Sadness, I instruct you

For my dear friend

And now, sadness,
I instruct you
to be still.

Let these bones rest. Marrow
pale and depleted by memory
and forgiveness,
they are weary and cannot stand your shaking.

Let the exhausted heart
encased in this bombarded cage beneath my skin

jarred by your gnashing and clamouring

float in the buoyancy of you forgetting

for a moment

to squeeze it dry.

Do not bewilder
me with your wailing.

Now I tell you:
Let me be.

~~~

Sums done in the heart

One, one and one equals three
if you think mathematically.

But sums done in the heart
have a subtler art –

Hazel plus Mabel plus me.

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Hazel and Mabel are the cats I live with, who have just turned 12 and 7 years old respectively. This is their annual birthday poem.

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Wishful thinking

I want to see your heart. I want to peel away your shirt: open the buttons, one by one, lift the fabric from your chest, lay my head on your skin. Listen. Listen, then look deep, deep, into the caves where your secrets lie. I want to make sure, in the caverns where you keep your loved ones, there is a small effigy of me.

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Five Reasons to Love the Long Nights of Winter

After a bright afternoon’s quickening light
To be cradled by dusk,
Its slowly sit-down darkening

To contemplate the softening outline of the old cat
Curled warm on your grey-trousered lap

To watch the women and men with briefcases and backpacks
Walk from the bus toward darkened houses

To see a glow appear here or there and know
The tired homecomings have begun

To unravel the mysteries of your heart
That can only be glimpsed when the busy sun
Pulls up its thick shadows
And the arms of the evening encompass all

____________________

For that next bright dawn

The geese, all week,
have been flying. Home.
Away from this sharp promise of snow
cutting through crisply darkening skies
south, to the crucible of summer.

Their far-carrying call
slicing through the high, cold air
picks up our hearts by the scruff
and deposits them, safe
but shaken and absurdly hungry
for that next bright dawn in March.

_____________________________

When Hazel was a kitten, she

would climb the drapes,
wanting to see what life looked like from up above.
It wasn’t mischief, it was love! of exploration
and adventure. And folks, here’s where I should mention:
Haze was born into a barn, where climbing things could do no harm
and walking on the rafters was the favourite pastime of her cousins
who filled the barn in tens and dozens; from their perch, close to the sky
casting a protective eye
over the cows below.

~

When Hazel moved to city life she honed her skills in chasing mice:
some had little hearts that beat though most had plastic tails and feet.
Those plastic mousies ran Haze ragged, but they soon learned
her claws are jagged. And each toy mouse has lost its tail
to Hazel’s nails.

~

Now Hazel is a little older and, we say, a bit less bold,
she doesn’t swing from chandeliers or dangle from the chiffon sheers.
But she still claims the highest shelf, contentedly washing herself
and from her perch, close to the sky
casting a protective eye
over the house below.

~

Audio version: http://bit.ly/1uejuzg

Written when Hazel was 10 years younger, and published for her 11th birthday, 2014

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Silence

Delving into the body
I lose my voice. Months ago
I knew how to enter the profound place
where words are formed,
where they pulse,
where their autonomic rhythms continue to beat
after they leave my brain – just as the heart,
transplanted, does not depend on the human organism
but sustains itself
travelling from one chest to another.

But now the body has claimed me, epidermis
to arachnoid mater: the spider mother wraps me
in sticky fibres, an unending sheath; layer by layer
I feel my way, cell by cell
marking this new path.

Add collagen: call it ligament. Add water: blood.
Filter out the red cells and let lymph carry me
to the vena cava, waste dump of the world.

In the deep background, syllables thump. Behind
the body’s pounding I hear their
syncopated variations. I need
a leaky vessel, a histamine
to spread these walls and carry me
to where the words wait.

Written in massage school, when I realized I had become so immersed in the physical that I had forgotten how to write poetry. Even now, after a day of massaging, I can lose the ability to speak coherently because everything I know is in my hands.

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