De Novo Soldier

My ugly secrets hide beneath my thin skin.
Infinitely fighting in my lonely final tour,
Not making the cut for
A battalion of beautiful survivors who stared directly into the eyes of the freshly dead.
Limping home and stitched together, held upright on a single crutch.
Marching in the endless parade
They inch away for you see how far things have come,
bathed in the glow of pink light.
Open their uniforms –
Discover traces of ink from the triage tents
Their tattoos from strange archipelago parlors.
Arriving home one by one
home to their places as plumed birds in cages.
You tie ribbons around trees,
draw a pretty pictures of pity,
Run tearfully from the doorstep leaving offerings of happiness,
Quickly cobbled with gum and string,
with a note to “just keep the dish.”

Yet in the dense tropical foliage,
no one saw the soldiers hiding in my trenches.
With unsteady eyes I scan the papers for new strategic positions,
After training to uncover sleeper cells of suicide bombers.
I want to wear my cancer on my head like a turban, on my chest like scars,
My arms decorated by kisses of needles in iris colored bruises,
In the cover of an empresses’ new clothes embroidered with test results and dyed in thin blood.
I’m too ugly for a bouquet of flowers that I’m too pretty to receive.
Instead, you see all this so called beauty upon which you judge me:
Looking too good for you to see through to my truth.
My lies hide inside tunnels, only discovered by lighting them up with my beautiful bones.
Your eyes downcast rolling inside your shaking head in disbelief.
To you I’m just another junkie begging for a day without rain, without a pill to
Ease my pain, find me anonymously sweating in a red curtained opium den.

I am the Marine who comes home in a body bag without any glory, no pink procession, no honorable discharge.
You turn and march away, goose-stepping in formation waving goodbye to a familiar face in the crowd.
I bravely smile at you, while my raving mind searches for the stolen words I can’t find anymore.
You look down at me through a rifle’s sight, I find myself in the crosshairs.
Pull the trigger as I say goodbye.

Tropic of Cancer

I. He
Quick stepping and waltzing
Precise as a surgeon cuts into
The body, like a first kiss.
Her softness ages his face.
Speech fails him, words
Slurred with the stroke of
An unset clock stuttering
Her number in the dark.
His hand reaches under her breast
Bone tapping out a beat
Inside her hallowed chest.
Slipping away the sheet
Music uncovering the dance
With all the precision
Of a dull, straight line.
No beginning and no end
His sets his sights on her alone.

II. She
A limbo line dips and bends
under the tropic of cancer.
Drum beats cutting each dancer
One head after the next rolling
With small waves, lapping the shore.
Snapped off in a vulture’s jaw
With no allegiance and no friends,
She lost the line bowing then breaking,
Then falling toward the ocean floor
Slipping from lightning storm’s crooked fingers,
In the Leeward winds her hair twists
Into golden braids of dusk.
The complaining and crying of gulls
Making the melody of illness.
Quickening to find stillness and calm
Drowning into the safety of a harbor
She gives way to night’s remission
And accepts his request for her hand.

Fly Away Home, Blessed Body

In Memorium, Jnani Chapman

“Blessed body heal this beauty,”
Her song flowed gently —
We lived longer in her hands.
Once, all at one time
She let fly love’s bounty:
The heart’s harvest floating on
A barge atop a boundless wave.
Rivers of tears flow beyond our sight,
Farther this time — please, to not return.
Within the star white
Light of the quilted night, sewn into
A blanket of every color
By her own hands.
Swinging movements to and back
Here, to find the constant:
Love equals gravity plus motion.

Calling to us on the shoreline,
With a Cheshire smile
We wave her back in, yet
Calliope, turned to me
Whispering in the wind,
“Wish her safe passage, instead.”
Lifting our eyes to the skies
Ethereal blue air filled
With the soft silence of
Dandelion feathers blowing
And billowing in winter’s dusk.
Everywhere, time to head home.
All the better for knowing
Grace once embodied us
With the cure of her touch.

Let night shine with a million bits
Of candlelit diamond dust and
Let her spirit dance and spin in
Swirling white wild robes.
We seek the wide eyed child
Instead finding her silk sails had set
A course just above the curve
Of earth, into the horizon.
Glimmering into the shimmer
Of the red ruby crystal day
Behind the shadow of the sun.
Landing everywhere together
Touching every space, untethered
To the mystery unseen,
Now shimmering in us and in between.

A blue velvet bag opened by this single
Movement – her hand reached
Into the spaciousness above
And all stars’ light unpacked, and
Secreted away in drawer full of daydreams.
Now the seashore glistens
With the promise of night, and
Eternally luminous
With all the befores,
And all the ever afters,
Moving our millions of tears
Into a single smiling river.
“Goodnight my beautiful bodies,”
And we fly away home, laughing.

Eventide

Riding passenger side snapping right,
I’m down in front stealing long exposures.
From the back seat our youth sits
Mocking us with instant polaroids.
Destroyed pictures of minutes and memory
Precious and precarious slip a stone
At once here and at once gone.
Right under the driver breaks hard and higher
Up another mile, silently stealing all we pass.
As if it meant nothing, had no value.
Yet we never stop to salute the flowers –
All wilds and yellows and purples.
The foothills’ shoulders grow peonies
Upon sunshine golden with military ranks.

How jagged time?
We spend ours climbing again as
Eventide approaches us.
Stealing the light
Squinting and teasing Every photographer’s eye.
The lens escapes the fight as fists fly
Above us rung the first punch
Headliners: the over-real versus the unbelievable.
Then we drop down tearing around
The Summit dragging the day with us.
With us flat then right over on the side.
Buckshot sprays whitetail from
Underneath the wheels,
My skin and bones chill fast underneath
Blankets just a quarter mile thin –
Count the microclimates in a 14 mile exposure.
My imagined assignment, anyway.

Inertia now driving our ascension
Finally dousing my focus.
Yet I am pacified by
Deep coastal royal blue velvet,
And by the courtly cape
Of dense silver fog.
Trees, reach in and take my attention
Lost in the sky and yet at home.
Away with the little brick foxes
Already started by the drooling hounds,
Running in distant golden broken lines
Shrinking to a pointed index
Finger of bent redwood lumber.
Penciled between the knotted trees
Escaping our eyes
They write letters to us
To one another, to anyone.
I imagine the trees alone love themselves.
Writing in dead languages those
Modern towers of Babylon
Without oral tradition
No monks or followers to take dictation
The mighty ones tie rings around
Paper and papyrus of their own making.
They, like me, can write their own stories.

Distant deamons dance to the music of the eventide,
Whose eardrums thump and pop from slight descents.
Mercies clear the stares and the macabre glances.
And up ahead the night hides just around
The voluptuous Earth’s curves.
Yet she shakes off the road upon her hip
Langushing and lounging
Laughing at all the forsaken highways.

You snap me awake.
My hypnotic state undone
By our quick duel and I, only me –
I roll one window down
With enough sense to know
The party orange of evening presents
A moment for exposure
Showing the night undone
By the simplest flash
As we find a space and stall the motor,
King and queen of the hills
Announced by snare drums and trumpets.
Goodbye, twisted bruised skin of eventide.
Eventide, goodbye.