There is a very small local poetry club that I attend every Wednesday night. Because I now have an audience for my poetry, I’ve started writing it again. Here are a few of my recent ones. (And no, I don’t believe in line breaks.)
I watched our love turn your teeth yellow. I kissed your smoky mouth anyway, and my tongue momentarily stopped searching for messages in a bottle. I sat in the rooms and distanced myself from you, loving a God that you deny, loving Him more than I ever loved you–yes “loved” with a D because if love grows, then love dies, but I was too dope sick to go to the funeral. The clinical term is “substance abuse,” and after all the times the angels spit on my naked, nubile body, I swore I’d never hit anyone, but there were times I saw fear in your eyes, and I want to apologize for becoming a man in your bedroom, when I promised you sugar free kisses and instant coffee that wasn’t too weak. I always tried to put in a little extra for you. I wrote Sappho a Dear John letter, and I wept in our sisters’ arms, but I don’t remember a single tear, just a strand of faux pearls around my skinny wrist, and a man’s hand over my childish mouth. I never loved the way we did. You were my first real teacher, but I’ a truant at heart. I blew off your class for pills and bandages. A rib cage like guitar strings, but I never let you coax music out of me. For that I am sorry. I hope for you. I promise I will never pray for you, and I will no longer play with you–no more games where I make the rules. You deserve to win, and I hope someday, your blessed body crosses that finish line.
The bitch wriggles out of her collar when she feels she does not deserve to be owned. When the man brought me home from the puppy farm, I was just a little thing, made slight by misguided willpower. Black boots knock a young dog around, but oh, was she grateful for that silk and leather collar.
The bitch was treated fairly on the island. The prize pet–all the sirens and nymphs wanted to pet me behind the ears. But grow I did, and I became a mean dog. I bit the fishermen, barked at the, and tried to run them off. One of the carried a knife, and he carved his initials into my haunches.. And oh, I was grateful.
On the island, a siren picked the young, mean bitch to be her favorite. She gave me not a collar, but a chain with a silver clasp. The siren explained that it was a tie not a shackle. I learned what love was, and I rested at the foot of her bed. She fed me handsomely, and the bitch became a dog became a girl became a woman became an abuser became broken became heartbroken became closer to a whole piece of something bigger.
The bitch wriggles out of her collar when she feels she does not deserve to be owned.
I grew up in a noisy house, but it was a loving song of noise. Yiddish and Hebrew thrown around like olives in exotic dishes. Pretty dresses on little girls, and kippahs covering bald spots. The Torah. Behind the glorious ark in all her resplendent wonder with mysteries and wisdom to carry me through the ages. And carry me she did, through losses–Goodbye, Miss Lucille; Goodbye Mrs. Malka–and loving gains–Welcome to our family, David; Welcome to the world, Baby Ben. And all the steps in between. Rolled up in the Torah scrolls are generations of Hanukkahs and Purims, a thousand weddings and a thousand births. I grew up in a noisy house, and when I come to visit, my family sings with me.