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Helen

There was no money for pictures in 1933.

 

I want to know.

What color were the untamed wildflowers

Crawling up the house among the weeds?

 

They had names.

Black eyed Susan.

Daisy.

Dandelion.

 

But the faded sepia photo refuses its secrets,

So many secrets.

 

I will never know, but imagine

Your checkered dress is blue, and white.

Your mother combed your blonde hair to the side,

And fastened the big grosgrain bow.

 

You loved the touch of her rough peasant hands.

 

I want to know.

Who captured that moment?

I will never know if this was you before, or after

Your world was changed—

Your father lost to his own hand,

Janos laid out in the family room.

In the corner, among the well-wishers whispering of shame,

 

Your shy smile, pedaling in the dirt to your future.

Helen, Mommy–

Was that smile one of innocence or bravery?

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“With nowhere yet to rest my head, 

Like these, on earth I wait forlorn. “

 

-Matthew Arnold, Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse

 

It is human nature.

 

We hold fast to our safe pasts,

Wrapped in a familiar pink blanket—

Even when the soft wool becomes a stiff straightjacket,

And we are strapped and trapped.

 

Today, it transformed into a shroud—

While we mourn the end.

Crisp linen wrapped,

Sticky tulips and lilies rest on my breasts.

 

Wandering between two worlds,

One dead,

The other awaiting birth.

I peel aside the black lace veil

To light a candle for the lost.

 

Tomorrow, it will be a parachute—

Strapped snugly, as I dance out the plane.

I drop from the sky

To fly on my chrysalis wings.

 

grand guignol

We could never equal Buchenwald.

 

In those days before the war,

Everyone felt what happened onstage was impossible.

 

Our nightmares of sadism and perversion

Played out under angels at watch over the orchestra,

Our fantasies fulfilled in the private rental boxes

Once occupied by supplicating daughters of Christ—

We, aroused by the unthinkable,

The unwatchable.

 

Crimes in the madhouse

The laboratory of hallucinations

The torture garden and guillotine

The insane street urchins, prostitutes and apaches.

 

Lilly Laudanum became the most assassinated women in the world,

After she kissed the leper.

 

Shot with a rifle, raped, hanged, quartered,

Burned, cut with surgical tools, poisoned,

Devoured by a puma—

Strangled by her own perfectly matched pearls.

 

She is all of us, wandering blind

In this world afraid of the foreign, the unknown.

 

We could never imagine it possible.

Now we know these things,

And worse

Are possible in reality.

 

 

Litha

litha

It’s not dangerous to play with fire—

You are insured.

 

White-robed dryad dancing barefoot in the midnight light—

Daughter of the oaks, you circle the flames,

Driving away dragons with your magic words.

 

You satisfy the sun god—

His face mirrored in a thousand green masks,

Gazing down through the foliate canopy.

 

The earth tilts on its axis and the sun stands still—

Rising to the highest point of its circle,

And then turns back.

 

The day of the Lord of Light

The dying of the old order

The rising of the new

The beginning of the end

 

No one will believe you fled to the woods on your own.

They will say you fell into the inferno.

No one will believe you stepped down on your own.

They will always say you fell.

 

 

 

 

 

ghost sonata

 

 

The Ghost Sonata

 

Immoral and brave,

I ignore church bells and the threats of hell.

 

The cripple reaches for me.

I have nothing for him—

Not his pencils, nor his pleas.

I will not push his chair.

 

Your whole life has been a fairy tale,

A single thread joining it together—

The leitmotif broken,

Pink lace in shards on the floor.

 

I am the caretaker,

Sunday’s child full of grace, fallen.

 

The clock has stopped.

The marble lady in the square regards me with disdain.

 

She has never seen such a broken masterpiece—

Sitting in a closet, eyes unable to see the day.

I can’t stand the light.

 

Pretty Polly, bright blue budgie.

Polly, whistle and sing for us, blonde girl.

 

When a house gets old, it gets moldy.

And when people sit around tormenting each other for so long,

They go mad.

 

Be quiet, Polly.

 

My name is Susan.

I can’t wipe the past clean.

 

Oh hyacinth, flower of my soul—

Snow-white roots,

Innocent and reborn.

 

A Dream Play

 

Oh, Daughter of Indra—

Descended to Earth,

Through Daddy’s clouds and thunder.

His lightning pierces the anthracite sky,

As you fall, fall.

 

You want to know what it’s like

To be human—

Feet sunk in clay,

The mud and blood, the failing flesh.

 

Why is it so hard to breathe?

 

You have left the second world and entered a third.

Bright chrysanthemum,

Hating the filth, pushing to the light,

Only to bloom and die.

 

Wrapped in your shawl,

Absorbing the world’s pain—

 

My child, the rough wool will never be big enough.

 

The silver thread is snapped.

You are earthbound.

 

Then you know what poetry is.

Then you know what dreams are.

Then you know what it means to love.

 

Dreams are always better than reality.

The struggle between the torment of pleasure,

And the suffering that brings release.

 

Oh, daughter of the rain,

Do you return to the clouds unscathed?

Or will you bring our supplications to the throne of heaven?

The Next Day

affadavit

Damn the crimson tulips—

Their sticky silk closed

Into themselves, in the weeds,

Awaiting birth.

Mocking me.

Doom the trumpets.

Curse the spoon-fed saccharine myths,

The fairytale gone bad, horribly awry—

They betrayed me.

I’ve stopped performing.

This hurts worse than I’d thought.

The shaking will not stop, steeped deep in my bones.

There is not enough Xanax, or sleep—

But It will pass.

This spring is an afterdeath.

An emptiness and hollow panic—

A hangover of uncertainty.

It will pass.

The brass key to that last door,

Pressed in my palm—

Then released to the floor.

 

America First

America First

Dismembered, one stroke of the pen,

One dollar at a time—

 

The arsonists are in charge of the fire station.

 

Destruction plumes, forcing fumes

To an indifferent, hazy sky.

Books and art in the sulphur flames

Crackle and snap alongside

Food scraps for the aged and

Melting plastic eyes of children’s puppets—

The radio hisses its last static,

Then silence.

 

The water leeches its lead,

Flowing down the strip mine scar.

A fiery freight car carries the lost

To the pyre on the River of the Dead.

 

In this deconstruction of the administrative state,

We’re all going to be deconstructed, destructed and

Tossed into the mass grave of alternative facts.

 

What did you expect?