My father was a volcano
spewing lava that night,
tables became timber —
curtains fell, walls crumbled.
My mother was a hummingbird
darting between him and us
wings humming false promises
that evaporated in the heat.
In the next room, my sister and I shared
a double bed like we had shared
our mother’s womb, a tangle of legs
and arms, her thumping heart close to mine.
A sliver of light sliced our room
as Mother appeared, then disappeared again.
I folded my arms and blinked
like “I Dream of Jeannie.”
In the morning, we tiptoed over rocky
landscape, washed our hands in ashes.
~from I Know When to Keep Quiet (Finishing Line Press, 2010)
~Also featured on goldwakepress.org, October, 2008
We waded through the bayous of my childhood—
black water, a witch’s stew churned below a canopy
of arthritic branches. Veins of cypress and tupelo
were mountains to climb. At ground level, no guide,
only ethereal tendrils of light. No guide, we moved
by touch. Humidity heaved a sigh and mildewed air
squeezed our lungs into spontaneous words.
At midnight, you played notes I hadn’t yet heard.
Thrum of jazzy bass migrated from the French
Quarter, mood music for the foreign territory
we were now traversing. In the late hours
of a melancholy night we danced with stillness.
Not worrying about cottonmouth venom, piercing
pain of bite, we swam together day and night,
then day again in those chicory waters deep
enough to tread, face to face, lips close.
By summer’s waning days, I learned sometimes
to move forward you must go back.
~ from Take Something When You Go (Winter Goose Publishing, 2016)