In 20 years of reading,
The only book I ever cried about
was Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam
Because I saw haunted faces,
staring back at me from between the lines of
letters scrawled in jungle heat.
I cried because half the boys were my age,
that half died, 2 weeks before their time in hell was up,
while politician's sons rested safe under their father's names.
I cried because some met an end,
without seeing their newborn sons,
or found out Mary/Suzy/Jane/Jennifer didn't love them any more,
and they ground her high-school portrait into the mud,
along with the warm thought that someone besides their mother
was thinking of them.
I cried because they lost themselves
in mud and blood and bullets and
did things they'd never thought themselves capable of,
in a uniform most never wanted to wear,
in a land forsaken by God and Peace,
The land where people were what they were not,
and you couldn't tell the difference.
I cried because when they came through hell
they found Mother
had disowned her sons,
And they stood bewildered,
wondering why she called them back
if she didn't want them home.
I think of you,
as a sculpture
that once sat in the house of my soul,
on an antique table of hopes
I've harbored since childhood.
The table top had been empty for so long,
I'd searched for a piece to fill
the blank space against the wall.
But all the others were bid too high,
or were bought before I could reach them.
Then you practically fell into my hands.
So happy to have found
A piece to fill the space,
I took you home the day I found you,
placed you lovingly on the hopewood table,
where sunlight would spill across
your pale ash face and thin hair.
You weren't like the others
I'd nearly bought,
but you complimented your place well,
for the few months you sat there.
Now I've had to move you,
from the hopewood table and
the front room window light,
your finish is pealing, but there's nothing I can do to restore it.
I packed you up gingerly,
in an old silk shawl
in an old oak box
and set you back in a closet of memories
in the house of my soul.
But when I walk past the window
and old hopewood table,
I feel that hollow place in the house of my soul
where you once stood.
It seems that depression
has a magnetic pull to poets.
We wear it, our stubborn scarlet letter,
Hidden between crinkled pages and ink spattered hands.
Our fickle muse,
if he stays around too long, he smothers us,
till we cannot even lift the pen,
and the words are left to swim around in circles
of darkening thought.
I used to make raw, fleeting, promises to myself,
though now my resolution is fading.
If, in ten years,
On the cusp of middle age,
our paths tangle again,
and we are both unattached, and stable,
and if we still have corners of our hearts
labeled with the other's name...
corners where there's still a candle burning,
I will give "us" another chance.
When I was 17,
we discussed workout routines in gym,
our thin legs branching from under ruby-red shorts,
skin pale and dappled by cold winter air.
I described my workout of 200's.
200 crunches, 200 situps, etc. etc. etc.
"You make me feel fat"
my model- built friend complained.
I stared down at my shrinking thighs,
wondering how fat she would feel,
if she felt the same hollow spaces beneath her skin,
numbed by the gnawing of metabolism on muscle.
If she could feel her labored breaths circulate
through drained limbs,
and saw the stars and sparks in the haze of exhaustion,
that perpetuated around me.
I wondered if she felt as fat as I did,
when I looked at the skeleton in the mirror,
its bloated stomach,
the only thing the eyes could focus on.
Forget the thigh-gap,
the stomach was the only thing that mattered.
It should be as flat as the unleavened bread
I refused at communion:
I didn't know how many calories it had.
I wondered if she ever felt beautiful,
because I never did.
Lank, unwashed hair hung limp to hide the
Inflamed scratches on my face: feeble efforts to eradicate
Why not destroy my identity?
Everything else was gone,
except the stomach.
That damned bloated organ
I wished I could tear it from my body,
And leave it to rot on the rubbish heap
of moulding high-school dreams
I kept in the corner of my room.
But it remained, day after day,
the stubborn thing stayed on,
even when I filled it with saltwater,
to force it to give up the last bit of its contents.
Three mugs later it finally relinquished,
in the emergency room,
as my mother stood behind me,
holding my hair and crying.
I still thought she was over-reacting.
I looked up at the ER doctor,
middle aged and blonde,
her eyes were sympathetic, but annoyed,
As she asked me if I was trying to kill myself.
I said "No." Not Yet I thought
But I wished I could of, as I heard my dry throat crack with the words,
"I have an eating disorder."
As I looked out
into the great beyond,
I, the voyager, trapped in doldrums,
Found the soul that had slipped away from me.
My quest ended, I discarded
the gravity-encased form my mother gave me,
Trading it for the light,
The soul had always longed to be clothed in.
And my soul danced,
on the dihcotomic sea of what is,
and what will be,
waltzing across the waves of dreams,
as light is want to do,
whenever it meets water.
'Today, I should be happy.'
I told Myself, as Myself and I
stared into Our mirror of thoughts
contemplating the day's ensemble.
'There are too many sad things here,'
said Myself. 'We've worn black every day this week.'
But I paused, and smoothed the wrinkled raven skirt
across Our knees.
'But it's grey today' protested I,
'and red makes Us look garish.'
'No one said We had to be all happy,' Myself mused,
'We'll wear the red scarf with the black coat,
a little happy, but not so much as to drown out the sad.'
I nodded. 'A little sad never hurt anyone.'
When a star burns black,
But no one is around to hear it,
it screams the last, lingering, piercing note,
of a symphony
written for a dying wish,
and a lost dream.
Finally imploding into silence
where even the brightest of lights,
is lost in hollow darkness.
I don't believe in soul mates but
I will fall for the man
who can read my poetry aloud
translate it properly, from page to voice
without compromising rhythm, or sound, or rhyme,
With a gentle poet's brogue.
The man who sees the notes of my soul
I tucked between the lines,
and finds he made the same notations
in the margins of his own.
I do not think Hell will be
fire and brimstone, and sulfur geysers.
No medieval, halloween demons
ripped from Dante's manuscripts.
Hell will be in our minds,
our introverted, bleached brains
where we are doomed to watch
the lives we can no longer live,
over and over and over again,
While they play across the white coroner's sheet
as Satan's projector hums.
The beautiful spirit of life
lives in the spaces between people,
between the interlaced fingers,
of two children
who stroll down the sidewalk together.
In darkness dwell I,
prisoner to my thoughts,
unable to fit the key I hold
into the locks which bind my wrists.
Freedom stands before me,
meeting my eyes with her solemn glare,
silently demanding to know
why I do not release
from the chains that bind me.
I am at the threshold
of clarity, of liberty,
but the chains seem blessed memories
my hands cannot bring themselves
And I lie, giving them more value,
I will forget you.
Well, I can't really,
first loves can't be forgotten,
and my memory is too good for that.
Besides, I will be writing your name
on cheap website security questions
for the rest of my life.
Who was your first kiss?
I can't forget,
but I may curse
The folly of a a gentle, blind, virgin, heart,
who fell for a wounded one.
In truth, I'm angry,
at myself, and you,
my heart's dying embers glow red,
I always treated you with tenderness.
I'll clean my wound, let it drain,
let it heal.
But if you want to let yours fester,
there's nothing I can do to stop you.
Torment is most severe,
when you can't tell what it is,
that strikes your soul with repeated blows,
heartbreak? remorse? guilt? but for what?
When you know that you've done what you can,
given the second chances, even the third, and fourth ones,
when you think the "he/she hath done what he/she could"
could be carved in epitaph on your tombstone.
You think you may die soon anyway,
the blows keep coming.
No shelter, no sanctuary,
not even in the farthest corners of your mind
because the unknown tormenter has penetrated, saturated
every neuron, every cell.
Infiltrated your weak, untested defenses,
you first battle, your first defeat,
and you find yourself as the spoils of a war,
you had no intention of fighting.
Give it up,
relinquish those thousand thoughts,
the thousand hopes,
no one ever wanted to know.
Keep only the things they wanted to read,
the smut, the gossip.
The secrets shared between you and your lovers,
whispered in hushed tones
across mascara scarred pillows at 2am.
Bury the dreams,
that had no meaning.
The happy ones, full of lavender and vanilla,
But keep the nightmares,
the ones that left you screaming at 2am
that will make the hair stand up on the nape of their necks,
and give them nightmares of their own.
Starve your soul,
till all that's left is the shell of a body
that they will praise, then critique.
Who needs souls anyway?
Without a soul, you remain forever,
alone, in the dark, at 2am.
Poetry was never meant to be structured,
it should not be bound,
just as the spirit should not be.
Souls should be free to say what they wish,
unhindered by rhyme, or verse, or syllable.
The soul has its own rhythm, its own beat,
that matches the pulse of its writer.
True poetry emerges from the soul,
into the confining case of words,
simply because it has no where else to go,
simply because it will burst,
if not given the chance to breathe,
no matter how small the breath taken.
I fell in love with a Marine once,
Broad shouldered, strong armed,
With a voice like sunlight’s warmth,
And tough, battle--scarred hands.
He was always quick to smile
Laugh his loud, boisterous laugh.
But his eyes,
Green as beech leaves in spring,
Bore depths that could not be fathomed.
Scenes that had played before them,
Replayed as pain across the iris,
Sometimes hazy with tears,
When the scarred hands would grasp mine tightly,
The voice like sunlight’s warmth
Deepen, storm clouds gathering,
And drop to darker times and days
Of sand and blood and a beating sun,
When the head I cradled in my arms
Found rest on a lonely desert stone.
When the gentle hands that caressed my cheek,
Caressed a rifle,
But with less fervent tenderness.
When the lips that kissed mine,
tasted of sweat, caffeine, and nicotine.
I loved a marine once
Tried to bandage the wounds
Made by war and a hard life
But I was only a salve to numb the pain.
And when he left me,
To chase long deferred dreams,
I let him go, praying he’d find the peace
Which had eluded him for so long.
I have learnt the pain
of too much tenderness,
of ingratitude, of impatience.
The pain that comes when you can't identify
the material of the casket,
you kept a gifted heart in.
I though it was love,
that preserved your misshapen, scarred organ.
But was it sympathy, inlaid with gratitude,
For three words uttered (though falsely)?
But I returned yours unharmed, when you requested it.
No gashes from harsh words
only salve, from caring hands- though the wound's wouldn't heal.
I don't know what you kept my heart in.
A bag of lust, tied with pride?
Cheaply made, so when it tore,
you sent my heart back, raw, unprotected.
At least I left you with sympathy.
A thousand words, never to be written,
too many moments to translate.
An unnecessary task, but a preferred one.
It should be easy, I am a wordsmith, as you said,
but my fire is merely embers,
my hammer, lost,
The billows need patching.
Discouraged, I sit by my dying fire,
a pile of horseshoe memories by my side.
Broken plough hopes,
iron backed words.
All once glowing red,
now solidified in time,
by the cooling tears in a barrel.
We never said forever,
and it's well that we did not.
I think we both secretly knew there wouldn’t be a forever,
though we wouldn't admit it.
At times you acted like there would be,
But it’s okay, darling.
You left me behind, and I let you go.
"I have a tendancy to fall in love so easily…" you said,
As if there could be someone else, so immediately
who would care for you like I tried to.
We never fought, raised our voices, or exchanged harsh words.
I tried not to annoy or nag, and I don’t think I did.
I was patient, I was kind, I was loyal,
I tried to be as beautiful as you said I was.
And I hope that meant something to you.
Or it will mean something to you, someday.
I tried, and wanted to give you the love you needed,
but I realize that you are the only one that can heal and love yourself.
So please, darling. Don’t keep looking out, for the next one,
the next heart that will try to pour love into the bottomless, dry, river bed.
I tried, but the dusty ground soaked it up, then cracked again, my efforts futile.
Look in, you are the only one that can break the dam.