Old Lady Cactus

Backup Poetry™ to rid the ringing in your ears. No idea what I'm doing.

Happiness Is Spelled With Leaves Of Gold

The children are happy behind the fence, you know.

This is all you’ve ever been told.

You see them run past, sometimes;

your face pressed to the wooden slats,

eyelid peeled back inside the crack —

sight reaching out to meet their running forms.

 

They will always know peace, you know.

While war has always torn your ground apart,

their side will never run dry of fleshy fruit

or the ripened ribs of those creatures they farm.

 

Knowing this, you look around your side.

 

There are no children playing here;

they sit listless in the dust, ground down by the countless

sticks and stones thrown over the fence in playful ignorance of whom they’ll hit.

If they hit you they’ll ruin you, you know.

This is all you’ve ever been told.

 

And still you watch:

the splinters in your cheeks of years and years of breathless watching

though the crack have made you bitter — the wooden shards have hardened you,

yet still you watch, wide-eyed in disbelief and longing.

 

Happiness has gone extinct on this side,

and happiness is spelled with leaves of gold on theirs.

 

Everything they stole from you was branded

with the gilded promise of a wish:

for bluer skies and cleaner air and food to eat.

 

And yet — and yet!

You hear the children cry.

 

The grass is always green for them and all you have is dust,

and still they whimper at their feast.

 

The children are happy on the other side, and so

they will never see your sallow eyes shrivel in this heat.

 

Their happiness is built on never seeing how they’ve come to rest their heads

on these stolen leaves of luscious gold.

 

That —

that

is how they di(n)e in peace.

To Write Poetry Is To Be Distracted      

 

         Let us set the scene,

his shallow voice announces;

 

hands inching though conductor’s motions,

humid air seeping through the gaps between his knuckles,

he tries to our catch our fluttering minds like a child catching fireflies.

 

The stump on which he stands may as well be fifteen years away—

time is of no concern to us

on this late spring day;

 

we have come to write,

to be distracted in the sun by the

              stuff of poets.

 

We are the people who find beauty

in a grain of rice lying on a mottled grey table;

it is the color of a long-awaited peace.

Its muted glow gives rise to thoughts of a

sun-drenched undersea scene.

And the magnitude of the lightly rugged tabletop

speaks to the human condition of infinity.

Naïvely, by attrition.

But aren’t we beautiful?

 

               Let us set the scene,

his shallow voice repeats;

 

and we still don’t catch the words,

his intonations drowned out

by the sounds of our surroundings.

 

How can we listen to the product of poetry,

faced with the lushness around us?

 

This,

         we know,

our writing shows,

         this

         is the stuff of poetry.

FEAR

Mothers watch with weary, wary, tired eyes

from doorways and corners on every continent of this godforsaken world.

 

Stepping on cracks did, in fact, break their backs

but they bite their withered tongues and train their skin to shield the pain.

 

They watch their children

and the men they’ve become,

 

and they see girls weathering their withering tongues:

training them to speak in rhymes and riddles

and to speak no ill,

 

and they see girls growing thick their skins

ridding them of the ghosts of hairy hands

and men hunting them for the thrill.

 

The daughters get buried alive

in guilt and unheard rage and the weight of blood-ripped skin.

 

This pain wears and wars their tired eyes,

and as mothers of unwanted kin they cloak their eyes in shadow,

backs breaking from within.

The Cliché of Chaos

The concept of if is monumental;

it shows humans as beings of potential —going wrong, going right,

spilling our decisions over others like drinks in a bar past midnight.

All these things happen only by chance

and there are two ways to read that fact:

either God is Dead and Life is Shit

— or —

anything means everything;

from the faintest static in the radio

to the way you two first kissed.

Every atom ever aligned has done so by chance,

every idea spawned in your mind is built on thoughts in the past.

Never shake off the ancestors clinging to your back.

You are webbed into history for all of eternity;

let your if echo out in the night.

You are you by every situation life has put you though:

meeting (her)

seeing (that)

expecting (more)

Fill in the blanks; we’ve all lived a little bit.

We’ve managed to make the best things accidentally:

the Chocolate Chip Cookie

a weak reusable adhesive

a cluster of cells bearing life

So remember we are only strings of coincidental meetings.

From atom to atom,

or Adam to atom,

or Adam to Adam and Eve.

If you listen closely

happenstance and circumstance

are what your heart keeps beating.

So listen closely.

Maybe this was some kind of cliché

that had never been taxonomized before

Read into the coincidences and notice the norm;

every moment deserves its own museum,

so curate your own collection.

Every 4 am awake’s a monumental accident.

We are series of cells addicted to cell phones,

beings afflicted by fatal mutations

caused by one twist of a gene.

And stories can twist by the turn of a word:

Did he die?

Or didn’t he?

We are the accretion of countless decisions;

a game of chance never brought to completion,

coins wheeling and glinting for as long as there’s air.

Our tales are told by idiots, full of sound and fury,

signifying everything but nothing.

If human beings are made of potential,

chaos unfolding is what brings us light.

Fragile Thoughts Had On Long Walks

1.

The words I hear you cannot see;

they settle on my skin like dust.

One day perhaps my skin will litter your kitchen table,

and all that you will have is this dust of me.

But for now, we are fighting the currents of pain and separation.

2.

I have told more stories than you will ever know;

becoming less myself is my source of life.

Know that I have only ever told one lie,

and it hid from you the rest inside.

I thought I wouldn’t want to get to know you.

3.

You asked me why I stand so still,

my eyes aghast and thumbs pinched in.

My neck cracks as I remember:

I will never drop my stance for you,

though one day I may come to love you.

4.

I left the rose you gave me on the shelf.

I like to think it grew old enough to feather into petals.

PARADOX I

I did not see the sky today;

I hid myself in layers.

I found the ring that doesn’t fit,

called the brother I’ll never miss,

tried on the dress and noticed the rip.

Today I did not crack the shutters;

I do not deserve to see the day.

I left the restaurant hungry yesterday,

praying he wouldn’t ask me home.

I want to be left alone, 

and when I told him so he hit me.

I cried today.

Twice.

I don’t think God is listening.

And though I have not seen the sky today,

I have not told a lie.

Wild-Girl Heart

Clawing your way through a wooded town

on a rare day of autumn heat won’t get you anywhere,

I think you’ve forgotten.

You’ve been drug away from the forest floor,

eyes a knotted, snotty mess and hair in your teeth before;

why can’t you give it a rest with your wild-girl heart?

 

Dried leaves crumple in your clammy fists,

a flurry of red-orange flakes with edges like broken glass

unstick themselves from your palms and float down,

never to be reassembled

or remembered;

crushed in vain by a girl with a wild heart and hands of a man:

even holy water could not cleanse the things you touched back then.

 

You bring rock to trunk to scratch the features of your face

into the soft clay bark of the old oak tree.

Naturally, the disfigured tree disfigured you;

and for the rest of the days that its roots burrow down into the forest floor,

your folded jowls and pinching eyes will grace the clearing’s door.

As such your face wanders into country lore

and you are remembered as a monster;

Old Hag of the Hill who ate wild-girls’ hearts.

 

Too late, the crack of guilt lashes down on your hunched back,

the rock slips from your grip and you follow it down;

finally collapsed in this lawless wooded town.

 

You know the hours will pass and the searchlights will find you.

Questions will be asked and avoided, repeated and half-completed;

half-sense words building sense and sentences in the moonlight.

You’ve all been through this before.

 

The forest knows how to wear its destruction well,

that is to say, it hides it all;

little do the occult ad-ults know what wreckage goes unmanned here;

the wrecked remnants of your wild heart.

 

Years pass in the forest, and your tantrums subside.

No-one asks why, but you remember,

wild-girl at heart,

that night you tore your wild heart into pieces

and planted its meaty pulp in the roughed-up forest floor.