Nika Cavat Jul 2012

My child said today,
“You’d be rich if it wasn’t for me”
and she then smiled that goofy smile
adding, “Why did you have me then? I’m so expensive. ”

And when she later shimmied like a long lean cat
on a thin fence, I replied, “This is why I had you.”

And when she then made up her own word, bestfuzzer, to
describe a friend, I said, “This is why I had you.”

And as she curled into my belly on the bed
nuzzled my neck, and blew holes in my hair,
I whispered, “This is why I had you.”

She has forced me to reinvent myself
to plumb the deep waters of my reserve
my sanity, my will to live even
and bring up one more shining fish
one more favor, one more drive across town
one more strange meal at 2 am

And in cleaning away the thick of leaves, dirt, and grass
from my grandparents’ headstones
I become them, their bones my bones
Their struggle my struggle

How much we could have saved in not having children
would nevertheless have impoverished us in other ways.
We are driven by dumb unseen forces
as ancient as soil to create our children –
accident, intent, it doesn’t matter

so I pay homage to my grandparents - tired, frightened immigrants
barely out of childhood, with the stench of their parents
on fire singing their nostrils

Why did they persist?
What drove my grandmother to marry a man she’d never even met?
to bear his children, to suffer his beatings?

This is why I had you
Because I was lonely
Because I was raped
Because through you I sewed myself back together
Because you are my destiny

And when my child asks why I had her
I breathe milk and honey into her mouth
jostle the stars until they tinkle like wind chimes
pulling the continents back together again.
And when she asks me,
I can only offer up the scoop of my palms and
the ticking of blood in my wrists as reasons.

Nika Cavat Jul 2012

Addiction

No, not what you think, not needles, not bottles, not too much food or too little, not sleeping 18 hours or running until feet bleed, not pornography, not voyeurism, not pole-dancing or jello shots or driving 150 mph down dark streets, not working to exhaustion, not bizarre rituals, not staring into bright lights or sucking on sweet treats until a migraine sets in, not pulling out fingernails or walking with pebbles in shoes, thinking any of this brings God to the door.

                                                          ­                    No, none of these excesses

But, life? Yes. Addicted to breathing, yes. Addicted to sweetness of morning-light, yes. Addicted to aroma of salt water, when the sun swings low and pelicans skim the curling waves in search of dinner, oh yes. And playing hide-n-go-seek with my three year old neighbor, yes. Addicted to not giving up on that African violet in the windowsill, despite its crispy appearance, to watching my child shimmy, yes and yes. To her well-being, her off-key singing, a resounding yes! To letting family be. To the solitude of a hot shower. Addicted to your righteousness, your swagger, the way dimming sunlight cups your body, I’ll admit it, yes.  And anticipation of oysters still in their rough shells. And never, ever worrying about whether these are excesses or not because it’s in the elusiveness of the word (addiction, for example, or desire or want or tenacity), in the lone gesture, the moment before that door opens and the house empties of terror and fills with human breath that the balance is reset.

Nika Cavat Jul 2012

Orcas in Puget Sound

Along the road, abandoned wild apple trees bend
with their heavy loads, dusty skirts of blackberry bushes
purpling fingers, piercing flesh
mouths ringed with berry juice, vampires all.
Along San Juan Island salmon leap clear
out of the briny water, just yards ahead of their predators,
Orcas, dorsal fins curving shiny black, sluicing and slicing
the surface like sharpened knives

They have bred with one another for 10,000 years
trolled these waters through famine, earthquakes, world wars
through shifting continents, glacial avalanches,
through the extinction of whole civilizations.
Standing on a cliff, my daughter and I
watch the Orcas churning the water - studies in grace
the largest gem on the necklace of a great food chain
and when we sleep we too chase
the great King Salmon of our deepest dreams,
the fathers we lost, the currents that bear along children

Translucent jellyfish, palm sized, breath below
sideways exhale, convulsive inhale
umbrellas opening and closing a thousand years or more
sliding through forests of brown kelp where mollusks cling

We have clung like this to one another, with my body
thrown over hers for protection and her exhaling away from me
If Mama Orca keeps her young close, so will I
If there are salmon to chase and harbor seals to command, so we will

Arcing in the late August sky
slapping and parting the surface, over and over
the whales, lords of the Sound, swim in our brains as we sleep
sparkle against blackening waters
You are of my body from my body cleaving there for 10,000 years
Whatever quarrels there are on land vaporize
In the presence of these creatures,
arcing against all that is temporal, vicious, small,
studies in power and grace

The tide pulls out, skimming across rocks and oysters in their muddy beds
But this need to care for you remains as big as an Orca
your appetite for adventure as voracious
and I watch you, my child, disappearing with summer
into high school, into womanhood, into
the salty, light-dappled ocean

Nika Cavat Jul 2012

God is in the shadows
deep in the pocket of that rose
an impossible color, beyond crimson, the epitome
of crimson, so crimson tears spring forth
This is where God, silent, drunk,
on vacation, slumbers

God is nowhere to be found
not in dead fathers
not in demented mothers
not in fading ex-lovers
not where spiders lurk
not in the boom & beat of adolescent children

It is the sorrow lodged somewhere between
breast bone and lung, sorrow the size and shape
of an island, a mountain,
the texture of wet sand
the weight of wet sand
It is this that snatches away my breath upon inhaling

A life-long sorrow, sealed to skin
as surely as metallic paint to a pan -
It hangs on with a cage fighter’s tenacity
locked in fierce embrace
sorrow coppery tasting
sorrow flaked in my hair and

Draped over the sofa, cat-like.
It just hangs around -
changing to heat, radiating at a dangerous level
nuclear, capricious, then, as time passes
just a presence one becomes accustomed to,
like an aging dog or webs above the bed

Its cousin, malevolence, its twin, melancholia
family to my family, blood to my blood –
dropping down from the shower head as I bathe
sorrow becoming holy, beyond flesh
It holds hands with the musician I’ve known all my life
and dines regularly with that other writer

We speak of transformation, you and I
of becoming other than ourselves,
as though we can unzip our flesh and find a whole
new identity underneath, throbbing, pink, blood-pumped
and with this, go forth into the same old world
that remembers transgression and forgives nothing

— The End —