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words are mirrors // but broken // shards that sting and distort
I imagine a girl.
Perhaps she is shoulder-height,
perhaps she twirls her hair around
her fingers. Perhaps she gazes at strangers
for too long, makes them swallow at emptiness,
makes them feel the hollow in their bones?
She might try her mother’s heels on, stand tall
in front of the oval mirror, imagine saying please, thank-you,
imagine herself as a wife. Imagine herself beneath
a father. Beneath the earth.
This girl spells her name by the sighs of boys
that she has collected, seashells on her windowsill.
The moans of her vowels, the teeth-clicking,
the tongue-touching. Perhaps she learns her name
by the way men say it. Perhaps she never knew
how to say it at all.
I imagine a girl, but imagine nothing,
everything, everything in the world,
that I am left with empty cupped palms
waiting for the rain to fall.
For what is a girl but smoke from a fire,
a river swallowed by the sea?
Adults forget to brush their teeth, too.
We’re also embarrassed by the way
the yellow gleams in our gums, the way
our smiles don’t blind strangers on the street:
they say love is blind, but perhaps more
love is plaque.
I see the way your shoulders fold,
the way you try to pack your body
into the smallest box you can find,
your chest. They might not hear you
at the dinner table, but your voice
is a gentle murmur they would miss,
the way I miss the harbour waves,
the way I miss your brother.
You are small for your age. You run
behind the bigger men who stride
with peacock-puffed chests throughout
the playground. They cuckaw at the girls
with pigtails, ignore the ones who had
their hair cropped too close by their mothers.
Your shoelaces flap behind you, chicks
trying to fly. Don’t worry. You’ll unfold
your wings and meet the sky.
you are small, and your cheeks are red.
The world towers above you sometimes,
and it does for me too. But perhaps
if I act more like the twelve-year-old you
and you take my nineteen-year old hand,
we’ll step out into the air,
I am such a little thing, though
there are snowstorms in my mouth.
When I open that maw, there is
white travelling down my throat.
My insides are covered with
the sky’s sleepstuff, its forgotten skin.
— White Oleander, Janet Finch
the only way
to explain last night
is that we were choking
on words as we tried
to speak them,
or maybe that
somewhere in our bodies
they took the wrong turning
in the blood and went down
to our toes,
perhaps it was
that I spoke a language
you couldn’t understand
and vice versa,
because when you spoke,
all I heard was, “it’s you,
it’s you, it’s you,”
but you weren’t saying that
at all, so maybe
what really happened
is that your love
was a different shape
I am stealing winter.
There is talk of snow
ice on roads;
black ice, hidden
until after we have
crashed. They look
to the grey skies
and count clouds.
Perhaps they can
divine from the sky
whether it will snow
again. But I am taking
the cold in my heart,
and I won’t see snow
It is three in the afternoon, which means
I am thinking about you
thinking about me.
Because there are knots all over my back
and I think that maybe each one is a time
I woke up and you hadn’t thought of me
I would ask but there are more important things,
like tea on the stove, like walking the dog, buying gas,
thinking of the ‘bigger things’ which are really just
trivialities with egos.
And while I make dinner, you ask how I am,
but I’m too busy tying knots in my tongue