Pay no mind that I was a sensitive Cosmos flower and
didn’t want to leave home. But my mother and 6th grade teacher
made it happen, and I was bussed off to Hayfork to camp at
BAR 717 Camp Trinity, in the summer of 1978.
Nestled in the Nor Cal hills with a bunch of
other gangly pre-teens, I rode dotted horses,
spun bad pottery, and I remember something about Edelweiss.
Not the flower, but the song. You look happy to greet me.
My camp counselor was a tall woman angled like a bent coat hanger,
with stringy hair, and wide gold glasses.
Her next stop was probably a commune.
I slept next to her in the long camp barracks, she our only doorstop to
the woods behind the camp. The barracks had no doors on either end, and
at night I would peer into the woods just beyond the tree of her long body,
before sleep overtook me.
I was already wide-eyed and impressionable when a week into camp the
hard-bodied blonde with the tight blue shirt told me Sasquatch
came down from the hills at night. That was all he had to say.
He could have said the monster from Alien was not far behind, and
I would have believed him.
After the news of our future demise broke, my face
became the fullest moon at night, white enough to
light up the woods beyond “no-door,” my eyes black unblinking stars.
At every twig snap a frog tried to leap out of my heart.
Sasquatch never showed, and I was bussed home again.
I never told my mother, but to this day I still have
night terrors. Large hairy shadows cross my kitchen at night,
leaving rectangular footprints for me to clean.
And still I stare wide-eyed and unblinking through
open-screened windows, Bigfoot my Chupacabra to
Grey Wigglebutt, a Saluki from Qatar, whined on the drive to Vallejo because he thought he was being given away. His keepers sat driver and shotgun, watching life drain from the hills, the landscape pure strip, pure mall. “Settle down!” they repeated, until they gave up and settled down themselves.
But at the reunion, but there. Grey’s cousins were there. The Borzois, The Greyhounds, and more Salukis like Grey. Grey played hard on leash with an errant hound until we stopped him from hanging himself, then he laid down in the cool grass and thought of nothing but now.
At reunion’s end we set up a racetrack for Grey and his friends, and he ran nothing like in the sands of Qatar, and we felt guilty there were no dusty rabbits. So a wise woman read his tarot cards, and he laid his head on her dirty feet, and dreamt of nothing but now.
Source material in tone and spirit: B.H. Fairchild’s poem “Angels.”
“Poetry, as a highly allusive art form, fundamentally relies on the poet’s ability to quote, to copy, and to ‘play’ with others’ language, and poetry scholars and commentators equally rely on their ability to quote the poetry they are discussing. In fact, poets generally acknowledge that essentially everything they do in their workaday lives, from making their poems to writing about poetry to teaching poetry, builds on the work of others.” —Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry
There’s a picture of you I keep going back to.
You are five or six, sitting next to Valorie in the dirt and weeds.
There’s a hose nearby, one you drank from on hot summer days.
Valorie is holding Brutus between her legs. He’s dressed in doll’s clothing.
The front yard is very different from the back.
Fun piles of fall leaves, shiny lunch boxes, big trees, and
excitement when the school bus comes.
Front yard girl is different from backyard girl.
Front yard girl wears pigtails and hand-sewn dresses,
plays with Tammy and Raggedy-Ann and Andy.
You are the dog.
Brutus, Brutus, lo siento.
You are the hose turned off, eyes black as its disconnected end.
Backyard girl gave herself a haircut, and has bags under her eyes.
Cutoffs, hand-me-down navy blue shirt, long-sleeved.
Valorie is your mother outside, keeping you from mother inside,
the mother who drinks and wanders the house like a specter.
a visible incorporeal spirit, especially one of a terrifying nature; ghost; phantom; apparition.
some object or source of terror or dread.
As it was October, you were probably on the verge of knowing.
Knowing that your father would conjure up more ghosts
as he readied to leave earth.
So you turned inward, your core made of leaves and songs
and anger that rises when your survival is touched.
Then you grew older, and the ghosts followed you from town-to-town.
Though already dead to you, they died second deaths to draw you back,
entering your dreams at night like some dark tribe.
So you started to put it down, to find your way through the landscape.
Though the curb appeal is still in front, death’s sandbox is still in back,
full of necessary toys.
Hug the ghost of Brutus.
Say to your heart, thank you for keeping me alive.
My rhythms are off.
I sleep through the day,
and daydream at dusk.
In my room I can only see a little of
the morning glories fading
into their purple beds,
dreaming while little bugs
sleep inside them.
If I was a little bug,
I’d nibble on your petals,
and doze in your pollen.
And when your leaves opened at dawn,
we’d watch the sunrise together.
Where are you, muse.
You were supposed to be the go-between,
the light narrator of your angry, fiery lover – our lightning man.
Instead you let him stay the night and abuse us,
hot breath whispered in our ears.
Come back and right it all, moon goddess.
Lap the waves so they catch the hot wind,
then fold cold stars over our sweaty hearts.
When you spend your childhood
learning how to play with adults
it can be quite confusing
The tears and anger flow from nowhere
and the cross-eye becomes the cross-broom
lying in the room
juxtaposed against the pink roses thriving in the sun
So later on, I mean, now
someone said I never knew what I wanted
because I was either Ali or his bee
But little did they know I was making a list
To feel as light as a cloud
To be surrounded by red geraniums
Windy cold mornings that take your breath away
Perfectly poached eggs and someone to cut the toast
Car sing-a-longs without the side-eye
Horse noses to kiss and turkeys to snuggle
Time to linger in a sanctuary
where only I have the key
endlessly blooming flowers
and friends who get me, really get me
come get me
If you have a couch or a fever
we will bring your sammich to you
The crows with misphonia
have taken their nuts across the street
to escape the sound of others chewing
If you have a cough and a bloomer
I’ll come get the flowers from you
You have many ghosts to fight
before you leave Saturn
Collared-doves are annoyed
as per the usual
do the needful
There’s no time for you now.
Listen to the dove on the wire,
its loneliness rests on a single note.
Illuminated, the hummingbird greets the salvia in the searing heat.
What wisdom can you share, when there’s no one at the end of your call?
Call anyway. As long as there are blossoms
and the dog’s bowl, someone will hear your beckon,
the tiny bit of hope in the chimes
by the glossy privet.
Dusty and hot, you drink from water no one can see.
Call me, back to the shade, just where the wren was,
but we won’t see her ’til morn.
You had beautiful handwriting,
and that’s what I choose to remember about you,
if this is remembering you.
I will remember not remembering sitting
on your lap on a hot day.
Me, tiny, shirtless, in a diaper.
You made sure I didn’t become a swimmer just yet,
your nameless friend next to you in the picture.
I will forget remembering when mom took to me to prison to see you, and you had made me a beautiful purse with a fish on it. I remember I no longer have that purse, because I am no longer the name you put on it.
I remember you sent me a card thanking me for the money I know was for drugs. And I’ll try to forget I paid for your death, and that I never got to say goodbye at the river, where the fishes swim among your ashes, next to the quickness of our lives.
And I’ll see, today, my poor handwriting, and know that letters were your one, beautiful gift.
We sent Jimmy for you, for just a second.
We sent Jimmy for you all.
Flash. Headphones walking away. Flash. Hastily
baggy pants. Tracks. Flash.
The conductor. Flash. Just the second of the rest.
You stank. New bike, dismantled. Then you’d get it together.
ZZ Top dreams, a committed beard, and knees in-out-in-out. And not only when you felt one of your sisters watching.
Just a second!
Ted K. hair, Irish red beard. Yeah, that’s him. I know him as Misunderstood. Wow,
that’s a lot of blood.
Yeah, Mister Understood. I knew him as a child. He did something to me that wasn’t quite …right. Within seconds.
Transgressions forgiven. Eldest said “we all get a pass.”
Jimmy was only there for a second, to identify my brother.
Then we sent him for the rest.
1990, 1994, 2002, 2019
I’ve stopped feeding the crows.
They come by anyway,
asking when we are going for a car ride.
Even though they annoyed me with their incessant cawing,
and their disregard for seatbelt laws,
I liked their company anyway.
But they started pooping on the seats,
and playing with the radio, so I dropped them off
next to the donkey field.
….but that thing about voices,
do you really need me on camera?
Can’t you just imagine me,
mouth turned down like a peanut, beak journal bound,
pen clutched in my fat talon?
Where has our knowing gone?
Where is Vasalisa the Wise?
Her intuiting doll?
She’s the signal that leads you to Baba Yaga,
where more dark work needs to be done.