Tag Archives: language

Anti-Vacation

I ran, but reality hunted me
all the way to a remote beach in North Carolina
where, in the widest water of the world,
a mother lost her child.

No, I was not safe even there
where I sank down into the sand,
a body yearning for early burial,
my hands swirling in the tide pool like
slow fish.

Peace and quiet.
These were the two words I held in my mind like a prayer,
a plea against gunfire and terrorists, trucks and Trump,
racial tension and the raping of women.
For a week, I wanted to be spared
the horrors of humans.

But the mother howled and howled like an animal,
fell to her knees in the surf and let loose
the ghosts in her throat.

There are no safe spaces left to us.
No movie theater, nightclub, city street,
no concert or lazy beach.

There is no vacation from our histories
and bodies and endless thoughtless
tragedies. They follow us everywhere,
like the eyes of a cat in the dark.

It became a story in my head then.
Where was the beginning, middle, end?
The narrative arc? The climax and resolution?
This woman could not stand on the shores of my mind
screaming forever.

I needed closure.
I needed the story.

So I turned back – because I had to know –
did she find her daughter?
Was this an ending I could live with?

How horribly selfish of me,
how innately artistic of me
to make this all about myself

but even the sun beat down like the eye of God,
because He too needed confirmation:
was this His fault?

There is no vacation from the horrors
that creep in every corner
like rats and fleas with black death
in their teeth.

The story goes like this:
she found her daughter.

But long after they were gone
I stood looking out into the dark water,
trying to make sense of its coming and going

and to find some word of comfort in the cries
of a single seagull circling
overhead.

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Primary Education

As a child I often sat in the bathtub with my mother
where, with the tips of her fingers,
she would trace each letter of the alphabet
on my back.

What’s this one?
P. No wait, it’s O.
That one’s an E, I think,
and the next, when you lift your finger,
must be a T.

And then it was her turn to guess
the letters I drew upon her
and to uncode the secret messages
when they were strung together:
This is fun.
I love the alphabet.
I love you.

It was an ancient kind of magic,
mother and daughter breathing water vapor
and learning to become
one again –

mapping language on each other
until touch dissolved into letter,
dissolved into alphabet,
dissolved into soap.

One tap to the spine and
my mind was my body,
my body was my mind

and my skin shivered to read letters
in a way my eyes couldn’t.

It was as if she knew, somehow,
that I would need this knowledge –
that, like a blind person, I would need to feel
the alphabet as braille against my skin

and to know the shape of language,
and to translate that shape into story
and to know exactly what the touch of a finger
means.

Existential Crisis Over Coffee

Over coffee, my best friend and I contemplate the universe.
Between sips, the questions spill:
“Why are we here? What’s the point?”

“Why does it matter that I paint and you write poetry?”
“For who? For what reason?”

I have no answer to offer, only an unfounded faith
That the human experience is a story, one worth telling,
One with plot, design, commentary – in tender hands,
Beginning like petals of a flower unfurling
And ending with a broken stem, snapped gently, with the kindest fingers.

They say there are sunflowers growing over Vincent van Gogh’s grave.
I can’t say why, but I think it’s very beautiful.

I watch as this poem writes itself,
My fingers along for the ride.
I don’t know why it matters,
Only that, somehow, it does.

vincent van gogh grave

Landfill

And this will be just

one more metaphor

in the pile of stinking

godforsaken metaphors

and I don’t even care

that I plucked this

out of the landfill

of cliches on the

corner of Poetry Lane:

you are my art

and you are slowly

killing me

the better

I get at you.