The Hollows

for Real Toads “Tuesday Platform.”

This poem is based on a dream I had. I am both freaked out and excited, as a writer. 

The city in my brain when I sleep

has wide black-outs the size of

my fragmented memories. I pedal down

an alley where dirty wash buckets

get dumped out open windows above

the Section 8 apartments we

so frequently took shelter in.

These alleys are crowded and huddled—a

fictitious labyrinth but still I am fooled

into believing its constancy because of

the telephone wires and iron fire escapes.

A man at a crate, wearing overalls and a red

bandana smiles his drunken grin, scratching

his bulbous purple nose, whisking out a tissue

from a bony wrist, something familiar,

a vague scent of lilac. Something about the speed

in a humming bird’s wings, rust and oil

and tractor parts fill my head. Honeysuckle.

Yes; my father called him “Pa.”

I turn what must be southwest

judging by the sunlight glaring,

but I am not sure. Then a block down

and right—a Parisian-like corner where

the next alley intersects. Buckets

and barrels of flowers, palette displays

and chalked prices. I pedal slower.

Round soft women in purple and daffodil,

berry-stained lips and a lavender water

scent that makes me feel warm,

like the sound of my grandmother, how she

used to say I sang beautifully. She had shells

on her wallpaper in the bathroom.

Beautifully

Beautiful. In the recesses of my brain, that

specific word signals my amygdala to

get out the boxing gloves or take flight,

and then Paris disappears because of this warning,

the alley swallows me up in darkness

and into an end once the word “beautiful

grabs a hold of me, ringing in my ears

the way it did when he called me that

when I was a little girl. Not even in dreams

do we escape childhood.

This end is a brick wall, graffiti-filled and strewn

with Find Jesus and Bob Marley posters;

I turn my bike away, back toward light, an anxiety

starting to glow in my gut.

I hit a different center now, where four alleys meet,

these are all alleys now, and I choose—with “beautiful”

still hanging on my lips like a stale cigarette—to turn south.

Southeast. Cobblestone and puddles. This alley

is quiet and I feel the need to turn, but the walls

on the sides are narrowing.

My thighs just scuffing the plaster. I look ahead

because it’s too late to turn around—no room—and

I see the path before me going on and on like a tunnel

with shafts of light, then shadow, light, then shadow

where unnamed dead-end streets cross but I can’t

seem to get to them. A cracked hand

reaches out a glassless window and cold porcelain

knocks against my knuckle. I am picking up speed but

look back to see what it was, and when I turn forward

again, my bike wobbling, another white porcelain

girl. This one has a doll’s face that is white and cracked,

glued or fastened together, her head full of holes

where doll hair used to be, I back on the pedals Read More

The Gray Areas

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My post after considering “Kerry’s Word Family Post” at Real Toads.

I am going to run with this idea because there are two things I want to write about (and each one is a prompt from someone or someplace else).  I am going with an ambiguous scene between two potential lovers, also using the word family of “Ambiguous.”

here goes, not sure what I’m going to do ….first draft :

We are in that grey area aren’t we, I am asking. In the beginning it was easy-applying the hard fact of you to a tender space in my toughened gut, not as a salve, but as if it had belonged, all along. And I question now if what had belonged all along is really only the part of me you brought out, and I hadn’t seen it. And to resemble what is in your eyes–that is something.

Calculated and cool, punctual and all equations, coming through the theater doors up the aisle from me, I see your dark silhouette from this empty stage with the curtains left open for you  –the dancer sitting at the lip of the stage, shoes off, hair undone, audience dispersed, incandescent lighting turned to the stark overheads that show every blemish, every wrinkle. You see me this way and I hold my breath, the ever-present fear a lover will see nothing and you have made up an illusion, a self-evident pill you must swallow that you may have stopped being honest with yourself. It happens, when you depend on someone to charm you–as you age the real charm is the ambiguity and complexity of being an honest, real, flawed, disordered, loud, quiet self.

I see myself clearly through your eyes, and as I am only learning to love and appreciate what I have become by my hand’s design, you, though have I never admitted, have rendered me speechless and swelling when
you value my worth in comments you do not realize you are making–as if you know deeply that I already know these things–that I am smart, that I understand, that I …am maybe beautiful. We do not question each other, but challenge only ourselves. To be better.

You move toward the stage and then it is not a stage but we are on a steady plane and no one else is there, dropping my notions of romance and love long ago, I merely want to be seen as an equal, exposing every scar, every embarrassment, every vulnerability, every secret of a strength to you. Not for you. To you. And that is the difference–your reactions are yours and I am not to be measured by them. I am not asking you to accept me, I am saying this is me, these are the facts, these are the equivocations of all I’ve been through, all I’ve felt, and beneath those there is much more, as the evidence cannot lie, and maybe

maybe,

maybe you’d like to see what happens within a mind and body when it decides what to do with all these fragments and parts that make up my mind and heart. Maybe you are curious how I love. You missed the recital. But maybe.

I’ve watched you watch me for a while now. And we still circle the arena, perhaps both a little too cautious for something that feels far too good.  And this distance, and stance, I find I am not pulling myself together because myself is this solid thing now, sutured together at the many people I thought I was. And you’re the first person that sees me. You see me. And it’s enough to catch my breath, knowing I am not invisible. That I am somebody.

And the dance of words begins, every secret we tell is behind the letters–hidden in word placement in the sentence, in the alliteration and roots, in the tone of voice, in the cadence, in the best words not chosen so as not to reveal too much.

I cannot tell where these conversations stop and I start; I cannot tell if you worded my mind into collective adjectives or if I want to kiss you.

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