Umbilicus

“What cha doin’, kid”,

Your living voice spirals over telephone wires.

“Nothing, what choo doin’?”

“Nothing.”

You sound as thin and reedy as a child.


Cancer is rocking you backward, backward,

Undoing you

Soon you will be an infant

Suckling at your mother’s breasts

But they were dry, as I


Am dry, a dry sea bed,

Replenishing my waters by

Drowning in a vat of Brandy while your bones,

Ghastly in hospital whites, are

Busily being devoured.


Faithful to your science god you fear

This is all there is-

That we go clod-like back into the stupid dirt,

Our life force snipped off like some dead rose

Beheaded not by an vengeful God

But by hollow eyed evolution

And the betrayal of your own cells gone amok


I do not want to follow you into the grave;

We do not belong to some ancient tribe

That buries its living wives as

Tribute to their fallen dead.

You’d like to take me with you, I think,

Into the fire that purifies


Not for you the grave with her dark secrets

The moldering body,

The worms that fatten on the scent of putrefaction,

The dissolution of the eye, with its illusion of control

No, you go into the fire,

As you have burned all your life,


Burned brightly, brightly

As if aware you had but a short time

To do all that needed to be done.

As you frantically filled your hours

With the accoutrements of modern life,

Afraid of silence, afraid of stillness, afraid of absence.


During the day, the hospital takes my oxygen,

Squeezes my lungs dry and arid as a desert.

There, I am merely a bit player,

Held together with tenuous wires of tendon and silent screams,

Breaking apart in a high carnivorous wind.


Sinner I am that I cannot bear the dark with you

For it swallows me up in nightmares

Like the nightmares that ate me as a child

Though at the end I will suffer them

As a woman suffers rape


Twenty minutes and a million light years distant

As Andromeda whirls and wheels in my backyard

The umbilical cord between us quivers

And I shiver.


So here I am alone,

As you are alone in your hospital whites,

Each silently telegraphing fathomless need

Over indifferent wires

Our voices a flickering filament of light

In the steepening night


Look Before You Leap

Grandpa’s barn was for the corn

That fed the chickens.

It was dark and musty with

Rolls of yellow piled up to the ceiling

Our job was to shell it, cob by cob,

Young arms would crank

Until they fell off,

Little white sticks

Mute testament to labor

Grains would slide into the bucket

Hissing like snakes

To then be poured,

Sweet and dry and dusty,

Where the golden mound would

Rise throughout winter

Until at last, there was corn enough

To dive into, like seals

On some gold rimed beach

Silvery dust motes flying

In the slatted sunshine

There were rats and snakes

And one year, an errant pitchfork

My sister launched out from the rope

Icarus spiraling down into the sun,

Missing the shiny prongs by a breath

Teaching me anew

All that glitters is not gold and

Look before you leap

Advice that ill suits poets

Who must often leap blind

Into radiance

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