“Live! And have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.”

-gwendolyn brooks

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January 5, 2014 and we
have arrived in
North Philadelphia.
the first thing I notice
isn’t the black plastic bags
lining the blocks or the
Auspicious Coin Laundry Service
sign boxed in blue lights
but the way you don’t
seem to look at
me and the way I seem
to blend in with the
tan upholstery of the
passenger seat
even though I am
wearing a bright red
turtleneck,
coughing, asking
if this is where we are
going to live and practicing
pronouncing
K e n s i n g t o n.

mired in the habit
of saying everything I think
aloud without
expectation.
of tapping a finger on
my thigh. of checking
time, twisting a plastic
straw in my hand and
fading.

something building
in my chest;
emergent waves
pounding at the
sternum like
irate knocks
when they want to
be sobs then
fading.

“hypothymia”

“what do you do when something loves
you? do you love it back?

I’m volatile.”

it was a lush late morning.

the trees were budding. sparse still, but their leaves bright verdant where they were. no flowers yet but the idea of them drove me outside daily. the smell of jasmine and honeysuckle lured me, taunted me. who is who? they always smell the same. 

I am here and in my childhood backyard with my best friend licking the nectar from the vine that grew along my fence. turned to her, red-cheeked and ebullient, expectant, tiny hands pressed to the metal and tongue free. the way only seven years of age can be before the tongue is tucked bashful in body grown diffident with time.  today I am close to all of it but tempered from euphoria, resting in here; the sniffing of the white flowers, the squish of mud patches. I am here and a few other places. let my fingers trace the petals and sniff knowing her crown: jasmine.we walked  along long beds of clovers a short distance before stopping. to the side of us, skunk cabbage grew big and juicy glistening with last night’s rain. 

 I wanted to be an insect when I was younger. be in the smallest world. feel mud engulf me and writhe in its soft center, sink and hide underneath. feel steps above me. not shy but unseen.  wanting to be lost in a sea of green blades. to see these monsters the way they were meant to be seen. I always thought like that. what is the world from their angle? what do I look like stepping over, on, picking up with soft hand? like I wasn’t pint sized and shrinking already. like I wasn’t more criminal than that: predacious and intent on acting on it; squeezing first, then picking up the butter knife to saw the worms in half. 

we didn’t go far just far enough to stretch and get some use of ourselves. get out of the house.  take down our masks.  breathe freely in public.

“do you want to stop here?” 

 I squatted down in the center of a patch of dirt with roots protruding from a near tree. we were in front of a tiny creek with a log across. I could feel my knees crack. remember throwing the jasper in the stream.  things I can’t name are always lingering. they are felt like chords rippling from my center and always felt strongest when being cut.  a sudden electric vibration emits as they fall away and I am left holding one end, or rather, letting one end stay suckled to me. my making, I lament, the hook in mouth I fell for.  I picked up a stick and drew the R big.  I made a deal to write it.

R.
it was neat and cursive.
it could get rained on or walked
over, but there was my indent.
and  I stated louder.

“I call Lilith first.”

I looked up at my companion.  it is not austerity, it is commitment. loyalty is love’s true manifestation. I still have every recitation I’ve ever honored. somewhere, these things stay suckled to me like little violent chords I strum when people disappear. when I’m watching ceilings at night, I take my finger and I press. it is not austerity for honor but rather commitment to an end. the pious aren’t lonely, just waiting. 

we both laughed. we both laughed and I put the twig in my pocket. I still have some of my oldest recitations. shells from my first home. dirt from the catacombs somewhere (in a yellow bowl). got pieces of pieces grown quite lush like well drunk ferns. an oasis in my house I sip at night when the little violent chords get plucked one by one by one. I watch  the ceiling shade itself and touch the other end.  I call them one by one.

“the pious”

they say I talk too much
and I’m inclined to agree.
perhaps I’ll
sew my chapped lips shut,
show them the scorpion etched
on my shoulder
first and no one
has ever seen my childhood home.

but I’m compromised
by the simple fact I think
I might be a ghost so I’m
always checking mirrors
and calling 911, waiting for
the fireman to touch my arm.
they say
“your leg is not numb, ma’am.”

but I can’t be sure so I make
him touch it again.

one trick is never tell them
anything. I like my men
to think I wait in lonely
cave: ache
and pray for them.
palms clasped and reverent,
sort of rocking like that.
real southern too.
just sort of worshiping
the idolatry of shadow.
please.
they make me repeat it:
please. and thanks
for everything.


my men remember me
incessantly and always
cut out of starry dough:
soft, head half-cocked
looking up at them
with servitude but
sideways like I’m
about to laugh,
then me in my day skirt,
hair covered and
muttering.
candle lit or twenty seven
if I’m out of time.
devout.
pocket full of them.

what a violent question.

you’re sunburned,
gone for weeks without
inquiry and now
a wash of here:
forehead fervid,
a humid wind clasping
the back of the choker
while your left hand lifts
my skirt.
thighs are soft,
reminiscent,
it’s the skin that brought
you back, isn’t it?
what’s that?
you say,
looking at the blue and
black ring of shadow mouth
above my  birthmark.

it’s the way your jaw
bulges as you bite your
ocean tongue
that was just kept safe
and wet under me
before you begin to
pull the clasp rope
til the emerald center
pushes hard against  the
front of my throat
almost as if you are going to
bring the stone inside me
that proves it.
and please,

what a violent question,
love. 


“Five of Wands”

which helps me to
instruct myself.
better not staid;
better fitted to be flitting
from corner to corner while
bossing them around but
what I tell you is truly
inconsequential.

merely I am pressure
of depth and that I believe it
so
having told you first
with conviction, I begin again
to frame it.
legs crossed on the carpet,
hands out in imposition.
the wood mantle lit
and rearranged, objects
of sentimentality removed
so any backhand can’t
sweep it.

it’s important that my personal items
are kept away from the circle,
and maybe once I didn’t believe
but falling victim to your
own enchantment and
in such a way that you’re
riveted for entire minutes
by wax on the carpet
making meaning of the
sickle F shape; tracing it
with black, toasted fingers,
room wafting in the smoke
of rosemary,
you begin to care about
which stones are set and
things like that.
hands out:

first, you will be looking
up to notice
the sky dark but glittering
with stars
so the whole place
around you is lit up
and there are friends nearby.
I say this directly to the
picture jasper draped in the
thread of my necklace;
the glyph of Lilith.
and add a promising
hopefully,
as in with a little
upward inflection.

I got a pocket full of
them and I’m banking on
that so I say it twice
with anticipation:


ojala.

1.

consult the oracle again.wear what you want,
let these animals
control themselves
my tiny ball of citrine says
so
I put on my cat suit
and go for a walk
to catch tan
in the new big sun.

  it was a long winter
of regression, needs unmet
and anchored in self by
repression, lamps and
the length of
my ire stretched, permanent,
coming undone on your pillow
where you wept in peace
until I charged back in
costumed in tank.

I’ve blown the tea lights out;
my presence is altar.
sit naked in the eyeline of the fan and
spools of smoke from bamboo incense
crown my head.
I am showered,
manicured, my skirt is barely an inch of
fabric containing my
pubic bone or buttox
so they’re stuck to me
like sweat hot salt sticks
dripping down my skin.
I dab some tiger’s eye oil and
jasmine on my wrists,

brush their arms with
my nails, cut through centers,
stop absentmindedly to change song
and let their thighs press my thighs,
their forearms hit mine.
it’s the invitation I am waiting
for.  

there are
ambulances wailing
carrying victims of stroke
with blood rushing upward
forming an arrow,
fletching to the throat.
they feel the beat of wings
before they feel
my hands wrap their larynx
and the first thing they tell me

you’re full of secrets.

“catcalls”

you? you will know me by
the devil etched squarely on
my thigh and my ascetic
right arm twitching
for something to hold,
my left nail picking
at the scripture
In God We Trust,
circling a web on
my inner elbow,
now red
from the plucking.
my nails are unpainted,
filth-tipped and broken.

my clavicle is jutting,
as are my eyelids,
sharp  and
neck perched, gazing upwards
and down at you,
the long legs beaded with sweat,
tongue lolling,
panting,
you found me exhausted
and

watching it drip
from my lips
like little fits of rave
and fury; my concern
not being water,
or the saliva
leaking down my nail
as I try to hide the trail on chin,
but posterity:
warning.

I clear my throat again.
to let that portending
excuse me.
squeak.
I’m crouched, less than five
feet from this angle and
you invite me in.

“the women”

My entire life has been informed by the space between us. 

There is the distance of my language and there is the distance of my touch.  Across the room but glowing. The warmest I’ll get is further away. 

They’ve memorized the muscles of my back

my pout and the echo of my cry-filling cavern
carved by the sound of my heels tapping;
retreating. Longing, and the way I succumb to holding, or allowing touch; recrudescent and poxed by them after a period of silence. Tarred by them after a period of respite. Not long enough. A period of cavern. Them, memorizing the color of my shoulder blades in the sun: tall and olive and taut from tension. Desperate for the light of distance. Spoked.  Tall, and wrought with tension.

 I am strolling. I am even sauntering.  Til I see them, I am strolling, then nothing, then tunnel vision. Emptied, but not quite that: automatic. Spurred by instinct. The pervading eyes and I am (smiling) seeing the space close in around me again. Lifeless, watching the move of my hip go from enriched by dance to torpid.  Dragged by shell. 

I am a shell.

Clench your jaw. Tighten your shoulders.Hip goes from bouncing to dead frozen in nervous. (That means it might shake).  The way there was once twenty feet between us. Suck in and walk straight. Swaying til I saw them.  Don’t trip. Ticking from nerves, looked gaily upwards til I saw them. Don’t look.  A pleasant thought crossed me right before I saw them.  My most pleasant thoughts are false memories.
Reverie.
That means I imagined the most pleasant experience of my life. 

Suddenly there was ten feet (I am smiling), then five feet (in reverie), then one foot. Suddenly the hand on my shoulder, on my middle back, the ubiquitous trail
towards my coccyx.  He towers,

“you’re too pretty.”

  I am smiling. They are a huddled mass.. So many of them with their fingers out
filling the space between us. I am smiling. Smile. They are reaching for me–
trailing their uncut fingernails down my tucked in blouse
and there is nothing underneath or inside of me.
I am vacant but I can hear the chorus, from
my safe distance.

“You are too pretty to frown.”

“the men”

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