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Catching wind

When I was eight I locked the wind in a box.

It didn’t weigh much, made no noise if I shook the box, and looked rather a lot like a handful of dandelion fluff. I’d toss a pinch into the air and a breeze would whisper secrets in my ear. Other kids had soccer trophies and name-brand Keds; I had the wind in a box. It made me feel powerful, strong, magical. Special.

I don’t know what happened to that box, but the wind remembers me, I swear it.

Do you know that feeling, when you walk out your front door and there’s no traffic, there are no people, there’s only you and the sky and the trees and you wonder, where is everyone? What do they know that I don’t? That’s when the wind speaks to me. Sometimes the wind is that lover who rents out an entire restaurant just so you can have a quiet conversation.

In Burlington, Vermont, the wind cuts across Lake Champlain bringing cold air and snow from the Great Lakes region into the valley. That never stopped us from spending New Year’s Eve on Church Street. We’d duck into bar and restaurant and cafe, one after the other, to listen to music – and to escape the bitter cold – until finally, our noses and ears aching, our fingers painfully numb, we’d hurry home to our apartment and the pot of mulled wine on the stove. Sometimes the wind is the voice of reason, the good friend that pulls no punches when she says, this relationship is no good for you; it’s time to leave.

The very first night I spent in Michigan, I dreamed of tornadoes: great, towering funnels of malignant air that chased me across broken staircases and swallowed up the people I loved. I’m not one to believe in signs, exactly, but I like to think the wind was giving me a hint. I don’t want to hurt you, it said, but this isn’t the place for you. As though the flat landscape and flatter stares hadn’t already given that away.

This time of year, the wind comes howling out of the Columbia River Gorge and lodges itself in the great Douglas fir in our backyard, scratching at our windows and shaking branches like fists until the pine cones rain across the roof. It sounds like someone trying to break in, and I understand why my kids can’t sleep.

It’s just the wind, I tell them. It’s telling us we’re safe inside.

They want me to make it stop, but I’m not strong enough for that. I only listen to the wind, I don’t control it, not anymore. If I could, though, I’d catch the wind, put it in a box for them. I’d tell them to keep it secret, to take it out only when no-one is watching. At night, I’d say, if you tuck it under your pillow, the wind will tell you things.


My fair one

Under a tangled arch
of willow, ivy, and rose,
she presses me back,
back, against the rich loam, back,
her fingers sly, her smile arch,
her lips tipped with rose.
Ever since the moon rose
she has loved me well: my back
is a bow, a lover’s arch.

I arch my neck, cursing the rose-tinged dawn that calls her back.


A tritina for this month’s Poetry Slam retrospective and YeahWrite’s 400th consecutive week!

Kismet

Six months ago I’d’ve said it’s crazy, the idea of you and me. Six weeks ago I almost walked away.

Shaking my head, I button my best shirt, red garnets winking at collar and cuffs, and watch your face light up in the mirror.


The truth of honey and salt

You once told me, the moon is made of salt,
that all the tears that ever were are kept
hidden there, disguised as dust. You spoke
matter-of-factly, your pale face made sanguine
by the dying sun. With deft fingers you stole
dew from the grass, bade me drink from your palm.

Above us, fronds of fern and palm
swayed like dancers, grains of sand and salt
working their way between the blanket we stole
and the promises we had not kept.
I understood, then, how to stay sanguine;
my heart beat faster with every word you spoke.

You plucked the petals from a flower, spoke by spoke,
and pressed them like kisses into my palm,
each one as soft and sanguine
as your lips. I tasted honey, tasted salt,
wondered what it would be like to be kept
by the woman I stole.

On bare feet and keeping to shadows we stole
like thieves out of the garden; we spoke
softly, and only when necessary. We kept
silent, my breath caught under your palm.
You asked me once, what is honey without salt?
Only sweet. You were my salt, sharp and sanguine.

Forgive me: I could not remain sanguine
after all. Your hair was a silver stole
across your bare shoulders. I licked salt
from your skin, seined words from your breath; you spoke
my name, teeth against my palm:
another promise never meant to be kept.

If I had known, then, I would have kept
quiet, would have watched the sanguine
light crest the garden wall at dawn, palm
shading my eyes, dust in my throat. You stole
peace from my heart when you spoke
the truth of honey and salt.

You always seemed the sanguine one; I am the one to salt
wounds. I kept my heart in my palm; I never spoke
how willingly I gave what you claimed you stole.


This month’s poetry slam form is the sestina. It’s harder than it looks, if you can believe that.

Not your princess

My mother poisoned apples. My father hid his heart inside a tree. It was a family thing, dealing death and dodging it.

I don’t have time for subtlety. I tried being quiet; I pretended to sleep. I tossed a twig and grew a prickly thicket ‘round my house. You cut it down.

I call lightning into my palm. Dare you to open that door.