Oh Lord, I cry out to you;
Day and night I cry out,
“Lord, have mercy!”
Is there a language you do not speak?
Is there a groaning you cannot hear, oh Lord?
Is there a language you do not understand?
I speak with the tongue you gave me, Lord,
And yet, I am not heard:
Truly, even I do not understand my moaning.
Oh Lord, I cry out to you!
The wind has passed, oh God–
I have been torn to pieces!–
The earthquake has passed, oh Lord–
I have fallen to the deep places!–
The fire has passed, Father:
Lo! my body has burned away!
Where are you in the silence that surrounds me?
Oh Lord, I have been quiet,
Waiting for you to comfort me.
Lord, have mercy on your servant.
Day and night I lie as a dead person,
Waiting for a still small voice,
Panting for a gentle whisper:
I lie as a female goat–even as a pigeon,
I lie on the horns of your altar–
My God, my God! how long must I lay as one who is dead?
Oh Lord, you have sealed my mouth with fire;
My God, as coal you have hardened my heart;
Lord, my limbs have been made wooden;
How, oh Lord, can I speak to you?
Where is your spirit, Lord?
I am not afraid of your tongue of fire.
I am dry as kindling in the desert;
I cry out to you, oh Lord,
Day and night I cry out,
“Have mercy on me!”
I’m trying to forget how old I am.
My body has forgotten the womb-sleep
and my mind is forgetting the child-peace,
my hands have forgotten the work-skin
and my eyes are forgetting the learn-light;
my nights were once for getting rest;
Stretching over abyssal waters dark as dreams
I sometimes forget that age is not everything,
that change is a blink and a big bang,
and that time is nothing, really, especially after it’s devoured and delivered and locked in place to look back on.
I’m trying to forget that this year is still passing underneath my vision;
before, I was older; I miss being older,
before I am older; before, I was older;
anyway, now I have more to look forward to,
if only I could forget how old I am.
I miss it being next year,
remember next year? So strange, to be so impatient!
It came so quickly, in the end,
aren’t you glad you lived that age with me?
Last year, in March, I turned a year older.
This year is a movement year, a march year,
a jumping ship year; so,
in March this year I turned over a new leaf and didn’t turn anything,
but the weather in Steveson turned golden.
In the west, which the sun kissed:
Honey sweetened storm clouds
hung as pillows of misted gold,
syrup thick sweet water duvets,
and living air breathed for the earth,
danced for the ocean where it learned to walk,
and played for its freedom from industrial law.
In the east, which the storm left:
World warmth and sparkling crystal rain
met at the corners of a smile,
and rose petal blushes and blue cotton chalk
guided a perfect arc of gemstone dust,
through a sky rising towards the earth,
in exquisite strokes of children’s profundity.
My love is like the poets:
It is Emily Browning: absolutely adoring
and profoundly thankful;
It is William Wordsworth: beautiful and natural,
a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings;
It is William Blake: innocent and experienced,
revolutionary, feminist, and romantic;
It is Samuel T. Coleridge: the relief and intoxication
of laudanum, the addiction and dependence;
It is John Donne: carnal and holy;
It is John Milton: inventive and iconic;
It is John Keats: beautiful and true;
It is Andrew Marvell, or at least it is impatient,
and Robert Browning: patient and utterly dedicated;
It is Allen Ginsberg: wild and human;
Alfred Tennyson: expressive and mythical;
It is William Shakespeare: immortal and public;
It is Emily Dickinson: mortal and private;
It is Percy Shelley: heart of hearts;
And I love you more than Lord Byron loved himself.
Your mum always wears that apron (even I know it); that blue and grey apron with the braided strings. The colours are as familiar as the taste of spaghetti and the feel of its fabric is the smell of tea and dad’s-home dinner. It has always been tied in the back with a tight little bow. Almost always; those strings were the first you twisted round and formed into rabbits’ ears and hills for tongues to twist under. Even before your kindergarten shoes you were deposited on the counter beside the dishfull sink and your mum turned her back to you and waited for your little curious fingers to run along the knobbled lengths of the cords until you found their ends, to navigate with your tongue between your teeth, and at last leave hanging in a mess of loops that you pretended was a tight little bow just like you knew your mum liked. You knew those strings.
When you got your kindergarten shoes you practiced with those until you could make the tongue tight against your foot and stay there and you rushed to your mum and tied her apron, standing on your kindergarten shoe tiptoes.
Later on that tight little bow was as easy as breathing and just as memorable and you laced up for middle school and tennis practice and in the kitchen to secure your own apron, with smooth red cords, where you added thyme to the sauce as your mum drained the spaghetti.
You have to tug sharply to undo the laces of your adventuring shoes, left and right; those tight bows have never left you. You deposit your car keys in your bag as you step sock silent up the stairs, shoes in hand, when you are arrested by the sight of your mum standing in the kitchen, still and turned towards the evening window. Her apron is undone and the grey and blue braids brush the linoleum.
–I made spaghetti, she says, and there’s leftovers in the fridge. You thank her, but–I’ve had dinner out today; french fries . . . and a salad, don’t worry. She says it’s okay–I forgot to add thyme to the sauce, anyway. You hesitate by the entrance to the kitchen. –Mum, you say, your apron has come undone. She turns to you and her eyes are sad. –I think I tied the bow too loose, she sighs. Won’t you cook with me tomorrow and tie it for me?
–Oh Mum, you laugh, these aren’t the strings that connect me to you anymore, and as you step behind her and take up the cords, crossing one over the other, the sun coming through the window hits your back and your shadows are one across the kitchen floor.
In the Autumn, my feet crunch on death and decay,
a long carpet of leaves in a fiery array
of dark reds and rust oranges, yellows and browns,
in a funeral path of old life, fallen down;
but when white winter carpet, exquisite and cold,
stretches out over earth that has taken to hold
all the dead things, all joined by the rains and by time;
when the morning brings newness in pure white design,
and my feet crunch on crystals of heavenly dew,
then the hope of green life in the spring, fresh and new–
all my worries erased by the frost, all my fears–
hope is painted on canvas renewed for the year.
already planning for Christmas
because this season is happening at a bad time.
The holidays won’t wait for me,
and I understand–
I can’t wait either
even though it’s everything
I can’t wait
for a future
I don’t believe in.
though . . .
I think that’ll be nice.
when they should be saying,
“I am understanding,
or trying to