ah, a whole day of cravings
I curbed. feeling lighter
here.  drinking coffee out of
blue and yellow porcelain cups,
how it sustains and suppresses
an appetite: drinking a beverage
out of a beautiful mug as if
that’s all you’re right to hold;
a burst of anxiety.

I am cataloging
food as it relates to money.
the less I consume,
the more I save for
other things.
I do not tell my partner
how little I am eating;
merely thin myself
like I’ve always earned
to be a paper waif.
and just kind of
feather.

I realize that my bank account has
nothing in it for the third time in
my life. these are things that haunt
you as they stand,
not later.
the way you cradle the welcome
gift from his mother,
these dishes, these pots:
tangerine and carnation
yellow, and red bowls.
red plates.
you felt the edges of the sink and saw
something else in the townhouse.

you hated the stairs that cut through the center
but when he left
you loved the space,
and the backyard lined with
green safety fence,
chicken wire he held up to show
me, ways to keep the cat safe
inside.
these are things that haunt
as they stand.
I began to pluck out all
the crabgrass in the tiny
backyard by hand, no gloves,
appreciating how quickly
my skin callouses,
the encasement for my
straws today holding utility,
the parable of clearing;
the way you threw away the
windchime and its broken shells
littering the ground like it
meant nothing to you now:
a childhood emblem.


all the ways I’ve entered
contracts on a whim,
the things I’ve collected
and the interminable slam
as I show my thorns,
me. I’m beginning again
to talk to ghosts
in the corridor.

“doors #1”

only two days ago
your hands circled my throat
to toss me on the bed.
still dutiful,
merely dotted with color,
I am on my way
to pick up a bag of cutlery and dishes
for our house from the front porch
of a stranger’s
when I stop to admire the cracks
in the side of the building.
the wall is coral, faded but still
garish, stands out.
it’s brick and

this building has no doors and
one broken window.
each time I run an errand,
these defects catch my eye
and I pay my respects in
photographs.
I’m trying to get my memory back:
      stopping at each one,
trying to remember how the boulders
haunted too      how the ocean felt
on my wasted ankles at dusk when I guzzled
vodka Big Gulps and watched the
white crabs roam the bay.
watched myself dissolve into
the bits of me and can I remember
how the sunset looked draped over both
tide and flatirons,
hold two things at once
without favor?
how it feels to lose several
small countries you claimed.


these overcoats shine brightest
in demise.
painted like a rainbow to distract from
it’s true inability
to keep a home  safe like
the way men have held me:
(invaded)
all claws of resplendent mortar
and cracking at the edges
even with the scrape of thumb.
I snap a picture of the broken
glass pane and the beginning of
the first layer peeling into
white; the
fissure.
I trace my finger
over a chip and watch
it flake onto the
sidewalk.
snap a picture of
that with my boot
in the corner of the frame.
things to remember us
by, and not

the way things
have left me,
for that would be a painting
of a tall, sturdy tree
swathed with blue jays
and their worms
but how I entered them;
with a scraping
curiosity, documenting,
gaping, holding it
to review later,
making meaning
of their rot.

 

“doors (#1)”

 

     “I have no future plans,”
I began calmly.

I am arms outstretched
walking nowhere but with
ardency so
I am labeled,
whimsical and manic,
a troubled woman
not to marry and
like a wound up
fairy, the character that
keeps the music box

spinning.
until it’s boring:
the repetition,
the posing,
the pink smile and
matching slippers
leaping from her
gold coiled post
sprinkling glitter,
growing nerves and
ankles that bend flat
to walk to run to
crawl

people like me because
I have
no plans,
am honest about it,
resplendent teeth when
writing sonnets to the men
and a sense of fury when
reflecting on affairs.
big,
have wings that carry weapons.    I
hear in a distance
  someone repeat it
I use intimidation as a tactic
to seize opportunity
well,
I am blessed with delusive
lips and
I also use
black magic.

“seven of cups”

 

 

shredded letters I tried using
as fertilizer,
grow something from our
sudden valediction:
calendula,

 

jasmine to lighten the darker parts
of my libations;
the ones that tease my hair and 
take me    pull me under the bath
water gently
as I kick and try not to
scream.
violets, honeywort, scent of honeysuckle wafting
from the roach holes,

mugwort to get my blood moving again.
Easter lilies the cats shouldn’t touch so I
hang them from the rafters
and let the leaves fall brown
one by one;
let the paws scatter the ashes of that,
mice, my previous
laurels.

cheery dandelions burst from
the cracks in the linoleum and
I keep a bromeliad at the doorway
to protect me with her spikes;
self-effacing, straight and strong unlike the
hard, twisted ways I grow to be.
orchids to wilt in too much sunlight when I’m
doting myself to death,
 a bouquet of roses to give my daughter
when she becomes moss
in someone else’s garden,
feral evocation           an arboretum
started at the ankle. or
a whole cherry tree,

rooted and I can chop
it down to gorge.
something sweet to chomp
while I’m choking down
the acidic no,
extra pillow space.
my place: curtains drawn,
devoid of moons.
my place:
curtains open,
enveloped in
the new full sun.
my place,
giant cobweb stuck with
stem and black succor.

I prepare the dried lemon balm
in the mason jar,
two cups of hot water,
watch the window blanket itself in white flakes
of anesthesia,
embrace the change in seasons
openly without any phone calls,
any text, any hexed
postcard,
or really,
much incident at all
considering my history.

“perennial”

 

carried with her
a weapon: her keys in hand,
a disarming speech pattern
and no reason to suspect
her about anything.

I never tell a lie,
she said
leading me to
someone else’s house.

 


(how do you get away with that?)


I just never finish the story,
she said and I
hung there like a
Christmas ornament
glistening in her iris.

 

“How guys save me in their phone #6”

I plan to spend the year
fat; replete in web
and feast.

“the web”

Jacob was right. My arms were toned and fit  and ready for this. I could see my right tricep bulging in the sun as I rowed.  Growing, pulsing, moving towards something bigger with each stroke of the oar, I smiled. Smiling while tired, that is the women’s armor. We surprise you being continually broken and rowing.  No, I was exhausted. Smiling through exhaustion. I had been out on the lake for hours. My arms were growing and so was my hunger, my impatience, my budding fit of panic trapped in miles of water surrounded by miles of swamp.
“I want to be prepared,” I told Jacob.

“You don’t have to go out that often. I’m telling you,” he rested his hand on my back as we walked down the boardwalk. “The trip I want to take you on is easy.”

“I’m not strong enough, Jake. I want to get stronger.”

“It’s only going to be about three hours.”

“Jake.”

“Yeah.”

“I also heard that the alligators are moving north.”
He laughed.
“Stop googling, Cat.”

He paused.

“Remember when we used to race?”

“Jake, don’t you fucking dare.”

But he was already running.

 

Today, I was strong: rested, full (I had eaten a bowl of oatmeal and two cups of blueberries in the morning and snacked on Cliff bars throughout the trip) and rowing. I was also separated from everyone else, alone on a river. Petrified would be downplaying what I was feeling, I was horrifically aware of doom every second of my life and it was peaking today. When something knocked the boat the first time, I ignored it. I brushed it off as anxiety. You make things up, Lion. Convincing myself it was a current, I paddled on. Keeping my eyes on the tops of trees for sunbathing snakes, I hadn’t looked down to see the depth of the lake or that I was in the middle of a lake or I was so far from everyone and in open water. I wanted to get away from the snakes.

“You’re obsessed with this drama of a snake falling into your kayak and murdering you.”
“Snakes don’t murder, Jake,” I interrupted again. “They just kill. Don’t be dramatic.”

“Oh, I’m being dramatic, Cat? I’m being dramatic???” he laughed and interrupted me.

We had taffy stuck to our lips and miles to go before we got back to the hotel room. We were not running any longer. I had given up quickly. Walking with miles to go, I was sunburnt then and I was sunburnt now.

“But not bitten by any snakes,” I said out loud.

I was in the middle of a lake, far from the island in the middle of the Dismal Swamp and I had just felt a bump against the bottom of my kayak. The boat rocked a little to the right but not much and Jake, was right, I am dramatic. It is probably the current. It was probably the current.

“But alligators are moving north through the intercoastal waterway.”

“Ok where did you read that?”

We were out on our first trip when he was teaching me how to row. Before we were camped on the island, I told him I needed to go out a few times to get ready.

“I googled it.”

“You purposely googled it!I told y ou not to Google anything…”

“Oh, I should just plug my ears and cover my eyes and trust you during alligator season.”

“WHAT? Alligator season? What did you Google?” “are alligators moving north on…”

“No,” I splashed him with my oar. “I did google that, yes, but I googled “are there alligators in Virginia?”

“And it said they are moving north.”

“Yep.”

“Lion cub,” he always called me lion cub. “The only thing you have to look out for are snakes falling from the trees.”

He pointed up to show me: a little black rat snake hanging from a cypress just to the right of us. I turned to him and smiled: big with all teeth.

“Cool.”

“Very cool,” he affirmed.

My arms are tired and I am not sure why I didn’t take his advice. He told me not to go out this many times and definitely to stick to the route with people.

“Of course, Jake!”

But his intuition was right. I daydreamed, became so obsessed with finding rat snakes or copperheads in the trees that I lost all sense of direction and landed in the middle of a giant lake that I immediately got turned around inside. I don’t even know what direction I came from. Whimsical. They call me whimsical. It’s a cute way to describe spacy women. And I was whimsically carried down stream and now had to row back to the sides of the lake with the trees while both watching out for snakes and trying to find my path which I felt was behind me, but I’d been wrong before. As I rowed to turn around, I felt my biceps tearing and my calves had already cramped long ago.

“Fuck.”

I felt a push at the bottom of my canoe like a sudden strong current. It’s just the current. Looking to the sides, I tried to calculate if (and only if) I was literally too exhausted to row, could o climb up the bank and rest keeping my canoe (borrow, lion cub, I will let you borrow the kayak some days) safely secure at the bottom? It’s hard to tell with the swamp.  Well, it’s hard to trust the current also. The bank could contain solid ground or dense thick marsh. I would have to abandon my kayak anyway to climb it and there was no telling if it was solid ground or a swamp that I would fall into. I had nothing to tie it with. Truly, I had no choice but to paddle back, back to where I had seen the three couples earlier getting ready to venture out. I was concerned about my father. No, brush that from your mind.

“I will make it.”

I had eaten everything. It’s true. I have very little impulse control and when I am anxious, my stomach grips itself but when I am hungry, I am voracious and my salivation drives me. The bag next to me was empty and my canteen (I brought two) was down to a quarter of the bottle.

“It’s ok,” I let myself float.

I could not row anymore. I deserved and needed the respite. It was hard for me to relax. In a state of constant hyper vigilance, I tensed every muscle in my body and constantly.

“So everything hurts,” I told him on that first trip.

“Yeah,” he rowed ahead a bit.

“I just want to be prepared.”

“How do you feel today?”

“Oh, fine,” I cheerily responded.

It was easier with him. He had packed extra; extra things that I may not have remembered or ever even thought of at all. My arms hurt. My knees were sore. My legs were shaking, the muscles clamping and unclamping slowly but Jake and I laughed a lot. That’s what I’ll remember.

“What will you remember?”

“What the alligator from the dream means.”

“Ah, the alligator dream again. Always the alligator dream.”
He turned around and smiled at me, leading me.

“What does it all mean?”

I let my mind wander.

“You always ask me about it.”

He rowed so he could face me and float backwards while I floated forward.

“And what does it all mean?”

“Sometimes an alligator is just an alligator.”

Gazing up at the trees, I had taught myself to look for the hanging snakes in the trees.

“A lot of times, they won’t even bother you. You may not even notice them.”

I’ll notice them.”

“Yeah, of course, Cat.”

Jake showed me four snakes that day and I showed him two.

“See?”

“See? I am beating you.”

“Whatever, when I look up I see them. I don’t always look up, sometimes I look down. You can’t always look up. You have to focus”

“True but. Maybe you should look up more.

When it dropped from the branch, I reacted as I always thought I would. With swiftness, I gracefully tumbled over the side leaving my bag but taking one oar. I tumbled. Mildly disoriented, I felt  young, the way I felt when I visited the beach with Leana or Alex.

“Look! Look!”

I would jump the small waves in the water to crash into the big waves. I had zero fear as a child, none. In fact, I played in the surf all summer long enjoying the pull; the way a wave will pull you back like the arrow getting ready to launch. I was being plucked like the fletching. I was gliding forward like a seal. I was riding it, one long wave and then above water and then

I was suddenly in the river, wading, the water at my waist. My oar floating gently away and I peeked in the canoe to confirm it was a rat snake. My bag was next to it, placid, both my pack emptied of all food, only a quarter of a canteen of water and it was gray. It was not black like a rat snake but gray like a tree trunk lying lifeless, defenseless and not full of venom. Dead, or never alive, the branch that had scared me right out of the boat. Sometimes an alligator is just an alligator. Sometimes a branch is just a branch.

“What was the last thing you said?”

“When?”

Jake coughed, “In your dream. I remember you saying sometimes you were trying to figure out if it was a crocodile or an alligator but you said something too.”

I turned slowly to see it’s mouth, it’s jaw, it’s wide open even-toothed smile. Could I have been so lucky to be honored by its greatness and getting to see it first?
“In the dream?”

Before I was pulled under.
“No, just now.”
“Oh.”

I was being twisted and bled.

“I told you the alligators were moving North.”
“No, what was the last thing you said, Cat. Before you saw its jaws?”
I was in rough surf and my lungs were full of water and just freshly out of breath.

I said, “I said it would be either be a snake or an alligator.”

 

“The dream about the alligator”

preoccupied with two men
but not against my trespasses.

my name is Hecate.

came with two friends but ignored
the male.

my name is Hecate.

intently staring straight
but hawk-like periphery,
I know because she brushed my arm
when I waltzed past and cut in between them
but with precision.
like she was waiting.

my name is Hecate.

had a dream about her.
had a dream about her every night
this year?
she slinked into the party
dressed like a rubber cat,
snapped her fingers and said:

my name is Hecate,
repeat after me.

“3.”

repeat after me
the first thing you noticed about me
was that you’d seen me before and
my s   l o     w southern accent,
my impervious sway and
bit of a drawl but mostly
the way I smirked:
sometimes red-hot,
sometimes ice-cold.

my name is Lilith

you called me cool
and unapproachable and

my name is Lilith

felt
the outline of my torso move
in a light rescinding way
like the edge of a storm changing
course but

my name is Lilith

you called me Lilith first.

 

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