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Monday, 9 January 2006
Sunday Scribble
Topic: Poetry
I wanted to tell you
about walking in the garden
on a warm day in January,
temperature about 65◦ Fahrenheit.
I wanted you to see the grass,
sprouting so green beneath the rot
from last year’s flowers, so green
against the dappled browns,
the tawny spotted droop
of dead iris leaves, dark brown mums
standing erect on woven beds of lilies.
The hibiscus is the largest—
she is woody and tall, white washed
in the sun. Next spring she will be dark,
greenly, obscenely dark,
sporting ridiculous giant red flowers.

Likely you have your own
seeds darkening in drying pods.
You have your own green-wintered grass
to fill your grey-wintered sight.
If you do not have your own,
they are likely blocks away
waiting for you to take a walk,
to pound the sidewalk with more purpose,
to commune and fill your skin with sunlight.

Posted by Anna Belle at 2:25 AM EST
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Friday, 29 July 2005
Untitled
Topic: Poetry

I left while you were still in the shower
without a single word of goodbye,
taking my broken black bra in hand
and out into the still, gray morning.

Sneaking out, I swept the landscape
of my old neighborhood, tucking
my dangling breasts as best I could,
afraid I might be recognized.

I have never left anyone this way before.
In the car my gut exploded into my chest
and thighs, liberation spreading revelation,
warm and delicious as apple butter.

Driving, I imagined your briefly perplexed look,
the cocksure shrug of your shoulders,
and your hands,
which had tried so hard the night before,
reaching for your toothbrush.

I expect you’ll resent me later.

I drove to the sprawling cemetery.
There among the headstones
the sun crowned and swans swam
while I gave myself the orgasm
you had failed to.

Posted by Anna Belle at 12:29 AM EDT
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Friday, 8 July 2005

Topic: Diary
Oaks are the best trees for autumn. I ascertained this one day after some 20 years living in the valley. Color me a late-bloomer but remember—half that time I was a young girl. Young people tend to take things for granted. I have no justification for these last few years, of course, save familiarity. But now I think oaks are the best for autumn because they outshine all the other trees with their yellow fading-to-ochre-fading-to-deep red death-cycle. Oak leaves give until they whither and die. They are like giant, living, multi-colored fireworks displays delivered in excruciating slow motion.

On the day I realized this I was in a forest that was littered with the gorgeous leaves. They lay beneath the shedding trees like scraps from paper dolls. They carpeted the path that I walked on with my daughter, creating for us a sense of natural royalty, as if the day were manufactured just for us. Maybe it was her 4-year-old curiosity that got me appreciating oak trees. The way her baby hands—the last vestiges of her infancy—grabbed at the leaves and flung them up like so much confetti was only slightly less joy-inducing than hearing her squeals of laughter doing so.

These are the things I try to remember on a day such as this, when it is summer and the oak is the bane of my existence, and my beautiful daughter is 11, and not quite so joy-inducing in her behavior anymore. Picking out the oak sprouts from the gardens has been a tedious affair this season, and no less tedious is the picking of good moments in my relationship with her. Rather than good days being manufactured for us, I try to manufacture as many good moments as I can amid the cries that she “despises” me and that I am “the worst mother in the world.”

The child is constantly trying to “improve her art,” which is mainly drawing, and so she has an endless supply of paper and pencil. That she even has an art to improve is worthy of support and the platitudes I must offer at the 70 pages of anime figures she produces in one day. Some days she and I will cook dinner together. It’s one of the few things I can show her without her getting bent out of shape over her own ignorance. It helps that we occasionally throw food, like shredded cheese, which is easy to clean up. She’s been recently delighted that I allow her to use The Big Knife™. And in the evenings I let her run around with a lighter lighting our tiki torches. Controlled access, that’s my motto when it comes to parenting. We’ll sit out there sometimes after I make her unload the dishwasher or take out the trash and she’ll be fuming mad because she had a chore to do. I’ll make her sit with me on the wrought iron bench and I’ll make funny faces until she gives it up and starts laughing. Or I’ll put my finger right next to her arm and say, over and over, “I’m not touching you.”

Fortunately, at 11, she still allows herself to enjoy being tickled, so I try that tactic as a first resort to diffuse her. Often we will spar in the living room until her anger is spent and we dissolve into laughter. I let her beat up on me, both physically (in spar, never in reaction) and mentally, because she is damn mad at the world and I am the only person she knows who de facto has to accept her as she is. I am her mother, in law and in love. I recall doing the same to my mother, verbally at least.

Mothers of teens are like oak trees in autumn, burning in excruciating slow motion, feeling each fiery spark like a little death. Her words hit my heart like bombs. I can hear the crackle and pop of fireworks…so many little leaves fluttering to the ground. My daughter is shedding the vestiges of her childhood as she tries on adulthood. Her baby hands are gone and so are the days that seemed manufactured for us. No matter—I will give until I whither and die.

Posted by Anna Belle at 3:03 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 8 July 2005 3:04 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 26 April 2005
Cowboy Intellectual
Topic: Poetry
For Jeff Cavins

This poem will not capture your peculiar dialect,
so thoroughly hick, a mark against you, you knew,
but at home, in ?Luh-cone-ya,? it made you an insider.
You played it up, hyperbolic, exaggerated self-portrait,
courting rejection, testing, daring, like the glassy point
of your eye over your cigarette-sidled smile.
There?s no hope here of rendering your braggadocio
and swagger, your moments of keen arrogance
from knowing more than you should,
for escaping your home-spun ignorance,
more open-minded than anyone guessed.
You were my secret and we were the same, though I denied it.

No prose could explain how you called me to my roots,
made me face my denial, and how I almost hated you for it.
If not for the our talks on philosophy and politics,
if you hadn?t hungered for the written word,
if I hadn?t called you my cowboy intellectual,
I?d have run instead of climbing on the 4-wheeler with you.
I?d have missed that chance to sit by the river, cold with autumn,
a school of silver fish catching the last of the light,
hundreds flashing in mid-air, the music of their splashes
and the hiss of the fire, burning with wood
smoothed and bleached by the currents.

No epic could possibly expose your monumental battles,
your accidental birth, adoption, a distant father,
two brain tumors, back injuries from constructing
with molten steel, your face scarred with burns
from sparks flying up under the safety shield.
Your swollen leg, draining cancer from your gut,
succeeded where everything else failed. You died,
barely 40 and I still haven?t cried, though my chest hurts
and I feel the hole; I can?t believe you?re gone.

Nothing I could write will make anyone feel
the way I feel when I see the chalk on the wall,
a message left on the brick last year when you didn?t show
at the smoking area, our meeting place for nicotine
and papers; real, honest critique that you drank up,
the world somehow clearer because you finally knew
when to use that and which and what a preposition was about.
You loved irony. Your eyes narrowed to slits when you saw it.


No play would be complete without you playing yourself
because no one was shaped like you, carved by farmland,
a refugee in California, healed by shamans, prodigal?s son
returning with ambition that will never be realized now.
Your sense of humor is gone, along with your wacky faces,
no more trips to the cemetery, sharing a smoke in the sunlight,
a headstone between us like a missed prophecy.

No academic thesis will deconstruct you,
your odd mix of farm-grown axioms sprinkled
among the scholarly vernacular of our chats,
or note the peeling giant deer wallpapered behind your bed,
the chaos and cobwebs in your laundry room,
the moldy stink that seeped from the cracks of your drafty house
mixing with expensive, expansive aftershave.

I wanted more of you?a year was not enough, cannot be enough.
10 months without you and I still look for your truck
parked behind the university. I hallucinate
your loud laugh bouncing off the courtyard walls,
your greetings to everyone?you did know everyone.
I hate to think of your body without you, stiff and pale
in the coffin, how it makes me think of my own death.
Nothing disturbs me more than suspecting we were right,
no heaven exists and God is a cuddle toy for the lonely and meek.

No apology could excuse me or ease my guilt
over not returning your last phone call,
the plaintive quality in your voice that I ignored,
still fuming from our argument, too petty to remember.
I realize now that you knew you were dying,
recognize too late the apology in your voice,
absent the ?sorry,? of course, just like you. Just like me.
I missed my chance to say goodbye and thanks,
shaper of me. Thanks and goodbye.


(I thought I had posted this last Fall when it was written, but now that I look, I'm realizing a lot of my work from that period hasn't made it here yet. I'll try to get on that. This poem is about my marvelous friend Jeff Cavins, who is no longer with us.)

Posted by Anna Belle at 10:51 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 26 April 2005 10:58 PM EDT
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Monday, 28 March 2005
La Luna Creciente
Topic: Poetry
Conmigo, la luna creciente desespera.
Esta noche estamos representando
las mujeres solitarias
en vestidos azules.
La luna esta llorando;
su lagrimas son estrellas
que yo capturo en mi delantal.
Alli ellas queman los guardias
de mi corazon hasta que yo estoy
tan hueca como la luna creciente.

Translation:

The Crescent Moon

With me, the crescent moon despairs.
This night we are playing
lonely women
in blue dresses.
The moon is crying;
her tears are stars
that I capture in my apron.
There they burn away the guardians
of my heart until I am
as hollow as the crescent moon.

Posted by Anna Belle at 2:23 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 31 March 2005 7:50 AM EST
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Friday, 18 March 2005
Promise of Summer
Topic: Poetry
for Clancy Rose

It is not yet April and already she wears sandals,
her piggish toes exposed to the world.
In her red hoodie, blue jeans, and flip flops
this daughter of mine looks changed?
suddenly, girlishly metropolitan.
Her perma-scowl is balanced perfectly
between pony tails that only hint
at her waning innocence.

I thought to stop her before she left,
some instinct toward maternal wisdom
rising in my throat, but choked back
by my experience as a woman in the world,
free of relationships that define me,
feeling a feminine power like
shrugging on a borrowed red dress,
a little flamboyant, but fun to try on.
I want her to shrug on the dress and dance,
her hands reaching for the sun as she grows long,
her fingers curling like tendril?d vines.

She is eleven and her breasts have risen
beneath her pink undershirts like
the bread our grandmother used to make,
magically and quickly reaching its full potential.
She would shame me for telling that
but I cannot help but marvel
at Rose blooming right before me,
her petals unfolding by the hour.

This morning she looked relaxed in her clothes,
sporting the stoic cynicism that makes the young look cool,
posturing apathy in the very slackness of her stance.
I am not allowed to touch or intervene.
I must trust what I have done and what she becomes.
She is locked tight, a fleshy seed with a tiny leaf,
the promise of summer growing inside it.

Posted by Anna Belle at 12:18 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 18 March 2005 9:30 PM EST
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Friday, 11 March 2005
What I Feel Like
Topic: Poetry
Poem for a very small audience

I feel like the girl in the polka-dot dress,
frozen forever in the middle of a cartwheel,
her white pantaloons exposed
above the skirt that covers her face.
Her identity masked, there is only
bald grace and joy in her twirling form.

I feel like a hot thing,
like a peaking burning star,
hotter than I will ever get, feverish,
cruel and pretty in this black ceiling,
looming over a gurgling hot spring
that talks to me deep into the night.

I feel like another shot of whisky
will intensify this intoxication perfectly,
bring the volume in my ears to a roiling swell
that will not deafen me
but will sing from my eyes
like the cacophony of starlings,
buzzing with stunning truth.

I feel like taking a running jump
through the brand new library,
where the rows are long and the ceilings high.
I could turn twenty back flips
through the fiction section
and into the math and aftermath of science,
mocking Joyce or the sad Romantics
before whirling past Pythagoras and Descartes,
Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

I feel tireless in my aging body,
even if the performance isn’t that profound anymore,
even if my well-worn skin is creased and lined
like a street map. I feel like
if you were to look into my face
you might feel like you know me,
like you’ve walked my streets each night,
and will always want to.

I feel like looking up to God
and desire her to see me,
see my pooling green eyes
and how the irises glow
and float in their milky sclera.
I feel like knowing if she made them
and maybe I feel like believing
for these few moments that she did,
because the thought makes me feel like
I'm coming clean and twirling
in a polka-dot dress, frozen forever
in a holy mirror of grace and joy.

Posted by Anna Belle at 10:47 AM EST
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Thursday, 17 February 2005
Glass-Maker
Topic: Poetry

This forgiving February afternoon,
in a lazy napping roll,
my nose chanced upon the pillow
that had cradled your head
just a few hours before.
Instinctively I breathed you in,
not aftershave but you,
the dirt of your day still on you,
a week's worth of worry
telling in the whispery scent
of sour beer.

Dreaming your hands on my downy skin,
my nose grazed pillow lint and I smelled
the oil from your eternally capped hair,
a concentration of you stewing underneath
your Kangol, now captive on my pillow,
reminding me of how my body
turns to glass wherever your lips
touch me.

I could slide back into dream
or purl into consciousness--
my fingers walking their way
over your ghost trails, leaving
rivers of shivers in their wake--
either way, a hint of you,
like the scent of you,
will remain.

The pillow slips from me as I
slide into a dream, half-memory,
half-desire of your glass-maker hands
molding me beneath the heat of your lips
until I am all decanter, a vessel for
the sticky sweetness we have made.


Posted by Anna Belle at 10:34 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 11 March 2005 10:44 AM EST
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Sunday, 17 October 2004
Heretic Beach
Topic: Poetry
You kiss like a heretic, esoteric,
possessing some secret knowledge,
twirling my tongue with yours, prehensile,
exorcising reluctance--undeniably
understated, a no-frills trade in spit.

We do not try to impress each other,
immersed in need like a baptism,
wholly naked to the waist,
touching softly, bodies like relics
that still hold up after all this time.

The beach beneath us is catholic,
endless and gritty, clinging to flesh
salty and wet, the ocean within reach,
coruscating with jellyfish like the touch
of your fingers tracing my hip.

The boardwalk booms above us,
a defiant congregation of drunkards
staggering as much from the dank night as the beer.
I cross your lips with my finger, eyeing you
like a strumpet enticing a sinner, suddenly bawdy,

facilitated, mated to boldness by the sea
swirling `round our feet, creeping up
bodies like a white lie, harmless and pleasant,
the toe-curling exaggeration of the truth,
a confession breaking on the dark horizon.

It comes in micro waves, mounting with moonrise
pulling the sea out of you, out of me
with the fury of ecclesiastic force;
lovers pooling in the sand, the boardwalk
secreting away our noisy apostasy.

Posted by Anna Belle at 7:46 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 17 October 2004 7:50 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 29 September 2004
Bugger
Topic: Poetry
My head is crawling with bugs again.
It felt like something was caught in my hair just now,
I reached and shook a patch of curls, and felt the first
sluggish tickle of shockingly numerous legs.

Not real bugs. I know this.
This has happened every night for a week.
Checked and checked again for lice,
a fruitless search, I know, because this is symptomatic--
a common hallucination. I've been right here, in hellish d?j? vu,
the same mundane mental mis-firings, so bored with the predictability;
the smell of my orthodontist's hands, fruity and clean, soothing--
I wanted to stay in the chair, under those fragrant hands, so ephemeral.
And the bugs. Seventeen years, the damn bugs.

These insects feel heavier, more weighty than lice,
more spidery, slow like that, menacing.
Each leg strikes softly, and I count five spots of movement,
because I must count. The loop--the same loop in my head again.
Tonight, in bed, they'll multiply and move down to my body,
unseen, crawling, sprawling, trickling trails over my ears,
down my neck, dragging ghost trails to my ankles.
I will not sleep--again. I'll scratch, though they won't bite.
I've grown my nails again--a mistake.

This is not real;
no spiders hide in my hair.
I know it's a waiting game.
The sleeping pill I took an hour ago
doesn't register, except my body is bone-tired,
but my mind keeps going like the Great Wall of China,
disappearing in the distance, curving back and forth,
punctuated by lookout posts, the air of something discarded,
something lost that stays, something that ends...somewhere,
I'm sure.

Posted by Anna Belle at 9:31 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 29 September 2004 9:33 PM EDT
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