The Backside of Fear

Phase I

My sign reads, “Closed for business.”

I will reopen after I fight this lineage curse.

If you saw me today, you’d see

worry lines

transposed from paper to palm

dressed in unwritten ink

pressed down on a clean slate and

moving words from wrist to skinny branches.

I have been shutdown. In lockdown

hiding (protecting) creative fears

from a catastrophic letdown.

If you saw me at thirteen, you’d see

passive explosions falling from palm to

paper

blue ink covering black letters.

Soot on a blackboard covering white chalk.

I have been snuffed

by the fingertips of my own fears,

Goals repeat themselves on papers stashed all over –

I am wanting and waiting

to reopen,

to release my fear.

Phase II

I cut carefully along the lines

running parallel to my spine.

At night, I let the pieces mend

without any glue or tape.

When I wake, they fall a part

and lay to the sides

parallel to my vertebra –

child’s play –

those white ivory keys

I cannot touch.

Have I mentioned the wings

I tried to insert inside the space

I cut?

At night, the incision closes around the blades on my back –

in the morning I wake and stand, let the weight sink in –

Wings tucked tight,

White and light.

Yes, wings can look proud and earned.

Only sometimes, the weight of the day is something that must

be learned.

Phase III

Wings. Held in my hands, you are the backbone, the backside of fear.

The longer I hold you, the more I feel

with my muscle

memory.

My voice repeats itself, becomes a shadow

(flying wings) on dry garden dirt,

dead kale capillaries and withered bean skins.

Muscle memory. Theirs too,

Repeats itself,

folds in for the long shadow of winter.

To be afraid of dying, or the leash of fear

(don’t be) is not trusting your sown seeds.

Spread them far.

Come in…open your hand.

I see wings

the backside of fear.

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Pale Wind 

Once, the fish swam in the night sky –
a galaxy inside her belly.

She bore stars and pushed out tears, recalling

The angry cycle of mourning the living.

I had the chance to talk with her,

a chance to travel around her galaxy.

I saw the cycle churning,

filling and unfilling her fists,

palms milk white.

I felt the pain safely escape away

from her memory, from the dark house.

Although she lost the tears,

the memory of it twinkles.

Dead and alive in her sky.

Astronomers attach no name to that time,

That spiral pattern.

That place ejected from her insides.

I looked at the fish finding his way in the night.

He broke out and fell

into a motion you’ll remember as no accident.

You felt it coming. The pale wind

reaching for him.

 
 

Fragile Freight

Her mouth flickered, sharp as razors

across the glass window

clouds rolled in in victory.

Snowy rooftops filtered past and

chimneys coughed a stormy blast.

Simple folk dwell within

golden shadows hide their sin.

The panic in the city lights

sweep her eyes at the fringe of night.

Red ribbons run through her pupils,

it’s alright – the moisture on her cheek

doesn’t mean she’s weak.

She feels dizzy in the moving cabin.

The conductor and she are alone,

staring out at the city’s bones.

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Tranquil Champlain

A boat swings like a weather vane

on the flat blue glass. It turns

like a ballerina

dressed in white canvas and

wooden soled shoes.

She tip-toes and etches hull lines

in the glass like smoke

in her wake.

A man sits on an August heated dock,

watches the lake expand from dark blue to white,

from summer to winter

from East to West.

That boat swings like a needle,

’round the compass of his green-gray eyes.

 

End of Day

Your feet are tired, rough and bruised at the stern

Blue nail polish flakes into the bow of your socks,

you are like a snake shedding skin so you can heal.

Your shoulders ache, pinch at your neck

and squeeze your tendons

like jellyfish tentacles injecting poison.

All this time, the day moves

forward                   forward

swings back

like a pendulum.

I thought you wanted to start new.

Hop off here, pull that pendulum

forward,

feel no reverb.

After all this time, the day stains yellow.

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Towers

A dark stream spills snake-wise over the streets’ hissing hot

pavement.

The noon light reflects optical illusions,

like piano key towers,

ivory skyscrapers

and tall men with powers.

Most of the smokestacks

protrude from their and the city’s mouth

streaming with a harmony

hollowed of energy.

That dark stream sweeps the feet clean

and the men run faster

staring down at the hissing pavement

looking up at the black and white glass.

The noon light transfigures their image;

city and men.

They are shorter by dusk

and gone in the dark stream of night.

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Awning

She still carries the old awning from territory to new territory.

Originally, the salt-sprinkled awning

brightened her face

when the sea sun glowed orange and splashed the canvas.

Now, the soot-covered awning

dims her olive skin, casts shadows

during the day.

At first sight, you would fold away

abashed

by her striking

candles

under a flammable movable roof.

Second glances prevail and

reveal surprised, flared smiles.

The blackened awning drifts

with homemade electricity

sideways over her tarry hair

lingers for a while, as if delivering rain

like a cloud-

then, it stretches wide and blossoms

toward the sky to be refilled.

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The Wooden Mustache

The old man’s cough stirs the sawdust on his work-bench. His green flannel shirt is faded from the fifty years of work. Rustling in the hay above, a mouse kicks a pebble through the small hole in the ceiling. Mr. Jared does not look up from his bench. His eyes drill into the hunk of cedar – sitting, waiting. He cannot wait to release the cedar’s sweet aroma. But how, what design will do this?

Ten-thirty. Moonlight seeps under the barn door. Sebastian thumps his dreaming trail against the outside wall. “I’ll bring you into the house soon,” mumbles Mr. Jared, “by midnight.”

Wooden women’s busts hang on iron hooks around the room, above dark pine legs and crooked limbs. Smooth, well-sanded feet line the dusty floor. Mr. Jared turns to his latest project – a man’s prudently chiseled face. The eyes are shut, the mouth reveals no chompers, and his chin protrudes out like a shelf that would hold a small candle. Waves in the cedar form curly rivers of hair, and a small seashell ear. Mr. Jared sits on his stool, wracking his brain for what is missing. “Facial hair? Did I miss a blemish?” The old man hunches forward, folding like a thin piece of parchment. He removes his silver rimmed glasses, caresses the woodland man’s lip. Slowly he traces the dome above the lip, back and forth as if applying make-up. “Too smooth. I remember now.”

Mr. Jared retrieves his tools, holds the chisel like cutlery, and begins shaving the wood into a petite mustache.

Sebastian begins to whimper. Still dreaming. Then he howls lowly, warning Mr. Jared.

His heart pulses pleasurably in his ears as the wood curls away aned4eec889e9eea34aa70179175630d13d falls to his black boots.

Eleven-thirty. Moonlight filters through the hole. Suddenly, red and blue join the mix. Sebastian thumps his tail louder, then runs down the field. Mr. Jared reaches for his sander, but the lights stop his heart and he hears everything.

The barn door whips wide open. A deep voice demands, “Where is Chris Knight?”

It Stings and it Heals

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Abalone, starfish, Rain –

I suppose I will permit them into the waves.

 

Before concrete arteries, oceans substituted in one large jar, the preserved animals

now kept under microscopes    decayed

smelling like pickles and chlorophyll.

From the backyard of Western Biological,

bookcases store vegetables in filing cabinets

under the Pacific saliva.

As many as 100 encyclopedias attempt to

combine and separate

worms, urchins, nudibranchs,

snails

to make a Picasso into a sensical Dali,

but we all know boxes don’t make sense

in a fluid body.

Cell walls are permeable,

rooms you can enter, float to and fro

exchange energy that is needed. Whenever you please.

Sit on a bench and ponder how the ocean spray

covers barnacles, seals, and humans

when dissection rips and fragments lives

“telling them very profound words to understand.”

Salty saliva drips from our eyes and their slippery pores.

It stings and it heals.