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

_________________________________

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.

___________________________________

The Travelling Onion

To the Muses, with love, 2005

“And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.”* The onion does
what it does. We each must live this way.
The small tears you have caused me
the days of laughter
they are of my own making
yet they are yours; you must love the way
you live your life. You must love your own
rich juices, your protective skin, the layers
of your heart revealing
chamber after secret chamber,
the floating centre. You must love
the way your roots have nourished you
and clung to dirt to keep you honest.
Remember your beginnings.
Do not ask me to believe
you are anyone but yourself.

*Naomi Shihab Nye, “The Travelling Onion”, from Yellow Glove, 1986.

The bones of a poem

The bones of a poem
lie beneath your skin,
anchoring each muscular stanza,
shaping the rhymes of left
and right, dancing
with the complicated riff of the brain punch-drunk on electrical impulses,
stamping jubilant feet
to the pulsing rhythms
of the fluid-bearing
vessels
and their
drum-beat
heart.