Poems, Mine

Something old, something new… Something borrowed, something blue.

 

Against Dawn

In response to “Double Rape, Lynching in India Exposes Caste Fault Lines” by Julie McCarthy

 

It’s been said that for mangoes red does not mean ripe.

Why then did they take you from that tree, age 12,

only to tie you back to its branches? Torn

fruit cannot be returned by its stem to its root.

 

Didn’t they squeeze gently and feel you were not ready?

Couldn’t they judge by touch that your cousin was, too,

green at age 14—flesh pressing against thumbs in protest.

The aroma of womanhood had not yet infused the fields of your bodies.

 

In this place, mint, dung, and ash tour the nostrils,

casting a noxious concoction of sweet necrosis.

How you dangled there from fallopian branches,

paisley eggs fashionably sashed, swaying alongside leaves.

 

“And when they cannot control us, they kill us,”

a woman said. To be suspended by men

is the only way to reach their height:

a dream of weightless feet floating against dawn.

 

 

Lost and Found

A dead letter box of lonely earrings,

stuffed animals, keys with attachment issues.

 

Silent telephone wires that spark

occasional, one-way conversations.

 

A daily psalm—groceries, bills, call mom—

crumpled in the pocket of laundered jeans.

 

The turn-around, look-everywhere prayer

to St. Anthony, an elegy to memory.

 

The face no one holds until death—

that long-gone ride home.

 

 

Things That Have Nothing to Do With Grief

 

I.

I pull her red corduroy jacket

around me like the blanket my mother

crocheted for our first apartment.

 

II.

Fingernails split like

petals of dried orchids.

 

 

First Snow

White hush muffles

birdsong and car-whir.

 

Storm silence slows

slim veins of water, stills

 

branch-sway, weekend rush.

Banks rise: bodies breathing.

 

The glint of everything unsaid

stirs in the slippery dark.

 

 

Afterward

“Whilst thee the shoars and sounding seas

wash far away, where’ere they bones are hurl’d

Look homeward Angel…”

John Milton, Lycidas

 

Replay it. Open the file

stuffed in the folder of memory—

the student film with crackling sound

 

the image of him falling down

blindly from cliff as

“shears…[slit] the thin-spun life.”

 

Backdrop: Technicolor dream green

trees sway neon against disbelief,

A few dead leaves anticipating fall…

 

How does inanimate rock

become predator? Its silence,

but for a bone-cracking kiss,

turns gravity’s inaudible

plea of guilty, to a denial of murder.

 

Serene water becomes suspect;

an accomplice in the crime of accident.

A selfish sucking beast, a captor

of fall’s diving leaves:

 

kamikaze yellow, lime-bronze, and

orange-russet fly, sinking into the arm-

less embrace of abyss.

A few float, but coming back to the

surface does not guarantee life.

 

Light stabs through branches, one-

thousand spotlight daggers

cutting vision, acupuncture cornea,

and screams sound far-off.

This is someone else’s catharsis.

 

Birds chirp as if nothing is happening,

but they are right, and your call lands

soundless. Can’t words bring him back?

Bring breath and heartbeat, smile and blink?

 

Or do they only come too late,

afterward.

 

Taboo

In thirty-four years, I was born and you died twice.

At birth, Catholic charities sent you to live upstate

with silence and faces that look nothing like you.

 

Incubator womb, oxygen tube, jaundice,

four pounds: I took seven months to cultivate.

In thirty-four years, I was born and you died twice.

 

In a barn, on feed bags infested with mice,

my father took you. The jaws of life extricate

your silence from faces that look nothing like you.

 

The suckling denied breast still grew.

Mothers mourn the empty house’s weight.

In thirty-four years, I was born and you died twice.

 

Still I pick up your unfamiliar voice

calling like an old psalm. What’s akin alienates:

Silence and faces that look nothing like you.

 

One labored, the other raised and gave advice.

Only a child of two tribes can relate.

In thirty-four years, I was born but both died twice—

in silence with faces that look something like you.

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