Monday, March 30, 2009

the mysterious visitor

he arrived in the springtime
the mysterious visitor
and no one knew for how long
he would stay

even I couldn't say;
he was the mysterious visitor

to me he was a diablero
skulking in the night
head bowed, itching to run

spectral dog
with the eyes of a coyote
smile of a wolf and
the translucent incorporeal body
of a spirit in the dark

Gemini master
of an enamored Leo lover
the mysterious visitor
would sink into moments of
impenetrable narcotic fog

he once sang a song
and it sounded to me
as if he were singing
his own lullaby

(diableros run wild and free
they do not know family)

I always saw him as an orphan boy
until it became apparent
that he was a loved boy and not
a lost one at all

I think he preferred
to be the mysterious visitor

coming and going
appearing and dissolving
back into the panorama

canines glinting
in a smile
of satisfaction
as he slinks away

3/29/09. The First Day of Spring

you are sleeping on the couch
and I am watching your stomach rise
up and down

i like the way your feet are curled
your hands rest one atop the other
over your ribs

and your socks are mismatched

it makes it so easy to see the child in you
i had begun to think no such child existed
in you or in me or in anyone else

but now i see that i was wrong
in your sleeping face
the curl of your eyelashes,
so blond as to catch the light

your freckles form a wonderful topography
so many places I'd like to go--

to the child's place I thought I could no longer see

It feels like the first day of spring

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

born again free

today i thought of pain again
i thought of it all day and
i felt it all day
and i recognized it
and i knew it very well

and i recognize it now, it's the twist in my center, it's the lightheaded panic

panic because i am realizing
all over again as if never before
since the day before
that it's all disappeared
i've known so many boys; but i've only ever known one you

sometimes the guilt
overwhelms me like a huge and freezing wave
but if i let myself fall under it
all the way into it
i would surely never reemerge

memories permeate everything
everything's sodden and sticky with memories
we seem to have touched every fucking street in the city with memories of us together
and that is something that i can do
nothing about

so i'm leaving and thank god
it is so
i want to be born again free
in a different city with
a different life

free from the dregs of our love
i know you would think that an absurd thing to say
but i have to go away because
i really cannot stay
and don't desire to

i want to be born again free
because with this i really wove my own net
i really set my own trap
it's an embarrassing fact
one of many many embarrassing facts

born again free!
beneath a hot spring sun, free!
in the cold ocean at Tajiguas beach, free!
in my own bed at night, free!
in my own mind at last, free

from a calamity of my own design, free

to have a new start, free

free at last

Sunday, March 8, 2009

i am alone,
but not the alone of the women
painted by Vermeer

quiet in spirit, loyally looking
to distant land
or the letter at hand

i am the alone of
a solitary seal
a dark shining smudge on the surface

but also the alone of Isolde,
for Tristan is dead.

And I am the alone of the
child with nothing to hide--

all is now in memories
in runes and incantations
in fables and in old songs
of love & innocence

all is now in ash and rubble
and I am all alone

why bother hiding it


with two summers gone by
a young lady might take to
reminiscences, cry
the oldest tears yet

i might take to my bed of pain

these are not unusual songs,
though they can be very long

we all once knew a child
and now scarcely know a man

we all once knew a girl, became
a woman by her own hand

I've only tried to be brave, and good,
to love the best I can--

we all have killed things
hoping greener shoots would
grow to stand

what I cannot now allow
is to wish or burn or dream

my dickensian boy is smirking along streets i've never seen

and his hair is still as gold, as gold
as it has ever been

no o. henry lying open though that doesn't bother me

I need no such thing

when I cannot let myself
sing or lean upon that song:

i can't believe that you're here
knocking on my door
well it's been so long,
been so long...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

first with a tremor and secondly a shake
the memory of you knocked round the frail beams of my house
like frightened knees, like wintry trees
exhausted by the lonesome cold

my house of cards
of clubs and hearts
of diamonds and of spades
collapsed easy, weak by design

and in times of joy
of reminiscence i find

my heart is fast to flail and contract
to give up, to give in and to be pulled back
into inferior arms made of nothing like love
made of guilt and of half-memorized tunes

aloneness is my lover and i wear him like a cloak
and he understands the desperate need, insists that i must leave
the heart will start to warm in me like the kettle on for tea
all clubs and spades will admit peaceful defeat
free to sing
to sing songs for my family

without singing aloud so as not to be heard
sweet songs of love that don't require words
we are chains of blood and bones and we are
blossoms of spores
i am chained to them by a ribbon as old as earth

if i could hide my house behind a labyrinth hedge
from the storm that drips dismal, heavy in my chest
if i could spin in a teacup beyond here to something surreal

my house sturdy in its peace
and my heart something like healed
oh who can truly know what they would do

if their sweetest and most painful wishes did happen to come true

who could know which way that creek might turn

i wont be the fool that dwells in old spells
when the truth is the ribbon
is old as the earth

Monday, March 2, 2009

the incredible true story of the Morton's Salt girl

When I was a little girl I enjoyed mixing concoctions. My friend Daniel and I thought we had mystical powers; a primitive variety. These genetic gifts of magic could be nurtured by drinking cordials of tap water, food coloring, and confectioner's sugar. "This", I would say, "Is my witches' broth. And it can turn anyone who drinks it into a third grader, old enough to play on the big kid's playground, with the three-story jungle gym."
Fifteen years later I look at the big kid's playground and see dehydrated scrubby grass with a swing set plunked onto it, as if dropped like an anvil from the sky. I see it as a place where I was once harrassed by the City of Lompoc Police for having no shoes on while perched on the swings (it's not illegal, you bastards). Also, upon recollection, the jungle gym is not nearly three stories. It is, in fact, just tall enough for the impact of a fall from it to put you in an L-shaped cast for a couple months. An L-shaped cast that makes ones skin itch so badly that forks are often lost in it, recovered when the cast is cut open with a saw and a scrawny and flaky mouldering arm revealed.
What a joke the big kid's playground was. And yet to Allison, aged five, it was Mecca. I could play kickball or go look for gophers, those most adorable rodents! I could try to track down my leprechaun, whom I had lost the week before behind the 'B' building. I once tasted native California ant sitting on the grass at elementary school. (Spicy, like pepper, but not unpleasant.)
Most days after school Daniel and I would walk back to his house, which stood in a cul-de-sac of houses all stuccoed deplorable shades of mustard and drab fatigue green. The blue houses were not blue like the sky, I noted, or blue like the color of my Roger Rabbit doll's eyes (my favorite shade at the time). They were the blue one would expect a sadistic dentist's scrubs to be.
I always looked forward to going to Daniel's house. He had the most marvelous Zoo Books, for one, and he also had a host of amusing toys. He had lizards and snakes made of plastic so hard one could be concussed by them. He even had a little slot machine that would spit quarters at you in a mesmerizing deluge of wealth. Generally, though, we preferred to play outdoors, for Daniel's backyard was a world of great wonder.
There was an old camping trailer full of rubbish and haphazardly constructed bongs that his father had made from plastic water bottles. There was his panther-like cat, Chang, who was unreliable in terms of personality but sleek and majestic, holding court with the opossums that lurked beneath the house. Chang was a pure Siamese, and his meow resembled the cry an old woman might make while being maced. It had a sort of rolling "r", a MRRRRR-OOO-WL. It was a shocking sound and it frequently pierced our little ears because we frequently tried to employ him in activities he did not wish to be involved in. Daniel and his older brother, Michael, would never have allowed Chang to be dressed, but were not unwilling to throw him in the dilapidated hot tub every once in a while to see if he might swim.
Daniel and I were the same age, five, when we met in kindergarten. Our mothers were somehow friends, although they had little in common besides two children aged eight and five. So it was that Daniel and I kept one another company after school every day, and my sister Hillary whiled away the afternoon hours playing Battleship with Michael, his brother.
Daniel aspired to be an expert on reptiles, knowledgeable of every iguana, monitor lizard, and water snake. He also liked sleek furry animals, like weasels, and greyhounds. He had a keen sense of what was most majestic in the animal world, and it was, he thought, the animals most adept at stealing birds' eggs and running quickly on tracks in large loops. I always thought greyhounds were sort of ugly and sad looking and preferred our labrador-springer spaniel hybrid, Molly. Daniel wanted a dog and Michael sometimes expressed the same sentiment. It never occurred to me that they might be jealous of us for having a dog, although Molly was certainly a pet worth coveting. She was energetic as a young boy on caffeine pills might be, she would run around the backyard in endless circles, leaving chalky dust stirring in her wake, and she could have cleared the five-foot fence in the backyard, had she ever tried to jump over it.
Instead Daniel had his mangy cat whom we all so admired, and myriad random reptiles. He would sometimes have an aquarium full of alligator lizards, their tales long and whip-like. Sometimes these tails would disconnect from the lizard if you picked it up by its' tail and perhaps accidentally swung it around a bit too much. The tail would then wiggle, quite sinister, at the bottom of the aquarium for a few moments before lying lifeless. And the lizard would walk around with a stump for some time.
When there were not lizards or snakes in the house, there were still frogs and toads in the backyard, hopping on the grass, croaking fat-bellied beneath trees, and lounging in the dissolving, mossy interior of the hot tub. The water in there would be anywhere between four and 24 inches deep, I suppose, but always with a layer of bubbling scum and frothy something. It was full of water weeds and green rugs of moss. The frogs were in frog heaven. The toads would soak in the tub like fat old men in a bathhouse.
We would sometimes pick the fat toads up and transport them to the bathtub inside by hand. Then we would set them afloat on chunks of Styrofoam. Daniel and Michael's mother never minded. No animal was too scaly or slimy to bring inside. Sometimes her husband was home during the day as well, fixing himself a snack, scratching his beard, and making funny coarse jokes. Sometimes when I would come home, my mother would make a remark about how he was a lazy conniver, that sat on his ass all day, but I quite enjoyed his presence. He let his sons stay up until ten by the time they were seven, to watch Nash Bridges, which made me believe that self-employed, unwashed fathers were clearly where it was all at.
Occasionally I would make concoctions in the privacy of my own home, from the contents of our spice cabinet, which also contained bouillon cubes and little bottles of food coloring. One day I made a thrillingly green cocktail:
"This," I told my favorite stuffed animals, a turtle and a giraffe, "is my latest refreshment. When I drink this I will tumble through space into a different land, where the swimming pools are filled with orange soda and which is populated by Carebears." My friend Aly and I had visited this land a few times while we were on the swings at school and had found it to be superior to this one by far. I drank a sip of the green water and it tasted divine, with tiny grains of sugar resting in a layer on the bottom of the glass that could not be stirred away.
As I sipped my creation I surveyed the contents of the cupboard a final time. There were the shiny foil cubes of beef bouillon, the bottle of vanilla extract, the baking powder, the cylindrical container of Morton's salt with the little girl on it and the saying, "When it rains it pours".
I had never noticed the Morton's Salt girl before but I noticed her quite clearly now and I could not decide how I felt about her. Wishy-washy, I then concluded. At best.
Is that supposed to be salt falling from the sky? I wondered. Salt doesn't fall from the sky like rain. And who is this girl? She looks like some sort of Red Riding Hood knockoff, but yellow, and with an umbrella.


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