Happiness Is Spelled With Leaves Of Gold

The children are happy behind the fence, you know.

This is all you’ve ever been told.

You see them run past, sometimes;

your face pressed to the wooden slats,

eyelid peeled back inside the crack —

sight reaching out to meet their running forms.

 

They will always know peace, you know.

While war has always torn your ground apart,

their side will never run dry of fleshy fruit

or the ripened ribs of those creatures they farm.

 

Knowing this, you look around your side.

 

There are no children playing here;

they sit listless in the dust, ground down by the countless

sticks and stones thrown over the fence in playful ignorance of whom they’ll hit.

If they hit you they’ll ruin you, you know.

This is all you’ve ever been told.

 

And still you watch:

the splinters in your cheeks of years and years of breathless watching

though the crack have made you bitter — the wooden shards have hardened you,

yet still you watch, wide-eyed in disbelief and longing.

 

Happiness has gone extinct on this side,

and happiness is spelled with leaves of gold on theirs.

 

Everything they stole from you was branded

with the gilded promise of a wish:

for bluer skies and cleaner air and food to eat.

 

And yet — and yet!

You hear the children cry.

 

The grass is always green for them and all you have is dust,

and still they whimper at their feast.

 

The children are happy on the other side, and so

they will never see your sallow eyes shrivel in this heat.

 

Their happiness is built on never seeing how they’ve come to rest their heads

on these stolen leaves of luscious gold.

 

That —

that

is how they di(n)e in peace.

To Write Poetry Is To Be Distracted      

 

         Let us set the scene,

his shallow voice announces;

 

hands inching though conductor’s motions,

humid air seeping through the gaps between his knuckles,

he tries to our catch our fluttering minds like a child catching fireflies.

 

The stump on which he stands may as well be fifteen years away—

time is of no concern to us

on this late spring day;

 

we have come to write,

to be distracted in the sun by the

              stuff of poets.

 

We are the people who find beauty

in a grain of rice lying on a mottled grey table;

it is the color of a long-awaited peace.

Its muted glow gives rise to thoughts of a

sun-drenched undersea scene.

And the magnitude of the lightly rugged tabletop

speaks to the human condition of infinity.

Naïvely, by attrition.

But aren’t we beautiful?

 

               Let us set the scene,

his shallow voice repeats;

 

and we still don’t catch the words,

his intonations drowned out

by the sounds of our surroundings.

 

How can we listen to the product of poetry,

faced with the lushness around us?

 

This,

         we know,

our writing shows,

         this

         is the stuff of poetry.

FEAR

Mothers watch with weary, wary, tired eyes

from doorways and corners on every continent of this godforsaken world.

 

Stepping on cracks did, in fact, break their backs

but they bite their withered tongues and train their skin to shield the pain.

 

They watch their children

and the men they’ve become,

 

and they see girls weathering their withering tongues:

training them to speak in rhymes and riddles

and to speak no ill,

 

and they see girls growing thick their skins

ridding them of the ghosts of hairy hands

and men hunting them for the thrill.

 

The daughters get buried alive

in guilt and unheard rage and the weight of blood-ripped skin.

 

This pain wears and wars their tired eyes,

and as mothers of unwanted kin they cloak their eyes in shadow,

backs breaking from within.

The Cliché of Chaos

The concept of if is monumental;

it shows humans as beings of potential —going wrong, going right,

spilling our decisions over others like drinks in a bar past midnight.

All these things happen only by chance

and there are two ways to read that fact:

either God is Dead and Life is Shit

— or —

anything means everything;

from the faintest static in the radio

to the way you two first kissed.

Every atom ever aligned has done so by chance,

every idea spawned in your mind is built on thoughts in the past.

Never shake off the ancestors clinging to your back.

You are webbed into history for all of eternity;

let your if echo out in the night.

You are you by every situation life has put you though:

meeting (her)

seeing (that)

expecting (more)

Fill in the blanks; we’ve all lived a little bit.

We’ve managed to make the best things accidentally:

the Chocolate Chip Cookie

a weak reusable adhesive

a cluster of cells bearing life

So remember we are only strings of coincidental meetings.

From atom to atom,

or Adam to atom,

or Adam to Adam and Eve.

If you listen closely

happenstance and circumstance

are what your heart keeps beating.

So listen closely.

Maybe this was some kind of cliché

that had never been taxonomized before

Read into the coincidences and notice the norm;

every moment deserves its own museum,

so curate your own collection.

Every 4 am awake’s a monumental accident.

We are series of cells addicted to cell phones,

beings afflicted by fatal mutations

caused by one twist of a gene.

And stories can twist by the turn of a word:

Did he die?

Or didn’t he?

We are the accretion of countless decisions;

a game of chance never brought to completion,

coins wheeling and glinting for as long as there’s air.

Our tales are told by idiots, full of sound and fury,

signifying everything but nothing.

If human beings are made of potential,

chaos unfolding is what brings us light.

Fragile Thoughts Had On Long Walks

1.

The words I hear you cannot see;

they settle on my skin like dust.

One day perhaps my skin will litter your kitchen table,

and all that you will have is this dust of me.

But for now, we are fighting the currents of pain and separation.

2.

I have told more stories than you will ever know;

becoming less myself is my source of life.

Know that I have only ever told one lie,

and it hid from you the rest inside.

I thought I wouldn’t want to get to know you.

3.

You asked me why I stand so still,

my eyes aghast and thumbs pinched in.

My neck cracks as I remember:

I will never drop my stance for you,

though one day I may come to love you.

4.

I left the rose you gave me on the shelf.

I like to think it grew old enough to feather into petals.

PARADOX I

I did not see the sky today;

I hid myself in layers.

I found the ring that doesn’t fit,

called the brother I’ll never miss,

tried on the dress and noticed the rip.

Today I did not crack the shutters;

I do not deserve to see the day.

I left the restaurant hungry yesterday,

praying he wouldn’t ask me home.

I want to be left alone, 

and when I told him so he hit me.

I cried today.

Twice.

I don’t think God is listening.

And though I have not seen the sky today,

I have not told a lie.

Wild-Girl Heart

Clawing your way through a wooded town

on a rare day of autumn heat won’t get you anywhere,

I think you’ve forgotten.

You’ve been drug away from the forest floor,

eyes a knotted, snotty mess and hair in your teeth before;

why can’t you give it a rest with your wild-girl heart?

 

Dried leaves crumple in your clammy fists,

a flurry of red-orange flakes with edges like broken glass

unstick themselves from your palms and float down,

never to be reassembled

or remembered;

crushed in vain by a girl with a wild heart and hands of a man:

even holy water could not cleanse the things you touched back then.

 

You bring rock to trunk to scratch the features of your face

into the soft clay bark of the old oak tree.

Naturally, the disfigured tree disfigured you;

and for the rest of the days that its roots burrow down into the forest floor,

your folded jowls and pinching eyes will grace the clearing’s door.

As such your face wanders into country lore

and you are remembered as a monster;

Old Hag of the Hill who ate wild-girls’ hearts.

 

Too late, the crack of guilt lashes down on your hunched back,

the rock slips from your grip and you follow it down;

finally collapsed in this lawless wooded town.

 

You know the hours will pass and the searchlights will find you.

Questions will be asked and avoided, repeated and half-completed;

half-sense words building sense and sentences in the moonlight.

You’ve all been through this before.

 

The forest knows how to wear its destruction well,

that is to say, it hides it all;

little do the occult ad-ults know what wreckage goes unmanned here;

the wrecked remnants of your wild heart.

 

Years pass in the forest, and your tantrums subside.

No-one asks why, but you remember,

wild-girl at heart,

that night you tore your wild heart into pieces

and planted its meaty pulp in the roughed-up forest floor.

 

 

 

As Long As It Takes

I measure time through methods more intimate than

seconds, years, or days.

 

You learn to, don’t you, when time zones lead to tears?

When the anxiety of separation manifests for years?

 

Time has only shown me that our meager, human

methods of dividing up a day in ticks and tocks

leaves so much time unaccounted for.

Time is more than regularity;

it should be shown as valleys and peaks

with the echo of eternity:

“As Long As It Takes,”

echoing eternally between them.

 

Time will take

As Long As It Takes

and rigid divisions are a shitty constraint

on a concept that is one- and ever-flowing.

 

So let me preach:

Measure time in tubes of toothpaste

and moments in metres and miles ahead.

Measure hours in hot water cooling,

and days in books not yet read.

Measure years in love and decades in passion

and life in what’s been produced from the thoughts in your head.

 

Take it from the girl who lives six hours behind her boyfriend,

five hours behind her best friend,

two hours ahead of her home address: home to the house she’s never lived in,

and three hours ahead of the first house she was ever brought home to,

under a rainbow one day in late October;

 

time is a patchwork of moments.

 

And those moments will take As Long As They Take.

Fallen Leaves & Shodden Skin

I did my growing-up in kingdoms and swing sets splattered far and wide

across this worn Earth-world.

Vine-covered buildings dropped their leaves at my arrival,

and armed with only a glue gun and a green marker

I tried to right the wrong of my being

in the place I was living.

 

No-one told me it was natural.

 

Natural to shed one’s coat or skin

either because of personal growth

or a season’s whim.

 

No-one told me it was natural,

 

seven years behind us now,

to be imperfect every once in a while.

That sometimes nature has ideas bigger than

our day-to-day interactions and reactions.

That sometimes leaves will fall and skins will stretch or shed

for the best of us and the best of them.

 

Yet when they do, see not a naked scar

but a rugged skeleton letting

life in.

First Impressions (I)

 

He met her in the alleyway behind the bars with ever-glowing neon lights.
When asked about it later, neither of them would have been able to tell you the time, or even the date of this first encounter. They just weren’t that kind of people. All she would remember was the humid taste of alcohol in her throat and the curses she had spat out at her sister earlier that day.
And him? If he couldn’t evade the questions of what had happened that whole year, he would mutter some half-truth about it being the year his mother died and his father was sent to prison. How interrelated those two events really were he would never reveal, leaving the question-asker confused just long enough for him to pull out a tattered deck of cards from his pocket and ask the asker if they would like to play a game. (The events weren’t related, but in many ways the truth was much harder to digest). Those same cards were in his the pocket of his parka on the day they met, their decay rewound due to lack of use. In truth, he didn’t know any card games at the time, but he had bought the deck in a rare moment of excess because he liked the sound of cards being shuffled.
In time, they would forget the disheveled state they each were in, and the stench of stale urine that festered in the autumn air. The fact that they met on a day of global disaster would also escape their minds, until, that is, the question was brought up at a lawyer’s office twenty-odd years down the line.
They met on your average bad day; there’s really nothing else to call it. It was a day ruled by gloomy skies; a day for two layers of socks and a melancholy view of the world.
It was also a day when things that perhaps weren’t supposed to happen managed to wheedle their way around the obstacles that generally block their path. It just so happened that Fate was busy that day with three thousand deaths from the genocide, coupled with the earthquake leaving the lives of thousands more in shambles. It was raining in more than one hundred and twenty countries that day, planes were delayed across the globe, and three multinational corporations filed for bankruptcy. A photojournalist was beaten to death by an angry mob in the Middle East, and oil prices reached a record high. All in all, it was a terrible day for mostly everyone.
But meet they did in the alleyway behind the bars, and when they did, the soot-stained, greying bricks surrounding them seemed to sigh inwards in irritation at yet another nuisance to behold that night. These were walls bearing coffee stains and urine stains and had seen every abominable act of man in love or lust or hatred that plays out in alleyways behind bars. Certain bricks had an unappealing tang of fermented sweat from generations of people spawning generations more with their backs pressed up to the back-alley bricks in the lustful clamor for sinned skin on skin. Some bricks too wore badges of blood from the knife fights that shook the foundation of alleyways like this, and a few bricks nursed bullet wounds from guns long put to rest.
Eighty-year-old brick walls in big cities behind bars have front-row seats to see human nature played out time and time again on an alcohol-infused backdrop. And see they do. Some might say that it was a pretty shitty show. The man taking his final steps to the alley’s entrance would have agreed.
The woman, clutching a glass of ice cold water, might have said differently. At the moment, she was standing in the dead center of the alleyway. She knew better than to stand in shady alleyways behind bars, but she figured that potential attackers wouldn’t bother with a crying woman.
In following years, the man she would meet on this fate-forsaken night would criticize her unwavering faith in humanity. While she always admitted this was true, her belief had been nurtured inside her soul from such a tender age it could never have withered or been cut down. She might as well have been the patron saint of lost wallets, for their natural tendency to gravitate towards her, and her subsequent tendency to give them back.
On this particular night, it was her herself who had lost her wallet. She would ruefully remember during a dip in the level of pain in her front cortex the next morning that she hadn’t gotten it back. But before that, she was just a girl, standing in the shadow of a bar with ever-glowing neon lights willing the world to set itself right again. Mostly, she realized, she just wanted to get home.
It was as she was wading through thoughts like these in her foggy mind that a shadow at the alley’s opening morphed into a man. A man with shoulders wrapped up around himself as if blocking some nonexistent wind, his quick steps beating an incongruous rhythm into the ground.
He hardly noticed the woman in the alley. Until, that is, she reached out for him.
An extended finger complete with a ruby-red, dagger-like nail wove a sloppy circle in the air above his heart. He took a quick step back, and his eyes flared to the sides. His head tilted subtly this way and that, as an animal’s will as it struggles in it’s collar.
The woman’s finger made contact with his jacket. She stood motionless, gazing at her finger and the tiny crater it was making in the fabric.
“Dylan’s Mechanic, huh,” she said eventually. The words slurred together and dribbled out of her gorgeous lips and down her chin, but even in her intoxicated state, her words had a lilt indicative of elegance of heart. She spoke with an air of beauty, even as the words were ejected unceremoniously from her throat. It was unlike anything else the man in the shadow had ever heard before.
Still staring at the embroidered parka, the woman narrowed her eyes.
“I live– ag–,” she struggled, “ac- agcross the street,” she told him.
She suddenly took a step back, considering something. He took the time to notice the frame of her face. The gentle curve of her cheekbones framed two glassy eyes that were blinking slowly at him. Her mascara was already migrating down her face. Two spots of garishly pink blush sat upon the apples of her cheeks, grossly out of place on her otherwise pallid skin.
“Could–,” she faltered again, and the man stiffened. She started again.
“Please, could you–” she paused, considering, “drive me?”
Her sharp intake of expectant breath was matched by the brick wall’s sigh. Fate had missed its meeting to tear these two apart.
“Sure,” were the only words he said to her in the alleyway that night. They were the only words she needed to hear. He cleared his throat.
“I only real–” she stumbled here as the hand reaching out to stabilize herself against the wall misjudged by half an inch, and her words stumbled too. She blinked, and recoiled three seconds too late from the wall, wiping her hand on her sequined dress. Simultaneously, she dropped her glass. The tinkling sound of the smash hung in the air between them.  A piece of ice slipped down her leg and nestled its way into her shoe, leaving a cold, glittering river in its wake.
“Shh-hit,” she exhaled, taking two looping steps closer to the man, and with a semi-graceful wobble she wound her frozen fingers around his arm. She giggled.
“The wall– is gross,” she managed after a moment, and giggled again.
The man’s naturally rigid posture didn’t falter, but his temple twitched in rhythm with her open-mouthed breaths. He could see the goose-bumps on her shoulders leading to the curve of pale pink lace where her bra strap had escaped her shoulder. His eyes quickly darted to the wall on his left, then to the misty, starless sky above, making the circles under his muddy eyes moved up almost imperceptibly. He blinked the blink of someone trying to regain control, and the woman took note of his eyes being closed for a second or so too long.
“Oh,” she whispered, “I’m sorry.” She straightened her back and took a half-step away from the man. Her hand, however, remained latched onto his arm as if she had forgotten that she had put it there.
“I was only gonna say,” she murmured, “I only really–,” she gulped, and steadied herself, “go for guys I can’t have.”
The man didn’t move.
Her eyes gleamed up at him, but then again, that might have just been reflections of the sequins on her dress.
Her face crinkled inwards into a lopsided smile. “That’s pretty sad, huh.”
The last words he remembered hearing before her mouth closed in on his were:
      “I’ll remember this tomorrow.”