Love is in charge of lightbulbs. Standing in darkness, unscrewing and screwing, licking filaments. I am in charge of seeing. I see the light through half-shut eyes. I see in the half-light. I see the door shut behind him. Love does not wash the dishes. Love remembers how to boil water, how to add oil, how to stir the pot. I am in charge of peeling the explosion from the ceiling, of returning what is missing to what has boiled over, of making a meal out of an abandoned kitchen. There are children who eat here. There are children who wear headlamps to avoid getting bruises. When we all sit on the couch in the light and eat warm pasta we are full.
My kiddos are still vacationing at nana’s spa & retreat. They return tomorrow, with nana! I had planned to spend all day writing poems to catch up with my napowrimo pledge. Various and sundry distractions (curse you, facebook, dumb dog, and kingdom of Crammond cats!) served to limit my productivity, but I did manage to write a 2nd poem. And who knows, there could be more…the day is young!
This poem was inspired by a prompt from Laura E. Davis’ blog. In a random act of poem choosing, I opened It’s Not You It’s Me: The Poetry of Breakup, and found “The End of the Affair,” by the late Steve Orlen. I (tried to) turn (most of) the words on their heads. I kind of like the new poem. I really love the prompt!
The Beginning of the Affair
They pick up their guns, back up, air kiss
for the first time, agree, as they will for a time,
to say hello, and enter the empty playground
by the same public entrance. No-one drives
away–on the same streets or on-purpose
opposite ones–suburban sidewalks
as indistinguishable as the feather-weight
of their first last embrace. His car lights left on.
Her car radio tuned to a different station.
Not one detail is perfectly arranged.
The sky clouds. Thunder distorts their words.
Somebody’s voice. Hey you.
This is not me. I want to say goodbye.
Some god pulls their strings like puppets.
I knew you were going to say that,
he answers in sign language.
One hand reaches for his gun,
one hand makes the sign for love.
I am so tired. I could sit on this couch all day with the kitten pressed against my thigh and do nothing. Fall asleep maybe with my head hanging to the side until my neck aches and I wish I had done better.
I spend most of my days wishing I had done better. Wishing I had picked the right man to marry. Wishing my hair were not so flat, not so soft, higher, lower, fuller, flatter, straighter. One thing I have always done right is I have never wished for curly hair. I will put it in your head to wish for curly hair, he tells me. And I shake my head. No. That is the one thing I will never do. Not even for a man.
The truth is, I have curly hair in my dark and frightening past. I sat in the plastic chair, draped in an ugly black cape and let the chemicals burn my scalp. I was the victim of permanent waves. I wanted a special curl, like the red head who wore the same blue gown to the prom. Spiral curls. But my hair wasn’t long enough for spiral curls.
Now I see even my refusal to ever curl my hair is a lame attempt at control. For I have messed that up, too.
From this day forward, I swear I will never have curly hair.
I will never again marry the wrong man.
I will only fall in love on a Saturday, and then only with a man who is worthy. He doesn’t have to have hair, curly or otherwise.
Where is the poem in this, I wonder? Is it in spending most of my life wishing I had done better? That is something to aspire to. To do better. Spending your days wishing you had done better is wrong. Like sleeping with your feet in someone’s face. Wrong. Pushing on a chin until your lover looks like a defiant child. You can’t make me.
So many 2s in this day. 2nd month. Two thousandth and twelfth year. Today I should do something that makes me a pair. I have always wanted to be a pair. I would be a sock if only the universe would promise I would never lose my mate. Even when I search for a list of all the animals who mate for life I am left with this sad truth: I will never be one of those animals. Never a swan or a gibbon, a black vulture or an albatross.
Maybe the murders of crows and the murmurations of starlings are in fact whole crowds of lonely birds searching for mates. The goose at the head of the V? Not really a leader, but the most gorgeous of the species, the one everyone wants to be with. They are not following that bird to a warmer climate, but home, wherever it may be. So finally, no-one has to be alone.
Invitation from My Father to Descend the Stairs Backward
The fire chief’s daughter
lifted her nightgown,
slid down the stairs
with one hand
over her mouth.
Slip out of bed,
drop to the floor.
to the landing.
The fire chief lit a wooden match,
set a cotton ball alight.
when he blew it out
and his daughter bowed
to the detector’s shriek.
Dreams of flames
eating the walls,
tongue of fire
swallowing her whole.
The monster beneath her bed
never bothers with claws and teeth.
The fire chief’s daughter,
when the sirens blow,
makes deals with the God of fire:
let me knot my sheets
than the flames lick
and you can devour my home.
first draft, rough draft…
and i promised my bff, the one and only carolee sherwood, that i would be a better blogger. so here i am. being a blogger. and here is the poem i wrote today. the poem that made me say to my poetry pal, if i can do it, you can do it. so do it.
I Do Not Want to Hang Around Forever in This Body
At the same time this thought appears like a ghost
in a dim hallway, I realize I have a first husband.
I can say that now. My first husband. My first wedding.
Until I make a date with Buddha it is unlikely I will stand
among the crowd at my graveside and whisper
“in my first body…” Talk is cheap
(not worth putting lip gloss on) when you’re a ghost.
If cats could talk. Like a Pharoh’s pet, could speak after they’re dead
would the three legged cat say, without pause,
when I had four paws. Lying in a hospital bed,
hand swollen with some infection (mersa, heartache,
instant karma), does the first husband answer the phone,
cover it with his goodbadhand, say to the nurse
(or the first new girlfriend),
it’s my first wife.
I was never comfortable winning
the race. When I am first,
someone is always second. Every loser gives birth
to a winner. I’m not in it to win it.
That’s the first thought I have after
I first understand:
I do not want to hang around in this first body forever.
i am not in love with the line breaks. and there are some words that need to come out. but it’s a drafty draft. like a window without insulation.
So I was reading an interview with a poet (Victoria Chang interviewing Allison Benis White) working on her 2nd manuscript. Her goal, she said, was being sure she didn’t just repeat herself again in book #2. I have finished the first draft of my first manuscript, though it is far, far from finished. I am already thinking about #2 and I am very conscious of not just repeating myself. Things have changed greatly for me in the past few months, so I’m hoping these changes will manifest in my work. Let’s hope…. (PS: thanks to my poetry mentor Kelli Russell Agodon for posting a link to this great interview!)
Marriage as Occupation
You will not realize you are at war
until the rubble is at your feet.
Moving will become impossible–
forward into the light
backward away from the king’s crumbling palace.
What you thought was the reception
champagne and cake,
tails and trains
are trains chuffing down the track
prisoners’ fingers mourning (doves’ wings) from the windows.
You are every refugee:
the woman in rags, babies threaded to her ratty side
the natty-haired man, a ghost behind the tinted glass,
that single small girl, moldy hand out for bread.
It will come as a surprise, the large envelope slipped through the mail slot,
the golden ticket to a new country.
You won’t remember signing up for the lottery.
When you arrive in the new world
tell everyone you are an explorer.
Explain that your ship crashed on the rocks
you have been swimming for days
your arms are tired, your guts waterlogged.
No one needs to know the truth:
you were not a prisoner
but a willing participant
lucky to have escaped
with your bag full of bones.