Long Island Expressway, Autumn 2009
I have since grown my hair longer, longer
than when I was sixteen and swaggered
with my body, baby fat and new sinew
running burning in stories and music,
now in a daze, hair grown long again
and brushing it away from my eyes.
I would have to forget everything since
to be anywhere near there again.
That night three years ago when I ran
my hand through my neat cut and felt nothing.
A handful of salt and pepper shards
telling me that there's no going back.
From the front passenger seat I watched Long Island
sliding by, clumps of me in my grasp.
Leaves, all the summer's leaves turning with the fall,
come November and the north wind they'll fall,
wailing like you at me, yelling for me to stop,
please stop, me piling pieces of mine on the mat.
I have heard that before, the wailing of women,
the stifled sobs of men attending suffering.
I was almost always impressed into silence,
afraid for the narrow walls of my heart
there praying for the wind or storm to stop
before peeking out to what's left in the wake,
whatever there was that was left that I could trace
on the lines of faces or the manner of shoulders.
Like humans were molting, the tangle of shed shell
and how the world would be different.
I sat quietly looking at the web of hair I had gathered
on the floor mat then at Long Island sliding by.
How long have I lasted beyond what I thought
would be enough, if that was all enough,
then I could tell myself, when glancing back,
you could not ask for anymore, anyone,
there have been many and I will need
not more if this is all that will be given me.
Except for the pain, this brittle sheen of fired clay
pierced everywhere at once, my friend,
who reminds me that I must hang on somehow,
I am nothing without you, I am in you,
I will be here always and for me
you'll be strong because I am nothing without you
and I want to tell my friend that my bones
will burn for you but only for so long,
only for as long as it takes me to learn
that I am flesh then my spirit sublime
into the ether, into the shafts of sunlight
laden with the detritus of its creations.
I am among them, a feather shed in flight sighing
swaying back to the dull of wet clay
and on into the night on fire end to end
streaming past the window from light gems
where I would be, let go, and I try,
because I will not cry out when I am taken,
I will not move but hold myself folded
as though I was already on the ship of seas,
that I could sail and be happy for all,
all, that I have and on the far shore,
the coat of stinging barbs that was my skin,
borne by the mother to where I will dream.
Going by this day by day, slivers of places
and portraits and what they bring,
that moon and her phases, her dispositions
and distances vaguely familiar.
Had I a cartographer's or astronomer's eye,
then maybe worry and surprise would leave,
but I don't think so, because I might still be lost,
scents, for an instance, cedar, ylang-ylang,
the Chanel she wore that one time,
my grandmother announcing her kitchen,
then everything will pause once more,
full, round and endless.
Like my smooth head bare of all hair,
eyebrows, lashes, five o'clock shadow, gone.
An orb of a face featureless but for age,
staring at a mirror introducing myself.
How on some morning or a moment dark
passing by your image be taken aback.
Just me. Only me. A facsimile,
looking for a spark within, something,
anything that can answer back with conviction,
an apology for forgotten shame.
Suddenly inchoate, absent regret or vanity,
that I could make my face as I do my bed.
And my hands ache, 'neath me my ankles break
to stand tall and be sure.
All that I have labored to be since I was a ball
of squealing delight in my mother's arms
and so refuse to lay long and weak
but will this form to the sink and its mirror.
I look at her, a deep lake of laughter
and brooding, her womb portending days,
her startled face as the infant pushed
at her walls and I would like to see it,
a face on the cusp of a journey, an involute
lump of flesh feeding off her voraciously,
because I forget those weeks
in all the hours since my first grasp
to where I lay helpless watching my blood
creep into the sheets from my wan gown
wondering why it felt easy and light
like hair falling off my head, like rain
laying down wordless upon the low tree line
of Long Island, grey touching lakes,
listening for my mother's voice in the wind,
my lover speaking to me in her lowest voice
while in an embrace and finding her face by touch
and wake somewhere complete and safe,
when I call to her to stay the lonely night,
as sure as words come will pour out
laughter exactly when I wanted to laugh
to rest the burden of secrets,
watching with me the island go by
as the northern lifts my face to hers.
But the little monsters of mine do their monstrous
things, like when they turned the light red,
those three nights, red and black and cold
and soundless, like the mouth of Jonah's fish,
shut in, deaf and mute, near blind,
when the walls came to life.
They turned orange, my darling, and started to sweat,
or maybe they were crying in the fever aflame.
In my ending I will sing a song I have heard before
from somewhere I have visited long ago.
Such distance that only the edges are there,
formless yet palpable,
my little monster cells held to a muffled roar
and behind me worlds melting, the bone yard
of all I am become and stand to lose
or leave behind, starlight on my bed,
in a car's seat held by belts
numb to its purpose, the consequences,
because my hair is in my hands
and the leaves by the road are turning.
I will sing.