There's an ache to the woodland air these days, as if the wind is mourning the deathly flames that blossom on the trees, the brittle aging of its trembling playmates,
a deep sigh of the forest that cuts to her heart. The leaves murmur beneath her feet, chatter at her from the rustling treetops, catch weakly at her hair as if to say, remember--
do you--do you--remember? She does. She knows this path like a well-worn dream, though the trees have thickened many times since brighter eyes and quicker limbs
last wandered through this long-beloved place. Her steps are sure and steady as they always were, but she fears she's lost her welcome here somewhere between the years:
she kneels, finds the shallow creekbed choked with rotting sticks and cold wet grass, and grieves for a time when it ran swift and free, when tadpoles played in the clear water
and slender flowers swayed by its muddy banks-- here frogs peeped shyly from weedy shadows, and fishes sang and white moths danced in twilight and the woodland sprites crept out at afternoon
but all is still and silent now, hidden from her face. The soft dirt stains her cheeks as she raises a hand to cover her eyes, smelling of slow earth and lingering decay.
One fallen branch reaches to caress her ankle, its fragile arms twined and tangled like careless vines, some tree's patient imitation of a proud buck's crown. The child in her would hold it to her own temple,
would wait and wonder how the world looks different through the creature's eyes, but the years have taught her to know her own skin, and so. She breathes deep of the aching air
and retraces her steps like climbing from a dream, holding the branch till she stands at the forest's edge, the wooden antlers twisting wearily around her fingers and crumbling to dust in the morning light.
This is winter’s crawl. This is the slow breathing of the sky, the languid drifting of the snow. This is the old tree’s creaking, the great bear’s dreams, the river’s frozen rest. This is the interruption of motion and the lullaby of cold, a lingering pause for us to learn of the brief ecstasy of numbness.
The cobweb ceiling is
drifting slow, as if forgotten
by the cracking waves below,
no threads strung between the glass
and goosefeathers save
the ship's tall, blackened masts
and hammered iron sails.
The boy in twilight overalls
would curl beneath the iron ropes
and shake with his own
treasured loneliness. There he will stay,
drowning in self and the
sweet hiding of stars.
The seagull perched on the iron hull cries Morning is rising! Morning comes!
In another world he means:
Little one, little one,
watch for the sun.
How it seeps through silkspun clouds
and crashes to the iron cold--
holding us, and burning
such a blinding white
against the crystal sea.
In another age, you and I tried, but could not make peace with unfamiliarity. Yellow festered to a slur in your mouth; never mind that to us it meant power and holiness, the color of emperors, the birthmark on our bodies as children of the mighty dragon. Never mind that in honesty, we held our skin to the pale of the moon or the soft brown dust and thought it the same: we too curled our lips at you, laughed at these white foreign ghosts in our fields, your hair and eyes blazing in strange pigments-- red like our fruit, green like our mountains, blue like our great clean sky--that never belonged on a body, that were surely a mistake in your making.
Today I carry this turmoil in my memory, but not in my blood. My ancestors have etched their legacy into my cheeks and nose and eyelids, but these veins are mine alone, to color as I wish. I have chosen to love hair golden as the morning and eyes gentle as dusk, which have painted my childhood and taught me that vibrance can easily frame your face, bright and true and beautiful. I know, too, that if I laid you out and peeled you open, I would find a crumbling core of borrowed rot for Death's long fingers to grasp and draw back to itself, the same ugly weight that lingers black in me and steeps my days in bitter weariness. That has always been our problem, after all.
Perhaps someday, you and I, we'll work the rich ground side by side, colorful children of the same father with new light blooming from our hearts. We'll hold hands and never wonder at the complement of our skin, at the reflection of the dark earth, and the tender flowers we'll leave behind will sing our ancient, blood-filled stories in a thousand lovely hues.
There: the murmuring music of blackflies
in my ears, the haunting hum of crystal wings
hovering so near! One magnificent creature
lands gently as a fat mosquito,
washes his face with dignity, and bites.
This long hair tangled through my hands
would burn me with temptation:
Oh, please unwind these golden strands
of long hair tangled through my hands
--though loss of silky warmth demands
a cold, wrenching sensation--
Long hair that's tangled through my hands,
don't burn me with temptation!
I tried to find him in the woods and in the desert,
in the sky and in the ocean,
in the cave and on the mountain.
The wind and water hummed with echoes of his voice.
His bright shadow stretched beneath the earth and sparkled on the sea.
The ghosts of his fingers whispered in the dust and sand.
But though you are crooked and his frame is straight,
you still match best of all things here.
Though you are broken, as we all must be,
if I squint against the cracks, I see:
my father's face still smiles, reflected bright in yours.
A/N: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
Unfold the tapestry hurriedly at first,
stretching quickly across the cool stone floor--
flatten the edges to show me where the figures
crawl, walk, then run.
Smooth the wrinkles slow, then.
Let me see heads held high in grief,
bowed low in laughing, turned aside in shame.
Flicker your fingers over threadbare patches,
filling them with brighter color, hoping
I won't notice. (I do.)
Point to the well-worn parts, show me your
favorite to unfold and stare again, again:
I know those perfect, steady warps and wefts
are tighter, neater than the holes you
nervously patched up for me.
We'll look together,
lightly trace those intricate motifs;
I'll catch my breath at them with you.
Before you fold it back again,
help me swiftly weave another,
a blurred copy to hang with care
behind my eyelids.
Your story's seventeenth in my collection,
but no less precious than the first.
In the time it takes from mountain's top
to beaten sand, to dust thrown by the wind,
a hundred thousand generations rise,
each defined by 'done' or 'not done',
by revolutions and silence alike,
all, in some way, pleading for the future's eyes: remember us, for heaven's sake don't forget.
A man finds his way to the mountain top.
His flesh is long strands of dry meadow grass,
wrapped tight around his brittle bones of wood.
The wind laughs through the holes in his chest,
but he straightens tattered shoulders and climbs to the peak,
raising a withering hand to the sky.
While the sun breathes deep in its time,
the yellowing strips unwind and turn to smoke,
drifting away on the mountain's long exhale. Remember us, cry the burning twigs,
and ashes scatter invisible on the stones.
Forever's longer than
a thousand mountain's deaths.
A promise that wide won't fit in
human's tiny leaf-thin skull
or blackened grain-shell heart--
but stands alone on steady feet
and gently stretches cradles
for our feeble wicker frames to rest.
you are scraping at the ground
with bloodied bare fingers,
eyelids nailed shut
and a staggering weight on your shoulders,
your ankles chewed raw from every time
you stood, raised a hand to your shredded neck,
and Master pulled
so the shackles bit deep and you fell again.
the rusty iron bands
are too big and chafe at you,
but never slip off.
you're trying to find something you
once lost, you think,
you know. you hope it's still there
but when you reach too far,
Master--Monster--leaps onto you,
tears at your flesh with jagged claws and teeth
till you can't even scream, though
your jaw still stretches open,
wide in anguish.
sometimes you collapse, sobbing for
your cracking spine and useless eyes
and bloody hands
"i'm a good person," you say,
calmly sipping coffee in the dark,
leaning back in your chair.
you smile hollowly
and turn from the light
i'm holding out to you.