Fitzsimmons

September 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

No, it was a song, then. A song that reminded me. We were driving. Golden hour on the uptown. Good morning. You were singing to me, again for the first time. Broken window rolled down all the way and you will find love. Went uptown craving autumn, looking for a pumpkin pie and in the 5 o’clock everything felt pure, pure fall, freshly pressed. Quiet of December in the twang of a mandolin and seeing out west a prick of sunshine running back to trace the arc of your irises. Warm and brown and steady, holding. I caught our image in the truck’s slick side and saw love holding on to a long-haired self, fleeting as it shimmered in the bending of the semi’s metal body, matching rhythm with a smooth-wrist strumming.

It was his song that made me think of it. William. William Fitzsimmons made me call you and I think I’m sorry, but don’t you remember?

There was frozen pizza sticking to a pan we forgot to oil, cheese dripping off the sides; we watched it gurgle on the oven floor until the smoke came out, black and wounded. You opened the old brown door and let autumn in and it caught you up in a whorl of leaves. I think it overcame you and you kissed me in the kitchen, then, soaked in smoke and shaking towels at our mistakes.

Caught up in a whorl of falling. Up or down, it didn’t matter, because each direction ended in a cup of coffee and a two-sided “I’m sorry” except for when it didn’t.

I think I’m sorry this time. I wish there was a cup of coffee waiting, too, but you’re busy I remember and autumn was a while ago. It was a song, then.

The birds of spring returning

Your ghost I burn

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Night Swimming

September 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

Earth is old. Dry of age, dry of want, see her languish back upon herself like a dissatisfied lover. I trace her crumbling along tiny fault lines, from rock to boulder to lacebark elm and rest my bare feet at the old roots for a blinking moment. Then, quickly I flee, pounding through the leafless dark, searching once again: searching for the green, the damp, the jeweled grasses sleeping in the east.

A sudden halt, my pounding feet arrested by a cool splashing. Crests of dark water, wild in their basin, come roiling up the wide red bank of the midnight beach to crash against these dusty olive pillars like young tsunamis. Old cotton shivers in a fresh wind; released, it flutters down to the dry red sand. Deeper and deeper the pillars go, striding resolutely in a ribald march to the center. Eyes up, then, treading through the star waves, the heavens rippling over skin and hair and sibilant body. Ears beneath the surface hear no pings of responsibility, fingers, detached from the sharp blinking screens trickle limpid through the black wet something, lightless and unencumbered. We glide in a starry silence, devoid of prickling necessity – harried by land and graceful by sea. I am limitless, floating airy beneath the belts and winks and glimmering flirtations in the wide expanse of sky. Sky-sheet water-bed sinking.

There is no greater disconnect.

 

Hummingbird

September 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

It was the height of July and the hummingbirds had zipped back into their old haunts of our small summer paradise home to raise their families and take advantage of the multitude of bright red feeders my mother set out every year. Three-feathers, a hummingbird named the summer before for the three jewel-red feathers that shimmered on his throat, returned to raise his own family and we watched from the kitchen window as he taught them how to drink the sugar water. It’s not often a child of the suburbs has a chance to watch two generations of a hummingbird family grow up in her own backyard, but looking back, it’s plain my brother and I weren’t just children of the suburbs. Embraced by our mother’s brainchild, a small, colorful wonderland of native plants and labyrinthine pathways through greenery, we grew up in a bubble of trees, flowers, and hidden corners under bushes where we’d share the dried fruit and nuts I would swipe from the old white refrigerator. Some days, when the hummingbird feeders were low, Mom would set the sugar water boiling on the stove and I’d have a chance to swipe that, too. Occasionally I felt guilty, stealing food from the jeweled birds I loved so much, but the sugar-free candies and bowls of damp carrots were never quite enough for growing children. We stole sugar whenever we could, even eating it raw in the forts we made of couch cushions. But when the sugar in the jar got low and we couldn’t steal anymore without coming under suspicion, we would wait impatiently until mother went grocery shopping, which was less often than we would have liked. I fancied myself a strong-minded child and figured I’d survive these short separations from sugar, but my brother, on the other hand, was a small addict, destined to hit rock bottom sooner rather than later. That sooner came on a particularly hot Tuesday, I remember, and we’d been fighting all day. I’d lost each battle decisively, my words or my fists always too small against his two extra years of experience in the rough world. Frustrated and repressed, I trudged moodily around the house, racking my brain for a sneakier way to exact revenge. I was sitting in the living room, sulking over my favorite Eyewitness guide (one about hummingbirds, naturally) when I happened to look out the front window and see my brother, standing on the tips of his toes and tilting the hummingbird feeder until a steady stream of sugar water poured out and into his mouth. I watched, gaping, for a good five minutes, as the feeder quickly drained and he stood there, sticky and pleased. Like any loyal sister would do, I ran to my mother, visions of revenge and timeouts dancing the tango in the back of my eyes. After running through the entire house without finding my mother, I began to deflate. What if she’d left? I spun in a quick circle and directed my body towards the back door, on a beeline for the vegetable garden. I found her alternating between pulling up mosquito grass and slapping loudly at the mosquitoes settling cloud-like on her darkened skin.

Um. Mom. I shuffle my feet, as if to suggest this is a difficult thing for me to tell. But I must do it, for the good of the hummingbirds, and my brother’s dental hygiene. Mom. The hummingbird feeder is empty.

I filled it this morning. She doesn’t look up, but keeps pulling weeds and slapping at mosquitoes. The high pitched whine sounds off in my ear and I slap foolishly at it, missing the mosquito and successfully disabling my left ear for the time being. Perhaps revenge isn’t worth getting eaten alive, I decide. But I give it one more try.

Well, I saw a really huge hummingbird drinking from it, I say. He was really big. Probably the same size as Kody. Looked a lot like Kody, actually. She looks, then. Quizzically. I see the realization hit her and follow her triumphantly as she marches into the house, snatches Kody by the shirt front, and demands to know the truth. Gleefully, I watched him shrink in her grip, nodding his head miserably. Grounded for two weeks, with extra yard chores. She walked away, shaking her head. Once her back was turned, I did a small, gloating dance in his doorway before scampering off to revel in my genius. He didn’t speak to me for a solid two weeks and I felt powerful. He may have been stronger in words and in fists, but I was small and malicious, weaseling my way into good graces and using them for all they were worth.

Clay foot

September 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

My grey mother with the red clay feet, her weekends in the garden building and razing down the pathways and small wild places to make a turning winding labyrinthine that swallowed stray cats and small children.  I drew a map to find my way home from my own days in her backyard grass, with the hard spiked sweet gum balls falling from the trees overhead and sticking in my tumble down brown curls. I came in some days on my own bare feet clay red and sticky, slapping on linoleum to a different rhythm than hers, shoe-clad still and disapproving of nature on her floor. Nature in her house, where I brought it in to make my own: small summer snow people, stuck together with chunky glue and sweet gum balls, smiling googly eyes; they hung on the tree at Christmas or vanished in my closet midway through the fall when I made and she didn’t see. My mother doesn’t meet the things I made; all that nature art was just a glue-stuck shot-in-the-dark for a small “good job” and in the lack of that, that’s when I saw my mother, my mother and her feet of clay inside. When cobbled nature art became poetry and I glued words together instead, with a slow methodical tap of a keyboard between brother’s war games and mother’s working and dial-up when friends called. When I found something that made me feel alive, real, like breathing had meaning if only to communicate what breath is like on the page, as if to put words to the feelings we all have, feelings we run into in the grocery store, or in the park, walking and we recognize their faces because they’ve been here before but we’ve never had the courage to stop them, pause them, shake their hand and ask their name and know them by the way they make us think. When I made and built and poured out my young soul like pancake batter on a Saturday morning but she never plugged in the griddle so I sat and curdled in mid-afternoon. The small things she couldn’t see for the mess they made, never the “good job” affirmation I wanted in words on paper not in microwaved dinner or dry rye bread. Mother’s red clay feet – I thought I saw them, saw them in the yelling and the fighting and the way she’d puff herself up fragile and airy but strong in the breath of her like a bird ruffling growing and she was never bigger than him but sometimes her words were sharper and faster, chainsaw rumbling and they cut him straight through. Him, my father tree trunk walking teddy bear loving but stumbling because he forgot or saw something more important- I work late nights because I love you – he was never there but we all forgot the reason and absence of him was an absence of love. But there were no oysters or late nights at the bars laughing and growing and living a way we never got to, he was always late nights at the office, working long past closing to keep his company alive, keep his family eating and laughing and his sacrifice was losing her love. But he kept her, he kept us warm and fed and safe and loved in the moments he was there, the brief blips of time when life was more than work and he could show us how he held us in his soul, how he wrapped those pictures of us ’round his mind under the flickering tired lights of work. Father’s feet of clay were dusted in metallic shavings, metal in the skin of his hands by the time I looked at them closely. Tired old hands too young curling tightly round the things he wanted for his family. And they, they with their feet of clay, raising me and raising him and owning that we’d be whatever we decided but never telling us we could be anything, because parents don’t lie to their kids. Parents feet of clay, moving slowly across the lives of the children that love gave them, giving of everything that was, until love was a slice of dry rye bread and late night absence said I love you better than we all could tongue by tongue.

Little Brother

September 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Standing there like a pair of tweedles, our round stomachs pouting, we stared blank and bored down the old brown staircase, wondering about science things.

Well, the Newton guy Mom told us about said gravity is what happens when things fall.

Like the apple.

Yes. Like the apple. Anyway, we should test it. For science.

Maybe they’d put our names in the science book!

Little brother didn’t quite understand how life worked yet. Our science experiment wouldn’t get our names in the book, but I didn’t tell him that. I knew he’d go away if I showed him how the world goes, because it’s a sad thing, and scientists need to be happy to make science things happen.

Maybe we could. But we have to experiment first!

I watched his face crumple up while he tried to make ideas. I held my breath so I wouldn’t distract him, but I didn’t see any light bulbs come on. Finally, he slumped against the wall.

I’m tired. Science ideas are hard.

Good thing you have me! I already have an idea. It’s a great idea.

Oh! Tell me!

I wait a minute, because waiting makes him excited. My ideas need a lot of excitement to make them feel good. So I wait a little minute, like I’m thinking, see? His face starts to get frowny and I know I have to tell him quick or I’ll lose him.

Okay. Here it is. If the apple falling taught Mr. Newton about gravity, what would a person falling teach us?

But when people fall it hurts.

Science is about sack-rifices, little brother. Like how you give up your lunch to Freddy when his mother forgets to pack him one.

I think that made little brother understand. He nodded and got smiley again.

So how do we ex-pear-ment?

It’s like this. You stand at the edge of the stairs and I’ll push you and we’ll see what happens. Maybe people are different from apples.

Okay!

Ready?

He’s still smiley when he nods and then I push but he doesn’t float like I thought maybe he would. He falls. Like the trash can when I dropped it doing chores yesterday, except he’s a lot more bendy. A lot more bendy and red. More like the apple, I guess.

Momma came running around the corner when she heard the last thump sound. When she saw little brother and his red, she stopped being Momma. She picked up little brother and something was wrong. A grey lady held little brother and got tears. I know what tears mean.

I walked down, real slow. Saw little brother how she held him. His face was crumpled, like it was earlier, up at the top of the stairs, back when he was thinking.

He wasn’t thinking anymore.

grey Tuesday

September 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Here, I recall a Tuesday darkly grey

when Sunshine flew against the window pane

a snap, a flutter, crack and listless fall

her neck askew she tumbled – autumn dry

to rest upon the carpet brown below.

They told no tale of heaven for a bird,

no funeral for yellow feathered friend –

the garbage men took her away instead

consumed by all the weight of rancid trash.

I found in Death a businessman that day:

he reaped and gathered, on from house to house

methodical and calculating, step-

by-step he went.  And I saw him to be

an absence of the lightness known in youth.

two thousand and four poems

September 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Her branches reach back to their ground

and weeping, enclose her trunk

Her transparent green skins melt

liquid sunlight pouring greenly –

this room of my own.

Blunt pencil scraping old paper skin

I lean girlish

at her foot finding words tumbling

sap-sweet

filling paperblanks

this poetry young.

 

September 12, 2004

Old, rough skin – tree bark

on weathered, burly arms.

I grab on and climb high,

scraped by long twig-fingers-

determined.

Hammock swings – wind sneeze.

Birds beside me, fearless,

search for red teardrops:

cherries, ripe and juice-filled,

drooping down.

Faeries watch, worried

should I disturb their peace.

Beams of light press in.

An illusion of magic –

secret place.

Where Am I?

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