoscopy (Unmentionables, 30)

We take pride in the cleanliness of our gut lining,
the clear prep, the willingness to guzzle GoLytely;
modify the diet days in advance (no whining
allowed), chill Gatorade, hog the bathroom forthrightly.
When colon cancer runs in the family, “get tough”
is what’s expected. It’s not the prep that’s my problem.
The first time, that was all I worried about. Enough
to take the doctor’s “good prep” as my good girl emblem.
I remembered waking up during, tried to forget
the date-rape drug distortions and Dali-esque faces,
curses, crude comments, being sticky with a cold sweat.
For years it worked. They ignored me, then I them. Aces,
until it was time to schedule the next. That was when
the nightmares began, leaking through the cracks opened then.

NOTE: Don’t be scared off from getting your recommended and needed colonoscopy by my sad story of one bad experience. I’m not. I go back and get them regularly, and do what’s needed. For me, that means getting docs to support me and advocate for my having them without sedation. For other folk it means asking for them with complete sedation. For most folk, the prep is the part they dislike most, and for most folk the conscious sedation works just fine. The colonoscopy experience described in this poem is not typical.

Click (Unmentionables, 29)

Wires are jazzy, vibrate, shaking
with sound like jazz hands, deaf applause,
echoing loudly in silence,
like my hands, electric, shocky.

Cocooned, there’s no sound outside me.
My ears shriek with tessellations
of high pitched reverberation,
overlapped, a blurred aural edge.

The dead air scrapes my nerves rough, raw,
like ultrasonics, piano wires
out of tune. Call the crisis line?
Right. Dialing. How do I explain?

If there are words people can use
to describe what happened, they aren’t
ones I learned in the sex ed class
at school. I don’t know what to say.

It doesn’t matter. When I try,
I cry. When the words leave my mouth
they are the wrong words. “Is this rape?”
I ask. The phone goes click. Dial tone.