Sink

Drowning above water

Meant kicking

Thrashing

Digging nails into

Anything close

Dragging down another

Sodden, macerated flesh

Too long wet

pierced by

Points of a disproportionate

Fulcrum

So desperate to lever

To survival

You pivot the hand saving

And push it under

Bends are the least

Of the pain

On shore

You gasp and gag

Guilty

Crying for the crime

Woman slaughter

Suspected

But the suspect

Isn’t drowning

But swimming

Deep

Safe

And sinking

Feels like such

An unexpected bliss

Arms around you

Able to life the weight of

You, wet

Or dry

Sinking

Feels like

The warmth in a

Room with a closed door

Sinking

Feels like

The most natural

Wanted

Hopeful

Risk you can’t imagine

Fighting

Waves of a softer sort

Such a

Delicious

sink

Erudition and Examination

 

 

And tomorrow we’ll

again

I hope

maybe we could

if you want

do you

you decide

whatever you want

whatever 

you 

want

Did

I

really 

take your breath away?

That’s

what I want

hand on 

your chest

feel it leave

lips inhale it past

I want 

to be dizzy

from the

exchange

ideas and air

I want 

the good 

on paper

to be good

from a 

beginning

base

bucolic seed

on cotton

theory

become practice

academic 

become 

not by the book

by the hand

from straight crisp pages

inked only by their

unknown printer

to fingers curled 

from their own experience

not empirical evidence

based in 

experimental experience

without theory

But I have a theory

and I want to experiment

learn

put hands on 

have

hands

on

interactive

erudition

by examination

and not

be found 

left

wanting

Hides

Hides, it does

Tucked in forgotten drawers

Cozy under the bed, warmed by dust and lint

Sometimes I wipe it clean and hold it in my hands

The hurt

Nostalgic remembering

When we were thick friends

On the pillow together

Faded Polaroid

From a mistaken photographer

The image was meant to mollify

It murdered

I dig up

Bones and flesh

Surprised by its

Incorruptible

Resilient

Buried

But

Not dead

But there is wine

For the cemetery picnic

And cake

To feed

The happy living

When they learn

So I plant it back

Among the webs

And smile

Knowing I’m now the keeper

Of the hidden rest

 

My words are meant for hidden reading. My poetry collection The Gone Side of Leaving and my debut novel Drowning Above Water are now available.

The Gone Side of Leaving

Drowning Above Water

Be Nice, She Said

Be nice, she said

screamed, 

flailing, pushing

Hands flat, open, extended

In avoidance

Wondering why
He didn’t come closer. 

Be nice, she said

Cried as she brought up

imaginary, claimed forgotten

Perceived slights

From a year and a lifetime ago.  

Which never were,

But damned if she won’t use them

As an excuse to bury herself

In the dirt of hurt

Than she’s planted and tended

On her own 

Better than any lover. 

Be nice, she said

Hid behind her own 

Insecurity

Asking for kindness

Despite, undeserved,

Unreserved 

That she begs for

Without words. 

Warmth 

In her ice. 

Forgiveness

From her homicide

And her crucifixion 

To her own cross 

I can’t be nice, she said. 

I forget. 

I locked it away. 

Lost. 

Be nice, she said. 

Forget with me. 

Help me remember. 

Be nice. 

Malina and Grizella

For the two incredible women who walked with me through this year.

This is the introduction to Malina and Grizella, the warriors of my imagination.

 

Photography by the author.

Malina was still curled into herself and asleep when smelled the smoke. Her legs started moving before her mind did. There had been fires here before: cigarettes, an iron, and once a disturbed Iranian girl who simply loved the red glow of a client’s gold zippo and what it could do. That damaged girl and her tender scars had also briefly slept on Malina’s couch. She remembered all this before her head left the pillow and her legs started to process the motor action needed to run away. When she smelled the clove beneath the smoke, her body stopped and her eyes opened. The woman and her dark cigarette stood in Malina’s doorway.

“Out in the hallway. Don’t wake her,” Grizella said.

The smoking taskmaster finished her order and then she shut the door. Malina closed her eyes and let her body return to its automatic muscle responses that would get her out of bed and then out the door; let her body face what her brain would ignore. Her arms functioned on instinct to pull on a robe. They weren’t supposed to be in the halls in their underwear.

Grizella had placed herself, all six feet of her pipe-thin frame, only inches outside the door. Malina had to flatten herself, back against the door, to pass through. Grizella wasn’t about to move or make anyone else’s life easier.

“How much?” Grizzled asked, staring down at her. Grizella’s eyes were red and there was a scratch on her forehead. The make-up didn’t mask everything. “How much?” Grizella demanded.

Malina’s mind flipped through the meaning or possibly the translation of this. It wasn’t money. As a legal maneuver, years ago they started sending someone to meet the men outside the rooms. The girls never actually touched the cash or even witnessed the exchanges. So, it wasn’t money.

“How much what?” Malina asked.

“All you girls here, you think I don’t know things?”

The drugs. Malina crossed her arms over her chest, trying to fold herself deeper into her robe. She tried to forge a map in her mind – where her pills were in her purse, how to get to them and then get rid of them in the fastest, most direct route. She’d never make it.

Grizella did not like drugs. Selling them was fine. That was an acceptable income diversification. She usually kept a stash for clients who paid well and wanted an enhanced experience. Clients, of course, sometimes enjoyed them free of charge as her hospitable gift. Her girls doing drugs was different. She didn’t give a shit about the lives than could be wrecked. It was a matter of commerce. Drugs ruined faces, they ruined bodies, they ruined things that would need to be replaced. These men were really only kids, after all, and no kid wants to play with a broken toy. Buying new toys cost money. The other women didn’t know this. Grizella didn’t want them to know anything she thought or felt. But Malina knew. As she knew Grizella didn’t like it, but would tolerate it among most of the girls, but not Malina. Never Malina. She had promised.

“How much what, Grizella?”

And with that, the woman’s needle of an index finger jabbed through the flaps of Malina’s robe and into her stomach. Malina was more shocked at the motion itself than the unexpected pain it caused. She flinched and backed away from the stick of a finger.

“Baby. What do you think? How much baby?”

She knew, Malina thought. Of course she knew. She knew everything.
“I’m not sure,” Malina said.

“Not much yet,” Grizella said. “I already have an appointment. The Jew doctor. Day after tomorrow. To fix this.”

Malina nodded.

“I’ve never had a girl get pregnant as easy as you. All the time. I’ve lost count.”

Malina opened her mouth to apologize. Like she always did. But she stopped. She said nothing, and only curled deeper into her robe, cinching the belt at her waist.

“Just like your mother. All the time. Another baby. Your cipki taking one thing in or pushing another thing out every day,” Grizella said.
Malina stared at the tall Polish skeleton in front of her. The nose on that face, long and equine, was the same one Malina tried to hide on her own face. He mother had hated that same nose as well. Malina turned to escape back into her bed and the tin in the bottom of her purse.

“Nie.”

Malina stopped.

“I’ll give you two days after. Two days to stop bleeding. Two days to stop the drugs. After three days, if you are not fixed, all fixed, Abraham will take you away in the van.” Grizella blinked when she said his name. No one else would have seen. Malina did.

Malina didn’t remember the cigarette being held out to her. But her eyes were stinging from the strong smoke, as Grizella held it to Malina’s mouth, the moist tip soft and wet against her lips. Malina knew this woman and she wanted to forget her. She didn’t think or feel, but inhaled, held the smoke in her lungs, and let it seep out her nose. She just wanted to taste the smoke.

“But maybe, almost time for you to leave here anyway. Not so good to be the oldest apple left in the store, Teckla. You rot. Then, you’re only good for the rats in the alley.”

Teckla. She hadn’t heard that name spoken in a long time. Her old name. From her old life. Her dead life. Like the one she was walking through today.

The above is an excerpt from my debut novel Drowning Above Water. It is available now at Amazon in paperback and Kindle, and at independent bookstores throughout Pittsburgh. 

Not Hers

Trying to be her.

 

Not Hers

 

These aren’t hers.

 

Hers had shiny icing

and soft, tawny edges,

 

Not sandy sugar covering

and black, ashed bottoms.

 

Mine barely fill a plate.

She had enough to reach across

her kitchen.

 

Where she raised a girl

to do the same

in hers.

 

Who did the same with

her girl.

 

Who didn’t.

 

What did she think?

 

Of my clothes.

And my tattoo.

My degree.

And my divorce.

My lost faith.

And my dark roots?

 

My home

that’s warm

and decorated

and has been host

to a mouse and a

maggot

and that’s not

the men?

 

 

 

 

Did she want more?

For me?

From me?

For her?

For not her?

 

She painted her long

slender legs

and I can’t be bothered

to zip my un-slim legs

into pants.

 

She raised a salutatorian

and a Christmas dinner

maker.

A sender

of beautiful cards

and thoughtful

messages.

 

A volunteer.

A nurse.

A giver of time

and compassion.

Even when she doesn’t want

 

She raised a woman

who knew how to love.

Til death do us part.

Even though

she had to be both

halves of a

separate whole.

 

How can I measure?

I can’t even

measure.

Not hers. Mine.

Does she know?

 

Does the one she raised know?

 

How proud I am

to be hers

and hers.

 

And how I want them to

be mine.

 

But I’m green

To their red.

 

I’m wispy air

To their solid earth.

 

Indulgent sugar

to their austere,

pragmatic

flour.

 

I want to be hers.

 

Both.

 

But I’m not.

 

I’m mine.

 

My make-believe, my stories.

My comic-book kid

And my pancakes for dinner.

 

My city stays

and all-black.

My sulking and silence

My burned edges.

 

But my soft parts.

My strong parts,

the leading and

supporting

and surviving parts.

The loving parts.

The believing parts.

The good parts.

The her parts.

The their parts.

 

The parts I have

of them,

to remember

to never forget.

No matter how I try.

 

Not hers.

 

Or hers.

 

Ours.

My new book Drowning Above Water is available to read with holidays cookies. Yours and hers. Amazon Kindle and paperback. 

I See Me

I See Me

 

I don’t like to see me.

 

I remember nights of towels

to catch,

blankets

to cover

over mirrors

so I couldn’t.

Catch.

A glimpse was too much.

 

Not the body.

Not the deeper.

I couldn’t see.

 

Loving someone makes

us see.

Us.

Not them.

Me.

The beauty of

the ugly.

What we look past

In our own selves.

To them, visible, a

downy, perfected smooth

under a touch,

when all we see,

feel,

know,

are the raised ridges of the scars

 

If I was looking,

they were looking,

each other in the eyes,

of the same height.

 

I could stand

the emotional

discrepancy.

 

But when the physical difference

is a matter of inches

and the year displacement

is thirty,

 

and it’s your own child,

 

at once

you don’t see your faults

Flaws

Mis-steps

Fuck ups,

 

because they’re not

exclusively yours now.

 

They’re shared in miniature,

not as boulder-ous,

overwhelming,

monstrous,

as yours.

 

But they’re still yours.

And now.

They’re his.

 

He has your eyes.

Your dance.

Your heart

 

And you see

what the

ones who looked in your eyes,

at your height,

saw..

 

Your insecurity.

Your give up at a glance.

Your blame and accuse.

Your drive to be

without

because trying

again

Is too hard.

 

Yours.

Now his.

And you can’t take them back.

 

He yells and stomps like you.

He hurts.

With the pain you know.

Both.

 

I see me,

in him.

I did that.

That’s what I’m meant,

forced,  to see.

 

He sees me,

And knows.

 

I don’t want him to know that.

 

I don’t want him to see.

 

But he sees me.

 

I see me.

 

I want him

to see.

Better.