Category Archives: Syllabics

Shekhinah Visits the Mermaids

As soon as she enters the blue waters
the younglings know Grandma is coming
to visit. Fingerlings and fry
dart close but then hang back just
a little, while hatchlings
and spawn swarm past her,
writhing around
in mouthless
her form,
a vibrating
halo that tickles
her skin, her shape, her strange
tail-like legs silhouetted.
Laughing soundlessly, she waves them
away from her face, then slowly pulses
her hands and feet in unison, as if
they are small flippers, stabilizing
her position in the current.
Later, when the small ones leave
to play, or feed, or fight,
or sleep, she and those
older ones slip
away, slide
that shelter
and sway, blurring
their mute hands dancing
in a silent grownup
conversation. The kelp blades
dance with them, delicious forest
of fronds and friends. No one remembers
who it is that first asks the question, Where
are the sweet waters going? What would
we eat if we move to the deeps?
What about the eldest of
elders who no longer
swim strong, but simply
place themselves where
the waters
move them,
wait for
what waters
will bring to them?
Deep into the dark
they talk and make plans, hands
fluttering purposefully
even as their skin begins to
glow, the shadows of the wavering
seaweed carve their light in thin strips that move
and glide, a mirage that fools none of them.

This is part of Rita’s belated birthday present.

Shekhinah, Solitary

In silence, she becomes wordless,
murmurs with meaning and without
definitions. She calls forth sounds,
and a minyan emerges from
what moves with her: The dust floating
in sunlight. Echo of her pulse.
Blur of a world that moves so fast,
her senses miss it going by.
Shining, the skin, polished and flushed,
pink. Eyes that itch, or ache, or leak.
Hands of the heart play against drums
inside her ear, invisible
taiko only she can hear: boom
when she stands, a hissing of rain
when she sleeps, then the crackling fire.
There is an ache in the bones. Hers
or the house? It doesn’t matter.
Both. The plumbing circles, gurgles,
collapses. The darkness is drenched.
The moon joins her minyan, grey
or bright, turned towards, turned away.

Seeing Ilya Read

“You are wonderful poets,” he begins,
gently generous. His eyes insist this

is not impersonal. He reminds me
of poets who were kind to me when I

was the young one — Creeley, Berry, Snodgrass.
When he reads, his voice changes tone and pitch,

rhythm and personality, assumes
(I imagine) the rich voice lent to him

by his father, and all the fathers who
spoke before. Urgently, he flings himself

into the words as if they are weapons
fired too late to stop the tears left by those

others; as if they are scrolls set on fire;
as if his mouth is full of tears before

he speaks; as if we should already know
he means every word, but he understands

we may not believe, we may not ourselves
understand. So he helps us follow words

by drawing dance steps through the air, dotted
lines that appear like gestures of language

sculpted with his fervor for this, for what
must be said, for what he has said before,

and again, so many times now, waiting
still to be heard by someone who has not

met these words before. Now and then he takes
a step with tenderness, wrapped in woolen

memories as if a child’s blanket curves
and spins around him; he waltzes to words.

Time For Light

It is time for light
to tip over and spill
into the darkness.

It is time for light
to transmute darkness
into shades of blue —

from midnight to aqua,
robin’s eggs (fragile
and lined with cream when

they drop, crack, break
open, revealing
curves of accidental

blue in whatever grass
cradles them, wherever
they fell). In this time

before light, we have ice,
cold and hard as stone,
but where we find light

mingled with shadow,
there is water pooled,
pooling, warm as skin,

and we are to be
naked in it, as if
it is safe, as if

it is a holy place,
as if we float
on a radiant

silence. It is time
for light to move through
the membrane dividing

what is seen from what is
unseen, unobserved,
unwitnessed. Water.

There it is, and we are
to walk into it
as if we have no plan

to return, as if we don’t
know where is the shore
and what it means to be

living. As if we are
alive right now, here
in the dark and cold.

As if entering
water means something.
What, I don’t yet know.

As if water has
never carried hurt.
As if we were not

already drowning
in these fresh waters.
There is light, and water.

We are, no, I am
to be naked in it.
As if no one ever

forced me into water,
or under water,
as if no one has

ever forced water
into me. It is time
for light to tip over

and spill like oil from lamps
unlit and lined up
against a wall painted

white, but still in shadow;
spilling like oil from
a lamp on fire, pouring

the burning, fire running
like water along
a crevice, the line

between dark and light
(day and night, black and white,
blade and flight, wound and fight).

There is a thread of blood
in the water, in the
fire, in the light. It is

time for light to tip
over and spill red
along the edges

of dawn, shivering
as if we are stepping
through a mirage into

water, or into Spring,
or into waking, or
into day. It is time.

On Broken Glass

So many kinds of shattering.
The glass dropped in the bathroom lives

on forever in the barefoot
heel. The long bone snaps in the toe;

the fingers (bone dented by knives);
the spine that dances and dissolves

pink and wet in my hands; the line
the spine followed now drawn in raw

edges. A tour guide to pain stands
in the middle of the gray street

as pieces of windows scatter
in slow motion, and then reform,

over and over again. We
watch, mesmerized, as flames flicker

in the glass before us, the glass
shards on the ground, fragments floating

back into place, outlined with gold,
an ephemeral kintsugi

where the lines show what is broken
and paint it over with fear, fire,

a whisper of belief, of love
happy without hope of wholeness.

On the Limitations of Superpowers

Call it rage, call it fear, does it matter?
It’s a quiet shriekhowl corked inside
a good person trying to help,
trying to float on darkness
flickering with starlight
(ancient memories
of light and will
on edge
and sawtooth
chords tuned sour,
memories of
dissonance wrapped in
thin silk to quiet their
thousand unnatural shocks).
If this was the ocean’s surface,
the stars would dance and flicker, shifting
in place. If this was a bed, hands reach out
as if what is already there isn’t
enough. As if there isn’t enough
love, pain, or sense of direction,
or whatever it takes to
make that shift from one place,
one state of being,
to another.
If this was
this was
super strength,
I would still need
to be able to
break or charm something not
me, other than what I love,
other than love. If I could fly
would I still float above the ocean,
tethered like a buoy over hidden depths
and clefts in which shine pale oblique lights
of hunger and horror and beauty
made fey and strange? This is it,
isn’t it? What’s the point
of leaping over
tall sky scrapers
if I can’t
If I
can’t see you
in the shadows,
if I can’t even
say who you are aloud?
Try to remember. Try to
forget. The body remembers.
Try to forget. Try to remember.
A fist wrapped around a wrist as thick as
a thumb. I’m numb. My fingers are full of
bones and thorns. Bones break. The thorns fracture
and scatter like an invasive
species, and grow like dragon’s teeth.
Even a superhero
with lightning in their hands
is thwarted. Even
shooting webs
are mute
severed) their tale
retold, repainted,
and sanitized. What’s safe
to say? The secret gesture
that says “me, too,” and we both know
what is meant when our hands flip and point
to a heart caged in bones, like all the rest.


robin’s egg blue reminds me of peacocks,
of eyes, of Robin, of my mother’s
voice as I tried to choose a dress
for my first prom, of my son,
of my daughter, laughter,
wine glasses gone wild
and filled full with
water, of
into these
tiny ornate
surprising jewel-tone
structures, of first dates, and
last dates, of first dates that are
also last dates, of safety, risk,
of being broken open like birth
breaks open the heart, of breaking like
an egg, like a dry stick, of broken things,
of lost things, of going on living,
of labor, death, of things I love
to remember and am so
afraid I’m forgetting,
of things I want to
forget and am
afraid to
call to
of the blue
egg now empty,
cheeping of hungry
young birds, of the farmer’s
eggs at market, the scattered
wisps and threads of blue reflections
in certain nebulas, of cirrus
clouds, of fairy dust scattered in midair,
of fairy beads shimmering cheaply
on my wrist, of the glowing teal
stone for which I carved a bone
and cast a puddle of
molten silver like
a spell, of beach glass
broken and then
polished smooth
and soft,
of lips
and mouths as
soft and cool as
beach glass, of dancing
wild as drag queens under
a summer afternoon sky,
of stained glass windows spilling light
over a casket, a rosary
(of sorrow, of joy), of hallows that are
a whisper of white barely contained
inside a curve, of floating with
flower petals on the air,
the way wind tangles hair
and blows it into
my mouth, the way
beg for
the way
makes fists of blue
bruises and unfurls,
of mornings, of something
so beautiful I only
imagine it touching my hand
hollow over hollow and filled with hope