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.

Facial Blindness*

Her brittle old tortoise shell prescriptions
Blur a head of softly graying curls
He needs a cut, she whispers, always to herself.
Anyone in or not in the grocery store line that afternoon.
Recognizing
Cantaloupe, honeydew, whole milk
Lettuce heads and newly sprouted wheat, and
Baby spinach asleep in the sway of her basket.
A figure furiously waves from ahead of him,
As if he’s about to shoot the games winning point,
Calling his name
Louder than a fool.
God knows everyone by name.
Thankfully.
No one knows how old a person grows
When you meet them again for the first time
Every day grows old the second time.
Meeting a mirror,
Waving at a mistake.

She imagined him drawing
On her insides by
Some mysterious ancient men in the caves
of France with
Sepia stick figures or during the war
Kilroy was here.
Words and pictures.
Guilty of cervical vandalism.
Warm looks exchanged and
Holding him in her
knowing glance,
“Mother, it’s you.”

*Prosopagnosia – a brain disorder of the occipital and temporal lobes that doesn’t allow a person to recognize another person’s face. It’s as if looking at someone through a dense fog. Helpful in recognizing a person by sight include physical quirks and traits, for example a severe limp, large glasses, a very tall person, or bright hair, etc. Without any guideposts even a husband can look straight through his wife in a mall and never know they’d passed one another at all. The poem imagines an anecdote related to me by an acquaintance of mine who has had prosopagnosia his entire life. He could not recognize his own mother in line at a grocery store after she’d gotten new prescription glasses and had forgotten to tell her son. And he’d forgotten to tell her that those old glasses were his only queue…

Fool’s Waltz

Until the day comes when my breath no longer returns to my lungs,
Air lifted away by winter,
Leaving you, yet wanting to stay much longer,
The remains of us forming clear ice sheets frozen atop beds of still water.
When the last faded bloom of your want wilts again,
And the secret garden of our history fades into night, (along with any white moonlight)
Until my words fall like dead leaves floating away in the winds’ sour taste,
Returning my spirit to the the distantly quiet source of persistent music,
Now silenced by time’s mercilessness –
You lose not moment, shaking me off like snow in your hair.
Now I come to you as a stranger.
Familiar my voice rose,
Its sound scented by all the memories of all the private lives ever lived.
Distance drowning me out like tossed off change hitting the bottom of a wishing well,
The fountains of life sang hymnals,
Ringing brass bells louder than every sound ever created
Heard together and at once,
You tune out my questions, drowning me in street curb rain puddles.
The science and the ciphers now long forgotten,
Unsolved crimes untested in time to unknow the names of the dead.
Yet without effort you threw my questions aside.
I waited until another day came and left
(You had long forgotten the word “forever”)
Ridiculous, only a fool waltzes to the time of one.
If I sent you a present, a song wrapped up
With yesterday’s news and knotted with time,
Right in black and white with twine like a fish in day old news,
How then would you refute the indisputable?
(You smile with every last rotting bitter bite…)
You must know what’s inside,
Prying open my hands you find only a joke, a lie, a can of air.
Now drink from the sea of my solace where the blood from my lips drains,
Quenching aching droughts and the thirst of your inventions.

Let’s for the sake of argument say instead of a riddle,
You found a small skeleton key laced between my hands instead,
Trying all the padlocks and gates, You find it only clicks tumblers into place for the unforgiven.
So weak from solutions,
I implore you rest right where you stand.
As my body folds in on itself, as it will,
We hold fast together trapped like silt in the fingers of a delta.
(We steal each other’s answers and quickly shield our guilted eyes).
Maybe next year we can awaken the annuals again,
Dig up the yellowed dirty promises,
Unearthing the worm worn legends and maps to find a way out.

Pull the paper tight before the image sets, etched and stretched,
Spilling out old photos poured onto the concrete floor.
The stuff of a sudden daydream:
I am not selfish with my hope,
Yet this alone drives me home.
If this cure becomes your solitude,
Then in shame, I am, Defeated.

As the image emerges, lighting dim walls,
Our dancing shadows sway together, slowly,
Hold onto me – reach gently into your memory.
Promise to leave the fence unlatched
And now you may go back to sleep unmoved.
Morning drags it’s nails across your still-cold cheek as
Starlings and turtle doves beg you awake to hear their laughter.
They do know you hate the daybreak by hearing my humility.
I reach straight into your pocket to pick at memory’s locks.
I opened you up with the deftness a coroner’s blade,
Leaving scars rough like a saw.
I wanted so desperately to believe you knew me.
So desperately. And
I believe it, too.

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.