My Mother's Tapestry
The Geisha is painted on the canvas with her head turned.
She has the distracted look of a woman
who needs to get somewhere
but I wonder where she could go
with her hobbled feet
and the mountains like ghosts
in the distance – barely there.
My mother peers through her magnifying glass,
digs the needle in and pulls.
Her lips pucker as she concentrates.
It has taken her an hour to attach the beads
to one painted flower. I admire the tight red knots
sewn into the kimono that billows out
in a great swoop of color. Next to it
the Geisha’s face seems incomplete.
I watch my mother’s knuckles clench
with each methodical stitch
and remember myself as a child.
Stand back. she’d say as she knelt
to the floor with her steel dressmaking scissors.
I remember the quick sharp sound they made
her head bowed to the task, as it is now.
Look, she tells me, Her hair is done.
I gently stroke the black silk of the Geisha’s hair.
Gradually the Geisha will develop like a photograph
captured just as she’d begun to turn and go.
Don't Blame the Ugly Mug
Bones of Flight
The crook of your arm,
the one rib you had to give back,
skin, muscle, cartilage,
your breath beating
its wings like flight,
the sound of splintered bone,
the taste of metal.
Scraps of paper, bread crumbs, chalk,
dead leaves, matches, coins, candy wrappers, string –
your grandmother’s thimble,
hopscotch, concrete, stinging nettles,
a child’s counting game. A murder
of oiled feathers
deep wings, black crests
who attempted to leave,
spread out her feathers like knives.
who determined to stay. Let her stand, palms-up
to the sky gathering light.
Let her have her ribs, her clothes
her flowering spirals: the shell
she puts up to her ear. She remembers
the drums of the ocean – let her go back.
Hunger, begins as an idea
far off like tail lights
edging closer, until
glass on asphalt, now
he has forgotten hunger.
A slither – trinket or talisman,
the hardest moon
tell yourself this is your resolve
say: It is not gold.
The crop wavering –
a dry ocean.
Count each kernel burn it down
to the stem down
to its brittle hollow
Count it obsessively ask yourself:
what did it bring you? are you molten?
are you ash? are you a ghost?
Think how it tastes more
Roll it on your tongue practice
swallowing speak to yourself
in the mirror alone
hear the words cling
rectrix, remex your serrated wing
soundless a fan unfolded
in the thin air
It begins unnamed,
a constant nagging
birds, primates, children:
a way to measure what you give
and what you’ve taken.
You take the full arc of his wingspan
you offer him seeds from your mouth
and he takes them--
cracks the seeds, spits the kernel.
A clamor of caws
you look up
try to count,
through the thicket of leaves
black wings, black claws.
Your blood slowed
and your skin cold to touch
becoming a thing you have known
a weight leaden
as sleep, as memory.
The Lake Rises