Before he left, she offered a box of light
a spectrum of color against his black;
red scraped from her pulsing veins
orange plucked from her sunset sky
yellow combed out from her morning hair
green cut from the edge of her irises
blue pulled from the song in her ears
indigo peeled from her darkest night
and violet picked from her truest words.
She tied them with her blind-heart kisses
and let him steal her rainbowed sky.
Let him pour them out into his grays—
let him remember her only in this way.
First published in The Bastille.
Carole King’s Tapestry album makes me feel nostalgic for the childhood I was meant to have. Her songs make me feel like a familiar friend, a warm blanket, and the epitome of a woman who knows her voice. I didn’t discover her until later in my teens, but Tapestry became required listening on any rainy day.
Street lights pass one-two-three-four
light-dark, light-dark, one-two-three
white dim passing car windows three-four
left hand on the steering wheel two-three
right hand in mine one-two your night lit face
glows, flickers two-three-four dark calm
in your eyes caught tree shadows reaching
one-two across your face three-four
for days two-three I kissed you in the dark
one-two you turn the wheel slow three-four
my hips press towards you one-two
left arm against your right, you squeeze
two-three tighter between my fingers
three-four I see beauty in your shadows
one-two you whisper, “I’m lost” two-three
you slow brake one-two-three draw S.O.S.
on dirty glass three-four my feet press
against the floor two-three I whisper back
two-three-four I’m here one-two right here
First published in Spectrum 7: What’s Your Heaven?
No 80s child escaped the draw of Depeche Mode. They were dark, they were pop, they were androgynous, they’re music was so damn catchy. They became their own genre of music, often imitated. As much as young me wanted to resist them because of their popularity, they’re songs were so easy to sing along to. Black Celebration was this album full of hypnotic beats and angsty lyrics. I related. The volume always in increased times ten when the final anthemic song, But Not Tonight, came on.
I attend church on Thursday nights
we buy coffee or tea sit in hard chairs or stools
we come like my hippie parents
in blue jeans and tennis shoes
there is no preacher but we all pray
one at a time we stand at the pulpit
with guitars and poems, notepads and piano keys
we pray to each other
we say, I have loved–I have hated
I have sinned–I have enjoyed it
I have hurt–I have broken
I have lied–I have told truth
we sing it loud–we sing it quiet
we come to heal here with our hearts open
we hold out our souls up high to God
we are ugly–we are beautiful
we take turns–we hear each other pray
and we mean it–we need to believe it
we clap and say amen or know we have felt it
right down there where all the truth lies
I feel it all here– all God’s creation
the young and the old–we all come as we are
I come to pray here with my eyes open
I feel God here as real as any congregation
First published in Long Beach Underground.
In 1987, Strangeways, Here We Come by The Smiths was released. It was my first trip into the dark frolicking land of The Smiths. Unlike some albums I was discovering after the fact, Strangeways belonged to our 1987. The combination of Morrissey and Johnny Mar made the distinctive sound addicting. The lyrics were at once funny and sad, but also very dark and twisted. Perfect for 12-year-old me. Though they broke up very soon after, the language of the Manchester angst was one of the biggest influences of my first poems.
While I am now
shedding my skin,let me also
shed my bones.While I wring out
my flooded heart,let me now
wring out my soul.While I cleanse
my soiled face,let me wipe clean
my red-stained eyes.And as I close
this door behind,let me now burn
every last old house down.
First published in Long Beach Underground.
I had a strangely conservative Christian childhood. We were not allowed to listen to secular (non Christian) music. So when I first hear All Fall Down by the 77s, my world was blown. They sounded just like the forbidden music on the radio, but they had a very straight forward Christian message in all their songs. Musically, I was intoxicated with the dark melodies and pop rhythms. Somehow they blurred the line for me in the mid 80s. I remained obsessed with them throughout my teens.