Mourning

Without you, the sun darkens
Cold settles in
Home becomes hollow
I feel the weight of my heart

Without you, laughter hurts
as the world keeps turning
My breath noticeable
Folding myself into origami
Shapes

I’ll see you
In full regalia
Arms outstretched or crossed
At my performance here
Without you

We’ll embrace again
My guardian angel
While we’re apart

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Tilting Downhill

The best way to stop someone wandering down a path is a post sign

Or a person bearing directions ill-conceived or conceived for ill

And none of this matters in the dark when the stars wipe away like so much glitter

Or you’re standing beside me

Nothing urges the sick traveller toward the forest like a well-worn path.

We Didn’t Know

The measure of me

In my hands

Hollowed to hold the weight of you

Scratches up and down the shirt to beg

A strike snapped from a snake

And all stillness

Then movement

Where the fan whispers into your clothes and sends the secrets tittering out

A flap of your jacket

A slip of hand from giants

And you’re gone

Not a Burden

Intentions turn the wipers on

A shimmering of anxiety

Touches my dancing soul

Chaos found me pretty

Willing to upend a life spent shivering in anxiety

But you thick and barnacled, wise and rusted

Found I needed a chain to shake about

Like a tambourine round the old camper

Found me beautiful in any state

Found me light as a feather

As a spark from the lighter

As the first day you lifted me far above your head asking

Tell me all you see and once you fly higher

Shout it down

I’ll make it out as best I can

Until I learn the language of your tongue

Heart of a Monster: A Short Story

When I run, I become very aware of my heartbeat. Trapped. It seeks to push out beyond my body; hits my fingertips, my heels and then throbs into the scalp. When I practice tai chi, my heartbeat becomes a tightening andrelaxing of the spirit. A strengthening and stretching of the awareness, and of the forgetting, of life.

Alone, I become the heartbeat of the room – the contraction and subsequent pulse of life in the center
of a sleeping soul. And yet, I am nothing. The room continues to be a room.

I drive home in the nothingness. Afloat in the centered sensation of being. Nothing. The road sustains my calm – soft pulls of the wheel keep the gray steadily streaming beneath me. The last curve is a sharp, hard left and demands a lowered speed and double-handed spin. In the apex of this arc, a drop of blood. I stutter the grip on the wheel to avoid it. Slide close to the guard rail. In the rearview, a car behind me swerves away. Feathers ruffle. I pump my brakes; another car pulls from the apex –from a cardinal unperturbed on the yellow line.

It’s nothing. Drive. Nothing. I pull sharply into the grass, palm my keys and, out in the road, I run. There is no complaint of muscle, no remembrance of the earlier hours. Another car passes. I cross into the road, scoop up the bundle and move quickly to the bald patch of earth where tire marks have dug into the skirt of the curve. Now, I feel the pound of that short run, the knowledge of the blind spot. And the
relief of life – still breathing. He tucks his head under my hands and does not fight. I feel the flutter of
his eyes, the rhythmic scissor of beak against my stomach. I tell him not to worry. He’s okay. I’ll keep you safe, I tell him.

I’ve never held a bird and not felt the strength of its heartbeat threatening to burst with the will to escape. I murmur a prayer.

His head locked, cocked in lack of terror, legs crumpled too far to one side, eyes half-open. He gasps. Again. Again. I sing for him. It seems the right thing to do. I hold him against my chest and hope my heartbeat is steady with comfort; that my voice becomes familiar when heard through it. His wings loosen once, then easily smooth to the back. No injury apparent, a magnificent
crimson head gives way to a body of soft magenta-tipped gray. He is beautiful. Perfect.

I love him, says my daughter. I talk with my husband as he prepares for work, then peek at the bird. His half-closed eyes seem to understand Human, and he startles. His gaze is too far over to one side for the recognition, but the cramped neck stretches, reaches to panic. His mouth gasps wild silent notes. I lower the lid and wonder what I’ve done.

Surely, this is a good sign. The sign of fear in the wild. A sign of wings in the heart, I say to my husband.

My forehead pounds. I trace the power of it past my ear and into my neck. The heartbeat of lifting weights. Of running. I run my hands down my arms. I can feel the heartbeat even there.

“I don’t understand how I just let things go,” a mere breath of thought. I look at the walls. At my hands. I feel as if my hangnails are the start of some sort of stripping of the soul. If the stretch of skin continues to redden and peel, I’ll lose a hand, an arm until I’m a hazy shadow keeping the form of the skin now sloughed to the floor. And the day pushes my feet into the carpet, drills me down into the soil. My heart mocks a rhythm heard once at some country fair, and though I can’t quite find the steps, I
begin to follow its pace. I will myself to stop breathing. To keep the memory. It pushes into my scalp.

A drop. I will my heart beat slower. Slower. The long clotted lines come. I wrap up the heat of them
and hold my breath until the burn implodes in a gasp. My head hurts with the effort of it.

There’s nothing to do.

“I don’t understand.” I look. I hold them up closely. I say, it’s okay, it’s okay. Exhale until my lungs fight the effort and stutter. I’m so careless with the pieces. There’s so much of nothing.
No face to consider. No hair to smooth. No trying on of names.

I whisper the word to a friend. How far? They wonder. As if a promise would be invalid if new.

“I feel like-“

My body ripped my baby’s body apart. And I disposed of piece after piece after piece. The trash. The toilet.

“She’s trapped. I trapped him. Always nothing. Always nothing.”

A drop of blood. A drop of blood. A drop of blood.

Drip. Drip. Drop.

Each strand of life, a heartbeat undone. Each pump of blood, a loss. I constrict. It’s over, I tell
myself. It’s over. Over.

From the window, a mockingbird trills. A low breath of dove. I listen for the song of the cardinal, but I don’t know its voice. I rise, feeling the weight of an unfinished prayer, and peek at the bird.

I find the outline of his head tucked beneath the towel. I blow softly. I trace the curve of a wing.

I work my fingers under his body.
He is loose. Unhinged. The neck flops like an infant’s. I allow the squeeze of pain, the escape of tears. I take deep breaths of injury, last breaths of mourning. I lift his beak until his chin settles properly
onto his shoulders. It takes some time.

He settles in the hollow of my hand and I rock him. It seems the
only thing to do. I smooth my hand over him and stroke his head and back. A bright red calm in my
hand. My palm cups to him.
He settles back into his cotton nest. Eyes half-closed. It seems too soon to bury him. I wait. Feeling the new peace of unheartbeat.

My children hold the bird again. He doesn’t seem real anymore, they say. Wrapped carefully –loosely in paper towels, he seems somehow heavier. I place him in his grave. My son prays – his eyes tightly shut and his arms folded around his neck. I close my eyes and listen. During the prayer, I hear birdsong.

I, America

in the hellfires of freedom
reforge your golden crown
else it all else it all fall down

i, America
shake
off the heroes become weapons
resist the hero’s complaint
turn to the song of the common people
a song of death
a song of misery
sung with grace and enmity
stung with peace and tragedy

i, America
raise the colors of my country
front and center
listen
listen
listen

the heroes have all gone
it’s just us now
it’s just us now
speak up now

Birdsong

from his bathtub
he listens to birdsong
beyond closed windows

muffled bursts of sunrise
scrub away the bruises
long to ease his shoulders
shadows flickering as cars break the light

he hums himself a birthday
a conjuring of youth
murmurs her name
scent of blueberries and forget-me-nots
in the bubbles about his knees
smooths back his hair with water
and sits forward dripping

he whistles a response to the
trickle tickle of birdsong
and waits for her name to replay