My Darling Belladonna

george-hiles-22356-unsplash

Photo by George Hiles on Unsplash

My Darling Belladonna

In my garden
there is a toxic plant
with an exotic name
I can’t remember

I bet it rhymes with
your name

nourished by my
infatuation

returning only the
burning pin-pricks
of your nettles.

I may be mistaken,
or perhaps even
misremembering
the flora, for it

may have been foxglove,
as the buds were
bell-shaped
like a summer dress.

I’m no botanist,
though I do recall the
breezy cotton
that clung to you,

complementing,
wicking the glisten
that occasionally beaded
upon your skin.

But enough about
my envy of your dress
and my craving for
your poisonous berries.

Perhaps it is best
that I don’t tend garden,
allowing the natural path

to be overgrown,
observing with a reverent,
passive joy

and suppressed yen,

especially
since I struggle
to know my foxglove
from my nightshade.

Besides,
I’d be done in
by your pollen

long before
the toxins took effect.
***

A Contemporary Fiction

steve-roe-674999-unsplash

Photo by Steve Roe on Unsplash

A Contemporary Fiction

I wanna be able to
walk away from folks
like anime characters do,
ya know? Like, not even

wasting energy
on words like
“I love you,” or
“Goodbye forever,” or, or,

or, “I never wanna see you again.”

Somewhere within that spectrum, ya know?

Because regardless of where
you fit on that scale,
you should already know it,
ya know? Where you stand…

Without me needing to spell it out to ya.

Yeah, I’d leave the scene
with an unhurried gait and
a stoic, hardboiled heroic
Hemmingway protag expression

poker-facing what lies beneath the surface
where it’s clear that I’ll cherish the bones of you
till it causes my own bones to perish,

aching at your absence
or reluctance to stare into the heart
of this shared melody with me.

But just glimpsing my
flatlined visage spin on its heel,
about-facing into
the shadow of what was

would reveal to you a context
not easily decoded by layman outsiders
who cannot hear the song
that splits me to the bone

as I am undone by the truth
that offers no solace in the fact that
sometimes love isn’t enough.

We could really lean into the cliché
and have it be a twilight summer rain
sound-tracking our final parting,

as if nature herself weeps on behalf of
eyes too composed to cry for our own loss
as our last sliver of daylight
gets doused in westward skies,

the wind billowing, blowing
long flowing garments,
disturbing locks of hair
in wild contrast to personal stillness
and economy of movement,

slowly creating distance between us
until we could scarcely hear parting words
even if we wanted to
breathe them into existence.

Ya know? Just like anime characters.
***

Day 24 – Elegy of Beloved Disputes

20180424_164943

View from my livingroom  window. (Ignore the trash bins and the ugly Hooptie. It’s my son’s fault they’re in the picture.) 

Elegy of Beloved Disputes

The path beyond my garden
leads to my favorite tree,
bursting with flowers that
remind me of you and

it occurs to me that
you would’ve marveled at
my sweet-scented tree if you
were still alive to smell it.

The sudden reminder of
your absence steals a breath
or two from me, and then
I laugh at the absurdity.

Asthma took your laugh
from me permanently.
It is an affliction
of the lungs, you see?

Had you lived long enough to
fill your lungs with my
beloved tree,

you’d have sided with Wifey,
demanding its removal.

I don’t like confrontation,
but I’d like to think I would
have enjoyed that argument.
***

Every morning on report card day, from kindergarten to third grade, momma would sing this song to me while I was eating my cereal. It was hilarious. It was terrifying. I fucking loved it. 

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 24 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy – a poem typically written in honor or memory of someone dead. But we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy that has a hopefulness to it. Need inspiration? You might look at W.H. Auden’s elegy for Yeats, which ends on a note suggesting that the great poet’s work will live on, inspiring others in years to come. Or perhaps this elegy by Mary Jo Bang, where the sadness is shot through with a sense of forgiveness on both sides.

I’ve written elegies for both parents, and both of my grandmothers passed away last year, so I wasn’t exactly eager for this prompt. Still, I couldn’t resist the challenge of adding some hopefulness to a poem about loss. Best to keep it short though.

Day 22 – Myth of Stillness

Myth of Stillness

The path beyond my garden
belies the lies unlearned in time

as if the stars cannot
rearrange themselves in the sky
for us; as if

they, you and I,
all known things
aren’t in constant states of motion,
learning and unlearning.

Stars coalesce, are born,
then die and scatter,
its matter mingling with matter
from other dead stars,
coalescing into newer,
denser stars,

the cycle renewed in timelines
beyond our real-time observation.

Our sun is at least
a second-generation star
in this manner,
and the world of me and you
thrives on its energy.

This is how you and I came to be,

and yes, we are
but sentient star remnants
in constant motion.

That’s how you and I
came to coalesce.

It takes four years
for the light of the next
nearest star to reach
the solar system of
me and you.

The twinkle we shared when we first met
began its journey way back when
you and I were still clinging to
dying systems separately, orbiting
resentment and dysfunctionality
until implosion.

And yet for that random twinkle to mingle
with the twinkle in our locked eyes that night

as we danced to Earth, Wind & Fire,
the elements conspiring us to groove together,
shifting constellations of past lives,

don’t you dare tell me that me and you
didn’t move the stars themselves to
make this fusion happen.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 22 prompt:

I’ve found this one rather useful in trying to ‘surprise’ myself into writing something I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. Today, I’d like you to take one of the following statements of something impossible, and then write a poem in which the impossible thing happens:

The sun can’t rise in the west.

A circle can’t have corners.

Pigs can’t fly.

The clock can’t strike thirteen.

The stars cannot rearrange themselves in the sky.

A mouse can’t eat an elephant.

Happy writing!

I feel like I cheated a bit, as the stars are in constant motion, but this motion is mostly beyond our limited powers of perception, but hey, it counts.

Day 4 – Black Thumb’s Mercy

katya-austin-554633-unsplash

Photo by Katya Austin on Unsplash

Black Thumb’s Mercy

The path beyond my garden is knotted and
frayed at the edge where our overgrowth tumbles
onto boundaries between us and them.

No major action taken thus far by us,
the current owners, to curl back the
photosynthesized nonsense from the
well-manicured landscape of our neighbors

– that is, outside of
assassinating a few weeds

– well, wifey does that part,
as I’m fortunate enough to have
asthma’s hacking fits, and the man-child
who still honors us with rent-free company

over-promises and delivers but a
lukewarm token hack-job, earning him no pay.

Best leave killing for the pros, anyway.

No matter though, as wifey has enough
murder in her heart for thugged-out weeds,
shriveled plants that were once treasures, and
even the poor trees guilty only of being

rooted in the wrong place at the wrong time, as
she hacked down the sturdiest foliage planted
too close to home to be considered safe

– actually, for this part she mostly
hired contract killers, but she may as
well had pulled the trigger herself.

While watching from the safety of the living
room, I successfully pleaded for the life
of the largest tree landmarking the edge
of our property with the biggest spring blossoms,

the sturdiest leaves that clutter the driveway
in autumn, and – basically, it lives as
the tree wifey swears at the most.

She spared this tree because I enjoy
looking at it from our living room window.

This slob-of-a-tree and a few Rhododendron
– or Azaleas, because Christ – put a gun to my
head and I still couldn’t tell the difference

– are all that remain from what was once a
thriving botanical garden of what wifey called
ugly plants that deserved to die.

But she spared my messy-ass tree, and
kindred spirits make for good company.

I bet the neighbors miss the previous
gardeners as much as the slain garden,

especially in the back yard, where it looks
like zephyr invited squall and tornado
to a rave, leaving behind pine-needle
confetti as neighboring trees litter
their dead-weight over the fence into our
yard in the form of broken branches.

They don’t know how lucky they are to have
been planted on the other side of our fence.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 4 prompt, and I’ll just quote the prompt from the site:

Today, we challenge you to write a poem that is about something abstract – perhaps an ideal like “beauty” or “justice,” but which discusses or describes that abstraction in the form of relentlessly concrete nouns.

This was easily my favorite prompt thus far. I don’t know if my effort measures up, but I relished the challenge.

Day 0 – Ode to my Dearest Portal

jordan-wozniak-256456-unsplash

Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash

Ode to my Dearest Portal

The path beyond my garden leads
to where asphalt kisses the sea.

I sit near the transition
and blow kisses effortlessly
to she who swims in
antipodean ocean
and backpacks in autumn outback,

shake hands with a man standing
in Swedish snow where winter
won’t yield easily to spring,

offer support and
love vicariously at
Vancouver seaport,

embrace a hug
in London fog,

swoon on Singapore island,
exchange dreams where eastern Europe
merges with Asia,

sharing tea, death poems,
and sunrises in the Land
of the Rising Sun.

Here within my cherished portal,
the sun always rises,
shedding light on new poetry
from brave, sharing souls
around the globe.

I’ve lived countless lives and loved in
ever increasing abundance,

touching without touch
via normal and long-touch,
swiping hearts and being swiped
while swiping-right and all directions.

Signals sent from points abroad
careen toward antenna,
out above atmosphere,
from satellite to satellite,

down through the thin blue into
receiver, decoded, delivered
to me via you; a device
designated both smart and phone,
but is actually neither.

Still, I’d never begrudge your
ostentatious designation,
as you have done well by me

in opening me to new poetry,
ideas, friends, and lovers
– platonic and fantastic.

And that you do all this astoundingly
half a decade past warranty,
makes me love you even more deeply.
** *

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 0 prompt, write a poem in the form of a love letter, to an object. Obviously, the object I chose is my phone, which takes me everywhere I want to be.

glopo2018button2
napo2018button1

My Phlegmy Valentine

Kratzenstein_orpheus

By Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein-Stub – Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein-Stub, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15686494

My Phlegmy Valentine

February’s second week
you are unwell, feverish
difficult, intransigent
unwilling to yield control

I bring you medicine
heat your soup,
soothe your fever
confronting your fight head-on

You are grateful for my patience,
remorseful for making life
much harder than it has to be,
missing the point completely

Your ragged breathing
is my lullaby
your phlegmy cough,
my action prompt
your sudden silence,
my panic button

When I am caring for you
it’s not an act of compassion
but it is the most selfish act
I can muster under pressure

I’ll work on my possessive streak
as soon as you’re well again
for now, I lead Eurydice from Hades
looking back as often as I need.
***

 

Kate and Edith Too

1200px-david_-_the_death_of_socrates

The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David

Kate and Edith Too

She was made mostly for me
harvested, fermented, distilled guarantee
she parts my lips and pickles me
bad is blinded, blended, bound as tamed

She was not made just for me
plucked, dried, rolled into opaque slips of a tree
weaponized vapor, she infuses me
heavenly scent, demonized flames

Together, will they be to me
what opium and hemlock were to Socrates?
I’d empty the goblet with boundless glee
no toxin could bind with sweeter degree

Together, we’ll be poetry
smoke and spirits consumed, transmuted, free
green dragon extract from our torrid sea
can a phoenix be drowned in poison? Let’s see
** *

Written for dVerse Poetics with poisonous plants, hosted by Bjorn. Others have contributed to this prompt here. I know I’m supposed to be taking a break from these prompts to work on my collection, but could pass on such an intriguing prompt as this? Is it still procrastination if I’m technically still writing? Probably, but I had fun so screw it!

Tuna Salad

barryterri

Momma and me, circa sometime in 1981-83, I think.

Tuna Salad

Wifey made tuna salad today and offered me some. I gratefully heaped a pile of it into a cereal bowl, but stopped short of eating. It was missing something. I diced up two hardboiled eggs and mixed them with the tuna salad. Much better, but it was still missing something. I sprinkled paprika onto the dish and tasted it. It was good, but one more thing was missing; Ritz crackers. Sadly, we were out of Ritz, so multigrain gourmet cracker nonsense had to do. I tasted, and was transplanted back to Chicago housing projects during the many times momma made this special snack for me.

grayer than most light
noon sky, counterfeit silver
I pocket the fee

Minus the Ritz, I had inadvertently made momma’s special way of making tuna salad, which on the surface, was probably unremarkable to most. But it was the one meal she made where I didn’t feel like a poor person while eating it. I could imagine all wage brackets having a tuna salad craving, and I imagined people from all walks of life savoring this delicacy in some fashion. It felt good to be on some kind of universal level with wealthy ones who enjoyed tuna salad occasionally.

clouds hide sky-scrapers
visibility is poor
to what lies beneath

I had always known I was poor, but it wasn’t a big deal because everyone I knew was also poor. We lived the same struggles, went to the same government check-cashing places, shopped at the same discount stores, ate the same public school free lunches, wore the same knockoff-brand clothing, and feared the same criminal element and/or corrupt, racist police shakedowns. I didn’t experience any stigma or shame for being poor until I began being bussed to the magnet school Beasley Academic Center. I have nothing against the school, as it was an expansive learning opportunity, but it was perfectly apparent to me that I was one of the poorer kids in attendance. Many kids were from stable, successful 80’s Cosby-sitcom-style homes. They wore Guess jeans, Genera button-ups, Nike, Adidas, Reebok, BK’s, you name it, and they always had the latest technological marvels like Walkmans, mini-synthesizers and etc…

rain bathed in streetlight
amber-hued menagerie
all will be covered

I recall being teased for many things; being shy (back then, nobody mentioned introverts as otherwise normal folks content to keep to themselves; we were “shy” kids who needed to be “fixed” so we would be more social like a “normal” kid), being a nerd (back at regular school, being a nerd just meant that I was smarter than the average sixth-grader or had greater intellectual curiosity than most; being a nerd at the magnet school – where I was rendered intellectually average due to all the other “gifted” kids being bussed in –  just meant that I was the funny-looking kid with the coke-bottle glasses), and being rather unfriendly and all too eager to throw hands for someone so tiny, shy, and nerdlike (if all you wanted was to be left alone, but others kept screwing with you, I suspect you would develop a chip on your shoulder as well).

But for all the random teasing, nothing left me as defenseless as being teased for bring poor. Being a shy nerd who fought a lot was in my DNA, and I owned all of that, but I had nothing to do with being born poor. I had no say in it. Those were cards I had been dealt.

sunshine reveals you
true colors rich, emboldened
the shade, deeper still

The hilarious part was that after three consecutive days of being teased, bullied, getting fed up and fighting back, and ultimately, losing said fights in overwhelmingly one-sided fashion, a teacher decided to counsel me. She wanted to “crack my shell” and find out why I was always so angry and depressed. She wanted to know what in my home life could possibly make me so enraged and isolated. It had to be something at home, right? Perhaps my mother was abusing me, or had boyfriends with boundary issues.

I never opened up, partially because at the time – though an undiagnosed schizophrenic initially losing her grip on reality – mom was the best thing going for me and I didn’t want any outsiders screwing that up by revealing her secret. Also, I never opened up, partially because I felt like asking for help was a sign of weakness, and I felt compelled to endure on my own. But mostly I remained silent because I couldn’t fathom why the teachers couldn’t see the bullying right in front of their faces and understand it for what it was. I was baffled at having to show them what was happening and having to explain why it hurt so much to have to endure it. So, I never did.

birdsongs vibrate moods
gathering for the ride home
we flock and migrate

I would bus home after a particularly rough day of being teased and bullied for wearing generic versions of Converse shoes and a Michael Jackson jacket only five years out-of-style. Sometimes mom would have tuna salad on Ritz crackers waiting for me. I don’t think she knew all that was going on with me, but I suspect she knew I was traversing a rough patch. She never asked about it, but she would talk with me, cracking corny jokes to get me to crack a smile and laugh a bit. She always succeeded. I don’t know if the tuna salad was her secret weapon, but it was often present while she was peppering me with corny jokes. I miss those jokes, as well as the sound of her laugh. But the tuna salad I accidentally made in her honor was pretty tasty.

bluest sky leans west
surrounding me with comfort
memories of you
** *

Written for Terri Ann Dawson, on the ninth anniversary of her death.

Longest Night Yields to Wolf Moon

earth and moon

Image source: https://science.nasa.gov/

Longest Night Yields to Wolf Moon

Knowledge,

for a time,

lagged behind us

on the longest night

when we would celebrate,

sacrifice animals,

indulge in wine, feast,

and flesh, ignorant of the science,

the moon’s tidal-shifting dance,

stabilizing the magical tilted trance

that allows for being,

for celebration, sacrifice,

indulgence, feasting, and

blissful ignorance.

 

Knowledge,

through exploration,

measurement, and study,

having long ago cast aside sheep skins and

rosy veils of ignorance,

reveal the illusion of

Sol’s seasonal retreats and returns,

our angles, no longer dangled,

steeped in superstition and myth,

but no less necessary for our

existence, and thus,

still worthy of celebration,

sacrifice, indulgence, feasting,

and heavenly knowledge.

 

And yet!

Knowledge continues

to reveal new truths,

unlocking doorways to cosmic realities;

the longest night, the redundant,

recurring, cyclical cycle of ending,

beginning, rendered trivial,

infinitesimal against infinite

intergalactic backdrops.

 

Knowledge stands before me

in this January doorway,

rendering me insignificant,

raising the curtain on liberation,

beckoning me to wonder at

what has yet to be unlocked.

I will feast upon her

in a drunken stupor,

all the while, a wizened man

howling at the new year’s Old Moon.

aaron-thomas-201016

Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

** *

(Mild nudity in video. Mildly NSFW.)

Written and shared for the prompt, Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Doorway(s), posted by Susan. Feel free to stop by and read other poet’s entry to this prompt

January is my birth month, which hasn’t held much significance in my life in quite some time. Susan shared some intriguing knowledge on January’s origin that compelled me to take another look at it. Per her entry:

“Door” is also the deepest root meaning of January:

 January (in Latin, Ianuarius) is named after the Latin word for door (ianua), since January is the door to the year and an opening to new beginnings. The month is conventionally thought of as being named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology, but according to ancient Roman farmers’ almanacs Juno was the tutelary deity of the month.

Pretty neat stuff! How could I not break the seal on 2018 and scribble a few lines after that?