A wrinkled forehead, my mind’s reward for having fallen captive of Marie,
Who wove her flaxen, twilit hair into twin braids she wore on her back.
A love whose wild-rose heart bloomed before my eyes:
From every man’s woman to one who placed one braid before her, ready to
become a mother.
She swaddled the maternal womb that lived in me,
Slumbering in her until born in the body of my daughter.
She’ll find shelter in my chest as I did in my mother’s braid-covered breasts,
Small to lay my head on when my eyes, plagued with torment,
Found a valley of the light of life, stream of compassion,
Until an ocean of love drained it dry.
Mom harped her mother’s silver-clouded strands to the tune of her humming,
Cutting them because trifling with long, ravened hair was a young woman’s lunacy.
My grandmother— a catholic nun turned baptist prophetess—
Smacked my mother’s left shoulder for clipping my infant toenails, as to not cause me
Volunteered me to play baby Jesus in a Nativity scene, appalled that a baby girl
was cast to play Him,
And behind her daughter’s back and against her wishes,
Baptized me in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost in the
Dousing my tender crown with a methodically-knobbed current of hot and cold,
Under a three-fingered wave of St. Andrew’s cross:
“May Christ’s words be on his mind, on his lips, and in his heart.”
A hand vined with veins growing from my right shoulder fed my child a bottle of unperishable, maternal
Seasoned with rosewater, mint, and honey—
And brushed her baby-hair with a comb whose teeth eroded chewing the sands of time.
The sea of hair parted into three, brunette tresses—
A trinity of love, hope and beauty—
That I braided together as the Euphrates the Pishon, Gihon, and Tigris, from Eve to
A lone rosary— hexed as it was hallowed— that slithered on her back, between
her haloed shoulders.
Divine fruit of my body, earth brimming of green caterpillars transfiguring into
Sprouting seeds seeking the light of sun that, as my kisses, warms as it burns.
My lips at her feet, white clovers that I planted so that she would not strike her
foot against hard stone.
I dread the last breath she’ll breathe into her child-being and exhale into the
breadth of woman;
When she ceases to be mine and becomes her own.
Gone will be the days when I greedily took her kisses
As apples from a tree whose thick roots shattered its nursery pot.
Stowed away she was in the thoughts of my father’s mother and her mother’s father,
And those of my mother’s father and his father’s mother.
Every woman who called her womb a home— bearers of fruit and crosses—
The heavenly lineage that dawned and dusked
To clothe me with the redeeming benefit of their passion
Will live in her blood as she lives in mine.
Their death, a curse that kept them from those they loved,
A cup we both must drink and cannot pass—
Hers to life, mine to rest—
Taught me to have her in this dying heart, for as long as it beats.
Art is not created by artists
To be stolen, programmed, and constrained
In a museum, categorized, filed away by surname and style.
It is a transient force that cannot be dissected by academics,
Sold in ticket-sized, 8-to-5 windows of freak-show carnival exhibits;
Its power segregated from its intent by lovers of art, haters of people.
It is not a leashed dog that shows well under temperature-controlled,
Hospital-white, mood-lit, cathedral-capped petri dishes of dead cultures—
Beauty according to the de facto victor.
Policed by factotum overdressed in over-sized, tacky business suits,
Shushing me for awing,
Censoring the audience’s captivation—
Cans of paint thinner in their desire to inhabit the work—
Shunned for touching, shown the door for being curious.
Don’t shoo me away for wanting to behold inspiration in its purest form:
Condemned to witness the miracle before my eyes as prayer read off print,
Without emotion or any sense of devotion.
A narrative in which I’m not the protagonist or antagonist, but misread as part of the
Unused and unaffected— unnamed third-person, second-class citizen, Public Enemy
A nobody from whom to protect the virtue I came to see.
Are works not elevated to the status of art by those who ingest, digest, and egest them into
Transforming their unique existence, transcending it into realms
Of sacred, denuding experience, transfigured into a pliable extract of consciousness?
Art is a mirror that reflects the artist in its beholder’s sigh,
Beckoning you to cross the invisible threshold cast by his commended spirit,
A portal into eternity bound to your being.
Art is free, therefore
Gusts crept from under the peeling, lower edges of Earth’s wallpaper,
Crawling out as potpourri of debris,
Clawing sharp into the breeze clothing my naked, rubbed-open eyes.
The man blowing the leaves off the sidewalks and gutters into the street
Lifted the trunk of his rumbling creature, holding the stern of his hat, a bow of a smile,
Unwilling to contribute to my eye-watering misery.
As soon as I passed the eye of the mess, the beast trumpeted full force,
Louder than the wind, scaring the rats up the trees
Leaping off the roadside canopies into their garbage abode.
I had grown accustomed to the homeless man sleeping-bagged on a bus stop bench.
His cracked soles— yellowed-charcoal flesh, flaking off white, reminiscent of Pollock’s Blue Poles—
Waved at me as they sought the warmth 7:30am had reneged from them.
The arrhythmic, two-legged, equestrian gait of bustling people multiplied,
Murmuring, under winded breath,
“Lazy son of a bitch” at his motionless body:
Cradled by the sun; slumbering not to cosset rest
But escape into a realm of dreams where he was king.
A slow reveal of his face from beneath found objects—
Camouflaged to blend into an urban landscape;
Deliverance from their flagellating stares—
Prompted a stern look that went unseen.
But on that windy morning, the bench on which he lay his body was empty clean,
As if no such person had ever called it a bed, a home.
I interrupted the current, looking at the pristine, thermoplastic mesh as jilted lover his withering bouquet:
A man who had as much in common with me as much as I thought I didn’t with he.
The hands that fanned the leaves,
Rattled the rats still on the wispy branches,
Swaying them with the carelessness of fingers flicking through wheat stems,
Washed themselves of anything humanity discarded.
All that remained of him were the brown-red stains of sweat, grime, shit and blood
On the ragged, grey hooded tracksuit strewn about,
Driven over, dragged and kicked out of the way from streets to sidewalks.
A shimmering substance daggered its jagged edges in my tear duct,
When I closed my eyes to shield them from the maelstrom,
One out of any gardener’s polite restraint,
I saw his eyes.
They were troubled green.
Old friend, in countless hours have I resorted to caressing the finesse of your swan neck,
Pleased in your own beauty,
You smile coquettishly to anyone listening to our love.
Your butterfly kisses taste as the winded laughter of children,
Defying gravity the way prepubescence ignores the passage of time,
Never wanting to go home.
Adventurous in the hands of many,
Gypsy voice with arabesque blood,
Allow your sterile, maternal curves to dance— dark skin from work under the sun of my desires,
The moons of my disdain—
To your sonorous rhythms and heal my stone heart;
Your nickel-plated steel braids to rope it and teach it to be one of flesh.
Clothe my tremulous memories with a sound that knows not of notes, scales, or music;
Only the melodies resounding asphyxiated in a hollow full of want.
Mar your fingerprints on my fingertips,
So that I may never forget our forlorn.
How we cry in a cherubic language spoken by angels behind God’s back,
In the hidden corners of Heaven.
Weep, my love, for the memory of your arboreal body,
Which, still clinging to trampled roots, played music with the wind
Made of wordless songs, strumming your leaves against the lonely dirt road.
The dusty halo that consigns your slow, atonal demise from the world of sound;
Abandoned, naked, sitting quietly on a lap tired of silence,
Burying your broad shoulders in a chest full of inconsolable, consonant misgivings.
Scarred and varnished to a body unlike your own,
One that’s becoming, yet horrendous compared to the virgin mother you once were:
Bearing fruit from your leafy bosom.
Outstretching your countless arms and fingers to the sun,
A light that never forgave your adventuresome transgression,
When you took the shade from her beloved earth,
And left a wound, a stump to seat those persecuted by heat, and a mind burdened with thoughts.
There’s the animal and its flesh.
At times interchangeable, not quite the same.
Anglo-Saxon named the beasts, French their meats:
Cow is beef;
Deer is venison; pig is pork;
Sheep, mutton and chicken, poultry.
What cut of man is husband?
Poussin is a young chicken, fowl good enough
To feed two young lovers, with not much money,
Due to be wed in a few months;
Not fully committed to a fully grown bird, dinner for three.
Poisson is fish, salmon we buy every other week
Whenever we have extra cash or need a breather from the chicken’s–
Butterflied in Ziploc bags– shitty, rotten egg smell:
“Throw it out and order a pizza,” is her solution to these scents from married life.
Pullet is a young hen.
“Pull it, and cut the wing off,” I insist.
Even in my foul mood– as our love grows old and the butter brown–
I still can’t forget when I first loved her in the Tenderloin,
Near the San Francisco Bay,
When the thought of losing her first crossed my mind.
Words are meaningless
As colors on swatchbooks, dead
On a page, so distant from the world
Of the living, of breathing.
Suffocated taxidermy, a taxonomy of structures
Building infinite thoughts with
A finite palette of colors to portrait the entire universe:
Beautiful to admire, impossible to live in.
12-point font characters, in single-spaced stages, cages for captive
Beasts with no wits— surviving in a world of human
Eyes, who browse, search, and peck through seas of seeds that never fully sprout—
Discarded as soon as they’re rendered, moused over their putrid carcasses.
Never trust human speech when spoken,
Only when written, and its creator has become nothing but
Strings of sigils printed in lifeless-black:
Lines, dots, angles, curves, and crosses.
Learning to read to learn to ignore—
When the author is alive, he is a heretic, a liar,
When he’s dead, a prophet and martyr—
A perfect god making an imperfect world
Inhabited by vulgar people
Speaking bastardized languages
Far from the time when speech was like birdsong, grunts and clicks that said more than any
Unearthing from the bone-white pagination: his miscreations, his aberrations, his abortions.
Drink his tarry nectar with your eyes,
Allow it to cocoon in your mind,
Metamorphose in your mouth
And butterfly in your voice:
To speak as you write
And to write as you think;
To think as you act
And to act as you speak.
Words evolve, ink bleeds,
Hearts change, bones turn to dust.
When you take away the letters,
What is left of the word?