Seven years ago I lived in the mist and rain of the Olympic Peninsula to walk where wild things walked and lay upon the moss though a spider sunk into my soft stomach. It only hurt momentarily, and regardless, it is never safe to be where it seems safest, where lightning would never touch, waves, could never crash in the long dark of winter- never the crackling cold the moment-stilled heart though days pass. Truth is my hair has been standing on end since I was born from the shock but I comb it smooth and lay across another’s shoulder like a cloak and walking again into the quiet of the Cascades or the Hoh maybe I will find a big, black bear and not be reminded how any moment the sky may fall like hers did unexpected and violent, maybe she was afraid, I keep wondering. I, am sharp flint of ebon eye facing bear, am rock of trembling, St. Helens/ could blow could sleep instead, for awhile peaceful as flowers grow bright upon the back. I think of my tree that is only memory now, how Magdalena strong and twisted could lean into the cold and wild storms, how memory is the willowy heart/ a captured softness to put in a box with her gray eyes and my father’s calloused hands.
I ran away to North Carolina after my father died, rented an apartment and wore these black boots, dyed my pretty pink hair back to brown, and got a job at a pet store during the recession. I was enchanted by the fireplace that would warm me and my guy in the bare-limbed winters and it was by a battleground we walked with our dog forested with trees and unmarked graves. I would leave often on my own The Violent Femmes playing on my headphones something about wanting to be sedated, and I found this massive, gnarled tree apart from the rest, twisted and strong, I named her, Magdalena. Many days I’d go walking on my own to sit against the rough bark resting a palm or my cheek and music in my ears to look like I wasn’t just sitting with an old tree/ always I would say, goodbye. <As a child, I once licked the sap of a pine and my tongue went numb/ I did it because I wondered if it tasted like maple syrup> but more to the point I would chase the falling leaves from shaky stems too weak up above I could not see but I would try to catch them sometimes jumping so I wouldn’t miss, to hold the barely-there weight like a baby bird how it was silent the fall how it was innocent. I started to do it again once in awhile awkwardly and maybe a bit defiant/ I put them in a box with a picture of me near the Natural Bridge in Virginia I had given my dad, my pink hair peaking beneath an old beanie, the snowy world looking like a ghost beside me.
The people we play
the ones remembered
from memory or some story
a ghost beneath the nail we
scratch at hunting fathers'
tender and mothers' dreams
splintered beneath unkindness/
it's the mantle of yesterday
of what is loved and not
yet owned or even known.
Still we choose to be brave
to live a life kinder, flowers are
on the table because we thought
to walk to a garden, coffee brews
on a Saturday morning, little feet
already rushing beneath the sun.
My heart, does
a war rage outside the window?
Are the people who wage it
good? When I blow upon
the palm, even in this
dim light dust looks a little
like stars, and I decide
there the universe is
in my own hand,
and the children receive
this debt, a path lit
by this child we stay,
a joy that is owed.
When I remember slips
and pauses, down often. What, love? Ghosts? Palms to face, hold the baby bird | my heart one old one new my
father’s smile and the waves | laughter I hold pure and threatening.
A heart is full, dark cry knifed in the throat crawling, the bark of trees I cannot stop putting a palm upon, there a suspicion of beauty is kept. A person can become inevitable-
fresh snow, long arms I hold them around the powder cold.
Daisies hold no memory, but there
above the creek alligators and otter
lay still in the Florida heat
on my stomach chaining weeds
like those in meadows far away
but small and fragile
in warm lungs was a god, in
paper, melodies and beats
a concrete sun, the
memory of heat/ I made a crown
call it confidence strung stem within split
stem, and soft petals holding on, un-
rooted quiet. My quiet heart
sitting where no one would go
on the sign for a school twenty
deep mobile homes stacked in
repetition that dulls the senses.
But these children take
the long way home, empty
parks to play cops and robbers
or some hide in the safety
between rows at the library
absorbing what it means to
thrive and become like heroes
I see a wild kitten in the leaves
outside my window/ she leaps
and chases something she knows
to chase, and my cache of flowers
too wild and delicate to be
real daises- I chain a
crown, unroot the silence
without a sound but the song
becoming between breath
Riding a manta ray
through mangroves, small
hands small feet like
a squirrel suddenly grounded
is ready/ I have
curls from my grandmother
that cannot be kept when I am
hot and salty between waves-
a girl I remember from before
taken by a fish of peculiar shape
(I lived by the sea then) and how
I fled and how I bent hand-over-hand
around every curve by habit.
It is in my roots to see a hole and place
mouth over space and hold until
it is filled; a starving a needing
an ancestral grieving in my heart
where if there is a falling there is a
turn: my father told me
philosophy and religion
can be the same in men
it starts in a daydream/
I know in our hearts are
our own heroes.
The Halifax river burns sometimes, a brackish lagoon where dolphins pass through, I have thought they were angels when young. the bell
rings to lift the bridge over
there/my grandfather bracketed by the red blinking lights and
crickets in his open palm but quieter. just a certain haunting in us in
my mother’s crossed legs and crossed arms when she does not see i watch. I feel the rope, I
feel the ropes of a hammock and will just stay there,
and they are real and hurt a little. watch grasshoppers and think of chasing them though the grass itches, think of chasing grasshoppers earlier that day through the itchy grass to feel their little feet tap on my palm like a song. to feel a happiness/
I think of geppeto, because that’s just the way of it. I think of arms and legs on strings though I am running. at night
the sound of the bell, my mother’s gray eyes as the waters still at night. the stars are all blind but shrewd as an owl who lives in the elm with his sad questions, I see
her tender heart she has delicately fed, like a rose we once knew, who a prince loved like no other who a daughter tried to make well. and,
like a glass dome upon the thorny spine I stay even now when she has gone.