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.

 

Published in

Don't Blame the Ugly Mug

 Bones of Flight

 

1.       Sorrow

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.


2.       Joy
​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

laughing.

 

3.       Girl

Bird 

who attempted to leave, 

spread out her feathers                                like knives.  

Bird 

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.


4.       Boy

 Hunger, begins as             an idea

far off                                like tail lights

edging closer, until

it shatters

glass on asphalt,                          now

he has forgotten                           hunger.

 

5.       Silver

 A slither – trinket or talisman, 

the hardest moon            

tell yourself                        this is your resolve

say:                                    It is not gold.

 

6.       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?               

 

 7.       Secret

Think how it tastes                         more

like scent.

Roll it on your tongue                    practice

swallowing         speak                   to yourself

in the mirror      alone

hear the words                                 cling 

like lust.


8.       Wish

Flight feathers:

rectrix, remex                       your serrated wing

 soundless                            a fan      unfolded

in the thin air

 

9.       Kiss 

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.

 

10.   Warning/Omen

 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 

                                                         like water, 

a weight               leaden

as sleep,               as memory.

 

 

 

 

 

Published in 

The Lake Rises