Image: “Earth Words” Mixed Media by Brad Garber
The anonymous urge
wells up unbidden: the crisp bed
like a blank canvas
expansive with potential,
lily sheets stretched taut
over the bare frame,
primed for the first mark—
a toe, a brushstroke, fingertips,
pigments, skin oils tinged
in rose and rust sketching
our tangled intentions.
Sixth floor sealed with a wall
of windows. Trapped up here
above the harbor, whitecaps
rocking the moored hulls,
my limbs adrift on creamy
quilts two strangers will wash
tomorrow. Thoughts spin by
like milkweed silks, the green
pod split and yielding
flaxen strands, roan seeds,
a lazy scent on the wind—
every image we might render
a mosaic of wonder and ruin.
You cannot force a thought
from consciousness like a mewling
stray chased off with a broom.
It’s more the continuous sweeping
of dust through a screen door.
Determined to get rid of you, I snap
on blue rubber gloves & pick
the prickly leaves off stinging nettles,
boil them into a bitter brew—
spring’s fresh greens purging toxins
from each clotted cell, the body
wrung clean as a damp sheet,
clear as the cloudless eyes of a monk
praying on a mountain peak.
You can learn to give up anything.
I dipped parsley sprigs in salt water
& did not weep, did not seek god,
did not honor the lost stories of my ancestors
foraging Russian woods for wild leeks.
If I whittled my body down to a wand,
would you wield me one more time?
Is this the waning of our hunger?
The deer ate one hundred tulips
down to the quick, voracious
after this brutal winter
& I vowed revenge on beauty and sweets:
no more scones, no more sugar, no more malty
Yorkshire tea with cream,
only dandelion greens in lemon juice,
yellow star blossoms gleaned from the lawn.
You can pop the new bulbs
into your mouth & eat the season raw—
Lion’s tooth, rustic oracle, a solar flare
faded ash-gray. Blown to filaments
& wished away.
EAT THE PEACH
You want a new myth, not Guinevere
not Helen, certainly not Hester Prynne
in a woolen bonnet cinched with fear.
All the known goddesses have disappeared.
Queen Isis slipped inside the subtle lotus
and curled up to wait out winter, her heart
wrapped in hummingbird wings, her mind
tucked in a walnut shell.
You duck the tunnel of the fallen
apple tree, still alive though half-uprooted,
a tent of gnarled fruit and leaves
aloft beneath the cirrus dome. At the summit
you stun yourself with sloth, belly-down
in soft grass, watching wind riffle the blades,
spin goldenrod with milkweed fluff. You halve
a pale green pod at its crease, slide out
silk threads and caramel seeds, caress
the down like a tow-headed child.
Downhill, Missy tosses her golden mane,
lifts her tail for the new stallion, long neck
arched like a question mark. She can’t help herself,
she was born to it. Still Meg trains her
to trot along the rail— She’s a good girl
with a soft mouth. Natural blonde,
dark-eyed flirt, you offer her your palm.
Home, you find a peck of peaches fragrant
and rose-ripe, seeping juice on the counter.
The first bite is sweeter than any man’s kiss—
the surprise of living in a body
tethered to the tides and the seasons.
another arctic deep freeze
traps us in these chittering bodies
clothed in woolens fleece & feathers
cheeks slathered in vaseline
burning oil day and night sleeping hard
through both alarms choosing
the long marriage over again
safe harbor of snuggling
and jumper cables long johns
and beef stew the sadness
of Sunday afternoon coming on
like the blunt edge of a headache
four walls to keep the wind out
our good fortune our takenforgranted
our backtoback nights burrowed
in goosedown how we’d give up
anything to protect the children
glower at the wolf moon
slung low and toothed
waning through the window
while magnificent dreams
of stags and strangers prowl
ballrooms at the masquerade
a feral gaze met and leveled
a question posed open-ended
no almost anything
When the snow comes she surrenders
anonymity, the swift untraceable
paths through the trees.
Now she can be tracked—
footprints up the bare hill,
pausing at the summit,
breaching the woods—
a map of the heart’s habits
etched white on white.
She lays a circle of hemlock
and red sumac berries
in the shape of the waxing moon—
the long nights moon
gone mad with yearning,
sparkling in ice crystals,
riding the full spectrum, tides
of the lunar seas reclaiming the fields,
pulling scarves of snow,
beating peaks like cream—
sea of fertility, sea of nectar,
sea of islands, sea of moisture.
She puts her mouth to it, testing,
hungry again for the taste of snow—
tree bark, river water, iron and starlight,
air and ice, ice and air,
the spaces between where we’ve been
and where we’re going.
Still the rust-red apples hang
frozen on the tree, their skin tart-sweet
when she scrapes it with her teeth.
Hoof tracks circle the trunk,
score the snowdrifts. The warm-blooded
hunt to beat back darkness,
inexplicable urge to tongue the skies:
how we thaw the cold,
how we know we’re alive.