Late afternoons I sit at the counter of a small diner sipping vanilla coke watching the day turn into night or dollar green but it seems as Gershwin said, not for me. It is dog days and I am hot and tired and mostly luckless, angry too, my new love fading so soon. I dream myself into a hot soak in a fancy clawed foot bath tub sinking my dusty body into lilac scented bubbles. I imagine lying back with closed eyes as the hot water flicks at peony nipples. I am what one might call self-employed these days. Settling for a motel shower stall I scrub my body that smells of dusty magnolias with rose scented oil until it glimmers like alabaster. Slipping into a black sheath, silver seamed stockings and stiletto heels saved for the occasion, I make my way onto Bourbon Street. At the corner the sounds of a sax carries through the open door of a dimly lit bar, it drifts up the alley over the roof of a brothel falling into gentle ruin. From my booth there I stare through a prism of glass at the Dog Star and blow a kiss to the man in the moon already yawning at the deep purple sky.
Remember that cabin among the trees hidden like rabbits resting in nests of autumn leaves? Beside the window that looks out on the river there is a writer’s desk with printer’s ink and fresh flowers kissed by the sun in the sill. Do you recall the sweet days we shared among the redwoods that spoke to us? The memory evokes such nostalgia for that ache, that fierce crushing devotion. I left a heart shaped basket of seeds in the arch of a tree for the birds to scatter, etched our names on its bark. I will always remember you and the cabin by the river, the sultry nights I would dance, those sheer layers floating to the herringbone floor.
I left a message for you in a book.
It is like me to mark provocative phrases,
to shake them out in ponderous verses.
Do not read too much in the fallout,
the notes in the border are for nostalgia’s sake.
I dreamt of you again last night
whose aura I barely recall.
My suffering is not in knowing what was real
but what was not.
From my window a sliver of moon casts a haze over the water. I can hear the rush of soft waves. Those creatures beneath the depths, do they sleep, dream? If parted do they grieve? Down the street I can see the lights from an all night store. A man waits behind the counter. Cautiously he slips his hand under his jacket and takes a long swig from a bottle. A group of young thugs gather outside the storefront. I imagine them harming the storekeeper. Distracted by the young whore taking shelter in a doorway they laugh and whisper. Oblivious to her vulnerability she sleeps as though she has never heard of birds of prey that swoop down with jagged talons hungry for butchery. I watch intently in case I need to call out a warning but losing interest they disappear into the dark.
Maybe nothing is real. Maybe everything I see and hear is an illusion. I lose focus on the outside world and the burn of you stings relentlessly just below the surface. I want to sleep forever, not give a damn about you.
I didn’t sit with her anymore, her suffering frightened me. Today I wore a new dress, I adored it’s lacy bodice and satin sash. He picked it out himself. Now my grown up eyes dissolve at his etched face in the photograph with an empty space dying in a dark room.
That woman who spit me red faced into the world, fed and failed me, flung me from the hem of her skirt into the fractured world, stares back at me from my mirror. I wear her hands like gloves and honor the rolling river where her ashes sank among the gravel and worship the boulders that harbor her.
A lone chrysalis twisting in the wind, my fluid bones press hard against the casing. Swollen wings beat at the space that holds me. I know that I am meant to struggle. These unheralded breasts, they defeat and yet complete me . I can’t see or hear nor would I heed signs of warning. A pubescent butterfly, excessively sanguine or melancholy flitting from flower to flower, oblivious to life’s repressive hand hovering above me.
Every so often I am fortunate to have a poem translated by Hutschi at Neues vom Hutschi, a favorite blog of mine. I am honored that he has chosen my poem “Frida” to translate so beautifully to German. I hope my German readers and all who love the German language as I do will enjoy this.