sinners

i never had faith before you
i lost all of it
in your white mustang blocks
away from my grandparents house and
you told me you
fucked someone else
and i can taste the salt on your
skin, you asked me if you
could hold me one more time

and i let you

you cried into my hair and
i was sticky, i’m in the
cool bathwater now reading
plath and wondering
what it’s like to disappear, if i
could step off a train into –
but i know matter
cannot be created nor destroyed
and my matter
splattered on the front of
a metro bus won’t make you into

a faithful fiance,
me into a trophy wife,
or god any more real

it would just make me dead

“that’s not all right, man. that’s not all right.”

the air stank of stale tobacco and petrichor

and the rain kept falling, falling.

and he stood there, naked before us

and he wept his salt and blood

because she would have been twenty-six today

if she hadn’t drank so much

and took her Ambien.

she never woke up.

 

you could feel her in the air that night

she was with us

in the drinks we poured

in the breaths we took

and in the rain that

fell

and fell

and fell.

 

 

I selected this post to be featured on Poetry Blogs. Please visit the site and vote for my blog!

after a nightmare

I’d fallen asleep in the living room, and the afternoon glow had begun to filter through the blinds. I awoke to my head pulsing from vertigo, and I lifted myself up from the scratchy sides of the grey, polyester oblong block of a couch I had decided to nap on. Every part of me ached, and my skin was soaked with sweat just like when I was a child and I woke from a nightmare. My dream had slipped from my conscious right as I awoke, but I could feel the paranoia I had experienced just moments earlier as I had slept. Every sound (heightened by my now pricked ears) I heard became the swish of a cloak, the shriek of a gunshot, the whisper of a ghost.

The lamp was still on, flickering at odd intervals like a candle. Puzzled, I stood and approached it, my heart pounding wildly, my steps amplified to thuds on the wooden floor. I could sense the darkening room behind me, feeling invisible eyes boring into my back. Ominously, the lamp flickered rapidly as if it was calling for mercy as I fingered the knob and silenced its glow.

In that instant I remembered the snuffed candles that had adorned my mother’s casket, worn down to snubs after hours of weeping souls kneeling before them and praying to whatever God they believed in. My tears had drowned out the last flame on the last candle, as if my presence ushered her soul to pass on right before my eyes.

She used to sing to me in her lovely falsetto a lullaby whenever I tiptoed to her room after a nightmare –

hush my love, my little bird

caught alone in the brush

you flew so high, my little bird

and fell so far, my love, my love

– and her hands would stroke my hair as she hummed. Even now in the afternoon dark of the living room, I could feel her fingers work through my long tresses.

I reached behind to feel my own hair, half-hoping to meet her hands at the back of my head, and when I didn’t find them I rubbed my neck instead to release the tension that had settled there like specks of dust.

My eyes had closed as I tried to remember her scent, her green eyes, her pale milk skin – but they were memories long gone, with only whispering traces left to trigger my senses in the darkest of times.

I opened my eyes and remembered where I was, standing before the darkened lamp. I had never before seen just how elegantly it had been crafted, with a vine of delicate flowers interlacing around its feminine stand. Old and worn but still beautiful even as it stood there in the silence and the dark. It hung over the room like the presence of a spirit that the house had accepted and welcomed like an old friend.

Missing the comfort of its glow, I turned the lamp back on, and in the split second as the light filled the room and the darkness fled to the crevices and corners of the house, I saw my mother smiling down on me.

Dreams

I want to close my eyes and sleep

And let my dreams ease me to bed

To a place where darkness shines

Upon the homes of the undead

And ghosts meander like the lost,

The unborn shriek their tiny wails-

The keeper beckons me across,

while he flies his ships’ dark sails

To bring me to the other side.

Strangely I am welcome there.

The silence doesn’t try to hide,

I hear moaning everywhere.

A voice, cold, dark, and old

Whispers right behind my ear

“Follow me, do as you’re told

you have nothing now to fear.”

I stumble over molten rock

And search across the distant fog

To try to follow the trailing talk, a

voice that willingly summons me on.

Figures pass me, cold as the wind

Speaking softly with eyes downcast

They are the walking souls of all

Who perished in the distant past.

I ask them where I must go

But they have no words for me

Their whispers are to themselves alone

And I could never set them free.

I feel a presence take my hand

And lead me forward with such strength

I’ve never known in mortal life,

And I think it must be an angel.

By my side, the soul brings me

To a towering mountain, coal black

My heart surges with fear, and

I wish I could go back.

“You must climb,” the voice says

And it is so, and so I climb,

Worried about what awaits me

At the end of this perilous path.

I see a light, it’s gleaming gold

As if the sun is melting ore

Into the sky of this dark world,

So I climb faster than before.

I see it now! An opening

I’m reaching for it with my life

But my feet are losing their grip

and I’m falling, falling—

I jolt awake. I’m still alive,

I check my pulse just to make sure,

I lay back down to rest my bones –

I’ve made it through the underworld.

The Bloody Ballet

It was the most gorgeous ballet she had ever seen. Each dancer moved with effortless grace across the stage, in perfect time with the movements of the deep cello, the violent strings, the roll of the drums. They breathed with each pause, and moved with each note, their toes lightly kissing the ground as the dancers moved their arms upward, to the sky, the moon, the sun, the universe, becoming one with life itself.

The dancers had reached the climax of the piece, the reenactment of a terrible murder – the lead dancer in a blood-red leotard, center stage and alone, was spinning and spinning and spinning, so fast she was but a flash of crimson. Then, suddenly, from behind, she was overcome by the other dancers, whirling from all sides, surrounding her, suffocating her, and as they spun she began to falter, and she collapsed, ‘dead’.

The fall was so real, and so poignant, and so beautiful, that as the lights dimmed and the ‘murdered’ dancer was carried off by the angelically off-white leotard-clad others, she stood along with the crowd in a standing ovation, clapping with all her life and soul and weeping for the beautiful dancer. She knew she just had to meet her.

Battling through the crowded hall to backstage, she pricked her arm on a rose thorn as she bumped up against a man holding a bouquet of the red blooms. She groaned in pain as the blood trickled down her arm, and the man mumbled an apology before he disappeared into the crowd. She gazed at the wound, which had mysteriously begun to burn and fester, the blood bubbling like the surface of a witches’ brew.

“Let’s help you clean up, shall we?” a voice said from behind her, crackly, as if from a lifetime of smoking tobacco. She turned, startled, to see an old woman with sagging wrinkles and grey-black beetle’s eyes. She was about to decline the offer, but her voice caught in her throat, and before she knew it, the old woman had secured bony fingers around her wrist and was leading her through a backstage door.

She gazed at the beautiful sight of the dancers winding down from the performance backstage. They were all mechanically undressing and slipping off their nylons, undoing their buns and letting loose their curly tresses, hanging up their leotards. She expected more of a loud, jubilant crowd, but each ballet member was curiously silent, avoiding eye contact with the others and staring at the ground. Their eyes looked cold and glazed over, and she noticed they were all the same color – a light blue, the paralyzing blue of a fresh spring sky.

“You all did wonderful!” she exclaimed, hoping for a response from the lethargic dancers. She smiled at all of them as she passed, but they all ignored her, as if they were incapable of hearing anything at all.

Well that’s impossible, she thought. They dance so perfectly in time to the music, they can’t possibly be deaf. Maybe they all are just very tired and have no energy to respond? Puzzled, but overjoyed at seeing the inside world of the ballet, she let herself be led by the old woman into a dark back room.

The woman flicked on the light, and sitting on a love seat was the lead dancer, the beautiful woman in the red leotard.

The old woman released her grip, but all she could look at was the gorgeous woman sprawled luxuriously on the love seat. The dancer took no notice of the new visitors, staring robotically at the floor as if concentrating very hard on something.

The old woman was digging into file cabinets and finally found a jar of some sort of yellow paste and a long bandage. “Come,” the old woman beckoned. She moved towards her, suspicious of the strange paste.

“It will heal your wound. Come closer.”

The woman used a silver spoon to dollop the paste onto the bandage, and pressed it into her upper arm. It felt like fire, and her blood felt like it was curdling and writing inside of her. Before she could muster a scream, the woman had pressed a cloth against her mouth, and she collapsed before the old woman’s feet. The woman bent down, and with her cold hands, caressed her long, blonde hair, and lifting it upwards in brittle, wrinkled hands, breathed in its lovely scent.

“Ahh. Finally. A blonde one will complete the set.”

The old woman then went to work.

The next night, the ballet’s cast had changed – the lead dancer in the bloody ballet had been replaced overnight, by a beautiful, previously unheard of blonde bombshell, who was said to have danced more beautifully than any other dancer on Earth.

pure evil

Pierce County Sheriff's deputies and Graham, Wash., firefighters work around the smoldering remains of a house, where, according to a sheriff's spokesman, three bodies were found. The bodies are believed to be Josh Powell and his two sons. An explosive fire occurred moments after a Child Protective Services worker brought the two boys to the home for a supervised visit.

it was a great fire

consuming

flesh freckled with ash

too quick to scream,

they are

consumed,

too young to die,

they are

murdered,

by loving father’s hand.

and banging on clouded glass

and locked door,

she begs and pleads for their lives,

to hold them in her arms,

to take them far far away.

she blames herself,

unable to save them as

the glass shatters

the boom echoes

consuming fire

burning them alive

father and

sons and

flame

~

(Photo above by John Froschauer / Associated Press)

I wrote this poem this morning after reading one of the headlines in the LA Times about the suicide-murder in Washington, where Josh Powell set his home on fire during a scheduled visitation with his two young sons.

Powell was under investigation for the disappearance of his wife Susan two years ago, and had just lost main custody of his two sons – Braden, five years old, and Charles, seven years old. The night his wife disappeared during a snowstorm in Utah, Powell loaded his two sons into his car for what he called a “midnight camping trip”, and his wife has not been seen since. Recently, the two boys started recollecting what had happened that night, revealing that their mother was in the trunk of the car, and that their father and mother went into the woods and she never came out.

On the morning of the fire incident, a Child Protective Services worker brought the two boys to Powell’s home in Graham, Washington, but once she began to follow the children into his home, Powell shut and locked the door. Smelling gas and fearing for their safety, the worker notified her supervisor and then called 911 right as the fire began. She pounded on the doors and windows to no avail; the fire burned quickly, killing Powell and his two sons. Utah police believe the fire was intentionally started by Powell and is as good as a confession to his wife’s disappearance; they have vowed that this incident will not end the search for Susan Powell.

I think what affected me the most was reading that the Child Protective Services worker was “being treated for ‘grave emotional trauma’”. I cannot even imagine the sense of helplessness she must have felt as she watched the house burst into flames, knowing that no matter how hard she tried, she could not save those little boys she had seen just moments earlier. I could feel her pain resonate inside me. I empathized with her and knew I had to write this poem. My heart goes out to the family and friends of the two young boys and their missing mother.

Mark and Pam Figliola place flowers and a card at a candlelight memorial for the two sons of Josh Powell and Susan Cox at Carson Elementary School in Puyallup, Wash., where the older of the boys attended school. Police said that the two boys and their father, Josh Powell, were killed when Powell apparently blew up a house with all three of them inside Sunday afternoon. Powell's wife, Susan, went missing from their West Valley City, Utah, home in December 2009.

A candlelight vigil for Braden and Charles at the elementary school they attended. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Read the full stories here:

Explosive fire kills husband, two sons of missing Utah woman

Utah police vow to continue probe into Susan Powell’s disappearance