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Cameron Martin Apr 2015
Some of the wishes I carry like worry stones,
polished smooth and mine alone, because
I cannot add my weight to yours:

How I wish I was a better thief, because
I could have lived exciting parallel lives,
running from corner stores with my spoils
trafficked down teenaged pant legs – or because
I would be a better poet but instead I skulk
and borrow and hobble scraps together, and
bury them all in my breast pocket because
I keep all of my flaws close to my heart.
Or how I wish the hundred apologies
I offer you, a constellation of condolences
for sloppy drivers spilled coffee stubbed toes
were solutions instead, not a litany –
reciting all of my opportunities
to fix your world which I wasted – or how
I wish I had words when I needed them,
when we are holding hands walking two abreast,
or snapped into each other late at night
like orphaned puzzle pieces which strayed
from the box – so I could whisper into your neck
all those glances I've stolen,
snapshots I collect and hoard
because they are beautiful,
because they sustain me –
so I could have those words right then
in those pivotal moments, instead
I’m slumped over a keyboard
three weeks later –
so I could tell you how
I cannot put my weight on you
because I like where it lives –
my weight is mine
and it reassures me
like my father’s leather duster
draped across my twelve-year-old shoulders,
because I don’t know how to walk
without slumping over.
I want the words to tell you how
I wish I was the one to fight the cancer,
because it couldn't hurt me. If I could explain
how my darker memories shine brighter
with the passage of time – spotlights
that freeze my stories in place, stop them skulking off
so they can’t slip away, or because
I’m still waiting for the cancer,
Cancer with a capital “C” which lurks
behind the curtains, in the corners
of the mirror, just behind me –
weaved into each thought each day –
instigator, paralyzer, the gasping breath,
my inescapable Zodiac – because
I enjoy hospital rooms and needle ******,
because I can’t bear you being stuck in
another hospital room. Because
it should have been me.
Because I could do what I always do,
turn that stone in my pocket and
polish it smooth, another star
in the constellation.
Cameron Martin Aug 2012
because your concern has grown to be infectious
I’ve compiled the state of my union,
these irreverant ties that pin me together
like a patchwork quilt – six feet tall,
full of words yet nothing more
than an echoing, receptive hollowness.
it’s been two years since I’ve stopped worrying
about the bubble of quiet that I live in -
I forget at times that others still do, they see it
as if tangible and wrapped around my head like a shawl.
for better or worse, it’s of my own creation -
a gentle white noise of platitudes and deferance
that carries me through the day.

to begin with, my name – born of the highlands
with a meaning worked into the letters
that’s devoid of the christian trappings,
no imagery of messianic light or beatitudes
but instead a crooked nose, prophetic maybe
of the first scar to mar my surface
in that appealing way that looks best on coins
and scuffs on shoes, the kind of weathered
I aspire for and have come to appreciate.

what else, then? this beard across my face -
spreading patiently like a reaching vine,
that I sporadically tend to, endure and prune?
it isn’t fashionable, or born out of desire to be,
it is of me – appearing as if in fulfillment
of a promise made to myself
for warmth and comfort at any cost -
made wrecklessly and without forethought
for the way things really are
in the way only a child can.

the fanaticism of my dawning twenties has quieted,
where once I sang of the body electric
I now feel like I’m only borrowing it -
staring for uncomfortable lengths of time
at these fingers, picturing how the skin
is deftly stretched around them while
my appetite has grown as insatiable as my hunger
for attractive typeface and paper stock. lately
I’ve rekindled my satisfaction for bread, a longing
and ancient sentiment akin for the love of green,
of things that grow out from the stubborn earth -
I count myself as one of them, and just as stubborn.

then this is where I appeal to the future -
where I explain my patience for better days,
this lushness and fullness that I dream of,
that I know is coming – a certainty outside explanation.
this is where my state lies, the wholeness of myself -
it’s all patience and waiting, happiness I send out
ebbing from myself, outward like waves in a pool.
I swear I see them sometimes, like spring afternoons
when I dance a few steps in the grocery store,
they hit the clerk like sunshine rolling over her skin.
it’s an unexpected warmth that makes her laugh
despite herself, and I smile back – this moment
is nourishing and how I define myself.
Cameron Martin Aug 2012
the vocabulary of truth is silent.
you need to watch everything but the lips
to pull it out, slowly – like drawing a loose thread
from a favorite shirt, ragged & older than you -
a gentle, pleading pull at uncertainty.

you need to watch the hands, watch how the I love yous
are orchestrated with a delicateness words conceal
but the body betrays. I can see it conducted all within
the rise and fall of your brow, it’s written across your eyes.
I’m learning the book of you every day, how your fingers
turn through pages, or the way the soles of your feet
fall upon the floorboards, creaking out whispers from the wood.

these are the whispers you listen to.
the vocabulary of truth is tucked away here,
tied to the tarnish and dregs of our lives
like gleaming bits of string, which I collect
for fear I’ll never find more – I hoard them,
keep them together with your secret foot-fall,
your gentle eyes that cannot lie to me, now -

it is why the car windows should always be lowered
as the weather clears. the air is pregnant with it, while
it rushes past the car as a fast white noise -
from time to time you can grasp a murmur,
a word or two let out peaceful and slow like a sigh.
Cameron Martin Aug 2012
the sprain in my back surfaced again today,
a thrice familiar friend since I slipped on ice
four februarys ago – it became the high note
in the chorus of aches I enjoyed this afternoon.

the line has blurred and I’m unsure of whether or not
my body is rebelling against me or I against it -
I’ve forced my appetite into a tidy corner
under the banner of self control, it’s capricious
as my moods and fits well into my general motto -
to do without.

today it is my body placed under the daily lens.
I study my long, swooping lines in the mirror,
much like I often do to my face – staring
as if locked in a constant attempt to recognize myself.

I remember first grade,
where I formed a mental picture of myself, what
I was sure to look like when I was thirty -
as if it were in my control, a decision to be made
like what to eat for breakfast.

to compare, from what I can remember of it:
I’ve turned out taller, significantly less blonde
(why I thought I would be forever a mystery)
and eight year old self will be disappointed to learn
my hair never did get tamed – it’s still unruly,
prone to erupt and expand like curling wisps of smoke
if tampered with, as if to comb it is some grave insult.

I’m watching my hands as I type, and thinking,
much like I often do, that these fingers racing
across the keys are mine – from time to time
they appear to belong to a stranger, the wrinkles
and creases unfamiliar and foreign. slowly
I’ll recognize them like a long forgotten friend
seen in passing, remember they’re the same hands
that have always been – this is a wonder to me.
Cameron Martin Aug 2012
he used to fit in my hands, when we got him.
I remember him huddled in the corner of a box,
how I tried to soothe him on the long trip home.
he was a basement rabbit – he would scurry back
to the safety of the stairs when taken outside in the yard -
the very finite grassy patch and open sky more than enough
to incite that inclination of all rabbits to panic and run.

he loped slowly, bumped into doors and haphazard stacks
of cassettes, chewed through live lamp wires and otherwise
fulfilled all the duties of a rabbit – their natures are kind
and constantly seeking peace and stability, a trait
I greatly admire. he was my velveteen rabbit -
even the most timid visitors would stroke his oreo fur.
he liked this, I’m fairly sure.

he wasn’t the pet I was expecting – too dim to train
and too dangerous to leave unattended, exemplified
by dozens of feet of frayed wire and that nervous jitter
he never seemed to shake as a result. he was quiet
and possessing of a personality it took all eight years
to define – too subtle to state but easy enough to glean
if you watched him, followed his eyes as they stared
into space – listening to the dark corners of the basement
for whispers of that rabbit wisdom.

I wasn’t home when he was found in the morning
splayed out on his side – never one to rest
it was a sure sign something was amiss. he was interred
into a shoebox – a temporary vessel while the hole was dug,
dead weight in my hands while I watched and thought on him.
more poignant than my foolish scraps of disappointment in him
is the very real disappointment in myself – adopting him to my family
for all of the wrong reasons, leaving him caged for stretches
of time far too long & too often – an eight year hurt in my heart
and a nervous jitter that I’ll never shake.

out of the shoe box and into the ground – my brother
placed him down reverently, the curve of his back to me
as the dirt was replaced on top of him, a smooth flagstone
placed on the bare patch of earth.
we joked half-heartedly all night, finding it hard
to mourn for such a quiet, simple creature.
but as we walked inside the sudden finality of it and
his peace was a momentary balm to the ache I carry still.

he died an old rabbit, his duty fulfilled – hops and leaps
executed flawlessly, quick playful sprints across the carpet.
it was not in his power to meet my selfish teenage expectations
but it was in mine to provide a better life – a hard lesson
taught by one of the simplest of creatures, and
a bitter blessing that I will never lose sight of.
Cameron Martin Aug 2012
he’s somewhere up north and coming home.
I imagine him ripping the posters off the walls,
torn corners of photographs stubbornly fixed
to the sheet rock with masking tape and blue tack -
the only part of that annual ablution I enjoyed,
the moment when the walls are clean and bare
and for a second you feel just the same.
I’m thinking about what he said just a few nights ago,
catching me late at night as I was ready to give in
and go to sleep, an off-hand comment profuse
with that beautiful kind of vulnerability,
delivered cooly, a shameless edge to it. he knew
exactly what he was saying and I was too slow
to tell him how fully I understood.
among other things it’s these moments
that keep him close to my heart.

I’m thinking about the beer I’ll buy
to offer in hospitality when I see him,
the proper sentiment for the situation.
already I’m picturing his hands, how I hate them -
prematurely calloused and old, stoically wrapped
around the bottle. I see that dimness in his eyes
I’m hoping will be absent. it’s not anything
that I’m ready to see again, not enough time passed
since I’ve forced it out of my own sight, grown used to it
or forgotten about it – whichever came first.

I’m thinking about what I’ll say and how I can bear to.
this weighs on me heavily, another decision
that makes me feel hundreds of years old and
full of sad wisdom only good for filling pages.
I feel it’s my responsibility, sometimes,
to find the words, the right way to say goodbye.
these are the moments that language leaves you.

this is how I’ll say it – taking him in my ancient arms
and telling him with that beautiful kind of vulnerability
god be with you – hoping beyond reason that
he will understand what I mean. if he does,
I’ll see it in his eyes and be satisfied.
Cameron Martin Aug 2012
it’s always been when I’m standing at the edge
that cosmos has spoken loud enough for me to listen.
there was that first whisper at the car accident, when
I saw the horizon of red and blue forming a blockade
surrounding the tree my brother’s car wrapped around.
it was after I saw him sitting on the back of the ambulance,
shocked and unscathed. I pushed through the sea of sirens
and broke through to the wreck, pulling free his scattered things,
when I heard it – or felt it – a sureness and calm
that the moment didn’t seem to deserve.

I found it again on the beach – years later, as if deliberately
discarded and buried in the sand. it was a late summer night,
we were perfectly drunk on beer and the moment -
standing young and proud on the edge of the world
as it bled down into the ocean. it was sudden, I looked
but no-one else heard it, carried soft on the breeze
and booming as the tide crashed onto the shore, but
I wrote what I heard, even a year later – when
just the thought of it was enough to turn my heart
into a tremor in my chest.

I’ll be standing on the subway platform tomorrow morning,
watching the sun climb up to set the tracks glowing white hot
and I hope I’ll find it there, lost somewhere in the mobs of people
or shuffled aside by pigeon feet so I can take it and
know how to say it at this crucially insignificant moment -
one where all of the words are already written, waiting
for the voices at the edges of things to set them astir.
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