{The Beach}

DeBordieu Colony, Georgetown, South Carolina
1-4 September 2017

My cousin and I walk on the beach,
water whooshing over our feet and up our ankles.
I can feel the sand rushing between my toes
and I can feel the power of the water.

We search for shells, my cousin’s eye tuned
to the big ones with no holes, shiny and whole.
When he sees a huge Florida Fighting conch nestled in the sand,
he runs to it, eager for the perfection of the hard curves.

When he picks it up, and it looks like a monster
has bitten a bite out of the side, the curling center
like a unicorn horn, he throws it aside,
knowing I will now rush to it, before the waves
once again take the treasure away.

I grasp the shell, pulling it from the prying fingers
of the rough South Carolina sand,
it’s craggy edges softened by
time and movement and water.

I will put this shell in my pocket,
along with the other pieces and parts of shells that
catch my eye as we wander the shore:
abalone,
angel wing,
barnacle,
olive,
calico scallop,
shark’s eye,
giant atlanta cockle,
boring turret,
mussel,
and the list goes on.

They jangle in my pocket,
like coins, but better.

When I come home, two airplanes and two cars later,
I pour my bag onto the table,
relishing the sight of the little ordinary treasures.

I write this poem and I long to be like my collection of shells:
broken and beautiful, collected by somebody’s careful eye
as they walk on the shores of their own broken life,
longing, as I am, for just a little bit of grace.

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{18 August 2017: The Life of a Tractor Seat}

A rusted metal tractor seat is wedged between the cracks of the huge rocks.
We have built a small fire into it, roasting too-big marshmallows
Over our meager and perfect flame.

We joke about the life of a tractor seat.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or simply
Wallow in the mystery.

The boys’ hands maneuver wood, resting the logs in the curves and holes
Of the old piece of equipment.
Our fire flames bigger, casting its orange light on our faces,
And suddenly: new purpose: a new life.

Like the butterflies pinned to a glass frame
Hanging on the wall of the cabin,
Death of something brings purpose to another.

My fingers float in the warm air above the fire and I can
Almost see the butterflies fly away.

{13 August 2017}

I want to hit.
I want to hurt.
I want to give someone else my pain.

I want more power than I have.
I want power over others.

Because love is surrender.
And I don’t want to surrender.

I want to push and fight
and never let go.

— I know that you are somewhere, God.

I need you.
We need you.
Give us the strength
to surrender our power to love.

{26 April 2017}

Rosslyn Academy, Backstage, Annie, 1st Performance

Two boys sit backstage ― their backs against the wall while the first scene runs.
Both of them have a leg bent up near the chest, the other stretched out
on the black, worn floor, one’s just longer than the other’s.
Their feet point out from their bodies, almost touching, but not quite.
A sliver of light, red-white, falls on them, lighting up only part of their faces.
They sit facing the mostly dark room, still, and occasionally whispering.
Their shoulders touch just barely, from shoulder to halfway down the arm.

Do they long for the warmth of body to body?
Do they stay still, maintain touch?
Do they long as I long?

{8 August 2017}

Have you ever seen a dragonfly so big its shadow falls on the ground like a plane?
Have you ever stopped to wonder on the imagination of the delighted child
in an explorer that made them call this animal a mythical, magical creature?

Have you ever seen a homegrown tomato so red
you know it is the only true red?
Have you ever drowned so happily in the perfume of a homegrown tomato that
tears slip down your face as its flesh enters your body to begin a new life?

Tell me, have your eyes ever been opened?
Tell me, are your eyes open?

{A Symphony of Dying: Prose Poem}

After Mary Oliver’s “In Provincetown, and Ohio, and Alabama

“Death taps his black wand and something vanishes.”

The bundles of rhododendron flowers fall through the tangle of branches where the lake water is cool and where, for a while, they are not alive but their petals are white-pink bright still.

The dragonfly, blue and small as an eye, flits along by my boat as his life flows past him. He is unaware, or – I don’t know! – at peace, as his short and shiny breath falls away.

Trees have fallen, tall and stubborn still, into the water and are now covered in algae, feast for the fish.

A leaf, brown and crinkled, and a bug, lay knotted in the tough fabric of the spider’s home.

“Death taps his black wand” and something grows.

“Death taps his black wand” and life overcomes.

{A Day in Town}

Today, I spent $43 on a gift,
a fidget spinner, two pins, one iron-on patch.
I also came home with the most precious of commodities:
four books, poetry and fiction.
Payed for with the swipe of a library card, and the smile of the
quiet-voiced, grey-haired woman behind the counter.

No exchange of money for this
exchange of —dare I say—
soul.

{This Poison}

An animal fear floods my throat when there is sudden movement
from the corner of the street where a tarp has been laid over the trees
to protect the men who smoke and drink and chew khat during
the hot hours of a Nairobi weekend day.
The fear boils in the back of my mouth, slow to retreat as I realize
that there is no one coming for my suddenly-fragile form
as I walk towards home.

I will tell you that I had to keep this bile in my throat, this poison.
This is not the kind of thing that you give to people wrapped in
pretty words with a loving card.
This is the kind of thing that shoots from your body.
So I swallow it.
And swallow it.
This is the kind of thing that I must keep.

The next time you talk to an angry woman, remember that she might have had enough
of keeping the bile in her throat.
She might be tired of the poison burning her tongue.
She might not have room in her body for a stranger’s poison.

This is not the kind of thing you wrap in pretty words.