environmental studies

the color of your eyes,
like your mood,
changes rapidly.
your gaze,
averted until my focus strays
into the distance,
into an occupation,
into the abyss,
finds and holds me.
your hands,
commanding in play,
reach towards
only to linger
inches away
at the specter of staunched tears
in the name of an unnamed child.
humor predominates,
spiced with observation
and memories.
the past is rich and multifaceted;
the present dynamic;
a future does not exist.
when you break my heart,
be it in a moment
or a millennium of moments,
does this life continue?
is there such a thing as global warming?

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Weathered boat, unmoored, casts about
on turbulent waves of the past
Light kaleidoscopes,
music cascades
across limbs entangled,
Champagne stories bubble up,
rich with association
but devoid of context,
releasing pungent histories
in time suspended.
Claw, bite, choke, pound, bind, impale
into existence
flying armadillo and kitty with no name.
Taking care
to purse lips,
to hold tongue,
that the moon
may again wax and wane,
illuminating the reckless carnival of my…

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Motherhood redefined

When my son was young,
he would come to me,
lip trembling,
and I would take him up into my arms
and hold him
until the world seemed safe again.
I want nothing more
than to take my hurting boy
up into my arms
and hold him
until the world seems safe again,
but I can’t.
My arms hang useless
at my sides

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the archaeologist’s daughter

my god does not speak;
my ancestors stand silent;
but my childhood friends,
once lost,
bear witness
to a little girl,
who sought invisibility.
they offer pieces of myself,
sequestered in a red box,
bundled carefully with ribbon,
nestled beneath your resting hand,
born in the shared scars of that mad rush to freedom,
rendered in a query about “the cute girl with pigtails.”
you usher me into your homes,
your history,
your beds,
your dreams.
i am wrapped in your stories,
your questions,
the laughter of your children,
the constancy of your canine companions.
in darkness,
i recall the words said,
with child’s earnesty,
“i will love you forever,”
and i have held
close to my heart,
safe against the erosion
of time and distance.
that you,
held me close
was never once imagined,
during this lifetime of lonely wanderings.
like the navaho vessel on my father’s desk,
an antiquity in black clay,
reassembled from a multitude of shards,
carefully fitted together,
i find i am more whole than shattered,
and that while light still seeps through the cracks
and gaps
of missing pieces,
i am solid enough to cast a shadow.


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Brailled Chaos: A moment is always more than a moment.

He bangs through the door,
demanding shirts,
“Work shirts! WORK SHIRTS!”
I shrug my shoulders;
no point in stating the obvious.
There are more dirty dishes
stacked up on the kitchen counters
than clean ones in the cabinets.
The clothes hamper in the bathroom
towers high as my chest.
He has just used the last clean towel.
Workshop manuals,
braille texts,
and grant writing proofs,
liberally notated,
gasp for secure purchase on the computer table.
Flash card detritus
and fabric remnants
blanket the floor.
Sleep comes like the west Texas weather,
absent from imagination’s horizon,
then swamping the shoreline of consciousness,
Synesthetic braille dots
force a foreign order
on my dreams,
tactile communication flooded with color,
overwhelming color.
I fall though memory’s trapdoor
to early childhood,
struggling to control letter formation with an oversized pencil,
letters that pushed and pulled,
attracted and repelled,
like recalcitrant magnets
beneath blunt lead,
letters that,
despite physical commitment to my Big Chief tablet,
warred and frolicked through my taxed retina,
defying static relationship.
The “e” in print is a plundering brute;
The “e” in braille is musical and light.

He has found a shirt
and left for work
with a smile trace.
The dogs,
the cat,
the kitten,
previously unsettled by his rampage,
are again lounging.
I have filled the kitchen sink with soapy water;
dishes soak in anticipation.
The empty washing machine awaits a load;
the laundry he has hurled into the dog run during his frantic search
awaits recovery.
I will continue to ignore the floor,
as its state is self-perpetuating.
I will take a moment for imposing order
before submerging,
once again,
into brailled chaos.

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The Wedding

the wedding

I’m thinking wife number one is the smart one.
She wasn’t at the wedding today.
For that matter,
I have never even met her.
But the mother of the bride was there.
She is wife number two.
The mother of the sister bridesmaid was there.
She is wife number three.
I am wife number three.
The Russian wife was there.
She is wife number four,
And by some strange twist,
My ex-wife as well.
The pastor went on
And on
And on
About how marriage is between a man and a woman
A man and a woman
A man and a woman
As my bisexual daughter and her transgendered lover,
Though at a distance,
Faced each other
With not flicker of…
The bride looked like a fairy tale princess come to life,
Breaking the image only occasionally,
With loud, nervous laughter.
Though I have seen her from time to time,
Over the years,
In my mind she remains the vivacious six year-old I cared for during summers.
That is the age she was when
Her father abandoned her.
He told me it wasn’t my business.
He told me she wasn’t my child.
I sent her a Christmas card every year,
Ascribed it to her then infant half-sister,
So she would know I was thinking of her.
He was there of course,
Surrounded by his hareem, past and present.
By the ones that had a socially mentionable title anyway.
Three of the children were there.
The one that is never spoken of was,
Of course,
Not there.
She doesn’t know she was missing,
Any more than her siblings know she exists.
The baby,
Just grown,
The one who is disowned and disowning,
Was not there either.
He was asleep in his mother’s house.
How do you build trust,
Define love,
Understand commitment and consistency
When these are words from a pastor’s mouth
Rather than a reality you have ever seen
Or known?

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the angels that hold me


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Marked Individuality

My body limps stiff and aching,
After a restless sleep,
Oft interrupted,
And dominated by failure to catch small children
As they fall.
The morning,
Overcast with a nibble of sun,
Ushers in the period of limbo,
Between school’s traumatic conclusion,
And summer’s urgent plans,
Between carrying an eager child,
Tucked in close to my chest,
Up the slippery slope of a water slide,
In anticipation of a splashing descent together,
And months spent in near solitude,
Submerged in scholarly endeavors.

Into this directionless pause
Has slipped tastes,
Of a long distant past,
A past discretely kept
Within the realm of sight
And sound,
Within the safe confines
Of the distance senses.
Not infrequently,
I have wondered where my historic emotions
Kept residence,
Knowing them absent
From my rich memory.
During a year,
With many moments devoted
To a child slipping away slowly,
I tried to explain,
“I can feel her dying in my fingertips!”

Here they are,
Those sought for and feared emotions.
Here they are,
Held suspended
Within the whorls of individual identification.
So, beware!
When I reach out,
When I touch you,
You brush against
Ancient, embedded, jags of emotion,
Long since hidden,
Long since forbidden
From sight or sound.

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PTSD Time Travel

It’s a casual statement,
The kind inserted as a by-the-way,
In the flow of a larger conversation,
But it stops me,
Freezes me,
In an event that will repeat
For days.

It takes just a second
For a life to end.
The child attacks,
Crashing down on another’s skull
Before intervention arrives.

Beyond the visual
Is the emotion:
The horror,
The urgency,
The despair,
The helplessness,
The resignation to decimation,
To death.

Trapped in this replay from the past,
My body lurches,
To prevent,
To protect,
A child long out of reach.
I am a puppet
To an experience,
Many years past,
And from which I can find no relief.
I am trapped in a cyclical nightmare
From which I cannot awake,
Despite my wild trashing.
The curtain between present
And past
Casting me into a darkness,
Which overtakes time-bound rationality.

Ensnared in torment,
I reach out to you.
I beseech you
To protect this child
I, daily, hold close
In my arms,
In my heart,
In my mind.
Let not terror and destruction
Rain down upon another
Whom I love.

Let not terror and destruction
Rain down upon another
Whom I love.

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do you remember me then?
brooks brothers striped dress shirt,
and cut for a man,
obscuring anorexic frame.
bone tight jeans,
two alternating pairs.
if you came close
and had i not
fallen to the desk top
head clutched tight
in protective arms
at the mere hint of your approach,
you might have seen blue eyes.
you might have seen blue eyes,
but you, most assuredly, would not have met them.
like my voice,
were unknowable,
hidden deep within a fortress of fear.

things are not so different now.
my clothes still hide a tale of self-abuse,
though it takes different forms today.
i no longer slam into desk tops;
i simply evaporate through the nearest door.
you may, on occasion, meet my eyes,
ringed with wrinkles, folds, lines,
but they are not to be held.
my voice dances from the pen
but stalls in audible utterance.

things are not so different,
and i am slipping

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