Honeybee

I have spent my time flying towards the sweeter things in life.

This incessant humming in my head

drives me to work in microscopic details,

collecting powdered bits and pieces of whatever I can

in order to build something bigger than myself.

There are days when I feel that I am nothing more

than a vessel for my work;

my body a hive for words that stick to my insides

and drip from my mouth

glowing and golden.

My stripes are the lines of black font and fortitude

I press into flower petal pages.

They serve as a warning: Beware of Writer.

Be cautious of me, for when I am at work, that’s all I see.

Do not try to stall or stop my wings.

Instead, marvel at the garden I leave behind.

I am a collection of

pastel petals and rich nectar,

along with all the beeswax and elbow grease it takes

to bring them into being.

My buzzing is a sign I am alive and a song of joy.

How happy I am to be at work with purpose

that keeps the world turning.

To pollinate the earth with pockets of words

and whatever optimism I have to offer

is enough to propel me upward.

How glorious it is to kiss the sky.

Requiem for Loneliness: An Emulation of Dr. Seuss


The following is an emulation of Dr. Seuss based on an excerpt from his book 
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! As graduation approaches, I find this work strikes a chord in me about my fears as to what I am about to leave behind. The following emulation is an attempt to comment on that. All words are my own, with the exception of the first stanza in italics, which is the work of Dr. Seuss himself. 


All alone!
Whether you like it or not,
alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

At first you won’t like it.
That’s simple to say.
Alone is something we’re taught
to avoid every day.

But sooner or later
you’ll be by yourself
and find that there is
immense value and wealth
in sitting in silence
and learning to listen.
The world breathes in with a sigh
and out with a hiss.

And then comes a calm,
of a most glorious sort,
where you are king of the castle,
queen of the fort in your heart,
and the master of your mind.
In quiet we learn
to be patient and kind.

By yourself you can learn
how to get to know you,
and really
that’s the only time you get to.

So learn to take loneliness
into your arms as a friend.
Sooner or later
it will come to an end.

And after,
as you step into the sun,
you’ll hear all hearts of the world
beating as one.

Haunting

I am the words you put to me.
Just as a song becomes a symphony,
a book becomes a trilogy,
a drop of water pools and pulses at the center of the ocean,
I am a sum of my parts.

And every title, every label, every clothesline of words
pins to my heart and billows in the wake of my breath.
Words are inescapable.
They are the most invasive of house guests, as they pay no heed
to call times of convenience when they kick the front door down
and take it upon themselves to remodel your house.

And then there will be times where they won’t appear at all.
They vanish so fast you’d swear they were smoke,
only the detector tells your mind it is lying to itself.
All that is real is what we can hear, see, and feel,
and this absolute absence haunts like a ghost intent
on pushing all my furniture an inch to the left.

I try to calibrate my property worth,
but my addition signs become ellipses as I search for
a common language between
mathematics and poetry.
There are times when they translate like twins, and times when
they could not be more polar.
How do you find the value of ‘x’
when all you can quantify it as is
the negative value of a poltergeist?

I am the words you put to me.
The words I put to myself count as well,
but I am sorely lacking.
All I can hear is the memory of a creaky floorboard 
that has long since stopped squeaking.
So, I am waiting to be haunted.
Waiting for a train to rumble down the track,
to blow the whistle
that will wake what makes lights flicker.
Waiting for the ghoul in the basement
to beat out a rhythm on water-pipes that I can dance to.

I wait for love.
I have known it most when I am possessed by some
otherworldly force, so I try to replicate what it means
to be a host.
The doors are left wide open in hopes of something settling in,
but I am robbed instead.
This is not an exorcism I asked for.
I was content with all that would
drag me to the rooftops and let me dangle there.
The view is lovely.

I am the words you put to me.
All I can see are ‘For Sale’ signs.
With a fresh coat of paint and some elbow grease,
I’ll be good as new.
Just another house-number along a generic string
of mahogany doors and terracotta tiles.
Miles upon miles of respectable neighborhoods,
void of originality.
But I am not content
to exist without my soul.

I miss my ghosts.
I miss the way they would shake my bed
as they rocked me to sleep the only way they knew how.
I miss their breath on my neck, and the caress of their fingertips,
urging my pen to move.

There are times when I get so lonely for them,
I climb up to the rooftops and just
dangle there.
Waiting for my body to contort as I let myself drop
into the safety net of words I have pulled taunt
on the clothesline.

Writing is a tide in how it ebbs and flows;
I don’t doubt its return to me.
Still, I cannot survive without depth for much longer.
As I bake in the sun, all I can recall
is the cool touch of spirit fingers.
I cannot be anything if I am lacking
the most integral part of my blueprint.
Houses cannot stand without walls to brace them,
and I have found my footing in
the voice that spills from my mouth.
To be a medium for the muses, and then just to be
is an unfinished sentence.
The song that could have been, cut down to
disjointed notes and a pitch out of tune.
The book is an anthology of empty pages now.
Existence is the  daunting white space of page breaks
that loom, consequently fracturing my soul.

Who am I without my phantoms?
It is an honest question.
How do I stand when I’ve lost my grounding?
Can my design be rewritten to work without walls?
Do I even want this?
Happiness and haunting
have become synonyms for me.
This lack of words births a limbo so slick
that I claw myself a few syllables away from escape 
only to fall back into silence,
gutted and hollow.
I’ve spent so long in haunted houses,
I can’t appreciate silence in the home.
The blankness in the void it leaves,
scares me more than any horror movie I have ever seen.
Give me kaleidoscope floors and a rattling roof any day.
I will take them without question.
The collection of bits for who I am solidified
by all that is put to me, and hopelessly in love
with the glowing eyes under my bed.

(In) Fact, (In Fiction)

I am (not) what you think I am.

(In) Fact
I am entirely what you think I should be.
(Except there is a twist.)

I am the water of a lake,
as smooth as glass.
(The calm that comes before the storm.)
You can see the bottom (but it is deeper than you think.)
The light reaches the bed of rock (but cannot fill every crack.)
It is teeming with fish (and sharks too.)

(In) Fact
(there are whales and walruses and mermaids,
for this is not a lake; it’s the ocean)
life is everywhere.

I am glorious to swim in
for my current will rock you softly
and hold you high.
(but I could drown you should it suit my fancy.)

I am (the maiden.) the mother. (and the crone.)
A (three) face (Celtic goddess) who wears a smile close to her heart.
(and a scowl on her sleeve.
I am not often angry, but when I am,)
I am prepared for anything.

(In) Fact
I am a fire (and a hurricane too,)
because my heart is warm
(Although, I must say that when I rain, I pour.
Fire bends before water)
and I will (wash you out unless I) care.

(Do not mistake me.
It is in my nature to care.
I care so much my chest aches.)

So run into my arms (while they are open.)
and I will hold you close.
I love easy (because I choose optimism)
and forgive often.
(at my own expense.)
You can trust me.
I am not complicated.
(in comparison to anyone else.
Everyone is equally as messy as I am.)

I am everything you imagine me to be,
(but also what you wouldn’t expect.)
and that is a fact,
(in fiction.)

The Aviator

I have always liked to think that the birds of St. Michael’s were my friends. They have been with me my entire life, and that’s more than I can say for most folks I’ve encountered. c3afaa327f1a7aa93a40b4bf034479c8Despite the changing of the seasons and endless flipping of calendars, they have remained as constant as the bells that bring in the dawn. The clear and bright sound of their ringing disperses the fog every morning, and with it there is a chorus of beating wings to add to the hymn. I can recall waking up to those bells every day as a child. Now, despite all the changes in my life, the only thing that has changed in regards to how I wake up is the view from the bedroom window.

The only creatures that seem to be alive when I wake up now are the birds. Marvelously humbling creatures they are. Despite how swiftly the river of time flows, it would seem that we will always be craning our necks to see them. Even planes have their limitations, like fuel or bad weather, but birds can fly whenever they wish for however long they choose. Such freedom would be exhilarating I imagine. Back when I was young my life used to be that way. As the youngest in a family of eight my parents and older siblings had very little time to watch me, so I spent my days wandering the cobblestone streets of my town, often throwing breadcrumbs to the birds of the church. Perhaps that is why birds can fly and we cannot. They live so close to God’s own house that it must only be natural that they can almost touch the heavens. At night they all roost in the bell tower. I fear they must be cold at night, the poor little dears with nothing but feathers to keep them warm. I’m always cold at night now. I ask the nurses to add extra blankets to the bed, but they’re the kind that makes the skin itch something dreadful.

I suppose the birds have each other to keep warm. They bundle in tight for the night in their bell tower bed, dreaming of how they will take to the sky come morning. No one else will be awake to see them rise except me. Everyone sleeps in late now. Sometimes I fear that our world has forgotten what a sunrise looks like. God paints the sky every morning, and yet when I stare down from my window I see empty streets. It’s a melancholy sight. Some might call it peaceful, but it only makes me sad. An empty street is a lonely one. There’s nothing to make the ground give off a jolly rattle, and so by leaving them alone they are condemned to sleep. And so I watch the birds take to the sky alone. Up they go, higher than the kites of my childhood could ever hope to reach. I’ve got half a mind to fly a kite right now. What a sight that would be, a woman my age with a kite in town square. Of course, no one would see it anyway. And it’s not as if the nurses would let me go. These days I can’t be trusted to go to the bathroom by myself let alone walk into town. They keep insisting I could fall and hurt myself. Clearly they don’t know how strong my legs are. As a girl, I was the fastest runner in my seventh grade class, boys included. No one could catch me. Every time I tell that story though, the only response I get is that times have change. I don’t see how that could be. I still have the same legs after all. It’s not as though I’ve gone and gotten a new pair. The memory of running like that is still in them somewhere. Of course, I could never run now, but I’m certain I could walk mighty fine on my own. Well enough to get to St. Michael’s at least. It’s only two blocks from here. I can see it from my bedroom window. It’s a lovely sight. Did you know that the bells ring there every morning? It’s like clockwork really. Despite all that’s changed, they’re the one thing I can count on. That and the birds, my darling little birds.

I like to think of them as mine. No one else seems to care much about them now, but I still do. I remember how folks used to feed them. Children would tug at their mother’s arms, asking for pocket change to buy a bag of breadcrumbs. Folks were more compassionate then I think. Or at the very least, they noticed more. Once the streets do wake up, long after the sun has been in the sky I might add, people walk by them in droves, and rarely does anyone seem to see them. Unless, of course, the birds are in their way. If that’s the case people scold them and shoo them, calling them a nuisance among other things. The kind of language one does hear in front of God’s house these days is appalling. And with nothing left to turn to, the birds take to the sky, seeking the kind of warmth that divine love can give. Even with that though, I imagine they must be lonely. They must know how things used to be. They must miss it.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is the world of the morning. When no one is awake but them or I, time seems to echo back on itself. The nice thing about quiet streets is it guarantees I can hear the bells. My ears aren’t what they used to be, and sometimes I fear that if cars start driving early in the morning, I will miss my wake-up call. Then I won’t get to see my friends immerse themselves that melted crayon sky. 8636567709_9f10548eab_mI must confess, sometimes I imagine I am among their numbers. That my fingers have stopped their infernal shaking and that they can crack my window open. From there, I would stand tall upon my ledge and a leap so strong that I would shoot up into the sky. My friends would teach me how to fly then and we’d soar until the town became nothing but a speck. We wouldn’t come down until nightfall, but even then we would share a roost. No more itchy blankets, only soft down feathers. I had a down quilt growing up. My own grandmother had made it by hand, back in the old country. Of course, it was falling apart the last time I remember seeing it. I asked my son to pack it with my things when they moved me. He said it was lost in the journey. But with my bird friends, it would be almost as if I had my quilt back. How lovely that would be!

That would be a dream life I should think; flying clear and free. Everyone around you encouraging you to go higher rather than to stay on the ground. Of course, it will never happen. My wings have been clipped I’m afraid. Instead, I will have to content myself to nothing more than the ringing of bells and the sight of grey feathers among an illuminated morning sky.

Wolfpack

I grew up running with a wolf pack: my four cousins and little brother. During this time, I became acquainted with the extremes of the emotional spectrum. While other children grew up with family trips to the zoo on lazy Sunday afternoons or matching sweaters on Christmas cards, the children of my family had one binding code: everything we did was done in extremes. Whether it was hide-and-seek with the lights off in my grandparent’s farm house or running wild along the rural roads long after sundown, the children of my family grew up knowing nothing of apathy. Instead, we became a pack built on a rough-and-tumble sort of relationship with the ultimate goal of cementing a sense of dominance within the group. Of course, we had our sweaters and zoo trips as well, but these memories are white noise in comparison to the vivid symphonies of other memories that I can recall.

Among the most animated of these comes from the summer I was in eighth grade, a time when Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games warped itself into my family’s collective imagination. Under its influence, the theme of every game we played became apocalyptic warfare. Together we built a universe in which we, a set of six obnoxious pre-teens, were humanity’s sole hope for survival, and as such we armed ourselves for the fight. What started off as weapons of air shifted into solidity as my grandfather took it upon himself to craft a toy very much not suited to a klutzy fourteen-year-old who felt she was invincible: a bow and arrow.

The bow itself was nothing special, just a limber tree branch knotted with string, but the arrows were another matter. I was given a quiver of wooden dowels sharpened to a point and, to top it off, one real arrow with a metal tip. This arrow became my prized possession, so much so that I took to giving it the nickname ‘Bulls-eye’, even though I never actually shot it at anything. The dowels I let fly at practically any opportunity, but Bulls-eye remained untouched. It was, to me at least, a shot that was only to be used in some sort of cataclysmic circumstance, almost as if the existence of time and space itself rested on that metal tip. Nothing less than the entirety of it unravelling would be worthy enough to oversee its release. And as fate would have it, the universe did fall apart that summer.

They say when Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to mankind, Zeus punished him by chaining him to a rock and sending an eagle to tear his liver out while he remained helpless to do nothing but writhe in agony. When my cousin stole from me, I unleashed upon her the fullest force of wrath I could muster. Such is the way it works when one is living with wolves: pride is everything. The protection of ones ego is held at the highest accord, and my hubris had been called into play through this act of theft. All summer long we had been competing to see who could curate the most spectacular arrangement of rocks, pine-cones, broken class, and any other sort of garbage we could find. To think that my treasury had been looted in an act of what I could only imagine was spite felt like some sort of unforgivable sin to me and that it was now my place to cast supreme judgement.

With the rational benefit of foresight, I see now that my actions were completely out of hand, but in that moment I felt completely rabid. If you want to run with wolves you have to prove that you are willing to sharpen your claws and bare your teeth, and I knew my honour had been challenge to a duel. Without any rational thought, my fingers reached back into my quiver as I prepared to play my ace in the hole.

I can distinctly recall how light Bulls-eye felt in my hand at that moment, almost as if it were weightless. Had it held some weight, it may have even stayed my hand, but it remained as light as the feathers it was adorned with. I inhaled as I drew back, thinking myself akin to Katniss, and for a moment time stopped as I took aim. With tunnel vision I aimed that deadly metal tip at the mess of blonde hair that was now sprinting away from me. It didn’t even occur to me in that moment that her reason for moving was to get away from her deranged cousin with a weapon, only that she was running and I felt I had the shot. With the string of my makeshift bow pulled as taunt as it could be, I let the arrow fly. Blood rushed into my ears, and for a second the world seemed to pulse in tune with my own heartbeat.

I told myself that I wouldn’t miss.

And I didn’t.

Or at least, I hit as much of my target as I could considering the fact that my bow was, quite literally, a tree branch and string incapable of shooting with any considerable force. However, it served its purpose well enough to net my arrow in her mess of golden hair. As the realization dawned upon us as to what I had actually done, we all shared a moment of collective horror. I had shot a weapon. At my cousin. A living, breathing member of my family. All over the fact she had ‘stolen’ a bucket of pine-cones from me. No one said a word, but together we shared a silent understanding; the adults must never know.

There was an awkward pause in which no one said anything, until my cousin slowly pulled Bulls-eye from her hair. She held it out to me, and I tucked it back into my quiver where it remained nothing more than a trophy in a case for the rest of my summers. As quickly as the moment had come, it was gone, and with no time to loose, my wolf-pack family and I hurled ourselves right back into the apocalypse. There we remained, frolicking and feral, until my grandmother called from the house that it was time to wash our hands for supper.

Coyotes Calling Home

I’ve never seen a darker sky than the one that lingers over the rural roads outside my city after nightfall. If that sky and the world beneath it was a canvas, it would be painted a thousand variations of the darkest blues. That’s one thing people consistently get wrong about the night sky. They call it black, but it’s blue. Even the stars are blue here, their yellows sucked out by winter’s chill.

The dashboard clock reads 11:28 and the air behind my brake-lights coughs red as I prepare for a stop sign I can’t see but know is coming. That’s the wonder of the back-roads. Drive them enough and every detail works its way into your system to the point where muscle memory can take over, even though it’s been years since you’ve driven them.

You can never lie to roads like these; they turn time to dust and in doing so make liars of us all.

I stop at the sign and suddenly I am ten again. Summer has enveloped the Canadian prairie and Dad is taking me out into the rural areas outside town practically every day. I fly kites and run barefoot over fields until I know the hills and the roads alongside them like the palms of my hands. He says that this is the kind of summer he grew up with; the kind that makes your feet tough and your lungs strong and puts you in sync with nature. The kind of summer where at night, if you howled at the stars, the coyotes would sing out in reply because they recognized a kindred spirit in your voice. The kind where you learn to see the night sky as blue instead of black, because black is a void but blue is a possibility.

I believed his words whole-heartedly. I still do. Because in that summer I knew my place in the world and the world knew me, but now winter has come and I’ve found myself backtracking, searching for a place I can belong to again.

The dashboard reads 11:34.

I’ve sat idle long enough. Even on roads like these, prolonged pauses are not a safe idea.

I press my foot to the gas and begin to fly, but not before catching sight of two golden spheres glowing in the roadside ditch. As my car pulls away I hear a familiar howling and all I can think is that perhaps there is room for yellow in the night sky and that  I’m not as out of touch with the world as I thought. After all, the coyotes must still consider me their kind, because they’re calling me home.

The Woman of the Moon

The following is a Personal Response inspired by Italo Calvino’s short story “The Distance of the Moon”. All characters are of his creation, and as such credit pertaining to them goes to him.


a3cdab8caba571db1ff4ec95311bd060-1y0upgjThough she has long since forgotten the sight or touch of all that was green, the Woman of the Moon can still hear the Earth calling out to her. She can’t remember the sound of her name or the sight of her own reflection, but she can hear ever roll and pitch in the chorus of voices that seemed to reverberate in her bones as they howl out into space. It is a pathetic sound; it has a tendency to haunt as it looms throughout the atmosphere and yet no matter how hard she tries to block it out, she fails. The endless dogging of misery is what has sent her here, in hopes of some escape, and yet even here she recognizes the sound of its putrid panting.

In response to this she plucks arpeggios out on her harp. The sound calms her and takes her back in time. She closes her eyes, and suddenly silhouettes are conjured. There are cliffs in her memory, running with jagged consistency in the backdrop. There is a Ladder that acts as a cathedral; it connects the heavens to the Earth one rung at a time. Slowly, a hymn of creaking wood and scuffling feet begins, and the Woman of the Moon panes the scope of her dream world down to see what has caused the sound. It is then that she sees him.

Though everything else in her mind has receded to shadow, she can still recall every inch of him. The curve of his jaw, the cut of his build, the dreamy absence in his eyes, and the grace in his feet; she knows it all. She would know him, dreaming or waking, life or death, Moon or Earth for he seems to be the answer to the questions the universe was built upon. He climbs up to her, back to the Moon and all that could have been. Her heart is soaring. Soon so is he as he leaps from the last bar and spreads his arms as he floats down before her. The Deaf One has returned to the Moon with the same easy grace he left it with.

She cannot help herself. She lunges forward, arms stretching out to capture him, and still he evades her. The Woman of the Moon opens her eyes and all that greets her is an empty space where love used to be.

When she left the Earth behind, she had defiance. It curled hot and heavy in her stomach, mingling with lust for she knew that above all else, the Deaf One looked upon the Moon with wonder. So if she lay herself down within the Lunar Soil, she too would be subject to his gaze. The thought had satisfied her and kept her warm throughout the cycles at first, but then came the wailing.

As the Moon drifted farther and farther from Earth, the cries from the planet grew louder and louder, almost as if by the distance of the void in between magnified the connection that had been lost. She knew they did not cry for her, and yet she could not help but wish they did for then she and the Moon would truly be one in the same. Only then would she be able to feel the caress of the Deaf One, even if it was just his eyes gazing up into the night sky. As the cycles had come and gone throughout eternity, she had come to feel grime build around her. Something had been soiled, and the great crescendos from Earth cut her to the bone with mocking. Throughout history, ballads have been sung to the Moon; her face is sketched into history with craned necks and inky fingers. But these songs of lust and longing, they are not for her. She is merely eavesdropping on a great love affair of axis, tilt, and time.

The Deaf One’s passion has never died over eternity. She can hear his voice calling out, though it is distinctly different from the others. While others bawl over what they cannot have, he sings lullabies of satisfaction for the Moon to simply be. He cannot hear his own tune and yet he is content in knowing the Moon can. It threatens to drive her mad with longing.

She pulls a few more chords from the harp, but they cannot seem to overthrow the sound. She cannot weep, for she fears water will push the moon farther from Earth, just as the tides did so long ago, and the voices will get louder, as they always do, hurling through space to pierce her eardrums. Despite it all, she cannot pull away, because then she will lose whatever flimsy, stolen connection she still has with the Deaf One. Misery is better company than oblivion, so she drowns herself in it, listening to his gentle voice among a sea of mourning. It is all she can do, knowing that attempting to not listen is futile and that even if she could, she wouldn’t. His voice is all she has of him now so she keeps it close, allowing it to sheath itself in her heart. In this ache she at least feels something; a cathartic spearing at the hands of eternity with her stolen romance and ancient memories. The Moon spins on, the cries carry out, and the Woman of the Moon takes what little she can into the looming dark of infinity.

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The Storm of My Life

The following is an emulation of Anne Sexton’s poem The Room of My Life. For those who haven’t read the poem, I highly recommend it.


Here,

in the storm of my life

the world has been swallowed by a hurricane.

Gulls cry out.

Animalistic kinship draws dolphins and whales to breach waves,

whose crest is a kiss between water and sky.

Each time they touch a void of chaos lingers as aftertaste.

The salt spray: a means to rub dead skin from body.

The wind: a hand extended to sunken locker.

The water: waiting to gulp down a soup of ships and sailors.

Captain and crew, exhausted in an attempt to stay afloat.element-laptop-waves-ocean-storm-elements-foam

The searchlight on shore: a blazing torch to call all home.

The doors of Heaven and Hell are blown wide open

until they catch in the crossfire and slam shut,

birthing the Void

that resides upon Earth

and within me.

I feed the rise and fall of waves,

offering up to stormclouds the feast that is my mind.

The lightning is  the jolt of my heartbeat and thunder is my soul

crashing on and on in my chest.