Category Archives: Series

Our Lady of Love Lost

In memoriam, Elle Janet Plato, 1966-2016

i.

It’s all mixed up.
Loving, laughing;
flirting, fighting;
dancing, drinking,

dying. It was
summer. She said
she needed more
Scotch. Her hand on

mine as we moved
across the floor,
sleeves tangled, blue
& white, limbs twined

& interlocked.
It might have been
nothing. It might
have been something.

She growled at me.
That was fighting.
That was foreplay.
That was a rough

draft for loving
off the grid;
for a life left
unscripted, her

beautiful life
a narrative
poem truncated,
capped off with a

sudden haiku;
for her, now gone
forever, still
tangled up

in a maybe
that aches inside,
still so confused,
and a bit lost.

ii.

The shimmer of heat waves,
a mirage, a bending
of light and hope that makes

something seem near when it
isn’t, when it is far
away. Cascades of light

like a waterfall, drops
becoming curves and lines,
becoming sparks and pricks.

The fluted melody
lyrical as longing;
voices blend and balance

at the edge of hearing.
Imagined pebbles plop
in imagined waters

sweet as amusement, yet
there is no sound, no joke,
no water, no liquid

love paused and suspended
in midair like ripe fruit
waiting for a open

mouth to find it. There is
beauty here, but is it
what I see, what you see?

iii.

Bodies we know, bodies we don’t.
So many bodies. 50 years
past: hemophiliac John Doe,
bled out near a gay bar somewhere.
40: a frosh one dorm over
whose father took him home midterm,
to rape him over and over,
yelling, “So, this is what you like.
How about now? Still liking it?”
35: when the brain cancer
came back the last time, his parents
agreed to take care of him if
he never again talked with us,
his friends. 30: Wild and campy,
Tom taught naughty British show tunes
to our small town, barely two years
before he died of AIDS. Our first.
25: K., “lost at sea,” but
none of us at home believed it.
Really, the only lesbian
on a Navy ship? The rumor
was that she was tossed overboard
because she wouldn’t sleep with them.
Now, now. Another 50 more.
So many. So many. And now
she’s gone, too. And I’m not. With no
last note, no goodbye, no see you
later. Just … gone. Another love
lost. Another. And another.

iv.

Wind whistles past the fence,
past the yellow police
crime scene tape, and carries
dust away, carving stoic lines
in flexible faces.
Where did the laughter go?
Did it fall in its flight,
a stone grown too heavy
to be carried, marking
the place of a body?
Did it fall like bullets
in the nightclub, the ones
that didn’t hit someone?
Did it blast and then burst,
shattering against wall?
Explode and then dissolve
like a smoke bomb? Did it
float away like feathers
and sequins and mirrors? Where?
Where did the laughter go?

v.

Neon lights pulse, pound,
syncing dancers together.
They pause. Full stop. End


First publication at thebrillantinaproject, August 26, 2016. Written partly in response to the Orlando Pulse massacre.

On Aurality

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.

On Almost Falling

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 (A Double Sonnet)

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.

On Being Blue

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.

On Being Sick, Again

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.

On the Resurrection of the Body

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.