2000s · Healing the Heart of Ophelia · Poetry

July 1970

for my mother at 20

You seemed taller in the trees
Hair parted hanging long as limbs
How high did you climb then
How long did you remain
among the leafless branches
Twenty year old girl
Newly mothered
You must feel young smiling
Quilted dress does not stop you
You stand up and lean over down
It is dusk on another day
You swing— arms open— in the forest
Fingers spread wide
Thick red cardigan
You must feel free
I only knew you this way
Homemade dresses and open-toed shoes
You hated feeling closed in
You did come back for her
You must have known
As the woods grew dark
A new decade was upon you
A chance to begin again
The mountain air, crisp
I imagine, filled your lungs slow
Head tilted back as you swing
Back, smiling, and
Swing forward

First appeared in Healing the Heart of Ophelia.
Recently published on Cadence Collective.

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2000s · Healing the Heart of Ophelia · Poetry

Concrete Decay

He was a redhead, freckle-faced boy.
His eyes were pale blue emptiness.
Fair skinned with blonde eyebrows
that got lost on his forehead.
He squinted all the time,
when he looked at you,
when he listened.
He was inarticulate and lacking grace.
He was a white-trash junkyard kid lost
in the wilderness of waist high grass and bamboo.
Lost in punk rock and Billy Idol snarls,
mohawks and dog-collar studs.
He bought me a Barbie tea set
and I felt like he loved me.
I forgave him for nailing My Little Pony
to the wall with a hairspray-spiked mane.
He came to my church with a motorcycle and tattoos,
after the Marines with spaceship conspiracies
and patent worthy inventions,
with his red hair and freckled-face
and his eyes as pale as ice.
I saw him on Christmas Eve
after his release with his crystal-meth mom.
He hugged me with his sweat-lined skin
at my job at the discount store.
I sunk away from him and his toxic residue.
He called me his little sister, but I only smiled
back a discount employee smile.
I stepped back from his oozing disease
that poisoned his reasoning,
that made him eat dogs
and break into automobiles for a place to sleep.
I stepped back from the dementia
he wore like a tattooed-robe on the day before Christmas.
When in backyards as big as city blocks,
the grass grew as tall as children,
we could hide in the long blades
like rabbits resting from the bloodhounds.
We built a world of bamboo forts and yachts
through the holes in the chain link fence.
We mastered block walls between junkyards
and guard dogs and newly constructed condominiums.
We lived adjacent to a graveyard of demolished houses.
We explored the wreckage like Greek ruins.
He was my brother then in our world of demolition.
Wild and without restraint,
the games were more than hide and seek.
Truth and dare. Did I dare?
Red-haired with children in a line,
waiting to prove bravery.
I am not that kind of sister.
I left the game.
I left the decay of concrete
and steel rusted through.
I left the forts and yachts
and green blades as tall as children,
as tall as rabbits.
I left my half brother
as I went back to my work
at the discount store on Christmas Eve.
I left the disease I saw seeping through his veins.
I am not his sister.
I went back to counting money
and separating credit slips and ATMs.
I am not his sister.

3-9-01
Included in a forthcoming project called Please Judge: Short Stories Based on the Songs of Roky Erickson.

2000s · Healing the Heart of Ophelia · Poetry · Unanchored

Pale Yellow

This is the one, I decide
The one I will speak to
I must be four years old
stamp says “Aug 78”
I am squatting low in a pool
of dirty water near dark green masses
maybe algae or fungi or moss
it’s all gross to me now
the background is thick brush
low hanging wall of green leaves
I am smiling
swishing the inches of water
below me- I am in the shade
lucky me
blonde haired child- little girl
nothing on, save pale yellow shorts
my knees pressing on my bare chest
flat thighs and calves
the kind of smile is
one I had on before the camera
centered my image
I was pleased to be there
fingers on the surface of
the unclean water
my rear hanging above the sandy bottom

It’s not going to happen now. I refuse to take
her from this moment. I will not speak to this
one. She is perfect and unsuspecting. She
trusts me as I am looking down at her from
my living room couch. She believes I will allow her
to stay there out of the August heat. With her pale
yellow hair past her shoulders, she has no cavities.
She has not yet lost her baby teeth. She is free in
the stream bed alone in nineteen seventy-eight. I
am not going to be the one to take her away from
her perfect moment in the shade out of summer
heat.

7-29-00
Originally published in Healing the Heart of Ophelia, 2001
Also appeared in poeticdiversity, 11-1-13

1990s · Healing the Heart of Ophelia · Poetry · Unanchored

Last and Final Poem to N.L.

I loved you
I admit it two years
Since we last spoke
Your potato chip voice
And bony hands
The way you grouped your fingers
At your mouth
And your big off-center teeth
I loved the way you got into your car
Like a grown up with limbs too long
The way you walked into the grocery store
As awkward as a Muppet’s legs
You and your rail thin body
And old man’s clothes
I loved your shoes
The blue One Stars
And green Vans
I loved the way you couldn’t look me in the eye
The way you never took your hat off in three years
And wore glassed on your tiny head
We were children in our grown up bodies
So we went to parks at midnight
And climbed fences in schoolyards
I loved that you still skated at twenty-two
That you liked stickers and sugary Kool-Aid
I loved that you cut my hair
And painted pictures
I only saw once
That you watched G-Force
And lent me taped episodes
Even more, I loved your music
The ones you loved
You gave me Dinosaur Jr.
And the Wedding Present
You read James Joyce and
Introduced me to Holden Caulfield
(Your secret alias)
Your random letters
And indirect thoughts
I overlooked your snobbery
Your cruel remarks
I hoped to be as good as I saw you
Exclusive and without remorse
I loved the way you resisted me
I loved that you spoke to me for hours
On the telephone
I loved you then
For leaving me without apology
For digging this pit in my heart
For watching with me
The train pass deafening loud
And fingers clenched on the chain fence
You said it made you feel empty
I loved you for those words
For hating my poetry
And ridiculing my insecurities
I loved you
I know you did not understand
You thought me unimaginative
I thought you good and hateful and real
I loved you for the tiny things
Like smelly car fresheners
And emails about diluting ice
But you gave the most unkind cut
Words of detest and spite
You, who loved cartoons and butter tortillas
You did not love me
You repulsed at my weakness
Without remorse or hesitation
You broke clean of me
And I was left with your letters
And musical taste
Left with the emptiness of passing trains
Bootleg copies of foreign films
A heart gouged and affected
Left with these descriptive words
And useless opinions
This is to be your last poem
The last time I love you this way
The last of you haunting me
The last conclusion in these memories
But you knew then what my honesty was
A moment’s passing thought
You thought my sentiment cheap
I know now, you were so wrong

8-25-99
Originally published in The Long Beach Union (CSULB), 3-20-00
Also appeared in Healing the Heart of Ophelia, 2001