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Wade Redfearn Dec 2011
Let us write a poem about love.
Can we be holy?

When we love - do we become holy?

Well yes - and absolutely -
when we love all.

Something softened me.
Too many yesterdays,
all those invisible tomorrows.

I look for their footprints
in snows not yet fallen.

a brown cabin -
wintered up - ready for
bedtime Westerns,
mexican standoffs -
sleep
and  perfectly empty

Pile in with me, where it is warm.
A marvel! How your hands rest, your perfume Ivory soap,
the shiny skin of your pimpled back,
a glaze of hair on your forearm. Designed by heaven
to be put behind my neck.

I am not made of sparks -
I am made of soft slow fires and
sunsets.
Wade Redfearn Dec 2011
Try not to cry when you finally know
what I have envisioned with you
now a hundred times;
curious heart, as many sleeveless faces -
unclaimed by any single one.

Dreamchild of love - I can be
tender in any way necessary.
Good face. Well spoken.
Half-awake in the soapy smell you
brought with you to bed. Spots on my
knuckles where I bruised my own hands
for cruelty. Only wanting to widen
your slim smile, necklace your laugh
with pearls. I was putting on coals,
trying to find the right
volume for my blood. The right heat.

I was quiet and drowsy by your white back - undefiled by certain "forevers".

love is finding your hands
suddenly full of whispering petals
and whose ******* roses are these?
Wade Redfearn Dec 2011
It's not hard.
Oh, let me try again -
it's not easy.

I don't want to be singing this -
when I'm seventy -
boy with two rattling stupid decades in his palms -
small song, small town.
Made a shawl of his lamentations and learned
to play guitar.

Somebody told me I had talent
and immediately I saw myself
on a rocket ship, fists full of Mars rock,
Julius Caesar coins and the stars shattering all around.

I'm not asking a lot.
All I want is my living room full of those who are fun,
my bed full of those who are attractive,
a Starbucks in my area.

Some people have to watch others die
before they turn twenty-five.
I just have to learn to exist a little more,
and speak a bit louder.

I have done nothing but sit still, and yet
I am out of breath - I talk all the time, my cartoon voice -
my sleepy face.

Somebody once came up with something amazing.
Kept it in jars for two centuries, drank it in libraries.
They breathed it into my mouth,
and then I couldn't stop talking.
Wade Redfearn Sep 2010
He loved it when she slid up
to him, as sweet as a sprinkle doughnut -
but now, something has befallen her,
she's been burned or frozen, tastes more like
cinnamon raisin; but by virtue of his
firelit face and tall tales,
he still gets invited out.
_________

He creaks upstairs an hour late, we
are already tangled up on the
back porch, smoking, and the
liquor has made everything
an economy of scale.

He is a ray of sunshine. Tells us
all the old groaners. The big fish.
Ultimately says, "Happy birthday.
Never let your guard down."
and hobbles off, with barb-wire chafing
his heel, and the rheumatic suspicion
that "rest" and "wellness" are
the fables taught to us by
bogeymen, trying to convince us
there are no bogeymen.

I am a tender Twenty tonight.
I want to twirl my fists in Muhammad Ali speedbag-spirals,
saying, "I am the champion. Never undefended."
But I am too drunk, and maybe
too humiliated.

God! He floats like painkillers. He stings like loss.

There he is, the tall order, the iron giant:
a two-story brainfreeze milkshake.

I shudder, a pipsqueak of a prizefighter.
The bucktoothed squirt at the icecream booth,
too short to notice that there are only three flavours.
And all of them involve pistachios! Gasp!
Wade Redfearn Jun 2018
Through his young belly as through mine, middling,
a bullet would tear equally smoothly.
But I am not in those photographs.

I am sometimes impressed with what I have survived
with no more than this glassy girdle as penance.
And though I never would have harmed the world as much
I have broken a birdhouse or two.

I still want his bodybag to lead to a better life.

He was not the sum of his parts,
he was the sum of his parts
and what they would become.
And he was twenty.

We are bonded, he and I: brothers in death
a ragged band of ***** flesh -
a fraternity of the frail!
so
vile as you are, vile as I sometimes am:
I can do no other than
touch your hand, if outstretched,
lay a kiss on your cheek for want of warmth
to ask you back into my home for bread.

Your caretaker am I,
and theirs, too.
I can bear their loss no more than yours
or yours more than theirs.

I wish all happiness.
I wish ALL happiness.
I wish all, all happiness.

As much happiness as they can fit in their mouths.
As much as I can swallow without chewing,
though I am so tempted to chew.
Wade Redfearn May 2018
Something rattles in the soul.
It must be paid attention -
  it is the soul, the only sure thing -
and rattled in return.

Slow begins the dance of tongues and hard news.
I learn a thing I never wished to learn.
Afterwards,
a dance of tongues in the ensuite
begins a sudden rapture of claiming.

Nails mine, skin mine
to make a pink impression on.
Bile in the back of the throat, mine.
Fear of death, mine. Oaths and oaths,
mine, too. An exchange of humility,
knee for a knee. The rigid wall at your back.
The wall at your back.
The night which enriches
bluer out of the blue air,
not the action of
the world moving at all.

The particles of water in a birdbath divide,
decide among themselves
to marry each to each, to reproduce.
They become an ocean.
They drown the birds.
My mouth fills with feathers,
teeth itch with the tiny mites
running between the shafts.

I am a bell, and you are a country.
I am a bell and sound from far away.

Hands touch the broken vase in her parts, the toes,
the eyelash, the sunken wreck, the crowd of dead,
the treasure.
They say
  all this
as if the map was drawn
and burned
and came again
in char from the tablecloth
to all our wonder.

A single miracle can last for weeks in the mouth. Sometimes centuries.

I will spend eighteen days in the void of grace.
What begins as a pain in my shoulders
will grow into a tree and bury me.
I will want promises, promises, promises.
(water, water, water)
I will never be satisfied.

Looking always for permanent loss it becomes easy to simply
misplace.
Your caution leads to strange decisions.
You put your keys in the fridge.

I would like to say I knew the words:
I cut the lock of hair, I drew the blood.
The hex was removed by faith and chaste reflection
but everywhere I look, there is a confusion
of hungry birds and beggars
and I forget the spell,
or what chaste reflection even is.

Anyways, something breaks. Not my doing.
Suddenly, I am just noticing sky again.
I am transcribed back into English.
My first decision is to wash my car,
and next,
to learn what faith meant to anyone.

Charmed, is it?
Something rattles in the soul.
It must be paid attention -
  it is the soul, the only sure thing -
and rattled in return.
It has nothing, really, to say.
It only rattles.
Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Mar 2012
history -
a history -

I wanted to know what that sound was.
I wanted to know what made your hair so straight.
I wanted to ask you to kiss me on the cheek.

You told me the sound was an Aeolian harp
imitating a macaw.
I am a boy on a scaffold imitating a window.
My hair is always the wind's *****.

So the trip was a disaster.
So there was
an insufficiency in my reassurances.
a crab in the bed.
a wish in the closet.

But I meant it. I did mean it.

history-
at least I knew where the sound came from,
who made it,
and why it was beautiful.
Wade Redfearn Aug 2018
A bill becomes a law through a process not unlike wet clay curing in the sun, seasonal labor filling the fields in springtime, a drop of sweat absorbed thirstily into a towel, a stain spreading across a tablecloth.

A bill becomes a law eventually, but often, not in time. A bill often fails on the floor, as do some people, as does, just as often,
the attempt to revive them. The attempt looks an awful lot
like a senator's face, energetic and gray and doomed and
looking for any advantage
when the needed advantage is in the ether
and still immaterial until the tenth of February.

I notice the bumper stickers, and I've deputized a Google Alert
to tell me that the popular mass is wakening.
I can also tell when it yawns,
or prods a rib for a pain that wasn't there yesterday.
I can tell when the popular mass has slept funny.
I can tell when it would rather not wake up at all
but the light is streaming in through the window
and the house is full of the sound of the dishwasher.

Pain on both sides, in both ribs, ignored
because sometimes it just happens - pain,
that is - and is a part of getting older,
like how you can't put peppers in your chili anymore
now that they don't grow on this side of the planet,
and there's nobody left to tend them.

I would like somebody to tend me, too,
but the law that sanctions that workforce
is still in committee, and mired in a dispute
about who deserves love.

This one goes out to all of those lying on their kitchen floor
once everyone is out of the house, lifting their legs and placing them on the countertop, listening to their heart ticking
and trying to discover if it reaches everywhere, if they can hear it
in their ankles.

This one goes out to their savings accounts and their kneecaps.

Here's hoping they make it.
Wade Redfearn Sep 2017
With bodies
as with people
you notice the freckles first
and only later
the line on first white knuckle where,
accidentally, the axe went in, obliquely,
eighteen years ago.

And among the things I notice first
and ask about:
the rhythm like an engine
that will bring you shuddering
to the side of that road
waving flashers, saying
help help
waving flares and saying
hold me
wait.

Also on the questionnaire:
your feelings about the proper position
of car windows in summer.
Your slim belly:
how is it maintained?
And what is at the top of mountains?
All this love in so short a span.
I became fat like a moth
hairy antennae probing saying
What next? And what light?

A holiday passes unnoticed by.
One or two short phrases of foreign speech are learned.
A short-haired dog grows to love the Seattle weather.

In our short lives we are
reconstituted, also, like moths.
Creative Commons. Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Apr 2012
I sat in the old pool and let
the black algae sprout all over me.
I lay down and became soil for
the black algae. Gave it my
sweat so full of minerals. Ate it
to keep going. To keep going
and grow more and eat more.
I have been lying down so long
my ears are ringing. From the soda-water
smell of the pool bottom - my eyes spring
to color like an Indian rug
as I stand up.

I thought I was taller.

Every day I eat an apple
and watch the dogs fight each other
at the big rocks in the park and this
is Freedom.

And I think about you, or who you might be.
You are buried under the skin of the world
behind its face and muscle. You are sweet.
You are a lime seed.

You are a lime seed
and every day I eat an apple
whose seeds sleep in the
middle lurking with poison.

My plan is to **** on the flesh of the world.
I'm no supervillain. I just want the smack of sugar.
I will **** until you emerge. Or I
will run through the park, shout at every stranger
in a new voice.

I thought I was taller.
I thought I was taller.
I lose my balance.
I lie back down.
Wade Redfearn Mar 2010
I long to talk to a stranger and ask them:

"

Ever worry that,
in your blood there are antibodies
to make you nauseous towards
every.single.person.you.get.close.to?
That we are peering - naked, wet, shivering - into an unfathomable loneliness,
balancing on our toes,
inching, with our mistakes, ever closer to the most personal,
most frightening,
most loathsome loss
we will ever experience?
That you will never reveal yourself
Never be vulnerable
Never be loved or
love the one person with the
right size-of-wrench to fix you?

Your infernal heat, to guard against probing hands, will scatter any hope that the right hands might intrude, and you will die inside, trembling, small, at the thought you will REMAIN ALONE FOREVER.

"

And then, grin, and pause, and they walk away from the unthinkable phrase that describes...
All our bad or separate moments.
Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Apr 2017
Fourteen days I let the breeze move through me
the rain move through me
sunlight and mist both -
the completeness of the womb.

We came to the top of a steep concrete hill
looking for the place a tree once was, and
is no longer, swallowed alive by
other aspects of nature who stood proudly
in the shape of their meal. We could not recognize
the place from the directions, because
la vuelta means “turn” but
revuelta means “revolt”. We found it finally, soaking wet:
a little enclave of cloud, so precious it must have
been put out of reach of anybody
so heedless as to spoil it.

Around you the thick trunks of violent vines:
grown strong from eating, calcified by time.
They form your shape, and they themselves shape
what the world remembers of you.
Above you, a half-oval of sunlight
suggests another way you might escape.

Here, I am beyond the reach of
tasks, advice, anything at all to do -
my earthly needs are paid for, and the rest deferred -
except to have things to say to my companions.
So how is it, then, that I say nothing?

There’s something wrong with the words.
The word for turn: virar.
The word for throw: tirar.
The word for look: mirar.

Nothing as complete as a sentence, and
the attendant in the parking lot convinced of my fluency
wonders why I should want to throw myself anywhere.

Forgive me. Your author -
strangled in his sleep by wicked words -
he might have known how to finish this
how best to fill the shape of a tree
again with cellulose and xylem,
or tell the birds they may resume their roosting.
Your sightseer: he does not.
His raw language and wet hair
have left a hollowed shape
where a man should be.
Wade Redfearn Feb 2018
"It became so bad that the government had to stop putting secret and sensitive papers in his red box."

Good Christians can only forgive.
The solution for being unable to forgive
is to pray for forgiveness for oneself.

"But we needn’t have worried. Because then we had the abdication."

Pain may be abstract
but harm never was
could not stay contained in the shattered rear bumper,
the flare on the road -
or any moment of transgression -
the lace slipping past a hipbone
the cold countertops
the gravity from there on out
his first view of hell.

Somewhere she too is a voter.
Everything hurts like a spur in the foot.
Everybody hurts everywhere you go.

May we forgive our sons who were Nazis
May we forgive their fathers who loved them.

The smell curdles on the floor.
The curious smell of asphalt and steam.
The smell, oh god, of linen
and water
and the pain which was begotten.
He has made a mistake.

"We are all mortals, that is our fate. But we need not be unchristian ones."

Whose arias are these that seem to take us elsewhere?
Why, it is only the famous soprano, Ms. _.
You heard her play at supper
or at least a recording of her voice.

I picture a stained glass window when she sings
high as heaven in crystal red and watery pink.
I would beg to see the peak
where lead meets lead
and the Annunciation,
the Transfiguration,
Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop,
these taper to a scene of Gethsemane
then a mute gray ceiling.

Something is waiting there and I suspect
holding it would make me feel better.
But forgiveness is not one single word, and besides:
what have you done to earn it?
Wade Redfearn Aug 2018
wind like a south wind carrying a plane south
deposits him, beneficiary of a backwards current
on a branch with nothing companionable in sight -
no answer, no voice to answer, no voice,
no alarm, no succor - just an afternoon
and nothing pressing. No urgent business,
maybe only the rigors of trying to prevent
there being urgent business later.
He's not all smooth. A little feather
cowlicked on his narrow jaw, and I don't know
how he bathes, what he eats, what he wants,
who would want to eat him. I don't really understand
anything that is going on around me. But look,
I understand more than him:
  the tree is dying.
Oak wilt blew in from Canada,
took a long time coming and finally cracked the veins
and this one is all bad on the inside, a meal of
corked-up flesh, big spongy patches and tainted roots
at the search.

(Amateur diagnosis. The tree is probably fine.)

There is a similarity neither tree nor bird know about.
Or his legs know it, and that message
is stuck somewhere. Or he's afraid.
The blighted oak is all fungus and refusal, and he:
his skeleton is spun from delicate copper.
If you open him up, he's like a penny -
pretty, and useless in this economy.
People and things always trying to get rid of him,
and he's listening because he knows it,
and he's singing because he knows it.

Open the tree up and the whole food chain comes down with it.
(Listen to your sweet flesh that wants to go on living.)

It's not a curse, not specifically:
just one fragile thing standing on another
but - count mercies -
too light to break it.

A basic brazier licking behind a splash of yellow, he chirrups.
His song comes from the throat.
His song is about something he saw once.
His song is unquestioned, muscle moving
without will.
  His plumage is mostly air
  And the tree is anchored in the ground
  by the very thing that chokes it,
and we're all standing together:
me, tree, bird. At least until
I finish my sandwich, packing the greasy paper in
a rectangle, with unquestioned neatness,
and leave whistling.
Wade Redfearn Feb 2017
Give me to carry
just a fragment of the cross.
A single thorn, or single lash
to suffer. A drop of blood.

At your worst, holding you
seemed to make the world make sense -
to you, at least -
but the nurses had lorazepam for that
and in more ways than one
I came to know impotence.

Like a supplicant, eating nothing at all
and playing cards with myself
while waiting for the Visitation.

At your best, I brought Halloween string lights
and Halloween candy for the holy sisters
and pagan holiday or no,
we gave that room the feeling of a convent,
and I wrung my hands while you slept.

Home in midafternoon and anxious
rosaries in azure on the bedsheets
and flowers in brown, on green field
dormant.

Sleeplessness was penance,
and so was I absolved; thus some of that
absolution affixed itself to relics
and that rubber duck on the dashboard
I touched in the morning traffic.
It glowed to say
your spirit was with me.

And though I now can sleep at any hour,
I examine it all the same
for some of Christ’s blood, or his forgiveness,
hoping to find the signet ring of the Pope
or at least some of your halo
where I should expect
the Byzantine absence of it.
Wade Redfearn Feb 2010
it's not so hard to
ask anymore, these questions
intractable questions about
what we have lost and
where it has gone
and it worries me

maybe we have become
accustomed to its absence

I don't miss the suffering
and I don't miss
the uncertainty I don't
miss the clouds, whatever they portended
or any of the times that we pretended
that our love had limits.

but I do miss well-defended
winters, snowed in, knowing
inconsolable sadness, complicated
sadness, and the ease
with which you disentangled it

Look at this, you whispered;
It's like a cat's cradle.
You moved your fingers
and it was gone.

So we are left asking questions without
a voice to offer solutions
so we are asking questions and
they seem solutionless.

I don't miss
clandestine afternoons, and hiding
from confrontation, but mostly
from each other
and I don't miss
long explanations, and looking at wild
mountains, wondering how
they could be climbed,
and duplicity, and things that we resigned
never to mention, and turned from, blind.

but I do miss
sleeping, two to a narrow bed
confined, knowing infinite windows to
your own wonders, and the canyons
so dark, concealing cat's cradles
a kiss and
a question away:
repeating hopes that we could not abandon

but there were some too hard
for you, too hard for me

You moved your fingers, but
this one never disappeared
and while I pray for someone
who can solve it
I'll hide it away again:

An artifact, a tangled souvenir -
to remind me of the things you couldn't fix
to wonder why you didn't persevere -
a question about what I have lost and
where it has gone.
Wade Redfearn Oct 2010
She is scared by the
long slow dwindling of
the heart's manouevres
towards the end of the night,
or of life.

So she tugs on its clammy fingers
tries to get it to waltz again.

I tell her:"Live with me between
a name and anonymity."
I say nothing.

There's no foyer in a one-room kitchenette,
but I stand in the foyer anyways,
holding half a poem -
or half a person.
And tilting at windmills.

She is a page and then some
a rough border - shaggy corners.
Glue chafing from the binding.
And maybe she is older than me.

But nobody ever learned to hunt
by watching vegetables being chopped,
and we both agree that since we're
pledging allegiance, we can put our hands
anywhere, right? I just haven't
mentioned which country.

The point is this:
Tomorrow is a mystery creature,and I refuse to guess
whether it wears fur or feathers.
Wade Redfearn Feb 2010
Down the lawn's decrescendo,
on the curb, a blocky Mercedes,
older than sound. I pull behind it, drop my things
like kick drums to the ground. The door
opens: a chorus of
can I help, what can I take?
And the quarter-rests of a fight
interrupted. The whole affair like
a sore wrist.

He has a violinist's chin, soft but
pallid, pocked, from losing
a battle with teenage skin, and
here is the ochre noise of his voice
a can on rocks; my father's was a stone in
a guitar.

So this is the new arrangement.
A leitmotif that trails at her heel, that tears at
every quiet measure; the whole hall
hears her uneasy with the next note.
This is no melody, I know,
but it is the new arrangement.

When she is old and failed,
her conductor's elbow fallen mutely to her side,
what will she think of
the first song she ever made?
You probably don't want to, but if you do want to repost this somewhere, let me know.
Wade Redfearn Nov 2010
There is no God
If there were, every smell would be sweetgrass
and lemon.

and

If there were not,
we wouldn't have noses.
So there it is.

It must be that
I failed to notice the shrinking days,
the ever smaller liaisons,
the patches of silence.

Then there came the equinox.
Everything was eight hours long,
and you were nowhere in sight.
Who is responsible for that?

If my skin is soft to the touch
and unwrinkled
if my hands work faithfully
and my heart also,
then I must be blessed.

If I have my heirloom ring,
if I have a blightless history,
if our galaxy is still cold in the
right places, and hot in the
right places, then I must be blessed.

And if I remain troubled
with all those gifts -
then I am doubtful, sour, ragged.
Not worth the love I crave.

I am a child at a magic show,
second-guessing the theatrics -
There he is, behind that screen,
with a dove and dowsing rod.
With a tiger, and a cage, and a key.

So I am troubled-
it seems that everything came
in the lapse after a kiss,
where everything which could be touched
could be ignored.
Then the kiss was gone -
and there was the world again
stark and unholy,
bright and blue as a bruise.

How brutal it is to live
on that third planet under the
sun, behaving poorly. How failure
meant nothing, in that orbit.

How brutal it is!
never to face the thing that sustained us
(not even to thank it)
Just ask me if you need to.
Wade Redfearn Mar 2010
I read a story to my son. Really,
I am composing it, off the cuff, but
there is no reason his mother should know.

One day, Elliott built a rocket ship.
His rocket ship was going to take him to the moon.

The boy sees nothing silly in this, and
for a second, I don't, either.

And every spare minute, Elliott worked on his rocket.
When he was at school, he drew out in
blue, and chalk-white, a dream for his rocket.
When his mother told him to do his homework,
he worked on his rocket.
When his mother left him
in the dining room to finish his carrots,
he worked on his rocket.
"I wish I could work on a rocket,
instead of eating vegetables."
Tonight, you won't have to.

One day, Elliott finished his rocket, and he went to the moon.

From the Moon, he heard the earth mumble.
From the moon, he saw the tide hug the shore,
and knock down his sister's sandcastle, left
on the beach from the summer before.
From the moon.

"He saw China!"
And Brazil. And India.
"And he got to see what his school looks like at night!"
He wouldn't know that, as a a boy, I went safely walking there,
and as a foulmouthed teen, I was drunk in the playground, at night.
That I looked down, from the hospital adjacent when my father was there.

He asks if, from the moon, you could see plain
the shadows of the craters on our planet, too broad
to behold, on sidewalks and soccerfields, during a game.
"You could. All the shadows, in the cities and the seas."
And his ruby face relaxes, deeply struck,
and musing, I think, that maybe
shadows aren't all bad.

Elliott came back, in time that his mother,
could wake him up, and he could loudly fake a snore.
And he righted his sister's sandcastle.
He went to Brazil.
He was drunk on playgrounds.
He saw shadows. They weren't so bad.

And often, when he would walk on the
sidewalk, his feet would feel light, like he
was on the moon again.

"Because the Moon has no gravity."
No gravity at all.

When I leave, and land beside my wife in bed,
I admire the helmet on my mantel,
I crumble old moondust in the paw of my suit,
I feel, still, the dimples of the sheets,
light, and shadowed, like the clefts of the moon.
Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Feb 2010
ONE
Adam and Eve were born of flesh,
and woke from sleep, when God addressed
them both.
"Here is the world - unsoiled, unstained
(The sheet of the sea hides her breast and her veins.)
The time is uncertain; the end is ordained
and when it is finished, begin it again."

They saw God, saw
Lucifer, saw the tree:
felt oppressed. The world
was young but the book had
been opened. All stories conclude
in words and in gestures, wild and crude.
(They left heaven, fled to
the ambergris ocean, the
silk hills.)

TWO
Mad, they went to Egypt, built
Cairo in the delta where
her legs met, Thebes where
her eyes beat on the cataract
made cities on
her body on
credit, faith, and lust.
Until the groaning hungry ibis
and the famine drove them out.

THREE
From Egypt to Rome,
Adam to Caesar,
In Pliny's manuscript, Adam said:
"Here is Rome
a senate in your sympathy
an orphanage in your heart.
Come to his flat avenue, can't you
feel how far I've walked, on every flagstone?
Witness beaten sandals, frayed thongs;
feel your posture sag? I want to rest,
and I want you to help. I sat on the banks
of the Tiber; has Rome washed into my lap?
The streets are the furrows of my skin.

She said:
"I like a fire at my fingertips, not
bellowed to me under the floor."
Rome fell to that barbarian.

PAX ROMANA
God reminded them again.
Adam said:
"The knowledge is good, but it isn't a cure
for an Eden that seems so unlike the brochure."
He pulled back the skin of earth, and found,
a beating heart beneath the ground.
He knew, for once, the world would die.

IV
They went to ***** London, unhappy with
the lot of Rome. Amid the stench of a filthy Thames,
his blood ran with offal, with hate,
leached from the baiting pit, and she
did, too, in the **** city,
from Knightsbridge to the sea.
They fought like monsters, fought a curse
that God foresaw, and they rehearsed.
An **** city, from Knightsbridge to the sea,
and full of bitter folk.

V
Such is the end, a world
embalmed in salt and sand,
the leaves burned away; no cities
only orphaned tenderness under
ruined arches and aquaducts, wishing ill
but wanting that world returned,
and crying, yes, but knowing still,
their end was near; for all they yearned.

We have read this story cover to cover;
let Eve close the book, and pray in her sleep while
Adam dusts his hands,
and God begins anew.
Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Feb 2010
I dipped my hands in the volume of an immense love,
once, when time had not yet folded my spine
and it taught me that even kinships born of so little as
a lost word or an early sentiment are written on us,
and in us, and their existence never quite erased.

I have dreamed of being a tiny cutter clearing
the ruined towers peering from your open surf, the ancient arches
easing from the waves. My ship's skeleton leasing
its buoyancy from the mercy of the tide - I became
so much flotsam at that structures' side.

This burning question put to paper hearts,
consumed so hotly tall dreams and false starts.
It ate us up, and left behind it, ash -
the ink left on us, as before it passed.

Commitments so quickly and easily made
burst with the heat of a gentle grenade.
Left in the wasteland, so brittle the fuse -
we burned all the quicker with nothing to lose.
Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Feb 2017
We sat on the carpet in the bedroom
and I pulled between us that family heirloom,
a sea chest belonging, at one point, to some
grandfather or another, and we began
an apparently curtailed version
of the usual routine.
I wondered if that meant dire things
for my fate; as if all the events of my life
would be half as eventful, or if
there would be half as many of them, God forbid.

I can’t recall a particular atmosphere,
except that it was dim, and I guess
the old sea chest contributed
a bit of worn charm. And that same afternoon
I did burn some incense, but it could barely be smelled.

She asked, occasionally, for my involvement.
Tap one of these. Lay your hand on that.
And, uniquely in my life, I got the semblance
of controlling my destiny.

Soon enough, a picture began to form.
The five of cups: miserliness, a bearded man dressed royally,
alone atop a treasure trove, his children and former lovers
elsewhere, in loving penury, without a thought
for dear old stingy dad. The two of swords: some duality
out of the past, a war - always - between reason and love, and
how much I cherished them both. An awkward young man
who loved casually, without forethought and almost
without reason, and the brain he was far too proud of having
to use responsibly.

Finally, we reach the one in the center, and once again
I am required to invest some of myself in this card.
I hold my hand on it and am asked to imagine what it might be.
It is the Hermit. Her favorite, she explains.

He means a journey, alone. How alone, exactly?
Under normal circumstances, alone is a metaphor.
One can be alone in spirit, being not understood.
But you and I have been having arguments, and so
the implication is not lost on me.

How alone? And what journey? And to what end?

I imagine them, these arcana,
major and minor. They are collected
around a coffee table, for their weekly tea.
The Hermit holds up a pair of worn sandals
and a volume of sad amateur poetry -
the price of certain journeys -
the Lovers, their backs turned to one another,
produce a pitiful summary of a joint bank account.
The High Priestess takes from her tea cabinet
a samovar full of old dried blood, and pressed flowers
(lilies and lovers’ thistles)
and they all laugh and laugh and laugh
because they are not mortal, like us.
Wade Redfearn Jan 2017
If eight years we labored
in canals and valleys and
on girders and then
for four years we spilled **** blood and
the Depression is lifted or
the depression is lifted
or not really.

America, your deep vein thrombosis
the size of a
lilywhite Toyota Highlander
You don’t make things anymore.
Your Marxists winter in the empty museums.
Your union halls belong to the company.
You ought to be Haymarket men,
bloodcleaned and ready for anything
but instead you workshop one-liners.

America you are afraid to love.
America you are afraid of medicine
and the medicine you do take,
bankrupts you.
America reset your passwords
and the twenty-year-olds will help you find a mate
we promise.

Do you feel how distant you are becoming from yourself?
Do you feel how words must
towards the things they stand in for
  like a silhouette
  like an ironic silhouette
  like a sketch
  like a mere shape?

I cannot be certain any longer. No,
really, I am losing that skill. I lose myself
in coffee cups dreaming of painted lips. My bedtime
stories are of Robespierre and Louis Ex-Vee-I; they
put me to sleep instantly. I can read this poem eighteen times
and never feel a thing. If nothing makes sense,
it’s because we decided we didn’t need it.

America do you hate
but not really?
America do you listen
but not really?

America,
  you’re trying to eat better
  but the poor and ruined in Missouri
  still chew on plyboard and drink flat Mountain Dew
  you want engineers but ******* to starlets

America,
  not one thing will satisfy you
  not any screen or voting lever
  your children wander supermarkets
  putting everything they find in a basket

America,
  give Louisiana to the French
  cede the Black Hills to the Sioux
  retreat into your telephones
  and remember Tippecanoe

America a voice
is singing from the past
and you would do well to listen.
Wade Redfearn Oct 2010
You have tried calendars, and
a house bedecked in post-its.
I know. Try to put a collar on time,
it sheds all over your furniture.

You think time is:
You think life is:
The sun goes down,
the dew comes up.

You think time is:
You think life is:
Two hours with a movie.
Four hours with an amusement park.
Six with a car ride.

You think time is
an anxious pet
fed and watered
who lives in the same house
and sleeps in a different bed
who sometimes needs to be let outside.

That is not what time is about.
Time is about
a rusty cabinet door that squeaks when you open it.
A squeak you never noticed before.
Time is about,
when you have piled enough leaves enough autumns,
your heart makes the sound of a spoon in a teacup,
and then where do you go?
Sweden?
Ask me.
Wade Redfearn Sep 2018
The first settlers to the area called the Lumber River Drowning Creek. The river got its name for its dark, swift-moving waters. In 1809, the North Carolina state legislature changed the name of Drowning Creek to the Lumber River. The headwaters are still referred to as Drowning Creek.

Three p.m. on a Sunday.
Anxiously hungry, I stay dry, out of the pool’s cold water,
taking the light, dripping into my pages.
A city with a white face blank as a bust
peers over my shoulder.
Wildflowers on the roads. Planes circle from west,
come down steeply and out of sight.
A pinkness rises in my breast and arms:
wet as the drowned, my eyes sting with sweat.
Over the useless chimneys a bank of cloud piles up.
There is something terrible in the sky, but it keeps breaking.
Another is dead. Fentanyl. Sister of a friend, rarely seen.
A hand reaches everywhere to pass over eyes and mouths.
A glowing wound opens in heaven.
A mirror out of doors draws a gyre of oak seeds no one watches,
in the clear pool now sunless and black as a cypress swamp.

Bitter water freezes the muscles and I am far from shore.
I paddle in the shallows, near the wooden jail.
The water reflects a taut rope,
feet hanging in the breeze singing mercy
at the site of the last public hanging in the state.
A part-white fugitive with an extorted confession,
loved by the poor, dumb enough to get himself captured,
lonely on this side of authority: a world he has never lived in
foisting itself on the world he has -
only now, to steal his drunken life, then gone again.

1871 - Henderson Oxendine, one of the notorious gang of outlaws who for some time have infested Robeson County, N. C., committing ****** and robbery, and otherwise setting defiance to the laws, was hung at Lumberton, on Friday last in the presence of a large assemblage. His execution took place a very few days after his conviction, and his death occurred almost without a struggle.

Today, the town square collapses as if scorched
by the whiskey he drank that morning to still himself,
folds itself up like Amazing Grace is finished.
A plinth is laid
in the shadow of his feet, sticky with pine,
here where the water sickens with roots.
Where the canoe overturned. Where the broken oar floated and fell.
Where the snake lives, and teethes on bark,
waiting for another uncle.

Where the tobacco waves near drying barns rusted like horseshoes
and cotton studs the ground like the cropped hair of the buried.
Where schoolchildren take the afternoon
to trim the kudzu growing between the bodies of slaves.
Where appetite is met with flood and fat
and a clinic for the heart.
Where barges took chips of tar to port,
for money that no one ever saw.

Tar sticks the heel but isn’t courage.
Tar seals the hulls -
binds the planks -
builds the road.
Tar, fiery on the tongue, heavy as bad blood in the family -
dead to glue the dead together to secure the living.
Tar on the roofs, pouring heat.
Tar is a dark brown or black viscous liquid of hydrocarbons and free carbon,
obtained from a wide variety of organic materials
through destructive distillation.
Tar in the lungs will one day go as hard as a five-cent candy.

Liberty Food Mart
Cheapest Prices on Cigarettes
Parliament $22.50/carton
Marlboro $27.50/carton

The white-bibbed slaughterhouse Hmong hunch down the steps
of an old school bus with no air conditioner,
rush into the cool of the supermarket.
They pick clean the vegetables, flee with woven bags bulging.
What were they promised?
Air conditioning.
And what did they receive?
Chickenshit on the wind; a dead river they can't understand
with a name it gained from killing.

Truth:
A man was flung onto a fencepost and died in a front yard down the street.
A girl with a grudge in her eyes slipped a razorblade from her teeth and ended recess.
I once saw an Indian murdered for stealing a twelve-foot ladder.
The red line indicating heart disease grows higher and higher.
The red line indicating cardiovascular mortality grows higher and higher.
The red line indicating motor vehicle deaths grows higher and higher.
I burn with the desire to leave.

The stories make us full baskets of dark. No death troubles me.
Not the girl's blood, inert, tickled by opiates,
not the masked arson of the law;
not the smell of drywall as it rots,
or the door of the safe falling from its hinges,
or the chassis of cars, airborne over the rise by the planetarium,
three classmates plunging wide-eyed in the river’s icy arc –
absent from prom, still struggling to free themselves from their seatbelts -
the gunsmoke at the home invasion,
the tenement bisected by flood,
the cattle lowing, gelded
by agriculture students on a field trip.

The air contains skin and mud.
The galvanized barns, long empty, cough up
their dust of rotten feed, dry tobacco.
Men kneel in the tilled rows,
to pick up nails off the ground
still splashed with the blood of their makers.

You Never Sausage a Place
(You’re Always a ****** at Pedro’s!)
South of the Border – Fireworks, Motel & Rides
Exit 9: 10mi.

Drunkards in Dickies will tell you the roads are straight enough
that the drive home will not bend away from them.
Look in the woods to see by lamplight
two girls filling each other's mouths with smoke.
Hear a friendly command:
boys loosening a tire, stuck in the gut of a dog.
Turn on the radio between towns of two thousand
and hear the tiny voice of an AM preacher,
sharing the airwaves of country dark
with some chords plucked from a guitar.
Taste this water thick with tannin
and tell me that trees do not feel pain.
I would be a mausoleum for these thousands
if I only had the room.

I sealed myself against the flood.
Bodies knock against my eaves:
a clutch of cats drowned in a crawlspace,
an old woman bereft with a vase of pennies,
her dead son in her living room costumed as the black Jesus,
the ***** oil of a Chinese restaurant
dancing on top of black water.
A flow gauge spins its tin wheel
endlessly above the bloated dead,
and I will pretend not to be sick at dinner.

Misery now, a struggle ahead for Robeson County after flooding from Hurricane Matthew
LUMBERTON
After years of things leaving Robeson County – manufacturing plants, jobs, payrolls, people – something finally came in, and what was it but more misery?

I said a prayer to the city:
make me a figure in a figure,
solvent, owed and owing.
Take my jute sacks of wristbones,
my sheaves and sheaves of fealty,
the smell of the forest from my feet.
Weigh me only by my purse.
A slim woman with a college degree,
a rented room without the black wings
of palmetto roaches fleeing the damp:
I saw the calm white towers and subscribed.
No ingrate, I saved a space for the lost.
They filled it once, twice, and kept on,
eating greasy flesh straight from the bone,
craning their heads to ask a prayer for them instead.

Downtown later in the easy dark,
three college boys in foam cowboy hats shout in poor Spanish.
They press into the night and the night presses into them.
They will go home when they have to.
Under the bridge lit in violet,
a folding chair is draped in a ***** blanket.
A grubby pair of tennis shoes lay beneath, no feet inside.
Iced tea seeps from a chewed cup.
I pass a bar lit like Christmas.
A mute and pretty face full of indoor light
makes a promise I see through a window.
I pay obscene rents to find out if it is true,
in this nation tied together with gallows-rope,
thumbing its codex of virtues.
Considering this just recently got rejected and I'm free to publish it, and also considering that the town this poem describes is subject once again to a deluge whose damage promises to be worse than before, it seemed like a suitable time to post it. If you've enjoyed it, please think about making a small donation to the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund at the URL below:
https://governor.nc.gov/donate-florence-recovery
Wade Redfearn Jul 2018
the green and waxy confusion is your cape and covering
topaz wings strum and flutter,
branches snap
beast and bug
geranium and dogwood
woodear spore and wolfsbane
flower and firm hedge
all wear goosebumps:
the whole army of generation, the waft and release
ready to conceive, to love and make root
to spill and ****
daylight, moonlight
well-fed and hungry
west and further west

a brush against your thigh flattens you
climbs your spine like a curse
robes you in purpose
to be and be alone

there you are: croucher, scuttler,
position known only to yourself
subclade of womankind
treasure in your soul
(in purses and pouches;
taking in, taking in)

it is private here and musty
you own your hands, your knees,
the dirt under them both,
the roots beneath that,
everything on the wind and below the blue sky
everything dark, and everything light:
kingdom of your own discovery
shroud and mountain and cache of mystery.

A door far away slides open
an echo of busy house, busy bones on the air.
Something in the oven.
Something in the heart.

What is the voice calling?
Who wants you home, child?
And if home is a warm meal, a bed,
a bath, a glass of milk,
a known touch,
then do you own your skin?

Aren't you small and lonely?
You are not.
Wade Redfearn Feb 2010
Underwhelmed with modern magic, I let myself be taken
to a party on a strange night.
Like you, I let my lips whisper abracadabra and
kept my fears in one subtle hand.
Like you, I wanted to vanish the crowd
under a napkin -
to palm everyone into a cup under the table,
leaving a beaming new face - radiant eyes and unfamiliar tricks -
to abandon all the showmanship
exactly where it belongs.

And when all the faces peeled away to
a lively midnight wilderness
you were there, a magician
and prestidigitated into smoke and mirrors
every artifact of doubt.

There is nothing I would like more than
to have a drink with you
to have a cigarette with you
to have anything at all with you
and learn your secrets:
A longing for names unmentioned and eyes still incredulous,
and a reverence for fairy dust.

Watching the room empty,
hearing the soft chatter of their private marvels
we are alone, as we ached to be,
here, to tell our secrets, and they are these:
we are in discord with love
skeptics, so unfit for
the careless faith and
grasping vigilance of hearts our age.

Now, in this cabaret,
"goodnight" is ensorcelled into a curse, and
"come with me," a necromancy uttered
to give to dead hopes new dimensions.

Here, I would read every book under the sun,
work my fingers into knotted idleness,
believe in every fantasy
to learn your secrets.

Under the snowfall, we kiss like Chinese rings
but you know as well as I do
that quick enchantments are a thin fable,
and instant magic does not exist.
Just ask me
Wade Redfearn Jun 2010
A little known secret of actors:
you can force yourself to cry by
simply thinking about how badly
you want to.

Here's how it's done.

Start with fertilizer. Remember how
you felt that first year you
did so excellently at school, all-year
struggling and so devoted, woke up
Christmas to your mother's purchase,
eager for sugar plums and hedonist
things, ripped merrily into math workbooks.
The seed comes next, budding in the
open tunnels of self-worth - when
he told you that the thing you were
best used for could be done by anyone, really,
the oldest profession, and how you
liberated your oils on canvas long exiled
to make a scene of Rahab and Joshua,
and cried yourself away on alien bedding.

Water it all in whatever leaves the garden hose.

When they whistled without a name.
When your first time hosting supper was a catastrophe.
When you failed to keep certain things alive.
When the housecat burrowed in your warm
motor, and you just wanted to leave so badly.

Funerals of people you never knew, and
bugspray in your eyes.

One neglected message stays: anyone can cry.
Wade Redfearn Jun 2010
On my bed night after night I
sought him who my soul loves, I sought him
but did not find him...

I sought this morning
a handful of domestic tools.
I raked, I shoveled, I let fly
a gust from my mighty
two-stroke gas blower, which
shuddered to death in my hands,
before all of the leaves reached
the end of the ******* driveway.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem
that you do not awake my love until
the motor has had a chance to cool off,
or you might flood the engine.

David was anointed with the
oil of myrrh and cassia. My wrists
are caked in Havoline from
1998. Solomon ate banquets,
loved Sheba, three hundred
concubines and boats of perfumed wood.

Ramen at lunchtime. Sixty yards of two-by-fours.

If I never resemble a king,
let me sup of television dinners
let me work my hands in the valleys
of a clogged fuel line, let my bed
fill with the twin odalisques of
leisure reading and ***** sheets,
and give me never three hundred concubines.

And if I go about the city at night,
pleading with the watchmen, have they seen
she who my soul loves, let them answer:
"There."

The driveway is clean, now,
all the leaves left at the end to rot,
or be swept away.
Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Mar 2010
When I first sold myself there were
black cottons, brass buttons, iron crosses, steel machines
All the marks of war
All that searing heat
With all that pretty malice
Spilling Paris in the street
‘Twenty marks’ I called
‘Twenty marks’
That was 1943
And Piaf was doing well

Nurse, do you know what it is like:
To have a man inside of you
that you could never love?

There was, once upon a time, a pretty little ****
black cottons, brass buttons, iron crosses, steel machines
Lying on my floor
And Maman was starving, and my sister, too
Dignity wasn’t half the tax it seemed before
He gave me a baby, and a disease,
That was 1944:
Piaf was quite successful, then

Doctor, can you fathom:
Having sores all over you?
Yes, down there, and
all up and down your thighs, your body burns.
Can you feel that?

Then, the Germans left, and the Allies came, all
black cottons, brass buttons, iron crosses, steel machines
All of that decor
Fleeing, running out
On the French horizon
Retreat
The Allies were the same
‘Three dollars’ I called
‘Three dollars’
That was 1945:
Piaf was languishing
Paris had died

Jacques, my dear:
Those were our times
smoky cabarets, sculptured croons, fine wines
your rifle on your back could wind my morning with worry
and with my scourges, you took me all the same
but what I remember is:
black cottons, brass buttons, iron crosses, steel machines
then:

nothing

“Monsieur Boursin - she has passed.”

He sobs,
it sounds like
war.
Just ask me. Also, if anybody knows any more appropriate French surnames (read:one that isn't a variety of cheese), please, I invite your reaction.
Wade Redfearn Jan 2015
I wasn't ever made of anything,
anyways.

If I was, maybe I wouldn't be a crack
in the sidewalk,
maybe I would not be a puff of smoke.

I ate a lot of things in this life
to become nothing.

I ate a lot of power, for one thing.
Through my eyes like a fish.
And a lot of lesser bodies -
the mass is hard to work out
given a photon has none
and they've been passing through my skin
this whole time.

An old man used to show me the canals
and his hands were something.

A lot of grease I've never licked away.
A lot of moments I've never watched the water rise up.
I'm going to watch a lot of people go:
and so did he.

Someone is welcoming them all back
to the bottom of a drawer
with an old war photo
and biscuits and gravy
and all the ice cream they ever gave away.
I basically hope you'll forget the title.

Creative Commons: Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Mar 2018
What is the Rust Belt?
Can we define it?
   - on a map, we mean -
Can we circle in black marker,
topographical green and brown, one mound,
from Canada on down to
Kentucky and say
well, there -
America’s sore fingers in old age
floating, separate, in the pond,
white and knobbed and wrapped around something
a lever, the haft of an oar,
the tuning dial to twist to Cavalcade,
the body of the eel which just keeps swimming away.

You said it in a message -
“Rust Belt” -
and a great blank region was filled
by old poets in corduroy
better than their surroundings
and if not better precisely
then at least when they drink
they drink in bars like smokestacks
with hubcaps on the walls, with weak plumbing,
listening to conversations, not having them.

Rust is something I know well:
I feel rust (but I don’t wear corduroy).
Rust like a signal ingredient
all through the cupboards.
Shot through, something you have too much of
and could never want to write about.
Rust in this message, too.
Wade Redfearn Mar 2018
in silos in
the dead of winter
                     North Dakota
                     Nebraska
nuclear fire wells beneath our toes

you want it to be over and you don’t
normalcy hugs like a father, strong
stronger and taller than you
whatever this is, it holds you
like a sobbing lover
all ungentle tears and
no future

Does it speak? Can we learn something from it?
Like the best enigmas it says nothing
until you feel foolish for screaming.

You want the dead back
so you can grab them by wispy collars or weak wrists
and ask them “what the ****?”

Somewhere in there is a lesson
about trusting a bad year.
Wade Redfearn Mar 2012
Conception:
life fills itself with
life, to offer
more life

We make things out of mud.
Because we were made out of mud.

But you have to wonder -
Why the first should grow at all.

I want life to sleep in the palm of my hand forever.
Small as it always was.

Like a chick.
Like a good dream.
Like the egg
the snake comes in.
Wade Redfearn May 2010
Most mornings are not clear.
Most mornings are not the type with a
ten-state view from the top of
Clingman's Dome, and two very expensive
tanks of gasoline. You're welcome.

No, most mornings are battered
by some kind of weather condition -
rains and drizzles and nebulous fogs,
unhappy bedmates, a productive cough -
or else the sun just remits,
stays dozing until it has slept enough.

Then you get that gray sky-
chalkboard, the punitive slap of
humid cold on your early walks, your
coffee rendezvous. Then you have
too many garments at 3 because you put
on extra at 8. Morning, in short,
wishes you ill.

Be aware that if you were born
this century, you lurched into no
midwife's hands, full of love and wet, but
a surgeon's, gloved and powdery,
who spanked you firmly, knocked you
down with a commanding stare, and gave you
the first of many cuts you were to receive.

But for having woken up, let's say,
on the wrong side of the bed (if
even there's a right one), I would
like to think we've done alright,
are not too warm or upset at midday,
not too disappointed in ourselves, our moments
of astounding social gracelessness
that we leave like bits of sneaker in our wake.

Still, though, a question:
where grows happiness? Where sprouts
the silver trunk, the cypress or birch? Or
ficus or orange or ginkgo biloba? Tell me.
I would tap that tree 'til it withers, and die
under its trunk, and the two very expensive
tanks of gasoline it took
to get me where I am.
Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Mar 2013
"The one adjustment that makes a tragic thing bearable is a smile - however forced." **

You don't know.
All griefs are small griefs,
you would like to tell me,
with happiness' wind behind you.

You don't know,
I danced with those sati ladies
with my shirt off.
All griefs are insurmountable,
dangling at the end of infinite tines.
Your teeth reach out as your soul reaches.

And somewhere in the night,
somebody is using a dead man's voice
and wrapping himself in Christmas lights.

Grief for the father,
tears for the son.

The news is a lonely cube of ice
in my fevered mouth.
I swallow cold water.
Wade Redfearn Jan 2017
O'Hara benefits
because he can talk about Irún
about the Traversera de Gracia
about orange shirts, orange tulips
about statuary.

Us, we contented ourselves mostly
with a couch we bought too cheaply.
The only sound that could be heard at times
Was the protagonist speaking in some cable drama and
the children living upstairs.

Who said poets had to be well-traveled?
Who said love?

If I couldn't remember most of it
(if I still can't)
it is for the same reason that
I can't bring myself to write
thank you notes at Christmas.
Can't remember the art I've seen in museums
(even **** Descending a Staircase)
or anything that happened
before the age of fifteen.
Memory requires self.

But I, at a certain point,
was only the things we had done together, or the words I was speaking
that moment.

We lived in rooms and were with each other.
We had a bias towards the present.
We ate only because we had to.

If it was dull, it was dull. And if it was not, it was not.

The myth is that you love at all times. That you feel it.

The other myth is that love is acts.
Some people say that love will blind you, or that it is blind.

But some love is just
tenderness and groceries
or stories we had to remind ourselves
did, in fact, happen.
Wade Redfearn Dec 2017
Nobody opened the path out of darkness.

Scientists assembled - in a clean room in
New Mexico working tuition time -
a three-thousand megapixel sword
in the reflection of whose blade
we saw the bleeding comet
and, flipping the hilt in our hands,
saw it spark as it traversed the edge,
and from its position knew our place.

The universe instructed us to sing
and we refused. Instead we watched
its jaunty hand tick time away
and call for decrescendo.
We played with bombs.

If it all feels perilous, it is.

Watching the white face of the moon
for mushroom clouds
we rutted, and learned new recipes
and held out forks to one another saying
“taste”.

And when the fear has passed -
  which it will
  for the world is perpetual
  because we live in it -
it will be locked untouchable in the past
where fear cannot go.
The fear instead will be:
of the million flavours we have made
and fed each other, is any a part of us still?
Wade Redfearn Apr 2010
I received the news, this time exactly:
Nine-thirty-two in the evening.
A Saturday, the tenth of April.

Listen carefully:
run beside the surf, but know
the ocean is not your friend.
There is no smile in the way the waves
drown swimmers, the way they founder
mighty ships and save the sum of our loss
at the bottom, buried with the silt.
But could you so quickly hate the ocean?

Pain grooms itself, wants to be known
unsolicited, wants to steal away,
wants to bury its cold hands,
wants to wail but also to hush,
to quietly bristle in a bed of tar.
To wipe its face clean. To
seek love, and then to forsake it.

I cannot calm it - could never calm it.
I have no balm to blunt it.
We stem our grief as easily as blood from a wound -
hold your arm where the shell cut it,
on those sharp sands, and nurse it 'til it ends.
Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Oct 2011
There is nowhere to hold this, and it is heavy.

We drink coffee in white, square mugs
on the fifth ***** step.
I am sick and the coffee pinballs in my stomach.
You do not care about hydration.
You are covered in so much paint
you look like Matisse in a fender-******.
You look sore all the way down to your fingers.

The bed in the opposite room won't be yours,
but could be.

I lope around nauseous on the mornings
I don't work. I light candles that jump
with a stench of French Vanilla. Dogs bark
unholy early.
I tire of the anxious sleep of the newly living-there,
the newly living.
The loud neighbour,
the considerate neighbour,
the ******* dogs.

I open the bedside drawer.
No Gideon hotel bibles.
Condoms, picture frames,
instructions for a washing machine.
No Bibles.

Sometimes, I find it in my shoes - this envy -
or in my pockets.
And sometimes I drag it behind me,
like wedding cans on a bachelor's car,
filaments of grief and filthy broken dinnerware,
threaded cotton of towels
too often used without washing
and wine bottle bones.

And somebody once told me not to paint a
room in it, but this jealousy is sage, not lime,
and I could **** well sleep in here,
and sometimes do.
Wade Redfearn Oct 2017
Oh those bodies
on the museum walls
Tennessee Valley bodies and Los Alamos bodies
shining blackly like the stripe of a credit card.

The price of bread fixed at five cents
and we all eat it in slices.
Your name is your labour and
your labour your name.

I have disappeared into a country that doesn’t know me
and I am tearing it up with my teeth.

Oh those bodies
that were once slaves.
Were they pictured any other way
but in idyll or whipped dry?
The dusty Union regiments at Baton Rouge
have made a postcard of one scourged back;
they share it around and die for it.

I have a few postcards, too.
It is strange to see any man kneeling.

Oh those bodies
Cornbread bodies and bodies like a corn snake
crushed among the broad leaves of tobacco;
The ones in bone corsets and the ones
in reed baskets, floating downstream.
The ones in rosy marble and wrought bronze
the ones whose striped backs are coming out in wings
feathers pink and wet
like a new-hatched chick or a stillbirth.

Your body
is a tight machine of grief
packed into homespun like a fist
and relaxes in sepia as it never did in life,
a babe slung underarm and the food
only from cans; they keep the dust out.
Oh those bodies that tend the home, larder and ledger,
and reach for the high cabinets
and keep reaching.

The old voices are back at work.
I am not the one they are speaking to
but I hear them all the same.
They spread out a catalogue of wares
on a sisal blanket in the dark
and every price sounds fair, every garment lovely
unless you made it.

The country workman in bronze now and forever
with his rolled shirtsleeves; his body
raises a hammer and his bicep, mid-shiver
is always striking something, always building
Heaven, and Manhattan, from the foundations.
Stained glass his union flag
and Union Army blood he forgot or never knew.
The thin white arms of Andersonville,
meeting two generations hence, in his arms,
the dark scarred shoulders of the South.

Who brought forth upon the continent this new nation,
and who brought forth the ironclad Monitor
and who put into song the Maple Leaf Rag or Swanee River
and who put that soil there from which the cotton still grows
and who made your dress?
Who owes the debt and who records it?

You and I.

Oh those bodies swathed in light.
Oh those bodies becoming angels.
Bodies bound blackly
and bodies forgetting
which is what bodies do with injury:
they absorb, and they forget.
Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Jan 2017
Is that all it takes
to rob a body of its inner light?

Something lives inside there.
It needs no attire:
not gouged, not whole, not absent.

It is as present on a Sunday morning as a Saturday night.

Unlike holiness,
it stays in the world through seasons,
and requires no sacrament.

Like the numbers of the dead,
whose bodies held lives,
favourite subjects, foods,
loves, pets, remembered vacations. And then,
because the body is fragile,
they didn’t.

All it seems to take is a story, secondhand
and God is gone from this world.
Wade Redfearn Mar 2018
Asleep on your belly, or, alternately,
on your side, on me; the first night -
the first full night - with the promise of coffee
in the morning and not only allusions to it.

Your full weight on my thigh,
which I’d never tolerate in any night past,
but kept awake by the two scant hours
of partial sleep I had and admiration
of your neckline, the province of your back,
golden boughs embroidered under
thin hair
  part umber, part gold itself, cast on the pillow
your left hand
and its short fingers partially unearthed, nested
in a hillock of brown coverlet and blue curlicues,
opening and closing.

Hushed, I sip a drink and read a poem
as you murmur in sleep “yes”
to whatever invitation the one in dreams extends.

The one in dreams; he may be me. Gold from a summer
that has not happened yet, surer with a barbecue,
ready to paint a white thigh emerging from a sheet,
a better rendering than mine
  of the one spot you missed shaving.

He may be the husband of Scheherazade, prodding
one more story, one more night at a time.
You’ve a cobra in a willow basket.
It’s not a murmur. It isn’t “yes”.
It’s a gourd flute the land of dream gave you,
and I am not
the servant of the realm, or gold at all,
or worth my silk curtains. One thousand or
one thousand one; I can’t change,
not overnight.

I won’t know, nor ask, but
the snake isn’t transfixed.
It’s only waiting.

One day, I’ll appear in print.
The small merchant in Barataria
with whom Sancho Panza speaks.
You’ll describe those sheets
or some such other linens I have for sale -
an intimate detail of my home, returning the favor
of having appeared here. It will win a prize
you never knew you were competing for and
a dozen men in memory will whistle down “yes”.
Wade Redfearn Feb 21
Look what rises out of the sea
a land like a footprint filling with water
devoted sun circling into view, the mist-eater
scalds the coffee *** on the stove
hissing at its hot pedestal
and how much life is before you,
hidden in the bushes.

What are you that you are not changed?

A wet-eyed bird feeds its sharp beak
into the ground and comes up wanting.
The sea is full of chandeliers and sled dogs.
A girl walks, smiling, with an arm around
her dead grandmother, herself young,
and slyly kisses her cheek.

What are you that you are not changed?

All of the bees are dead.
All of the usury has been forgiven.
All eyes meet eyes across the room.
All we want is a mug of cocoa.
We all go on seeking.

What are you that you are not changed?

Joy comes from a bag, where you placed it.
The noise of paper drawn out and carefully flattened
reminds your fingers of their curious dryness.
If it comes from love it must have a source in you.
You are not a character. You are a pearl on a desk.

What are you that you are still here?

A train goes on through the dark,
between ****** old mountains,
foothills, really, and inside
every compartment is its own bowl of amber.
A rattle of track passes through any
foot flat on the ***** carpet.
A little chill. A little peace.
Every passenger reads a book,
and every passenger waits to sleep
with their doors an inch ajar.
Wade Redfearn Feb 2010
she spoke to me, on the daffodil sweetness of the pasture
while the grasses, waving, muttered their moist message on the wind
of rot, and renewal,
(but hold your lips, be still for an explosion of intimacy, for a moment)

'Are those a constellation?' she asks.
"The Pleiades."
'You don't know that.'

she doesn't care where the car begins, exhaling gently, to stop
and she commends its forward motion
(the keening love of a sodium light
and forgetfulness in every bone of my body)
I love the thrum of it, below my feet,
murmuring vibrato in the pedals.

They have a Huck Finn cave display at Disneyworld. In Adventure Island, or somewhere, or one of us, deep in the vastness of spines and fingers.

Its fiberglass walls are a portrait of America -
the glean of dew a reflection of that spirit
that drove us over the borders, the rivers, to Oregon,
so we could love under a naked moon,
and renounce our lives of glee, and security
for the bright unsettled plantation of the starless fields.

'You don't know a constellation from a cloud of dandelion seeds.'

But oh, my relentless pioneer love, I do - I know a constellation
is made of stars, and rough determination, and I know that,
love is a today thing, and we are yesterday people
that pain is tomorrow, and we will always be children of the dusk preceding
destined, dear, to find our love receding

Are you prepared, or will the wilderness this time swallow you?
Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Feb 2010
I've said before that what matters is
never the size ofyour ink budget,
the fact that you can run thirty minutes
at a stretch on a featureless track or your
special attachment to decorative BIC lighters
but a kind of mute complexity
that turns suspended spirals
in the water of your soul

I want you to be at times a tempest
and at others a trade wind, staid and insistent.
I want you to lock eyes with stars through the ceiling.
I want to see a look in you that says they have returned it.
I want to see your eyes recede into a place
no reassurance can reach, eidetic and dense.

Send your mind to hell by mail
but come back when the post goes out
put your cheek at the root of my neck
and tell me that it's getting late,
and aren't you tired?
Just ask me if you want to do some funny business with this.
Wade Redfearn Mar 2010
See that little match-stick,
see that candle there?
See that hard-worn photograph
taken for a year?
Take them punches, boxer-girl!
Much to your chagrin,
it comes back in equal part -
hard and deep within.

Consider bonds between us heat.
And fuel, the time we spent
sleeping close in tousled sheets -
a sky towards us, bent:
gray and cloudless, quick and fleet.
Candle-flame is meant.
to take those memories, and to eat
the message that you sent.

Photo attachment 1: You, him - bottle of Cointreau. Bite marks on your thigh like only I should have left! Grass (both types), a camera. Wrestling. ******. ***.
Photo attachment 2: You, him: carousels, cloven-footed balloon-man (whistling high and wee). Hot dogs. Ocean. Wrestling. ******, ***.
Photo attachment 3: There was something about a penguin… and there was cake involved. Polarbears - must have been a zoo. Causing me to mope at the keyboard: wrestling, ******. ***.
Photo attachment 4: It’s really just *** now.
Photo attachment 5: Please stop.

Shouldn’t be so callous:
that password is personal.
I shouldn’t really have it,
Well, this is what I get for exploring the caverns of iniquity
(that’s slang for your hard-drive),
***** little …
I can’t … cuss you out.

All photographs marked 10/18/07 for devastation.

Now, this thing has ended:
sad, though brief and gleeful.
We were consumed by happiness, never sorrowful
and nothing meaningful;
everything beautiful, nothing painful.
Princess, that work was masterful -
breaking that, making great things hurtful.
But worse still?
I can’t hate you.
Just ask me.
Wade Redfearn Oct 2011
A message to the boy minding the pastry,
one finger in each the webs
of cosmic lust and mercy,
waiting to be told it is fine to want
the best for everybody:
It is fine. It is fine.

What are you?
Were you born here?
No, I was born on the banks of the Seine,
beside the boneyard of the nameless,
in the pits of Delhi with
the blood of roosters on my toes,
***** who pecked one another
to their entrails because the
colony of the living sunrise was
shrunk to a pocket of feathers and fire
by some wire, wood, and staples.

I was born in the Academy of Athens,
where Socrates made salsa with hemlock
and danced into a dialogue,
because the grocery habaneros were all too tender,
and St. Augustine could offer no alternative.

Never forget - we were born to unfairness;
unfair as long as our appetites differ,
or we exhaust sooner than one another,
or we grip one another differently and come at different times.

The only person less fair than me is God.

But my justice - that is perfect,
like my voice, which has none of a gavel's
authority. Or my heart: which was manacled by giants
and sentenced to be pecked by a flying poem, a girl
with hair she won't comb, a song about Jerusalem.
Fair. **** fair.

I am fair as long as I can wait, quiet -
silent as the sand, sunburned and happy,
to be drawn into
that kindness, the Atlantic - - -
the flip and twist of the sea.
Wade Redfearn Apr 2012
in the morning
comes a little mist
creeping bowlegged
thick as flies

You breathe & drink at
the same time
& you pretend not to
find the white lines
and safety wire
useful to build yourself by.

the clock hand points along
you lay something down
to remember your way back -
a statuette of a little mouth
Speaking the name
That you forgot you had

Day rises.
You remember what you are.
You talk to god as-you-know-him.
You stand in a basin of beads and sand.

and you sink & you sink & you sink
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