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Showing posts from February, 2015

Dreaming, Dreaming

Nothing here is real.
Do not be alarmed at the way
these thorns make you bleed, and
the mossy earth gapes at your feet,
and the sky seems almost
too heavy, low enough for your scalp
to scrape itself against.
Nothing is real.

I am asleep, and I
have made everything up.
Any moment now, those stones
beneath you may turn to water,
or sand, or cotton candy, or
anything I imagine, but keep
walking. I would
like to meet you.
I am asleep, and I am
making everything up.

My brain has sprouted wires
like long hair,
and my dreams drain out from
my skull like kitchen sinks
and old batteries. They have
been observing my world
from the outside for what
must be centuries, and
I do not know how you
found your way in. Already
I can hear your footsteps through
the long wires, twisting up,
backwards, back
into my brain.

Come and wake me up.
I have changed the thorns to
daisies, and a sun is rising
in the distant north.
Climb the old stone steps until
you find me sleeping here,
and see my face in the cold
green light of blinking screens,
my head a mass of dark
tangled cables. Unplug them.
Come unplug them, and
wake me up.

Other Princess Poems:
Snow White
The Little Mermaid
Beauty and the Beast

Young Ivy

The time has come, I am sure,
to let the ropes fall from my chest,
for my heart will soon
be too big to keep in any body.
It may fit in this empty, hundred-walled
house, gorging itself full
on the drippings of honeyed light
pouring from these windows,
sleeping on these warm, bare
oaken floorboards.
I woke up here with you
in a thunderstorm, while outside
young ivy, cold and pale, clung to the wet,
white walls, and great feathery
clouds roared with laughter in the sky.
The lightning splashed on your hair
and cut me open from neck to navel
with the precision of a surgeon,
a scalpel wielded to release
my soul, to let me breathe
again, at last.
I might have wept, but only
because I was happy.
And so this elephant heart of mine
keeps growing, and it laughs, too,
promising to fill these rooms
with flowers and grand-children
and dreams that look us
in the face and smile.
The time has come
to let the ropes fall from my chest.

Guide to Becoming an Honorary Brother

~ by Grant Farmer, probably. 

Step 1. Stay low on the radar for years on end,
not really talking but always there.
(When did you even meet?
At birth??)

Step 2. Be “the older brother’s friend.”
Boys hang out with boys.
Awkwardly long hair and perpetual
acoustic guitar, and all.

Step 3. At sixteen, after haircuts and
lots of growing up, have one conversation
about music for three freaking hours
straight, no tangents.

Step 4. Paint a mural together.
The ground color is sandy, it is earthy,
it is not poop do not call it—
call it poop.

Step 5. Little things now. Chinese takeout,
the Psych series finale, Sara
Bareilles, stickers, fundraisers,
bowling, lyrics, books.

Step 6. Go to Africa. Africa!
Sing in the fields with the goats and pigs
and puppies; together learn to love
the Ugandan rain, sunsets, and people.

Step 7. You’re in. You have been
for a while. But just to make sure, pretend
you’re her mom and pester her
about grades.

Step 8. Stay up on that radar. That’s it.
Just stay there.

The Beastly, The Beautiful

I have a single memory of
my father’s face. I could tell it to you
for hours—the red-blue currents
of love and grief that swirled
in his vast violet eyes
as he lifted my tiny indigo body from
my mother’s crimson corpse, the
tender smile that briefly shattered the lines
on his skin, before I closed my eyelids
and never opened them again,
though the rest of me grew strong
and healthy as the years went by.

The townsfolk would crow at my story
if they heard it, or cross
the cobblestones from me
in some pretense of superstition, but
my father understands.
He knows that I can see
what others cannot,
that even with ordinary eyes
I would not have cared for appearance
when there is so much behind
the ribcage to explore:

the deadened brown of his merchant’s
cares, the dark gray of his wife’s memory,
the shock of vibrant roses he tends here
for his three daughters;
the pearly expanse of one sister’s
innocence and the sour yellow of the other’s
wounded heart, and the lovely silver
glimmering deep inside them both.
The rainbow mosaic of the passing
townspeople, their souls pulsing
in a hundred hues.

You were a tempest of autumn color
and a storm of fiery incandescence
when I met you, a sunset of a man
bold and bright enough to take
my breath away.
I knew of your monstrous teeth and
grotesque features, frightening for
any normal pair of eyes, but it
hardly mattered

when your wine-red spirit
burned, and danced like that.
Is it any wonder I could not bear
to leave your side, once
I had known you? Is it
any wonder I loved you?
My sisters call you handsome now,
but even they know nothing of
the brilliant flames you hold within.
I would not trade
the sight of them
for anything.

Other Princess Poems:
Snow White
The Little Mermaid
Sleeping Beauty

Among the Ashes

I should have felt your hunger
in my belly, your thirst in my throat,
your weariness in my limbs
all the more for my fullness.
Your hurt should have
knocked at my strong breastbone
like a scream, gaping
in the face of my wholeness,
and yet I stand here, breathing evenly.

What anesthetic have I greedily
gulped down, what painkiller have I
hoarded, that I am numb to you?
What will it take for my heart
to rage at your despair,
for my eyes to weep with yours,
for my feet to rise,
and carry me to you?

I will sit beside you
among the ashes.
I will fill my pockets with bandages,
my bags with bread, my fingers
with all the love
that they can hold.

The Pursuit of Knowledge

The first leap from the nest
is like drowning, the directional
confusion, the dizziness of
momentum, that one despairing
moment of paralyzed lungs,

and then. How intoxicating
the slight catching of wind beneath
your pinions, that first, tiny
upward quirk

before the ground's impact.
The second leap is easy.

A Child's House

This tree once spread its verdant wings
In sanctuary for our play,
The harbinger of youthful spring

With memories now frozen, splayed
In branches cracking to their core
Beneath a sky billowing grey

Like life, and winter, gone to war.
We wove those branches into art,
The tree that you and I adored,

But creeping ice has clutched its heart
And teaches us this eerie sound:
A child's house falling apart.

Where can the cold ruins be found?
Their shards will be my mournful throne,
And frosted leaves, my weeping crown.

the wind returns

time, and its passing. that
inexorable march towards eternity,
by our stubborn brains somehow
snapped into pieces that fit
between our teeth for a while.
the last year. the next deadline.
midnight, fast approaching.
hours? seconds?
what do you call dawn?
what will we call the moment when
the sky darkens for the last time?
somehow we know it goes on
and on without end, so we're kept awake
at the notion of extinction,
of nonexistence, of oblivion after
what we call death.
how could time go on without us?
how could . . .
i have heard a rhythm in the infinite,
the graceful inheritance of one day
to the next and a story that tells itself
over and over again, where
we wake into mornings the same but
more important for the yesterdays
that have gone by. the yesterdays that
matter though tomorrows
never end.
i have heard
a rhythm.

Haikus on Education

I really tried to
pay attention in lecture
(a.k.a. naptime).

did problems in bed.
left the calculator there
for the exam. crap.

"have you started the—"
"no." commence ironic laugh.
we're dead. we're dead we're

physics physcis phis
ysc centripetal accel
eration? theta?!

Love Songs of A Writer


He had glasses made of sapphires,
the biggest lenses I'd ever seen,
with thick wired frames painted silver.
When he spoke his mouth
dripped diamonds, which may as well
have been newborn stars—
I wanted to pick them up,
but they burned too bright for me
to see, even paper-blindfolded
and squinting.
I think somehow he must have learned
to close his eyes and glimpse
the universe: nebulous,
bold, beautiful,
the sun at the center of everything.
Last I saw of him,
he hung upside down from
a spinning swing; I didn't watch
as he eclipsed, a planet
orbiting out of sight.


She wrote like a thief,
like she'd crept into all the rooms
I never thought to lock, and carelessly
hauled away my thoughts, those
sleeping cocoons of dry silk
still waiting to break open.
I drew in a sharp breath
to read them for the first time—
made their wings blur and
tremble with my shaky laughter
half-delighted and half-terrified,
hands aching to take back what
must have been mine
(they must have been mine!)
but motionless, freezing instead into
the crinkling chrysalis of an addict.
A good thing, that I never emerged.
She took the words with her
when she disappeared
at midnight, when the moon
was full of borrowed ink and
the moths beside the lamp
were dead.


I lay down at the canyon's edge,
whispering over the empty space,
and it was your voice
that called back,
pressing the sounds into solidity,
folding them into crusty salts and
crystals of river-carved song.
You led me, barefoot,
to creekbanks full of clay, where
we stretched out
maps of our arteries again and
again, until blood finally
flowed through to wake
the dreaming earth.
And though we itched sometimes
for wings that could lift us
through the night sky,
when years had gone by we settled
ourselves to trace the stars drifting across
the baubled water—to lean back
on hands resting, steady, firmly
rooted beside each other
in sun-warmed stone.
It is, I think, how
mountains grow.

A Tail, A Tale

This web of scars on my face,
crawling down my neck in ribbons
and screaming over my shoulders,
was like the shadow of a shark, or
a reef of rotting coral
when I first came home:
my father hid his face and fled,
while my sisters shrank away
one by one, and the whole
kingdom grew silent in horror.

I kept the story to myself,
since nobody would listen.
The way the knots buried themselves
in my flesh, and the ropes ground the scales
from my skin, and the wooden boat
drove splinters through the canvas
of my back, and the humans
shouted in anger, while
water and fire fell from the sky
like whalebone spears and diving pelicans.
The three days of agony spent
choking on wet air, hungry,
bound up in rough nets that
tightened and grew colder every hour.

They came by at night, every one of them,
with fire in their hands, cursing at me
in their harsh language and
throwing broken glass at me
until I bled like the neverending rain, and it
pooled strangely beneath me

all except for him.
He sat by me sometimes,
singing something that sounded strong
and steady, like the great currents
sweeping southward or
the salmon heading north
in spring. His hair was the color
of sand, shining silver in the moonlight
as he picked up the glass shards
around me, ignoring the cuts
they left on his palms.

When he dragged me from the dark
and opened his fishing knife,
gleaming wicked as an orca’s jaw,
I thought his kindness had run out, but
he only sliced the ropes and
hauled me over the side
with a salt-crusted kiss to my forehead.
I could hear the slightest bit of song
behind me as I swam away.

He arrived years later with
a tail and gills and a smile,
when my family had learned
to love me again, and the people had
grown used to a princess who
was less than beautiful.
He would not speak, or sing, but
held my face in his mangled hands,
where my long-healed scars, meeting his,
burned again for a moment,
then collapsed into him like
wayward children finally
coming home.

Other Princess Poems:
Snow White
Beauty and the Beast
Sleeping Beauty

Rapunzel, Rapunzel

Aunt Scallion said I could call her
anything I wanted, as long as it wasn't
'Witch,' or 'Mother,' so since
she named me after salad,
I figured it was only fair.
On good days, I’ll call her Callie,
but when it’s “Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
keep drawing those free-body diagrams!
Well. On those days she will not
forget her onion-rooted identity.

You are under some delusion, I think,
that I am locked here in distress,
that I long for sun and sea and stars
and most importantly, love,
and your love specifically, whatever
that means to you.
I am not distressed;
I am undergoing education,
and by my calculations I will be done
in less than six months, actually.

Aunt Callie and I have been
working on this project for years.
Soon our pulley system
will be sophisticated enough
for me to lower myself from the window
unaided, using only
my hair. Isn’t that exciting?
Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait
until then if you want to try it.

I don’t have the time to recalibrate
for your height and weight,
but I’m sure I could keep
yelling down to you like this
on break hours,
if that’s what you want.

Aunt Callie says to tell you
that I am Samson and you are very
close to being my Delilah,
which I think is a terrible analogy.
She’s not old, but she’s
kind of getting there.

There are stairs round the back,
if you’d like to come solve equations
with me. It’s dreadfully boring
sometimes, which is why I’ve
taken to singing the quadratic formula
whenever it shows up.
That must have been what you heard.

Aunt Callie says you’re welcome
to come up, if you can get past
that bit of overgrown hedge. We’re not
the best gardeners, pardon us.
She is making onion soup with rampion,
which I think is supposed to be funny
and really isn’t, but if you’re determined
enough, you can find out
what you think of it yourself.

Other Princess Poems:
Snow White
The Little Mermaid
Beauty and the Beast
Sleeping Beauty

The Dragon's Daughter

My mother is a dragon,
scaly-clawed and fire-mouthed,
enormous and settled in her ancient wisdom.
Born where the earth
meets the sun face-to-face,
she has carved out caves for her children
from the forbidding cliffs of a foreign land,
and labors ferociously, day and night,
in teaching them to fly.

It is no easy task: who wants to
leave his snug home, his mother's warm
and beating heart?
And so she growls and pushes,
sends us to school one-by-one,
burns the cookies every now and then.

I am a dragon's daughter,
yet here I am, breathing ice into the early morning,
wings still new and hidden beneath
my winter coat. For now, my legs—slipping
though they are on packed sidewalk snow—will do.
What would my dragon-mother think,
to see me now, half-numb and hungry
in the harsh wind?

Remember to wear a hat, she says,
and tell your brother not to forget his scarf.
The warmth of her voice bleeds through
thin glass against my ear,

an ember to hold beneath my tongue
as I catch my frozen breath
and hold it in my fiery heart till
I am home again.

Mirror, Mirror

This is what they tell you:
I was a baby with pearl skin, black jade
hair, and a crying mouth
wet and red like ripe apples
in the early morning mists,
the king's daughter once, they will murmur,
still lovely if she had lived
before they show you the greater treasure
of the emperor's little boy,
his tiny porcelain face a perfect mirror of
his mother's splendid beauty.

Nobody understood why
I did what I did.
The gods themselves could see
I loved him like a son, and how I loved
the fragile walls of our home that
trembled in the autumn wind, the fragrant cherry
blossoms that dangled from the curving rooftops
and blanketed the courtyard in the spring.
(How I honored my father excellently,
how I respected his wife as if she had
borne me in her own womb.)

Because they did not know,
they will not tell you of my brother's
first words and how they spoke
my death. Not ba-ba, not ma-ma, but
my own cursed name—and oh,
at that moment my mother's fingernails
began to grow, into the wicked
teeth of a jeweled comb biting at my neck, and
the fraying of my collar's fastening
that twisted in too tightly,
and cold knives to peel sweet apples for
bribing his little tongue,
and all the while he cried and cried
and cried for me.

How glad they were to lose me!
I ran up and up, as far as I could,
while my little brother fell silent at last.
She would have another, I told
myself. She would
have another.

Now the hot sun has painted my skin
with mud, and the mountains have kissed
my hair with snow, and my wrinkled mouth is
the muddled color of dusk.
You may find me here, sitting by
the ricefields when the sun is setting, but
only if you hasten: my time is slipping
like the moon wanes into darkness.

My seven sons have no sister
to cry to. They bring me oranges from
the lowlands and green jade
from the caves nearby,
smiling like their father
and nothing at all like me.

Other Princess Poems:
The Little Mermaid
Beauty and the Beast
Sleeping Beauty