Orion straddles the rooftops

The underside of night
and I am throwing away boxes
that held pieces of my old life

and there you are,
as I’m tiptoeing back from the dumpster
careful to hop over the puddles that gather
to the terra cotta steps that lead me to new.

You are straddling the rooftops
bringing to me a punchy light
watching me as I stare up into your vulnerability.

Now you are the action hero
sandwiched between two buildings
risking your life to save the victim

Now you are the kitchen maiden
holding up her skirts as she walks to the privy
squatting over dignity

Now you are the normal
the everyday warrior

toppled from your pedestal stamp on the sky
shoehorned into the sliver I can see.

Now you are again my Orion

a constant backdrop to my altars
a wink to the fathers of my youth

peeking in to check on me
and watching as I stare into my vulnerability.


Dear Sister, Part IV

Dear Sister,

She teaches me the meaning of poise
the open face and silent eyes
the smile, the purse, the reticent lips

She invites the silence in for tea
encourages me to fill the space between.

We leave out unnecessary ums and uhs
in favor of softer thoughts. She pulls them
like thread through a loom, and weaves her response

into the fabric of the moment.

I find myself blessing her delicate hand
in lieu of cursing this clumsy klutz
the goodness tangible in my patchwork prose

as it drapes around my shoulders.

Dear Sister, Part III

Dear Sister,

She doesn’t know

the strength with which she reads aloud
the focus she pulls when she sings
the invitation to join her when she starts to dance.

She doesn’t know

the poetry in the way she curls her hair
the way she pulls on her thoughts like gloves
and grasps my frozen fingers.

She doesn’t know

the answers to all my questions
the x I offer to all her equations
the tomorrow she hopes today will bring.

She doesn’t know

the way to be anyone else

She doesn’t know

how else to be.

Dear Sister, Part II

Dear Sister,

She pulls us along,
the butterfly leading the caterpillars
we inch in our fuzzy toes
we shuffle in her shade.

As she fans the flames
as she showers us in light
as she soars above and looks ahead

she is not leaving
she is waiting for us to join her.

Dear Sister, Part 1

Dear Sister,

She reaches into a bag
each day
a bag ornate with the swirling blooms of love
and the patches of cashmere entwined
with silver spools.

She reaches into a bag
each day
a bag that holds the scaly remnants of snakes
and the grounds of bitter coffee
with dirty band-aids.

She reaches into a bag
each day
a bag that smells like gardenia and peach
and the scent of sated
with earthy life undertones.

She reaches into a bag
each day
and smiles.

Recess Time

We pass the ball back and forth
on the blacktop
in the driveway

We take turns tossing and catching
bouncing and bracing,
stepping in closer and backing up further

to accommodate.

I don’t play catch with you
I don’t make any rules

but I see the limitations
we naturally set
to play.

Whether you receive the ball
or drop it
Whether you laugh and pass
or throw it

I am thankful for your skill
I am thankful for your patience with human error
I am grateful for your willingness to reach out your hands

at all.

The swingset

Unable to resist
the crunch of the mulch
the slinky whisper of stones
or the coughing of sand
beneath my feet.

Unable to resist
the chapped lips and chafed hands
the rusted stink and slivers of wear
the chain link of swing and rubberband seat

Unable to resist
the reach of shoes to sun
the ignorance of gravity and gloat
watching the uncemented posts of the swingset float

Unable to resist
the back and forth
the universe showing me off like a yo-yo
practicing me to go “around the world”
but stuck on “walk the dog”
and “you are getting very sleepy”

When I was swinging at 7
I used to wonder about someone else
swinging just like me
at just this moment
at just this point in the world reversed

I now walk to each pair of swings
and look for the holes in the mulch where the set would come apart
and wake the world to my knowledge
that it was me I was wondering
me who would be swinging just like me
at just this moment

unable to resist
that the world reversed
was just a reflection
of time.

Unspoken Altar

I’ve pulled from your memory before.

The underside of age weeping into a word pile,
and your image coined in repetition of a phrase I cannot remove
from my psyche.

Today is not a day for the belly of death,

I recall instead your birthday. One unfamiliar
to my word paintings, as this month is wont to do.

The overshadow of Christmas creating more obligation in these days
than it ever would in any other month.

I want to apologize to you for that.

The fault of family often lending itself to louder
the lack of “look at me” in your demeanor
has gone unnoticed by me too long.

The rustling of the plastic sack
where you often held the bounty of your trips
where my greedy child fingers grasped

and a singsong thank you volleyed half at your face

before I ran off, your smile reaching the small of my back
instead of my eyes.

I want to apologize to you for that.

Tomorrow will be the day before another obligatory holiday
but I am now smiling in secret with you
at the younger me we both knew.

I am not a surfer

I can feel the chill of the water
in the wind that sprays my hair

the wet sand puddled in places
picks up the paraffin in the sunset

the wink of old footprints
flush with footsteps untaken

the smooth belly of the sand ready for me to pat

I propel forward, the waves that chatter my teeth
inching closer to me, like a feral cat I want to pet

prancing one foot further each time
ready to be ransacked

and then they arrive,
beneath the postcard sunset and the
silhouette summer day swimming in my vision,

I see the surfers.

Expecting Baywatch, these boys slobber into the sea
one barely making waves
the other backwards and flapping like a drowning seal
these are the photographic evidence I need to know

I am not a surfer.

My brethren chainlinked against the seaweed, I cannot look away
expecting success, failure, death by shark, who knows?

I never thought before that surfers could teach me something new
show me on a platter a principle I’m likening to

it is not about being flashy on the board for all to see
it is not about still life adventure on a mailed piece of paper
it is not about escaping the mundane by tasting the tide

it is flapping in the undertow, crashing into other swimmers,
knocking your head sideways into the water
ingesting seaweed and measuring which way is up

it is walking right back into the deep crash of beachtime
it is a flashing mindpicture of yes
it is worth facing the undertow

it is knowing you are a surfer.