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Showing posts from 2013


It is first like the vast tearing of earth
(in the midst of thunder, your knees 
give way, your spine folds into itself, 
you tremble, you fall)

but fits neatly down your throat
like hemlock's bitter swallow. Tell me
the dead weight of your arms, 
the slow burn of your crippled lungs

is it
over yet?

You could not have known it would be so.
The hot breath of a misplaced night is
quiet in your ears and
a scream silent through your teeth

when stale smoke and ash have slithered 
lukewarm under your tongue.
You are motionless, 
a half-consciousness feigning sleep -

Yet I know
the ground’s shuddering heartbeat could
easily overwhelm your own, if that raging hunger,
that fervent rhythm of your fierce hope
only stuttered, only faltered ...

Show me the length of your brittle neck,
the faded shadows of new scars 
where they meet the sun. Let me unearth
the crumbling chalk of your fingers
and hold them, hold them


if you could dream, 
you'd someday understand
the promise of a gentle light. 

Then, like stars and kisses 
and heavy coins,
these tears would slip at last
to soothe your battered eyelids.

As She Wakes

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.

Felling Day

cut down before its time,
the tree behind my house shriveled dry
from lightning, not age.

(sun and rain breathe life to
all creatures in the forest, but then
fire won't discriminate, either.)

watch closely, all slender saplings
waiting to reach the sky:

unroughened hands must take and build,
and youthful feet must run
while blood still animates your bones.
your face may wash stone-cold
before the skin has time to sag.


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.

Worms, Worms, Worms (a parody in collaboration)

I shut my eyes and all the worms drop dead.

When the world was worm-luscious,
I took the worm less traveled by
beside the worm chickens.
Let us go then, you and I,
when the worm is spread against the sky.

And now, like am'rous worms of prey,
in the room the worms come and go,
talking of Michaelangelo.

(The Chinese worm and the British worm:
My vegetable worm should grow
vaster than empires and more slow.)

And I have known the worms already, known them all--
The worms that fix you in a formulated phrase.
O my Luve is like a red, red worm,
The yellow worm that rubs its back upon the window panes.

Spit in my face, you worms.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet
and somehow

Out of the ash I rise with my red hair
and I eat worms like air.

murdering featuring poems by: Billy Collins, e.e. cummings, John Donne, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Andrew Marvell, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut, and William Carlos Williams

written by: Davina Lee, Emmie Moffitt, Julia Stevens, and Haleigh Swansen

The Iron Ship

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.

Person of Color

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.

Ah, Summer!

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.

(Slap-smack. Oh gosh, ew, oh—)

Tendrils of smoke rising from the fire
feather delicately at the edges,
hot ashen ghosts tearing themselves apart
against the canvas of a dark sky,
or billowing gently on the harsh
evening wind straight into my open mouth.

(Cough cough hack—sorry, I just—cough—)

Is there a sensation more glorious than
running on smooth sand by a shimmering ocean?
Cream-colored drifts are gently shifting
beneath my feet like
the restless waves themselves,
and catching the sun's embracing warmth to
paint it across my cheekbones,
for when my foot sinks too far and I fall.

(—Nobody saw that? Right?)

Oh, the distant strains of melody
as soft as fairy-music—how their approach
gladdened my heart moments ago!
The mellow taste of ice cream
lingers pleasantly on my tongue,
so sweet and so cold,
though the crunch of your tires over my bone
was less than gentle.

(No—did that just—MY LEG!)

To Pull Or Not To Pull

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!

What Makes You Beautiful

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).

At Midnight, Listening

Something small told me to wait in silence,
but the bitter voice of my heart's scars
kept mourning every aching wound that cried out
at the mottled shadows of the night,

and that bitter voice of my heart's scars
said I was broken far beyond repair.
In the mottled shadows of the night,
I could not choose which darkness to believe,

whether “You are broken beyond repair,”
or “Hold on a little while; these wounds will mend”
held truth. How could I choose in darkness?
And from behind more voices murmured at me:

“Hold on, hold on to what? Your wounds won't mend,”
my splintered bones choked out. A laugh
came from the voices murmuring at me,
because that something small had tried to speak,

but my splintered bones choked out a laugh
to silence any sound that whispered hope.
Because that something small had tried to speak,
the others cried out louder, but they only

clamored over sounds that still whispered hope;
they filled the insides of my ears with lies,
but soon they tired of crying, till only
the song of night rain washing tired streets

was left to cradle lies inside my ears.
I heard that haunting pulse within my ribs:
the song of night rain washing tired streets
said these scars would never fade (though I thought

I felt a different pulse behind my ribs,
a gentle touch almost enough to heal)--
These scars will never fade, I thought,
but something small told me to wait in silence.

A/N: Check out another pantoum on the same theme, written by the fantastic Emmie. 

For a Moment

drink with me this
light-drenched memory:

the dark blur of a watercolor forest
at the field's far end, where
edges of swollen husks hardened
under withering, tea-stained petals
and whispered of colder days to come;

the gentle brush
of pale grass against your neck,
holding your slender throat
and shoulders close in
ancient arms of dust and clay;

a twilight that seemed to stretch forever,
sun-streaks repainting the sky
a hundred times--
each hour, another wine-soaked layer.

a creaking swing,
a bench for both of us,
warm wind like honey in my mouth;

we slept, and oh,
the cicadas' laughing
carried us till morning.

I Should Say

I know you hide
your hurt behind
that smiling face
and dim computer screen

I want to break
those barriers and
comfort you with
more than words

Forgive me for
this stupid silence
I should be holding you up,
but don't know how.

but it takes time

--told me not

    (to hit to hate to hold any thing too close)

about the world outside me waiting:
at least, what I wanted.

I'd always thought
     fault was in speaker's lack of sense,
     not in
            not listening--
You're not listening!

I'll tell you over and
over and

   (don't let go don't lie don't love every thing)

but you--

that story

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.

all its beauty like fading flowers

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.
All fall.

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.

Turn Around

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.

It glows brighter at your back.