A maniacal God ripped your plane
from a squall of sky one night.
Your cheeks carved to high, bright apples.
Your legs, two porcelain dove
wings. Your one true love
shot in the chest one time
in Belgium, on the front lines.
You never know the same love twice.
They said of the wreckage you slept
like a sparrow tucked into its nest.
I’ve seen sparrows fall to the ground
and die with their eyes hanging out.
What makes them jump so soon,
ants and maggots chewing their bones?
Your father went to your funeral alone.
-Lyndsie A. Stremlow
(Spring Moon at Ninomiya Beach by Kawase Hasui, c. 1932)
I’ve spoken the words
I knew would be the nail
in an allegorical coffin.
To be plainly, frankly in love?
Will it ever do?
I stand shivering, naked before you.
Each hemorrhaging word
dropping a veil, shirt, shoes, skirt…
The breathless death
of a stoic mystery
does nothing to deter me
from burning monuments.
Quick as a creature in the thicket,
I taste the fear on your breath.
I plant mine in the cool, dark ground.
Seductive as death, when we met
you were a great, quiet mystery.
Then a panorama of night sky
and fragments of ancient light
through a telescope.
Yet, you live as though a mere man!
Just flesh, feet, head, and hands.
You are the draw of the moon on the sea.
This is the vision love gives to me.
Lying with their mouths,
The mounting dust
on their skin and souls.
See the bars they erect
at the edge of the bed.
How swiftly one swallows the key.
Their new dream:
keep the other from feeling too free.
The syrupy sentiments
spit through trembling lips.
The stench of rotting roses cements
their wilting commitment.
The bouquet on the nightstand, an apology.
The flowers nursed in their bed, an analogy.
She wanted only that they live
Not knowing what love is.
-Lyndsie A. Stremlow
(a painting from the Kamakura era of Japanese History (1185-1333). Artist Unknown)
He abandoned luxury
to know the misery
of the others.
To become metaphor
rather than man.
They venerate his smile
in the perfect symmetry
of stone effigies.
The faintly turned-
up corners of the woman’s mouth:
the smile of unbearable compassion.
This, the uniform of dissipated egos.
How do I unload this prop cross
I haul up in hopelessness?
End a million melodramas,
Anxieties, and other such fruitless fetters?
I reflect long on last summer’s flowers.
Now everything unto my eyes
becomes an island in bloom.
The weight of this world has yet to break
my back, but it has starved my wild heart.
Because my soul is an obstinate child
sent with one rigid gesture to bed,
there is a fighting in my head. Life & death
drone behind the stupor of countless suns.
And I am always on the verge of waking up.
To dream we drop the weight. To enjoy? We risk a riot.
Under the freight of love & loss I’ve grown quiet
as the runt of a litter drawing its final wet breath.
And yet, to meet the eyes in waking that I have met,
to misplace myself in mystic Love, in lips I’ve kissed,
is a dream full of fevers and bliss.
I wake as a child, made new and small
in love. I dig in my heels to slow the fall.
(Female Ghost in the Moonlight by Katsushika Hokusai circa 1884)
I don’t know if it’s a disease.
Thick as skin, it is part of me.
As long as my memory
has lived, so has it.
I was eating Benadryl
at seven years old
to erase my shame.
At twelve I was caught
with vodka and pornography.
At twenty-four I was a skeleton
fueled by cigarettes and amphetamines.
These days, I’m giving up caffeine.
The slow steady crawl to being clean
never ends for people like me.
If there is a soul, mine is sick.
If it exists, it has a limp.
At times, it’s been putrid.
To the extent that spoiled milk
can’t be fixed, neither can it.
“I love you” was once a lie
I told to get another fix.
This is the bleeding wound I mend
and mend without end.
And yet, I am buoyant with hope
simply because I live.
Now I know another way
that is not an escape.
I hold a flame to my pain.
I burn myself clean.
I burn myself true. I do it for me
But my soul walks with a cane.