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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.


Shields

Right now, my kids are watching the news. To be specific, they’re watching election results roll in. They don’t understand the full scope of things, but they know that Mama likes the blue people. That she supports health care and education and gun control and protections for people who don’t look like her or them. These all sound like good things to my elementary-school-aged kids.

I really don’t like it when they glue their eyes to the screen. The political ads lately have been hard to take – on both sides. My kids are confused by the name-calling and the bullying. Right now, they are earnestly trying to parse the politispeak, cheering every time they see a blue name with a checkmark next to it. Don’t tell me I brainwash my kids. We try to be circumspect and as honest as possible when we talk about politics, but kids aren’t stupid. They know what bad behavior looks like. They know what fairness looks like. Not just my kids; ask any kid on the playground. They know when they’re being lied to. When Trump won the 2016 election, my older son cried.

I don’t have the heart to tell them how little I believe this particular mid-term election will change things. I’m trying to stay positive for their sakes. I’m already talking to them about the next election – if there even is one. Sometimes I can’t make myself believe there will be. My rose-colored glasses are foggy and cracked.

A friend posted something the other day about how if we love our country, we need to stay and keep working to make it better. I do love my country, or at least the ideals that have been drummed into our heads since we were kids, that are being drummed into my kids’ heads now: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I’m grateful I was born here and not someplace scarier. Right now, there’s a caravan of refugees heading toward our southern border because they believe in those ideals too, or maybe they just believe it must be better here than where they came from. That it must be safer here. One can only imagine.

Sometimes I dream about packing up my family and moving someplace safe, too. I have a stack of paperwork that says we are a family: me, my wife, my children. Name change documents, marriage documents, adoption papers, birth certificates. But I don’t believe in paperwork anymore, not when children are being taken from their families all along the border. Don’t tell me, those aren’t American children. Does it matter? They’re children, and this is America. Paperwork is a thin shield against the potential erasure of your family.

Right now, I’m watching the news, and I don’t feel safe.