Category Archives: Series

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. 

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Shots fired.

“Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Public Spectacle.” G. Washington

Forget the firing range. It’s the woods for us.
Dusty roads shrunk down from arteries to
capillaries; fallen trees adorned with empties
that pop, crumple, and fall when we shoot right through
them, back in the days when tin cans were dense
and solid, heavy enough to take some abuse.
We’ve decorated what used to be a fence
with old cans, my shoulder sporting a huge bruise.
I came here to learn what you can get away with;
how close to cradle the rifle, how much it bucks;
that the holes from a thirty-ought-six just fit
my small fingers; that there are consequences, luck,
and alternatives. You don’t have to sit and wait
for the explosion. Pull the trigger. The boom abates.

Targeted.

“When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always show Pity to the Suffering Offender.” G. Washington

Not a little pregnant, but a lot, I mean really
huge, like someone glued a shelf to my belly

and then crammed in as much as it could hold
until I rocked unsteadily, big and bold.

There’s a reason why we protect pregnant women,
and it isn’t just because a new life is beginning,

with all that cuteness about to arrive, no, and not
just because they might lose the baby if hurt or shocked.

Factor those in, sure, but part of it has to be
that most moms can’t do it themselves. At least, not me,

I was pretty sure, as I clutched the fanny pack
that no longer fit around my hips and back

and slung it over one shoulder, on the same side
as the rib I’d cracked four months ago (with the pride

of being tough and macho, carrying paving stones),
the same side as the eye with the stye, and frail bones,

the sprained wrist. Not that the other side was better
with both feet swollen, too large for my cute leather

flats, so crammed into sneakers, and the wrist mirrored
with a sprained ankle I dragged behind me, awkward and tired,

lurching along, belly-first — hop-drag, hop-drag, hop-drag.
I was startled when a breeze went by, lifting my bag,

and trying to slide it past my crooked elbow.
It didn’t work, thank the Lord. I didn’t know

what we would do without that last twenty I’d hid
when my husband lost his job, just in case needed,

and the need was now. Then, when the breeze turned out
to be a wiry guy on a bike that slid past me, the lout

dismounting, and turning back, well, I don’t know
what happened. I guess I lost it, that cocky crow

strutting towards me, confident and easy in his stride,
my brain locked on, “You think I’m a target? You think I’D

MAKE A GOOD TARGET? Just because I’m pregnant and sick
and injured and tired?” The strangest words came past my lips:

“You want to fight for it?” He laughed, and said, “Sure,
I’ll fight you for it.” So, I kept hop-drag walking, fear

and anger blazing together, thinking, “a) this is
the stupidest thing I have ever done in this

life,” and “b) The only part of my body that works
is the one arm, so I get one strike. One, you jerk,

to take you down.” I held one image in my mind,
the heel of my hand smashing his face in and blind,

calculating the angle, force; feeling how I’d
push off my leg, throw weight behind the arm, and guide

it all right through his head. I stared at his eyes,
hoping this was quick. I stared, and stared at his eyes.

Then he stopped looking at mine. He glanced around,
noticed people gathering to watch the bout,

and evidently decided to revise his plan,
slowed down, turned around, went back to bike, and ran

(or the bike equivalent), peddling down the street,
turning once, to see if the crazy big-bellied bitch

was still after him. I was okay with that,
the shrinking ripples of his purple satin jacket.

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.

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

Challenged.

“Let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.” G. Washington

First we argue, and then next pretend
we always knew the truth. Butter is
good for you. Who knows? Maybe chicken

skin, too. Or is all you really need
the broth from boiling them? Sure, let’s just
go with that. Galaxies can’t breathe, grow

like lungs that expand and shrink again,
like brains, like empires, like the earth, like
dying stars growing large as they grow

cold. If your hands are cold, you might be
anemic. Or diabetic. Or
tired. Who knows what your hands could tell you?

Palm reading makes perfect sense. Of course,
minds reveal themselves in the body,
and the body changes to reflect

the mind. It’s not like astrology,
you know. How is that supposed to work?
You need to know the mechanism

of action. Like drugs. We know how drugs
work. Well, most of them. Well, we thought so.
At least, we have evidence they work.

That proves something, right? Listen to your
body. It makes up its own laws. You
better figure them out. There is no

such thing as common sense. The waters
are rising. You might have a bit of
a fever. If Vulcan existed

it would have been hot. Sizzling. Pluto
was a planet. A planetoid. Is.
Or not. It’s a fact. Depends on how

you define planet. Words change with time.
Remember when gay meant happy? Then
it didn’t. And now it might again.

Keep asking questions. That’s what makes change.
And watch the answers. Watch what you say.
What did you say? I said, “If.” Oh. If.