We were such little animals then,
all paws and teeth and eyes.
We made a tree house of our leafy love
and together pulled up the basket.
Each night you burst into flames.
By morning the leaves were black lace,
the floorboards damp with dew, and I
breathed ashes with every dawn.
Through charred branches the sunrise showed me
open fields, trees without scars. Daisies
unafraid to smile.
And yet, years later, you smolder.
My fingers have grown long and nimble;
I know now the secrets of enchantment. Eyeliner.
Backbone. Magic we could not
have imagined. And yet, in
this cool night, in a mass of my own
now-dark hair, the tendrils in my chest
reach skyward, hopeful.
painting by Evelyn de Morgan
We found the bones on the beach—
blanketed with gray feathers,
hollow like drinking straws.
Overhead the late gull’s children
mourned relentlessly. The carcass,
stripped as it was by crabs and wind,
was not new.
The waves crept closer. With a snap
you split the wings, a ragged break
down the brittle breastbone.
You sent one wing to sea. The other
capped a driftwood crucifix,
the waterlogged wood dripping
with kelp and spinning shells.
My numb fingers traced the tracks I knew
in the sand. A pile of cold stones
for ink, shifting shoreline
the blank page.
Your wings departed, but I stood
by my word. Six letters in the sand:
The cherubs emerged first,
ringlets unwinding as they moved
through the crowd. In the careless light of the parish hall
their girl-eyes grew shadows,
their child-hands wedding bands.
One by one angels, shepherds,
graces drifted from cloud
to dessert table, their feathered feet
landing hard on the church carpet.
Outside the moon wore
her only mask. Cupid met us
in the hall; the elastic straps of her wings
had carved red lines in her shoulders.
"We're getting married," she said
with a shrug. "Wanted you
As we crept from the reception Adonis appeared,
silk leaves still tangled in his hair. His bangled mother
drew him close: "So wonderful, honey.
So perfect, love."
painting by John William Waterhouse
after Sei Shonagon
I swear I love you only
in my dreams, in these
sweet silver tunnels where so often
I have found you.
I would do no thing so untoward
as to love you
in plain sight—
And yet, having risen,
I find your star still guides me,
and feel the pangs of the closed door
as sharp as if you had left.
I wonder now, drinking
in the light of your eyes,
if those nights
were all mine, if somewhere perhaps
your sleep-tight fingers
did not uncurl
for me too.
As the thick clouds slid
A cold blanket on the sun
You came, dear ones, with
Little feet that tickled like
Sunshine on my skin.
You ate the small green evils
That fed on my sick heart, and
Spread your love across
Its damp cage.
I will make this place
Heaven’s garden for you,
My angels, and fill
It with the sweetest flowers
I can find.
Darkness and light, imagination, consolation, oblivion
It was dark when I woke
this morning, and I lay for a time
at the foot of the bed, the fingers
of one hand on my best dress,
laid out too. Now in the garden
beyond the window giant poppies stir,
cold red fingers on their own
The dew creeps in. Down the road
the others are waking, startled
from epic dreams. Their gardens
are sweetly scented, their eyes bright.
They offer innocence, beauty,
We do not know where we are going.
I suck the light in
like a new moon
and rise to greet the yellow day.
painting by Cassandra Barney
The night before the coronation
We walked the palace gardens at dusk,
Small servants rustling like shadows in her wake.
We passed beneath a magnolia tree. Birds scattered,
leaving a pile of perfect pink-stained petals.
I bent at the waist, a low and careful bow. My left arm curved
To collect the fallen bounty. “Don’t,”
She said. From knee level my blue eyes flicked
To the steel sparks of hers. “Don’t pick it up,”
and don’t put it down.”
And today suitors, lovers, insincere supplicants,
Know they will find no open hands here. Nor enemies,
No bare breast. At night the grounds are littered
With magnolia blossoms,
And the darkness brings only sleep.
painting by Cassandra Barney
The gallery show in Oregon was a tremendous success. After a dramatic unveiling (apparently that's how they do it in Oregon) Cass sold nearly all of her paintings. The gallery owner was so pleased with the results of our collaboration that he has invited me back for next year's show, where he wants to have a full-scale poetry reading and offer hand-bound books of my poetry and Cass' drawings for sale.
I am adrift in a sea of thankfulness.
For several years I studied Japanese tea ceremony, an intricate process that facilitates the most wonderful stillness I've ever experienced. Many of the steps of the ceremony involve bowing: to the host of the ceremony to thank her for having you, to the guest who drank before you to thank her for showing you the way, and to the guest who will drink after you to thank her for allowing you to drink first.
"And now," said my ancient sensei every time, "is making the one more bow: thank you to whole universe."
Thank you, to whole universe.
Now that the show has been Officially Unveiled I'll be posting the backlog of poetry...once I finish all this work that piled up while I was skipping down the Oregon coastline. You can check out Cass and I waxing ridiculous on collaboration on Youtube.