Category Archives: Syllabics

Shrouded

Your sorrow becomes
our shroud. So soft

a word for something
that feels like wounds,

like shredding, as if
what’s left of us

has shrunk to a child
costumed for play

in mummy wrappings,
or zombie rags,

half dead, half alive,
wordless and hurt;

a night’s revenant,
a grey shadow

blotting out color,
wincing as dawn

approaches. The winds
weep gustily

as they blow onward
and inland. Each

soft sound a lash. Each
breath a damp ache,

a throb, a struggle.
The canopy

of grey clouds covers
miles like heavy

brocade. Diminished,
the fury ebbs

and fades in its own
time. Fragments fall

from the sky like fists,
like lost treasures,

forgotten wonders.
It’s time. A rock

sits perfectly still
on the edge of

a precipice, mute,
crevices guiding

dewdrops downward,
carving a path through

the open air

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Our Lady of Drowning 

I can feel you 

drowning. The thickness 

of memories 

no longer fluid, 

growing sluggish 

and solid as we 

watch. The pale dust 

of skin once plump, taut, 

and elastic 

now stretched thin, garments 

threadbare, house emptied.  

All the dark deep 

that shimmers with blue 

(ultramarine blooms, 

cobalt petals, 

cornflower eyes, and

azure hair fade

like dreams, a cascade 

of starlight cuts 

like knives, soft bruises 

swell under skin). 

I feel you drowning. 

Choking, swimming 

in sadness that roars 

with silence like rage 

of an undertow. 

Current and wind 

suck the faith out 

from under our feet, 

leaving quicksand 

and sludge. I try 

to reach out, to 

grab onto you. You 

beat my hands away. 

There isn’t much 

time. I try again, 

casting a stiff rope 

of awkward words 

tied in circles, 

wanting to catch you. 

I feel you, I 

feel you, but you can’t 

tell I am there. 

I feel you drowning. 

I feel the air 

around me too thick 

to breathe. I am 

drowning, too, helpless 

to change things. Waves 

that wash you away 

catch me up, drag 

me with you. Oh, 

the blue, the blue 

that breaks at the edge

between water 

and sky, and dissolves. 

Denials.

“Show not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.” G. Washington

At least a month of midnights between truths,
each a coal-black nugget of angry fear
fingered as a dark rosary stretched thin
between two hands stumbling from prayer to prayer
as reluctantly as we embrace pain,

or death, or the responsibility
for something we never did and never
ever wanted to do, but were blamed for
nonetheless. Who was the perpetrator?
Who was the instigator? The victim?

The rescuer? The righteous ally? Who?
Who was the first encounter in the chain
of random meetings over the decades
triggering memories, paralysis,
grief, guilt, and maybe one day some healing?

Who was the first to say I understand
and mean it, but without understanding?
One step past denial is something else
entirely, inability to speak
hinting at a story yet to be told.

Roll the sounds of letters over your tongue
and fracture them between your teeth even
when unready to make words out of them.
There is time for your truth and mine to meet
somewhere in the middle of empty hours.

/Ethics. Blocked.

“Reproach none for the Infirmities of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.” G. Washington

Drizzled with fatigue,
like icing on a cupcake,
am I now a joke?

I rise lopsided,
wobbling at the blurred edges
of collapse. I’m doomed —

part soufflé, part mousse,
part crushed candy canes, bubbling
like champagne gone flat.

It’s alright to laugh,
as long as I laugh along,
I guess, but I try

and try, and then when
when I finally laugh, I bloom
tears, gushing rainbows.

Ah, us. There’s a sea
of troubles, a splintered storm
sears us with shivers.

What if all things good
that we do come from that sea?
All aches transmuted,

all hurts become whole
(emotional alchemy).
Waves lap like dogs’ tongues

on our open wounds.
What if pain froze and shattered?
What if it melted,

drawing new love lines
down pulsing veins in our throat,
and drowned us all?

We swim, float, swim more.
Let’s be kind just one more day.
Take my hand and float.

A Flirtation

When phonemes slide up against each other
they don’t pretend to know what love might be,

but instead simply vibrate lip on lip
and curl up, side by side, tongue against teeth.

It is as if words are sweet, and larger
than life. It is a fricative fondness,

a slippery sibilance, this slow joy
of voicing two sounds that rub together

and then open into a shimmering
cascade of vowels, arcing from low to high.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

“The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.” G. Washington

I rise, I ask, I hope there are enough here
who understand careening over a cliff,
out-of-control; the world turned upside down for
refugees, mothers and children, friends, neighbors,
real people. We all breathed a sigh of relief,

slow-walking, halted, and questioning his act,
these dangerous times. I wish we could give
the real world dreamers, justice, help, that right to
race, coming here, have a skill and success,
to like whom you love. Praise commonsense, propose

the handful of secrets now public. Give me
an awesome thing, in the right hands, steady;
in wrong hands, defenseless. Lives misunderstood.
The time is here. Let’s be clear, close, certain,
faithful, fair. We are all responsible to

immigrants, to every LGBTQ person,
to women. I ask, where are the thirty to serve,
to stand up for justice? I urge them to read,
to review a very moving letter, to start
with the most important. Determine whether

the commitment to life and death, shaping
and reshaping, rights and duty is allowed.
There is more — much more. We worked on problems,
also rights, rights for doing it. I know both
thought it inconceivable. I will stand;

I will cast about strong, longstanding, and equal.
Compel leaders to free the awesome, to chill
the free, to serve, to happen to be many,
to march, to struggle, to participate.
Exercise the depth of commitment. Unite.

Stride. Be alive, vital. I don’t think I quite
understand. I am reading, I am simply
reading what it would mean. I would be glad
to repeat it in my own words. Can I ask
a question? I want to understand. I am

allowed, I am asking what this means. The fear
was real, as bones and heads bore witness. Who forced
a march on children? Who? Of all who have suffered
over the past century, who tried to
legalize just one more criminal? Who

had been key? The only sin was being
too grave, selective, critical, “correct.”
Consider questions of who suffered so much.
My husband called it denial, denial
of other problems. If we are going to dream,

we must spirit the unique into respect,
integrity, confident with different
views. I do believe sensitivity. I believe
progress. We have made every dream ring true.
Who will fight hours to keep our families safe?


An erasure poem derived from the words of Senator Elizabeth Warren on February 7, 2017,
https://www.congress.gov/crec/2017/02/06/CREC-2017-02-06-bk2.pdf

Untitled

The shell you brought for me
from Cape Cod, crusted all over
with barnacles and resembling

an abstracted ultra
deep field view of the galaxies,
tilted every which way,

like a child’s game of jacks
on the floor, following certain
rules while breaking others.

Although, back then, we didn’t know.
Hubble wasn’t even launched yet,
and it was long before we knew

galaxies lay scattered across
the skies pouring out their light like
souls captured in great mirrors,

turning toward their own reflections.
This, here in my hand, isn’t grand
or great. So small, so light,

I can hardly tell I’m even
holding it. Just a half handful
of crystals, small shells faceting

the spiral, breaking up the curve
of the line like Morse Code,
stuttering, or like a fourth wall,

contradicting growth rings
and the subtle stripes of pale browns,
red-shifted and warm. Nothing lives

there now. Just the glossy polish
of the work that was done,
the luminous white of what was.

Just a netted fragment
of dreams carried far from
a place I’ll never be.