Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Her name isn't Eve

She holds pale snake and bitten apple
like she's the first woman on earth like
the first time you tasted your own
blood like a child punished for hunger
but her name is not Eve

She bears the world on her shoulders
bent like a softer version of Atlas like
a thousand people have loved her and
left like ocean grinds down solid stone
but her name was never Eve

She carries light bulb promise in her hip
bones and your salt salvation in her thin
breasts like the name you always forget
like desire always finds a way to ground
but her name isn't Eve

She walks prickle footed and sunburn shy
with witchcraft in her hair and flint in her
chest for when they knife her, when she's cut
she will spark and scar you, she knows burn
but her name is never Eve

Friday, April 21, 2017

If my trauma could talk

Today my trauma wants a poem written about it. It wants to be heard like the fierce crack of thunder when everyone is looking at the gorgeous lightning. It wants to be made more beautiful than it is, to be wrapped up in metaphor and disguised on stretched canvas.
It wants to escape the soft trembling cage of my body and scamper around stepping on people's toes and scratching their legs and licking their faces and saying look, look what she carries inside her.

See how she says no to the right people and yes to the wrong ones. See how she plunges into healing like tumbling off a cliff during a storm. How she can't help dragging the sandpaper of memory across her tender skin. How she forgets that safety feels like pulling the blankets up around her ears at night. Like quiet, like sunshine and dappled shade. Like a purring cat that won't leave her alone. Like kisses that don't make her tremble. That love doesn't have to feel like it's going to blow up inside her.

My trauma wants to be all alone like a lighthouse, a beacon for where not to go. It wants company that can stroke its raised hackles but doesn't know what that means or how to ask. It wants to change its name into an un-pronounce-able calm. It wants to tell you everything, like the rings of a tree hold history. It wants to forget everything.  It doesn't know how to end this poem.

Friday, March 10, 2017

An introvert abroad - day 7

Day 7.

The Mountain.

Remember when service station attendants used to fill your car with fuel for you? Yeah, seems they do that here. I didn't know what to do with myself while he did, so I ended up buying a drink I didn't really need. Not sure if it's good old-fashioned service or clever sales tactics. Maybe both.

I climbed a small area of Mount Taranaki. About 3 hours of walking altogether. If I had more time and fitness, I'd have stayed longer and done the "goblin forest" walk too (isn't it magical that is actually a thing, not just a figment of the imagination).

So, so beautiful. It seems strange to call something natural "amazing", when it's there all the time. Creatures and plants and animals and fungi and bacteria and precipitation and sunlight all doing their thing. We cityfolk just forget about it, surround ourselves with things, landscapes modified beyond recognition.

At lunch I met a rooster named Grandfather, in a homely barn converted to a country restaurant. I ate a Prutje dutch pancake (well, half of it. It was a calzone-style filled pancake that was possibly bigger than my head).

On the way back, I stopped randomly in a little town and found the memento I've been looking for (one that eluded me in the tourist gift shops and bigger centres). A hand carved stone pendant in the symbol manaia: "(Guardian Angel) The manaia symbolizes a mythical being with a bird’s head a human body and fish tail. The invisible light surrounding a person."

Has it really been a week already? It seems like much less and much more time simultaneously.

Mount Taranaki with his head in the the clouds

Tethered to the sky

Thursday, March 9, 2017

An introvert abroad - day 6

Day 6.

M is for mountain goat.

After spending half the morning rearranging my itinerary (to avoid severe weather and flooding in Coromandel, where I planned to end my tour), I set out for the day, unsure of where I was going. I ended up climbing Paritutu Rock via a route that can barely be called a path. I ate morning tea with a magnificent view. My legs were mush by the time I got back to the car.

I was tired for the rest of the day, physically and mentally. No philosophy or insights today. Not much magic. Just meandering. A couple of second hand shops... a rock-lined waterway... kinetic sculptures in an art gallery... a massage... a little too much icecream after dinner. I think I'll sleep well tonight.

"Everything has been said..." - Mary-Louise Browne

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

An introvert abroad - day 5

Day 5.

Today was a day of scents.

The damp earth after all-night rain.
Stale cigarette smoke wafting out of the car upholstery.
The after-scent on my clothes after sitting in a restaurant with an open kitchen.
The peculiar, distinctive dry-damp odour of caves.
The changing quality of the air from green inland valleys to wooded mountains to salty coast.
Passing livestock trucks.
The homely smell of frying onions.
Fresh nail polish.

Inside an inky black cave, galaxies of glowworms. They are actually considered maggots when they are in the phase of development where they glow. But, as our guide eloquently summarised: "we didn't think anyone would pay to see glow-maggots". I tried to not breathe the unwashed odour of the backpackers shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the boat, and wished I could stay under that miniature night sky much longer.

In half an hour on this beach, so many sensory delights that I can hardly catch them all. Black sand, sprinkled with spectacular driftwood of all sizes. The shading of the clouds and the water beneath them, from storm-backed grey horizon to hidden golden sunset. Drying seaweed wafting its sticky stench over the beach.

The sound of rounded stones clattering over each other in the waves takes my mind into the past. Last year I briefly dated a man who was blind. Deprived of the option of sharing images of the quirky things I notice in daily life and the beautiful places I experienced, I started recording sound bites to share instead. I found myself listening to the world differently, finding unusual landmarks in the constant landscape of noise. It was almost 6 months ago, and I still haven't lost the habit, or a lingering kernel of sadness at how it ended.

Then, as I'm sitting on a rock overlooking the waves, two bull mastiff pups run to me. Ignoring the urging of their gap-toothed owner, and my nudges, they sit their warm flanks down against my thigh and lower back, and push their heads under my hand and elbow. The next person to walk past comments that I have "the best seat in the world". I agree. On the walk back, two young black cats with white bibs scamper under the boardwalk. A cluster of surfers whoop and holler further out from the beach. And I walk back to the house smiling.

Monday, March 6, 2017

An introvert abroad - day 3

Day 3.

Yesterday I thought that I wouldn't write something every day. I thought I should wait until something spectacular happens (whatever that means).

Then I asked myself why I was sharing it here: why not just write for the sake of it, squirrel it away for later? I read a friend's Facebook post about social media being bananas for the monkey mind and thought: hmm, maybe I'm just banana-hunting. After finishing this paragraph I wanted to delete it.

Then today happened and I couldn't help noting down more moments, more thoughts. Too many to cram into one post here, although I have to tell you about Sheila.

On the intercity train I sat next to an elderly English woman. Her stories and commentary were so fascinating that introverted little me didn't mind that she filled the better part of 2 hours with her chatter.

She's been in New Zealand since 1964. Her husband died on holiday in Norfolk Island less than 10 years later. He had to be buried there, because she couldn't afford the then $28 000 to hire a plane to bring him home.

Sheila hates the way people say her name in Australia, and reminds them that hers has a capital S. Together we wondered why it became a colloquial term for a woman. Sheila thinks Australia is amazing but can't stand the heat and the deadly critters.

Sheila thought it was better that I'm single rather than settling for an unhappy marriage, like one of her granddaughters just had. She followed it up by telling me I still had time to find someone nice, in just the right grandmotherly-but-worldy-wise tone that didn't make me bristle.

Sheila owns a bach overlooking the beach where Captain Cook landed. And as we spoke, she was on her way to ticking off a few items on her bucket list.

Meeting Sheila led me to a wish that I had understood the significance of family histories before my grandmother died. I've catalogued the painful parts, the bruises passed down the generations. But what about the delights? What about the miracles that are threaded through into the life I call mine?

Like one story my mother tells occasionally: how my great grandmother survived a train bombing in the war because she went to check the post office for a much-awaited letter. There was no logic to it, as she'd already been earlier that day. If she hadn't though, I wouldn't exist.

I wonder if this is what people mean when they say they travel to find themselves. Everything here eventually leads me back to myself.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

An introvert abroad - day 2

Day 2.

Overcast morning. Silent house. Body still protesting movement. I get up anyway, and push myself up a long hill to a bus stop.

I arrive early. Dancing: a familiar quintuplet of rhythms. The facilitator welcomes me warmly. I start to feel at home, like my tribe exists everywhere, if I just know where to find them. I coax my reticent limbs into stretches, shapes they haven't taken on in weeks.

As more people arrive, I notice familiar characters connecting, and myself floating, more and more on the outer edges. Not many people even make eye contact. I don't consider myself shy, but without an opening I don't try to connect.

Walking is easier afterwards, though I can feel the weight of my own flesh. The earth wants to befriend my body. Lie down, she says... stop climbing mountains and looking at harbours... surrender to the heaviness. I walk on, hatless and sunscreen forgotten.

Lukewarm mint and cinnamon tea on top of a grass-lined crater, with a 360° view, and a (helpful?) guide to how far I am from home. It's impossible to photograph well on my usually adequate smartphone.

There are more people sharing the view than I'd like. I content myself with being amused at the Asian children afraid of the insects, and the handsome, sweating man running casually over the lookout.

In the canopied forest, path sloping downhill, the leaf litter underfoot reminds me of another time, another walk, with someone that I need to forget.

I've stopped shaving recently. I've never really liked it. It was always something I did to avoid drawing unwanted attention to myself, starting with the bullies in high school. I'm still walking around a little self consciously, waiting to encounter someone that feels so strongly about it that they'll try to shame me into starting again, or hiding it. But seriously, men: why didn't you tell us life feels better with leg hair? A simple breeze on the exposed portion of my legs is a revelation in sensation.

Auckland is bigger than it seems. A hilly, spread-out city that doesn't seem to have the sharp distinctions between suburbs that I'm used to (unlike Sydney, Los Angeles). I haven't been anywhere here, where I felt like I shouldn't be.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

An introvert abroad - day 1

My third overseas trip, and my first one travelling alone, was to the North Island of beautiful New Zealand. What follows are a series of posts I wrote each day, capturing my experiences, thoughts, reflections and lessons.

Day 1.

A long, heavy sleep.

Muscles wanting to be used differently to how they have been.

Bright sunshine that looks colder than it is.

Walking, walking.

A piece of art that makes me homesick - or rather, makes me feel my aloneness here. It moves me so strongly that I almost buy it. Then I realise that I will always associate it with this moment, standing in a shop and feeling a wave of sensation swell up into my throat.

Wrestling with myself unnecessarily: ideas about how I should spend my time, versus what I actually want and can handle.

More art. Sensing the taint of colonialism here too, the undertow of a painful history beneath all the beauty, all the inclusion.

Lying in a park and settling into my body, munching hand-picked local blueberries. A man named John blithely introduces himself, chats about his day, his work, his memories of visiting Sydney, guessing my ethnicity (Greek today). The surprise and suspicion in my limbs, gradually easing into a cautious comraderie.

Feeling a peculiar mixture of belonging (a city is a city. This one moves slowly) and unease (why am I here? What am I looking for?)

Thursday, March 2, 2017


I woke disoriented today. From a dream like a horror movie, in a bed not my own. In the dream people around me were being inhabited by ghosts. Some of them carried on as normal, slightly dazed, quiescent. Others turned malicious. I was sorting through a ring bind folder where all the pages were out of order. I was sorting them back into their place, looking for what did not belong; clues to explain why some spirits turned nasty. Some of them attacked me even as I worked to unravel the mystery. For a person who avoids that kind of entertainment, even in fiction, my dreams are often surprisingly violent.

Over breakfast with my friend of over two decades, I find myself talking about my ambivalence about the ever present question of children, the ever more ethereal idea of finding a life partner. She shares for the nth time how she thought we would have the opposite lives: I'd be married with kids, while she never expected to "settle down". I tell both of us that I'm too late to take that turn, that I've been alone too long, that I couldn't cope with it anyway.  The logic is sound enough, but it's tinged with a faint disappointment, a sensation that sits uncomfortably in my gut. Decisions that cut off possible futures have always been difficult for me to make wholeheartedly.

         - the condition of having lost one's sense of direction

Visiting this place usually gives me a sense of groundedness that is less present at home. Slotting myself into the dailiness of life with 2 children; the loving chaos early in the morning; thinking about what to cook for dinner as breakfast is finishing; the school run; the tantrums paired with moments of tenderness. I usually leave with a hollow longing in the pit of my belly; a quiet sense of loss not only at leaving behind 3 people I love: also for the path my life didn't take.

There's a lot of love threaded into this life. Although I don't doubt there is as much in my own, I question whether it is made of the same substance. And nothing here has really changed - it's me that feels more lost this time.

Later, I'm sitting in a bowling alley flanked by a boy's carefully-handmade birthday cake and a pair of arcade games blaring dramatic music, gunshots, grunts, and the name of the game repeated in a deep, masculine voice. A man in a pale blue shirt with sunglasses wedged up on his head walks in. He catches my eye as I'm rearranging my legs and knee-length skirt and smiles at me widely.

I'm reminded instantly of my first lover. He's married now, with a chubby baby and life running predictably along the tracks of the 5-year plan he spoke of when I met him. We wouldn't have fit together, I am sure of it. Yet there it is again, a passing twist in the belly, the drifting question. What would my life be now if I'd chosen different doors? If I'd wanted that other life more?

I know that to a large extent I have the power to choose the kind of existence I want. If I don't want to live in the city any more, I can leave. I can change careers (I've made that transition in the last year without any kind of masterplan). I can choose my friends, how I prefer to relate to people. So much control, and yet none at all. In some moments I feel like a tumbleweed. In others, a chess player orchestrating an entire game.

Today I'm more tumbleweed than mistress of anything, peering at the landscape around me. Although I can see back to where I've come from, I'm not sure if I'm just blowing away from my past choices or moving towards something else.

Monday, February 27, 2017


who taught my heart to live
outside my body? as if it were
a creature always looking for a home
I am more than a shell but still
it leaps lion-bold after new smiles
frog hopping towards tiny fingers
growing wings at the sight of sunsets

sometimes I have to chase it down
when it's given itself to someone far
away, only the elastic of my veins to
keep me on the trail of the hunt

sometimes it tries to run in every
direction at once, aspiring to crimson
starburst, a carmine firework overhead
I ache, I ache

I had it locked away once, caged so
it could only sniff at the scent of
others passing; rattling my bones and
murmuring in my sleep. I tried to hide
its teeth and claws, its yellow eyes,
the hunger, the hunger. I still carry
the padlock of fear, rusted with resolve
but it does not hold for long

every time the beast escapes me
it feeds, grows. my skeleton grows brittle. when someone hands back
my heart, torn and bruised
strangely sated - it hurts
to squeeze it back
into the cave of my chest

I have to nurse it back to health
together we water the garden
beds of my ribs and watch the
tender shoots of peace curl up
and I rearrange my innards
making room for what we've taken
in, what was learned

but it's restless, this impish heart
and quiet days alone do not sate
it for long. Soon it will be hungry again
nipping at the underside of my skin
thumping     hungry    hungry
find it, find them, find him!

Who taught my heart to live
outside my body, hunting for
the love of anyone
but me?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Loving yourself in pieces

Self-love is a tall order - a skyscraper to climb over, without ropes - when you're used to beating yourself up on behalf of other people. You know, to save yourself the effort of feeling the shock and bruise of it, the next time it starts. When a fight with yourself leaves you lying bloodied on the ground.

So the answer isn't a must, a giant should, an impossible goal. Start small. Start somewhere.  Start with the marvel of your hands gripping a door handle. With the way your lungs keep fluttering without your thought to guide them. Start with your strong legs that carry you everywhere, even when you're tired and angry and aching.

Start with the pieces of you that someone has loved before (but maybe you didn't really believe them). Look in a mirror and find one thing beautiful. What did they tell you about your eyes? Maybe the way your neck curves into your shoulder, the way your hair falls over your ears. Has someone loved the sound of your voice? The way you put words together carefully before they come out of your mouth? Start with what they told you your smile did to them.

Start with the things you think you're not supposed to love. Start with the way you insist on loving someone that you've been told you should give up on. With your resistance and stubbornness. Start with your obsessions. The way you have to straighten up the cutlery on a table, just so. And the way you keep your anger to yourself, because you don't want to burn anyone else with it. Start with your clumsiness, your sensitivity, your hurry, your yearning.

You are loved and lovable just as you are. You don't have to believe it. You don't even have to feel it, in your bones or your belly. But it's true, you are lovable. I promise.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Life in an angry city

Sydney is an angry city. And today I feel angry too, because it doesn't seem possible to live here and not be impacted by other people's rage, impatience, and lack of consideration.

I lost hours of sleep last night because once again my neighbours put their own comfort and entertainment far above anyone else's needs on the early hours of the hot morning.

On the way to catch a ferry I saw that someone desperate or angry (or both) about getting a park had somehow forced the rear of my car out about a metre from the curb. I almost cried.

It's just a car, just a thing, but it's hard not to feel something about it. To not sense the acrid aftertaste of whatever emotion or intention those now absent people leave on my property, in my little cluster of spaces that are my own.

Travelling anywhere in this city calls for a constant balance between the necessity of leaving the house and avoiding an experience that frays my nerves. Even travelling one suburb over to go to a yoga class is an exercise in stress management. Sometimes just getting to and from the class undoes the benefit of the practice, pulls me harshly out of the post-meditation ease.

I understand that it's possible to choose another reaction. To try to shrug it off, or sink into a numb complacency that "this is how it is". Perhaps even choose to believe that this is a lesson, a gift from the gods to teach me something I lack right now.

Of course it's not everyone. There are other experiences sprinkled in between the bitterness. Sometimes the convenience store cashier will make a point of catching my eye and smiling as he rings up my purchases. Sometimes the bus driver will say "good morning", or "have a nice day", and mean it.

But those who doggedly follow and spout the mantra of 'focus on the positive' have yet to give me a satisfactory solution for what to do with all those grating, very real experiences. Even if I distract myself with other things, other reactions, happy thoughts... they accumulate like sand under fingernails.

I've been here for almost ten years, and only in small pockets of time have I felt like I was truly home. There's been an undercurrent of unease the whole time, a feeling of not quite belonging. I've often said that I want to leave, only I don't know where to. That home is where family is. And it was true, for a time, that was what anchored me here.

But now some of those knit to me by blood have left, in physical and relational ways. My sister is married and lives an hour's drive and $18 in tolls away. My brother has kicked me out of his life. My closest aunt moved interstate. My grandmother is dead. My cousins are all in relationships or marriages and live far away. The family gatherings that once happened regularly have dwindled. Nobody has time.

What is left is an abiding loneliess and quiet grief exacerbated by how disconnected I am from the thousands of people I cross paths with. By all the "we shoulds" that are never followed through.  What I am left with is memories and a few close friends and a lot of sand under fingernails.

So what am I going to do with all this? Write it (I feel calmer already). Speak it (to my friends who understand what it is to be sensitive in this world). Dance it out (I'm on my way right now). And plan, search for a place that will feel like home.


Photograph of an artwork by Tatsuo Miyajima

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

On holidays from growth

On the weekend I went to a women's circle, where one of the rituals was to speak our desires for the year out loud. We were asked the question 3 times, in different ways.

The first one was easy, for the mind: "what do you want?". I heard words like love and dancing and creativity and exuberance exiting my mouth. Talking about how I already had so much. The woman who was witnessing me pushed a little: "so do you want a partner?" I admitted I was a little afraid to ask for that. When I'd finished (or rather run out of time), her reflection was "wow, you want everything".

The second question was for the heart, and made me feel a little uncomfortable to begin with: "how do you want to serve?"  This time I was witnessed by a different woman, a radiant friend. My answer: I want to bring beauty into the world. I spoke of wanting to balance out all the pain I've observed, of being a mirror. Of knowing that words are my gift, of naming the unspeakable. Of letting out all the fierceness that paces, caged in my chest.

The third time, a question for the belly: "what do you want to receive?" This time witnessed by a different friend, one who shares my sensitivity to the world. And this answer, slowest to come, least expected, with a crack in the voice: I want rest. And comfort. Then, through shared tears: love where there has been fear. Peace where there has been battle.

And now that my body has spoken, I can feel how tired I am. How everything from my heavy eyelids in the morning to the dull heaviness in my chest and the uncharacteristic ache of my left knee... all asking for rest.

I have been busy, so very busy, for two whole years. Feeling unfelt feelings; learning to inhabit my body; crying myself to sleep; making connections; relating in unfamiliar ways; excavating habits; understanding truths; loving uninhibitedly; letting go; crying until I grew tired of it; loving carefully. Grieving, grieving. Healing furiously.

I'm exhausted, truthfully. From all the intensity. From first having to find reasons for and then explaining my heaviness; my tears; the not showing up; the too much or too little of one thing or another. From conversations where I am trying to prove to that I am interesting and interested. Puzzling over why someone's words can be so enthusiastic and their actions so absent. From all the self improvement, exploration, trying to be better. The peculiar pressure to be self-aware and accepting and mindful.

All the wants I can articulate are true enough, but they are not what I need. Which is to cocoon. To wrap myself up in restful friendships, quiet sensations, gentle dreaming and the kind of calm and steadiness that can't co-exist with constant growth. Doesn't fit with stretching my boundaries. Clashes with "putting myself out there".

So, halfway through summer, I am hunkering down as if it were winter. What a relief, to step away from all that intensity, all those agendas. In its place, quiet. More writing and reading. Creating and soaking up art. Dancing without intention and focus, for the mere pleasure of it. Lounging. Cat naps. Picnics under trees. Floating on water. Rest.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

An unplanned tribute to Leonard Cohen

If cracks are how the light
gets in, I must be beaming
glowing the carmine temples
of my ventricles, twinkling
the elastic of my tender lungs,
radiant like I've stored decades
of sunlight in the quiet
honeycomb of my bones

If love is kintsukuroi to the
vessels of my clay palms,
threaded into my porcelain
back and belly bowl, holding
together the fallen vases of
my calves - I am treasure, now
fit for a pirate. Come, beloved
plunder the gold in my heart

Friday, January 6, 2017

Thoughts on charm and endearment

It's easy to rattle off a list of adjectives that describe what we like, and seek in other people. Particularly in dating. But in practice, "honesty", or "good manners" might mean something different to you than it does to me. And how they relate to each other, when one is more valued than another, can vary wildly from moment to moment and person to person.

Honesty for you might mean pointing out that the nail polish on my toes is flaking and really needs a touch up. Good manners for me might mean not mentioning it, so as not to make someone else feel self conscious. Good relationship is how we navigate the waters in between.

So when it comes to quantifying what I seek, and am drawn to in other people, I find myself looking for moments. Snippets of daily life that tell me something about another person, that give substance to the names we have for characteristics, behaviours and things we find charming.

So... in no particular order, a non-comprehensive list of things I find appealing, and endearing, in other people:

- umbrella awareness in crowds on the rainiest of days

- asking how people are with feeling, as if you really want to know

- licking the froth off the inside of your takeaway coffee cup lid

- melty, long, warm, wrapped-up hugs

- the ability to commit to small things, like when I will see you next

- chasing rubbish that the wind blows away from you

- asking quirky questions about how things work, such as "is there an equivalent of a car wash for aeroplanes?" and collecting the answers like little pebbles

- admitting that you wanted to lick the plate after a particularly delicious meal

- being prepared for the usual eventualities... always carrying a handkerchief, a spare umbrella in the car, snacks on a bush walk

- the ability to see how someone is in a given moment, and respond in kind, even if neither person has words for it

To be continued...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The arsonist

I have burned
so many bridges
I'm surprised
there is anywhere
left to go

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

All the rage

I'm not going to tell you it's all
in your head because it's not only
there it's your stomach that tightens
like a hermit crab ducking into
the borrowed shell of your bones
it's in your blood - can't you
see it? your veins are blue
waterfalls of fury plunging
back towards your heart

it's the solar flare in your eyes
that burn in the cheek that betrays
the furnace of a mind tended
too well, stoked to an inferno with
no chimney to breathe out

tucked inside these warehouses
we call bodies nailed onto
the train-tracks we name memory
scorched into the moorings of
this ship     this boat we have bailed
        out so many times       still floating!
is that electricity that crackles up
the rod of your uncoiling spine
   is the lightning still looking
for a home outside itself
   is all the rage brother

and not for all
the love can I
stand in it
    for you

Monday, January 2, 2017

Litany for the clumsy

My heart is made of glass or maybe
it was fire.
     Forged? Metal rooster crows
like windchimes, like blacksmith's hammer songs.   
                     I forget.

Or maybe it changed from day to
day (I am alchemy after all. How
else could a chameleon
like you find a mirror in me?)
Anyway I took it out of the cabinet.

Pried open my ribs with the crowbar
of your affection and placed it
gleaming, crystalline     now fingerprinted

into your hands. Such hands.
Masculine like
the back of your calves and that thick neck
I loved with my mouth and every other part
of my cabinet. I mean body

my body loved you and yours.
     Still does, but nobody is asking that question.      Out loud, it's impolite.

My fingerprinted heart in your clumsy hands. Your clumsy heart. You eager bull
to my shop of fragiles, bucking 

the bonds of love. How dare I think to rope you! So

much shattered glass to sweep up after.
I tell you some of it was old shit
nobody was going to buy it anyway. You call my bluff.      Or did you buy it?

A hesitant no is still not a yes. There's no alchemy to be had there.

And I'm still picking splinters out of my feet. My fingerprinted heart back in 

it's cage, I'm picking splinters out with my teeth because my hands are bound. You are still holding them, begging for another 

pass at the shelves. What kind of fool keeps cattle in a china shop anyway?

This is an invocation for reprieve. Forgive me

I have not forgotten you yet. Glass does not forget, only cracks. Spiderwebs under pressure

crackling in the daylight. Scuttle back under the rock I came from. The sting in my tail. Water bearer you are more dangerous than God gave you credit for.


      Just stop.

Glass doesn't bruise, so why do my lungs hurt? Maybe this is alchemy still transmuting into flesh.      There is no china shop, no rodeo, no splinters, only bruises yellowing
like sunrise.

I always mix metaphors because I was never clear about you
except when you kissed me on that mountain. How dare you use the sunset against my defenses
my prison-window habits. I wanted out and you busted in
like you owned the place. Nobody wants to hear this story
again. My heart. Your clumsy. Fingerprints.

We still don't who left more evidence.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Still the girl

This week three men wanted me. My year turned on the hinge of their desire.

This is a language I understand. How it begins is how it ends.

My answer, three times.

I am not for you.

Don't they know I'm still the girl on the beach with thighs twelve years too large, flesh bulging against the chicken-wire gaze of her father and uncle? My bicycle dubbed the gate to acceptability, to shrinking those meaty fillets down to a size that might make me invisible to scorn.

I am not for you.

Don't they know I'm still the girl, fifteen with billboard breasts proclaiming the ripeness of my sex to every man that passed. Before I had learned how to open the long library vault of my mouth. How everyone in a foreign country thought I was my father's wife, in that daisy dress made for a church I no longer believed in?

I am not for you.

Don't they know I'm still the girl in the warehouse, far from home. Seventeen so green, not a colour a person should ever be. His twice-my-age fingers moved like vine tendrils, brushing my waist, tucking in the tag of my shirt. Into my body a tree trunk, like my sapling self had always belonged to him. Curled in my grandmother's shower with shame.

I am not for you.

Don't they know I am still the girl, twenty-one and never kissed. The first time, my teeth were bars and I did not want to unlock them. His kisses tasted like ash and held a key to the library he would never enter.

I am not for you.

Don't they know I'm still the girl twenty and eight, when moan was just a word and pleasure an idea. Whose virginity became a trophy she was tired of carrying, fox-weary of the steeplechase, the sniffing hounds. So threw it to a pale-fleshed creature who did not understand how twinned desire and fear can be.

I am not for you.

Don't they know I'm still the girl whose no turned limp, fell like a body in a waterfall when he pushed and pushed again. Drowned when he said it was my fault. Two years gone and I'm breathing again but the timber of my belly is still waterlogged.

I am not for you.

Don't they know, I'm still the girl with a canyon named father in her chest? With a trickle, a creek called love in that chasm signed man. With a bear in the belly of that canyon. She roars at all the strangers stumbling in. There is no haven in this body, this tree trunk is not home.

I am not for you.

To the men that wanted me this week, and the ones that are waiting for me next week and the ones after that.

You can't fill in my canyons with the soil of your masculinity. There isn't enough of you to make it solid ground again. Didn't anyone teach you how earthquakes work?

When it rains, sometimes the creek floods. Sometimes the canyon is full and love washes the stone ledges clean. There are always traces of earth left behind. Maybe we can plant a garden in the crevices together, grow something that hasn't been here before.

You can't fuck my history out of me, can't rescue me from fires that razed long before you arrived. I have not been waiting safe in a tower for you and your steed. I have not been waiting. I have not been safe.

Forests always grow back after fires.

We can't dance if you are always stepping forward. If you move in the only place I can breathe is away. Don't chase me into the canyon.

I am still the girl that dances on the Sabbath day. Dances at midnight. Twirls in her skirts and howls at the sickle moon.

This is a language I understand. How it begins is how it ends.

If I am for you, remember the girl. Learn her too. I am the bear and the canyon and the flood and still the girl.