Original Poetry: “Tapestried”

i.
My back braces against westerly wind chill.
The earth, warm / moist, sinks slightly with weight.
I could plow around trees to a point on the horizon.
I feel powerfully solitary, pioneering—
Strong thin arms grip my shoulders, hold my head.
They take the bulk of gust and root in firmament.
         I want to go. “Then go.”
         I must go. “Yes.”
I lift from arms fresh / intoxicated, turn back to clarity.
         You’re going? “No, you are.”
         I want to go. “Then go.”
         I must go. “I’ll be here,”
–miles and years from where she started.

ii.
She:
         wife / mother / teacher
stands at the focal point of the yard
         among yellow grass / flowers and white feathers
embraces / absorbs the life warmth of the tapestried landscape
         lot & garden, pasture & field
         pieced together by endless fence.

iii.
The once nimble fingers delicately work the fabric
         piecing decades of memories
        stitching the generations together
                 with expanding spiraling lines.
She:
         mother / grandmother / teacher
braces the soft head / plush arms
places the child in the quilt center.

iv.
         With her back windward,
she lifts her steady arms and cupped hands.
Fingers spread slightly letting wings unfold / dry.
Delicate legs make way to widening fingertips.
         It wants to go. “Then go.”
         It must go. “I’ll be here.”
Butterfly glides leaf-like upward from yard center.
Spiraling arcs take it farther yet
         lot & garden, pasture & field
                 inseparably below
         horizon ahead.
 
 
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Original Poetry: “Daughter of Bilitis: for Del Martin (1921-2008)”

You are the defiant devotion of a half-century of modern, queer courtship
     resolving with your domestic vows.
You are the equanimity that surmounts court-forced annulment
     on your anniversary by reenacting your marriage while California
     patiently waits.
You are the tympani echoing from the bayside Pacific cathedrals since
     nineteen-fifty-five. Daughters of Bilitis beckon while mouthing, Qui vive.
You are the silent vanguard among our disaffected communities huddled
     in gay ghettoes bracing against communist brands and police
     who strip your Chicago sister-dykes.
You are the deviant teacher of variant knowledge, unbarring our doors
      and expunging our records of psychopathologies.
You are the asterisk and footnote to the legal chapter that quietly registers
     as an obvious coda.
You are the legend that, in death, no proposition can amend again.
 
 
 
[This poem was written in 2008 upon Del Martin’s passing to honor her work in promoting equality for a half-century. She and her partner were the first same-sex marriage in California before it was later nullified by the courts and voters. Del died before the proposition was overturned and before a single court upheld marriage equality.]
 
 
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Original Poetry: Dish Washing

The metallic scraping of the pot against sink
disperses the stale,
overwhelming stillness for a brief moment.

Rinsed of light bubbles, the pot leaks onto the plate.
Reaching for the drain,
an overly wrinkled hand finds the submerged fork.

How is it that the fork could have been overlooked?
One plate and one glass—
the pattern is neither new nor unfamiliar.

The fork escapes downward into oily, orange suds.
The clang dying at once.
Then, a tear tries to remove the old tarnish spot.

Swollen and numb, fingers search for a dry rag.
Suppressed tears for past
gatherings and idle chat soak through the soiled cloth.
 
 
 
 
 
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Original Poetry: Retroflection

A watching grackle in the treetops blocks the light
from the setting sun. Feathers ruffle in the wind.
The bird means nothing, but I try to squint-close
my eyes to block it out. I try to think
of ways to clear my mind because my head
is full of self-pity—a slap in the face

to him, lying supine, whose waxy face
and sealed lips reflect the harsh white light.
Sad and morbid thoughts run through my head
as the funeral winds down. It takes forever to wind
down. After numbing distraction, I finally think
words of closure. The casket groans to a close.

I was by his bed when his eyes finally closed.
It was peaceful judging by the look on his face.
That’s how I would want to go, I think.
Did I then realize he was seeing his last light?
It was as if he smelled it in the wind
like a storm. And to that something, he cocked his head.

Lastly, he told me not to mourn ahead
of due time. Not when the inevitable was merely close
at hand. He fully knew his time was winding
down and found joy in stroking my face.
He kindly asked me to dim the overhead light.
It hurt his eyes, he said; it hurt to think.

I fingered my watch not wanting to think
about his claim that at her funeral, upon turning his head,
he had spotted a grackle in the faded evening light.
“The grackle knows by watching everything closely.
It cocked its head and studied the contours of my face.
It was her,” he said, “with her back against the wind.”

I had tarried just outside the door, as if to wind
my watch. “Thirty minutes should do, I think,”
I had told myself. I hadn’t been expecting him to be facing
the door. I returned his smile and went ahead.
Turning, I checked to ensure the door was close.
I could barely read my watch in the muted light.

To the grackle standing close, I say, “Go ahead
and try to face the last of the sun’s light
for what you think has been lost upon the wind.”

 
 
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Original Poetry: Summer at Sixteen

The lightening morning
      in early July. I’m behind
the wheel of a new-to-me
      ’83 Dodge Aries;
my best friend
      sits shotgun.

Our wide, smooth
      country roads
slice the cornfields
      in full tassel
and morning fog gathering
      around the many creeks.

We have leather gloves
      and day-old summer jobs
shaping pines
      at a Christmas tree farm
carved from an orderly forest.
      And we are late.

A car–the other car
      is here in a grinding
shower of metal and glass
      against my windshield
and gone again. Swallowed
      into the white world.

My jittery limbs
      quake, threatening
to collapse
      if not
for the pounding–
      my heart; my head.

My friend
      “Fuck!”
bleeds
      from the bridge of his nose.
The innocuous visor
      tilted down.

Through haze
      I can now see
the other car
      has come to rest.
White pierces
      its shattered taillights.
 
 
 
 
 
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Original Poetry: Lincoln Park Zoo in Late August

During the uncertainty—
      the lull compressed
between chemo bouts
      and stem-cell harvesting,
my brother had
      a good day.

His eyes were tracking
      marmoset acrobatics
and green swamp monkeys
      flinging themselves
from leafless branch
      to man-made vine.

Pressed nose to glass,
      his emaciated face
seemed to curl
      an unthinkably big smile;
his eyes –
      wonderment-wide.

My brother was once
      himself a monkey
climbing, leaping
      each ledge and tree.
But not now;
      and never was I.

Earlier, when basking,
      resting the walking stick
and his neuropathic hobble,
      our small talk
was ruptured
      by seagull screeching

emanating from a fist-faced
      young girl, her eyes
and fists squeezed white
      in deliberate mimicry.
Gulls responded and resumed
      scavenging the patio’s periphery.

If asked about those tall
      days of August waiting,
my story
      will be the seagull-girl
with steady eyes, arms
      outstretched collecting the wind.
 
 
[This poem was published by The Eunoia Review in April 2015.]
 
 
 
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Original Poetry: Café

I tap a new pack and unsheathe a Camel Light.
I fumble with the matches, disposing duds on ice
cubes in my cup. Embarrassed, I avoid your look
until I find a dry match and breathe bitter smoke.
Exhaling, I glance up expecting our eyes to meet.
Your gray eyes rest elsewhere reflecting a misty pool
of thoughts.
                    Our Bailey’s Café just was—no bar, no pool
tables—so we entered escaping rain and street light.
A few loners were scattered. A waitress came to meet
us. “Wheat toast and coffee for both. A glass of ice
water, too, please.” She left and passed through blue-gray smoke
to the kitchen. No one had even moved to sneak a look
in our direction.
                              Now you finally turn and look
at me only to shift and play in the water pool
on the table where the cup had been. “You want a smoke?”
“If it’s no trouble.” I find a dry match to light
my offer.
                    “Here’s your wheat toast, coffee and glass of ice
water. And yes, you may smoke here,” as if to meet
a question posed. She then asked, “Will you be meet-
ing anyone?” “No, it’s just us. Thank you.”
                                                                                “You look
awful.” You attempt a smile and grab a piece of ice
to play with. “If you want to go, we can pool
our money for a cab.” You glance around lightly
and grab my hand, “Let me finish my smoke.
It’s late though,” you shrug, “My father will meet
me at the door any-which-way.” You start to light
another Camel Light and give a desperate look
in my direction. Your saddened eyes pool
with tears.
                    “More coffee or water or even ice?
I’m off duty. The coffee’s there. The sink and ice
are back there. Help yourself. May I—bum a smoke?”

“I hate him.”
                    “Who?” I butt my cigarette in the pool
of water. You glance down, “My father. He’ll meet
me everywhere. He—it’s just that—“ You stop, but your look
tells so much more. “Just forget it.” You feign a light
laugh and blow gray smoke, but you see my look.
You toss the piece of ice and stand. Our hands meet.
“I’ll get you out.” Our pooled shadows block the harsh light.
 
 
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