Nicola Cayless.
Looking for light in words.

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the camphor laurel grows by the cathedral

with the arms that are branches
and the smile that is thin and cracked,
hold your arms around her waist.

If you squeeze tight
you will both

In the bus stop there are two people
making love
and one person
and the sun does not reach the corners
where the shadows are.

From across the street
you watch them
because the wrinkles on her hands make you sad.
If you hold her tight tight tight
her skin might stretch smooth
like bubblegum

It is December
and this moment
is the end of your life.
we will make and remake ourselves.
We will wake up
and her skin will be smooth
and your eyes will shine
and you will be
making love,
and crying. 

i like kissing this and that of you;
A letter to the End of the World.

Dear Universe,

If you may, please hold yourself
inside yourself. Don’t let the nebulas
and the comets and the clouds of stardust
go wandering outside in the dead of the night.
Keep your hand on their shoulders. Murmur their names
in Arumenic, English, Latin, the language of zero gravity.

In this galaxy, it is warm with the kisses of starlight.
To know that I am but one shining girl in a world
that turns while staying still beneath my feet:
as breathtaking as your first kiss
behind the school bike rack,
running late for dinner.

You see, I am happy being small,
being just me & loving just you.

I ask that you console the stars
and keep their light from shining too far
and too dimly. Keep yourself within.

Love. Love. Love. 

The words that lift my arms in a hallelujah to language are abandon, ache, adieu.

I write of fragile girls with fragile hearts,
with porcelain for skin, cracked before their time.
I write boys with sparrows for hearts,
beating in a flutter: longing to take flight.

Women with skin of steel
may be stronger than the Grecian Gods,
but I cannot understand their red irises,
nor how their pupils show the screaming mouths
of the men who last touched them.

Iron eyes & people who cannot make love
are strangers from the other side of the barren desert.
There, they drink mud and chew on pebbles,
and I shudder to think of the blood from their molars. 

You see, it is the soft things that my dreams are of:
haunted by flowing skirts, and lips red of Eve’s apple. 

The rainforest.

I began to count the days like old weeping rings
in the bark of an old weeping oak. Those were the days
when we drank cool water from the oases in a single leaf.

When our hearts shattered against the rocks, the heavens wept for us,
our tears clinging to our eyelids, begging to stay with our warm skin.
I used to scratch the days onto my chest, with a red-clay rock,
to remember the times that your ankles danced over the dew
and I laughed.

With the earth on my skin, I could breathe.

Your lips were as warm as a lizard on the rock.
Your eyes were as cold as night, when the stars came alive,
and we longed for the sky beyond the canopy.

It is torture to know that the world turns,
but the trees will keep us prisoner. 

And when my heart cracks,
you will find petals inside.
They were shed from the heavens
when you joined the sky.

You will be the most beautiful sun
of them all. I will count the stars for you. 

the roots of this oak poet.

Once, words would cut like broken beer bottles.
Poems became razors. Tear-stained paper:
a metaphor.  The blood stained the bathtub pink.

To remember was the way
my lungs would wither.
The poet: gasping for hope,
the mirror cracking, and cracking. 
Seven years bad luck. 

There was a time when, with anthologies in hand,
I would recite obituaries like sonnets.
Their names, sung in four / four,
became heroes to the part of me
that wished to be a ghost.

With anthologies in hand,
I wanted to be small.

But did you know?

Poems bloom,
like sunflowers in the dawn.
That is what is hidden behind your white candy teeth,
sugar sweet with promises: the sun, rising from your throat,
your voice warming my cheeks (still wet).

Instead of black death & vodka,
I drink your smiles. ‘I love you’
becomes my morphine. And the nights
are not so cold: it is summer here,
a summer to be touched, held
and made love to.

Anthologies become tomorrow.
The bathtub is bleached anew.
And poems:

poems are the way
our lips can touch
when the sun sets,
and we sleep.

touch: noun.

An act of bringing a part of one’s body, typically one’s hand, into contact with someone or something: "her touch on his shoulder."’

This skeleton aches
with the burden of things unsaid.

These fingers burn:
your remembered skin,
longed for.

And perhaps //
in the ventricles of
a young & lust heart //
I will find the key
to loving you.

For I loved the
night, and loathed
the Sun:

and learnt that your name
was an endless curse
that parched the tongue
who spoke it.

syn.: contact - feeling

Thoughts: death and candlelight.

The pebble has long disappeared but still the ripples spread.

What does it mean
if the wine bottle is empty
but the cork is still in,
and nobody wore lipstick to the party?

It means that the dead girl sleeps under the bridge.

She is the one skipping stones
like she skipped veins. One, two, three,
and sink. 

“Happy in life,
peaceful in death.”

I remember the screaming
in the bathroom, and the smudged mascara
on her palms. In New York she wandered ‘round SoHo
and lost herself in fire escapes. 

“Silent in life,
happy in death.”

If I light two candles and whisper her name,
will a third be lit from her grave?

My tombstone will read:

“Lived thinking
of the girl under the bridge
and never once pondering
crossing it.”

Milena walks.

She is walking home from the café where she has just seen her friend, a tanned girl, caramel girl, who speaks of Spain as if she has lived there all her life. Milena left after an hour, feeling inadequate and small, compared to the girl who flits across the world like a wren. 

As Milena walks through the back streets she has known since she was eight, she watches suburbia breathe. It is a hot day. The sun is not obscured by any clouds, any omens of restless nights and aching joints. The pavement is warmed beneath her feet. Sweat gathers across her forehead. She walks home slowly.

While she passes the little brick houses, and the elaborate mansions with full-length glass walls, tempting passers-by to look inside and envy the wealth of the owner, she looks at leaves and grass. She touches the leaves of the low hanging branches that sit quietly beside the pathway home. She feels for holes where grubs have chewed through green, or for the brown spots that show the sickness within. She looks down at her feet as she walks, and tries to spot the yellowing patches of grass that seem to gasp for thirst—another sound in the symphony of the inner western suburbs.

Milena feels a gust of wind and is grateful for some movement in the stillness. The bricks of the houses are stacked evenly on top of each other, to create a box to house those who can afford to pay for mortar. They hold no concept of movement. They have nowhere to go but where they are. The bricks have no regard for the processes of time.

Milena is torn between two men. One is like the bricks. He is steady, and unmoving. He is unchanging. He will not be budged by any but the fiercest storm, the most hurtful words. The other is like the wind. He is a breath of fresh air, but Milena cannot touch him, cannot hold him. He moves too quickly to be loved by the slow-walking Milena, though she is attracted above all to his quick feet and nimble fingers, by the limbs that hold promises of tomorrow.

Milena walks, and her neck is sunburnt. She feels the sting of the sun, a warning that Milena should stay within brick boxes, and not fall in love with the intangible wind. Milena walks slowly and thinks herself in circles.

Nearly home, she stops at the front of a neighbour’s house. He has a rose bush, though only the outermost flowers have survived. All those who bloomed in the middle wilted to black crumbling echoes of a rose. But within the paradoxical rose bush, Milena sees two fairy wrens. A male, with his brilliant blue plumage and his quick, purposeful steps, and a female, small, demure, brown, quiet. She too walks slowly, edging along the branches.

As Milena watches, she sees the male suddenly take to the air, disappearing into the branches of a nearby tree. The movement of the female stops. She twitches her head from side to side to look for her partner. She whistles her plaintive tune and waits for a reply. But it is only when the crows who watch from the trees next door caw their ominous warning that the male finally remembers his love. He sings for her, and she, relieved, flies into the safety of his wings.

Milena has reached her house. She looks at the door, with cobwebs and the remains of a wasp nest in one corner. She looks at the blue paint, trying to hide the bricks beneath, trying to pretend to be smooth and whole, not complex, not of many parts. The bricks are what hold Milena up each day. The bricks give her strength, shelter, comfort. 

But the wind is what gives her the urge to fly.