The buzz bang clatter shatter whooshing rush
of restaurant chatter. I just smile and nod.
This is not an aura, but a shockwave
pulsing against my skin with each heartbeat,
an auditory strobe staccato sheet
of porcupine pins flying in close shave
formation, grinding at 300 baud.
I practice reverse hedgehog position
as if it’s some kind of yoga. Deep breath.
Focus on the edge of the plate as if
it’s someone else’s navel. Resonance
means dialing down the grins and arrogance
all unintended, but still. My phasic
reflex stutters vibrational, compressed.
Orbiting at the edge of warmth, the sensation
of almost falling that lends a sense of sweet grace
and sweeter gracefulness, teetering and tossing
up one hand, one arm that balances and falters,
then finds its way to rest as if upon altars
or some other sacred space, the curves crisscrossing
as they define the shape of comfort, a safe space
which nonetheless pivots toward awkward salvation,
a station point, a counterbalance, like shifting
from foot to foot, from eye to eye … a dizziness
that swings and sways from slow waltz to breakdance and back,
that falters familiarly and still strange, and tracks
the lines of largeness sketched in halting drowsiness,
drawn toward perigee before pausing, wistfully.
This uses a sonnet form that I haven’t been able to find anywhere, so I might have made it up. It felt like dancing, and really seemed to suit what I wanted to do with this poem. The form has the rhyming scheme of ABCD DCBA EFG GFE, with twelve syllables per line. I liked how couplets appear in the middle, moving part of the poem, swinging towards and away those pivot points as if they carry tension, instead of resolving it.
I like to read poems that hurt like I hurt,
that swell in my throat like sugar, and cut
my tongue like rosehips (red, bitter, and curt),
like black tea carves new landscapes in the mouth.
Poems that don’t fake it, and don’t have to. They
can take it, being chewed up like gristle,
and sometimes you have to put them away
or swallow whole. Standoffish ones, bristle
and glare, part bear, part ice, loping across
a bridge crumbling under their weight, and fate
alone says if the bridge falls or they pass
thru. A brute squad poem, grotesque at the gate,
but gentle as giants, hungry as joys.
I know I can trust these words without choice.
These are the poems picked last in gym, that swim
six inches below the water’s surface.
They slip into my mind like a church hymn,
into my veins like those hypodermics,
with a punch and clench, a spurt and a draw.
They don’t need me to feel sorry for them,
they’re way past that. They’re confident and raw-
boned, monstrosities of difference and numb
to judgment, straddling the lovely worlds
made lovelier with them in it, who don’t fit,
who’ve been broken and reglued, and whose words
are lacquer, the spit and stick, the gold slip
holding things together, brassy and shy.
Oh, just bite me, I snarl, while reading, and cry.
It may have begun when I was newly pregnant
and the veins swole like rivers in my breasts, darkling
waterways colored something between liberty
blue and muted lavender. Or, adolescent,
my mother wistfully wishing I’d wear more teal
while I insisted on low cut sapphire velvet,
and paid the price, with a pelvis hard as lapis
and knotted as malachite, transformed by each weal
and welt. Maybe it began when, as a babe, pink
was assigned as my color, which I resented
daily for years, at last blooming into splendid
peacock, space cadet and fluorescent, periwink-
le and ice, rarely ultramarine, mostly blue
moon. I don’t even know when I became taboo.
Sickness scrapes the words from my brain, right as rain, except not.
I ask my son to write this down because I can’t hold words
in my mind long enough to make a fist they won’t leak through.
It’s sand. That’s what I meant. Hold on tight and then it’s all gone.
That’s what the words do. Shift and sift and flow, tie in a bow,
oh heck, I don’t know, I don’t want to know, I want to sleep.
There, let’s make a new rhyme, pretty patterns for all the words
that want to dress up in frilly outfits with lace and flowers
for the April showers that chill me to the bone, that hone
the fever like a sharp chicken bone, cutting through the sweats
that stick skin to skin like “Hello, my name is [blank]” labels
glued to my front with muck and gunk of all unpleasant sorts.
It’s fine. I’m not hungry. I don’t want more eggs. And I’m not
acting like a child. I’m too tired to think of better words.
Is this the body in which I want to live forever?
Which iteration of this body? Maiden, mother, crone?
Today is the day when father and son change place, sever
the ties that bind them, and then, from atoms of loss and lone,
hone something different as a connection, full of charges
electric and eternal, maybe. Is this the body
in which they want to live forever? Healthy or sick, large
or small? There must have been a mistake. May have been, shoddy
details, someone to shame. But there is no one we can blame.
Winds whipped the flames higher, sucked oxygen out of the air,
out of the flesh. It wasn’t graceful, gentle, at all tame.
It was a dramatic, terrifying, memory to bear.
Is that the body in which I want anyone I love
to live forever? Let us change, and change, to live above.
Things we scoop out — watermelons, avocados,
tomatoes, squash, eggs, bread. More things we scoop out — clay,
logs, bowls, barrels. In America we’ll have scoops
of ice cream, in Britain it’s beers. Take something full
and make it hollow. Take something hollow and then
fill it up again. Buckets. Guts. Tanks. Boots. Cupboards.
Nature may abhor vacuums, but boats filled with air
still float. Why do churches feel more perfect empty
than full? Is there a purpose to this movement back
and forth between empty and full? Let’s sit and watch
quietly for a minute. There must be something
other than emptiness. It’s all relative. Look —
you can fill a pepper with sausage and rice, but
what can you put in a hand that lost its spirit?
An ice chip melts and slides over the back curve of my tongue.
Nothing to it, just an easy invisible sweetness
that is the sweetness of clean water and cool air, unsung
and unflavored, perfect in its plain ordinariness.
Other ordinary things: Dandelion petals squeezed tight
into hexagonal tubes before they unfurl. The gasp
and occasional wheezing sigh in our half bath at night
from the toilet with the leaky fill valve. The roughened rasp
of the waking-up, too-early-morning, no-coffee voice
that eases and smoothes out even a few minutes later.
My favorite slotted egg turner (always the best choice
for flipping the perfect unbroken over-easy egg
because its missing handle gives it the best balance). Weight
of a chipped white stoneware plate loaded with breakfast. Inhale.
I was born of a flower that opened,
questioning, and found me, petalled with peals
of laughter, for the moment unbroken.
My daughter was born as slippery as eels
and blue as violets, ruddy with restraint.
I wonder why I hunger for colors
and blooming, adding rose water as faint
whispers of flavor to spice and butter,
orange blossoms gold in apricot syrup,
perfumed pansies with lemon in salads,
linden flowers for tea, nasturtium versus
caper buds, dandelion wine, garlic petals …
When I lost my first child, I picked fists of Scilla
siberica, so cold in my mouth, and swallowed.
The shower shoots out Morse Code, rapid-fire dashes
(dash-dot-dot gap dash-dash-dash gap dash) in gray lines
sloppily staccato in midair. My eyes trance
watching them, wondering what secret messages
they carry that I will never know how to read.
Closing my eyes, the codes tap against my dermis,
vibrating with heat like sunlight, telling me: Here
is the shape of the thing that is you. Here are limbs
and rims, edges and fringes, points and portals. Know
your limits. I almost laugh, stretching, and then sag
into gravity (which breaks bones and makes them strong);
let my body fold itself down, the same structure
under the skin as when I stood, but reshaping
myself, morphing unplanned, according to design.