The sky. And the sky above that.
The exchange of unmentionables between mouths.
Other people’s shame.
My friend says we never write about anything we can ever figure out.
For him, it always involves sadness.
For me, it’s a language I haven’t quite found the language for yet.
The astonishing smell of a baby’s head. Morning coffee perfectly doctored.
Clothes fresh from the line. Mark Knopfler’s ballads.
The sound of someone leaving who doesn’t want to be heard.
Other voices in other rooms.
The day I decided getting out of bed was a greater effort than I could summon.
The high school dance at St. Joe’s where I stood all night against the wall pretending it didn’t matter. The time in Grade Six when Sister Benedict asked us what we wanted to be and I said poet
and they all laughed. Poetry lurks in the lines between things most important and least said.
A way to bear witness that we were here.
How I might have found a way to conjure words no one else had,
if I’d only found them.
The sky. And the sky above that.
I am from my mother’s bed in a Glasgow tenement and walls
thick with coal dust.
I am from Saturday confession and identical Catholic school uniforms
and unflinching patriarchy.
I am from melancholy to the marrow of my bones.
I am from not up to it but showing up anyway.
I am from faking it so very well no one ever knows.
I am from a lifetime of hard-won lessons of when to shut up and
when to kick doors down.
I am from finessing the difference
I am from reading the room the way all women must.
I am from puffers and steroids and Prozac and poetry.
I am from squamous cells and ovarian tumors.
I am from kicked to the curb and too tired to care.
I am from returning home scared to death.
I am from swallowing bile.
I am from too many calm downs and too few stand ups.
I am from too smart for my own good.
I am from you’ll never get a man that way.
I am from childlessness.
I am from bartending and short order cooking and cold calling and
traveling the world alone.
I am from 36,000 feet up serving cocktails in turbulence and
high heels and tight skirts and never spilling a drop.
I am from 30 feet down in dank basement apartments,
I am from a Glasgow tenement.
I am from losing what mattered most.
I am from survivors.
I am from optimists.
I am from unbridled love.
I am from a place called I’m still here.
We are left adrift it seems.
Dr Laura is too busy plugging window blinds to be taken seriously.
And these days Dr. Phil appears a mere dead eyed huckster
for his wife’s line of miraculous subterranean botanicals.
Archbishops are led away in handcuffs
while princes in island mansions prey upon the under-aged.
In search of wisdom we seek out the ancients,
the tried and true,
yet again resurrecting their voices that remain intact,
unsullied by dictates of time
Can their savvy translate to the now?
Would Plato mask? Sappho march for choice?
I somehow cannot picture Marcus Aurelius open carrying.
We tease out the answers as best we can.
Learn yet again that wisdom cannot be hijacked off a page
but comes deep within the bone
over canyons of time
and to precious few.
For all of the girls and the women who trusted too much… those found and never found, the lost ones, the lonely ones, whose stories go untold, their heartache entombed alongside them.
Last Text from Gabby Petito
No service here, but at least I’m free
from the cage bars of my body;
remember what I’d blogged in observation
of birds, chipmunks fattened on the scraps
left in abandoned campsites in the cold
after the fires are snuffed out, and the stars—
oh, these stars—how they’re arranged
without number, and how they disclaim
the disappearances inferred of them,
but instead declare the secrets upon
which all darkness preys. Insects
I doodled on notecards
and sent home already will testify
of my whereabouts—imagine the how,
the when, the why revealed in the
caricature of the dragonfly—
I’ve lain looking up so long,
the windswept grass retains
the shape of my body, moonlights
as my spine; after the rain,
the sky in some parallel agony
soaked out of me some heavier
silence I’d always felt in the earth,
and to it, a kind of mooring far more
real than the live honeysuckle
and wild licorice I could almost
smell; and the caddis with their assorted
thoraxes retract into clipped
thumbnails and cut
grass; their buds—my own
body—are, to the pile of ants,
a worthy and contrite fodder.
What astonishing weight
my own thoughts make
at the moment, the unravelling
of many ropes set to anchor;
think tie-dyed everything,
the clasping peppergrass
and what lies in the green water
under algae, what sloshes through
the culverts mixed with sand
and gravel. Please know I was not
gunned down or knived in half,
but cast on a spit; I was spun
clay on the wheel of a potter.
He created the soul of me.
He loved me, then hated me.
He hated me, then kissed me.
He kissed me, then hit me.
The ocean of him swept
over me, a certain, undocumented
upwelling, of all the places we’d been,
cheap-shotted and piece-mealed out
to sea; and even here I am writing
in my mind that knows nothing but
to feel my heart leap out and breathe
into me everything that had died
in it before.
~~ Susan Doble Kaluza
AFGHANISTAN IS YOUR FAULT
and also my fault, the way I pretend the world
isn’t happening, organizing my closet by color, by
season, touching the soft fabrics instead of reading the news.
The way I’m back at my window where I watch
the neighbor’s pride flag’s colors reflect the mood
of the moment, how it was twisted when the pandemic
started, how it has been twisted since the pandemic
continues, but right now it is flattened, faded
in a late summer light that aches with coming autumn,
its stripes of many colors pulled taut by the wind
like a dress set to dry on a line, while the people of Afghanistan
are rushing the airports, they are swarming the tarmac,
they are surrounding the airplanes as if they can leap onto a wing
and be lifted away from what’s happening to their lives,
the way the women are facing a terror bigger than tears
or the death of the earth, looking into a hole where the sun
had just been blooming, wrapping themselves again in their black
that had gathered dust in the back of their closets, the way their black
is mourning for the textbooks that will be burned, the way their black
is mourning for being walled again in their homes, the way their black
is mourning for the sun as it dims and the earth grows cold
and all the birds give up their plumage to die beneath the folds
of their colorless wings.