Bridge to Winter

With her small hands still plump with youth, the knuckles not yet world-weary, she reaches down and clutches to her clumps of cool, damp earth. She draws her arms as high as she can reach and releases. Stars fall.
A cacophony of brilliance—crackling orange of a long-burning fire, soft rustle of the deep scarlet of newly acquainted lovers, muffled fading yellow of forgotten summer suns—and diaphanous whispers of earthen brown on the underneath. Her delighted screams pierce the chilled air, and over and again the stars meet forcibly the earth.
Some cling to the only heaven they will ever reach; craggy bistre with jade fringe, drops of dew like tears falling into the crevices. Still clutching heaven they brown and whither before they release it–or before it releases them–they are dead before they ever reach us.
From the pumpkin, over-plump and scarred even before, she carves a jagged, crooked mouth and for a moment he belongs with us and he wants. She hopes he lasts.
Tomorrow his scythe-smile will sneer once more before he fades.
A symphony of smells–apple pie and pumpkin spice, sunshine and damp leaves, cool mist and wet earth–greet her and she grants them her warmth and, in return, they favor her with happiness.

I hear not a sound. The stars that she draws near to her for me are only leaves, their crackling the last cries they will produce before they return to dust.
I smell nothing. The artifice of the fall scents–symphonic and wonderful to her–to me are stale and bitter and reek of decay and death.

Of the decaying air deeply I inhale, the last bit of cool , the only memory of warm before the frost: I draw a breath that must sustain me. Fall is a bridge to Winter.
And I never breathe in Winter.

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Twin

She speaks of beauty that I will never know.
She reached her peak before I could know her, scars made by their non-existence deep and craggy with bruises that only she could know.
Even now what was looms in the shadows, the whole of Them stretched beyond the limits of the city.
She is kept awake by what she lost;
I can only ever know her
In pieces,
For she gazes back unblinking
into the past that I remember from afar
A past that will not be ours.

From the safety of afar I mourned her loss but it was not mine and she would not share it.
She revisits the place without me.
Upon her return a piece of her is absent,
Alms left in the ever-burning embers, offering herself, a promise–
She has not forgotten.
From my distance I wonder what they were, if they were what she remembers
Gorgeous. Strong.
In their injury and hurt and in the silence they have made
Beauty is.
I marvel that they were, in more than memory and hushed whispers.
When she speaks of them it is as if they stand again–
Their souls are not lost
They boast their possibility again
And I can see them near the shore–

Then they are gone, away into the past that she sees without me
I must subsist on her memory of them.
She speaks of beauty that I will never know.

Lula

When I close my eyes I will fall into the cracks, the places where I do not exist and you do not exist. The place that traps me and keeps me and when it spits me out I do not remember.
Today you wear the sweater that you said I knitted. You pressed it into my hands and you said that you hadn’t washed it since I last mended it and it felt rough and unfamiliar in my hands and besides the color was horrific–surely I wouldn’t out you in that fast red–but I held it to me because your eyes were large and wet and it was what you needed.
You call me Mama.
I reply.
I don’t feel like Mama.
When you walk in your eyes hold hope and even though I do not know you I smile. You return the smile and I marvel at your beauty.
Mama,” you say. Your mouth moves but your words escape you and you swallow before you say it. You stare into my eyes, gripping something that you seem to have lost. I’m afraid that you will break if I look away.
Mama,” you name me.
You tell me my name (Lula Tabitha), and you brought the baby to see me.
She is a beautiful baby and I don’t know her and I don’t know you.
But there is a space in my brain that feels like yours.
You said it was alright that I forgot. But this time I’m writing it down, and if I stay awake I will see you clearly.
I don’t know where I go, but it is lonely here, in my brain, in the space that I think belongs to you.

**************************************************
He wasn’t him (what was his name? Joe or Jim or something.), but he looked like him. He was an asshole. He deserved to know.
**************************************************
You came again and you smelled of powder. The baby was too cold; she didn’t have socks or shoes. Just a ragged blanket with faded bears.
You should have someone, a mama or someone, knitting that baby a blanket.
You called me “Mama,” again, sadder than the first time.
When you left you kissed me harder and I pulled you into a hug that I could feel in my bones. They ache, but when you are here I forget that. I felt you in my bones, and the place in my brain that waits for you.
***************************************************
I put my keys right there. I know I set them right there. I’m here waiting for him to pull the car around. Someone wrote here already.

***************************************************
Cheryl. You didn’t come today, but I remember: Cheryl and Jherine. I feel your smile in my soul.
I woke up, as if from a long sleep I awakened even though my eyes have been open all this time. I remembered you and I cried.
You called me Mama.
***************************************************
I remember that sweater! I have knots in my bones that let me know I made thousands.
I won’t remember anything after I sleep.
**************************************************
Cheryl. I love you.
Mama.

stardust and vapor and ashes

Underneath the soles are ashes
of lazily rolled cigarettes dragged nervously until the embers burned
the web between fingers whose already torn nails made their way
into sour mouths, breath bitter , of tobacco and caffeine
and oft repeated words whispered over chapped lips, their corners raw
from overuse, paralleled by parched throats sucking in the unforgiving
unfamiliar air, longing for something familiar–

Or they are ashes of the long dead
spilled from chafed urns carried in arms too weak to know their insignificance
Specks of Those That Were carried on merciless winds that point the sails of the restless
nowhere, the charred remnants of dying breaths, their makers straining to peer
once more around the bend, casting their dying sounds back again
hoping futilely that these, the remains, the ashes will make it
Never knowing that their fibers are caught in the wool of over-large sweaters,
mixing with the embers of cigarettes, sucked into the bursting lungs of the naive
cast out and bearing down the path they’ve already traveled.

Still they traverse the deep grooves, ankles caught in overgrowth made new again
Liars light arranged just so to render the path beautiful, the innocent eyes just missing
the danger lurking beneath the soil;
At the bend turn back and cast suspicious eyes on what might have been
Hear the echoes of voices belonging to Those That Went Before
The space in the mind reserved for “collective unconscious” already filled
With stories that would have use were you not a different being entirely,
And besides, the path is made new again. Look back and miss
the step that was yours, placed there just for you
missed by mere moments, if only you had set your eyes forward faster
Had you only thought to listen to the cries of Echo
You would have known.

Lie awake in the dust, gravel kicked up around you, smothering you, your
dress torn, tattered, its color misremembered,
Remember the tale that you will tell:
Forget the tumult of stumbling over the dead and dying
The weak still clutching at your heels bidding you onward
All while their eyes are thrown back the other way;
Release the grip of the grieving who, while withering into the void, await the ship
that will bear them onward,
Avert your eyes when you stumble over anchors.
Pretend that you do not feel the sting of the guillotine as it beckons to you
swearing that with its grooves and its hollows and its disrepair this was the better choice, that the other with its green and its youth and its futility was little more than
frost and decay;
Swallow back the ache in your throat, but first spit out the ashes
Of those that came before
Of the parts of you still burning Into embers
The parts of you still ignited.

Underneath the soles are ashes
Spread like wildfire through your veins–
They are you.
You are them.

When you meet at last the bend you are little more than vapor.

You forward in mind only,
Your voice echoes without sound,
They cannot hear you
They would not hear you could they,
They are borne forward on their own, your tale useless to them
(For you could not know, not really, who can?
And even in nothingness you do not.)
You pretend that your vapor will turn to substance
That you are more than they, they are ashes you are stardust

But in the end, you too are ashes.