VISIONS OF EDEN

We are stardust; we are golden.

And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

“Woodstock,” Joni Mitchell, 1970

Bathed in sunlight, I feel almost human.
Must be the antidote to my strangeness,
spine melting into wet soil, facing the ether.
How strange it is to inhabit a body, mortal
stardust, cosmic temple. Nothing earthly
has ever eased me. But there is a feeling like
coming home or holiness or divinity when
my bones are clothed by warmth. To feel
seen by the sky, pursued by its glow, how
it overcomes me. Remember that you are
stardust and to stardust you shall return.

The infinite calls me Child. The endless
breathes my name and I listen, obedient.

INVISIBLE MOVEMENTS

I do not like the motion my mind makes
tossing and turning with the bold inertia
of a spinning coin. I long to live as still
as a man-made marina. As a scaffolded
cathedral, no one to hear its song. To be
that free, no known vernacular, rooted
without expectation. Sacred unmoving.
Have you ever yearned to be a fortress?
Unpolluted meadow, virgin dusting of
first snow. I am you, I am you, I am you.

LUDDITE

Before there were screens we were magic.
Before we started crossing streets with faces
glued to glass, before we began seeking out
love in Google searches, 14,580,000,000
results (0.68 seconds)
but never one exact
enough to capture the whole of it. I miss
being part of a world that loved me back,
a living piece of its anatomy, apart from
this instantaneous, delirious, nauseating
madness. I remember when I was young,
using my hands. Kneading bread with
bare palms, dough collapsing under my
weight, holy labor. And later, plucking
tomatoes from the vine, beads of sweat
collecting at the hairline, nothing to
preserve the moment but that feeling
of worthiness, that my shoulders, mine,
my own,
had been chosen by the sun
to be kissed like that. I can’t remember
the last time my hands moved that
gently, assembling and dismantling
the invisible frame of reality. Know this.

I once touched the bones of this world.
I scattered fingerprints on real things.

I lived to see it and I haven’t forgotten.

That sort of magic.

DAILY BREAD

It seems as if

I am forgetting how to be gentle

how to be less madness, more

lavender wick candles, farm-fresh eggs, dog-eared pages of leather-covered Bibles, newborn kittens, off-key Christmas Eve carolers, dimpled baby hands wrapping
around larger pinky fingers, chocolate chip brownie batter, past-midnight waltzing
under overhead kitchen lights, country homes with front porch swings, weeping
willow trees, migrating swarms of monarchs, city cats peering out of city windows,
calm of a raging late-August thunderstorm, memorized prayer, first touches shared by
new lovers, good news brought to hospital waiting rooms, successful surgeries, first
tube of mascara for the middle-school girl desperate to grow up, every constellation
newly discovered by ancient telescope, grass-stained knees on patchwork jeans, the
first-ever memory I can recall, rom-com happy endings, the perfect fit of a thrifted
prom dress, handmade friendship bracelets you keep on in the chlorinated pool,
childhood family vacations, reminders that you love me scrawled on Post-It notes,
worn out teddy bears put through the wringer of time, waxing and waning moons,
the will to every way, proof of miracles, Mom’s apple pie, every delicious summer.

Take me back

home to these small

definitions

of tenderness

in a mad,

mad world.

ANOTHER DIALOGUE OF SELF AND SOUL

after William Butler Yeats; Robert Frost

Maybe in another timeline I would have chased the thrill of art,
would have penned entire shelves of words by now, would have
long ago carved my name into the bark of Unforgettable, soul
suspended in that living tissue. But I gave up art for practicality.
I surrendered myself to the laws of the world pleading Take me
for what I should be, not for what I am. Let me accept forgettable.

Oh—to have lived endless lives confined in the fallacy of a mind.
And to think of all the possible routes I could have taken, dear
Frost, do you hear me? I am still dreaming of roads never taken,
now forever paved over. In my unlived life I am blossoming in
the dim smoke of an underground hideaway. Electric. There
I have earned Artist, martyred by never going gentle into any
good night. Rage, rage, this body, that body, all of the bodies
of which I have played tenant, of which I have tried on and
worn and later outgrew. Other timeline Self would gaze at this
self, this lowercase self, this shell of a poet drifting across these
useless keys, hardly making any discernible noise, nor progress,
her unremarkable words, these empty shelves, the dead trees
of magic branching nowhere, all of that rotting bark. And
she would shake her head at me— (finger? fist? shoulders?)
—weeping No, you promised you’d find me one day. And maybe
I’d weep for her. Or maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I’d just observe
her impossible, unreachable, uninhabitable beauty, the me
that could have been, should have lived, and let her escape me.
I couldn’t find you. I lost touch of you. I’m sorry I couldn’t reach.

BEDROOM COLLECTION: 2/3

I.
Damp air, mold and mildew, paper-thin facades leaving
nothing to the imagination. Even with the door locked
and secured by electronic keypad prone to malfunction
I knew exactly what so-and-so did last Friday night with
an upperclassman she met while inebriated at one of the
more notorious fraternity houses. Alpha something or
other. I didn’t even have to ask, I heard. In that room
we left the windows gaping wide in the dead of winter.
The air never moved, only churned like a sick stomach.

II.
T and I weren’t really friends but then we were
and then we weren’t and then we finally were, for
real the last time. In our corners, snapshots of past
lives. Boyfriends. High school theatre performances.
Smiling faces of hearts we had to leave behind. How
comical, what humidity and homesickness and hardly
a 10×10 expanse of cheap tile floor can do to two girls.
We grew insane in there as our photos, Scotch-taped
and secured, plummeted from the sweating wall. Sad fate.
Nothing stuck. It was a home we tried to make a home
but never really became a home, no matter how many
times we rearranged the furniture at 3 AM in hopes of
changing the energy of that blessed, cursed lack of space.

III.
When she left for good I stayed behind and felt
strange inside, the room barren and stripped of noise,
of Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour on loop from her side of
the room, wafting scent of burnt cookies from the kitchen
next door, the volleyball court view usually obstructed by
window box fans, our end-of-day talking half-asleep about
who we ran into, the clumps of hair we found in the sticky
communal showers, the rowdy boys down the hall always
yelling about unimportant things, everything and nothing.

IV.
Suddenly it was May and the world smelled of flowers
blooming in sidewalk cracks and it was time to leave forever.
Out came the rags and the floor cleaner and away went the
remnants of my first year, clothes folded and crammed back
into the car trunk they hailed from. It was the end of spring
and my soul twinged having left behind the first place I ever
dreamt of forgetting. We were there and then we weren’t.

V.
I pass it sometimes. Familiar limestone and brick. Still,
it’s not the same. We no longer haunt. No more of our tears
fall within the cement walls of the sacred profane, no more
constant hum, heat never rising, song of summer stuck
in the throat. That damp air belongs to someone else now.

VI.
It changed us, though.
It changed us.

WHEN I TELL YOU I AM TRYING TO BE A BETTER PERSON

What I really mean is I’ve been biting my tongue
so hard I’ve left a sore so deep it hurts to speak.
Karma from the universe, I suppose. She has
a knack for double-checking that she gives back
what is owed. What I mean is I am trying to be
more easy moonlight, soft velvet of a beagle’s ears.
More rocking chair on a chilly August evening,
graceful flight of a hummingbird, vanishing.

If poverty is having a soul predisposed to hate,
I have nothing in my pockets. I have burned all
the way through the fabric and my spare change
has long ago spilled onto the grimy floor of some
subway station. When I tell you I am trying
to be a better person, I mean forgiveness is not
programmed in my nature. I am more raging inferno
than rush of water. I could never become a cloistered
nun, could never obey that vow of silence. I tell you

I am trying to be a better person. For you I’d unclench
my jaw, loosen my death grip, relax my fist. I adore you
enough to give peace a try. To be your hummingbird
heart, soft velvet, easiest moonlight you’ll ever know.

BILDUNGSROMAN

I grew up on Sunday night youth group playing Sardines behind the Catholic parish chapel under suburban stars. We used to intentionally hide in storage closets so we could sit with our crushes in dark stillness, bodies innocently pressed against ceiling-high stacks of metal folding chairs. It was the age of giddy purity. My coming of age was marked by brick red drugstore lipstick and thrifted prom dresses I wore to my first real boyfriend’s homeschool parties. It was the age of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Arctic Monkeys and baby pink Converse high-tops muddied by hometown soil. Of uneven side bangs cut with safety scissors and sucking in my stomach at the ballet barre in that pale yellow room with mirrored walls. Back then I believed in everything and nothing. I wanted to be sought after but not seen. I was a good girl pining for faraway cities and freedom from my seventeenth year. I wrote my college applications in free verse poetry and shrugged my shoulders with every rejection letter. I trained my mouth to memorize the vocabulary of bad girls. At the time I envisioned my future self finally content in a New York apartment, some prestigious writing school, marrying someone who would teach me to outgrow my sweetness. Someone who would teach me how to live. I never quite reached those dreams but in retrospect they were good to have. I covered every inch of my bedroom wall with magazine cutouts of body parts I found beautiful. Elbows and lips and glittery eyes. I didn’t know it then but this was my attempt to assemble myself a body I felt safe in. I can still feel my heart racing, crouching behind the back door of the church, half-hoping to be found so the game would end.

____ OR CURRENT RESIDENT

Chinese Kitchen on N. Main has been alive
longer than I have. 26th Anniversary, 15% off
boasts curly lettering, origin Microsoft Word.
I am stunned by the permanence of things.
Last winter an old friend of mine used to peer
into the misty shop window with me, watching
locals passionately devour steamed dumplings.
We swore we’d try them one day but never
got around to it. Dear Current Resident of
Apartment E, take this booklet of coupons,
for Big Easy Savings, Priced Low Every Day.
If only they knew I wish I could buy time.
That I wish I could fill my plate with heaps
of minutes, that I wish we could have been
permanent enough to make it inside. Maybe
we would’ve loved their sesame chicken, or
maybe we’d come back over and over for
the house special, or the beef lo mein or
maybe we’d deem it whatever and never
come back, passing the open sign every night
but at least we’d know. I’ve got a phantom
limb taste in my mouth that wouldn’t be
there if you had just kept walking me home.

DELUGE

after F. Scott Fitzgerald

There are infinitely many kinds of love in this world.

There’s Mom’s extra fluffy chocolate chip pancakes on a lazy Sunday morning after mass. There’s “Did you get home safe?” and “I won’t leave until I see you lock the door behind you.” There’s love that stays for good and love that leaves its shirts neatly folded in your bottom drawer. There’s love that comes back with a different face, somehow foreign—no, it’s the same one, just older. There’s kindergarten love, trading juice boxes at the very top of the playground slides. There’s first love that will leave you dizzy and disoriented, 18 years with no compass. There’s love squeezing your hand tight in the ICU wing, hooked up to humming oxygen tanks. There’s love with a wet tongue and floppy ears. There’s love on a speeding train, sticking its hand out the window, going, going, gone, and never touched again.

Never the same love twice, said someone important somewhere. Never the right kind of batter to recreate those dewy mornings. Never enough laundry washes to get the smell out of the cotton.
Never the same face, always changing, even after a lifetime of knowing it.